Tom Campagna’s Top Albums of 2022
2022 was the year that really helped fans to recover from the world during the Pandemic, which took away our needed outlet of live music. Bands were out in full force this year, and slowly but surely the fans came back as well. I attended Maryland Deathfest as well as Decibel’s Metal and Beer Fest in Philly and got to spend much needed time with friends. Some of these I hadn’t seen in over 3 years: friends that remained confidants over countless Zoom calls, a tradition that doesn’t feel as though it will go away anytime soon. Music is a gift from those talented enough to provide it and something to continue to be celebrated by the masses in this metallic majority. Here’s to hoping 2023 keeps trending in the same direction–I want to see you all out there in the proverbial pit with me!
20. Blind Guardian – The God Machine (Nuclear Blast, Germany)
19. Bones – Vomit (Disorder Recordings, USA)
18. Sigh – Shiki (Peaceville, Japan)
17. Wormrot – Hiss (Earache, Singapore)
16. Phobophilic – Enveloping Absurdity (Prosthetic, USA)
15. Venator– Tales From The Gutter (Dying Victims, Austria)
14. KEN Mode – NULL (Artoffact, Canada)
13. Municipal Waste – Electrified Brain (Nuclear Blast, USA)
12. Voivod – Synchro Anarchy (Century Media, Canada)
11. 16 – Into Dust (Relapse, USA)
In the odd world of noise rock it really says something about you if you cross over into the mainstream of rock music, in 2022 no less. Enter Chat Pile, “Oklahoma’s specific brand of misery” according to the band; a mystifying collage of The Jesus Lizard, Steve Albini and a tribute to the soundscape of the midwest, complete with a prison/power plant front and center on the album art. Vocalist Raygun Busch performs in a shouted tone or in spoken word with extremely prolific lyrics on tracks like “Why”, examining languishing communities against prosperous ones and “Wicked Puppet Dance”’s fat bass lines courtesy of Stin, envelope the listeners into this barrage from The Big Friendly. Take nothing at face value here, the industrial blight on the front is just the tip of the iceberg. The hype is real and this band is just getting their foot in the door.
Massachusetts murder unit, Escuela Grind have nary left the road in 2022 as referenced by seeing them on nearly every tour poster in a big way, even bleeding over into 2023. A major reason why was their sophomore effort, Memory Theater, a brief blast to the brain, which barely makes it over the 20 minute mark, yet you really get the powerviolence, hardcore and death metal that the band brings to each one of their live performances; Katerina Economou destroys on stage and Kris Morash provides the crushing riffs on notable tracks like “Endowed With Windows” and “Cliffhanger” to name a few. This is another band that simply must be experienced live, and their sets are about to get longer with each powerful release. For now this full-length dares to be played on repeat for maximum effectiveness.
Already being a legendary band, Hammers of Misfortune took some time off after their last record, Dead Revolution, coincidentally the last time I did an IO list. Now Cobbett and co. are based in Big Sky country and have changed their sound a bit including adding vocalist Jamie Myers back into the fray, something that hasn’t been the case since 2006’s The Locust Years. Speaking of that album, Mike Scalzi of Slough Feg is back in a limited capacity and his inclusion here helps solidify that braintrust even further (one that was recently enshrined in Decibel’s hall of fame). All of this helps rejuvenate the band with more prog to their thrash and become a beast with zero limitations. The dichotomy between album opener “Overtaker” and a track like “Outside Our Minds” shows the depth at which the band operates. Even if this wasn’t what fans were expecting the band to sound like in 2022, the results are astoundingly good on all fronts. Hammers are the perfect combination of smart and heavy.
Andrew Lee’s Ripped To Shreds was a solo project before but with the release of 劇變 (Jubian) that is no longer the case. He continues on his quest for writing only the biggest and baddest death metal riffs possible, one that eschews song length tropes by most death metal bands as evidenced by the titanic "獨孤九劍 日月神教第三節 (In Solitude – Sun Moon Holy Cult Pt 3)". There, he lets his ambition run freely, and like much of the album there are very few stones left unturned by the end of its duration. The record's latter half is a bit more truncated in terms of overall length but the momentum distribution through this monster more than makes up for the abrupt change in delivery of death. Nearly the death metal album of the year, this should attract fans of the heaviest of heavy the world over; it helps when the entire global genre inspires an album.
Blackened thrash metal is something usually left to the European founders of the genre but that didn’t stop Steve Jansson and his love of this style. With Eddie Chainsaw on vocals, couple this with the successful Pulsing Dark Absorptions EP in 2017, add two more members of Crypt Sermon for the final lineup and here we are with the well-oiled machine that is Through Sheer Will And Black Magic…. It's a punishing listen that shows off Jansson in a very different light, but being the heavy metal madman that he is, he never stops doing what he loves and that includes bringing genres up that nobody is talking about and shining only the blackest of lights on them. “Arena At Dis” is a perfect encapsulation of what the band should sound like: demonic shouted vocals, pounding drums, and guitars that riff and wail at a moment’s notice. One of the year’s heaviest releases for what feels like a genre classic going forward.
Check out an interview with the band here.
Flying out of the gate to the tune of their title track are High Command who absolutely demolished expectations for their sophomore release with Southern Lord, plying crossover thrash without the typical lyrical conventions of yore, instead focusing on fantasy lore and ferocity. Even though this album seeks to punish the listener, they do take a second to catch their collective breaths and infuse a Hammond Organ on “Fortified By Bloodshed.” Plus, their closing crescendo, the enthusiastic epic “Spires Of Secartha'' gives a genre that often gets pigeon-holed as samey and succinct a new name for itself and new heights to reach for. The ample influences are evident–from classic metal, thrash, death, you name it, it’s all here. While working on creating their own success, Eclipse of the Dual Moons has become the de facto sound of the future of crossover.
Check out an interview with the band here.
Right from the outset of Loud Arriver you are met with the best parts of guitar driven heavy metal/hard rock with a massive emphasis on gothic elements that help to create a unique atmosphere for the band as you are swallowed up into an eerie yet inviting party, one that you didn’t even know existed until you arrived, yet you embrace. Fronting the band is Melissa Moore who also currently plays in death metal unit Crossspitter; playing in Sonja is a completely different beast altogether. “Nylon Nights” is the lead single from the track and considering the amount of riffage and power behind it, you’d be hard pressed to hear a track from 2022 with so much energy played behind it, something that wouldn’t feel out of place in a tape deck in your parents’ car, played deep into the night. This rocking affair has enough maximum riffage to turn even the most staunch old head on with its perfect combination of energy and rock ability.
Death metal had a tremendous year in 2022. It was incredibly difficult to pick the year’s best version, but since 2022 started, very few bands in the genre worked as tirelessly as Undeath did: from their incredible artwork, signing to a major label, and heading out on tour, everything led to a mass hysteria behind the band and their powerful sophomore record. It’s Time To Rise From The Grave… is a crushing album from one of the most consistent bands in the game. With crowd favorites like “Necrobionics”, “Enhancing The Dead” and the title track, it’s easy to see the hype here. Vocalist Alex Jones sounds absolutely massive in conjunction with the guitars of Kyle Beamand and Jared Welch and the powerful Matt Browning behind the battery. It makes for a well-oiled death metal machine, one that doesn’t push the envelope too much but relies on the amount of energy that they create with each and every canticle revealed to awaiting listeners.
Check out a video track-by-track from vocalist Alex Jones here.
Midnight got back to what they did best this year: simply rocking out, which paid dividends as they went on tour with scene legends Kreator and Mercyful Fate in recent months. Athenar is still the sole member behind these LPs and his penchant for being a one-man show and riff machine go together like peanut butter and jelly. This second effort for Metal Blade is one of the band’s strongest to date, one right behind their debut by my estimation. The raucous energy and sophomoric humor haven’t changed drastically over the years, but the tightness with which he plays certainly has. Athenar’s self-proclaimed “unambitious vision” remains clear: deliver the riffs, the sleaze, and Satan and the people will come. Let There Be Witchery is that and much more, required listening to get the lead out and bang your head with Beezelbub from here to eternity.
Check out an interview with the band here.
Picking an album like this for 2022 is a lot easier than one might think considering the band’s standing beyond the metal scene from which its primordial form crawled out from over 10 years ago. I was at one time a person who tried to bury my fandom and ignore the band’s meteoric rise to fame in a general sense, but then I started to understand what Tobias Forge and his mass of musical mercenaries were doing since Opus Eponymous brought the band’s masquerade to our minds. Paying homage to many bands like Rush, Queen, and Cheap Trick, while still carving a heavy niche for themselves as massive players in modern rock, Impera combines some of the strongest elements of the band as they were and are with Forge’s own set of influences and ambitions. This is evident on tracks like “Kaisarion”, “Spillways”, “Hunter’s Moon,” while “Griftwood” ventures more on to the experimental side during the latter half of the album. Impera is the best album released by the band to this point and where they go from here is anyone’s guess.