The EP, Split and Single Post Part 1 [Things You Might Have Missed 2022]

Do you ever get the sense that bands release 60-minute albums because they’re “supposed to”? Their last record saw the establishment or continuity of a fanbase eager for more content. 3 years have passed and they’ve only written 30 minutes they’re happy with. Suddenly they feel the social pressure of fan expectations and the financial pressure of a record label breathing down their necks. 5 more tracks are bashed out in a 2-week period out of sheer necessity, comfortable in the knowledge that most listeners will shower anything they create with ignorant praise1. What follows is either a tired re-tread of old material or a distinct disparity in songwriting quality across the record.

Do you know how to avoid this problem in the first place? Just fucking release those 30 minutes as they are (an EP). Or combine them with similar songs from a band you’re friendly with (a split). Or pool your unrefined ideas with songwriters from other groups (a collaboration). Or cut down the best of the 30 minutes into just a couple of tracks (a single). These formats exist to complement the full-length album and should not be ignored. Miss our quality recommendations at your own risk. –El Cuervo

Shadowrunner // Deathtouch – Released under the Shadowrunner banner as the sole consistent thread, Deathtouch sees this LA synthmeister teaming up with other artists including System Glitch2, Dimi Kaye and jacket across 4 new tracks. Likely due to the outside influences, it has a quite different feel to Shadowrunner’s first 2 EPs. It has a cyberpunk-infused influence but doesn’t fully commit to the dark synth sound or entirely abandon their retrowave origins. It’s flightier, darker, and more cinematic, building tension and mood above poppy hooks. But Deathtouch still retains the high quality of the artist’s output to date, through a short but punchy discography of mini-releases. Anything tagged with Shadowrunner immediately skips to the top of my to-listen list so I’m excited to hear more solo-work after such a collaboration. –El Cuervo

Melted Bodies // The Inevitable Fork vol. 1Enjoy Yourself was the right record at the right time. Deep in the throes of the pandemic, it was a platter of unrestrained madness, throwing handfuls of screeching noise at a Mr. Bungle-shaped wall. The Inevitable Fork vol. 1 doesn’t reinvent that particular reinvention of the wheel, but I like how it plays with the format. Synths have slithered into the line-up, adding a distinctly urban touch, and it plays well with the noise to replicate the feeling of being stuck in a rave during a bad acid trip. “Think Safe” revolves entirely around a tightly wound dissonant ditty; in contrast, the eponymous opener is an off-kilter stream of consciousness. The most true-to-form and immediately satisfying track is closer “Therapy,” a rabid, feverish, and lethally catchy track of throat-slitting sarcasm. Melted Bodies proves itself once more to be an unstoppable force of razor-sharp wit and razor-wire sensibility. –GardensTale

Urskek // Thra – If you had told me years ago that there would be a doom metal project involving the defunct Monachus and crust legend Alex CF (Morrow, Archivist, Anopheli, Fall of Efrafa) and thematically based on Jim Henson, Brian Froud, and Frank Oz’s underrated and underappreciated The Dark Crystal, I would have given you the Quizzical Side-Eye o’ Confusion. And yet, this 31-minute, three-song journey pulls you into its forlorn universe, melding the melancholy and downtrodden vibes given off by the movie with airy flutes, thunderous drums, and hefty riffs. Pairs perfectly with the Trever Jones-penned motion picture soundtrack, too. –Grymm

Greyhawk // Call of the Hawk – I don’t know if there’s any band running that can more consistently raise my spirits than Seattle’s Greyhawk. Their classic metal sound is just saturated with uplifting feels, and I love everything about it. Opening single “Steelbound” is worth the price of admission for Call of the Hawk all on its own, its driving rhythm telling the epic tale of a warrior making good on a promise to his dying brother. The chorus is simply infectious, while Jesse Berlin’s exceptional solo work recalls any number of guitar gods of the 80’s. These guys excel with their pedal to the metal like on the title track and “Demon Star,” but they can dial things back and simmer too, as evidenced by the epic closer “Take the Throne.” Call of the Hawk is another glorious addition to Greyhawk’s impressive young discography. – Holdeneye

Skelator // Blood Empire – If you know me at all, you know that Skelator’s 2019 album Cyber Metal blew my socks off and had its way with both of them. Some folks don’t care for singer Jason Conde-Houston’s unique delivery, but I feel sorry for them. These guys play traditional power/thrash/speed metal so frantically and powerfully that I couldn’t contain myself upon hearing that new music was coming. Blood Empire shows the band employing a strong Manowar vibe this time around—”Good Day to Die” sounds like it was written by the Kings of Metal themselves, and must be a nod to the similarly named Manowar instrumental—and I totally dig it. I’m not a Trekkie, so the EP’s Klingon-inspired content doesn’t directly tickle my nerd bone, but the songs are compelling nonetheless. Mighty Skelator, may the blood on your bat’leth never dry, and may another full-length be right around the corner! –Holdeneye

Zous // No Ground to Give Zous is the solo project of former Nails drummer Taylor Young. A very different beast from Nails, however, Zous is straight-up dirty, filthy, chuggy death metal, with more than a bit of hardcore abrasiveness thrown in for good measure. Think Blessed are the Sick-era Morbid Angel and a little bit of Enslaved filtered through a hardcore lens. If you know fellow Californian upstarts Greenwitch, you’re in the right ballpark. As well as being packed with some crunching riffs and all the insanity you would expect from behind the kit, Young has drafted in a host of pals for No Ground to Give. These include Takafumi Matsubara, who solos on “Coup De Main”, Exhumed and Impaled’s Leon del Muerte who adds his guitar to skills to “Authoriticon” and the legend that is Chris Reifert (Death, Autopsy) on vox for the crushing closer, “Event Horizon”. This is no-nonsense, burly fucking death metal. That’s all it is and it’s fucking great. –Carcharodon

Kanonenfieber // Yankee Division and Der F​ü​silier – Because I’m a benevolent shark, I am here to give you a two-for-one on some tasty death-tinged black metal. Anonymous German black metal machine Noise—also behind Leiþa and Non Est Deus—delivered my AOTY with last year’s stunning, heart-breaking Menschenmü​hle. I did not expect any new music from his Kanonenfieber project this year and so was delighted to get not one, but two, great little EPs. The first, Yankee Division, which tells the tale of the American entry into The Great War, features what must be one of the last outings from The Black Dahlia Murder’s much-missed vocalist Trevor Strnad (along with his contributions to Baest this year). If that alone isn’t reason enough to check out Yankee Division, both that and Der F​ü​silier are every bit the equal of the material on Menschenmü​hle, probably feeling most like the howling, Minenwerfer-esque “Grabenlieder” from that album.3 Miss out at your peril. –Carcharodon

Epica // The Alchemy Project – Goddamn. I was not expecting this massive collaboration project to hit so hard. With creative contributions from a bizarre but wonderfully eclectic set of artists (Fleshgod Apocalypse, Insomnium, Aborted, God Dethroned, Soilwork, Shining, Charlotte Wessels, Myrkyr, Kamelot, Uriah Heep, Wintersun, MaYaN, and Powerwolf), these seven epic tunes all represent some of the best Epica offers. Between the unforgettable choruses of “The Final Lullaby (ft. Shining),” the thoroughly unexpected deathgrind tear of “Human Devastation (ft. God Dethroned and Sven de Caluwé),” and the beautiful haunt of “Sirens – Of Blood and Water (ft. Myrkur and Charlotte Wessels),” The Alchemy Project is a wondrous, immense release that shows teamwork truly does make the dream work. –TheKenWord

Coffin Feeder // Stereo Homicide/Over the Top This year seems to be the year for supergroups and massive collabs. Coffin Feeder is of the supergroup variety, featuring members of Leng Tch’e, Aborted, Fleddy Melculy, Eye of Solitude, etc. This Belgian deathcore outfit—specializing in the stories of serial killers and campy 80s action movies—provided some killer hooks (“Toolbox,” “DFENS”) and grooves (“Doomsday Device,” “A Good Supply of Bodybags”) on EP duo Stereo Homicide and Over the Top. Chock full of samples (“Dead or Alive”), filthy riffs (“Plug It In,” “Capture for Consumption”), and delightfully cheesy effects (“Stereo Homicide”), these BFF EPs just wanna have fun hacking you to bits. Who am I to say no to that? –TheKenWord

Spider God // Ett fr​ä​mmande spr​å​k / A Foreign Tongue – If you thought, even for a second, that you were only going to read two things about Spider God this year, you were gravely mistaken. The third in a trilogy of EPs, UK black metal unit Spider God dropped Ett fr​ä​mmande spr​å​k / A Foreign Tongue on April 1st. Why that day is anyone’s guess, but don’t let the awkward timing fool you. The tunes encased within are infectiously melodic (“Främlingar och tårar/Strangers and Tears”), delightfully cheery (“Överskuggad av blod/Eclipsed by Blood”), and still riffy as hell (“Omfamna förtvivlan/Embrace Despair”). This is what black metal could sound like when people let go of their tired and boring adherence to “trve” and “kvlt” songwriting tropes. While Spider God are far from the first group to explore bubbly, poppy and fun black metal, they are one of my favorites active right now. –TheKenWord

Fugitive // Maniac – A toughened, groove-laden thrash/crossover debut outing from members of Power Trip, Creeping Death, Skourge and others, Texan killing machine Fugitive marked the beginning of a bright and hopeful future. Maniac strikes a keen balance between old school thrash charms and underground grit, with solid modern punch and groove. While hardly groundbreaking, Fugitive excel where other lesser acts would fall short. The accomplished skillset and seasoned pedigree of the line-up sparks instant chemistry and engaging songwriting. Seth Gilmore’s scarred, deathly vocals break from more typical thrash delivery, while the crunchy, infectious riffs pumped out by Power Trip’s Black Ibanez and Victor Gutierrez (Impalers) lends the music a rugged, catchy and instantly headbangable edge, charging such lean, mean tunes as the belligerent thrash of the title track and beefy riffs and groovy stomp of “Hell’s Half Acre.” It’s all good stuff though, boding well to a hopefully not far round the corner full-length. –Saunders

Byzantine // Black Sea CodexI have long respected the talents of West Virgina’s modern metal juggernaut, Byzantine. The underrated act should have been huge in the mainstream metal landscape, boasting an intelligent, accessible and hook-laden sound that combines modern groove metal with thrash, prog, djent, and seriously tight and technical chops. November release Black Sea Codex marks the band’s first new recordings since 2017’s solid and adventurous The Cicada Tree. At nearly half hour in length, there is plenty of meaty material for listeners to sink their teeth into, containing four fresh new tunes and a couple of covers, including a sharp, modernized take on Coroner’s “Sirens.” It’s great to hear Byzantine back in action, sounding as feisty and inspired as ever. Tinkering creatively with their unique formula, Black Sea Codex unleashes a touch more fire and aggression, reminding of Byzantine’s self-titled comeback album from 2012, as well as the proggier inklings of more recent efforts. The efficient runtime works advantageously and makes for strong replay value, especially on the back of memorable tunes like “Wings of My Soul” and “God Shame.” –Saunders

Show 3 footnotes

  1. I’m not strawmanning. Just visit the YouTube comments for the new Metallica single and observe the fans pre-emptively guaranteeing that the entire new album will be the best of 2023.
  2. Also highly recommended by this synth nerd.
  3. With thanks to my spongy list bud TheKenWord for crushing the two covers into one rather fetching composite, using digital wizardry far beyond my own meagre Word and PowerPoint skills.
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