BEST OF 2022: 40-31

40. HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE, “Overtaker” (self-released): When it comes to Hammers of Misfortune, the anticipation for their albums isn’t easy because they can hit you with anything. Sure, you’re in for riffs, top-notch vocals, be it clear or harsh, and a hefty serving of dramatics. But you never can fully anticipate how it’s going to hit you. Well, on their seventh album “Overtaker,” the guessing game gets deliciously out of control as they present their most aggressive record to date, but one that still pulls in their cavalcade of progressive tricks. This album is a family reunion of sorts with Mike Scalzi and Jamie Myers back in the fold with John Cobbett and Sigrid Sheie among others, and there is gem after gem with “Dark Brennius,” “Don’t Follow the Lights,” and “Aggressive Perfection.” (Dec. 2)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/hammersofmisfortune/

To buy the album, go here: https://hammersofmisfortune.bandcamp.com/album/overtaker

39. CIRKELN, “A Song to Sorrow” (True Cult): Cirkeln, the project helmed by sole creator Våndarr, is a perfect modern example of a band that can transform what’s read on the page of a book into a full-blown adventure musically. Influenced by the works of JRR Tolkien and Michael Moorcock, the band’s music has been glorious and rich, reminding of Bathory, Celtic Frost, and so many others that helped plant black metal’s seeds. Cirkeln’s latest record “A Song to Sorrow” is a blood-rushing experience that feels like it connects Middle Ages storytelling with fire from these times, and it’s impossible not to get completely lost in this thing if you have even a modicum of imagination. (March 25)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/cirkelnband

To buy the album or for more on the label, go here: https://truecultrecords.bandcamp.com/

38. BOOK OF SAND, “Seven Candles for an Empty Altar” (Fiadh Productions): Book of Sand long strayed away from the expected and even the comfortable over the course of eight full-length records that have challenged and twisted brains into mush. Yet, on the project’s ninth album “Seven Candles for an Empty Altar,” sole creator dcrf finds inventive and complicated ways to deform black metal and create an entirely different beast that almost assuredly won’t go down easily. Opener “Speak in Tongues of the Dead” is an absolute red herring for its piano-driven first half that eventually explodes into black metal fury; “Soft Sun on Silent Water” combines both horror and smooth sax in one pot; closer “A New World Waits in the Soil” is a healthy 10:36 and immediately pummels with vicious riffs and charging shrieks, the doomy ambiance encircling. (Nov. 1)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/book.of.sand

To buy the album, go here: https://fiadh.bandcamp.com/album/seven-candles-for-an-empty-altar

For more on the label and to buy the rest of the releases, go here: https://fiadh.bandcamp.com/

37. AURIFEROUS FLAME, “The Great Mist Within” (True Cult): Ayloss, who brought you great black metal with projects including Spectral Lore and Mystras, also embraces that icy sound that birthed a million bands, and with his new project Auriferous Flame, he pays homage to a movement, just without the shitty viewpoints and regressive politics. On “The Great Mist Within,” he spreads his black metal wings and drizzles proper amounts of melody and elegance to these tracks that turn your ribcage to dust. “Voice of the Gleaming Edge” ruptures right away with the playing storming and Ayloss’ vocals scraping fresh wounds amid a melodic surge. “Molten Gold” runs 10:39 and opens in lathering guitars and a drubbing that stings the senses. The guitars heat up and spiral into numbing hypnosis. “Ancient Corridors” is the longest track, clocking in at 10:45, and it teases in a haze as it dawns, letting your mind wander on an adventure. (July 29)

For more on the band, go here: https://auriferousflame.bandcamp.com/releases

To buy the album, go here: https://truecultrecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-great-mist-within

For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/truecultrecords

36. HOLY FAWN, “Dimensional Bleed” (Wax Bodega): Arizona’s Holy Fawn won’t rip off your head with savagery—though there are thorny bends to their music—but the weight is instead in the emotions and the heart gush. Their second record is “Dimensional Bleed,” and it’s a hefty mix of atmospheric heaviness, delicate expressions, sometimes hushed passages, and, yes, daggers you don’t see coming that pierce your chest. The band named their record after a phenomenon where multiple dimensions and timelines exist at once, and this immersive, breathtaking music can leave you gasping, sometimes holding back tears, always soaring through the atmosphere to explore other planes of existence you’ve never touched before. There are plenty of highlights on this emotional road burner, peaking on “Death Is a Relief,” “Lift Your Head,” and “True Loss,” a solemn gem that leaks red hues, the drums punching in and increasing the somber vibes as vocalist/guitarist Ryan Osterman calls, “Sometimes it feels like you’re the only one like me out there.” (Sept. 9)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/holyfawn

To buy the album, go here: https://waxbodega.limitedrun.com/categories/holy-fawn

For more on the label, go here: https://www.waxbodega.com/

35. DREADNOUGHT, “The Endless” (Profound Lore): Denver’s progressive metal dreamers Dreadnought somehow find a way to up the ante on their great fifth record “The Endless,” a collection that seems to be grinding their focus into razor sharpness. Over six sprawling tracks, the band delivers some of their most vulnerable and fascinating sounds but always with an edge that can cut you. Dreadnought also broke out of their normal lyrical mode by focusing on, in their words, a relatable character arc about the human divide of light and suffering. This is a record you need to let soak into your bones, and tracks such as “Worlds Break,” “Liminal Veil,” and “Gears of Violent Endurance” challenge you and push you deep into prog waters where adventure enthralls and pummels. (Aug. 26)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/dreadnoughtband

To buy the album, go here: https://dreadnoughtdenver.bandcamp.com/album/the-endless

For more on the label, go here: https://profoundlorerecords.com/

34. LUSTRE, “A Thirst for Summer Rain” (Nordvis Produktion): Late August was a fitting time for “A Thirst for Summer Rain,” the eighth full-length from ambient black metal project Lustre to land in our laps. While our thirst has mostly been quenched here, that’s not necessarily the case around the world, and whatever inspired sole mastermind Nachtzeit to create this wondrous collection, it resulted one of the dreamiest, most thought provoking of anything else in the Lustre catalog. It feels like a magical adventure you take in your brain, hoping for the cooling relief of a summer storm cloud bursting over your head. Opener “Quiescence” washes over you, the gentle plinking keys making everything feel dreamy until the center bursts. It’s one of my favorite Lustre songs ever. The other three tracks are equally immersive and seductive. (Aug. 26)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/lustresweden

To buy the album, go here: https://www.nordvis.com/lustre-a-10

For more on the label, go here: https://nordvis.com/

33. FORLESEN, “Black Terrain” (I, Voidhanger): “Black Terrain,” the second record from Forlesen, is an album that is not great fodder for making quick playlists, but there’s a magic to committing to an extensive adventure where you’ll feel every bump in the road. These four tracks that stretch over nearly 60 minutes require your full immersion in order to get all the nutrients packed inside, but if you sign on, you’ll find yourself on that dark sojourn, visiting murky terrain but also some exciting peaks that fill your guts with excitement. The band’s members all have experience with other forward-thinking acts including the Botanist, Lotus Thief, Maudlin of the Well, and Kayo Dot, and they pour all of their imagination, solemnity, anger, and restlessness into this incredible record. “Strega” is the 19:10 opener, a track that works through a lifetimes of emotions and experiences, feeling like a centuries-long excursion from the wounds sustained. Closer “Saturnine” runs 18:07, and the first eight minutes or so generate cosmic coldness, hovering and speaking in murmurs, exposing you to the frighteningly spacious universe. Guitars then buzz in and send shrapnel flying, the playing electrifies, and the dual voices carry you deep into space and jolt each cell. (Oct. 28)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Forlesen/

To buy the album, go here: https://i-voidhangerrecords.bandcamp.com/album/black-terrain

Or here: https://metalodyssey.8merch.us/

For more on the label, go here: http://i-voidhanger.com/

NOTE: Originally Vital Spirit’s “Still as the Night, Cold as the Wind” was in this spot, but Kyle Tavares came out as a transphobic fuck, so they’re the fuck out of here. Wormwitch booted his ass, and Israel Langlais likely is an innocent bystander, but we are not honoring any transphobe. Fuck transphobia, and if you’re a transphobe, fuck you.

32. THOU/MIZMOR, “Myopia” (Gilead Media): Gilead Media dropped a goddamn bomb in our laps over the spring: “Myopia,” the collaborative effort combining Thou and Mizmor, almost the equivalent of Okada and Tanahashi teaming up in New Japan for the dream team to end them all. By the way, this album is available digitally right now, with physical media to follow. This eight-track, 73-minute beast is the perfect amalgamation of both bands, a true combination of each spirit into something that exists because as absolute shit as the world has been, sometimes it gives us gifts that make the misery worthwhile. Thou’s grungy doom and Mizmor’s scathing black metal live in perfect damaged harmony, and while they don’t unlock a ton of closed doors, they combine their storming energies into something that never existed before and now has left us shaken to dust. It sounds exactly how you think it does, and that fulfills all wishes with this union. (April 22)

For more on the band, go here: https://noladiy.org/thou/

And here: https://www.facebook.com/whollydoomedblackmetal

To buy the album, go here: https://gileadmedia.net/collections/pre-orders

For more on the label, go here: https://gileadmedia.net/

31. INEXORUM, “Equinox Vigil” (Gilead Media): There have been plenty of amazing riff masters over metal’s rich history, and Carl Skildum has to be considered one of them. The band never submits to genre rules or expectations and instead instills their music with that power that bleeds heavily into their excellent third album “Equinox Vigil.” The band’s melodies just explode and take you with them, and the music is so goddamn catchy and energetic, you can’t help but feel revived and electric when it’s all over. Just take on the first few minutes of opener “Creation Myth” and see if your heart rate hasn’t increased noticeably. It’s so full of power, and that continues over “Dark Sky Sanctuary,” “On the Last Day,” and closer “Such Impossible Sights” that just explodes in the sky. We’re hardly a rubber stamp, but it’s safe to say if Inexorum release a record during the year, it’s going to end up in our top 40.  (June 17)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/inexorum

To buy the album, go here: https://gileadmedia.net/collections/gilead-media-releases/products/inexorum-equinox-vigil-lp

For more on the label go, here: https://gileadmedia.net/

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