Top Ten Of 2022: Martin Williams
Evidently, I’ve been trapped in some sort of space/time warp since March of 2020. Somehow, someway, I’ve passed right by the half-century mark, and time seems to be simultaneously moving at light speed, while being eternally frozen in 2020. I mean, how on earth are we at the end of 2022? I must be trapped in a gravitational time warp, or a simulation of some sort.
Alas, my 2022 has (so far) been both slightly better than 2021, and way worse, as I recently suffered a pretty colossal personal loss. However, as we move through the tail end of the pandemic, and as democracy seems to have mostly, staved off disaster around the world, there is much gratitude to be had. Things can always be worse, and no matter what one may be experiencing in the moment, having a sense of gratitude is the proverbial water, dousing the anxious flame.
From a sonic perspective, the absolute crush of killer records released this year is truly astonishing. It seems the creative outburst I expected due to the pandemic in 2021, took slightly longer to materialize, as band after band, released wave after wave of wicked, vital records so much so, that I didn’t have time to listen to, much less absorb, all the killer records floating in my periphery. Nonetheless, I’ve been taking notes on this list, pretty much since January and February of 2022, and after pulling my hair out as I agonized over my choices, all throughout the year, here are my favorite records of 2022.
10. Ecstatic Vision ‘Elusive Mojo’
I had the opportunity to review this urgent, psychedelic, dangerous, rock ‘n’ roll monster when it dropped in the spring. I was instantly blown away, not only by the rippin’ heavy, psychedelic bangers as the sheer rock ‘n’ roll attitude and grime oozes out of every pore of Elusive Mojo. Ecstatic Vision managed to somehow perfectly morph fuzzed-up heavy psych, with the rock ‘n’ roll danger and attitude of The Stooges Fun House era to devastating effect. Sometimes Elusive Mojo’s flow will put you in a rock ‘n’ roll trance, and other times, your ass will be leveled by the sheer intensity of fuzzed-up scorchers like the third track Time’s Up.
Label: Heavy Psych Sounds
9. Nebula ‘Transmission From Mothership Earth’
Nebula were at the vanguard of my stoner rock ‘big bang’ of the late ‘90s and were most definitely one of my gateway bands back to the power of the riff. Additionally, I consider guitarist/vocalist Eddie Glass to be a wizard-level shredder and riff lord with but a handful of peers in this genre. So, I was curious after their reunion album, 2019’s killer Holy Shit what Glass, and bassist/partner-in-crime Tom Davies would come up with next. Recorded at Davies house in the Mojave Desert, Transmission From Mothership Earth is the most drugged-up, fucked-up, psychedelic, riff-vortex the LA legends have ever put to wax. Songs like Wilted Flowers, Melt Your Head, I Got So High and the title track are so thick with fuzz, and effects, it’s like Glass’ riffs are stuck in the gravitational pull of a black hole. Nebula appear to be attempting to warp the space/time continuum with riffs and drug references, and they’ve succeeded with Transmission From Mothership Earth.
Label: Heavy Psych Sounds
8. Telekinetic Yeti ‘Primordial’
Boasting one of the best band names in the business, as well as being far and away the most straight-forward ‘stoner rock’ album I encountered this year, Telekinetic Yeti make no secret what their intentions are here; riffs, weed, and crushing. Every single song on Primordial is a raging, marching, stoner rock, riff -monster, with flame throwers everywhere. Witness the massive, crushing, start-stop riffing of Ancient Nug, or the unhinged, riff-fest that is Ghost Train. Behold, the tripped-out, lumbering riff-monster of instrumental Stoned Ape Theory, or the early-psychedelic meanderings, before the unfolding of another riff-fest in Toke Wizard. Telekinetic Yeti execute their mission statement to perfection, and the fact this band is a duo is all the more impressive. Crushing stuff.
Label: Tee Pee Records
7. OFF! ‘Free LSD’
If NASA had to choose one record to blast into space as a statement of ‘Southern California hardcore punk’ in 2022, Free LSD would be that record. OFF!’s first record since 2014, and first for Fat Possum Records is an absolute clinic in old-school, hard-core punk. The inimitable legend himself, Keith Morris, displays why, even in his late sixties, he’s a punk rock icon, while guitarist Dimitri Coates riffs and tone are completely unmatched for this type of music and the new rhythm section of bassist Autry Fulbright II and drummer Justin Brown both throw fire all over Free LSD. I’ve spun the shit out of this record since it dropped and consider it essential listening in 2022.
Label: Fat Possum Records
6. Matt Pike ‘Pike vs The Automaton’
At this point, I don’t believe it to be an exaggeration or hyperbole to suggest that Matt Pike has reached near-Tony Iommi level status as a riff lord, and wizard-level shredder. His work with both Sleep and High On Fire need no introduction at this point, and Pike, even after two-plus decades, continues to develop and evolve his sound. Pike vs The Automaton, his first solo album, was born out of the isolation of the covid-19 pandemic and features some of the legendary guitarist’s most eclectic material. Witness hard-core-tinged, face-melting rager Throat Cobra, easily as vicious as anything Pike has done in High On Fire, or the acoustic, southern-tinged, introspective Land featuring Mastodon’s Brent Hinds. Pike vs The Automaton allowed Pike a chance to take some musical chances, and get his sonic weird on, without having to stretch the boundaries of what his two main bands are known for. One of the cooler records of 2022.
Label: MNRK Heavy
5. Cave In ‘Heavy Pendulum’
Cave In’s first record of new material since the untimely, tragic death of original bassist/vocalist Caleb Scofield, Heavy Pendulum also saw the addition of Converge/Doomriders/Old Man Gloom bassist/vocalist Nate Newton, as really the only guy who made sense replacing Scofield on so many levels, and the results were a jaw-dropping artistic testament to their fallen friend and heavy music in general. Heavy Pendulum is all at once epic, heavy, grungy, and cathartic, with flourishes of proggy punk layered on top of Cave In’s well-known, space-rock tendencies. I listened to this record A LOT since its release and have come to consider it a modern-day masterpiece in heavy rock ‘n’ roll.
Label: Relapse Records
4. Wo Fat ‘The Singularity’
To say that Wo Fat’s The Singularity is a multi-layered, riff-colossus, that’s as dense as a black hole, and as vast as space itself, would be an understatement. I’ve listened to this monster over and over since its release, including many times with headphones on, and I’m STILL hearing new riffs, noticing new leads and movements, uncovering new effects, and never ever ceasing to be amazed at the mountainous groove that riff lord/shred-wizard Kent Stump and drummer Michael Walter continuously unveil of the course of The Singularity. Stump’s guitar tone alone is worth the price of admission, but when he starts stacking riffs and peppering ‘em with shreddery as he simultaneously rides Walter and then-bassist Zack Busby’s Texas-sized groove to Saturn and back, all bets are off. The Singularity is an absolute clinic in earth-shaking, sci-fi themed, cosmic, fuzzed-out riffery with Texian rhythm and groove that Wo Fat execute to flawless effect.
Label: Ripple Music
3. Clutch ‘Sunrise On Slaughter Beach’
The moment I heard Clutch was dropping a new record in 2022, I penciled it into my Top Ten sound unheard. Whilst I never was, and still not really a fan of, Clutch’s early material, I started getting on board with 2001’s Pure Rock Fury but was a full-convert by the time 2004’s Blast Tyrant was released. Blast Tyrant has grown to be among my Top Twenty albums ever, and I consider Neil Fallon, Jean-Paul Gaster, Tim Sult and Dan Maines to be among the very best musicians proffering heavy rock on earth, and they proved it yet again with Sunrise On Slaughter Beach. Tracks like Mountain Of Bone, Nosferatu Madre, and the title track, Sunrise On Slaughter Beach, all exemplify what makes Clutch practically peerless at this point, while the track We Strive For Excellence sums up Clutch’s mission statement perfectly.
Label: Weathermaker Music
2. Steak ‘Acute Mania’
Seems every year, an album comes out of nowhere and floors me, and Steak’s Acute Mania was that album in 2022. I bought Acute Mania based solely on the flood of killer reviews for the album, including right here at The Sleeping Shaman, as I was only vaguely aware of Steak, and had no idea what they, as a band, were capable of. Acute Mania is a sprawling, layered, heavy, fuzzy, melancholic, grungy, record that takes the listener on many journeys, and I’m coming right out and saying, ‘if it was 1993, this album would’ve been HUGE’. Cuts like Wolves and Last Days with their heavy loud/soft dynamic, catchy and memorable soaring hooks, and killer instrumentation show Steak’s multi-layered diversity in songwriting. Ancestors is as good as any song I heard in all of 2022. Elsewhere tracks like Dead Meat and System offer plenty of riffage to keep the old heads happy, and the killer, mostly acoustic closer Mono, serves as the perfect cherry on the top. I’m really happy I discovered Steak and Acute Mania this year. I spun it a ton in 2022 and it appears it’ll be in heavy rotation moving forward. Classic stuff.
Label: Ripple Music
1. Earthless ‘Night Parade Of One Hundred Demons’
San Diego heavy, psychedelic shred-masters Earthless next-level new album, Night Parade Of One Hundred Demons, was already in my top five after spinning this sonic journey a few times after I purchased it, but when I saw them perform it in its entirety live back in April, my mind was completely blown, and my already-great admiration for Earthless blasted into another dimension. I mean the trio of guitarist/face-melter Isaiah Mitchell, bassist Mike Eginton and drummer Mario Rubalcaba were practically peerless at this long-form, heavy-psych-shred, but Night Parade Of One Hundred Demons finds the trio taking their unique sound to new heights.
The two movements that make up most of the album are flawless clinics in psychedelic shred and groove. I mean, how do they even write this stuff? The shit is epic and dizzying in its scope and vision, to say nothing of the jaw-dropping skills of the three musicians involved. There were mountains of killer albums released this year, with truly memorable songs, but I did not encounter a record, start to finish, that was as flawless, in all aspects, from the peerless musicianship to the production, to the flow, and even the wicked-killer album art from Eginton himself, as Night Parade Of One Hundred Demons.
Label: Nuclear Blast
Here are five more that made my choices this year so excruciating:
Sasquatch ‘Fever Fantasy‘
LA’s forever-underrated riff-dealers deliver another slab of well-written, fuzzed-up awesomeness.
Sun Voyager ‘Sun Voyager‘
As pure of an exercise in fuzzy, garage-psych as I’ve encountered in years, and I had a hard time leaving this off my Top Ten.
Dead Cross ‘ll‘
Mike Patton makes his anxiously awaited return with this truly rippin’ noise, hardcore and metal rager. If this had come out earlier in the year, and I’d had more time with it, I’m sure it would’ve placed in my Top Ten.
Decasia ‘An Endless Feast for Hyenas‘
I reviewed this record in the spring, and this Parisian heavy psych trio blew me away with this trippy, heavy, organic, album. Skeletal Void was one of the best songs I heard all year.
Swami John Reis ‘Ride The Wild Night‘
San Diego garage, punk and rock ‘n’ roll legend Swami John Reis, of Rocket From The Crypt, Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes fame drops his long-awaited first solo album, and it’s a rock ‘n; roll burner from start to finish, complete with some light piano and synth flourishes, to complement Reis’s lethal, downstroke-wizardry.
Scribed by: Martin Williams