Steel Druhm’s Top Ten(ish) of 2022

2022 is behind us and ready or not, 2023 is upon us. Unlike some of my esteemed co-workers, I had no major crises or obstacles to overcome in 2022. Things have been good in the world of Steel. I’m blessed with good health, an amazing wife, and a great circle of family and friends. I coped with all this good fortune by listening to a lot of death metal, getting tattooed and lifting weights (and chugging hobo wine). That’s normal, right?

That reminds me, this was my 13th year aboard the flagship metal blog. It’s been a strange journey with many high points and a few low ones too, but I wouldn’t trade any of it away. I love the family of writers we’ve scraped together from across the globe, and even when I want to dump them all in an industrial smoother, they’re good eggs and I greatly enjoy working with them.1

Speaking of eggs, I got to abuse some brand-new n00bs this year and watched as they slowly developed into competent staffers. I then continued to abuse them because this is The Way. We had to say goodbye to some established writers, which is always sad, but the mulch pile out back needed refilling, so it all worked out for the best. I don’t know what 2023 holds for us, but I’m happy to blast into the unknown as part of the AMG experience. I hope all of you loyal readers feel the same way. If not, please let us know so we can deal with you properly. Onward to the next great metal adventure!

Oh, and here are my very important selections.

(ish) Stratovarius // Survive – After not hearing anything from Finland’s premier power metal act for almost 7 years, I assumed Stratovarius was history. Then in September they roared back with the ironically titled Survive and showed the world they’re harder to kill than Chernobyl hogs. The biggest surprise? Survive is really, really good and sounds like vintage Stratovarius. It reminds me of their late 90s prime and every song is a slick, hook-infused dose of raw energy. The title track features everything I ever loved about Euro-power and even the 11-minute closer, “Voice of Thunder” works well. A huge comeback and if you love power metal, you need this in your ears.

#10. Autopsy // Morbidity Triumphant – The originators of scuzzy, low-rent filth-death made a triumphant return in 2022. Morbidity Triumphant is one of Autopsy’s best platters of disgusting splatter in their long career of evil. From the straight-up assault of “Stab the Brain” to the ugly doom death of “Final Frost” it’s all so brutish, primitive, and bestial. This is what death metal was and always should be about. It sounds infectious and dangerous but still manages some impressive bait-and-hook melodicism. Chris Reifert sounds as unhinged as ever and the band’s subtle flirtation with stoner rock adds a delightfully bouncy swagger to the bloodbath. It’s all just so wrong. It’s good to do wrong though. Get morbid and win big prizes.

#9. Sacrilegion // From Which Nightmares CrawlSacrilegion’s debut was a late-year entry that blew up my neatly established list order with a mammoth dose of riff-heavy death that stuck in deep my manflesh. This is the kind of death my reptilian brain stem craves. It’s heavy, ugly and surprisingly memorable. Cuts like “A Terrible Pilgrimage to Seek the Nighted Throne” received constant replays this month and “Puritanical Dementia” is one of my favorite slices of death this year. And did I mention the riffs? Sacrilegion compete with The Chasm to see who can throw the most quality leads at you and the contest is a close one. Damn, there are a lot of fine fretboard moments slithering in the muck and mire. Now get in there because you gotta catch ’em all.

#8. Circle of Silence // Walk through HellCircle of Silence live in that Iced Earth/Brainstorm/Rage space and churn out albums of anthemic power metal with ample balls. Walk Through Hell is their latest and possibly greatest effort and this is an album I listened to A LOT in 2022. It’s got the perfect blend of power, cheese, and memorability and you can’t help but raise a fist in the air as they sing of fighting, rebelling, resisting, and usurping. Basically, all things Manowar-esque. Songs like “United” and “Triumph Over Tragedy” make me want to throw a megaton sword at assorted orcs and elves. I like that feeling so I keep walking through Hell. You should too.

#7. The Chasm // The Scars of a Lost Reflective Shadow – The duo making up The Chasm have been rocking the underground with throwback death metal for decades and they keep getting better with age. As the years have passed, their chaotic, kitchen sink style has become slightly more cohesive and polished without ever approaching clean or modern. That brings us to The Scars of a Lost Reflective Shadow. Their latest is still plenty chaotic and madcap but the compositions have excellent flow and damn if this isn’t a warehouse of wild, wooly riffs. This album strikes me as what Possessed should have done after Seven Churches. If this dropped in the 80s it would be hailed as a masterpiece of extreme metal. In 2022 it’s still a mighty fine piece of metal insanity.

#6. Trial // Feed the Fire – In a year where my listening preferences shifted more towards death metal, few traditional acts broke through to truly impress. Sweden’s Trial cracked the code, delivering a raucous blend of traditional and power metal styles that proved impossible to resist. Feed the Fire sounds like the bastard child of Crimson Glory and Atlantean Kodex and features over-the-top vocals and charmingly retro guitar work. There’s a strong 80s vibe throughout married to an epic doom sensibility and when things all come together, you get mammoth songs like “Snare of the Fowler” which is one of the very best metal moments of the year, merging traditional and black metal elements expertly. The writing is crisp and songs like “In the Highest” and “The Faustus Hood” have hooks that stick for weeks. This is a highly impressive album from a band with great potential.

#5. Necrophagous // In Chaos Ascend – An album likely to get overlooked because it arrived so early in 2022, In Chaos Ascend by Necrophagous is one of the best death metal platters of the year. Borrowing from the likes of Vader and Morbid Angel to forge a high-octane, blast-happy death attack, Necophagous take no prisoners as they burn crops and salt the earth. “Order of the Lion” could have appeared on any of the prime Morbid Angel platters and “At Dawn Thee Immolate” has gotten more spins than almost any other deather this year. I underscored this one and I feel shame for that. I tend to feel savage bloodlust when blasting In Chaos Ascend, so I just leave it on a lot. Hear it.

#4. De Profundis // The Corruption of Virtue – Speaking of quality death metal, De Profundis did it once again with The Corruption of Virtue. 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. The stunning guitar work approaches the neo-classical at times but never feels like a pointless wank. The songs are very memorable and entertaining and the whole package packs a massive punch. One spin of “Ritual Cannibalism” and you’ll be hooked. These guys just keep getting better.

#3. Immolation // Acts of GodImmolation are the Mac Daddy and Daddy Mac of the old school death metal universe, and along with Incantation they exist at the center of it all. Few acts can boast the same high level of consistent quality that Immolation delivered over the decades and Acts of God finds them still in possession of great power. They aren’t doing anything different than every other old school death metal crew 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 when “An Act of God,” “Blooded,” and “Overtures of the Wicked” raid your ears. Rob Vigna continues to forge unique riffs that crawl and slither in unholy awfulness and they power the songs to dark, dank places. All hail Immolation.

#2. Satan // Earth Inferno – I will never understand how Satan became so much better in their late career stage than they ever were in their NWoBHM heyday. Their last 4 albums have been a total smoke show, with Earth Inferno being the latest installment. Stocked to the rafters with early 80s-style dual guitar pyrotechnics, it’s an Iron Maiden/Diamond Head/Mercyful Fate bomb going off in your head. The songs are all amazingly well executed, full of hooks, punch, and power and the nostalgia factor is HUUUUGE. It’s the kind of album you put on, rock out loudly to, and then hit repeat. So much fun to be had here! The only possible explanation for this LATE career revival is the divine intervention of the band’s unholy namesake.

#1. Darkest Era // Wither on the Vine – I didn’t have great expectations for Wither on the Vine after waiting nearly 8 years for it. I doubted it would equal or surpass the might and majesty of 2014s Severance and I was actually surprised Darkest Era got around to dropping this belated follow-up at all. To my amazement, 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. There’s a regal and epic flavor to the writing that imparts a grand scale to compositions like “One Thousand Years of Night” and “Floodlands” that few acts can equal. The album moves from strength to strength and the band prove once again they have a true grasp on large-scale songwriting. I spent a great deal of time mired in the grim marshes of this release and its clutches get stronger all the time. Spend time with Wither on the Vine and join me in the beautiful darkness.

Honorable Mentions:

Pharmacist // Flourishing Extremities on Unspoiled Mental Grounds – Vintage Carcass lives on at a different morgue. The harmacist is open for business.
Cryptworm // Spewing Mephitic Putridity – Rancid, gnarly death metal that smells like last week’s venison chili left out in the hot sun. Taste it!
Maul // Seraphic Punishment – Heavy, punishing death metal for the low-brow, mouth-breathers out there. You know who you are.
Messa // CloseMessa is an artsy doom band I’m predisposed to adore and once again they deliver big moods and feelz along with some minor flaws.
Early Moods // ST – A loving nod to the doom sounds of the 80s done by a young bunch of upstarts. Saint Vitus smiles upon them.
Wolf // Shadowlands – One of the most entertaining and catchy throwback metal outings this year. Lots of juicy NWoBHM love here.
Sergeant Thunderhoof // This Sceptred Veil – The stoner album that took me by surprise and stole my wicked heart in 2022.
Scalpture // Feldwärts – Ugly, bruising, war-themed death metal is an easy sell, and sell it Scalpture does. I now have fedlwärts.
Darkthrone // Astral Fortress – I didn’t hear this until late in the year but the weird amalgamation of black metal, Motörhead, Celtic Frost, and doom rock shook me hard.
Grave Infestation // Persecution of the Living – Filthy old school death stinking up the night with ghastly charm.

Song o’ the Year: Trial – “Snare of the Fowler”

Disappointment o’ the Year: The continued glut of Nazi/NSBM trash that keeps showing up in the promo sump and making our job more difficult. Just stop it, people.

Show 1 footnote

  1. Yes, even Grier.
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