1. // Zeal & Ardor (MVKA)
Every now and then a band arrives with an originality that makes them stand out from the crowd. And when Zeal & Ardor released their debut album Devil Is Fine in 2016, their off beat blend of avant-garde Rock, Blackened Post-Metal and Delta Blues with African influenced vocals, did just that. Originally the music was created solely by Manuel Gagneux, but he then formed a touring band and settled into the role of singer/guitarist as the album’s popularity grew, gigs such as the mighty Roadburn Festival were offered, and showcasing the music live became inevitable.
In 2022 the Swiss band’s stock has risen to an all time high, and with the release of this their 3rd and self titled album, they have further evolved their sound and created their finest collection of songs yet. There are some absolute stand out cuts such as Run and Death To The Holy, and the album roars through all manner of different genres with the band the heaviest it’s been in places, and at its most experimental in others. The creativity within this album is outstanding and Gagneux’s unique vocal style has never sounded better. You can check out our live review from their autumn 2022 tour here : https://kultzilla.wordpress.com/2022/11/08/zeal-ardor-heriot-live-concorde-2-brighton-07-11-2022/
2. // Gaerea : Mirage (Season Of Mist)
Third full length album from Portugal’s leading Black Metal band Gaerea, who just seem to be getting better and better with each release. Mirage is devastatingly absorbing throughout, with an impressive emphasis on fine songwriting which makes them stand out from the crowd in a saturated genre.
There is an individuality to their style which is both relentlessly driving and also darkly uplifting, and for that reason there has been a buzz around them in 2022 which has take their profile to the next level. Mirage is sumptuously produced creating a crisp and clear sound which is about as far away from lo-fi Black Metal as you can get, giving them a cross over appeal which is only enhanced by the mystism created by the image of the mask wearing musicians.
3. // Greg Puciato : Mirrorcell (Federal Prisoner)
Mirrorcell is the second solo album from Greg Puciato, who seems to have barely had time to stop and sleep since The Dillinger Escape Plan ended in 2017. He’s somehow found the time to release music with his 80’s influenced Synth-Wave project The Black Queen, recorded a new album with the awesome Killer Be Killed, alongside Max Cavalera (Soulfly), Troy Sanders (Mastadon) and Ben Koller (Converge), and sang backing vocals on Jerry Cantrell’s 2021 solo album Brighten, while also joining his subsequent solo tour earlier this year.
His debut album Child Soldier : Creator Of God released in 2020 on his own Federal Prisoner label, was an eclectic mix that incorporated a little of everything we had heard from Puciato before, and with a relatively strong electronic influence. But this time around he manages to find a a far stronger and cohesive identity, creating a full on Heavy Rock album bursting with mature and dark songs, which perfectly showcases his unique vocals and impressive guitar playing. And the influence of singing and touring with Cantrell certainly looms large, with shades of an Alice In Chains sound throughout, which is never a bad thing.
4. // Rolo Tomassi : Where Myth Becomes Memory (MNRK)
Sixth album from the Sheffield natives who now base themselves in Brighton, and Where Myth Becomes Memory felt like it could be the one to propel them beyond their already sizeable cult following, when it dropped at the beginning of the year. Vocalist Eva Korman sings with a cleaner vocal style more than ever before on songs such as Closer and Almost Always, which means that when she breaks into her full throttle screams on standout tracks including Cloaked and Labyrinthine, the juxtaposition is even more impressive. She clearly has a distinctively beautiful and powerful voice either way.
The tone of this record is outstanding making the band sound better than ever before, specifically Chris Cayford’s guitar which supplies fantastic riffs throughout and the keyboard/synth sound of second vocalist James Spence. A Rolo Tomassi record is always a chaotic affair as varying styles merge together at an almighty pace, and the band have never been shy about the influence that The Dillinger Escape Plan have had on their sound. However here the chaos is refined and expertly controlled, as Rolo Tomassi have evolved into a unique force of their own.
5. // Oceans : Hell Is Where The Heart Is (Nuclear Blast)
Hell Is Where The Heart Is is the second album from Oceans, Metal-Core natives of Berlin and Vienna who have created something quite special. The record is a concept album split into three sections, lyrically taking a dark and depressing look at recovering from a broken heart after the failure of a relationship. And Oceans do not provide your normal generic run of the mill Metal-Core, as throughout the record there is a shift in styles from Death-Core to Alternative Rock.
There is also a distinct influence of vintage Nu-Metal peppered throughout, namely that of Korn, Deftones and Slipknot. This is an emotionally powerful record from start to finish, tonally dark and melancholic with sublime tortured vocals from singer/guitarist Timo Rotten. A bleak concept full of anguish and despair which is executed perfectly on a collection of songs that are full of intoxicating riffs and huge big room choruses.
6. // Cave In : Heavy Pendulum (Relapse Records)
Cave In are a band who having burst out of the Boston Hardcore scene in the mid 90’s, have released a body of work which often varies from album to album, with styles ranging from Alternative Rock with clean singing, to straight up Metal with harsher vocals. On Heavy Pendulum they have captured all the finer points of the various styles they have flirted with, and created a record bursting with an eclectic set of songs where the heavier cuts blend perfectly with the more melodic, all combining to create arguably their finest work to date.
Production wise the whole album sounds absolutely stunning, which is no surprise as it was recorded and mixed by engineering wizard Kurt Ballou (Converge) at his notorious God City Studio. It is also their first album writing with Nate Newton (Converge / Doomriders) following the passing of their original Bass player Caleb Schofield in 2018. And as well as bringing his own undeniably heavy tone and style to their low end, he also provides ferocious backing vocals which perfectly compliment the cleaner singer style of frontman and guitarist Stephan Brodsky.
7. // Behemoth : Opvs Contra Natvram (Nuclear Blast Records)
Poland’s Behemoth have been plying their trade at the forefront of the extreme metal scene since the release of their debut album Sventevith in 1995, during the height of the second wave of Black Metal. And they have been a band who have always evolved their sound in the proceeding years. With Opvs Contra Natvram they have fully transcended beyond their traditional Black Metal roots, creating a modern blackened Post-Metal masterpiece.
Behemoth appear to be enjoying somewhat of a renaissance of their long career in recent years, starting with album number ten The Satanist (2014), continuing with I Loved You At your Darkest (2018) through to this gem in 2022. Their outspoken vocalist Nergal has never sounded better and their music is constantly evolving and shifting to stay relevant, keeping them at the forefront of the ever changing landscape of Metal.
8. // Conjurer : Pàthos (Nuclear Blast Records)
Conjurer are one of the finest bands in the thriving underground Uk Metal scene right now, and if we’re judging them by their second album Pathós, then it’s easy to see why. This is a perfectly executed, darkly heavy album that has been exquisitely produced, with an intricate complexity in the music that is difficult to pigeonhole into one style. There are elements of Death, Black and obscure Post-Metal, all rolled into one glorious journey of powerful and emotional music.
Pathòs is a real class act from start to finish, as Conjurer show a sophistication in their song writing which has evolved nicely since their debut release Mire in 2018. Following a successful summer festival season, the Rugby based four piece hit the road across the UK and Europe this autumn in support of the release, with Tuskar and Sugar Horse in support. You can check out our review here : https://kultzilla.wordpress.com/2022/10/31/conjurer-tuskar-sugar-horse-live-green-door-store-brighton-30-10-2022/
9. // Panzerfaust : The Suns Of Perdition Chapter III : The Astral Drain (Code 7 – Eisenwald)
The Astral Drain is the sixth album from this unique Canadian Post-Black Metal band, and the third in their conceptual The Suns Of Perdition series. And this is no ordinary Black Metal album, with Panzerfaust keeping the tempo slow and the guitars tuned down to a distinctly sludgy level, combining to create a harrowing and deeply textured musical experience.
There are industrial elements throughout, and interludes of atmospheric soundscapes that glue the album together, while each track provides a heavy hypnotic journey into darkness. Lyrically The Astral Drain is based around mankind’s collective descent into madness, and musically this is an album of pure emotional and controlled monolithic chaos. Created for discerning connoisseurs of experimental extreme Metal.
10. // Russian Circles : Gnosis (Sargent House)
Russian Circles are one of the finest instrumental bands in the Post-Rock / Metal genre, featuring the extraordinary guitar work of Mike Sullivan and ex-Botch bassist Brian Cook (who also plays in Sumac). Gnosis their eighth album, was largely written during the pandemic as Sullivan and Cook traded ideas remotely with drummer Dave Turncrantz, with the original idea of using the unplanned and extended period away from touring as an opportunity to record a stripped back and mellower record.
However something clearly changed their mindset along the way, as Gnosis has turned out to be one of the heaviest records of their impressive career so far. The album is a collection of muddy melancholic music, that has been created by three musicians who cohesively work together perfectly. There are flashes of brilliance throughout showcasing subtle differences from track to track, and even a surprising Black Metal influence on Betrayal, that no doubt sounds absolutely fantastic when played live.
11. // Cult of Luna : The Long Road North (Metal Blade Records)
Sweden’s Post-Metal innovators have been releasing the highest quality of music for over 20 years, and with The Long Road North they have created something as epic, powerful and emotive as anything that has come from their outstanding catalogue before. Lead single Cold Burn showed exactly what was to follow when it dropped online in December 2021, a heavy building track full of emotion, and with a video which creates a feeling of isolation, within a bleak and desolate landscape.
With An Offering To The Wild they may just have created one of their finest and memorable songs. Opening with beautiful strings which make you feel at one with nature, before taking you on a relentless near 13 minute sombre sonic journey. Cult Of Luna’s vocalist and guitarist Johannes Persson sounds powerfully raw throughout, even when showcasing a cleaner vocal style on Into The Night. Sadly the band had to postpone their Beyond The Redshift festival in London earlier in the year, but have finally hit the road for a long European tour with the likes of Holy Fawn, Russian Circles and Svalbard supporting on dates running into 2023.
12. // Meshuggah : Immutable (Atomic Fire)
The Swedish Metal titans have returned with album number nine and their first in four years, delivering quite a remarkable record which shows that over 30 years into their career, they are still just as hungry as ever. Immutable sees a progression in their Technical-Death Metal sound, which is somewhat stripped back and raw. Known for their complex poly-rhythms and arrangements, Immutable links together the sum of its parts into an almost continuous robotic like juddering groove, beneath the wild and abrasive vocals of frontman Jens Kidman.
Meshuggah are true innovators of extreme metal and have a created a body of sound on Immutable which is almost Sci-Fi like in the tone of its execution. There are just a few moments of calmer respite using a myriad of different cleaner guitar styles, dripped sparingly inbetween the incessant clanking, mechanical rhythms. The instrumental sections have a tone reminiscent of Tool in places, but there is a bitter darkness beyond, and the relentlessly ferocious vocals are delivered with a power and aggression, that is on another level altogether.
13. // Machine Head : Of Kingdom And Crown (Nuclear Blast Records)
Machine Head are a band who need little introduction, arriving with their legendary debut album Burn My Eyes in 1994 and it’s sledgehammer of a single Davidion. And they have experienced a rollercoaster of a career as one of Metal’s biggest bands ever since. Essentially these days they are a solo outlet for the creativity of singer/guitarist Rob Flynn, and proving there is plenty of life left in the old dog yet, Of Kingdom And Crown is arguably their finest work since The Blackening (2007).
Flynn seems to have found a new lease of life during the pandemic, launching his successful podcast No Fuckin’ Regrets, hosting regular online music sessions, as well as writing and recording this modern masterpiece for his band. Of Kingdom And Crown is Machine Head’s tenth album and is a manga influenced concept album which showcases a strong cleaner singing style from the frontman for much of the record, alongside the usual classic Bay Area style thrash we’ve come to expect from this legacy band.
14. // Gloson : The Rift (Indie Recordings)
Brilliant second album from Gloson, who veer on the sludgier side of the Post-Metal sound, not too dissimilar from their fellow Swedish countrymen Cult Of Luna. In fact as with their debut album, this sophomore release has been mastered by Magnus Lindberg, founding guitar player of Cult Of Luna who has also worked his production magic for the likes of Converge’s Blood Moon project, helping to create a truly stunning sound for the band.
The Rift is an impressive record full of chugging riffs creating powerful and emotional music, and with deep rasping vocals all executed perfectly to provide an intriguing and engaging listen. The record is heavy throughout, with intricate rhythms and great layered guitar playing from Anders Persson and Christian Larsson, who also share vocal duties along with Bassist Kristofer Bruhn. The Metal scene in Sweden has always been strong with bands in the 90’s such as Entombed and At The Gates pioneering the European Death sound. And new wave Post bands such as Gloson are impressively continuing to fly the flag for the Swedish scene in 2022.
15. Animals As Leaders : Parrhesia (Sumerian Records)
Parrhesia is the fifth album from the mind bending instrumentalists, who merge the virtuoso guitar skills of Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen, with the technical and progressive metal prowess of Meshuggah and Tool. Guitar and Bass duties are shared by the extraordinary talents of Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes, who primarily use customised 8 string instruments to create an earth shattering tone on the lows, while also being able to emphatically shred on the highs. They create sonics unheard of elsewhere, combining all of the above elements with influences of Jazz, creating complex poly-rhythms which are neatly held together by percussionist Matt Garstka.
This record is one of the strongest selection of tracks the band have put together, no doubt enhanced by experience in both the execution of their instruments, and arrangement of their intricate compositions. The use of synths is also strong throughout the album accompanying the more melodic moments and creating a John Carpenter vibe in places. But it is when the band are playing to their fullest and most powerful that the music really comes alive. Clanking, metallic and all consuming instrumental music, which is an assault on the senses in the best possible way.
16. // Wiegedood : There’s Always Blood At The End Of The Road (Century Media Records)
For those that know, Wiegedood (translating as ‘Death In The Cradle’) have been a band bubbling away in the sizzling hot cauldron of the Post and Black Metal scene in Belgium, and form part of the Church Of Ra collective of artists that make up bands such as Amenra, Oathbreaker and Hessian, with all three founding members having played in those bands at one time or another. But Wiegedood collectively are way greater than the sum of their parts, and have created a devastating sound of their own, while amassing an impressive body of work.
Having created a trilogy of Crust influenced Black Metal albums from 2015 – 2018 with De Doden Hebben Het Goed Parts 1-3, the band have undoubtedly now released their finest work with There’s Always Blood At The End Of The Road, taking a more experimental approach to their music this time around with a greater use of samples and synths, accompanying some dazzling guitar work. All combine to create an extreme collection of music that is relentless throughout, with just the odd moment of melodic recourse to help you catch your breath.
17. // Brutus : Unison Life (Hassle)
Passionate third album from this Belgian three piece who feature the extraordinarily talents of singer Stefanie Mannaerts, who somehow manages to play drums live whilst delivering her powerfully emotional vocals. And Brutus are another band like so many others on this list that are ageing like a fine wine, as Unison Life is a further step forward in songwriting and delivery, and a natural sign of evolvement for the group.
They are a difficult band to pigeonhole into one genre also, which signifies a unique quality to their music. They may have their roots in Hardcore and there is unquestionably a raw Punk attitude to their sound, but they they also show a Post-Grunge style and influence of Alternative Rock, which eloquently all blends together on the pure emotion of the records stand out track, What Have We Done?
18. // Sarattma : Escape Velocity (Nefarious Industries)
Escape Velocity is the impressive debut album from the devilishly quirky instrumental duo Sarattma, who include ex-Brian Jonestown Massacre drummer Sara Neidorf and Cleric guitarist Matt Hollenberg. They combine beautifully to create something uniquely off the wall, blending at times the furious poly-rhythms of Djent and Technical Progressive Metal, with an off the wall and avant-garde Jazz influence.
The musicianship is impressive throughout, with the likes of Steve Vai and Frank Zappa prevalent throughout the guitar work, while the percussion does one hell of a job keeping the music flowing through all sorts of different time signatures. But there is also a sublime heaviness that takes the music into intriguing territories of Post Metal and beyond. This might just be one of the most unique albums to be released this year, and it will be interesting to hear how the duo progress, and where they next take their sound from here.
19. // Absent In Body : Plague God (Relapse Records)
A sublime blend of artists have come together to form Absent In Body, a ‘side project’ first created by Amenra duo Colin H. Van Eeckhout (vocals) and Mathieu J. Vandekerckhove (guitar) with Neurosis vocalist/guitarist Scott Kelly. And for Plague God they have also utilised the talents of human drumming machine Igor Cavalera (ex Sepultura / Cavalera Conspiracy), bringing a whole new level to the percussive elements of their work.
Plague God is a short sharp blast through five tracks of exquisite heavy Post-Metal, with an industrial tinge which at times is aggressive and chaotic. But with moments of calm, such as on the meandering spoken word section in ‘In Spirit In Spite’, and with an air of mysticism entwined amongst the anger in ‘The Acres The Ache’. The standout track sits with the beautiful simplicity of ‘Sarin’, and the hook of its minimal riff which swirls around your brain, drawing you deeper into its relentlessly mesmerising groove.
20. // Heriot : Profound Morality (Church Road Records)
A strong debut release from one the UK’s finest emerging talents in the Metal scene. And on this showing the hype comes with good reason, as HERIOT have created a mini album of eight tracks, that’s over in just 20 minutes and leaves you wanting more. The record flows from start to finish, taking your mind on a short sharp journey that blends the extreme heaviness of Post-Hardcore and Death Metal, with interludes of post-apocalyptic industrial soundscapes.
The harshness of the deep growling vocals from Bassist Jake Packer, blends with the screams of Guitarist Debbie Gough, who also switches to a haunting clean singing style during periods of melodic respite, perfectly complimenting the abrasiveness of the band at full steam and reminiscent of Oathbreaker at times. The sound of the album is perfectly produced, with an encapsulating crisp definition which shows that despite being their debut release, this is a band who have honed their skills over the last few years of gigging and writing together, and who look more than ready to take their career to the next level in 2023.
Words By – Abstrakt_Soul
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