Top Ten Of 2022: Mark Hunt-Bryden
What a year. Whilst I may not have played Sweden or Canada, I changed career after fifteen years in quite an upheaval to my personal circumstances and with writing a ridiculous amount of articles in 2021, I said I would scale back in 2022. Despite this, I have turned in a respectable contribution and achieved recognition in terms of being invited on the radio to talk all things Shaman and my love of music.
I also received a degree of infamy by being called out by Jon Davis, frontman of Conan, for having the temerity of suggesting that their new album didn’t set the world alight for me, hardly the vicious kicking I was accused of, and it didn’t get the stated 2 out 10 as we don’t score reviews on The Shaman.
Now I am no Adam Stone, but I have thrown about plenty of positive words on the scene and had the privilege of reviewing some incredible releases, so without further ado I will walk you through my top ten highlights.
10. Battalions ‘King Of A Dead World’
Kingston on Hull sludge stalwarts Battalions went into the studio for their latest album with a mind to freshen up their approach. With a new member behind the drumkit, the band bet big on themselves and delivered a vital and incendiary eight track salvo that makes them candidates for entry into one of the most surprising and vibrant albums I have heard this year.
Brutal, feral, uncompromising and yet incredibly fresh, and insanely catchy, King Of A Dead World exceeded all my expectations and has been an album I have returned to again and again. Fat free and armed with a production value that makes every note explode from the speaker with clarity, the band upped their game in all aspects and gleefully melts your face off whilst skanking along to the end of the world.
Label: APF Records
9. Final Light ‘Final Light’
Starting out as a one-off Roadburn exclusive commission, Perturbator visionary James Kent conspired to create a dazzling piece of sixty-minute art with Cult of Luna frontman Johannes Persson. Conceived as an exhibition piece for the festival, the resulting composition was rightfully given a release this year to give the wider world the chance to experience this unique collaboration.
Bleak and yet sprinkled with moments of fleeting hope, Final Light is very much a piece of art that sees dark ‘80s influenced synthwave meld with powerful post-metal aggression. Persson’s voice articulates raw passion over the complex and dense doom laden atmospherics that are conjured. Sometimes music as art can be hit and miss, Final Light in all its intensity might not be for everyone, but to coin a phrase, if you know, you know.
Label: Red Creek Recordings
8. Wo Fat ‘The Singularity’
Ken Stump’s Texas crew Wo Fat have always been a top tier band in terms of their ability to blend doom and stoner rock into a psychedelic soup of grooves, heavy riffs and murky mysticism. Returning for their first album in six years, The Singularity is a reminder to all that on their day, very few can challenge their prowess.
The biggest complement I can pay this album is that I put it on in the background when I had friend round for a games evening and as it played, the room fell silent as everyone, upon hearing it for the first time, soaked in and appreciated the blissful musical break. Me, as a fan of hyperbole, would happily say that the instrumental break at the end of closing track The Oracle could be sonically the closet thing I can equate to staring into the face of God.
Label: Ripple Music
7. Sleestak ‘Harbinger’
Sleestak’s 2020 album Aeon topped my list for the year, being the peak of their output thus far. Their ability to merge crushing doom with ethereal psychedelic prog experimentation took them to new grounds. Expanding on this theme, 2022s Harbinger sought to further push the boundaries of what this extremely creative Milwaukee act could do in their quest to create otherworldly, spiritual music that explores the light and shade of creation.
Not as immediately accessible as their previous outing, Harbinger’s true strength lies in the creeping subtilties that repeated plays reveal. At times utterly suffocating and immersive, at others tender and full of emotion, Sleestak deliver mysticism, punishing doom and a breath-taking voyage through Celtic flavoured musical hedonism. Sleestak have evolved into a band that feel free to take in whatever direction they choose, and they deliver with every new step they take.
Label: Altrusian Grace Media
6. The Hellacopters ‘Eyes Of Oblivion’
As I admitted earlier this year, I often take music too seriously. Swedish hard rock titans The Hellacopters take the art of crating music to have a good time to extremely seriously. Their first album in eleven years delivered in spades – packed with high octane, overblown rock and roll, the quartet swagger with self-belief and confidence knowing that over the course of the resulting ten tracks, they will take you on the greatest sonic rollercoaster thrill ride of the year.
Dripping with the sleazy garage style they first cemented in the ‘90s, Eyes Of Oblivion is far more than a retro trip down memory lane, it is the essence of rock and roll, Keith Richards smoking a fag and jamming with Aerosmith and Guns N Roses at the biggest stadium gig of all time level. When it is done this well, there simply is nothing better.
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
5. Cult Of Luna ‘The Long Road North’
The second mention of Cult Of Luna in this year’s top ten shows the musical prowess associated with the Swedish post-metal sextet. Their ninth studio offering saw them deliver their most nuanced and artistically far-reaching work to date, unbelievably topping the incredible 2019 album A Dawn To Fear. Kicking off the year with this on heavy rotation, it unwittingly set the tone as February now seems a lifetime ago.
Despite this, the sheer quality of the music on display set a huge benchmark for everything else to follow. Continuing themes of the previous work, the band added jazz like improvisation, dainty atmospherics and emotional depth to the scathing, raw power they have carved out over their twenty-year career. The Long Road North is the sound of a band in the best form of their lives.
Label: Metal Blade Records | Red Creek Recordings
4. Sergeant Thunderhoof ‘This Sceptred Veil’
Critically it has been a banner year for the Somerset based four-piece Sergeant Thunderhoof. Returning with their first full-length album since 2018s fantastic Terra Solas, a global pandemic, and a degree of fame/infamy for their (awesome) cover of Kate Bush’s Cloudbusting, their fourth album has rightly garnered universal plaudits for their epic infusion of stoner, psychedelia and hard rock.
This Sceptred Veil is an album I fell in love with and ordered it on vinyl halfway through the second play. From the driving riffs of Devil’s Daughter, the crushing grooves of Foreigner and the mesmerizingly beautiful Absolute Blue, this album ticks all the boxes and captivates from start to finish. There’s little I can say about this album I haven’t already said in my review, other than it’s a magnificent defining statement for the band.
Label: Pale Wizard Records
3. Author & Punisher ‘Krüller’
Author & Punisher’s latest album saw the band continuing with their evolution and crafting an album that retains the heart of Author & Punisher but adds a layer of soul dripping with eery and dense melody. Fleshed out by guitar to lend additional sonic depth, the vocal talents of Tristan Shone’s wife Marilla, not to mention the appearance of Tool members Danny Carey and Justin Chancellor, Krüller is a masterpiece.
Featuring weeping tenderness, a jaw-dropping cover and the epic dread of the title track, Shone channels the robotic heartbeat of Author & Punisher into something stately and beautiful in a way that defies the Terminator like reputation of old. Krüller is album of incredible depth and complexity and jam packed with songs, showcasing not only the ability to craft an idea beyond the convention, but to bend it at will and create stunning and emotional art.
Label: Relapse Records
2. Cave In ‘Heavy Pendulum’
For a long time this was my album of the year. Cave In’s seventh album is simply stunning from start to finish. Jam packed with fourteen tracks, Heavy Pendulum sees the band creatively stretch their wings and deliver possibly their finest hour. Ranging from the abrasive metalcore of their roots, through sinister doom, expansive space rock and even classic prog, this is an album that does not shy away from the tragedies of the past, but looks to carve out a new direction in their history.
Heavy Pendulum takes you on a journey from start to finish, whether it is the bullish and defiant New Reality, the smouldering Blinded By A Blaze or the epic Wavering Angel. Guided by the ear of Kurt Ballou, on paper this album shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, but the fact is, it is nothing short of miraculous and victorious.
Label: Relapse Records
1. Benjamin Tod ‘Songs I Swore I’d Never Sing’
The third solo album for the Lost Dog Street Band frontman Benjamin Tod comes at a time of much personal reflection. Stepping back from touring to consider how they go forward in the future and focus on community based projects, Songs I Swore… feels like a line in the sand that had to be drawn to cathartically address issues of his past and move forward to the future.
The resulting ten track album is a stunning collection of songs that emotionally cut with the precision of a surgeon’s knife, ranging from the loss, longing and the pressures of fame on his marriage. The artist I have listened to most this year is Benjamin Tod, his ambition is to be recognised with his ‘name on the stone between Townes and Guy’ and you don’t need to be a fan of dark country to appreciate one of the finest song writers around today.
Label: Anti-Corporate Music
Always the bridesmaid on my lists it seems, The Grand Mal came roaring back with their eponymous sophomore album II, more mature and steeped in classic rock heritage, this just missed out on making it in to my top ten, as did the brutal debut Sociopathogen from label mates Made Of Teeth.
Elsewhere Patrick Walker’s 40 Watt Sun produced a beautiful album with Perfect Light and there were great releases from Russian Circles (Gnosis), Clutch (Sunrise On Slaughter Beach), The Mars Volta (Self-Titled) and God Is An Astronaut (The Beginning Of The End).
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden