15. KONVENT, “Call Down the Sun” (Napalm): Danish blackened doom quartet Konvent faced the same hell we all did for two years, and their reaction was violence and frustration, emotions that make for ugly tension and chaos. That was poured into their powerful second record “Call Down the Sun,” a nine-track, 45-minute bruiser of an album that shows the band rising to a new, more scathing level. The isolation we have faced, the band not being able to play shows, which is their lifeblood, went into making these songs darker, more violent, more volatile. The band—vocalist Rikke Emilie List, guitarist Sara Helena Norregaard, bassist Heidi Withington Brink, drummer Julie Simonsen—lays waste to your body and mind, sounding more dangerous and frustrated, pouring all of their frustration into this destructive collection. It’ll fuck you up.
“Into the Distance” dawns in murk, and it isn’t long until you’ve sustaining great bodily damage with List’s incomprehensible growls slithering toward you. “Sand Is King” revels in brutal growls and shrieks, and the band pummels you with doom hammers that very much make contact. You’re battered and trapped, the bruises increase, and the track curdles before dissolving. “Fatamorgana” enters covered in soot, and it slowly burns as the playing gets more intense. The riffs leave welts but also hypnotize in spots, group howls feel tribal and ready for the kill, and the riffs spiral and threaten. “Harena” is the 7:13-long closer, entering with drums at full power, growls drilling into vulnerable flesh. The melodies feel sorrowful in spots, even as the music is vicious and bloody, and the emotional toll is paid repeatedly. (March 11)
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/konventband
To buy the album, go here (North America): https://www.napalmrecordsamerica.com/
Or here (rest of the world): https://napalmrecords.com/
For more on the label, go here: https://label.napalmrecords.com/
14. FALLS OF RAUROS, “Key to a Vanishing Future” (Gilead Media/Eisenwald): “Key to a Vanishing Future,” the latest record from Falls of Rauros, is unlike anything you’ve heard from this band before. They took on that whole concept of having to deal with a life put on us, the history that colors what happens now, and the means of accepting that and using it to make a better future for everyone. Yet there is religious and political bullshit that hold that back, a refusal to own up to why oppressed people feel the way they do, and only the ones who are willing to take on the burden and acknowledge where we’ve gone wrong are going to be true agents of change. Musically, this as diverse as Falls of Rauros ever have sounded. The band—vocalist/guitarist Aaron Charles, guitarist/vocalist/keyboard player Jordan Guerette, bassist Evan Lovely, drummer Ray Capizzo—expands far beyond black metal into deeper progressive waters and just straight-up heavy metal, and it’s a goddamn revelation. This is their best record in a collection of great ones.
“Clarity” gently opens the record, the guitars raining down like a warm spring shower, and then the scorching begins as the jaws unhinge and open. We surge into gazey flooding, punches windmill through an atmospheric gasp, and things crumble anew, the vocals stretching with the atmospheric pressure, ending abruptly. “Survival Poem” is moody and foggy, and then the power explodes, the verses raining punishment. The vocals shred as the guitars race and tangle, the pace rustles, and the leads catch fire, blazing a path into the cosmos. “Known World Narrows” dawns with cloudy bass that spits deathrock vibes and guitars soaring, and the playing moves into more sinister waters. The shrieks mar as the pace floods, the speed becomes an even greater factor, and wild cries call off into the distance. Closer “Poverty Hymn” crushes from the start, shrieks strike, and the tempo is active and surging, delivering punches. A gazey storm goes cold and sends shivers up your spine, chilling your flesh, and then the playing ignites all over, sending your brain into overdrive. This is an exciting new era for the always reliable Falls of Rauros. (March 25)
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/fallsofraurosOfficial
To buy the album, go here: https://gileadmedia.bandcamp.com/album/key-to-a-vanishing-future
For more on the label, go here: https://gileadmedia.net/
And here: https://www.eisenton.de/
13. BLUT AUS NORD, “Disharmonium – Undreamable Abysses” (Debemur Morti): While I’m pretty sure no members of Blut Aus Nord are a part of any space program (hey, I could be wrong), I have a strange suspicion its members have visited the deepest reaches of the cosmos and have used their records to report back and deliver that energy. It takes no time at all to dig into their 14th record “Disharmonium – Undreamable Abysses” to think they’ve done some travelling beyond this rock. This seven-track, 46-minute album is one of the strangest yet most immersive of their nearly three-decade run, which is mind blowing considering the creative clip this band has been on from the start. If you’re not prepared, this thing will break your brain as this trio—guitarist/vocalist Vindsval, bassist GhÖst, drummer/keyboard player/electronics master W.D. Feld—rewire your expectations of these black metal wizards who long ago left behind convention and rules. My first listen was after some mind-altering substances, and fuck, was I not ready for this. I’ve had repeated listens in various states, and every one of them has been unique as I’ve uncovered new layers I didn’t before.
“Chants of the Deep Ones” gets the record off to a rapturing start, the melodies swirling through the cosmos, and on my first listen, this was a total adventure. Growls hiss behind the wall of chaos, riffs continue to slip into stardust, and the track slowly dissolves into your blood. “Tales of the Old Dreamer” amplifies the psychosis as it punches into smeary fire, filling your brain with strange tales unfolding before you. “Neptune’s Eye” brings warped riffs and time seemingly consumed in front of your eyes. The drums splatter as the growls emerge, and the numbing presence that gains steam increases the pressure and the imaginative hell that’s unraveling around you. Closer “The Apotheosis of the Unnamable” is miasmal goo creeping near you, the pummeling working to increase your madness. Guitars work into a thick fog, and the playing slowly chugs until psychotic spirits engulf, alien rubber proving more flexible than guessed, and the last minutes slip into a chemical spill and turn to unrecognizable elements. By the way, the band’s “Lovecraftian Echoes,” released in late September, also is excellent. (May 20)
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Vindsval.official
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/
12. MARES OF THRACE, “The Exile” (Sonic Unyon): Canadian crushers Mares of Thrace are an unabashed favorite around here, this desolate place on the internet we inhabit, and there was question in our hearts if we’d ever get a proper follow-up to their killer 2012 record “The Pilgrimage.” Yet, here we are, in 2022, and we have that record in the form of “The Exile,” a six-track bruiser that keeps faithful to the band’s sound but also adds some new twists and textures that make this arrival that much more exciting. Vocalist/guitarist Thérèse Lanz (who also happens to be an incredibly gifted artist) remains at the helm, and joining her on this leg of the mission is bassist/drummer Casey Rogers (taking the place of long-time member Stef MacKichan), and they carry on and do so with fire, precision, and emotional power. It’s almost like they never left, and this record feels like home—granted, a deranged, fully engulfed one—from the moment the first breath of music is pushed into the world. We missed this band for sure.
“Onward Ever Onward” opens confirming what no one should have doubted in that, yes, Lanz still has a bagful of snarling riffs that creeps up on you and dice your flesh. Her roars bellow as the drumming splits your veins, the tempo mashes fingers, and the mud begins to thicken at your feet, making your travels incredibly hard to complete. “Dark Harbours” is cold and eerie when it starts, the moodiness thickening like a scratchy gray storm cloud before the pace tears open. “Mortal Quarry” has some of my favorite guitar work on the entire record, its introductory riff lancing dangerously, the melodies burning your flesh. “In All Her Glory” is speedier as it strikes, taking you on a runaway mission downhill, picking up velocity and terror along the way. The vocals fire hard as the pace gets more inventive, and atmosphere allows you some breath, but you know that comfort is temporary. I love every square inch of this record, and it’s one of the things that made me the happiest in 2022. (March 25)
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/maresofthraceca
To buy the album, go here: https://linktr.ee/maresofthrace
For more on the label, go here: https://www.sonicunyon.com/
11. MESSA, “Close” (Svart): Italian doom force Messa fall into the category of bands who are flexing what it means to be heavy, and their last record “Feast for Water” was an explosive awakening for us as it comes to basking in their power. This year they responded with their third record “Close,” one that continues the smoky doom to which they’re devoted but also pushes into Middle Eastern and Mediterranean melodies and auras that add an intoxicating element into their music. The band—vocalist Sara, guitarist Alberto, guitarist/bassist Mark Sade, drummer Mistyr—increases its magic over 10 tracks and 65 minutes of power, with no song sounding remotely like any other. It’s a record you want to put on and let transform you as you work through each track, taking on an imaginative, smoldering experience that leaves you inebriated.
“Suspended” begins with Fender Rhodes keys quivering and Sara’s amazing, alluring voice stretching, infecting you. Elegant power unfurls, the pace pumps, and sounds echo, eventually melting into jazzy guitars. Sara’s voice calls out again, and the playing ends in a pit of grace. “Dark Horse” is faster and more propulsive as it begins, and then things settle into a groove, working into your blood. “I only see with my eyes closed,” Sara’s voice soars as the guitars bubble and pick up, and a simple gasp she gives off sends chills down your spine. Just thinking about this song makes my blood race. “Pilgrim” runs 9:26 and starts with mystical strings and vocals floating on the wind. Things flow gently before the track breaks open, sending jolts of electricity. “Leffotrak” is a total shocker, a mauling bruiser that lives for just 44 seconds and completely bludgeons you with speed, violence, and ugly vocals that shred your sanity. It kind of doesn’t fit. But it’s so weirdly out of place, it’s perfect. “Serving Him” is the closer, a blistering, sultry track that slowly unloads and delivers a plodding stomp, Sara’s vocals floating through the carnage. By the way, the band survived a serious accident that put them on the shelf for a while, a reminder not to take them or their art for granted. (March 11)
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/MESSAproject
To buy the album, go here: https://svartrecords.com/product/messa-close-album/
For more on the label, go here: https://svartrecords.com/