Jeff Treppel’s Top Albums of 2022
Hello fellow Invisible Orange readers! I know my name is a new one around these parts (my first piece for the site was my Psycho Vegas 2022 write-up) but some of you may recognize my name from Decibel, Bandcamp, MetalSucks, or The Shfl – well, probably not the last one, but I wrote 400 album recommendation blurbs for them this year so I’m gonna plug that pretty hard. Anyway, up until around March I did the Shit That Comes Out Today column for MetalSucks so I was super up to date on everything that came out. Since I left that gig, Spotify informs me that I’ve mostly listened to a lot of Doobie Brothers and anime soundtracks (lest you laugh, “I Cheat the Hangman” from Stampede goes harder than 90% of Decibel’s Top 40).
That’s actually a lie – the thing I listened to the most this year was my goddamn cat yelling at me.
I try to keep up with everything major that’s come out in the world of metal. It’s still incredibly freeing to be able to say I just don’t like Imperial Triumphant and not have to think about how to pretty that sentiment up for publication. At this point in my journey through life’s shitshow I’m more interested in records that I enjoy listening to. There’s obviously immense satisfaction to be had from challenging artistic statements, but sometimes you just want to bang your head as metal health drives you mad.
To be honest, I didn’t have a clear cut metal favorite this year – no new records from Night Flight Orchestra or Carcass, unfortunately – and I’m not gonna be so perverse as to include The Weeknd. So here’s what I liked otherwise.
20. Satan – Earth Infernal (Metal Blade, UK)
19. Nite – Voices of the Kronian Moon (Season of Mist, USA)
18. Devin Townsend – Lightwork (Inside Out, Canada)
17. Boris – Heavy Rocks (2022) (Relapse, Japan)
16. Conan – Evidence of Immortality (Napalm, UK)
15. Hoaxed – Two Shadows (Relapse, USA)
14. Ufomammut – Fenice (Neurot, Italy)
13. Author & Punisher – Kruller (Relapse, USA)
12. Voivod – Synchro Anarchy (Century Media, Canada)
11. Earthless – Night Parade of One Hundred Demons (Nuclear Blast, USA)
They dispense with the Western musical motifs quickly enough, but Las Vegas natives Spiritworld keep the filthy, sun-beaten vibe going the whole way through their second album. This down-and-dirty death thrash doesn’t quite fill the void left by Power Trip’s uncertain status but it definitely satisfies in the same way. All ten bullets in this revolver’ll punch holes in any beliefs that their phenomenal debut was a one-and-done.
Never quite got into her studio recordings but this experimental musician’s set from the (rebuilt) place burnt down by some stupid with a flare gun takes her chamber music and makes the chamber into a cathedral. The huge sound she and her full band achieve on ominous art-doom tracks like “The Mysterious Vanishing of Electra” and cinematic drone “Ugly and Vengeful” give her songs an entirely new context. It’s not jazz but it achieves the emotional resonance that makes the best work in that genre so engrossing.
I’m rarely in a grind state of mind but Wormrot will always be the exception. Their fourth (and possibly last, considering two major contributors left after the recording) record takes their ambitions up another notch, working in thrash and groove elements that help balance out the blast beats. The songs are short and not exactly sweet, cramming everything great about extreme metal into sub-two-minute bursts. “Behind Closed Doors” and "The Voiceless Choir" offer the best pit passes. No hisses here, only cheers.
A late addition to my year-end list despite coming out half a year ago, I stumbled across the video for “Wenceslas” and couldn’t wipe the smile from my face the entire time. The rest of the record gives me almost as much joy. Sabbath-y, stoner-y doom with a fantasy bent, these deadpan Belgians seem to be having a blast and want to share the explosion with the listener. This swings like a tiny baseball bat to the head of an asshole monarch.
I can never remember how to spell the name correctly but Native American-themed black metal duo Nechochwen definitely cast a spell (see what I did there?). They take black metal out of the Scandinavian peninsula and transport it to the Appalachians – and the procedure succeeds. Not only is it exactly the kind of epic black metal that summons the blizzard beasts, the tragic historical subject matter adds an extra layer of frostbite.
I’ll be honest: I mostly ignored Rolo Tomassi because their name reminded me of either candy or an Italian Soundcloud rapper, only one of which I like and not in sound form. Apparently it’s an LA Confidential reference, which makes me a double dumbass, because the band is as incredible as that modern classic neo-noir. Shoegaze-y post-hardcore-inspired prog metal normally makes for a stomach-turning combination. This is the rare band that makes it work. The dichotomy between the ethereal “Closer” and the barricade-breaking “Drip” alone shows their incredible range. It reminds me of Devin Townsend’s restless experimentation – high praise indeed.
Yup, it’s yet another Clutch album. That means I’ve listened to it more than just about anything else this year. Nobody’s better at stoner swing, infectious grooves, or erudite insanity. In and out in 33 minutes, it avoids the album bloat of their recent releases in lieu of nine tight titanic grooves. It even finds them stretching out some, playing with electronic sounds on “Skeletons on Mars.” Which still leaves plenty of room for fuzz-pedal-to-the-metal rockers like “Red Alert (Boss Metal Zone)” and “We Strive for Excellence.”
My thoughts on transphobes are best expressed by the title of Darkthrone’s 12th studio album, but in this one case the (credibly alleged) bigotry of Melissa Moore’s former Absu bandmates led to the finest trad metal release of 2022. Thanks Absu bros, now FOAD. Sonja makes a loud arrival indeed with sharp riffs and sultry Scorpions/Mercyful Fate-derived scorchers like “Nylon Nights” and “Fuck, Then Die.” A standout in a year filled with strong retro rockers.
I’ve spilled thousands of words about dark synth progenitor Perturbator in my time as a music writer. Cult of Luna less so, mostly because my brain encounters difficulty dancing about post-metal’s architecture. Final Light shines a beacon on the best of both worlds – the ominously oppressive atmospheres of both genres work shockingly well together. Johannes Persson’s furnace-spawned bellow works as the perfect counterpoint to James Kent’s cold layers of computer churn, creating a 21st century counterpart to Godflesh’s primitive origins.
Prior to this, the number of times I agreed with Decibel’s list-topper was two, it was Carcass each time, and I wrote both those pieces. I don’t even traditionally like death metal that much, but Undeath’s take on sepulchral sounds freshens up a rancid corpse. The best thing about their brand of OSDM as opposed to the classic stuff? Actual production values! The meat may be rotting but it’s still juicy. Sometimes bands impress because they kick open the gates to previously unraided sections of the cemetery; sometimes they impress because they stitch together the perfect flesh-golem from the reeking pile of remains around them. These New York skullcrushers are up there with Gatecreeper for me – and that’s pretty far up. Or down, if I’m continuing the graveyard analogy.