What up y’all, Jangel here with my AOTY list! If you don’t know me I write (not as much as I should) for Noob Heavy and run our Instagram account. I wrote this list and do other music things on occupied Ohlone Ramaytush land. If you wanna check out the music I make I’m in a couple bands, HARJO and Icepick to the Face, and I have a solo project, Fire at the Plantation House. These are the 15 records that I enjoyed most this year. I’m not into giving scores or rankings to music so there’s none of that here. If you find something here that you like, that’s new to you, and/or fills you with the rage of a thousand suns let me know about it!
Anna Pest & Colin MacAndrew – A Moor Beneath the Cold Dead Sun
Deathcore, the red-headed stepchild of metal. This oft-maligned subgenre gets a lot of flack for being overly simple, boring, and derivative. And it’s true for the music put out by many bands operating in the subgenre but it’s abso-fucking-lutely NOT true for the one and only Anna Pest. She has returned in 2022 with A Moor Beneath the Cold Dead Sun, a new EP featuring Colin MacAndrew, of Ashbreather and Vicarious Reality fame, and boy howdy does it fucking slap. You’ve got your chunky, low-tuned riffs, your “bree-bree”s, and your breakdowns; all the deathcore staples. However this EP transcends traditional generic boundaries by incorporating atmospheric elements, mathy riffs, and a sense of direction in the song structures that often lacks in deathcore tunes constructed to open the pit and get the windmills spinning. Perhaps my favorite moment is the synth solo that wraps up closing track “Pandemic Death Cult”. A mostly straightforward affair, the track is capped off by a synthesized shredfest that comes out of left field. Although unexpected, the solo is set up by an off-kilter guitar solo in the first track, “A Vision of the End”, that sets the tone for Anna Pest’s wonderful genre exploration. If you’re into deathcore but you wanna have it actually stimulate your brain then I can’t recommend this EP enough! (Yes, it’s an EP. It fucks hard enough to be included with LPs.)
Lasiodora – Molt
If starting off my list with an EP isn’t transgressive enough I’ve got another curveball up my sleeve. Mathcore/post-hardcore trio Lasiodora release Molt this year and it’s both their debut and their swansong. It’s a real shame because I love this record. Mixing post-hardcore guitar textures and crooning vocals with progressive, psychedelic riffing and screamo harsh vocals, this record displays quite the range of textures and emotional sweep and keeps with the tradition of bands like Exotic Animal Petting Zoo and Wild Throne. Title track “Molt” is the center piece of the whole thing. Clocking in at nearly nine minutes, it exhibits the range of the group; a main riff group that wouldn’t be out of place on a Blue Oyster Cult record is offset by lush, dream like psychedelic textures. “Always So Blue” follows soon there after with a pretty, noodly guitar riff straight out of Midwest emo. And after this mathrock tinged breath of fresh air we’re plunged into the dark and stormy “Pulse Train”, a track featuring angular riffing interspersed with beautiful guitar chords underneath soulful crooning. Molt is quite a stunning record and I’m upset we’ll never get a chance to hear a follow up album or hear these songs live.
The Callous Daoboys – Celebrity Therapist
Lots of folks claim The Callous Daoboys are the successors to The Dillinger Escape Plan as the preeminent band in the mathcore landscape. “Violent Astrology”, the opening track on TCB‘s latest record Celebrity Therapist, seems to confirm that assertion; opening with vintage TDEP riffing that sets the tone for the record. But it doesn’t take long for this track to show that this Atlanta seven piece isn’t just a TDEP clone. Furious, mathy riffing paired with soulful choruses listeners will recognize from TDEP’s back catalog are mixed with even zanier, off-the-wall sections full of experimental texture. Whether its a voiceover that jumps rapidly between different speakers telling a story about drawing trees that look like octopuses to moments of soulful pop-jazz on “Who is Delicious? Who Swarms?”, The Daoboys incorporate a wild and diverse range of textures into their music. Schizophrenic song structures paired with non-sequitur stylistic shifts create a collage texture of a record that never lets the listener anticipate what’s next. Some might say the music is unfocused but I feel the incohesion is its own bonding element and I have a hard time denying the genius of vocalist/primary songwriter Carson Pace and the rest of the band. It doesn’t really matter if you like this band or not, you’re just forced to pay attention.
Dischordia – Triptych
Dissonant death metal is an odd name for a subgenre. “Isn’t death metal already dissonant?” asks the hypothetical normie in my head as I imagine a conversation introducing them to the concept. What if we called it atmospheric death metal instead? Or v i b e death? Or maybe just Colin Marston-core?? Putting aside generic labels for now, lemme tell y’all about Dischordia, a trio from Oklahoma City, and their latest effort, Triptych. It’s dissonant death metal (duh) and was mixed by one Colin Marston (double duh; that’s obvious as soon as you hear the thicc bass toan). One of the most delightful things about the group is the bass player, Josh Turner, in addition to having a bass toan with the thiccness, also plays flute in the group. Nothing like being responsible for both the highest and lowest notes in a band. He’s joined by bandmates Keeno and Josh Fallin on slam ball & filing cabinet, respectively, for some of the many interludes on the record that bring moments of placid and psychedelic respite from the riffified pummelling. Speaking of the pummelling, this record does what I think disso-death bands should strive for and strikes a balance between creating bleak, cacophonous atmospheres and engaging with the groove oriented riffing language common to more straight ahead death metal. A sprawling and nuanced record that will reward repeated listenings, Dischordia’s Triptych is a fantastic record from the dissonant death metal space.
Cloud Rat – Threshold
To paraphrase another writer here at Noob Heavy, this is the year I found out I like grindcore. Cloud Rat’s Threshold is the first of two entries on my AOTY list from a genre that I really knew nothing about in January. Cloud Rat does the things that I know grindcore is supposed to do: fast riffing, punk energy, stupidly short songs. Thats all well and good but what really draws me to this record are the moments where the Michigan trio pushes the bounds of what can fit into a crisp, 90-second grindcore track. Moments like the sudden parting of the grinding clouds in “The Color of a Dog” and “Cusp” for a brief respite from the pummelling or the absolutely beautiful melodic riffing that starts “Kaleidoscope”. I suppose folks will say I like false grind but just wait til you see my other grind selection for this list. If you’re looking for some great, genre-bending grind you should check out Threshold.
White Ward – False Light
Since I mentioned false grind let’s check out some black metal that plenty of nerds will isn’t trve or kvlt. Unlike grindcore I’m a bit more familiar with black metal and know that I like it with beauty and sublimity. White Ward and their 2022 effort, False Light, hit all the pretty, blackgazey buttons for me. Melodic beauty plays out over vast song structures, matched by furious drums and screamed vocals. And boy howdy do those song structures get vast. Four of the eight tracks are over nine minutes with with two edging close to 15-minute behemoths. But you need such large bottles to fit this amount of musical goodness in. My favorite moments are when the trumpet and saxophone take center stage. “Leviathan”, the opening track, has a gorgeous ambient break towards the middle with a fantastic trumpet feature. It’s almost two whole minutes of phenomenal playing drenched in the utmost beauty. White Ward genre bends with some elements closer to their default sound such as thrash and death metal but the beauty and weirdness is always just around the corner. Take “Cronus” for example: it opens with a section straight out of the new wave playbook before dropping into some traditionally black metal tremolo riffing then settling into a thrashing groove with saxophone over top. I’ve said “beauty” too much but this record is a cinematic masterpiece of beauty and anguish, overflowing with emotional peaks and valleys.
Denzel Curry – Melt My Eyez See Your Future
You can say I’m a fan of NPR rap. Even if you haven’t heard the term you know what it means: Kendrick Lamar, Run the Jewels, MF Doom, etc. Mainstream artists with technical mastery making what can be called “conscious rap”. But I’ve never heard a rap album that resonated with me nearly as much as Melt My Eyez See Your Future. Curry talks about his trauma and how it manifests itself in his behavior; reflecting on how it affects those around him and his efforts to work on himself so that he won’t cause trauma to his loved ones. As someone expecting their first child in the next month I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this very thing in myself. Guess I should talk about the music now, huh? I’m not well versed in rap and hip hop subgenres but I can tell you what I hear and like about this record. My favorite tracks on this record embrace traditional R&B instrumentation with a heavy emphasis on the bass and drums; always keeping the groove front and center. Any album with a guest spot by Robert Glasper and a lyrical reference to bebop and the music scene of the ’40s will have a deep rooting in jazz and the music that grew from it. Speaking of guest spots, there’s plenty of those across the record from lots of fun artists such as Saul Williams and my favorite R&B crooner, T-Pain. Curry displays a variety of vocal deliveries similar to Kendrick Lamar‘s palette and would be more than capable of carrying this album all his own; however, the guest spots on Melt My Eyez See Your Future help differentiate the sound and carry the tracks forward. I’ve heard folks call this an historical record and I’m inclined to agree.
Escuela Grind – Memory Theater
With a huge sound, fantastic soungwriting, and incisive lyrics, Escuela Grind is kicking doors down across the country and converting folks to the altar of false grind. I for one am fucking here for it. Memory Theater, the outfit’s sophomore effort, sees an expansion of the traditional grindcore sound they cultivated on their debut and early EPs with influences ranging from death metal to EDM. Lyrically, the songs comment on the injustices of the world with all the venom and fury typical of grindcore. We here at Noob Heavy love bands who use their platforms to advocate for intersectional revolution and Escuela Grind‘s calls to make shows and heavy music a safe place for the genderqueer, POC, and women is a message we can get behind. Vocalist Katerina Economou, uses a more introspective lens than their debut album but still wrestles with big topics like inclusion and the ongoing pandemic. The sound of the record is huge, with an especially t h i c c guitar toan and they somehow transform it into an even more massive sonic assault live. I have to admit, this record was on the bubble for making my list but after seeing them live I felt compelled to include it. They put on the best live set I’ve seen all year and absolutely kicked the audience’s teeth in. Listen to the record. Go get your ass kicked in their pit. You’ll thank me later.
Cyborg Octopus – Between the Light and Air
The riffs are fast and furious, often with strong melodicism. The drums match the pace of the guitars with Josh Mathis producing controlled cacophony. The synths are alternately lush and jagged, helping to pace the album. The breakdowns are inspired by the finest metalcore and are even nastier this time around. Oh and there’s a saxophone!…Expanding on their sound and diversifying their sound palette, this new record from the SF Bay Area prog metallers is a bold step forward and is required listening for any prog nerds out there.
Ithaca – They Fear Us
Lots of folks say that metalcore is dead and I’m here to tell you they don’t know what they’re fuckin talking about. I present Exhibit A: Ithaca‘s They Fear Us. This UK quintet checks all the boxes for a sick metalcore record. We’ve got our tasty riffing, chugging breakdowns; panic chords even. I’m incapable of listening to this record without experiencing involuntary stinkface. Once the main riff in the title track hits it’s nothing but scowling and head bobbing for me. No matter where I am, grocery store, work, PTA meeting. This is what we expect from Ithaca at this point. However, we’ve also got some adventurous generic choices towards the end of the record what with “Hold, Be Held” being a full on power ballad. What really makes the record is Djamila Boden Azzouz‘s vocal performance. Her scream is in powerful form and sounding much clearer than on the outfit’s debut, The Language of Injury. The whole band sounds a lot better on this record, like a blanket was taken off the speaker. But the most welcome addition to their sound is Azzouz‘s new clean vocal tone; a beautiful addition to her palette. We don’t really hear it on Ithaca‘s debut so I was a bit shocked when I first heard it on the singles. But goddamn if it isn’t the perfect compliment to the tunes they’ve put on this record. Metalcore is alive and well and I can’t think of another band more perfect to bear it’s torch.
Bloodywood – Rakshak
We’ve all pondered the age-old question: what if Linkin Park was from India? Well, now we have a band that gives the world a definitive answer! Bloodywood fuses the heavy hitting riffs and rapped vocals of nu metal with traditional instruments from India. But that’s the most surface level description of this band’s sound. Jayant Bhadula is a vocal powerhouse, delivering furious screams and soaring choruses in Hindi and Punjabi to match Raoul Kerr’s English verses. Karan Katiyar integrates the Indian instruments into his energetic arrangements and plays a mean guitar riff. The track that comes closest to an early-2000s nu metal track is “Zanjeero Se”, with it’s rapped verses trading with lyrical choruses. Lead track “Gaddar” perhaps best summarizes Bloodywood’s overall sound. Bouncing guitar riffs mix with traditional instrumentation seamlessly in a fantastic composition from Katiyar. Kerr offers up biting critiques of the right wingers in India’s politics that’s matched by the intensity and virtuosity of Bhadula’s voice. “Dana-Dan” is another banger of a track that starts with the lyric “I put a fist through the face of a rapist” and we need more fuckin songs like that. Bloodywood is making waves in the international metal scene with their debut album Rakshak and if you don’t hate fun you’d be wise to give it a spin!
Thotcrime – D1G1T4L_DR1FT
You ever listen to a record you don’t think you’ll like but it totally surprises you and blows you away? Well, Thotcrime‘s record from this year, D1G1T4L_DR1FT, is the one from this year that got me. Combining elements of rave music/EDM, pop, and metal, this album is a cohesive whole of all these disparate elements. The thing that really makes this album pop for me is the incorporation of metalcore. I am a child of the early 2000s so those chuggy breakdowns and panic chords move my ear pieces in the most pleasant ways. I also love Thotcrime’s knack for writing pop choruses over dance beats such as “Tweet This!” and “Critical Codependence”, the latter of which features some tasty autotune on the vocals, serving up those sweet, sweet hyperpop vibes. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention when the snare drum literally goes brrrrrr. Thotcrime opened up that midi editor and said “yeah, let’s make this snare drum inhuman. 64th notes anyone?” My one complaint about the record is that I wish the songs were longer. A lot of the riffs and vocal melodies I really wanted to hear a second time in the song. But short songs are what you get with any music based in grindcore so what are you gonna do? Play the song again, that’s the actual answer. Cybergrind, folks, it’s what’s for dinner.
Warforged – The Grove | Sundial
Some records on this list I’ve described the songwriting as masterful and perfect. I’d say the songwriting on this record is adventurous and bold and the crew in Warforged managed to pull all their wild choices into a cohesive whole on The Grove | Sundial. There’s lots of interesting textures and transitions across the album that feel like they could sink the whole thing but are situated expertly in the overall flow and construction of the record. My favorite is the intro on “Self Destruct Seminar”: a dissonant, oddball guitar riff does its thing before the vocals join it in a contrapuntal texture that can only be found in this sort of music. Drums soon join guitar and vocals and bring a conclusion to the introductory material and launch the band into a nasty techdeath riff. This track in particular is particularly adventurous in its inclusion of a chopped ‘n screwed black metal texture that spits the listener into the industrial beat intro of the next track “Bliss Joined to the Bane”. See what I mean? Shit is wild on The Grove | Sundial. And lest you think Warforged is only here to do weird shit, I should point out that the record is littered with mosh worthy riffs and infectious grooves. Why, just the next track, “Burning Days”, kicks off with some fantastic riffing that makes my neck ache from just thinking about headbanging to it. This record strikes the perfect balance between taking risks with weird, wild ideas and heavy, mosh inducing modern death metal.
Conjurer – Páthos
I was incredibly hyped for Conjurer‘s Páthos and it has remained at the forefront of my mind for AOTY talks ever sense it came out in July. I fuckin love this record. A seamless blend of seemingly all the subgenres from the extreme end of the music spectrum, Páthos displays the songwriting talents of this UK quartet. All their disparate influences – from death, doom, and sludge to posthardcore and prog – make their presence know but the record doesn’t feel stitched together like some Franken-genre. Not to mention the flow and sequencing on the tracks and album as a whole is top notch. Not a note is out of place or wasted here as Conjurer relentlessly drives you into the ground with bleak riff after bleak riff. My favorite kind of riff from Conjurer is their stompy numbers in three. Occurring early and often (there’s one of these in the second halves of “It Dwells” and “Rot” at the start of the record) this texture that I call the “Conjurer Special” showcases them at their heaviest and most mosh inducing. One of the preeminent up-and-coming UK bands by far.
Hath – All That Was Promised
Death metal. Every year there’s enough releases in the genre to fill the cosmic black void (though not enough to fill the black void in my heart) but only one can be the best. 2022’s best death metal record is easily Hath‘s All That Was Promised. I don’t need to tell you about the riffing prowess of Frank Albanese and Peter Brown, or the beastly vocal performances from Albanese and Greg Nottis. I don’t need to tell you about the stellar production and mixing from drummer AJ Viana (he plays that there kit pretty fuckin good too) No, what you need to hear about is the songwriting, the album pacing, the fucking genius with which this outfit plies their trade. There is not a single boring minute to be found among the 52 that make up All That Was Promised. It takes you to peaks of emotional release with a gorgeous melodicism before pummelling you back into the earth with nasty riffage. Every moment leads perfectly into the next and it’s a wild ride every time. We’re talking cornerstone recording for understanding this era of death metal. Hath is deservedly on everyone’s AOTY list and will be a force in modern metal for years to come.