Doom_et_Al’s and Dear Hollow’s Top Ten(ish) of 2022


2022 was a bit odd, wasn’t it? The overwhelming threat of COVID-19 faded, but the scars of the past two years remain. We had a global conflict, soaring interest rates, crazy energy prices, partisan politics… and somewhere in this mess, an exhausted populace looking for meaning and direction. In response to this uncertainty, metal split into two distinct camps. On the one hand, we had artists exploring our current jittery, unsure condition, reflecting these sentiments with music that was paranoid, anxious, and angry. On the other, there were bands that retreated to well-established, comforting sounds, seeking order in stability. Any open-minded listener embraced both because we needed both. As someone trying to make sense of the craziness around us, I was generally drawn to the experimental. But some of my favorite listens this year were bands creating comfort music for my tired brain.

Lest I sound overly philosophical, this was actually a good year for Ole Doomy. After some dreadful heartbreak, I found love again, and ain’t that just a magical thing? She reads my reviews and thinks I’m funny even when nobody else does.1 Really, what more do you need? I got to go back to live shows and do a bit of travel to see my family. My work at a children’s hospital is as meaningful as ever, and people still find it weird that I like brutal metal when I’m not blowing raspberries or wearing unicorn headbands.

Music-wise, I struggled a little in 2022. Whether it was because I had so much going on, or whether I was just going through a shift in taste (or maybe I have shitty luck lurching around the promo sump), I failed to connect with most of the albums I listened to. I believe we all go through peaks and troughs when it comes to our relationship with this genre we love, and after two massive peak years, perhaps 2022 was the inevitable come-down; the hangover after the party. As a result, I placed a premium on albums that made me feel. I believe you will see that in the list below.

A special thanks to the rag-tag gang who make up “Melvin” at AMG. We see eye-to-eye on almost nothing, but it’s a kind, caring group of people who are positive about this music and keen to share their (often incorrect) opinions with you. The Steel Ape is a merciless overlord, but he’s a fair merciless overlord, and along with Madam X, he keeps this rickety ship afloat. I also appreciate the unprecedented level of engagement with you, our readers. Comments sections almost everywhere else are miserable dens of scum and thievery. Here, it’s a miserable den of scum and thievery, but at least you’re polite about it… with occasional great recommendations (and plenty of memes and dick jokes). I thank you for being you and I wish you all a prosperous, happy, jamming 2023.

Without further ado, here is my list! I’ve always felt that if you use these subjective rankings as a fun way to find new stuff, rather than some objective standard of taste, you’ll derive a lot more enjoyment from them. I hope you’ll share yours with us.

#ish Vorga // Striving Toward Oblivion – Space and black metal. Go together like Christmas and eggnog. Many bands spurn the possibilities available and disappear into atmospheric nothingness. Not Vorga. No siree. Making good on their enormously promising EP, Vorga keep things aggressive, direct and melodic with their debut, Striving Toward Oblivion. What makes it stick is the sheer scope, however. There’s a massiveness and ambition to the songs powered by melodic but crushing riffs. It impressed me in February, and my admiration has only grown with time. If explosions in space actually made a sound, it would probably be something like this.

#10. Kardashev // Liminal Rite – 50% of the time, Sharky is right 100% of the time. In this case, he was right about Kardashev and how they have used their progressive brand of black metal to convey real emotional beauty. The band’s contrasts (clean and harsh vocals, ripping black metal, and shimmering post-metal) combine gorgeously to create music that challenges the brain while plucking at the heartstrings. It requires effort, but when you give it the attention it deserves, it reveals itself to be one of the more satisfying offerings of 2022.

#9. Aeviterne // The Ailing Facade – This falls on the other end of the spectrum from Kardashev. Challenging, dissonant, suffocating. Rather than occupying your heart, it sets its claws in your brain and conjures up compellingly horrific imagery which absolutely refuses to budge. It’s wild and crazy and unhinged, so now wonder Hollow was in love. The amazing thing is that it is challenging but not impenetrable. Dissonant but acceptable. Insane but tightly controlled. In short: brilliant.

#8. Moonshade // As We Set the Skies Ablaze – This was not a great year for melodeath. Big names were disappointing (ahem, Amorphis, ahem) and very few acts provided anything new. Into the void stepped Moonshade offering… absolutely nothing new. The Sponge noted in his view that this was whisper-close to derivation, and he was right. But what this does offer is simply banging track after banging track. There’s melody here, but it’s the momentum behind every song that makes As We Set the Skies Ablaze move. When I needed music to inspire and delight, there was no better melodeath offering this year.

#7. Ellende // EllenbogengesellschaftThe most gorgeously melancholic post-black album of Ellende’s career, and perhaps the strongest post-black album of the year. Ellenbogengesellschaft hit me straight in the solar plexus because instead of burying its emotional core behind blast beats, it puts it front and center. I deal with pain in my job, and this music flirts with, and respects, it while creating gorgeous art from its aftermath. Weirdly underrated among the AMG staff. They’re wrong. This is amazing.

#6. Zeal & Ardor // Zeal & Ardor – Marcel Gagneux finally translates his electric live show into a compelling and cohesive album. There’s an absolute embarrassment of riches here, as Zeal and Ardor use their newfound fury to absolutely tear through a bunch of influences that include black metal, gospel, industrial, hell… even blackgaze. There’s real originality to the material, which has now transcended its “gospel meets metal” vibe to encompass an even bigger vision. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next. In the meantime, avant-garde never sounded so thrilling.

#5. De Profundis // The Corruption of Virtue – Hardworking band releases its masterpiece and finally gets the recognition it deserves. To my ears it sounds like a prog record, wearing old-school death metal skin, and wielding the sickest bass of the year. The Corruption of Virtue grooves while it crushes, dazzles while it jams, seducing you with earworms and fascinating digressions alike. But above all, it’s just a hell of a lot of fun. The days of obscurity for this band are over, and you should jump on the De Profundis train immediately.

#4. An Abstract Illusion // Woe – Progressive, blackened death metal that flirts with chaos and madness but emerges unscathed on the other side. On paper, this should be a mess, but an honest and emotional core holds it together wonderfully. Woe is an album that needs to be listened to in its entirety because the journey is so much more than the sum of its parts.

#3. White Ward // False LightIn theory, jazz and black metal should go together. In practice, it rarely works. Perhaps black metal’s rigid adherence to its own tropes prevents a successful union with the free form of jazz. But you wouldn’t know it listening to this beauty. Smoky saxophone swirls with furious black metal so naturally that you’ll barely notice the transitions. This is an album with such a thick atmosphere, you can taste it, combined with melodies you can feel in your marrow. White Ward continues to develop at an astonishing rate, but it’s hard to see them ever topping this.

#2. Immolation // Acts of God – Mighty. That’s the word that springs to mind whenever I listen to Immolation. The sound these legends make has always been absolutely massive. I remember when I first listened to them a few years ago, and I couldn’t believe this immense sonic assault was created by just four guys; it sounded like an army. Acts of God doesn’t reinvent any immolating wheels, but it delivers exactly what is promised on the carton: world-class death metal that is larger, more intimidating, and more… well… mighty than anyone else in the death metal business today. There’s a word that is so overused that it’s lost almost all meaning, yet it was practically invented for Acts of God: unfuckwithable.

#1. Hath // All that Was Promised – True story: “Kenosis” (the indisputable song of the year) off All that Was Promised nearly got me arrested. There’s a chorus in it so visceral and massive that it absolutely forces me to headbang. If you know the song, you know the exact part I’m talking about. 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. Such is the power of All that Was Promised. It is so heavy, so forceful, so all-encompassing that I have no choice but to submit. And so will you. What was teased in Of Rot and Ruin has been fully realized here, and it simply demolished everything in its path. No other listen was quite as overpowering as this. Frightening, hulking, magnificent: it’s the best of 2022.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Artificial Brain // Artificial Brain – Twisty, challenging, but never alienating death metal that is experimental without being pretentious or overly complicated. Requires a few listens to absorb.
  • Gaerea // MirageThe masters of cathartic black metal release another stellar record that is all heart. Emerging from the other side, especially after the song of the year candidate, “Laude,” feels like an extraordinary release.
  • Konvent // Call Down the Sun Death-doom done right. Absolutely crushing but completely overwhelming at the same time. Call Down the Sun is one of the most absorbing albums of the year.
  • Goatwhore // Angels Hung from the Arches of Heaven The legends return with an album that sticks to their strengths but sounds pretty amazing while doing so. At its best, it’s killer. At its worst, it’s still good. But it’s always, undeniably Goatwhore.
  • Cosmic Putrefaction // Crepuscular Dirge for the Blessed Ones – Helter-skelter, dissonant, disarming, and just a shit-ton of fun. This is the death metal of the future.
  • Woods of Desolation // The Falling TideBlackgaze of the year. A simply stunning and beautiful collection that could easily have entered the top 10 if I’d had more time with it. Better than its brilliant predecessor.

Disappointment o’ the Year:

  • Amorphis // HaloQueen of Time was a revelation, featuring some of Amorphis’ best material in years. From the art to the singles, this sounded like a logical progression. Instead, we got something so forgettable I forgot the album’s title while writing this. It’s aggressively bland, with few stand-out moments, and it disappears from memory very quickly. This will probably get me fired, but when the staff is discussing the best albums of the year, and no one brings up frikkin’ Amorphis for over two hours, then you know something went wrong. Let’s hope they course-correct.

Songs o’ the Year:

  • Hath – “Kenosis”
  • Gaerea – “Laude”
  • Immolation – “The Age of No Light”
  • Ellende – “Someday”
  • Saor – “Origins”
  • An Abstract Illusion – “In the Heavens Above, You Will Become a Monster”

Dear Hollow

Welcome to the end of 2022. While struggles are inevitable, we hope the year has been kinder in dealing with the pandemic and the ugly it brings out in people. We hope that our little community of overrating bastards with superior taste in metal has been a safe haven for you and that we continue to provide metal and camaraderie in ways that satisfy you. Wherever you are or whatever you’re up to, I hope this holiday season fills your heart with love and our world with peace.

The Hollow year has been one for the books, thanks to the little rambunctious rascal we have running amok. Mini Hollow celebrated her first birthday with her first claps, her first teeth, and her first steps (some cake on the side), and has not slowed down since. She loves exploring the beauty of the world around her, and she makes friends wherever she goes. As I wrangle this little rapscallion, I’m daily reminded that love has taken on new meaning for me and my concept of legacy.

The year of teaching has been an improvement over the last few. I teach alternative high school, and this year we rid ourselves of the junior high school program and immature ninth grade—what a breath of fresh air that has been. Alongside district measures to improve staff morale and retention, our ability to focus on upperclassmen has allowed us to forge new bonds and deepen our relationships with students and colleagues. As you can imagine, what a difference that has made in school culture. Students feel loved and valued where others have fallen short and while work completion remains an issue for these students, the engagement and trust we feel on a daily basis more than compensates.

In other news, what a year for metal! I have awarded more 4.0s+ this year than any other year combined, many of which you will see below. However, my reviewing productivity has largely dropped off in the last few months, and I can largely thank my own schooling for that. I have taken up the mantle of earning my Master’s in secondary education in order to improve my pay, competence, and flexibility. Thanks to a very enthusiastic professor with very high expectations, reviews took a backseat for much of October and November. While I look forward to learning more, I will soak up all the R&R I can this holiday season.

A huge thanks to the AMG community for their support and camaraderie this year as I celebrate four years of writing with these bozos. Big thanks to Steel Druhm for corralling us like a herd of cats and to Madam X for supplying our addiction—we would not be able to do what we love without you two. Big thanks to Carcharodon, Cherd of Doom, and Holdeneye for bonding on the dad level, as we lovingly labor in the trenches of childcare—I appreciate you guys. Thank you to newcomers Maddog and Dolphin Whisperer for the conversation about life, family, and great metal. Thanks to Ferox and my list-buddy Doom_et_Al for your professional assistance and for always being a sounding board about terrible music.

Before we get drowned in the sentimental, let’s talk senti-metal, amirite??

#ish. Dysgnostic // Scar Echoes – The more I listen to Scar Echoes, the more I discover. It embodies nearly every effective facet of dissonant death with patience and menace, crawling and lurching with chthonic tendrils of disgust and crookedness. Departing from its brutal death-birthing grounds in favor of an atmosphere through layers of sprawling discordance, Dysgnostic piles on the tricks with shifting sands, never forsaking the molten corrosion that eats through every movement. I find in retrospect how much I underrated it, and how often I return to it. It’s got Ulcerate written all over it, but when it’s done this impressively, I will gladly eat my words for one of the most sickly atmospheric and gnarled punishments in recent memory.

#10. Astral Tomb // Soulgazer – I am by no means a brutal death kinda guy, but Astral Tomb does things a little differently. Opener “Transcendental Visions” dwells in the familiar subterranean with thick, sticky riffs, slowing tempos, and a gravelly growl straight from hell. However, the crystalline clarity that suddenly graces “Be Here Now…” and subsequent forays into the cosmos gives further credence to the Denverite’s formidable songwriting prowess, pairing punishing death metal with otherworldly ambiance and making one sound like a natural progression of the other. While kickass on a death metal level with a thick tar-like tone and thunderous percussion, the ambiance slays on another level, an unknowable alien presence to earth under siege.

#9. Chat Pile // God’s CountryChat Pile has been divisive ’round these parts. A particularly caustic and uncomfortable hybrid of noise rock and sludge with unstable vocal approaches, it stands at odds with the Small Town, U.S.A. vibe, although undeniably relatable. While uncompromising in punishing riffs, the grim and groovy noise rock that dominates tracks like “Pamela” and “Tropical Beaches, Inc.” elevate God’s Country to something beyond your typical sludge. In spite of the sonic abuse, it feels raw and stripped down, as we are faced with the cold realities barked, growled, and spoken in Raygun Busch’s uncomfortably charismatic performance (see “grimace_smoking_weed.jpeg”). Chat Pile is noise in every sense of the word, while discomfort and suffering run rampant, but it would be folly to dismiss it all as senseless.

#8. Kardashev // Liminal Rite – There’s no band like Kardashev. Undeniably and uniquely atmospheric, balancing Mark Garrett’s soothing croons and unhinged roars atop a foundation of relentlessly exploratory progressive death metal, Liminal Rite picks up where EP The Baring of Shadows left off in the most realized incarnation of the band thus far. Based upon drummer Sean Lang’s tragic tale of age and memory, it is guided with the organicity of a symphony, each crisp movement serving its purpose with an emotional undercurrent flowing beneath the cutthroat compositions. If it’s riffs you’re after, this will satisfy. But the atmosphere and melody, guided by one of the best vocalists in the scene, make it more than just a simple collection of good songs, but rather an experience to be felt.

#7. Abest // Molten HuskPost-metal is flooded with every Isis and Neurosis worshiper in the book. Abest, while focusing on the chunky riffs and plodding rhythms typically associated, infuses its breed of angular post-metal with a serious crawling dissonance that takes the sound to a dark and gloomy dimension. Never forsaking a seriously infectious groove, it’s as caustic and corrosive as its title suggests. With an acidic guitar tone, its tracks are built around haunting and infectious plucking. While the meat of its riffs propel it forward, these melodies do the legwork in creating a sound simultaneously groovy and haunting. So forward-thinking in its melodic and rhythmic approaches and challenging a style stuck in its ways, it would be a shame to miss.

#6. Imperial Triumphant // Spirit of Ecstasy – While the relatively subtle tones of Alphaville are a restrained far cry from the absolute insanity of Spirit of Ecstasy, these New Yorkers channel the decadent glitz and glamor of the Big Apple in a way that only Vile Luxury can touch. While its predecessor streamlined its skronky jazz and calculated black/death approach, Spirit of Ecstasy attacks with an unhinged mania. Comparatively, its closers “Bezumnaya” and “Maximalist Scream” pump the brakes with ominous doom-like patience. While tracks like “Chump Change” and “Tower of Glory, City of Shame” are some of the best Imperial Triumphant has ever released—monolithic skyscrapers of decadence beneath an acid rain of unforgiving dissonance and violent jazz runs. Each album has overseen a new direction for the gilded trio without compromising solidarity, and Spirit of Ecstasy bares its own teeth in a menacing grin that rises above.

#5. White Ward // False Light – While White Ward has often stood alone in a dark and visceral combination of noir jazz and black metal, the pigeonholing has always felt incomplete. So much more than a mere combination of genres, False Light picks up where the excellent Love Exchange Failure left off in a soundtrack just as suitable for Sam Spade lurking down the dark and rainy night-shrouded alleyways of San Francisco, as well as Dix Handley’s last breath in freedom, surrounded by the horses and the idyllic farmland, basking in the unforgiving glare of the sun. While we watched it get dark, we were bombarded by 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. As tragic as noir ought to be in tracing the advent of night.

#4. Mamaleek // Diner Coffee – A truly disgusting album, but also Mamaleek’s most accessible. While dabbling in black metal, post-hardcore, and drone in former incarnations, Diner Coffee channels its noise rock roots and squeezes the blues through a gaping wound with the grace of a cyst. Dissonance, jazzy chord progressions, and an absolutely apeshit songwriting technique collide in tracks of bloodshot, white-knuckle intensity that focus more on uncanny valley-esque blues jams rather than full-frontal brutality. While the chugging guitars of “Boiler Room” hit like a two-ton hammer, the haunting simmer of “Badtimers” and the noise crescendo of “Wharf Rats in the Moonlight” are more likely to stick to you like the smell of cigarettes and bad coffee at an all-night no-name diner you sat at for too long.

#3. Aeviterne // The Ailing Facade – It would have been easy for Garrett Bussanick to simply revive Flourishing under a new moniker. The fans would have loved it, the critics would have gushed over it, and we would have been none the wiser. However, in creating The Ailing Facade with its group of veterans and with a solid sense of direction, Aeviterne creates its own trademark, balancing blindsiding brutality and intense atmospherics. From the blackened approach of “The Gaunt Sky,” the post-metal-inspired monolithic ritualism of the title track, and the death metal pummeling of “Denatured,” each one of the New Yorkers’ faces is pristinely sinister, steeped heavily in its ominous ambiance. The Ailing Facade offers a crescendo of the approaching darkness in dynamics and atmospherics, but will never hesitate to rip your throat out.

#2. ColdWorld // Isolation – While ColdWorld does not forsake its ambient and depressive blackened origins, Isolation feels more lonely and desolate than the blizzard beasts of yore. Stripping its black metal attack to the bone in favor of crushing melancholia, Isolation waits patiently and organically in its post-rock subtlety, letting its bleeding wound hemorrhage to a trickle in stark tones of beauty and suffering. While tracks like “Walz” and “Wound” embrace the blackened depressive palette and “We Are Doomed” slows things to a bitter crawl, “Soundtrack to Isolation” and “Five” dwell in the bleakest tones of the year, slowly unfolding and peeling back its deceptively triumphant instrumentals to reveal the frigid heart beating below the frostbitten soil. Bold and ambitious, ascending genre pigeonholing in favor of pure beauty and desolation, Isolation is the best black metal album of the year.

#1. Altars // Ascetic Reflection – While much of dissonant death metal dwells in subterranean dimensions of density, Ascetic Reflection is unafraid to face the sunlight. Lurching and roiling riffs that recall the greats while striving for something more sinister, it is perfected by a uniquely sun-bleached guitar tone that lives up to the flagellation of its title. While undeniably Altars, Ascetic Reflection is a step up from 2013’s Paramnesia, which never neglects off-kilter groove and subtle OSDM weight alongside its skin-flaying dissonance. “Perverse Entity” and “Luminous Jar” encompass some of the best death metal of the year in formidably squelching riffs and otherworldly rhythms—its movements between chaotic dissonance and haunting melody drilling into the brain. It rarely shows its whole hand, but when it does it raises more questions than it answers in tracks like “Black Light Upon Us” and “Inauspicious Prayer,” dwelling in mesmerizing repetition and subtle noise atmospherics. Ascetic Reflection’s dynamics reveal its indomitable songwriting, constituting the scathing swell and evocative lull—all the while holding an unflinching stare in the light that ends all creation.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Devenial Verdict // Ash Blind – A stunning incarnation of atmospheric death metal, huge riffs and mesmeric songwriting take precedence over brutal death excess. Mysterious and colossal, it ends with more questions than answers.
  • Dischordia // Triptych – A slip ‘n slide of dissonant death metal, with cutthroat brutality, jarring rhythms, outlandish experimentation (flute??), and just enough ambiance and melody to go down smooth.
  • The Callous Daoboys // Celebrity Therapist – While the Atlanta collective hasn’t given a single shit since 2017, they give even less of a shit in 2022. Warped and jarring mathcore meets whacky experimentation, infectious melodies, and sass you can’t shake.
  • Trenches // Reckoner – A comeback ten years in the making that expertly blends post-metal immensity with crunchy metalcore accessibility and cutthroat hardcore punk intensity, it satisfies all but the IndieGoGo perk I paid for in college.
  • Lathe // Tongue of Silver – While you can appreciate Horseback or those two Earth albums for fusing drone metal with country, Lathe does it better than anyone. Haunting blues melodies, thick-as-molasses drone riffs, and steel guitar abuse all collide in an album as evocative as it is exciting.
  • Holy Fawn // Dimensional Bleed – Lush, dense, and loud, this album aptly fuses post-rock melodies and shoegaze sprawl with metal heaviness. Vicious and gentle, desperate and restrained, it’s easy to get lost in these waves of beauty.

Disappointments o’ the Year:

  • Conjurer // Páthos – Although initially exciting in more melodic and heartfelt performances, repeated listens felt disingenuous and paper-thin.
  • Dälek // Precipice – A lyrical pinnacle with painfully monotonous instrumentals from a rap legend who can do so much better.
  • Bunsenburner // Poise – Kudos to whoever wrote that promo, because they deserve a score higher than Poise.

Surprises o’ the Year:

  • Dr. Acula // Dr. Acula – It’s weird that we can take the Long Island deathcore mongrels seriously now. No Ghostbusters samples in sight.
  • T.O.M.B. & Blodkvalt – Black metal and noise not being awful (???).
  • Sergeant Thunderhoof // This Sceptred Veil – I’m not ordinarily a stoner-doom or “ganja” fan in general, but with a pedigree vocalist, kickass grooves, and just enough melody to account for a long album? I’ll have what they’re having.
  • Wolfbastard // Hammer the Bastards – It’s punk. It’s black metal. Nothing more, nothing less. Be a bastard.
  • How much I cooled on Luminous Vault. Whoops.

Songs o’ the Year

  • Astral Tomb – “Be Here Now…”
  • Altars – “Black Light Upon Us”
  • Luminous Vault – “Incarnate Flame Arise”
  • Lathe – “Vinegar”
  • ColdWorld – “Soundtrack to Isolation”
  • Imperial Triumphant – “Chump Change”
  • Mamaleek – “Badtimers”
  • Chat Pile – “grimace_smoking_weed.jpeg”
  • The Callous Daoboys – “The Elephant Man in the Room”

Show 1 footnote

  1. You, indeed, are not funny. – Grier
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