Hey it’s me, Kep, your friendly guy who likes death metal and also editor here at Noob Heavy. The end of this year has been crazy, but I’m super happy to lay out the albums I loved this year for you. Here are my favorite 22 records of 2022, plus some other great releases that just missed the cut.
The Honorable Mentions
Ashenspire – Hostile Architecture: avant-garde anticapitalist jazz metal with black metal bones and rousing soapbox vocals
Autonoesis – Moon of Foul Magics: out of this world guitarwork in an immense black/thrash/death package
Doldrum – The Knocking, or The Story of the Sound That Preceded Their Disappearance: bizarre and fascinating American black metal that riffs in bulk and coils like an eldritch horror
Fliege – One Day They’ll Wonder What Happened Here: hybrid black-ish metal that flows outstandingly and does John Carpenter proud
Gudsforladt – Friendship, Love and War: a stunning, remarkably uplifting raw black metal tale of triumph and humanity
Immolation – Acts of God: another top to bottom masterclass from the death metal legends
Inanna – Void of Unending Depths: cerebral almost-prog-death that will sweep you up and carry you to the depths
Kardashev – Liminal Rite: ambitious, atmospheric melancholy post-death to ponder the afterlife to
Pillaging Villagers – Pillaging Villagers: an utterly unique folk/thrash/crossover narrative tale with irresistibly catchy peasant chorus hooks
Psychonaut – Violate Consensus Reality: S-tier post-metal with outstanding riffage and A+ songwriting
Stabbing – Extirpated Mortal Process: the absolute finest of 2022’s straight up brutal death offerings
Sublation – The Path to Bedlam: 2022’s most impressive techdeath debut, laced with philosophy and nuanced fretwork
Suppression – The Sorrow of Soul Through Flesh: slinky, muscular death metal with riffs for days and obvious talent to match
22 Ultha – All That Has Never Been True
Picture-perfect black metal with atmosphere, heartrending lines, and meaningful emotion
21 Wormrot – Hiss
A daring, wide-ranging no-brakes ride on a grindcore roller coaster from hell
20 Conjurer – Páthos
Emotional devastation incarnate, a bruised and bloodied and sometimes wistful post-sludge descent
19 Mother of Graves – Where the Shadows Adorn
Outstanding Peaceville-worshipping melodic death/doom for cold, tear-filled nights
18 Besna – Zverstvá
Moving post-black that rips your heart from your chest even as it soothes your every pain
17 Hegemone – Voyance
Miserable, agonizing blackened post-sludge, dragging you unwillingly into the dark
16 Faceless Burial – At the Foothills of Deliration
Death metal that surprises as much as it pummels, with twisting riff churn for days
15 Ellende – Ellenbogengesellschaft
Heartwrenching post-black that taps into a pool of sorrow and longing so deep you could drown
14 Gutvoid – Durance of Lightless Horizons
Churning, roiling death of the highest order that evokes monstrosities only on the edge of imagination
13 Liminal Shroud – All Virtues Ablaze
A black metal journey through the mists on the shore of a lake that reflects our human futility
12 Phobophilic – Enveloping Absurdity
Utterly stellar hard-grooving riffs and growls from the best young death metal band on the planet
11 Slowbleed – The Blazing Sun, a Fiery Dawn
Dude-punching music, a violent 50/50 death metal/hardcore balance built for brutality
The Top 10
10 Tzompantli – Tlazcaltiliztli
From sunny Southern California and Xibalba guitarist Brian Ortiz comes this absolutely pulverizing monolith of death/doom, which I reviewed back in April. Those infectious grooves are as thick and heavy as they come, Ortiz’s growls could shake the very earth, there are touches of punchy hardcore influence, and the overarching theme of indigenous culture and pride—from lyrics to art to instrumentation—adds an important additional aspect that really sets the project apart. Songs like the title track and “Yaotiacahuanetzli” are bonecrushers, and “Eltequi” is a tantalizing taste of what a true blend of indigenous music and metal can sound like. Looking forward to more from this outfit.
9 Inexorum – Equinox Vigil
Minnesota-based two-man outfit Inexorum’s third record is a thing of absolute beauty and power. Featuring a bevy of blustery tremolo lines, monstrous stormy passages, and gorgeous melodic material that both mourns and exhilarates. There’s something truly inspiring about the solos of guitarist/frontman Carl Skildum, too; his ability to weave warm flashes of trad metal flourish into the chilly autumn oranges and yellows of the album’s texture is remarkable. Between those guitars, the introspective lyrics, Matthew Kirkwold’s subtly engaging bass lines, and what I believe is some of the most authentic drum programming I’ve ever heard, Equinox Vigil is a masterpiece.
8 Wake – Thought Form Descent
One of a couple extremely cool grindcore bands that mellowed(?) their way into something less chaotic and much more thoughtful and expansive, Wake’s newest is the ultimate form (so far) of their sound: a massive multifaceted wall of sound that washes over you like a huge wave of rushing water. The songs flow from moment to moment and motif to motif so well that their several minutes pass in what feels like moments, and the fleeting moments of sweet, sweet clean melody—like the ones in the opening of “Mourning Dirge”—are like crystalline teardrops in a maelstrom. It’s a monstrous listen that will leave you breathless.
7 Spider God – Fly in the Trap
Self-described hyper-melodic black metal project Spider God’s first true LP turned out to be the doozy we all hoped for. It’s eight tracks and 40 minutes of bright melodicism and relentlessly catchy hooks that will have you singing as much as any album ever has. Mastermind G is clearly having a blast mixing pop into the usually joyless world of black metal, and you can’t help but enjoy yourself the same way while listening. The true crime concept works outstandingly well also, and the lyrics are top-notch; “The Fifty Second Murderer” waxes poetic on the eerie death of Elisa Lam, “A Thousand Lonely Spiders” gives us multiple scream-along moments, “The Hermit” references another track on the album and lays down one of the catchiest choruses I’ve ever heard. It’s a hell of a debut record.
6 Knoll – Metempiric
I said more than enough about how much I adore this record back in June, but let me reiterate: Knoll are a phenomenon in the metal scene for a goddamn reason. Metempiric’s structured not-quite-chaos is a lot, pretty much all of the time, but it’s written and performed in such a way that it feels organic and satisfying rather than processed and overwhelming. They lurch, they whirl, they stomp, they blast, and then they throw in unsettling interludes of unearthly noise and wobbling trumpet for good measure. And it’s worth saying again: Jamie Eubanks might be the most impressive frontman in metal; dude isn’t human. This is a powerhouse record that every metalhead should hear.
5 Dream Unending – Song of Salvation
Here’s another album that I was lucky enough to review ahead of its release, and I stand by that writeup: this thing is exquisite. Its pacing is remarkable, with two monumental death/doom towers at the beginning and end and three shorter but no less outstanding tracks in the middle. The textures shimmers and glow, the riffs rumble and sing, the guitars cover an unbelievably large range of tones, and the songwriting is flawless. It’s the kind of album that we’ll look back on in ten years and be able to see as a landmark in the scene; it dares to be beautiful, to delve into non-metal aesthetic while never abandoning its dark roots, and it’s a triumph of a record as a result.
4 Ósserp – Els nous cants de la Sibil-la
This was the single most unexpected delight of the year for me. It seems like no one knew who Ósserp was before this record dropped, despite there already being two LPs under their belt, and then Els nous cants de la Sibil-la came roaring into view like a goddamn runaway bulldozer. This is a breathless listen, the sort of thing that arrives in full gale force, snatching every bit of air from your lungs and never allowing it to return. Their brutal two-headed deathgrind stylings are dense as hell, astonishingly fast, and ferocious as a rabid lion. Unrelenting and intricate at the same time, it’s the most potently destructive album of 2022 by a good margin and will leave you feeling like you’ve been through a fucking hurricane.
3 An Abstract Illusion – Woe
Another stunner from a band I hadn’t heard of before this year, Woe has been taking AOTY lists by storm and I’m here to keep that going. A single hour-long composition in the style of fellow Swedes Edge of Sanity, this album is one of those that begs you to put on a pair of good headphones, lie down in the dark, and just lose yourself. The contrasts between thoughtful beauty and monstrous fury are so great that it’s a wonder they can exist in the same musical space, and yet An Abstract Illusion pulls it off and then some. Hellish blackened walls of sound, a fabulous range of soulful and tormented vocals, grounding death metal churn, colorful flourishes of piano and strings, and songwriting that makes lengthy tracks feel like lived experiences rather than chores: Woe is everything progressive death metal should be.
2 Hath – All That Was Promised
Would you look at that, a duo of Willowtip Records releases back to back in the top 3! There’s little to say about Hath at this point that hasn’t already been said (including by me on this site), but I’m gonna say a bit more anyways. Hath’s sophomore outing is preposterously good at literally everything it does. The way they develop riffs over the course of their tracks is head and shoulders above their peers. The flying, singing, fretboard-scaling solos; the balance of roiling death against fiery blackened elements; the way no song ever gets bogged down in transition or overindulgence in progressive restful moments; Frank Albanese’s commanding roars; AJ Viana’s outstanding drums and equally outstanding production work: this is as complete a package as you’ll see. I’ve probably heard All That Was Promised 20 times at this point and I’m still discovering new countermelodic lines and rhythmic adjustments and all manner of beguiling secrets.
1 Tómarúm – Ash in Realms of Stone Icons
When trying to choose between Tómarúm and Hath for this number one spot, the thing that kept bringing me back to Tómarúm was the way I connected to it emotionally. Yes, the tracks are expertly written, with majestic sweeping lines and full-throated tumult in equal measure and memorable motifs that return again and again. And yes, the performances of the two-man outfit and their session guests (including Spencer Moore of Inferi on drums!) are nothing short of stellar across the board. And there’s no question that their genre-defying blend of progressive elements, black metal ice, and vicious deathly technicality stands out in the crowd. But truly, no album struck my emotions more deeply in 2022 than Ash in Realms of Stone Icons. That desperate, longing search for meaning and solace and forgiveness and absolution and peace; it’s so real and relatable, to an almost uncomfortable degree. I hang on this album’s every word and more alike. “Will I awake into eternal slumber? / Or will I remain / Ash in realms of stone icons / Which stand high above my withered frame?”