With an End Of Year list, it’s tempting to use the introduction to reflect on the what 2022 brought the wider world. But I don’t think that’s a particularly good idea this year. Instead, allow me to tell you about some excellent music.
My system to produce this list changed again this year. Last year, I documented my favourite each month - but there was such a huge gulf between the Good Months and the Bad Months that I ended up with some albums on my list that were… only okay (looking at you, Wormwitch). Instead, I started giving albums ratings based on how much I enjoyed them, from 0-5. This allowed me to look back at the end of the year, re-listen to the highest-rated albums, and decide on a list with them fresh in my mind.
This year, I also made a concerted effort to keep up with the latest releases (with thanks to everyone on the Angry Metal Guy Discord server). As such, this list consists only of albums that were released in 2022! Almost like a proper review site!
I’ve provided a Spotify playlist if you want to try these out, too. Check down below!
#10(ish). BACKxWASH // HIS HAPPINESS SHALL COME FIRST EVEN THOUGH WE ARE SUFFERING (Rap / Industrial): BACKxWASH claimed my honourable mentions spot in 2021, and yet once again she has released an absolutely brilliant album of Industrial-influenced Rap. Here, BACKxWASH looks backwards at her upbringing which was heavily influenced by fundamentalist Christianity, and the impact that events of her youth had on her. The music is hard-hitting, sometimes haunting, and I feel like this album ups the ante on the hooks that bring you back to the album. Try “JUJU”.
#10. Planeswalker // Tales of Magic (Power Metal): In the first half of 2022, things looked quite bleak for my favourite subgenre. 2022 had seen not much of quality in the world of melodic guitars and fantasy. Thankfully, Planeswalker came along to save the day. Based in the world of Magic: The Gathering, Tales of Magic takes the “fantasy metal opera” approach to album building - but honestly, I didn’t follow it and I didn’t need to. It follows its formula well, and isn’t afraid to get heavy and have the guitars lead the way to remind you that no, you are still listening to Metal and occasionally it’s something you should bang your head to. It blends its more ‘storytelling’ tracks with more straight-up ‘tunes’ with hooks a-plenty to keep you coming back, and features a very effective cameo from Brittney Slayes (of Unleash the Archers, if you remember my previous lists). It’s not all hits, which is why it only made #10 on my list, but it’s more than worth a listen if you’re remotely a fan of the genre. Try “The Spark” or “The Forever Serpent”.
#9. Xaon // The Lethean (Death Metal): Xaon bring a symphonic and almost playful take to the Death Metal genre with The Lethean. Whilst heavy, the mix of clean vocals, operatic vocals and grand keyboards make for an interesting listening experience that mixes up the riff-heavy genre with something different, and it keeps me interested. The reason this album is on my list though, was that this album showed Xaon to be masters at climactic builds to tracks; try “And Yet I Smile” and “If I Had Wings”.
#8. SONJA // Loud Arriver (Heavy Metal): Heavy Metal as a genre, despite being one of my entry points to the heavy music world with Iron Maiden, isn’t something that usually grips me. The last couple of years have brought a few artists to the fore that have challenged my view: last year was Unto Others, and this year was SONJA. The music is heavy, grungy, and melodic; and its content is gloomy and salacious and sacriligeous in a way that would definitely have contributed to Metal’s poor image in the eyes of polite society 20 years ago. Try “Loud Arriver” or “Nylon Nights”.
#7. Hath // All That Was Promised (Death Metal): Where Xaon at #9 brought a different take to Death Metal, Hath played it straight with All That Was Promised. This is Death Metal that is in a very pure form - there are no gimmicks here. But Hath have done it oh-so-right. They play with what the genre will give them - there’s dynamism in this album, with quieter acoustic passages that lead you back into utterly pummelling Death Metal, with silky smooth transitions between these sections. Something about these sections, and the melodies of the tracks, mean that this album just FLOWS. I can put it on and enjoy the whole ride from start to finish. It peaks with the dramatic “Casting of the Self” - try that, or “Kenosis” for a more straight-death-metal fix.
#6. Josh Dally // Speak Your Mind (Synthwave, Pop): Compared to last year, this year’s list has less of the upbeat, light, and poppy music that dominated my 2021 list. Josh Dally is a legend of the genre, having contributed his smooth, crooning vocals to popular synthwave artists such as Timecop1983, FM-84, and At 1980 - and all of those albums are all the better for Josh’s presence. It was with some excitement, then, that I checked out Josh’s first ‘solo’ album, Speak your Mind. And at first, it didn’t click with me beyond the first few tracks. With some time and repeated listens, however, it sunk in. At that point, I began to enjoy the variety of moods and pace on the album. Best, though, are still the sing-along hits of the album. Try “I Love You” and “Take Me Back” and then all the rest of it.
5. Allagaeon // DAMNUM (Technical Death Metal, Metalcore)
I’ve always wanted to like Allagaeon more than I actually did. I first stumbled across them, as I imagine a lot of metalheads did, with their utterly stupid and tongue-in-cheek video for their track “1.618”. However, the rest of their discography left me cold, with bland Death Metal that all merged together, trying far too hard to be overly grandiose and dramatic. And so I left them alone.
When DAMNUM released this year, it was to mixed reactions, as reviews showed they had taken their sound in a more accessible direction, veering towards a mix of their old Death Metal style, and more “popular” Metalcore bands like Architects or Parkway Drive. With that, I decided to give it a try. And DAMNUM was a very pleasant surprise.
Allagaeon’s soaring clean vocals and groovy style on this album was leagues above more accessible and more FUN than their previous efforts, and it seems to me like Allagaeon have found their niche. They’ve found a sound that is unique to them where they can pull off heavy Death Metal, grooves and roar-along moments like Lamb of God, and clean sections which make songs easy to differentiate even for untrained ears.
This album came out quite early in 2022, but I’ve found myself consistly going back to it when I’m need of high-octane, aggressive metal that gets my blood pumping in a way that no other album really did this year. Try the openers “Bastards of the Earth” and “Of Beasts and Worms”, and if you like it, good news, there’s another 50 minutes of it!
4. Reckless Love // Turborider (Glam Rock, Synthwave)
One aspect of music that I value above almost all others is pure fun. As such, I will always enjoy bands which wear their gimmick firmly on their sleeve and their tongue firmly pressed through their cheek, like Alestorm. Reckless Love play music that mixes together Glam Rock/Metal (think Steel Panther but a bit less gross) and Synthwave. The mention of the latter was enough to perk my ears up enough to check out the album. I grimaced at the strange, trying-too-hard-to-be-neon-and-retro album cover, and dived into Turborider.
Whilst I listened, I couldn’t help but pick up on moments where the music wasn’t very good - a slightly overly-plodding vibe on Eyes of a Maniac, or some very awkward vocals on Bark at the Moon, or whatever the hell ‘89 Sparkle is. The lyrics aren’t in the least bit subtle or interesting.
But I didn’t care.
Because I was having so much fun.
Turborider blends 80s glam rock with 80s synth and a carefree vibe and creates tracks that I can’t help but smile at and sing along to when the inevitable chorus hits and over and over. There’s just enough variety in the tracks so that you’re not listening to the same song over and over, and Turborider will throw hits at you with one hand just when your attention is elsewhere. I cannot recommend it highly enough, unless you hate fun. Listen to “Turborider” and “Outrun”, and then dive into some deeper cuts like “Prodigal Sons”.
3. Lacrimas Profundere // How to Shroud Yourself With Night (Gothic Rock / Metal)
I’ve always enjoyed sitting in the gloom, listening to depressing heavy music. I find it fun and dramatic when I’m feeling happy, and it cheers me up to wallow in the gloom when I’m not. I was an avid consumer of My Chemical Romance as a teenager, though I stopped short of the mascara-and-hair-dye stereotype. Lacrimas Profundere (what a mouthful) bring a matured “sad-boy” sound to How to Shroud Yourself with Night. Emo rock has grown up, turned the volume to 11, and brought you gothic rock without the incredible amount of angst that perpetuated the Emo Rockers of the 90s and early 2000s.
Like their predecessors, they know how to pen fast-paced, strangely upbeat tracks that get your head banging as well as just providing a doom-and-gloom atmosphere to sit in the dark to. Lacrimas change up the tempo as their songs go through, typically providing slower verses that build up into dramatic, furious choruses. If you didn’t look at the lyric sheet, you could almost believe that some of them were trying to put an uplifting slant on the sadness that eminates from the verses (spoiler: they’re not).
All of this adds up to make an album of Gothic Metal that’s incredibly easy to listen to, and it’s partly for this reason that it earned such a frequent rotation in my music playing over 2022. Try “A Cloak Woven of Stars” or “In a Lengthening Shadow”.
2. Ashenspire // Hostile Architecture (Black Metal, Avant-Garde)
I like to think I listen to some pretty obscure and strange music. But Ashenspire’s Hostile Architecture is like nothing I’ve ever listened to before. And it packs more of an emotional, angry punch than any music that’s made any of my end of year lists since I started writing them a few years ago. Ashenspire are furious, despondent, contemplative, and ready to lash out in desperation at a world that gives them no other choice.
Musically, Hostile Architecture is a strange beast. Vocals come not from Black Metal growls or shrieks, but from “Sprechgesang”, a vocal technique which lies halfway between speaking and singing. It relies on dissonant and harsh guitar tones which intertwine themselves with mournful violins and saxophones.
“Hostile Architecture” as a term refers to patterns of construction that are designed to restrict or shape people’s behaviour. It’s designed to stop homeless people from sleeping in certain areas to prevent them from making the area “look bad” by adding spikes, or benches that can’t be lain on. It adds gaps to the sides of bus shelters to stop them from being a shelter from the cold wind, because that would encourage people to huddle up in them for longer periods of time. Hostile Architecture the album is a crusade against a society that the band see as one that punishes the poor for being poor, to protect the assets of the wealthy. They highlight examples such as cost-saving resulting in the Grenfell Tragedy, and don’t hold back in who they blame.
This album is a hard album to listen to. It does not welcome casual listening, and when I sat down to give it my first serious listen, it was a harrowing, humbling experience. It was one that made me feel guilty and angry.
“This is not a house of amateurs. This is done with full intent.”
To sample the musical style of this album without vocals, listen to “Palimpsest”. From there, listen to “The Law of Asbestos”. Listen to it properly. Don’t scroll on your phone, or browse the web, or play a game at the same time. If you feel you can stomach it from there, listen to the album through. I hope it will be as intense an experience for you as it was for me.
1. Fellowship // The Saberlight Chronicles (Power Metal)
Power Metal is a genre with its fair share of tropes and formulas. It’s lighter on the guitars than most metal, it’s heavily melodic, tends to feature high-pitched vocalists, and looking at the lyric sheets you’ll see far, far more than your fair share of Dungeons & Dragons. Each album must have a ballad or two. And it must have hooks a-plenty, and be a little bit cheesy. Fellowship buck none of these trends. And despite that, they’ve still put together the best metal album of 2022.
In the first few seconds of the opener, “Until the Fires Die”, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’re about to listen to a song from Disney’s latest animated movie. But the song quickly swells into a furiously uplifting metal track which makes you lift your head high and puts a huge smile on your face. You are quickly transported into… well, not a world. Fellowship don’t have a long-form story to tell. Fellowship is much more about mood than it is about naming its latest fantasy villain or hero. Its songs are wildly, almost furiously optimistic in the face of yet another year that kind of sucked for the world at large.
Fellowship has some excellent musicianship; even where melodies seem simple, guitar lines fit the songs perfectly and show some technical playing in the faster songs. But where I came to the album initially for the fun guitar lines and catchy melodies, I stayed for the sing-along lines. They dig their way into your brain and refuse to leave, so that each time you play a song, you’re almost forced to sing along to it (even if just in your head), each one more life-affirming than the previous. Atlas and Glint are prime examples, but not a single track is lacking in having ‘that moment’.
In the metal world, The Saberlight Chronicles is a wildly divisive album. But it’s incredibly fun, powerful, and sticks with you. So much so, it’s easily my Album Of The Year for 2022.
If you’d like to listen to these tracks on Spotify, you can find them in this playlist!