MetalBite's Top 10 Albums of the Month - December 2022
We're back for the final installment of 2022's Top 10! It's been a hell of a ride. We featured nearly 200 total albums over the course of this list and in the process, discovered several new releases that will be in our regular listening rotations for years. We hope you did as well.
Does anybody even read these things with any sort of regularity? Probably not. I know what you're here for, so I'll just shut up and give it to you. Happy new year or whatever.
Arche - Transitions
Transcending Obscurity Records
Finland knows their way around extremely sad, extremely slow music. Transcending Obscurity has an eye for the diamonds in a sea of metal albums. When you put the two together, you know you're getting something that you'll be able to leave on in the background and then 10 minutes later be completely sucked into the atmosphere.
Ouija - Fathomless Hysteros
Negra Nit Distro
Entertaining old-school black metal with a slightly saturated production that should be enough to appease the die-hards. Full review by Michael here.
Sathanas - Psalm Satani
Sathanas from Pittsburgh release their 11th (!) full-length with Psalm Satani - I'm surprised they've been off my radar until now. They play a really melodic and catchy mixture between black and death with some thrash and even slight punkish borrowings. You can find some similarities to the old heroes like Celtic Frost or Slayer with unique twists. The riffing parade in 'Calling Forth The Darkness' is quite rousing and full of finesse, but all eight tracks are performed very well with nary a filler song to be found. Most of the songs are more uptempo, but in 'Blackened By The Antichrist' they flirt with some midpaced rock n/' roll vibes. We couldn't find a link to the release in question, it's super hard to find online for some reason, so here's a link to a song off their 2018 album:
Kossuth - Necronym
Probably should have come out on The Artisan Era considering it sounds like a long-lost Inferi album (and features Nick Padovani from Equipoise). Perhaps that's why Malcolm didn't bite - maybe it's just too similar? Either way, this still hits all those same boxes and has a ton of different cooks in the kitchen all adding their fast flourishes and technical garnishes.
METALBITE'S TOP 10 ALBUMS OF THE MONTH
10: Messora - Burn
This has a really nice blend of different quasi-extreme elements to keep you on your toes, almost like Opeth if they went in a more doom-focused direction and took some of the haunting atmosphere and overtones out of the Akercocke playbook. It manages to get a lot of mileage out of relatively spare and simple elements by carefully layering and pacing them, and man, those clean vocals are rich as fuck. If you're gonna attempt those in extreme metal, you better nail it, and 'Waking' definitely nails it.
MetalBite's Rating: 8/10
9: Dodsengel - Bab Al On
Debemur Morti Productions
You know, as much as I love a lot of modern black metal, I will concede that it's missing that element of danger that surrounded the music in the 90s. There was a certain unhinged creativity to a lot of the formative albums in the first and second wave, and when you mix in all the church burnings and murder it just added to that certain allure that drew a lot of us in as the edgy teenagers we were. I admit we've kind of lost that a bit at this point, 30 years into black metal's history.
The Norwegians were at the centre of black metal's development, and as such, it's fitting that Dodsengel is one of the few bands I've heard that can genuinely carry that torch of danger into modern times. The vocal performance is one of the bigger draws in this regard - back before "black metal vocals" were a thing, mostly characterized by high shrieks and rasps, a lot of groups like Bethlehem, Silencer, Hades, and even Shining had many more grating uncomfortable voices - more sickly moans and groans, pained wailing, less about technique and more about conveying a sense of pure despair and terror. The songs are similarly diverse and unpredictable - the band will lean on a delicate acoustic melody or minimal, noisy passage for minutes at a time to break up the black metal moments, sometimes hanging onto ideas for uncomfortably long, yet it somehow enhances the atmosphere instead of making it boring. The black metal is ferocious and unrestrained, and the range of motion and genuinely unsettling vibes this group is able to conjure make it something that you might struggle to get all the way through, but nonetheless captivates you all the times with its daring approach and ability to tie it all together into a coherent work of art.
MetalBite's Rating: 8/10
8: Veilburner - VLBRNR
Transcending Obscurity Records
This duo pumps out music at an alarmingly fast pace considering the layers and level of complexity involved, always going deeper into their vacuum of swirling, dissonant death metal with lots of black metal vibes that's never afraid to explore unusual ideas. It seems like something completely new if you're unfamiliar with the band, but for those of us that have been here for a couple albums, this is just another refinement and sculpting of what is now growing into a signature style. Before, it was a lot easier to make comparisons to bands such as Akercocke or even Dodheimsgard, but the more you listen to this, the more it becomes apparent that Veilburner has their own identity in an already rare and enigmatic subgenre.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.1/10
7: Woods Of Desolation - The Falling Tide
Season Of Mist
Torn Beyond Reason basically has GOAT status in DSBM circles now, so any new album by this Aussie duo comes with its share of excitement and hype, but the follow-up album had less impactful riffs and a weaker vocal performance because they didn't have the hair-raising shrieks of TimYatras (the guy from Austere), so expectations are tempered as a result. This even moreso the case when you realize Yatras performed drums on that album, too, and a lot of the appeal of Torn Beyond Reason was in how his steady pocket grooves kept the songs constantly moving…once I saw that mainman D. had recruited Drudkh's drummer to lay down the rhythm on this new album, though, I got hyped again.
The Falling Tide isn't an attempt to recapture the glory of the first album - if anything, it's a second attempt at the botched sophomore, revisintg ideas and motifs that were present on that one but giving them a facelift and augmenting the delivery. Time is a valuable thing, and it appears Woods Of Desolation spent the seven years between this and As The Stars wisely - the vocals have a similar cadence as they did when they weren't good, but the production meshes them into the music a lot better. The riffing is more active, driving and exuberant, which helps a great deal. I sometimes felt like they hung onto sadguy vibes for too long before, in order to keep that unflinching atmosphere. This still maintains that, but the cascades into syrupy tremolo and drumming with a lot of good ol' fashioned rock beats in it help to elevate The Falling Tide and bring back the power that the band seemed to be drifting away from.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.3/10
6: Krvna - For Thine Is The Kingdom Of The Flesh
Third Eye Temple / Ancient Dead Productions
Krvna's second album For Thine Is The Kingdom Of The Flesh is a remarkably quick follow-up to their 2021 debut, although this impressively grandiose work of black metal art is remarkable for more than simply the speed of its release. Not quite symphonic, Krvna's band of epic black metal still builds an opulent edifice from standard instrumentation, with layers of guitars and vocals reaching out in all directions, filling the sonic space with tendrils of fire and ice. Despite the band's Australian heritage, this is undeniably the sound of Scandinavia, with baroque tremolo melodies connecting walls of minor chord blasting that recalls Taake, Dawn and the excellent The Mist From The Mountains album that so enthused this particular listener during the early months of 2022. At their best, Krvna are nothing short of mesmerising, as on the trance-inducing coda of the terrific 'The Flaming Hordes Of Basarab', which provides some insight into what early Burzum might sound like with a gleaming modern production, a production which adds clarity and heft, without sacrificing the immersive quality of the simple, melodic lines. Sure, the vocals exist primarily for texture and could add a little more character, and there is space for some more unconventional arrangements to reduce the reliance on slightly formulaic structures, but regardless, what we have here is extremely strong for such a relatively new band, and given the obviously technical ability demonstrated by some spell-binding lead sections, Krvna are only likely to improve in the six months it will likely take them to release album number three.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.2/10
5: Imha Tarikat - Hearts Unchained - At War With A Passionless World
Lupus Lounge / Prophecy Productions
As the swirling and scabrous riff that populates a significant proportion of 'Radical Righteousness' begin to wrap their barbed wire fingers around the listener's throat, it becomes apparent that Imha Tarikat's third album is going to be something quite special. The German's are sophisticated without being especially avant-garde or progressive, and expertly balance solemn and bleak cascades of mid-tempo minor key tremolo with hints of melodic ambition in the same way in which Schammasch, Cobalt and Funeral Mist have all successfully done in recent years. At times, as crystalline leads push their way through muscular, but austere torrents of buzzing riffs, all underpinned by a thunderous drum barrage which makes liberal use of booming tom fills, Imha Tarikat recall Agalloch and Solstafir at their most aggressive. Indeed, the melancholic nature of their sound is almost as likely to jerk a tear as it is to stir the raging warrior within, leaving the listener crying into his Manowar cut-off while contemplating an assault on the weak-willed masses. Kerem Yilmaz's strident bark and spoken word incantations, reminiscent of Mgla's M, also sets the band apart, lending an urban and almost martial feel to the band's otherwise expansive sound that anchors them in modern reality, as opposed to the more nostalgic yearning of many of their transcendence-seeking peers. Together with the gloomy nature of many tracks, this injects a hint of post-punk aesthetic, distancing the band from black metal orthodoxy without losing anything in comparison to more traditional-sounding bands. Hearts Unchained is a compelling album, which positions Imha Tarikat alongside the best that the genre has to offer in 2022, and one which will surely propel them to greater heights in the coming years.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.4/10
4: Xenomorph - Nihilistic Rustbelt Black Metal Demo II
Hailing from Ohio, USA the one-man project Xenomorph has re-released its demo from '21 and unleashes some alien creatures upon mankind. What you can find here is harsh, savage and relentless sound on the listener that lets you feel quite uncomfortable and full of anger. The sound is very minimalistic, but is not so at the expense of quality. 'Punition Qui Fait Mal' (the fourth one is a cover version) is a highlight because of its tightness and catchy melodic parts. It reminds me of older Ad Hominem or Mysticum stuff. The cover version 'Possessed (By Satan)' is taken from the second Gorgoroth album which still is a classic, a well-done cover that underscores this album is worth listening to.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.5/10
3: Stabbing - Extirpated Mortal Process
My love affair with this band is short, powerful and violent. I had never heard of them until the end of 2021, when I did an in-depth Interview with Mustafa Gürcalioğlu for No Clean Singing and he recommended them as one of the best new bands he was into at the time. I checked out their EP, Ravenous Psychotic Onslaught, and proceeded to play the shit out of it until every riff from each of the four tracks on that 10-minute banger was embedded in my memory. Absolutely disgusting stuff that has the same groove and overwhelming intensity as material from early Disgorge, Deeds of Flesh, or perhaps the first Decrepit Birth album - true classic brutal death metal, baby!
Had I heard that EP when it came out, it would have made my Top 20 Albums of 2021 no problem - probably would have cracked the top 10, even. But, since I was a bit late to the game, I instead had to listen to that in eager anticipation for this release which you see now. Credit where it's due, this Texas group did a fantastic job of building hype for this throughout the year, capped off with a tour supporting Decrepit Birth and Pathology with a couple of notable festival appearances sprinkled in there. When 'Razor Wire Strangulation' finally premiered, I was near ready to buy the album then and there.
Sure enough, this fulfills all expectations. I wasn't expecting Ranvenous Psychotic Onslaught plus an additional four tracks, so the fact that they've fleshed out their arrangements and have more than one motif per track isn't a jarring surprise/disappointment to me - quite the contrary, it's exactly what I wanted to hear. They've still got their obscenely punishing sense of groove. This is the perfect time for this style of BDM to make a resurgence because the production capabilities we have now can really underscore that low-end gut punch, whereas if you listen to a lot of the classics from the late 90s and early 00s there's a ton more kinks - sometimes the vocals are way too loud, sometimes the drums drown out the finer nuances, but Extirpated Mortal Process has an incredibly balanced yet thick sound job that makes everything hit harder. Hats off to Insidious Soundlab for their work on this one. Looking at their production credits, they've worked with literally all of the brutal death bands, and it shows - they know how to get the most out of this sound.
MetalBite's Rating: 9.1/10
2: Hammers Of Misfortune - Overtaker
The mere mention of John Cobbett's name is enough to trigger undivided attention and unwavering devotion for this particular listener, and so the release of a new Hammers Of Misfortune album is cause for celebration, even before the play button is depressed. Not originally intended to be a Hammers album, Overtaker was planned as a side-project, until Cobbett made the decision to simply integrate the thrashing velocity of his new output with the progressive trad metal of his most vaunted band, and insodoing, he has created something truly singular. The majority of the elements of the band that released 2016's Dead Revolution are still in place, from the Deep Purple synths to the florid and acrobatic guitar leads, but the delivery is now accelerated to Slayer-like tempos. Overtaker is initially utterly bewildering, with so much happening in hyper-motion, and it takes the ears some time to adjust to what it is hearing. However, not unlike the way in which the eyes, with a little effort, are able to focus on individual elements of the passing landscape while sitting as a passenger on a high-speed train, one is gradually able to find a connection to the thrashing blitzkrieg before it finally recedes into the distance, and so begin to comprehend the rather spectacular results of Cobbett's experimentation. The best comparison would be to imagine latter-day Sigh playing Sabbat (UK), shorn of the classical and jazz excursions that the former are so fond of, and with repeated plays, this becomes a bewitching combination. The new Hammers sound is not completely without victims – the soulful, soaring clean vocals that added such richness to recent efforts have essentially disappeared – but when everything comes together as it does on the spellbinding 'Don't Follow The Lights', it is hard not to conclude that Cobbett and friends have not chanced upon a new path for the band that must be followed come what may. Overtaker will probably be an album disliked by some for its bizarre and disorienting melange of progressive sounds and brutal attack, but that is precisely what makes it such an extraordinary achievement for the rest of us.
MetalBite's Rating: 9.2/10
1: Misþyrming – Með Hamri
Norma Evangelium Diaboli
The Icelandic black metal masters are back with their third album. If you're not familiar with this band, go check out their first two full-lengths immediately, and if you're looking for any further context on this group, Fernando and Michael's reviews here should give you all the info you need to want to check this out.
MetalBite's Rating: 9.5/10
And there you have it Hopefully 2023 will bring more writers, more reviews, and making these lists even more of an all-encompassing resource for what's what in new metal albums. . Here's all the past year's lists below. Stay greasy!
|The Zenith Passage|