Writing this list in particular is always one of my favorite points in the year. It’s the time where I get to look at everyone else’s list and go “hey, I should have included that too!”, and it gives me a chance to go back and look at all the stuff that I have missed out on listening to in favor of obligations, lack of time, lack of brainpower, or simply not being able to turn off Origins like I know I need to. It’s always good to take one last look back on everything before we properly usher in the new year and new releases with it, so let’s jump into some of the things that I am currently kicking myself for not giving more attention to.
Thou/Mizmor – Myopia
God knows I love a collaboration album. God knows I love Thou, and Mizmor, and their collaborations specifically. So why didn’t Myopia make my year end list? Because it’s like an hour and fifteen minutes long and I just didn’t have time to listen to it until now. But now that I have? Oh yeah, I think I actually made a mistake not putting this one on my proper list. This is an album that is somehow more than the sum of its parts, and those parts on their own are having a downright renaissance. That is one of the beautiful things about Thou and Mizmor though: they each have this uncanny ability to bring out the best in others when they collaborate, and here is no exception.
Nite – Voices of the Kronian Moon
Nite’s take on old-school inspired (by way of 80’s and NWOBHM, not the cold and shrill second wave you might be thinking of) black metal is insanely refreshing, and the amount of warmth and depth in their music is what makes me realize I might have made a mistake skipping over this album come EOY time. This, like a couple other albums on here, remind me of the kinds of bands that got me into heavy metal in the first place, and there is something so nostalgic about the twin guitar harmonies and anthemic melodies that pepper each track here.
Sumerlands – Dreamkiller
I had heard the name Sumerlands in passing before, but it was Vince who, on the podcast, informed me that not only is one half of Dream Unending in Sumerlands, but that they also released a new album this year that is pretty good. And I’ll second that emotion wholeheartedly. I was not expecting what I got on Dreamkiller, but holy shit what a fun ride. Dreamkiller also reminds me so much of the heavy metal that I fell in love with as a teenager, from the commanding vocals to the tasty riffs to the blistering solos and more. Long live Stratocaster metal.
Spiritworld – DEATHWESTERN
DEATHWESTERN went completely unnoticed by me, save for Chris making it an honorable mention on his list. And on paper, there’s really not much that would immediately get me interested in an album like this, except on a whim I gave it a shot and holy shit. To quote the man himself, “this thing rocks like a bastard”. Thrash tinged hardcore that spits venom and malice in every syllable and pinch harmonic squeal, DEATHWESTERN is deadly like a rattlesnake and punchy like five X whiskey straight from the jug.
Psychonaut – Violate Consensus Reality
I told myself I was going to check this album out. I wrote myself a note in my podcast notebook about it. Angela, Hera and Chris have all mentioned how much they love this album and…somehow I still procrastinated listening to Violate Consensus Reality. Call it the end of the year being super busy for me, whatever, but now that I have finally checked out this album, I know exactly why so many of us here have fallen in love with it. Psychonaut were my unexpected favorites from Roadburn Redux 2021 and I remember exactly why now. This album crushes you into a fine powder while also making you think. That’s a hard line to walk, but Psychonaut does it swimmingly.
Darkthrone – Astral Fortress
Yes, I know, you can take my metal card away from me (please don’t Chris, I need it…), but I will say in my defense that I did listen to Astral Fortress when it came out, and I did like it! I just don’t feel like I appreciated it enough, so I went back and gave it another spin, and it really does solidify in my mind that some of Darkthrone’s best albums are their most recent ones. Maybe they’re not blazing a new path and creating a new genre from scratch, but this is some damn fine black and roll from my cool uncles Fenriz and Ted and I couldn’t be more pleased with it.
Vital Spirit – Still as the Night, Cold as the Wind
In yet another Western themed album on this list (is this a thing in my life I should examine more deeply?), we have what I guess I’ll just go ahead and call “Spaghetti Western Black Metal”, which is a very goofy thing to say out loud, but trust me when I say the music is serious business. You know the quality is already up there because the duo is composed of members of Wormwitch, who I am on record as #appreciating, but it seriously cannot be understated how cool this sounds. Melodic, folky, thrashy, aggressive and deeply haunting are the adjectives that come to mind; you’d be doing yourself a huge disservice if your first thought is to write this off as a Wayfarer clone and walk away.
Ripped to Shreds – Jubian
[Extremely Professor Farnsworth Voice] To shreds you say? Jubian came out of nowhere for me, as a random Spotify recommendation that I happened to take a chance on, and I’m very glad that I did. Jubian whips, plain and simple, and if the cover art alone doesn’t sell you on what’s inside, then just wait for the goddamn riffs to kick in. This year I’ve been having a lot of fun with getting more and more into death metal that pulls no punches in favor of subtlety or affection (although that will always be something that gets me), and Jubian satisfies that itch in much the same way Bloodbath and Tzompantli did earlier last year, although with a little bit of decidedly West Coast stank on it.
Asunojokei – Island
I would like for there to be just as many black metal album covers with anime girls on them as there are with grayscale pictures of shirtless dudes in corpse paint (no offense to my aforementioned Cool Uncles). Island is maybe my biggest regret of my year end list, because it finally clicked for me as soon as I got a whim to listen to it as I finished drafting my master post. This is what Japanese post-black metal is all about, from the rich melodies to the catchy pop hooks to the jazzy breakdowns and everything in between. This entire album is ear candy and I cannot get myself to just walk away from it. With list season almost certainly over, I’m maybe even a little annoyed at how much I love this album…but I guess there are worse problems to have in the grand scheme.
Moonlight Sorcery – Piercing Through the Frozen Eternity
Oooooh okay, so that’s why everybody is all talking about Moonlight Sorcery. They honestly escaped any real notice from me for the longest time, but now that I’ve seen the hype around their small but ferocious body of work popping up on multiple year end lists, I can definitely understand why there is so much fervor around Piercing Through the Frozen Eternity specifically. This is the icy cold symphonic black metal trve kvlt heads and fresh new fans can both get behind in equal measures. Moonlight Sorcery effectively straddles the line between cheesy, dorky synths, wild, blistering guitar solos and naked frozen aggression. Plus, we don’t have to wait long at all to get a full length debut from them, so yay for that!
So there we go. Apparently we did not say all we needed to say about 2022, but the beauty of hindsight is that we can always look back and choose to only focus on the good parts. While missing out on all these albums in the moment is not exactly ideal, I choose to look back and sift out all the good that still has to enter my brain. Now it’s time to look firmly to the future. May we be even more vigilant to the sounds around us, and may there always be time for more new music.