Check the well-rounded list that includes everything from black metal, hardcore, hip hop, darkwave and more.
As the year draws to a close, the time has come to take a look back at some of the highlights from 2022. In the space of heavy music, the pace was nothing short of prolific as the community enjoyed a luxury of riches.
From highly anticipated albums from veterans in the space, to a deluge of new classics, it would be hard to ignore the kind of Renaissance that is happening within heavy culture. Even outside of guitar-driven music, 2022 offered exceptional installments that were heavy adjacent, spanning from hip hop to darkwave – all of which merit inclusion in the conversation.
The Knotfest Editorial team weighed in with some of their essentials from the last twelve months and the diversity of the list reiterates the overall health of heavy music and culture. No particular order, no ranking – just a collection of some of the best 2022 had to offer. Check the list below.
Another sublime album from Elder. They seem to be in the perfect flow state for effortlessly crafting beguiling and iridescent songs that wash over you. That doesn’t mean they’ve lost the fire of old. “Merged In Dreams – Ne Plus Ultra” sounds like they are tapping into the energy at the heart of the universe itself.
2022 was another red-letter year for death metal, but it was this album that thoroughly pierced me with its meathook. Dave Davidson’s guitar work and vocal lines are always full of fizz and intrigue, but here he takes his storytelling to a new level, particularly on “Strange and Eternal” and “Galleries of Morbid Artistry”. The final track, “Re-Crucified”, featuring Corpsegrinder and the late Trevor Strnad, is so well delivered that it freezes the blood.
Talking about great guitar-playing, Cédric Toufouti of Hangman’s Chair has one of the most distinctive tones in metal, and that’s before we get to his wonderful voice. “Who Wants To Die Old” recalls early Life Of Agony, and throughout the album has the doomy resonance of Type O Negative. Awash with gloom, A Loner is also a poppier affair than last album Banlieue Triste, but it’s the jet-black pop of Depeche Mode and their ilk.
A challenging and visceral meditation on psychological fracture, with songs like “Doomtech” and “Fear In Non Fiction”, Vein.fm are walking the tightrope here. Chaotic and also meticulous, a lot of metal and hardcore bands lack this real sense of danger these days. Vein.fm is the sound of being taken hostage at knifepoint by your own self-doubt and the vicious fight that ensues.
Of all the new releases this year, this is the one I found myself returning to the most. They Fear Us is almost alarmingly intimate. The compositions are unusually involving and feel effortless. Vocalist Djamila Azzouz is captivating and also deeply scary. The album bruises and soothes in equal measure, melding melody and bludgeon seamlessly. Hard to find better heavy songs than “In The Way” and the title track this year.
If you’d told teenage me in the late nineties that in 2022 they’d be a band that sounds like Silverchair being interpreted by hardcore musicians, I’d have laughed at you. But here we are! Soul Blind really blindsided me with this one. They write great grunge ballads but it’s the explosiveness of songs like “Seventh Hell” and “Tribe” which got my blood up. With the right gigs and opportunities, they could be huge in the years to come.
With an album that masterfully shifts between heavenly compositions and wicked mind-melters, it was inevitable The Death of Peace of Mind would take Bad Omens to new heights. The 15-track record showcases the band’s undeniable talent, progression and versatility. Fearless in expressing their fusion of genres, Bad Omens display a new kind of confidence and vulnerability in The Death of Peace of Mind. The album combines a haunting ambience, massive sound and impressive vocals from Noah Sebastian, whose range captivates listeners no matter whether he delivers soft whispers or commanding screams. The Death of Peace of Mind is a cathartic collection of songs that has immense replay value.
Megadeth are like a fine wine — they only get better with age. The Sick, the Dying… and the Dead! is the band’s first full-length released in six years and the first since Dave Mustaine was diagnosed with — and overcame — his throat cancer diagnosis. It’s an instant classic that maintains the same rebellious energy and sound reminiscent of their old school albums. Relentless and aggressive, the album is filled with gritty riffs, mind-blowing solos and an incredible production. The Sick, the Dying… and the Dead! is absolutely killer. In the thrash metal deities, we trust.
READ THE KNOTFEST FEATURE WITH DAVE MUSTAINE — HERE
When it comes to brutally beautiful records, Where Myth Becomes Memory checks all the boxes. The grand, evocative album takes listeners on a journey from start to finish and drips with emotion, carefully balancing a heavy darkness and ethereal serenity. Where Myth Becomes Memory demonstrates Rolo Tomassi’s evolution, both musically and personally, with nearly two decades of experience as a band. Together, the Sheffield outfit explore a sound representative of their truest identity as genre benders with Where Myth Becomes Memory, including themes of rebirth, exploration and discovery. The marriage of delicate and tempestuous moments in this 10-track record is utterly mind-blowing and goosebump-inducing.
READ THE KNOTFEST FEATURE WITH ROLO TOMASSI — HERE
Immediately upon listening, it’s evident We Came As Romans brought their all on Darkbloom. The album serves as a heavy and heartfelt tribute to their late co-vocalist, Kyle Pavone, and signifies the next chapter of the band. Darkbloom is notable for its authenticity and vulnerability, which is apparent in its songwriting and the expansion in Dave Stephens’ vocal performances. The record perfectly captures the emotions involved in the grieving process with a wide range of music, from mournful, melodic songs like “Holding the Embers” and “Promise You” to hopeful, high-energy tracks like “Darkbloom” and “Daggers.” We Came As Romans deserve all the love and praise for their commitment to making their most honest music yet with Darkbloom — proving that when their backs are to the walls, they will conquer.
READ THE FEATURE WITH WE CAME AS ROMANS — HERE
Fasten your seatbelts. You’re in for a wild ride with SKIN. This album is pure chaos in the best way imaginable with the diabolical duo of theOGM and Yeti Bones merging hip-hop, hardcore and punk elements fully intended to melt faces. Produced by Travis Barker, the duo’s sophomore album features an array of artists including Corey Taylor, Bun B, Saul Williams and Jasiah. SKIN is an explosive and menacing record that reinforces the fact that Ho99o9 is on a level of their own.
READ THE KNOTFEST FEATURE WITH H09909 — HERE
SpiritWorld kicked in the doors of the saloon with their phenomenal debut Pagan Rhythms, and now they’ve taken over as sheriff of this here town. Death metal meets thrash, meets hardcore, meets the bloody and satanic American west. Stu Folsom and his posse of riff masters lasso up 36 minutes of no-holds-barred fury that will appeal to any and all fans of Slayer, Power Trip, Hatebreed and Lamb of God. DEATHWESTERN just straight rips, and repeated listens not only shove the songs further into your brain, they unveil a story that is equal parts Sergio Leone, John Carpenter, and Cormac McCarthy. Don’t miss this one.
Lightwork wasn’t the Devin Townsend album we expected, but it’s definitely the one we need right now. With so many bands and artists dialing up the heaviness and darkness recently — for obvious, understandable reasons — Townsend went the opposite direction, crafting an album that is more akin to easy listening. But Lightwork is still an immense album, with all the hallmarks of Townsend’s sound, from the gorgeous, layered guitar work to his iconic voice; still one of the best in the business. It’s a cathartic, emotional journey that feels like a musical bear hug, one that leaves you feeling better than before you put it on. There’s been a lot of negativity and struggles in all of our lives recently, but hearing Devin Townsend croon that we shouldn’t freak out is beacon in the dark.
This Belgian trio is magic. Their sound is undefinable but the results are undeniable. The raw passion that emanates from singer/drummer Stefanie Mannaerts commands instant attention, and each member — bassist Peter Mulders and guitarist Stijn Vanhoegaerden — works perfectly in sync while also having their own time to shine. Unison Life is 10 tracks of honest, soul-bearing songwriting that gets better with every listen. Brutus deliver urgent, hard-driving riffs one moment, only to open up into a lush, colossal soundscape worthy of a primal, celestial roar. The last 57 seconds of “Liar” may be one of the best musical moments of the year.
READ THE KNOTFEST FEATURE WITH BRUTUS — HERE
Where do you go when your band has become so epic the last release substituted all members but the singer with a freaking orchestra? Back to the dance that brung ya… or however the saying goes. For their first proper album in seven years, Blind Guardian pull back the reins and harken back to their speed metal past. The God Machine no doubt pulls influence from such BG classics as Somewhere Far Beyond and Imaginations from the Other Side, while still utilizing the grandioseness they’ve been honing since A Night at the Opera. The result is their best album in years. Everything you want from the German power metal legends is there: wah-tinged guitar harmonies, fantastical lyrics and drums that fly with the tenacity of a dragon rider; not to mention Hansi Kürsh’s incredible voice. The chorus to “Secrets of the American Gods” has been stuck in my head since March. Rejoice nerds. Your kings are here to stay.
A masterclass in atmospheric and progressive death metal. Woe took this Swedish three piece (!!!!) over six years to write, but every ounce of work was worth it. Clocking in at one mighty hour, Woe is essentially one long track. However, An Abstract Illusion pull off the impressive feat of keeping the listener engaged for the entire run time. You don’t know where the journey will take you, but you’re thrilled to be along for the ride. Brutal passages accented with blast beats cede to Opethian vocal lines. Haunting keys swell at the most opportune times, and tickle your eardrums at others. There’s even time for a bluesy guitar solo over what I can only describe as a lo-fi beat to chill to. Even if Woe’s follow up takes twice as long, we’ll still be finding new things to love about this composition while endlessly dissecting the lyrical content. Find a comfy spot, dim the lights, put on your best pair of headphones and get lost in this record.
The year Ghost have had has been one for the history books: huge tours, awards, Papa opening baseball games. Even if the song that made them sudden TikTok stars is a three-year-old one, it’s all hinged on the release of Impera, the album that feels like it has closed the era of Ghost always being spoken of as a potential heir to the throne and opened up the one of them triumphantly sitting on it. No metal band of their generation feels more comfortably made for stardom, and that’s with all of the bizarre quirks and mythology that make Ghost Ghost, and a record thumbing its nose at the roaring 20s roasting its decadent culture and nascent fascism with a set of pop metal bangers not seen since the heyday of its biggest stars. You’ve long made your mind up on Ghost, and many have been waiting for their moment of ascension; it just needed a shot for the stars and the vocal line equivalents of fireworks and champagne to do it.
The most lyrically on the money record of 2022 comes from a Scottish avant-garde black metal band, and that the music matches up to the ambition of its poetry is a magnificent achievement. In fact it’s the sonic architecture of its songs that conjures up the same sense of dejection and oppressive mechanical structures that vocalist Alasdair Dunn sings about, the cascading violins and woodwind rising to meet the intensity at which Dunn takes a torch to the systematic subjugation that is class divide, and the idea that it can be reasoned with. The points where this coalesces in the gobsmacking climaxes of The Law of Asbestos or Cable Street Again make some of the most undeniable statements in contemporary extreme music.
Cult of Luna now exist in a sphere of their own, masters of detailed and cinematic long-form metal who have undergone multiple chapters of a discography that can now be recognised as one of the greats. If the recognition of that fact happened somewhere in the 2010s with projects like the stark Vertikal and their superlative Mariner collaboration with Julie Christmas, The Long Road North acts as a new peak in the following era where they have sought to consolidate their position and have taken on something of the dust and the mud that marks veteran trekkers.
Ten years after their Funeral Beach album made them a favourite of cult tastemakers, Norway’s Blood Command find fresh blood to inject into one of the most buoyant and energetic sounds in punk rock in the form of ex-Pagan singer Nikki Brumen. The Australian uprooting her life to move to the frozen north has reaped creative rewards in songs that crackle with a vibrancy that is absolutely infectious, clawing and scrapping their way through wild blasts that decry the unbelievable quality of their pop choruses of which Blood Command have been running rings around others for a decade.
If 2018’s Vile Luxury was the point where Imperial Triumphant landed on a sonic identity for themselves, and 2020’s Alphaville where they moulded that sound into a veritable masterclass to take to the wider metal world, Spirit of Ecstasy is them freaking the hell out all over the strong foundations they’ve built for themselves to keep pushing it to dizzier and dizzier levels. The heady mix of extreme metal shock and awe and experimental high society debauchery is finding continual new ways to subvert what you thought you knew about this band and put you under its spell.
READ THE KNOTFEST FEATURE WITH IMPERIAL TRIUMPHANT – HERE
Not quite in the same genre as the other nine-piece putting out a great album this year, Dublin, California’s funk-rockers Just Friends return after their 2018 triumph Nothing But Love, with an arguably even greater album, HELLA. Employing elements of hip-hop, soul, modern pop, rock and RnB in addition to their funk base, HELLA makes great use of what each member can bring to the table, and adds a few outside guests in the form of of modern alt-rap greats Hobo Johnson, Lil B and Nate Curry to round out a package that’s possibly the most fun you’ll have with any record this year. Tracks like ‘Love Letter’ and ‘Honey’ showcase Brianda Leon’s soulful vocal delivery on choruses that you won’t be able to get out of your head, whereas ‘Bad Boy’ combines a clever use of Auto-Tune with modern trap elements in a surprising track even within an album this diverse. Still early on in their career, it wouldn’t be at all a shock if Just Friends soon break through into the mainstream spheres if they keep putting out albums this wonderful.
Over five years since his last studio effort DAMN, King Kendrick released Mr Morale & the Big Steppers back in May to instantaneous global adoration, and cemented his place at the very top of the hip-hop game. An effort so widely existentially-themed could be in danger of coming across pastiche, but Kendrick is able to tie each of Mr. Morale‘s 18 tracks together with a through-line rooted in introspection – a much more mature effort, acknowledging trauma, accountability and wanting to be a better person. That he can become one of the biggest artists in the world with these themes, along with implementing such a minimalist sound and styles such as free jazz which have never really been mainstream, is testament to just how much of a talent the world has on its hands here – Kendrick’s genius turns of phrase and flow seeing even people who’d never enjoyed hip-hop in the past fall in love. Master.
If you’d like to feel utterly miserable and want to really focus on the fact that the world is falling apart, Ontario’s Uncle Woe provide just the soundtrack on their third LP Pennyfold Haberdashery & Abattoir Deluxe. The muddiest yet most apt production provides a backbone to this 71-minute assault on your senses, an exploration in woe and a feeling of utter hopelessness. The downtuned sludgy riffs and pained vocals work hand in hand to create a canvas of something to just get completely consumed and taken away by, and the introduction of the nihilism of Alice in Chains with the intensity dialed up and the tonality dialed down, songs such as ‘Pretend I’m Dead’ and ‘Merriment Abounds’ still manage to retain a very clear and very clever sense of melody, serving to give the listener something to hold on to to carry them through this journey. Maybe not a record to put on if you’re having a great day, but if things aren’t going so well, there’s an element of beauty here, affording a catharsis and a reminder that everything will be okay in the end.
Topping 2019’s Love Exchange Failure was always going to be a near-impossible task, but have Ukraine’s White Ward managed to achieve it here with False Light? It may take a few years to answer that, given the absurd array of genres and ideas working together across this eight song, 66 minute record, to create a true masterpiece. Taking their black metal / jazz combination, regaining elements of classical and chant music and adding some novel sounds of goth and post-metal, this record is definitive proof that outside-the-box thinking is always going to produce a much more exciting and awe-inspiring result than sticking to genre conventions, and, now three albums in, White Ward have assured themselves as masters of this particular skill. The core lineup of the band – including the unique inclusion of a saxophonist, the brilliant Dima Dudko – are joined this time around by a multitude of guest musicians, most notably vocalist Vitaliy Havrilenko performing cleans on four songs, and trumpeter Jerome Burns, for an extra color palette that rounds out the record as not only an instant classic in our scene, but an absolute essential for any music lover.
21 years on from her striking debut album, Regina Spektor sounds as vibrant as ever on Home, before and after, with a collection of songs full of joy, hope, heartbreak and sorrow, in a real exploration of the human psyche. This newest effort sees some of Regina’s oldest, most beloved songs – only ever played live before – breathed new life into, and combined with many new songs and a production value that the Russian-American songsmith hasn’t previously explored, encapsulates near everything there is to love about the uniqueness of one of the greatest songwriters to ever do it.
Often from humble, soft beginnings, tracks here will blossom into a harmonious orchestral soundscape to both the happiest and saddest moments of life – Spektor has always had a penchant for being able to manipulate a listener to feel exactly as she wants them to, and here is no different. The vocal approach ranges from hushed and subdued to grand and emphatic yet always comprises her trademark charm, and the piano is played with so much refined nuance that only she can achieve. Lyrical themes encompass the silly and touching on ‘Loveology’, the childlike innocence on ‘Raindrops’, and the longing wonder on ‘What Might Have Been’, and the weaving of all the wonderful aspects on this record together produces not only the best album of the year, but perhaps the best of Regina Spektor’s already momentous discography.
After seven years between the release of their album Loud Like Love, which didn’t fare well in my ranking of Placebo’s discography, Brian Molko and Stefan Olsdal have released a powerful comeback worthy of our attention. Molko’s lyrics, which once spoke to the angsty early 2000’s kid in me, now expand to explore his qualms with humanity and planet earth. It’s poignant, clever, and dark. Tracks like “Surrounded By Spies,” “Happy Birthday in The Sky,” and “Went Missing” exemplify the nostalgic yet modern emotional journeys that Placebo masterfully crafts time and time again.
I love a good concept album, which makes Boston Manor’s two-part, nighttime-inspired album release a tremendous standout this year. From their beginnings as a pop-punk outfit to now, they’ve thoughtfully honed their craft and created their magnum opus (so far). The gritty hard rock sound that they started exploring on “GLUE” is more refined than ever now. The track list balances punchy radio-ready tracks like “Passenger” and “Foxglove” with ambient, darkness-laden moments like “Floodlights on the Square” and “Crocus.” It’s a compelling release proving that eclectic influences, catchy yet heavy hooks, and thoughtful compositions are alive and well in the scene.
Slipknot’s latest release is a masterclass on how to be a constantly evolving and undeniably timeless act. They gave us the exact in-your-face, unrelenting metal fury that we wanted on tracks like “Warranty,” “Hive Mind,” “The Chapeltown Rag,” and “H377.” However, they didn’t play it safe on a track list stacked with only predictable heavy-hitters to appease the metal heads. For folks like myself who relish in a band’s ability to experiment and reinvent, they delivered on the jaw-dropping opener “Adderall” and continued to surprise me with “Medicine for the Dead” and “Acidic.” This album has something for everyone on it and it’s the diversity that makes it memorable for me.
As a kid, I was a fiend for female pop stars with rock influences and perhaps that is where my love for heavy music began. Cassyette is a powerhouse worthy of the throne amongst this generation’s rock n roll pop queens. This release is a genre mix-and-match that somehow really, really works. It’s the kind of music you’ll want to sing along to in the car or rock out to at the gym. Avril Lavigne WISHES she wrote “Mayhem.” Meanwhile “September Rain” is an emotive track that proves Cassyette’s ability to wear her heart on her sleeve in moments of grief and despair. Add her show-stopping fashion sense and creativity on social media and she is unstoppable.
It’s clear that 2022 is the year of genre bending because the trend continues with Blood Red Shoes. Laura-Mary Carter and Steven Ansell’s magical genre potion includes industrial, electronica, pop, and hard rock. This record is full of punchy attitudes, vicious lyrics, and utterly unforgettable choruses. I’m waiting for the moment when I hear “MORBID FASCINATION” blaring through the speakers of a goth dance club because it is worthy of a packed dance-floor laden with latex and eyeliner.
As a lover of shoegaze and metal, but sometimes yearning for a more mellow music selection beyond these two genres, Holy Fawn’s flawless take on metalgaze is swoon-worthy. Their predecessors in the genre, Alcest, would be proud. Holy Fawn shows us that heavy music doesn’t always have to be loud. This album can make you feel the weight of the world and the weightlessness of the soul all at once. It is enchanting, atmospheric, and built to engulf you in beautiful melancholy.
The Portuguese powerhouse pieced together a pummeling assault with their third and arguably most aggressive third full length studio album, Mirage. Exploring existential dread in the form of extreme music doesn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel, however, Gaerea does so with a kind of sophistication that makes their brand of extremity translate like fine art. This album is as much thought-provoking as it is pulse-racing, intelligent as it is intense. Gaerea’s biggest success comes in being able to modernize the customs of black metal without bastardizing them.
The latest from wordsmith Vince Staples has a bit of a hometeam advantage that makes this album resonate more, personally. Having grown up in the same area of North Long Beach, CA that Staples showcases, so many of the regional references stick – Ramona Park is still very much a landmark not far from Paramount and Artesia boulevards. Aside from the familiarity of the record’s neighborhood identity, Staples further asserts his ability to incorporate narrative into his brand – his stanzas are as vivid as they are fluid, detailed as they are stylistically dynamic. Arguably his most introspective work, Ramona Park Broke My Heart chronicles Staples’ formative youth and showcases his proficiency as as both a documentarian and a poet in the same collection of songs.
Written, directed, and produced by Jae Matthews and Augustus Muller, The Runner follows a mysterious woman who ravages a rural town with her violent, seemingly inexplicable compulsions. The film is interspersed with Jae Matthews and Augustus Muller as Boy Harsher performing, as revealed by footage on a public access channel. You really have to tip your hat to this kind of artistic ambition. The duo of Boy Harsher craft a compelling watch for their directorial debut and manage to heighten the tension of the movie with a soundtrack that is layered, lavish and brilliantly loaded during their paired sequences in the story. The track “Give Me A Reason” is danceable John Carpenter – a feat alone worth acknowledgement.
Tallah has the unique distinction of being the kind of band that leaves you exhausted after listening. Both in style and execution, the tracks on their latest The Generation of Danger flex an organized chaos that underscores not only the ability of the band collectively, but the kind of forward-thinking the band has in it’s approach. Volatile and visionary, precise and punishing, innovative and intense, Tallah have well-established their skill as songwriters well beyond their years, but apart from the incendiary quality of their sophomore record, you have to wonder where the ceiling is for this kind of creativity. That prospect alone is just part of what makes this band so exciting.
Ecstasies of Never Ending Night is everything we love about metal music. From the theatric quality of the presentation, to the more than proficient instrumental execution, to the performative power – Philly’s Devil Master have tapped into the tradition of the sound and brought it into the modern era. The skilled mesh of golden era gothic-tinged post punk and crushing d-beat with guitar-soaring NWOBHM and quality cold black metal make for a powerful presentation that rings as ambitious as it does authentic. Combined with the VHS cassette tape aesthetic, the band ensured every detail was tended to in crafting this gem.
Few bands have the kind of consistency as Lamb of God. On album nine, the Virginia unit team with producer Josh Wilbur to deliver the gold standard of groove metal. The feverish fretwork of Mark Morton and Willie Adler is a testament to their more than two decades as a tandem axe attack, while Randy Blythe’s presence on the microphone is as menacing as ever. Omens, if reduced to just one talking point, would have to reiterate the arrival of Art Cruz behind the kit. The impact of the songs on Omens is fundamentally linked with the pummel on the drums which is no less than devastating. What makes that feat even more impressive is the recording process of such a massive record that saw the entire band working in unison to capture the live electricity of the compositions – mission accomplished.
Let’s kick off the end of the year party with an album that was just plain, good old-fashioned skate punk fun. Moonraker describes themselves as “The Michael Jordan of Baseball of Punk Rock,” and you can hear that kind of tongue-in-cheek, play on words humor throughout The Forest as they tackle much more serious topics. The album is infectious, full of sing-along moments and one of the most enjoyable punk albums of 2022.
This self-titled debut is something I didn’t even know I was waiting for. Anna Sage has created their own pummeling brand of post-hardcore that is a prime example of controlled chaos, making it both memorable and mesmerising. The beauty and brutality of this album is in its fearlessness and willingness to explore new territory.
Going in a completely different direction, All That Was Promised is a relentless album, full of brutality and savagery, but also pain and despair. Blackened death metal at its finest, this album doesn’t shy away from more progressive elements to deliver a full experience that is bestial when it needs to be and more harmonious when it calls for it. Hath are masters of balance without losing an ounce of brutality.
While this album is entirely in Slovak, the tortured nature of the music is easy to identify. The emotional intensity of this album is not for the faint of heart, but well worth the spin. The ravaging vocals are fitting given the dystopian subject matter of the album. Zverstvá touches on several musical elements with progressive and melodic guitar work combined, synths, rhythmic drumming and acoustic elements for an expertly layered sound.
Anthroposcenic is as emotionally devastating as it is musically haunting. Orochen delves deep into the conflicts and pain of living a modern life, trapped in a system that is hell-bent on destroying everything it touches. The soaring soundscapes and visceral vocals, ranging from serene cleans to fierce black metal screeches, this is the soundtrack to binge watching the collapse of the human species.
After Lorna Shore’s …And I Return To Nothingness EP, all eyes and ears were on Lorna Shore for their next full-length album. Let’s get one thing out of the way first; Will Ramos is one of the best deathcore vocalists out there. He set the stage for his savagery on the EP, and pulled out all the stops on Pain Remains showcasing his versatility and raw emotion. The production on the album is nothing short of world building. It feels as if the story told in the album is erupting around you. This is by no means an easy album, but one that has not only defined the next wave of deathcore, but has shown that heavy has a place in the mainstream, pushing the genre forward in a way that hasn’t been done in 20+ years.
On album 20 (!), the incredibly prolific Norwegian black metal legends continue the doom-devouring hunger exposed on last year’s no-less excellent Eternal Hails……, with a Celtic Frost crunch. Nocturno Culto and cat-friendly metal icon Fenriz keep it “true” with seemingly effortless ease, putting swagger and swing into a too-often self-serious sub-genre. This isn’t to say Astral Fortress is “funny,” but it’s certainly fun. These guys live for this stuff, and that single-focused passion pours out of the speakers with every lo-fi (but welcomingly discernible) rumble. Bring on the next 20 Darkthrone albums.
Deathwhite circles, in a distant orbit, the frozen moon of goth-metal pioneered by the Peaceville-three. Grey Everlasting isn’t as heavy as My Dying Bride or as filled with esoteric yearning as Anathema, with a slickness and melancholic disposition more closely aligned with certain shades of Paradise Lost. Grey Everlasting is a bit more layered and complex than its excellent predecessor, Grave Image, with an abundance of riches uncovered upon repeated listens. A decade in, the mysterious American melodic doom merchants target timelessness as opposed to forced innovation. When the gloom is this well-executed, it feels good to feel bad.
Drug Church sounds like an amalgam of the line-ups that stacked ‘90s hardcore shows, where bands as aggressive as Overcast might share a bill with a group of “emo”s as melodic as The Juliana Theory without anyone in the audience blinking. The Albany, New York outfit combines the style of accessible, melodic post-hardcore that’s made scene stars out of Turnstile with alt-rock, early hardcore spirit, and a novel’s worth of memorable twists of phrase. News flash: I need news less,” declares Drug Church frontman Patrick Kindlon in one of the killer tracks on Hygiene, and who among us hasn’t shared that sentiment in recent years?
Mindforce, from the band name to the cover artwork, hearken back to the glory days of crossover, that interim subgenre that first mixed heavy metal and hardcore-punk prior to the advent of Metalcore and all of its subsequent iterations, with a heavy dose of the heavy slam pioneered by the earliest practitioners of the subsequent scene. At 17 minutes, New Lords makes Reign in Blood look like The Lord of the Rings director’s cuts, and Mindforce makes efficient use of that short duration, packing all ten songs with ferocious riff after riff. New Lords is the sound of Mindforce climbing closer to the top of the hardcore heap.