Christ, this year has been a blur for me, what with real life work, blogging, and the exponential growth in actual parenting I have to do (seriously folks, don’t complain when they’re babies, toddlers are busy little fuckers) but I’m always happy when I can get to the end of year lists.
My Album of the Year is, this year, not a slam dunk the way the last few years have been, but it was closer than ever this year. We’ve got some heavy hitters, some sentimental favourites and some new blood all coming out of the woodwork with stellar work, and I’m constantly amazed at what music can do to help us get through life
10. Problem With Dragons ‘Accelerationist’
While it lacks the expected visceral hit of most sludge records, Accelerationist is loaded with groove and a shit ton of cosmic weirdness that would be enhanced even more by the consumptions of psychedelics I’m sure. Problem With Dragons have the real talent of sounding like no one else; a melting pot of influences by classic bands but somehow the end result sounds like none of them. If you’re into bands that expand your consciousness, Problem With Dragons could be the very one for you.
9. Malignant Aura ‘Absymal Misfortune Is Draped Upon Me’
A magnificently accomplished debut record from these Austrian death/doom newcomers. Dragging huge granite slabs of riff into Autopsy-like sludgy death metal territory, this is a gut-wrenching heavy record, full of grandiose melody and abyssal weight. I can’t even fathom where Malignant Aura can go from here, but good luck to them!
Label: Bitter Loss Records
8. Boris ‘W’
A counterbalance to last year’s NO, providing all the gentle beauty that Boris can bring you, touching on their drone doom roots as well as ethereal ambient/new age and drawing on their superlative skills to create something emotionally heavy, if not musically. Bands rarely put out one record a year that can touch Top Ten lists, but W is yet more evidence of just how special an entity Boris are. Glorious.
Label: Sacred Bones Records
7. The Otolith ‘Folium Limina’
The Otolith have released a debut album full of a beauty that is almost too difficult to describe. It hits all notes; from rumbling, crashing doom to delicate folk ballads through pastoral shade and bright open space. The vocals are ethereal in the TRUE sense of the word, as if draped gently across the music but underpinned by rich tones and simmering strength. The interplay of violin and guitar could teach classic composers something about harmony, and it all comes together to create 2022’s most enriching aural experience. SubRosa may be gone but their spirit is very much alive here.
Label: Blues Funeral Recordings
6. Monasterium ‘Cold Are The Graves’
I feel like the world of proper epic doom struggles to find real champions in this day and age, with the genre tending to roll downhill towards death/doom and funeral doom. But if Monasterium have anything to do with it, there will always be a champion of the grand, striding thunder, wielding mighty riffs and powerful vocals. Cold Are The Graves is that champion’s weapon of choice, and potent it surely is. All hail!
Label: Nine Records
5. Et Moriemur ‘Tamashii No Yama’
An album that may not feel as heavy musically as you would expect but as an emotional and grieving gut punch, then Et Moriemur’s Tamashii No Yama is incredible. The judicious use of piano lends a really emotional atmosphere, while there is more than enough quiet introspective parts of the album to drift through amongst the granite riffing. I love how different from my expectations it turned out to be, and how positive an experience that was. A real dark horse.
4. Tzompantli ‘Tlazcaltiliztli’
Tzompantli’s Tlazcaltiliztli is astonishing; as grindingly slow and devastating as anything you’ll hear this year, but with plenty of up-tempo death metal destruction too. The whole album just heaves with abyssal weight, crushing your life from your veins with each damning riff. Probably the best debut record of the year, and an absolute monster sent from ancient jungles.
Label: 20 Buck Spin
3. Kurokuma ‘Born Of Obsidian’
Dragging up eldritch, tribal monstrosities and injecting them with a sense of venom and grace, Kurokuma seem to have made a suitable number of sacrifices to the Jaguar Gods and have been granted the skills to gift us this. Born Of Obsidian is a record that understands the balance between weighty riffs and weighty emotions, and therefore is spellbinding.
2. Darkthrone ‘Astral Fortress’
Astral Fortress is the sound of an iconic band playing whatever they want and being so damn talented and respected that not only does everyone give it a shot, but it turns out to be outstanding as well. Is it the sound Darkthrone helped form and pioneer? No, not really even close. Is it the sound of a band that has no right still being this relevant and excellent after over thirty years? Yes it is. This ‘old metal’ approach that has characterised the band’s last decade or two has left tattered classics in its wake.
Label: Peaceville Records
1. Boris ‘Heavy Rocks (2022)’
I could write for eons about how important Boris has been for me personally, and the journeys they’ve taken me on, but the simplest action is to just listen. Listen to a band who still sound as vital today as they did thirty years ago. A band whose exploration and experimentation with sound has proven to be so influential and like no other. When you’ve gone and done all that, you can write as many albums with the same name as you want. Heavy Rocks 2022 is a pure expression of Boris; Wata coaxing ribbons of exhilarating guitar melodies from the ether, Atsuo smashing that drumkit like a man possessed and the propulsive, impulsive bass of Takeshi. There’s nobody like them, and there never will be.
Label: Relapse Records
Wardruna ‘Kvitravn: Flight Of The White Raven’
Live Burial ‘Curse Of The Forlorn’
Ashenspire ‘Hostile Architecture’
Sisyphean ‘Colours Of Faith’
Scribed by: Sandy Williamson