My Top 35 Albums of 2022

Here we are again. With 96 2022 albums and counting in my collection and who knows how many others sampled, this is probably one of the hardest (but most rewarding) year end lists I’ve put together. I heard a heck of a lot of stuff. My usual mid-year drift away from new releases just didn’t happen. I kept with it, and now I’m left scrambling to make chops on what is going to be the longest album list I’ve posted since 2008.

But first, an essential primer:

Pocket Gnome – Oh, to Find a Home for a Gnome

comfy synth

Sample track: It’s 7 minutes just listen to it

This is a 7 minute EP about a happy gnome who finds a perfect home, and if you don’t like it you suck.

…Ok let’s go it’s a 35 album year end list huzzah!!

35. Soul Glo – Diaspora Problems

hip hop, hardcore punk


This is the most fresh punk album I’ve heard in a while. The description is pretty straight forward. Pierce Jordan and co wrote a hardcore album and filled it out with all sorts of hip hop elements and rapped sequences. If that notion intrigues you, you’ll probably like it. I can say the album didn’t stick around on my playlist long after the novelty wore off, but hardcore never does really. The discovery process was delightful, and if its not my favorite 2022 release, it’s absolutely something I encourage everyone to experience at least once.

34. Lunar Spells – Demise of Heaven

black metal

Sample track: Damnation of the Heavenly Sun

I was introduced to this band earlier in the year via their 2021 release Where Silence Whispers and then started noticing Demise of Heaven on recommendation lists. They really excel at keeping it simple, with a crisp tight lofi sound driven by short and basic repetitive melodies. It’s old school in a way that I want way more than I actually hear, direct and uncompromising but focused on feel over force, harsh but also kind of pretty in its way.

33. Veilburner – VLBRNR

psychedelic death metal

Sample track: Lo! Heirs to the Serpent

Veilburner have evolved into a bit of a pet obsession of mine over the years–one of those bands I’m just going to instantly pre-order without sampling and preemptively know I will enjoy. They landed on a sound I adore and, as eclectic as their individual songs may be, they seldom deviate from the core formula. That formula happens to be endlessly brooding and bending incongruous avantgarde chaos. A December release handicapped my ability to absorb it all. It doesn’t feel quite as compelling as their last album, but they’re always a slow grow and there’s nowhere to go but up from here.

32. Auriferous Flame – The Great Mist Within

atmospheric black metal

Sample track: The Great Mist Within

Recorded in his traditional abyssally hollow style, this Ayloss project was difficult to engage even by his standards. But the payout is still there in the form I’ve come to expect it: massive walls of bombast shrouding airy medieval melodic brilliance. It’s just bleaker here, even more marginalized, the faintest glimpses of beauty in a mire of cold plodding fury. It’s a bit of a challenge and not quite as captivating for me as his works as Spectral Lore and Mystras–no strangers to my year end top 3–but I got more than my Bandcamp dollars’ worth exploring it.

31. Artificial Brain – Artificial Brain

tech death metal

Sample track: Artificial Brain

If the gurgling vocals on this were replaced with more conventional growls, I think half of it could decently pass as a Krallice album. I’m glad they aren’t; that choking on my vomit sound hits me right in the sweet spot. Artificial Brain is very much in that later Krallician frantically performed lowkey monomoodal spectrum, tending to wash out in my head if I’m not actively engaging with it. I find this sort of stuff really rewarding; it can just play as a background piece, and any time I want to zone in I’m guaranteed something waiting for me to latch on to. They have an underutilized knack for writing incredibly desperate-feeling tremolo melodies that I hope is given more of a spotlight on future albums. My favorite tracks tend to be where they embrace that, most notably on the opener sampled above.

30. Mizmor & Thou – Myopia

doom metal

Sample track: Myopia

The ten minute funeral dirge of a title track is reason enough to pick this up, and there’s 74 minutes of other material to toy around with after that. Thou and Mizmor are a pretty sick combo and sound, well, pretty much exactly how I would have expected them to. Don’t count on much to rev you up here, opening track aside. The album’s a sequence of crushingly thick slow rolls peppered with Mizmor’s black metal inclinations and Thou’s respect for 90s thematics.

Would I remember this album as much without the title track? Well, no, I absolutely wouldn’t. Myopia the song is a doom metal anthem for the ages and single-handedly carries this album into the sphere of something I’ll remember for years to come. But the rest is pretty rad too.

29. Fogweaver – Labyrinthine

dungeon synth

Sample track: Fogweaver – The Ring of Erreth-Akbe

Dungeon synth is my new jam. As I slowly but surely transition towards becoming a feeble, decrepit, 40 year old boomer, my old bones just aren’t going to be able to take blast beats and pig snorts much longer. Thankfully, people with access to MIDI keyboards have taken compassion and established a genre that us olds can still enjoy.

I love dungeon synth. The itch was always there–Summoning stands as my third most listened to band all time–but I’ve scratched my way thoroughly down the rabbit hole at this point and buy nearly as much of this stuff as I do metal. It’s not the easiest genre to rank. I’m barely even listening to it when I put it on. It’s my ultimate dream background music genre. But it’s been woefully underrepresented on my year end lists, and I can’t continue to leave it off if I want to be honest about what I’m actually listening to. I binged Fogweaver a lot this year as a full discography playthrough. If I had to pick a favorite album, I’m not sure it would be this one. But I think this was my favorite dungeon synth discovery this year with a 2022 release, and I’m feeling pretty damn satisfied right now listening to it as I write this.

28. Antecantamentum – Saturnine December

post-black metal

Sample track: Wraith

I was about wrapped up with my 2022 year end list, making a final browse through new Bandcamp releases, when what to my wandering ears should appear but a killer December 9th experimental black metal release. It’s a really meandering album that can be repetitious in phases but rarely follows a single theme to any logical conclusion, transitioning between thematic riffs and harsh assaults and peaceful post-black drifts and acoustic breaks without a predictable progression. Hints of Enslaved and Panopticon perhaps, if I had to guess at some bigger name influences, but Melpomenë has certainly crafted her own irreverent song-writing process that keeps me on my toes. I love that I’m never quite sure where a given track will take me, and the getting there is pretty fun too.

27. Cervidae – Majestic Fables & Tales

comfy synth

Sample track: The Floating Castle Calls

I’ve been pretty heavily diving into dungeon synth and its awkwardly pleasant offshoot comfy synth all year, and while it’s rare for any one album in these genres to grip me on a level that justifies year-end placement, I absolutely adore queuing up full discographies of these artists and letting them roll all day.

One of these dives lead me to purchasing the full Eisenfell label catalogue–a surreal collection of vaporwave hiphop comfy synth hybrid monstrosities that tickle me almost as pink as this album cover. I highly recommend hopping around through them on Bandcamp for an evening. Cervidae’s second demo, Majestic Fables & Tales, ultimately stood out as my favorite in the mix. Maybe I’m letting the collective novelty skew my placement here a bit, but I don’t care.

26. Grima – Frostbitten

atmospheric black metal

Sample track: Giant’s Eternal Sleep

I tend to seek out innovations and projects that push norms to new limits, but sometimes a band can just come around and drop a solid atmospheric black metal album and I’m all in. Frostbitten doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary outside of the occasional accordion accompaniment, which is itself pretty ordinary in Russian black metal these days, but it doesn’t need to. It’s just a really satisfying wintry nature soundscape that’s excellently performed and ships a lot of good melodic progressions without overreaching.

The only review I found of it makes a point of criticizing the production, and that gave me pause to listen to it a bit differently. I quickly noticed… I don’t want to say flaws, but a definite blending together of sounds that enhances the atmospheric vibe at the expense of its distinct parts. But I connected with Frostbitten as a background-oriented mood piece despite its melodic tendencies. I like the overall aesthetic, and that doesn’t always require instrumental clarity. Maybe with better production this album could have amounted to more, but I’m loving it for what it is.

25. Krallice – Crystalline Exhaustion

atmospheric black metal

Sample track: Dismal Entity

Modern Krallice is not the band I fell in love with 14 years ago. They’re unrecognizable juxtaposed. Their constantly evolving sound has been more interesting than endearing to me. They slowly drifted off of my year end charts, but they were never forgotten. Demonic Wealth intrigued me quite a bit last year with its transition into synth-driven atmospheric sounds vaguely reminiscent of Botanist. Crystalline Exhaustion is the logical next step in that direction, and its cover art could not describe it more perfectly. This album sounds, intentionally as far as I can tell, like it was recorded in a crystal cavern a mile under the earth. It is a soundtrack for exploring such realms. It accomplishes this so vividly that I can’t help but feel a deeper connection to the band again, perhaps the most I have since Loüm and Go Be Forgotten.

24. Drudkh – All Belong to the Night

atmospheric black metal

Sample track: Windmills

Ok, look, I know that if Drudkh took a dump on a paper plate and called it music I wouldn’t gobble it up because I didn’t place Handful of Stars on my 2010 list. (I haven’t listened to that album in over a decade, so apologies if it was actually good and I was too hurr metal hurr at the time to appreciate it.) Wait, did I just apologize for not eating the shit sandwich? uh… Drudkh are pretty incapable of writing music I don’t absolutely adore, and that’s a testament to their enduring capacity to maintain a fundamentally unaltered core sound while pumping out endless quality material for twenty years as much as it’s a testament to my enduring love for that core sound they flooded the Ukrainian bm scene with so many years ago. This album is just beautiful from start to finish. I’m thankful they’re still able to do it after all the fucking bullshit their country has had to endure this year.

23. Everything Everything – Raw Data Feel


Sample track: Teletype

The opening track of this alone is enough to sell me if the rest doesn’t fall to pieces. It might be the most infectious banger I’ve heard all year. Jonathan Higgs’ vocal style is absolutely enchanting throughout and single-handedly carries half the tracks I’m otherwise neutral on to grand heights.

Make no mistake, pop is not my forte or something I naturally gravitate to. I hadn’t even heard Everything Everything before this album. A lot of these songs had me going “wow this is great in spite of”. It definitely feels like a bookended album, with the opener and closer distinctly exceeding the in between for me. But the enjoyment is authentic, if that makes any sense. It doesn’t leave me wanting more so much as occasionally consciously going wow I’m surprised I still like this.

When it came time to sort a year end list, I decided I like it quite a bit!

22. White Ward – False Light

progressive black metal

Sample track: Phoenix

I didn’t latch onto this album quite as much as a lot of people (I’ve been seeing it tossed around as album of the year outright), but my goodness does it have some stellar moments. A progressive black metal album packed with slow brooding saxophone and not averse to spoken sound clip samples, I honestly like it best at its most conventional. When these songs take off, they gooooo with precision and intensity and intricacy that makes the wait worth it every time. I sometimes wish I was a little more viscerally engaged with the in betweens, but they’re never dull or redundant.

21. Dinbethes – Balans

pagan metal

Sample track: Geboren

Sucker for amazing album covers that I am, I gave this an instant sample when it showed up as a new release on Bandcamp, and it wound up in my cart shortly after. Its mid-tempo blackened viking metal grooves hook me start to finish, and at 34 minutes, it’s a relatively easy listen that feeds my endless craving for the style and occasionally really pops off with something brilliant. The middle track Geboren in particular has a really cool sort of Middle Eastern vibe going on. Solo musician J. manages to make often neglected black metal bass relevant and uses some creative bending to forge epic moments. Geboren never gets too fancy for its own good and delivers its creativity in a controlled package. An admirable debut.

20. Entgeist – Res Gestae

progressive blackened death metal

Sample track: Verfall

Really nice all-arounder. Blackened death metal with progressive flares seems to be my bread and butter these days, and Entgeist stood out a lot for both their capacity to ship memorable riffs and their willingness to experiment around a fundamentally traditional core. I think the production’s a bit washed on the guitars and doesn’t always do justice to the full assault potential of the song-writing, but I love what they’re doing here and hope this album’s relative obscurity half a year after release doesn’t dissuade them from keeping it up.

19. Boris – Heavy Rocks 2022

heavy rock

Sample track: She Is Burning

Leave it to Boris to pop off a killer metal-leaning song with brass in the year when every band on the planet seems to be doing it. Heavy Rocks 2022 kicks off about as fabulous as any Boris album ever could, with She Is Burning firing full speed ahead in their most quintessential psychedelic punk sound while still managing to find yet another new flavor novelty. The album ranges pretty far from there in ways that only Boris would consider. It’s a smattering of most major leanings they’ve had over the years, written in the spirit of No with a flare for high energy consistent across the Heavy Rocks titles. It has no flow to speak of and seems like a randomly sorted Boris buffet, jumping from punk to jazz experimentation over an eclectic Nirvana-esque bass groove to drone to electronic-infused hardcore to a dire slow rolled piano and vocal outro with no regard for the listener’s sensibilities, and as far as I’m concerned that’s just part of their charm. The album literally ends mid note without explanation, a not-so-subtle hint that if you want the real deal you should go see them live.

And I did, for the fifth time, and it was just as good as always. 🙂

18. Esoctrilihum – Consecration of the Spiritüs Flesh

brutal black metal

Sample track: Thertrh

Sometimes I just want to smash things. Aurally debase everything around me and revel in ruin. Portal’s Avow filled that niche for me last year. This year, Esoctrilihum has been getting the job done. The album is so effectively destructive that I usually miss all the interesting things they do along the way. Once in a while my head snaps into place and goes wait there is a song here. I like it that way.

17. Moonlight Sorcery – Piercing Through the Frozen Eternity

melodic black metal

Sample track: Wolven Hour

Bombastic anthemic black metal in a constant state of hype that’s uniquely, for the genre at least, distinguished by some very creative drumming. It’s an excellent debut EP from a band with fairly little pedigree. I had a lot of fun listening to this and had to share. They followed it up with a second EP that I haven’t had a moment to check out yet, but hopes are high. I could see a master class full length coming from them a year or two down the road.

16. Liminal Dream – Mind

experimental metal, ambient

Sample track: Liminal Sight

I don’t think my love of Damián Antón Ojeda music is any secret these days. Liminal Dream is one of his lesser known projects, but this album is a wild ride. Throughout Mind, he uses a lot of electronic effects in fairly basic ways that don’t really need to be technically cutting edge to get the job done, because it’s all about creating a very unique atmosphere. As always, his music sounds like it was recorded under a rock at the bottom of a volcano inside a trench in the Pacific Ocean, and that melds uniquely with the programmed drumming, keyboard, and massively clipped samples he brings to the table here. In ways it stays true to his post-rock orientation as Sadness, but there’s less structural build-up to climax tradition. The songs tend to collapse into these mires of ambient and harsh noise that feel fresh and incredible to me.

15. Spire of Lazarus – Soaked in the Sands

progressive deathcore

Sample tracks: Soldier of Sand, Mask of the Wraith

Or more accurately, progressive djent chipslam deathcore uh something something this many notes should not be able to exist on an album. It’s pretty cheesy but compensates by going hard as hell at all times with almost no room to breathe.

I feel like I place a Mechina album most years for hitting the same nerdcore appeal on a significantly tamer level. Mechina’s 2022 release didn’t do much for me, but this album stuffed the void until it ruptured rainbow mucus all over my eardrums.

14. Sadness – Our Time is Here


Sample track: Late Spring True Love

Late Spring True Love is heartbreakingly gorgeous, and Sunset Girl is an admirable supplement to qualify this as an EP instead of a single. Its only flaw is being 11 minutes when I want a full album. Long known for his post-black metal projects that dabbled in pretty and fragile things, on Our Time is Here, Sadness drops the metal veneer entirely and embraces a purely shoegazed-out emo punk sound. It’s fabulous. I want to place it even higher; it’s just so short that it’s hard for me to see it as a complete package from an album standpoint. Late Spring True Love is my favorite song of 2022.

13. Blut Aus Nord – Disharmonium: Undreamable Abysses

atmospheric black metal

Sample track: The Apotheosis of the Unnamable

This album might be best summarized by its cover.

I was first turned on to Blut Aus Nord in 2011 with 777 Sect(s), and the sequence of albums from there through Memoria Vetusta III consistently enthralled me. They started to drift in a direction I struggled to connect with after that. I have very little memory of Deus Salutis Meæ or Hallucinogen, and I felt the latter underperformed their side project Yerûšelem that same year.

Damn what a return to… quality. I can’t say form for such an amorphous being. Blut Aus Nord’s core sound is unmistakable throughout their discography, but the directions they’ve applied it in vary significantly. This album is an astral swamp. A hellspace of swirling bile that resists the temptation to manifest into anything solid and just keeps on brooding for 46 intensely satisfying minutes. It’s been one of the most dominant background albums for me all year, recapturing that essence of profound untamed mystery I fell in love with them for a decade ago from a novel angle.

The progression of this album is so amazing too. I wouldn’t say it has any sort of linear flow, but each track just sounds better to me than the one before it. Whether that’s an objective quality or just a steady immersion, it ends when I am most prepared to let it play on forever. The replay value is endless.

12. Falls of Rauros – Key to a Vanishing Future

folk black metal

Sample track: Clarity

Falls of Rauros are up to six full length albums now, and I have somehow managed to accumulate all of them without actually listening to anything since Hail Wind and Hewn Oak back in 2008. I don’t know if the timing didn’t align with my mood or what, but I ended up going into this album with an essentially blank slate, and I was really taken aback by how pretty it is. I don’t even mean in the sense that they write scenic melodies. I mean, if you took out the harsh guttural screaming, this could be one of those easy listening albums. Adult contemporary. Or something like that. …

Really, this album is so chill. Falls of Rauros have a reputation for writing beautiful music, but a quick skim leads me to think they went further here, forcibly reducing the harshness of their tones to better match their picturesque melodies. I don’t know how they manage to make a black metal-rooted sound so damn agreeable. Country grim frostbitten wintermoons, take me home.

11. black midi – Hellfire

experimental progressive math rock

Sample track: Welcome to Hell

Ok, I confess, for a few years there I thought that the meme synth billion note experimentation scene was just really popular. This is the first year I dove into black midi the band, so my perspective is lacking previous albums that I’ve been told are just as good if not better.

Oh well.

Whatever the hell is going on through this 40 minute clusterfuck of sound, Geordie Greep’s unique vocal performance and theatrical lyrics give it the air of an exhibition, like each track is the next display in some freak show. It’s that consistency that makes it not just a great collection of songs but a great album for me, and it carries the least enticing moments (I could live without Still) through as part of a bigger picture. I enjoy it best as a full ride from start to finish.

I had 11 top 10 albums this year. Sometimes that’s just the way it goes. Something had to get the chop, and ultimately I want metal more.

10. Boris – fade


Sample track: 終章 a bao a qu -無限回廊-

Holy crap what a treat. When Heavy Rocks 2022 was announced in July I predicted there would be a third full length this year. W screamed Wata to me. Heavy Rocks was the Atsuo project. Takeshi would get his turn leading the pack. I have no idea if that’s how it actually works in the studio for them, but here we are. It’s early to be judging this, I know. A December 2nd release doesn’t allow for much processing time. But I’ll venture to say this is the best drone project they’ve dropped since Altar with Sunn O))) in 2006.

This sounds so good aaaaaaaa the first track has these very faintly mixed shrieking siren guitars in the background that remind me of what Wata did far more prominently on Intro from Akuma No Uta. Every track has something fuzzing and echoing and wailing behind the crushing wall of doom guitar just out of reach, always beckoning. The whole album is beautiful and I’m so happy Boris went this route. I want to say this is my favorite thing they’ve released since at least Dear (I think Dear was great and its poor reception was mostly due to the newest fanbase expecting something different, but I digress), and it’s only going to get better over time.

9. Kostnatění – Oheň hoří tam, kde padl

avant-garde folk black metal

Sample track: Çay benim çeşme benim

A massive wall of frantic chaos to primitive melodies that don’t conjure any sense of a modern folk connection. This EP’s assault is more like a mass slaughter ritual in an antiquity that achieved dystopia before they even invented musical notation. I’m never quite sure what is happening instrumentally here, but I’m pretty sure a blood moon just collapsed into the Pyramid of Giza and the wrath of Anubis is about to rupture forth from my rib cage.

Holy crap I just realized pulling a youtube sample link for this that the entire EP is a. Turkish folk. cover album. My mind is completely blown.

8. Immolation – Acts of God

death metal

<a href=" album. My mind is completely blown.

Sample track: An Act of God

I consistently slept on Immolation for years before this album dropped, but something in that album cover spoke to me enough to check it out, and damn. This is so punchy from start to finish. It captures an older school death metal ethos of never holding back on the pummel, but it gets it done with modern expectations of (actual) production quality that I can enjoy without a lingering craving for more. It’s managed to stay on rotation for 10 months now without feeling stale, and the title track is absolutely one of my favorite songs of the year.

7. Fortress of the Pearl – The Grove

piano and black metal bliss

Sample track: At the Center Of It All, I Fear Of What’s Outside

Ayloss did that thing he seems to do at least once every other year where he puts out the new best Ayloss project I have ever heard holy crap this is euphoric. Start with his sound on Mystras and layer it with gorgeous piano and dulcimer and ride this into oblivion. I’m speechless listening to it. I wish I had found it sooner–had had more time to listen it next to III and Castles Conquered and Reclaimed and Ετερόφωτος and get a real feel for where it ranks for me in the canon of one of my all-time favorite artists. I discovered it when I started making this list, and this is not a year in which I can rocket something up to seventh place lightly. But here it is, already, and it is sure to dominate my January playlist.

6. Hath – All That Was Promised

blackened death metal

Sample track: Decollation

The first thing I look for in new music is a feel. The what they’re doing to accomplish it, that comes later if they’ve acquired my interest. Maybe that’s why the further back in time I go, the more I tend to shrug off death metal projects and lean ever more on black metal. Death metal bands of late have been growing tremendously proficient at shipping an atmosphere I can instantly connect with, and there’s just so many more interesting things going on to engage my brain along the way. Hath’s new album clicks for me like Ulcerate. I want to drown in its overarching encompassing void. The songs get to assault me with their depth and character from that sweet spot, not on the outside looking in.

5. Scarcity – Aveilut

post-black metal

Sample track: II

A nearly 8 minute intro track can seem like a tall order, but it sunk in pretty quick that Aveilut is not meant to be experienced as a collection of songs. It plods forward in perpetual moody motion, painting a sequence of grim, hostile landscapes like stages in a video game or circles of hell. The pacing is perfect. I builds up huge anticipation and then II instantly delivers with a pulse driven by some merciless freight train tone I can’t identify but fell madly in love with on first encounter.

The album refuses to break from the forward motion established in I, introducing more and more sinister elements to the journey that express themselves as layers over the rhythm rather than significant changes in the structure. The percussion evaporates in IV, but by then the album has already conditioned me to feel motion, and the airy post-rock guitar tones maintain a sense of vast open space. The landscape is just bleak and desolate now, a droned out hellscape occupied by a singular menacing mass represented by the most effective growling I have heard on a drone track in a while. V is the least like the others: a conflicting mood–a scramble of finality and triumph and hopelessness–a hollow victory to conclude an intensely dark and visceral musical journey.

4. Swampborn – Beyond Ratio

progressive black metal

Sample tracks: Sleepingstatic, Transitions

This album feels like it’s going to be generic metal for about one minute before blitzing out the first of countless killer riffs. Maybe the discordant ear-piercing tremolo at 1:45 or the industrial funk solo and subtly mixed choir at 3:50 first clued me in that the ride would be far reaching. But by the end of my first spin through opening track Entropie, I was definitely aware that I was listening to something special. How far it would go, how much it would do, that’s something I’m still soaking in dozens of plays later.

There’s an Eastern European black metal centerpoint to a lot of it that I could see feeling like a drag at times if that’s very not your thing. That sound is one of the most satisfying mood trends in music to my ears, so I’m in for the long haul. I have no pressing desire to pay attention because I’m already content with it in the background, but there’s soooo much going on. These songs have so many key moments and tight transitions and short-lived catchy melodies (the brass passage on Muscarum has been stuck in my head for months), I discover something new every time I put it on. It’s hard to pick a sample track because each song is such a unique, self-contained package.

It’s a real shame this has been slept on. I did find out that about half of the album is rerecordings of demos they released eight years ago, so maybe that’s a factor? But it just leaves me more impressed because it means they were using brass and sax in black metal before it was cool. Go experience this and tell me if I’m crazy to call it a strong album of the year contender.

3. Ashenspire – Hostile Architecture

avant-garde metal

Sample track: Tragic Heroin

I’ve made so many bad decisions creating these lists over the years that when I went to do a 20 year anniversary review in 2021 it was so cringe I couldn’t motivate myself to write about it. 2015 was a respectable year for me, relatively speaking, but placing A Forest of Stars’ Beware the Sword You Cannot See seventh was an atrocity. This album feels like its spiritual sequel, both in style and in quality.

If you are familiar with Beware the Sword You Cannot See, that might come off as a pretty absurd statement. It was an incredibly unique work. But here we are, rambling furious spoken operatic Brit over violin and sax-driven melodies that meander between Pink Floyd-esque dreams and frantic blast beat explosions with the tangled strings of prog chaos tying them together.

I couldn’t bring myself to bump this album up to first place, but I’m fairly confident it’s the one I’ll still be listening to the most four years down the road.

(I just realized this was my 666th Bandcamp purchase and now take full credit for it being an outstanding metal album.)

2. Black Country, New Road – Ants From Up Here

indie/post-rock. post-indie rock? not indie post-rock

Sample track: Basketball Shoes

As far as I can tell this has been the most hyped album of 2022 all year, so I don’t know that it needs much of an introduction, but I can confirm that it’s pretty damn brilliant. Beautiful, diverse orchestration accenting fragile, compellingly personal vocals. The songs often progress like post-rock anthems, but the getting there is arguably even more rewarding than the payout. I went back and sampled their previous album and couldn’t care less about it, so I’m pretty sure my disconnect from the modern indie scene isn’t swaying my opinion here. (Besides, I was a rabid indie consumer for the better part of a decade.) Bread Song aside, which uniquely irritates me for being so boring in the midst of so many gripping cuts, this album is in fact all it’s hyped up to be.

1. Chat Pile – God’s Country

sludge, nu metal

Sample track: Slaughterhouse

Echoing drums and a blood-curdling scream of hammers and grease set an immediately devastating stage on God’s Country. Rhythmically keen, crushing guitar wades through a miasma of shit and ruin to Raygun Busch’s barely coherent shrieks, briefly yielding to introduce his unnervingly fragile spoken vocal style before launching sky high in a shoegaze guitar siren accompanied by desperate shouts of if we could fly away now; if we could only fly away.

And all the blood All the blood And the fuckin sound, man You never forget their eyes Everyone’s head rings here Everyone’s head rings here And there’s no escape There’s no motherfucking exit Hammers and grease Pounding Pounding And the sad eyes, goddamnit And the screaming More screaming than you’d think There’s more screaming than you’d think Everyone’s head rings here Everyone’s head rings here

The genius of God’s Country is in never losing intimate accessibility through descents into brutality. Instrumentally, the album is sludged out nu metal at its core, but the feel shares very little in common with the genre’s tendency for ham-fisted mediocrity. The downtuned grooves are delivered with an introspective sensibility that reminds me more of Tool and Nirvana and Steve Albini than anything within the sphere of the actual style they’re orbiting. There are endless subtleties that make every moment feel like unique, un-interchangeable components in the musical narrative.

Raygun Busch puts the crown on the whole thing with a lyrical and vocal performance that’s easier to think of as voice acting than singing. He is constantly addressing both the listener and the subject nightmares assaulting him in a spoken first-person string of consciousness that blurs lines between the narrative fiction (or in some cases uncomfortable reality) and a direct conversation. Have you ever had ringworm? The closing track depicts a drug-induced psychotic breakdown so vivid that it’s hard to imagine he isn’t actually having one in the studio.

God’s Country has some of the best lyrical delivery I have ever heard, and the musical backdrop for Raygun’s performance is an intricately woven journey resurrecting and successfully blending tons of 80s and 90s innovations into a completely fresh sound. Easy album of the year choice.

My Top 15 Albums of 2017

Hi! Still existing and loving my family, hope the same goes for all of you. I may be retired from all else in the music world, but the year end list is eternal.

Sample size: I have 83 albums released in 2017 at the time of writing this. Can’t promise I actually listened to all of them.

Surgeon General’s Warning: Ranking music is silly and I generally discourage it.  (But I do it once a year anyway…….)

15. Chinese Man – Shikantaza

trip hop/hip hop

Sample track: Liar

fun French hip hop/trip hop album that seems to have gotten overlooked a lot. I listened to it a ton earlier this year. It’s not something I’ll remember years down the road, but it certainly earned a spot for as much as I played it.

14. Elder – Reflections of a Floating World

stoner prog

Sample track: Sanctuary

For me personally, this is probably the most unorthodox pick on my list, because it is heavily rock-centric in all the ways that typically turn me off. God but something about rock and roll has always felt absolutely soulless to me in a way that few genres can match at their worst. But Elder just do what they do so damn well that it’s impossible to hate this opus. An endless onslaught of prog ingenuity with a nice stoner rock crunch that keeps it driving from start to finish. It’s 64 straight minutes of ear candy without a dull note in the mix, and I have a world of respect for how flawlessly these guys accomplished what they set out to do.

13. Krallice – Go Be Forgotten

post-black metal

Sample track: This Forest For Which We Have Killed

Krallice are responsible for a lot of the best music to come out this decade, and in 2017 they pumped out two new ones (both painfully late into the year for a band that requires a lot of repetition to fully appreciate). While I haven’t actually read anything about either of these yet, the distinctly different styles between them have me pretty convinced that Mick Barr wrote the bulk of this one and Colin Marston took charge on the other. Go Be Forgotten gets off to a glorious start with its opening track, but the remainder has so far failed to really captivate me to the extent that most of their previous works did. It doesn’t raise the bar (or if it does, it hasn’t sunk in yet), but it’s still a fascinating exploration of highly complex soundscapes that few other artists have the technical precision to delve. And god that opening riff is sick. Krallice will be a perpetual year end contender as long they keep doing what they do.

12. Father John Misty – Pure Comedy

folk rock

Sample track: When The God Of Love Returns There’ll Be Hell To Pay

I have mixed feelings about this album, and my inclination is to point out the negative; suffice to say, it’s not lacking in universal praise. It wouldn’t be on my list if I didn’t love it. The reason it’s not higher is that, as I see it, Tillman too often defaults to rather throw-away lines. That’s not inherently problematic (see: my #1 pick), but I think it clashes with the more refined, theatrical vibe of the sound around them. Simple case in point: Total Entertainment Forever kicks off with an absolutely delicious line–Bedding Taylor Swift every night inside the Oculus Rift–and follows it up with something so generic that I feel it only exists to achieve a rhyme–after mister and the missus finish dinner and the dishes. Sometimes gentle flaws make a work all the more endearing, but Pure Comedy goes too big and refined to get away with it for me. I feel like he aimed extraordinarily high and almost got there.

11. Tchornobog – Tchornobog

blackened death metal

Sample track: II: Hallucinatory Black Breath Of Possession (Mountain-Eye Amalgamation)

A landscape album as only blackened death metal can paint one. Tchornobog takes you on a 64 minute journey across an entirely unpleasant and stomach-turning waste of all purpose ugliness that really reflected how I’ve felt about the world this year any time I let my attention range beyond my immediate household. We’re talking death metal aesthetics here so yes, that can be a compliment. And while the visions are certainly exotic, there’s not much surrealism of the lofty, artistic sort you find on say, a Blut Aus Nord album. It’s just leaves you feeling kind of dirty. It hit a note I could appreciate while maintaining enough melody and progression to avoid succumbing to redundancy.

10. Hell – Hell

doom sludge

Sample track: Machitikos

Ridiculously heavy slow-rolled sludge that shouldn’t require any genre appreciation to crush your skull. At its peek on “Machitikos”, the quality of this album is unreal. Unfortunately I was pretty late to the ballgame, and their more ambient moments are going to take more than a sporadic month to leave a lasting impression or definitively fail to. Nowhere to move but further up the charts for this one.

9. Nokturnal Mortum – Істина

pagan metal

Sample track: Дика Вира

We’ve certainly come a long way from Knjaz Varggoth screaming hateful nonsense to crackling cassette recordings of Dollar General synth, and as endearing as Nokturnal Mortum’s early works may be, you can’t deny that he has matured (both musically and intellectually) substantially over the years. This album thoroughly lacks the trademark Eastern European folk metal execution that Knjaz inspired more than perhaps anyone else: brutally hammered folk jingles lashing out violently from beneath a wall of modern noise. Істина is a lot more even keel, to such an extent that its metal elements almost feel unnecessary at times. It fully embraces the more cerebral, orchestral sound we began to hear on Weltanschauung and leaves most else behind, achieving a new height in terms of orchestration. I do miss Knjaz’s more passionate explosions, but I don’t consider that a flaw. The real down side to the album for me stems from the studio. For all of its grand instrumental diversity, the complete package is a bit washed out. Everything feels like it’s playing in the background as a supporting element to a non-existent centerpiece. It’s something I’m certainly used to–Nokturnal Mortum have always struggled a bit on the finer finishing touches of sound production–but it’s still a fault that’s hard to ignore. An incredibly solid album that could have been even better.

8. Riivaus – Lyoden Taudein Ja Kirouksin

black metal

Sample track: Vihan Temppeli

This is probably the most unknown album on my list. It’s just straight-up black metal. No frills. No novelties. Really it’s the sort of thing I rarely listen to these days, because most great bm artists have moved on to more experimental fronts. But this is tight as fuck. The riffs are great and it’s got a nice punchy pace and a crisp tone that suits the mood perfectly. Outstanding debut from an unheard of artist. Hoping he sticks around for many years to come.

7. Thundercat – Drunk


Sample track: Bus in These Streets

A tongue-in-cheek dreamfunk fantasy. Artists who can let a cheesy sound be cheesy often accidentally stumble into brilliance. This guy makes some of the goofiest sounds that funk and jazz have ever imagined somehow feel endearing. I’m also pretty impressed by how distinct his sound is. I mean, considering how radically uninformed on this sort of style I am, it kind of blew my mind that I could instantly go “this guy must have wrote the bass lines to Wesley’s Theory“. I think Drunk is an incredibly well-craft work masked behind a delicious veil of comedy. And it’s given us such eloquent 21st century mottos as “thank god for technology, because where would we be if we couldn’t tweet our thoughts?”

6. Krallice – Loüm

post-black metal

Sample track: Etemenanki

If Go Be Forgotten offered Krallice’s most deranged opening melody to date, Loüm might take the prize for their heaviest boot in the ass. Etemenanki hammers down all the brutality of a headbanger’s wet dream from the first note without budging an inch on Krallice’s classic eclectic tremolo noodling. I don’t think I’ve wanted to just open my mouth and shout “fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck” to a Krallice song this bad since Inhume. As with Go Be Forgotten, there’s a serious question of whether the album as a whole is really that great or if the opening song just carries it, and that’s not to knock the rest so much as to say that by Krallice’s ridiculously high standards I think it might have some mediocrity. You can never really tell with most Krallice songs until you’ve heard them four dozen times. It’s complicated, intricate shit that your brain doesn’t instinctively unravel. My gut tells me that Loüm will keep on growing on me in a way that Go Be Forgotten may struggle to, and I was right about that with Prelapsarian’s incredibly late release last year. (Yes, it is amazing.) The only lasting down point about Loüm for me is, surprisingly, the addition of Dave Edwardson (Neurosis, Tribes of Neurot) on vocals. He does a killer job, but I am shamelessly in love with Nick McMaster’s vox and can’t help but miss them.

5. Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked at Me


Sample track: Crow

Phil Elverum’s wife died last year, and he wrote this album. It’s artistically significant for reasons that are pointless to explain, because I think you will either already get it or it will fundamentally conflict with whatever life coping mechanism you personally subscribe to, and both are fine. It matters to me more than other albums about death because we appear to share roughly the same world view. It isn’t my favorite album of the year because it can’t be.

4. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Luciferian Towers


Sample track: Bosses Hang

I somehow managed to ignore the rebirth of GY!BE in spite of being entirely aware of it, and this is the first album I’ve listened to by them since Yanqui U.X.O. fifteen years ago. In the meantime, I’ve become an avid consumer of Silver Mt Zion, and after that long of a break it’s easy to forget just how different the two projects were. I’m at a loss for words to properly describe how I feel about Luciferian Towers because I have nothing remotely current and similar to compare it to. “Bosses Hang” and “Anthem For No State” are both absolutely mind blowing, and I usually skip the first and third tracks and don’t even care. This is the greatest band in post-rock being exactly that.

3. Kendrick Lamar – Damn

hip hop

Sample track: DNA

Every time I saw this album top another year-end list, I wanted to move it further down mine. It doesn’t move me on an emotional level like To Pimp a Butterfly. It’s not Kendrick’s greatest work. Can it really be the best of 2017? But every time I revised my year-end list, it just kept moving up instead. Everything he touches has a subtle finesse to it. I love the sound of his voice. I love the way he weaves it into the instrumentation flawlessly. I love how every aspect of each song seems painstakingly tailored to suit the intended vibe. I can just really get into this from start to finish time after time with zero effort. It was my 2017 fallback the grand bulk of the times I wasn’t in the mood for something dark or heavy. This album makes me feel empowered every time I put it on with no cheap sense of escapism attached, and god did I need something like that.

2. Boris – Dear


Sample track: Dystopia (Vanishing Point)

Wow. This is 16th year that I’ve compiled a year-end list. For the grand majority of that time, I would have named Boris in my top 5 favorite bands if you asked me. During that time, they’ve put out 53 releases just that I have managed to acquire. And not one has earned my #1 slot. Smile came so close. So close. And now I’m saying it again. I almost feel guilty leaving Dear at #2. It was never dropping any lower. But if you’re at all familiar with it, this might sound generous. Dear is nowhere near their most well-received album. It is absolutely nowhere near their most accessible. Doom and drone at its core, it’s a slow drip grind that will leave all but the most steadfast fans bored out of their minds on first encounter. Yet I somehow managed to listen to it close to 50 freaking times. It wasn’t that I liked it at first. I kind of didn’t. But the mood was right. It hit that sweet spot between ambience and melody that made it never quite dull enough to bore inherently but never quite memorable enough to bore through familiarity. It was dark but it wasn’t morbid. It was just the right sort of fuzz to make me feel more alert without distracting me. And it was through that extremely passive but relentless pattern of listening that its finest moments slowly revealed themselves to me, raising the bar higher and higher, until now it blows my mind that a track like Dystopia (Vanishing Point) could have failed to sweep me off my feet on first encounter. It certainly manages to every time now, on take number one hundred and god knows what. This isn’t my favorite Boris album, but I suspect it’s much higher up there for me than for most fans, and after a very great deal of consideration it only failed to take the title by a fraction of a hair. Oh, I also got to watch them play it live in its entirety. 😀

1. Sun Kil Moon – Common as Light and Love are Red Valleys of Blood


Sample track: Lone Star

The grand prize goes to Sun Kil Moon. I think this might be for me what Pure Comedy has been for a lot of other people this year. It just speaks to so much I’ve been feeling in 2017 in a way I can completely relate to. Mark Kozelek takes half of the stuff I’ve been making enemies spouting all year and sets it to solid American folk music. He has a blue collar political perspective that offers no compromise for our “total fucking asshole” President but takes far more cutting hits at liberal America’s zero-attention-span reaction-click-and-move-on culture for allowing the country to fall into this state. The album is a two hours and ten minutes meandering disjointed travel through personal stories and monologues that reach all over the place, but underneath it all is a consistent love and appreciation for the bonds we share in our meager little lives, and an intense compassion for those who have permanently lost them. If he comes across as cranky, he’s just pissed at how many Americans have lost sight of this.

Previous years on Shattered Lens:

2011 / 2012 / 2013 / 2014 / 2015 / 2016

Neon Dream #2: Boris – Intro

Japan’s three-piece prodigy Boris have played every style of music in the books over the years, and they do it all well. “Intro” appears fairly early in their discography, on the 2005 reissue of Akuma No Uta. (The original 2003 release features a much shorter intro track.) If you had any question about the sort of diversity Boris brought to the table even this early on, you could look at Akuma No Uta‘s multiple album covers. One was a play on the cover art of Bryter Layter by Nick Drake. Another, Welcome to Hell by Venom.

This track also made my mix after I used it in a game. The task I set for myself when I purchased a copy of RPGMaker was to take an incongruous cyberpunk story written by a bunch of kids in the 90s and make it work. It was in pretty bad shape. Apparently being chaotic evil made you a great candidate for leadership; the CEO calling the shots was supposedly some genius who had carefully crafted his rise to power, but then he’d turn and do crafty things like scream “bwahahaha” and murder his advisers. It was the sort of nonsense only a bunch of children or Joseph McCarthy could dream up. I wanted to retain the basic progression of events–I was doing this for fun and nostalgia, after all–but the opening sequence, where the leader shoots a passenger airline out of the sky in order to sense the euphoric death rattle of hundreds of innocents burning in unison, was uh…. yeeeeah….

When I listened to “Intro” by Boris, the scene rewrote itself. The plane was suddenly slowly drifting over a scene of urban anarchy, where police stations and hospitals barely hung on behind walls of garbage and broken glass. Casinos and brothels lit up the night sky. The pilot commits a minor breach in security protocol while requesting permission to land, and a culture of paranoia spirals the situation out of control. Ultimately, a general authorizes force with a hint of satisfaction, and the plane explodes. Wata’s high pitched, siren-like guitar seems to simulate ambulances rushing to the scene. Boris set the tone for how I would rewrite the entire script. The foreboding, dystopian vibe of this instrumental song was powerful enough alone to create a setting I couldn’t handle with graphics and dialogue at my disposal.

Review: Pyramids – A Northern Meadow

Pyramids are four seemingly random Joes from Denton, Texas, who have managed to attract some huge names in the world of music, possibly through their completely ridiculous album covers. Well, maybe not that, but the genre-defying oddity known as Pyramids and their associated acts have shown an uncanny knack for recruiting stars to their projects. Originally signed to Aaron Turner’s (Isis, Old Man Gloom) acclaimed Hydra Head Records, they managed a transition to metal’s newest cutting edge label, Profound Lore, as soon as the former went defunct. Their self-titled debut in 2008 scored Colin Marston (Krallice), Vindsval (Blut Aus Nord), and Justin Broadrick (Godflesh, Jesu), among others, to contribute to a remix album, while band leader R. Loren’s White Moth and Sailors with Wax Wings projects have featured David Tibet (Current 93), Alec Empire (Atari Teenage Riot), Jonas Renkse (Katatonia), John Gossard (Weakling), Simon Scott (Slowdive), Hildur Guðnadóttir (múm), and Aaron Stainthorpe (My Dying Bride), to name… a few? The 2009 follow-up, a collaborative album with Nadja, featured Simon Raymonde (Cocteau Twins), and there’s an Ulver remix of it floating around out there. They also lead some cassette tape project with 49 bands I’ve never heard of and This Will Destroy You.

In spite of the absolutely ridiculous, confounding string of names I just threw out, this band remains pretty damn obscure. A Northern Meadow, their first full-length since 2009, may well change all that, with positive reviews on sites like Pitchfork Media ensuring them a moment in the spotlight. Moreover, Colin Marston and Vindsval are active guest musicians this time, with pretty encompassing roles.

track: “In Perfect Stillness, I’ve Only Found Sorrow

The opening track, “In Perfect Stillness, I’ve Only Found Sorrow”, kicks off with Marston’s quintessential tremolo and Vindsval’s equally iconic drum programming, while R. Loren’s vocals quickly cue us into the fact that this isn’t going to be a straight metal album. Instead, we face a prolonged melancholy that finds its essence in the vocals and never really resolves into anything. This brooding approach carries throughout the album, but as the minutes tick by you can notice a slight sort of development–little hints at a more complex animal below the surface. “The Earth Melts Into Red Gashes Like The Mouths Of Whales” rises out of the plod for thirty seconds of really catchy guitar before dissolving back into bleak noise. “The Substance Of Grief Is Not Imaginary” feels like a Blut Aus Nord song in slow motion, offering all of their accustomed madness with none of the speed or volume, while Loren briefly confounds the mood with a really beautiful but short lived vocal melody. “Indigo Birds” extends the vocal presence, with Loren singing longer with more effects and range. As the song dissolves out into distorted droning and ultimately three minutes of dissonant synth, the album approaches a modest transition in character. The interlude resets the mood, allowing the remainder of the album to take, I think, a slightly more abrasive or confrontational approach.

Track: “I Am So Sorry, Goodbye

The second half of the album is more distinct, with more drive in the guitar and a faster rate of transition. “I Have Four Sons, All Named For Men We Lost To War” starts off with the most crushing tones on the album, enhanced in their finality by the still slow pace set by Vindsval’s drums. “I Am So Sorry, Goodbye” has a really memorable industrial groove, with some synth tones that invoke for the first time in me a real vision of something… perhaps ancient, a sort of primordial ruin made all the older by Loren’s forlorn, beautiful vocals. Like “Indigo Birds”, the song dissolves out into low-tuned guitar and synth droning, but the feeling is more complete. The substance of the song gives you more to reflect on in the haze of noise that follows.

On “I Am So Sorry, Goodbye” and growing throughout the remainder of the album, Loren’s vocals start to sound subtly reminiscent of Chino Moreno to me–high-pitch meanderings that feel slightly unstable yet always harmonious. It’s an effect he pulls off well, and it makes the album feel rather back-loaded to me. “Consilience” wraps things up with a turn back to the darker side. More chaotic, and with a new touch of pessimism to the vocals, it concludes an already morbid album on a particularly bleak note. Oppressive synth creeps its way in a bit earlier, and a hard stop takes us to fading noise and silence.

A Northern Meadow leaves me with pretty mixed feelings. R. Loren has a clear aural agenda that he sticks to throughout, yet I can’t escape the feeling that the album’s highest points were those most distant from the overarching theme. The beat-down opening of “I Have Four Sons…”, the synth early in “I Am So Sorry, Goodbye”, Marston’s driving 30-second sweep in “The Earth Melts…”, the short-lived vocal burst at the start of “My Father, Tall as Goliath”… I find myself anticipating these finer moments through a lot of the moody grind, rather than just enjoying the ride and taking the highs as they hit me. That grind has a lot of character at times, especially the further into the album I get, but not enough to match the talent Loren was working with here.

I guess I would say that A Northern Meadow is a very unique album, and I love Loren’s dedication to uniting awesome musicians, but I don’t feel very compelled to keep listening to it as the novelty begins to wear off. If its slightly chaotic morbidity strikes a chord with you, you might love it, but if you can’t connect to that feeling it will inevitably grow tedious at times. Marston’s noodling isn’t extensive enough to keep me constantly engaged the way a Krallice album can–a tall order, considering how equally brilliant that band’s other three members are–nor do I think Vindsval’s drum tones hold up in this sort of mono-tempo drag. It doesn’t help that both musicians inevitably play themselves. Like say, Humphrey Bogart or Morgan Freeman, they are so distinctly themselves that you feel like you’re hearing the actors, not the characters they are meant to portray. There is nothing of the instrumental synergy both produce in their main bands. I don’t hear the chemistry of two great musicians working together here. I just hear two great musicians, like some mash-up with Loren mixing vocals and synth into the pot. There may be some truth to that: if I understood Loren’s recent interview with Decibel Magazine correctly, I’m pretty sure Vindsval and Marston had no direct communication while crafting this.

I’m not saying A Northern Meadow is bad. Not at all. But it does leave me wanting something more. I can’t help but wonder what could come out of Loren, Marston, and Vindsval sitting down in a recording studio together, and I suspect it would be something more substantive than this, with a lot more motion and a lot less gloom. But that meeting might be pretty difficult to arrange, and who knows whether they would see eye to eye if Loren had allowed them less freedom to do their own things. I might yet get into this, if I can get over what it isn’t sufficiently to appreciate what it is.