BEST OF 2022: 30-21

30. WIEGEDOOD, “There’s Always Blood at the End of the Road” (Century Media): Belgian black metal crushers Wiegedood clearly have had their share of the bullshit, and on their ultra-violent fourth record “There’s Always Blood at the End of the Road,” they make it abundantly clear they’re clean out of fucks. I mean toward society at large. As for the music, they care as much as ever as they unleash something that can be stitched along with their “De Doden Hebben Het Goed” trilogy but also stands far apart from an intensity standpoint. “FN SCAR 16” starts the record and just sucks all the air from the room with a wild howl and as maniacal pace that rambles and punishes, spiraling into the earth. “Until It Is Not” teases before it tears itself open at the chest, babbling blood and guts in your path as the playing absolutely swarms. Closer “Carousel” heats up and spreads as throat singing stings, the heaviness weighs you down, and the playing drills into the earth (Jan. 14)

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

To buy the album, go here: https://wiegedood.lnk.to/TheresAlwaysBloodAtTheEndOfTheRoad

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

29. HOREHOUND, “Collapse” (Blackseed): It’s hard to find true catharsis or a way to alleviate some of the pressure building up in your own mind, but luckily that isn’t impossible to achieve. Pittsburgh doom power Horehound aren’t here to make those problems go away, but their killer third record “Collapse” can act as a friend in arms, guiding you to see the worst of humanity but also provide you the power to work your way out of that madness. “Hiraeth” kicks off with heavy blows landed, going into darkness as Shy Kennedy’s vocals come in deeper, and sultrier than ever before. “Godful” is a beast, foreboding and stalking; “Sword on Fire” arrives amid galloping guitars and doomy steam, melting your brain; “The Rebirth” emerges with thick synth work and the tempo slowly dripping, bringing solemnity before the ground begins to rumble; “Dying Gaia” brings portentous riffs and growls that wrestle with clean singing for supremacy as Kennedy taunts, “Be! Don’t be! You’re going to die, is it today?” (May 27)

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

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

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

28. WHITE WARD, “False Light” (Debemur Morti): Ukrainian black metal band White Ward has seen the impacts of oppression and bloodshed firsthand, they were only too eager to visit that and other touchpoints that have ignited segments of society on their excellent third full-length “False Light.” If you’re already familiar with the band, you realize the black metal tag is merely a base as they spread beyond that to include elements of jazz, post rock, prog, and plenty of other colors. This album lyrically focuses on, to quote their bio, government-sanctioned murders, imminent environmental catastrophes, police brutality, domestic abuse, the psychic emptiness of cities, falsity of modern mainstream culture, and ill-effects of overconsumption. “Leviathan,” “Phoenix,” and “Echoes in Eternity” are classic White Ward epics, but “Salt Paradise” is a game changer as an Americana-styled track with Jay Gambit adding his gravelly, dusty voice to power this along and add even more rustic character to a highlight of this album. (June 17)

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

To buy the album (North America), go here: https://debemurmorti.aisamerch.com/

Or here (Europe): https://www.debemur-morti.com/en/12-eshop

For more on the label go, here: https://www.debemur-morti.com/en/

27. CASTRATOR, “Defiled in Oblivion” (Dark Descent): It was hilarious when sad internet dudes whined that Dark Descent was releasing “Defiled in Oblivion,” the debut full-length from Castrator, whose lineup happens to be all female. That’s never a detail we point out in coverage because we need to stop treating women who can demonstrate bloody savagery as some kind of novelty, and the band comes out stabbing on this bruiser of an album. But that’s obviously why sad dudes were crying. “Dawa of Yousafzai” starts with a clip of Malala Yousafza, and the track grinds as deadly death metal ruptures, tearing apart flesh, draining veins, and the power blows you back. “Befoul My Existence” ignites with guitars rampaging and the playing scraping flesh from the bone. “Forsaken and Deprived” lets riffs spill from the seams, the speed increasing and making the surroundings seem dangerous and unruly. The record ends with a slashing cover of the Venom classic “Countess Bathory” which they fully dominate. (July 22)

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.darkdescentrecords.com/shop/

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

26. NARAKH, “Nemesis Cloak” (self-released): Narakah’s debut full-length album “Nemesis Cloak” is like a microburst of grindcore madness that stomps you into the ground, your identity mostly left in question. This Pittsburgh assault unit grew out of other local crushers such as Slaves BC (now Uzkost), Meth Quarry, Acolyte, Demilitia and plenty of others, and they bring their sardonic chaos to these 18 tracks that blast by in a mere 20 minutes. It felt like a fucking cartoon trying to take notes during this thing, requiring more than one session, but who gives a damn when the music is this piledriving and fun? This is one of those records that if you look away for a second, you’ll miss some sort of madness whipping full speed at your head, and these fuckers even made me question my sanity with the Century III Chevrolet jingle at the front end of “The Uzi Crusades.” This is an awesome display that takes grindcore to a different level and splatters your guts in the street. (July 1)

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

To buy the album, go here: https://forceofreckoningrecords.bigcartel.com/product/narakah-nemesis-cloak

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

25. SUMERLANDS, “Dreamkiller” (Relapse): “Dreamkiller” is the second record from Sumerlands, a band that drinks deeply from the pools of classic heavy metal from the late 1970s and early 1980s. All of that is woven into their sound, and it gets me right in the chest because it reminds me of my high school days scouring for albums after finishing my lawn work. There has been a major change with the band since their 2016 self-titled debut, that being the exit of singer Phil Swanson and the arrival of new vocalist Brendan Radigan (formerly of Magic Circle), an element that made me skeptical despite being a fan of Radigan’s work. That fear was for naught as he and the band excel on crushers such as “Twilight Points the Way” and “Heavens Above,” as good an opening one-two punch as you’ll find on any record. The title track is a classic piece of business, and closer “Death to Mercy” brings an ominous end to a record that is bound to have amazing staying power. (Sept. 16)

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

To buy the album, go here: https://store.relapse.com/b/sumerlands

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

24. PYRITHE, “Monuments to Impermanence” (Gilead Media): “Monuments to Impermanence,” the debut mind flayer by Pittsburgh’s Pyrithe, hardly is a comedy album (the fact that real-life trash was used as percussive elements aside, which actually rules), but the band still finds the absurdity of existence in the pit of musical blackness. Trying to pinpoint the band’s sound isn’t very easy as it can change multiple times during a single passage, but sludge, doom, noise, prog, and many other elements are relevant as the band defines its own brand of heaviness. This thing plays like a mixtape of cuts you’re trying to use to expand someone’s mind into what heaviness can truly be, and it’s even more astonishing it’s all by the same band. “Glioblastoma” is an absolute motherfucker, one of the best metal tracks of the year featuring their original and now-departed vocalist Vicky Carbone; “In Praise of the Enochian Trickster” is a disorienting trip down a river of codeine-laced cough syrup; and “Ekphrastik I and II” brings the record home with the delicacy of a light tube to the face. (April 29)

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

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

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

23. SONJA, “Loud Arriver” (Cruz del Sur): Melissa Moore and her band Sonja are here with their awesome debut record “Loud Arriver,” a swaggering, steaming slab of gothy power that offers no apologies. Moore—she handles vocals and guitars and is joined by bassist Ben Brand and drummer Grzesiek Czapla, the lone member of the cowardly shitbags in Absu who supported her—recounts her life when she had to live as a trans woman in secret and suffered as a result. This record is chock full of revenge, sex, sleaze, anger, hurt, and one fucking banger after another. “When the Candle Burns Low…” gets things going with synth driving and Moore’s vocals sweeping in, with her voice demanding and keeping your attention. “Nylon Nights” is a killer, a track that dawns on a great riff and some lushness sitting behind the shadows. “Wanting Me Dead” has an ominous flow as vintage riffs set fires, the playing sending your heart racing. The closing title track starts with acoustics and softer tones before the pace launches, the bass thickens, and the guitars slip through the fog. Long live Moore and Sonja. (Sept. 23)

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.cruzdelsurmusic.com/store/

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

22. KEN MODE, “Null” (Artoffact): Winnipeg-based noise beasts KEN mode also felt the weight of the pandemic, perhaps more than some other people because their artistic outlet essentially was shut down completely. Being in a music scene and having regular activities around making music created a sense of community for the band, and losing that took a toll psychologically, creating darkness where the despair already was thick. The band eventually broke out of that and ended up on a creative tear, the first portion of that arriving with their monstrous new record “Null,” the first of a two-album arc. Sledgehammer opener “A Love Letter” snarls and writhes with Jesse Matthewson stabbing, “This untasteful place, something is broken, something is FUCKED,” one of the most memorable moments of the entire year. “But They Respect My Tactics” trounces and tangles; “Lost Grip” runs 10:02 and lurks in psychosis; and “The Desperate Search for an Enemy” wrenches as the vocals attack, the bass flattens, and the guitars carve away as Kathryn Kerr’s sax stalks menacingly. Can’t wait for installment 2. (Sept. 23)

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

To buy the album, go here: https://ken-mode.com/products/ken-mode-null

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

21. ELDER, “Innate Passage” (Stickman/Armageddon Shop): Why is no one talking about this record? Is it the late release date? Because a lot of people missed one of the best prog metal records of the year with “Innate Passage,” another strong chapter from Elder. This band always has created music that provokes thought and impacts philosophically and psychologically, but their position in history enabled them to expand even further on this record. This album that stretches over five tracks and 54 minutes leans less on heaviness (though it’s still served generously) and aims for more atmosphere and immersion, drawing you deep within its core and stimulating your senses. Go listen to “Catastasis,” “Endless Return,” and “Merged In Dreams – Ne Plus Ultra” and freak out over a record that’s next fucking level. (Nov. 25)

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

To buy the album, go here: https://beholdtheelder.bandcamp.com/album/innate-passage

Or here: https://www.stickman-records.com/shop/elder-innate-passage/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.armageddonshop.com/

And here: https://www.stickman-records.com/

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