The Metal Wanderlust 2022 Favorites: Vuk

What follows is a list of 50 albums that helped get me through 2022. I will turn 50 in 2023, so sharing that many albums made sense. I always have such a difficult time narrowing things down, putting everything in some sort of order wasn’t a task I felt up to, not to mention after five or six choices “order” starts meaning less, if anything at all. Aside from my AOTY pick, I didn’t bother much with a ranking, so if anyone wants to get bent out of shape because one death metal record is at 12 and one they like better is at 26… well, they can have fun with that, I guess.

Some labels have multiple releases appear throughout. Transcending Obscurity, Redefining Darkness, Flowing Downward, Metal Blade, 20 Buck Spin, and Century Media Records had exceptional years, giving us all so much music to enjoy. Others I’d have liked to feature more of – Dark Descent, Bitter Loss, I, Voidhanger, Memento Mori, and Pagan Records, to name a handful – and will likely remedy that as we make our way through the next twelve months. As always there are far too many independent artists and record labels to mention with any sort of brevity, and I say that’s a good problem to have.

I can also say that I love each record on this list, and I believe all of them have something to offer any metalhead. I have linked each to a Bandcamp page, when available, and I encourage everyone to check those out. Support the musicians, underground and in the clouds, with as much gusto as you’re able. Enjoy!

1. KardashevLiminal Rite

Label: Metal Blade

Release Date: June 10, 2022

No album left a bigger impression on me in 2022 than Kardashev‘s beautiful and crushing Liminal Rite. I am quite comfortable standing behind it as my album of the year.

Self-described as “death-gaze,” Kardashev cannot be quickly put into a box. They sound enough like Fallujah and Alcest to mention both, but not enough like either to leave without a caveat. That’s when things get fuzzy and complicated, so fuck it. Deathgaze.

Liminal Rite provided me with an introduction to Kardashev, which naturally led to listening to their previous full-length (Peripety, 2015), then all of their EPs, and eventually even slowed down 33 1/12 speed versions of Liminal Rite and The Baring of Shadows (2020). So, 2022 was Kardashev-filled and that suited me just fine. Liminal Rite is an astonishing record, sub-genre be damned. Listen to it loudly and as often as possible.

2. AshenspireHostile Architecture

Label: Code666/Aural Music

Release Date: July 18, 2022

“No great men – Only the great many.” Hostile Architecture is a poetic masterpiece. The rage is that of absolute certainty by means of habitual disappointment, loaded with tidal waves of expression that crush the hearts in our heads. That’s a bit of a mouthful for such a (relatively) chill record, but fucking hell those lyrics are glorious! This record is so, so good.

3. Mord’a’stigmataLike Ants and Snakes

Label: Pagan Records

Release Date: November 4, 2022

I find it slightly tragic that more people didn’t pick up on this one. I get nostalgic listening to it, remembering a time of discovery that’s difficult to match. A time when bands like Bauhaus and Swans were beginning to haunt my smiles, by way of my love of The Cure.

4. Aphonic ThrenodyThe Loneliest Walk

Label: Independent/Serpentine Music

Release Date: September 1, 2022

Interestingly, what I consider one of the best albums of the year, is one I’ve spent about half as much time listening to as I have thinking about it after each listen. So, how is that a good thing? Well, I love music that makes me think; that begs me to look deeper. In 2020, I wrote, “Aphonic Threnody (a voiceless lament) is the perfect name for a project so deeply rooted in opaque emotion.” I further explained that because of this, the experience of listening to Aphonic Threnody “encapsulates precisely what that genre as a whole attempts to express.” I stand by that.

The Loneliest Walk is unquestionably the most ambitious work Aphonic Threnody has released. Its length may have scared some folks away, and at two hours and twenty minutes, that makes a certain sense. In the bite-sized culture we live, as we try to stuff as much crap as we can into smaller and smaller boxes, we spend a lot less time with our music. The Loneliest Walk takes as long as it needs to make its point and doesn’t waste time worried about falling behind. And even less about how long it takes for anyone else to catch up. I will continue to encourage anyone to go on this journey with Aphonic Threnody.

5. QaalmResiliance & Despair

Label: Hypaetharl Records, Trepanation Recordings

Release Date: April 15, 2022

This one appeared on my radar pretty early on. I gave it a lot of praise in my review, which I think I got almost right. There are a ton of tough moments on this album, but the last five minutes of “Existence Asunder” will beat your ass. That’s all I really needed to say back then, I suppose. There’s a weight to the album as a whole that would be absent without the end of that song. It’s a no-going-back moment between, “I dig this album,” and “Fuck, this is great!” It is the moment that proved I would absolutely listen to this album many more times. Its placement as the second track provides a bridge to the second half of the story, and that’s not a feeling I often get without having to physically flip the record. Moments like that aren’t always necessarily important, but they’re rare and sometimes I miss not having a choice. A spectacular album either way.

6. Morgue SupplierInevitability

Label: Transcending Obscurity Records

Release Date: May 13, 2022

If Qaalm is considered dangerous in a fight, you truly would be fucked in a tangle with Morgue Supplier. Certainly, exercise extra caution if ever you find yourself alone in a room with Inevitability. It’s sneaky, it’s persistent, and it’s violent as hell. There is simply no way you’ll escape it unscathed.

7. Ritual Dictates No Great Loss

Label: Artoffact Records

No Great Loss opens a bit like a 1980s Yes record, or Peter Gabriel-era Genesis. It takes just over two minutes to morph into something much heavier. Triumphant swirling guitars and vintage keyboards, and the drummer… fucking hell! Ash Pearson (Revocation, ex-3 Inches of Blood) is responsible for the latter, while Justin Hagbert (ex-3 Inches of Blood) provides the vocals and guitar. The album has been labeled “gothic” by many, but that doesn’t quite click with me. “My Solitude” has far too much pop sensibility to be on a goth record, especially on the vocals, and “Autumn Song” is a slow-churning, organ-infused doom track with a Pink Floyd flavor. All around, Ritual Dictates put out one of the most wide-ranging albums of the year, and I think it deserves a ton more attention.

Release Date: October 7, 2022

8. FamyneII: The Ground Below

Label: Svart Records

Release Date: May 13, 2022

Famyne plays an interesting blend of progressive and old-school doom. It’s like Candlemass met Leprous for drinks then Alice In Chains showed up – all tipsy and brilliant. If Famyne existed in the 1990s, they’d have been huge. Yes, indeed! For probably one album, and then they’d have drowned to death in a sea of wannabe “grunge” bands. It would have been tragic. So, it’s quite lucky for us to have Famyne show up twenty years into a new century.

I wouldn’t hear the 90s influence as loudly had I not spent most of my twenties (between 1992-1998) trying my own hand at “alternative” guitar-slinging success. As a teenager, I was as influenced by Soundgarden and Alice In Chains as I was by Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin (okay, maybe not quite). I always found it terribly sad how success ended up pushing these bands into almost unrecognizable radio-friendliness, but their true nature never strayed far from the underground. Still able to influence youngsters to pick up guitars or take singing lessons. Speaking of – Tom Vane is an astonishingly powerful vocalist. He is what you’ll remember most after hearing ll: The Ground Below, which says a lot about the restraint of Famyne‘s guitarists (Martin Emmons, and Tom Ross).

9. The OtolithFolium Limina

Label: Blues Funeral Recordings

Release Date: October 21, 2022

“Arising from the ashes of SubRosa,” trite as that may sound, both accurately and vehemently describes The Otolith. Four of The Otolith‘s five members are former members of SubRosa. They brought the doom with them and left behind some of the sludge in favor of featuring more strings. Don’t let that fool ya, though, Folium Limina is a heavy fuckin record. “Andromeda’s Wing” is all sorts of fearless, while “Bone Dust” will break your heart, peeling its dead layers away like onion skin. Triumphant!

“Host! Into Battle! Host! Into Battle!”

10. Et MoriemurTamashii No Yama

Label: Transcending Obscurity Records

Release Date: April 8, 2022

Tamashii No Yama begins so beautifully with the piano blending into strings, into doom riffs arpeggiated to the beat of war-weary hearts and the marching boots of a small army on its way to burn down your house.

11. Kamra Cerebral Alchemy

Label: Avantgarde Music

Release Date: November 18, 2022

Kamra released an EP in 2021 (Conversing with Ghosts) that scared the shit out of me. The vocals of N.K. were largely to blame. N.D.s mysterious and tranquil guitar work and atmospherics are, to my ears, more prominent and well-constructed on Kamra‘s full-length debut, Cerebral Alchemy. This might be a direct result of being given more room to breathe with a longer run-time. Atmospheric experimental black metal with a touch of doom à la Bethlehem or The Ruins of Beverast. Slightly chillier, I’d say.

12. EstrangementDisfigurementality

Label: Aesthetic Death

Release Date: November 11, 2022

Estrangement‘s latest album, Disfigurementality, is neoclassical funeral doom at its core. But these guys spice it up a bit. There are monk-like chants, cellos, flutes, muffled screams from the ether, and all sorts of percussive bells, bones, and boots. Virtuosic jazz guitar just left of progressive, and a soft spot for traditional classical acoustic guitar. A beautiful album.

13. Blind GuardianThe God Machine

Label: Nuclear Blast

Release Date: September 2, 2022

Not typically a fan of power metal, I was astonished by how much I enjoyed The God Machine. Blind Guardian has always struck me as top of the crop in the genre but consistently remained far too cheesy for my tastes. I noted in my year-end contribution to the Brutally Delicious Podcast that “I’ve always found Blind Guardian, and power metal in general, to have a bit of a plastic sound that gets absolutely crushed under the weight of the subject matter.” Yet I regularly seek out power metal albums hoping the bands and producers are able to achieve the right balance between traditional heavy metal sounds and fantastical or historical lyrical content. It has been my experience that bands get this right (Burning Witches, Helloween, Judicator) about as often as they get it wrong (Sabaton, Powerwolf, Alestorm), but I’m nowhere near familiar enough with power metal to call myself an authority. If the vocals are mixed evenly, the keyboards are used for mainly aesthetic purposes, and the guitars are sufficiently colossal, I’m in my comfort zone. Blind Guardian knocks all of that shit out of the park with The God Machine, and I have given it many repeat spins since its release.

14. Mutilatred – Determined to Rot

Label: Redefining Darkness Records

Release Date: May 13, 2022

Another release I mentioned on Brutally Delicious. I called Determined to Rot a “cannibal caveman death metal juggernaut,” and spoke about hometown pride, as Mutilatred and I have Toledo, Ohio in common. What I failed to mention was Mutilatred‘s contribution to what’s being referred to as the “new wave of death metal.” Pre-dating bands like Undeath, Sanguisugubogg, and 200 Stab Wounds, Mutilatred have been bashing the shit out of things since 2014. Determined to Rot is their second full-length release.

15. Shape of DespairReturn to the Void

Label: Season of Mist

Release Date: February 25, 2022

From my full review:

“I’d put [Return to the Void] at the top of Shape of Despair’s catalog. It remains heavy on the guitars, ala Doom:VS or Aphonic Threnody. Downtempo and deliberate, certainly, fitting for their legacy. But there is an ethereal element to these songs that comes to light a little easier than it has previously. Something more evident in a band like Draconian, for example, yet not nearly as precious. The light doesn’t take any of the darkness away, it just makes its presence known within. This may frustrate some listeners, though it’s worth pointing out that frustration plays a pretty big role in the feelings to which Shape of Despair has dedicated their work.”

16. Karmanjaka – Gates of Muspel

Label: Independent/Grind to Death Records

Release Date: February 11, 2022

Gates of Muspel is Karmanjaka‘s third album, but the first I’ve heard. It’s melodic black metal with traditional, folk, and progressive metal elements weaving expertly in and out of each of the eight tracks. The guitar work (by Orm, and Tengil) is ri-goddamn-diculous!

17. Forlesen Black Terrain

Label: I, Voidhanger Records

Release Date: October 28, 2022

Another example of innovative, praiseworthy doom from 2022. The first time I heard this album I was devastated. Genuinely pile-driven emotionally. Repeated listens weren’t as intense, which allowed me to explore some of its many other layers. To be honest, I’m not sure I’ll ever hear them all.

18. RevocationNetherheaven

Label: Metal Blade

Release Date: September 9, 2022

On their eighth album, Revocation proves once again they can do no wrong. In fact, they keep getting better. Dave Davidson is a modern-day guitar hero, which has become increasingly rare, and he takes both death metal and thrash to places unimagined.

19. Maul Seraphic Punishment

Label: Redefining Darkness Records

Release Date: July 15, 2022

I saw Maul play at Into the Darkness Fest over the summer. Seraphic Punishment had come out a week prior, so I was sufficiently pumped to check Maul out. Their energy was off the charts. Mike Griggs (bass) and Garrett Alvarado (vocals) seemed particularly at home on stage, joined in old-school death metal chaos by Robby Anderson (drums), and guitarists Anthony Lamb and Al Nikolas. Maul is the kind of band I could see fifteen times and smile just as loudly the last time as the first.

20. Oceans of SlumberStarlight & Ash

Label: Century Media Records

Release Date: July 22, 2022

From my full review:

“In a way, Starlight And Ash picks up where Oceans Of Slumber left off. An invitation to join familiar friends for sustenance and fellowship after surviving a terrible storm. A natural progression to an even heartier meal, you might say, which shouldn’t be surprising in the least. But this does not happen in typical metal fashion by adding heavier guitars or a clean/harsh vocal balance that tilts towards the latter. On the contrary, of the eleven tracks, there is nary a hairy riff or growl to be found. Relying instead on dynamics, inflection, and intention, Starlight And Ash rides the line between pop and metal and lives someplace comfortably in the middle.”

On Cammie Gilbert from my coverage of Oceans of Slumber‘s September show in Detroit:

“She is soft-spoken between songs if she decides to speak at all, and everyone is listening to everything. In this room right now silence has a soundthis woman is giving me strength I did not have when I walked in here tonight.” 

Number 21 – 50 have been left without comment. As a late Christmas gift, I’ve decided to spare you all more of my ramblings.

21. White Ward False Light

Label: Debemur Morti Productions

Release Date: June 17, 2022

22. An Abstract IllusionWoe

Label: Willowtip

Release Date: September 9, 2022

23. Sidus Atrum – Spiral of Life

Label: Independent/Kvlt und Kaos Productions

Release Date: March 11, 2022

24. Mourning By Morning – A Step Away From Light; A Step Into Abyss

Label: Flowing Downward

Release Date: June 25, 2022

25. Phantasos – Last Shining Breath

Label: Flowing Downward

Release Date: October 7, 2022

26. Devenial VerdictAsh Blind

Label: Transcending Obscurity Records

Release Date: October 28, 2022

27. Blackbraid – Blackbraid I

Label: Independent/Neuropa Records

Release Date: August 26, 2022

28. Castrator – Defiled in Oblivion

Label: Dark Descent Records

Release Date: July 22, 2022

29. Pythian – Understanding in Light

Label: Cursed Monk Records/Morbid And Miserable Records

Release Date: July 29, 2022

30. Mantar – Pain is Forever and This is the End

Label: Metal Blade

Release Date: July 15, 2022

31. Grima – Frostbitten

Label: Naturmacht Productions

Release Date: July 29, 2022

32. Dream Unending – Song of Salvation

Label: 20 Buck Spin

Release Date: November 11, 2022

33. Aeviterne – The Ailing Façade

Label: Profound Lore Records

Release Date: March 18, 2022

34. De Profundis – The Corruption of Virtue

Label: Transcending Obscurity Records

Release Date: October 7, 2022

35. Wilderun – Epigone

Label: Century Media Records

Release Date: January 27, 2022

36. Brutus – Unison Life

Label: Sargent House

Release Date: October 21, 2022

37. Sky Pig – It Thrives in Darkness

Label: Forbidden Place Records

Release Date: October 7, 2022

38. Holy Fawn – Dimensional Bleed

Label: Wax Bodega

Release Date: September 9, 2022

39. Imperial Triumphant – Spirit of Ecstasy

Label: Century Media Records

Release Date: July 22, 2022

40. Syn Ze Sase Tri – Ultimu’ Lup

Label: Aural Music

Release Date: September 30, 2022

41. Ripped To Shreds – 劇變 (Jubian)

Label: Relapse Records

Release Date: October 14, 2022

42. Wiegedood – There’s Always Blood At The End Of The Road

Label: Century Media Records

Release Date: January 14, 2022

43. Krallice Crystalline Exhaustion

Label: Independent

Release Date: January 28, 2022

44. Sigh – Shiki

Label: Peaceville Records

Release Date: August 26, 2022

45. Cult of Luna – The Long Road North

Label: Metal Blade

Release Date: February 11, 2022

46. Battlegrave – Cavernous Depths

Label: Bitter Loss Records

Release Date: July 1, 2022

47. Psycroptic – Divine Council

Label: Prosthetic Records

Release Date: August 5, 2022

48. Worm Blue Nothing

Label: 20 Buck Spin

Release Date: October 28, 2022

49. Devil Master – Ecstasies of Never Ending Night

Label: Relapse Records

Release Date: April 29, 2022

50. Corpsegrinder – Corpsegrinder

Label: Perseverance Media Group

Release Date: February 25, 2022

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