’s Aggregated Top 20 of 2022: The Never-ending Quest for Listing Perfection (ft. Plebeians)

In much the same way that people like Coldplay and voted for the Nazis,1 articles like this are testament to the fact that ordinary people are stupid. Such a list is a race to the bottom that documents’s communal favorite records of 2022, averaged and aggregated across the wildlands of Listurnalia. What’s widely chosen by the central bloc of our writer group must be sufficiently bland to appeal across a range of metallic tastes. Indeed, our hallowed Angry Metal Leader refers to this aggregation as an exercise in identifying the “lowest common denominator metal” of the year.2

Generally speaking, a record included in the top 10(ish) list by at least 5 of our writers will achieve sufficient voting points to reach this communal list. Divergent stand-outs chosen by just one writer for their main list (such as Imperial Circus Dead Decadence, Kampfar, OU and Massive Wagons) may appeal to their individualism but don’t satisfy the banal preferences of the masses, unwashed though they may be. There are also usually a few outlying bands which were indeed selected by at least 5 writers, but which were too low down in their estimations. This year, the hipster darling Chat Pile actually managed 6 mentions. However, as is often the case when people hat-tip a trendy release in order to seem cool on metal Twitter, it was too far down the relevant lists (except for one…) that it didn’t even hit the aggregated top 20. I have no doubt that Angry Metal Guy Himself would have capitally punished those responsible if it had made the aggregated list.3

Interestingly, 2022 saw a significantly tighter point distribution than last year’s Archspire annihilation. Over past years, the aggregated number 1 has always acquired between 230% and 300% more voting points than the aggregated number 10. This year, such figure was just 170%, with roughly the same number of total voting points between 1 and 10 as in previous years. This indicates a more equal love for a collection of communal favorites. Were these favorites therefore truly the best of the year? Is our groupthink trending more Orwellian as time passes? Are we just boring as shit?

All three are valid questions and I strongly encourage you, dear reader, to take each writer to task with personal insults in the comments below. We’re filthy casuals and poseurs. I certainly am. No fewer than 4 of our aggregated top 6 featured on my personal list, indicating a total loss of my individuality. Bands like An Abstract Illusion, Disillusion and Kardashev, and their characteristic heaviness, strangeness and experimentation, are evidently mass-market fodder. They might be as well be charting pop music. Only when this blog has produced 25 lists with 0 consistency can we proclaim to have shaken our idiocy and achieved listing perfection.

El Cuervo

#20. Aeviterne // The Ailing Facade – “Aeviterne creates its own trademark, balancing blindsiding brutality and intense atmospherics… The Ailing Facade offers a crescendo of the approaching darkness in dynamics and atmospherics, but will never hesitate to rip your throat out” (Dear Hollow).

#19. Cult of Luna // The Long Road North – “The Long Road North has a grandeur and cinematic scope to it that hugely impressed me, even as an avowed CoL fanboy who went in with high expectations. This was coupled with a flow that rivals anything the band has produced before. Even at 70 minutes long, everything feels essential” (Carcharodon).

#18. Wilderun // Epigone – “For the third record in a row, my expectations have been smashed by what must be one of the greatest bands to have picked up a guitar… Epigone boasts high-quality progressive and symphonic extreme metal, with dynamic contrasts that are not just gorgeous but also completely engrossing” (El Cuervo).

#17. Messa // Close – “Messa [is] one of the more unique, mesmerizing bands out there… Close may be thought of primarily as a doom album, but in fact it is so much more. Genre-defying, really, as the band seamlessly interweaves metal, jazz, prog, and everything else into a seductive concoction” (Huck n’ Roll).

#16. Fellowship // The Saberlight Chronicles – “Here comes an album unashamed of its own positivity, genuine in its storytelling, and infectious in its joy. These qualities are so important, so meaningful, and so powerful in music. This is an album that makes me feel better. This is music that helps to make me happy” (Twelve).

#15. Darkest Era // Wither on the Vine – “Wither on the Vine picks up right where Severance left off and dazzles in all the same bleak ways. The combination of doom, goth and blackened edges is every bit as impactful as it was before and the band weaves a vast, deep melancholic world to sulk in” (Steel Druhm).

#14. Darkher // The Buried Storm – “Maiven crafted yet another masterfully written and performed album of minimalist melancholy, one that’s perfect for a rainy, foggy morning with a mug of your favorite tea or coffee on the porch. Introspection and reflection never sounded this beautiful” (Grymm).

#13. Zeal & Ardor // Zeal & Ardor – “Gagneux finally perfected his bizarre, shouldn’t-work-but-does concoction of black metal and slave hymns. Wielding its multi-vocal setup like a weapon and spurred by the transgressions of history, Zeal & Ardor is catchy, dark, and utterly unique” (GardensTale).

#12. Aeternam // Heir of the Rising Sun – “Aeternam has written a truly epic album with an expansive, beautiful sound. They have developed into such deft songwriters and storytellers that Heir of the Rising Sun stands as an unassailable testament to both their brilliant composition and their epic ambitions” (Angry Metal Guy).

#11. The Otolith // Folium Limina – “Every time I press play, I lose track of what I was supposed to be doing as it sucks me in… String-heavy, beautiful, and at times crushing, it recalls the cinematic feel of Nordic Giants, the ritual atmosphere of Esben and the Witch’s fantastic Older Terrors, the string instruments of Musk Ox, and adds thunderous doom riffs” (Sentynel).

#10. Wormrot // Hiss – [#2, #3, #3, #6, #HM] – It takes a special sort of grind to reach the aggregated list and few are more special than Singapore’s Wormrot. It’s unusually long, varied and experimental for what can be a predictable genre, with Saunders highlighting that it “fucks with convention in utterly gripping ways while retaining a feral, white-knuckled intensity, unhinged vocal attack, and endless supply of serrated, hook-laden riffs.” Though Hiss may sadly be the last of this form of the group, Cherd articulates that it’s “that once-in-a-decade kind of grind record that transcends the limits of the genre and puts the larger metal world on notice,” with Saunders agreeing that it is “perhaps the best grind album since Gridlink’s Longhena.” Big words for big grind; don’t miss this.

#9. De Profundis // The Corruption of Virtue – [#4, #5, #6, #6, #7, #HM] – Angry Metal Guy delights in being right, and there are few instances of his being more right than with De Profundis. Steel Druhm comments that “the band have carved out a unique sound for themselves that borders on tech and prog but never wanders too far into either camp. Instead, they focus on flattening your emotions and skull with ripping, roaring death of the highest quality.” AMG concurs about the surprising variety of The Corruption of Virtue, concluding that “if you like your death metal to have that old school Florida feel with a healthy dose of the best Sweden has to offer and—wait for it—fretless bass produced in a way different than German bands do it, then The Corruption of Virtue is the death metal record for you.”

#8. Strigoi // Viscera – [#2, #3, #4, #7, #9, #HM] – There’s always space for nasty bands like Strigoi at Grymm describes their album called Viscera as “easily one of the ugliest, most vicious death/doom albums in recent history,” which will “slowly but surely 100% eviscerate you.” Strangely enough, another of its advocates also compares the Viscera experience to destruction of its listener. “Viscera is like a steamroller slowly crushing me into a bed of glass. What really took me by surprise, though, it sometimes fires up the nitro and goes drag-racing, while I’m still stuck underneath the axle. By the end, the album title makes a lot of sense. I feel like I resemble it” (GardensTale). This is absolutely unmissable if you’re searching for music that will murder you.

#7. Ashenspire // Hostile Architecture – [#2, #2, #3, #6, #ish, #HM] – Waiving any modicum of subtlety, Scotland’s Ashenspire whips the most abusive practices and consequences of modern capitalism with avant garde tools of black metal, post metal, industrial and jazz. Dolphin Whisperer notes that Hostile Architecture harmonizes “stacked layers of chaos” with “organic oscillations” through unexpected instrumentation including a dulcimer and Rhodes piano. Its strong stance resonated with several or our writers, including Felagund who highlights the “harsh, shouted vocals full of bitterness and righteous Scottish anger” and lyrics “which decry the root causes of poverty, inequality and desperation.” Because you agree with their political leanings, or because you don’t, “Hostile Architecture might upset you, but as you settle into its fury, you just might fall in love” (Dolphin Whisperer).

#6. Hath // All that Was Promised – [#1, #3, #4, #8, #9, #HM, #HM] – 2022 saw New Jersey’s Hath delivering on the potential of their unique brand of blackened death metal. The fittingly-titled All that Was Promised “is a harder, sharper, and more deadly release with a charred voice that belongs only to Hath (TheKenWord). Doom et Al, while bestowing unto the record his album o’ the year, tells an interesting tale about the album: ““Kenosis” nearly got me arrested. There’s a chorus in it so visceral and massive that it absolutely forces me to headbang… This happened while re-listening to it on the way home this week and my unrestrained lurching caused me to lose my balance on the snow and bail spectacularly. A nearby policeman was so convinced I was on drugs, he tried to cart me off.” All that Was Promised is so good it’s criminal.

#5. Kardashev // Liminal Rite – [#2, #4, #5, #8, #9, #10, #ish] – Offering some of the most dynamic music in a year of strong dynamic music, Kardashev’s Liminal Rite proved a blog favorite. Carcharodon explains how “progressive death and post-metal weave around each other, creating an ever-shifting canvas of fury and sorrow, daydreams and nightmares.” It’s a release pre-occupied with tone and mood, effortlessly flowing between heavy and light, and between textures which are silky and jagged. But above all else, the fans love its expressiveness and the story it tells. GardensTale loves “its emotional core. Some might call it melodramatic, but I disagree, as the drama feels earnest and earned, anchored by the skeleton of a story about disconnection, self-destruction, and atonement.” It’s a reminder, once again, that musical storytelling can be just as powerful as anything in writing.

#4. Immolation // Acts of God – [#1, #1, #2, #3, #6, #9] – No other band on this list has the legacy of Immolation. Long the jewel in the crown of New York’s metal scene, 2022 saw a beefy return with Acts of God. Felagund comments that “Acts of God is a beast of an album, offering up just enough technicality, just enough dissonance, just enough rhythmic destruction, just enough riff-craft, and just enough groove to rise above” the crowd. These are, of course, all typical qualities of death metal; Steel Druhm agrees that “they aren’t doing anything different than every other old school death metal act out there, they just do it better. There’s such a primal ferocity and menace to the riffs and the writing, and you can’t help but feel your inner savage wake up.” Awarding his album o’ the year, Ferox concludes that “Acts of God is a death metal masterpiece.” What more needs saying?

#3. An Abtract Illusion // Woe – [#1, #3, #4, #4, #5, #6, #8, #9, #HM] – With 5 top 5 awards and 8 main list entries, Sweden’s An Abstract Illusion released a beast of an album in 2022. El Cuervo opines that “Woe is a bleak, black examination of progressive death metal that plumbs long-form songwriting, detailed compositions, and emotional depths to create a towering release.” Doom et Al focuses on its emotional impact, writing of “an honest and emotional core [that] holds it together wonderfully,” while Carcharodon prioritizes instrumentation and composition, noting that “every spin reveals some tiny, brilliant detail, whether in the vocals, guitar work, or drums, that I had not previously taken in.” It was shark boy’s album o’ the year so I’ll let him finish: “Woe is my most-played album of 2022. Whenever I am at a loss for what to put on, I reach for this incredible album.”

#2. White Ward // False Light – [#3, #3, #4, #4, #4, #5, #6, #ish, #HM #HM, #HM] – Though it won no album o’ the year awards, White Ward’s False Light struck a chord with our cadre, sitting on no fewer than 11 lists. Dear Hollow describes it as a bombardment of “explosive compositions of black and death metal, crescendos of post-rock precision, fiery sermons of reality and fiction, and just the right amount of saxophone to make it all go down smoothly,” conveying how the record harmonizes contrasting sounds into a beautiful whole. Above, all it feels fresh, in a stale black metal scene: “something different—that’s what False Light is, and White Ward knows exactly how to make different cool… building dismal atmospheres, intense confrontations, and dramatic showdowns all with the power of their music” (Twelve). Few releases from 2022 were more expressive.

#1. Disillusion // Ayam – [#1, #1, #2, #2, #4, #5, #8, #ish, #ish] – Garnering no fewer than 2 album o’ the year awards and 4 additional top 5 recommendations, Disillusion demolished expectations with the awesome Ayam and thoroughly deserves our aggregated album o’ the year. You get the distinct feeling that the band agonized over every aspect of its arrangement; “the album’s pacing is sublime, musicianship and vocal performances outstanding, while the craftmanship of each intricately pieced-together arrangement is masterfully composed, boiling down to an album of excellent songs and multiple high points” (Saunders). But above all else, it strikes an emotional chord. AMG Himself notes that “rather playing a kind of death metal that focuses on the technicality of the music, Ayam is an album that hits the listener right in the feels… The band’s vision—its combination of chunky death metal with a proggy soft side—is subtle; but it’s evocative and beautiful.” Unquestionably immense stuff.

Show 3 footnotes

  1. Super Hans, Peep Show
  2. Though, he only seems to think that when it doesn’t agree with him.
  3. I’m not sure. One time you guys chose The Night Flight Orchestra to be the aggregated #1 and you all still have your heads. –AMG
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