Here we are once again, at the end of the year. The moment for retrospectives and making tough decisions on what to include on our traditional end-of-year list. Once again the breadth of records has been astounding, spanning everything from the traditional, classic takes to the extreme outliers of the spectrum. Power metal recipes are refined, nihilistic, and minimalistic black metal dives prevail and the technical death metal potency remains sovereign. Experimentations across the board hold their own, be it through drone means or taking a cue from the textural black metal school of thought. 2022 really has something for every taste.
However, one more thing to take note of is that we have seen many heroes of the past return, some produce what is arguably their best works to date. Fans of dark, oppressive hardcore can rejoice! Explorers of the industrial and shoegaze realms are still hungry and Lovecraft-ian inspirations still roam. But most importantly, we have a new generation coming along, and it is thriving. Be it through off-kilter post-hardcore, technical death metal, avant-garde, and progressive extreme metal ideas, it matters not. What matters is that this new wave is masterfully progressing and making its way toward the pantheon of extreme music. That is a comforting thought. So, please spare a moment to go through the list, and hopefully you will discover something that stuns you from 2022. – Spyros Stasis
Heavy Rocks (2022)
Throughout their 30-year-long career, Boris have been unpredictable in their output, playing everything from the bone-shaking drone and harsh noise with Merzbow to gorgeous shoegaze and stoner rock. The third installment in the Heavy Rocks series of albums finds the Japanese trio tracing an alternate history for 1970s rock. The starting point is clear: free-flowing hard rock and guitar-driven psychedelia as cherished by many of their compatriots like Acid Mothers Temple and Kevin. Where they go next is much less predictable.
From cut to cut, Boris mutate the basic brew of styles into increasingly out-there expressions. On “She is burning”, they dish out blazing proto-metal with the energy of a teenage punk band, then let a saxophone line rip over the ongoing insanity. Later, “My name is blank” dives deep into dusty desert and stoner rock, “Blah Blah Blah” gives off serious classic progressive rock and Rock-in-Opposition vibes, its squeaking saxophones and loose structure evoking the likes of King Crimson and Heldon, “Question” entertains a noise rock and post-metal atmospheric crescendo, and “Ghostly Imagination” jumps up and down along Rammstein-cum-Nine Inch Nails techno/industrial beats and scuzzy riffs. Together, the songs form an incredibly cohesive, awesome-sounding amalgam of styles. – Antonio Poscic
Can a hiatus act like a cocoon? Can a period of inactivity actually nurture the next evolutionary step of an artist? This appears to be the case with Locrian and their return after a seven-year-long hiatus. The prolific extreme/experimental act had built an impressive discography by molding post-rock and drone alongside black metal and post-metal tropes, Their return with New Catastrophism sees them still moving between genres, but this time around they arrive with a laser-sharp focus.
The progression of New Catastrophism is the most impressive aspect of the record. The slow build-up in the drone domain with “Mortichnia” sets the scenery, feedback roaring and creating this harrowing space. Fragments of dark ambient rise to the surface, causing sonic specters to appear in the distant background. The doom implosion finally comes in with “The Glare Is Everywhere and Nowhere,” as distorted guitars and cutthroat vocals fill the space. This is where the slight change ensues, the post-rock lineage taking over with its ethereal melodies in “Incomplete Map of Voids”. New Catastrophism sees a much more mature version of Locrian come to the forefront, releasing what is arguably their best work to date. – Spyros Stasis
Petbrick – Liminal
Petbrick remains the most interesting post-Sepultura project by either of the Cavalera brothers. Iggor Cavalera and Big Lad’s Wayne Adams create an enthralling sort of ruckus that occupies the liminal (!) space between industrial, post-punk, the tribal inclinations of Sepultura, and groove-driven electronic music. All of that, but put in a blender and splattered violently across rough walls of noise, of course.
While not quite as out-there and intense as their 2020 collaboration with Deafkids, Deafbrick, Liminal packs a significant punch in each of its 11 cuts, whether riding down the techno-pop-industrial, 1980s neon horror synth-drenched streets on “Primer”, wobbling along the Black Dice-evoking elastic noises of “Raijin”, moshing with the digital techno punk of “Grind You Dull”, or just soaking in the Beastie Boys noise hip-hop energy of “Lysergic Aura”. Add to that the several excellent vocal contributions from rappers Lord Goat and Truck Jewelz, Converge’s Jacob Bannon, Neurosis’s Steve von Till, and Rakta’s Paula Rebellato—her disembodied, shivering screams a standout on “Distorted Peace”—and what you get is an utterly brilliant if completely insane record. – Antonio Poscic
The textural quality of black metal has made it the perfect playground for sonic experiments. From Botanist introducing their dulcimer to early Krallice and Mare Cognitum opening up progressive pathways to outer space. Scarcity, the duo of Brendon Rendall-Myers and Pyrrhon’s Doug Moore subscribe to this notion, making their debut record Aveilut a nightmare come to life. It is something felt immediately as “i” arrives with its feedback, taking on a page from the no-wave scene. At that moment, Aveilut does not even feel like a black metal record but rather an experimental investigation of rock music, getting caught between the noise rock of “iii” and the drone subterritories of “iv”.
Yet, the eye of Scarcity is fixed on the cosmos. With “ii” the duo plunges into a krautrock recital, an endless, celestial perspective uttered forth through the slow drumming and monotonous riffage. Echoes of Krallice and Jute Gyte persist, as this static yet ever-changing motif is unveiled. The return to form finally arrives with “v”, as a more succinct black metal self triumphantly appears in a blaze of cyclothymic riffs and discordant lead work. So, even though this perspective is not entirely new, Scarcity explore some intricate new pathways and deliver a fine work of textural exploration. – Spyros Stasis
(Mystískaos / Dissociative Visions / Nebular Carcoma)
Like their Mystískaos labelmates Skáphe, Spain’s one-person project Negativa tests black metal’s sonic and spiritual limits by taking all of the genre’s most oppressive elements and driving them beyond saturation. Yet despite the crushing spiritual and aural density at work here, the music ebbs and flows with purpose. Industrial noises and murmuring guitars interlock with digging bass lines and collapsing drum patterns to trace structures that astonishingly feel almost inviting in their chaotic visions. Perhaps it’s the sound of one’s spirit finally crumbling and all defenses going down. However, there is beauty to be found in 04’s Vantablack, no-hope-left sort of darkness—a trace of heaven in an eternal hell. – Antonio Poscic
Adumbration of the Veiled Logos
Verberis continue to combine their technical black metal with an orthodox approach. On one hand, they appear fervent and forceful as “Sepulchre of Shattered Saints” arrives, wrecking the black metal spirit through and through. The rhythmic backbone takes a cue from the technical death metal scene, being more in line with the latter days of Ulcerate. Yet, the underlying essence is that of an apocalyptic work. It is this quality that ties in with the other cornerstone of this work, the dissonance. Verberis derive much of their vision from the bitter work of Ved Buens Ende, something that extends this dystopian quality with an eerie essence.
Within this combination, Verberis have really shown an abundance of ambition through their sophomore record. What is really telling here is the manner in which the record is weaved together. The venomous guitar leads, the subtle layering of ideas, the atmospheric passages, and then the furious blast beats and intricate additions. It is that mindset that makes Adumbration of the Veiled Logos a complex work, a sadistic Rubik’s cube composed of discordant spiderwebs and furious rhythms. An excellent specimen of what modern extreme metal can achieve. – Spyros Stasis
Consecration of the Spiritüs Flesh
Consecration of the Spiritüs Flesh is an interesting step forward for Esoctrilihum. For one, it is the act’s shortest work, clocking in just over 40 minutes. In the past, it has felt like Esoctrilihum were trying to fit too much into their scope, which at times came across as a lack of focus. That is not the case here. From the blackened blaze of glory that introduces the record in “Spiritüs Flesh,” this intense ride never loses its grip. The interstellar journey is highlighted by black/death brutality, aided by the prevalent cacophony.
What is more impressive is the incorporation of Esoctrilihum’s experimental tendencies. Simple additions such as clean vocals provide a mystical essence, while at the same time psychedelic elements make this trip that much darker. A touch of an industrial side with “Tharseîdhon” and “Scaricide” goes a long way, while the seamless incorporation of the saxophone in the opening track and “Therth” projects the extreme metal self into a space of higher dimensionality. Everything is possible here due to the intense focus that Consecration of the Spiritüs Flesh retains, and that was the missing piece for Esoctrilihum to move to the next level. – Spyros Stasis
Monuments to Impermanence
Pyrithe’s foundation lies in the sludge sound. Heavy riffs and hardcore grooves build a monumental procession. On the more destructive side, the anguished despair of “Luminous” takes over, while the second half of “Glioblastoma” shines with a drone perspective. But, this foundation is not rigid, it is merely a suggestion. Pyrithe move onto adjacent areas, their love for post-hardcore showing. Complexity emerges through the push/pull narrative of “Glioblastoma”, while the very early Mastodon take passionately appears in “Ekphrastik I”. And still, Pyrithe carry on with their post-metallic treatments. The rhythm section of “Earthen Anchors” mirrors the majesty of Tool, while the otherworldly and atmospheric approach of “Ekphrastik II – Gifts of Impermanence” takes a cue from ISIS.
And yet, this only begins to scratch the surface. What Pyrithe relish is chaos and psychedelia. They make this abundantly clear from the start of “Asurviance”, where noise rock discordance and post-hardcore progressions merge into this strange improvisational take. This takes a page from Sumac’s latter days, with the free-spirited approach erratically moving through different sceneries. At the same time, “In Praise of the Enochian Trickster” sees a krautrock perspective, flooding the sonic field with a psychedelic intuition. It is exactly that type of approach that makes Monuments to Impermanence an astounding debut. – Spyros Stasis
When it comes to achieving a sense of brutality in black metal, some bands augment the genre’s elements in amplitude, saturating the soundscape and shaking souls by making riffs sound like monumental grinders and blast beats like the thwacking of a planet-sized tom. Others, such as Norway’s Nordjevel, maximize their barbarity in the time and frequency domains.
Similar to their previous two full-lengths, Gnavhòl is a pummeling aural assault rooted in a deranged reflection of second-wave black metal that sounds as if a hammer drill and a circular saw were turned up to eleven and let loose to wreak havoc. There is no slowing down and there is no respite anywhere to be found on the hyper blast beats driven, inhumanely savage nine cuts. Within this trundling mass, the waves of screaming tremolos and groovier riffs that swarm and swirl around the core rhythms might appear strangely melodic, almost inviting. But listeners beware! It’s all a deceit, a portal that leads to an experience akin to dipping a scythe into honey before going on a limb-severing rampage—sweet, but deadly! – Antonio Poscic
Author & Punisher
Tristan Shore is still unafraid of pushing Author & Punisher to extremes, and Krüller does so in various fashions. On one hand, unforgiving and relentless, it shows its post-apocalyptic calling. Yet, it also moves outside the industrial sphere, traveling towards IDM, passing by jungle-esque breakbeats to make for an intoxicating ride. What is the main difference here is that Shore fully embraces the mellow side of his project, relishing in brutality but without hiding the beating heart that lies beneath the cold steel.
For Krüller ambiance is key, and it reveals itself in different flavors. At times martial perspective brings together video-game-inspired quality, opting for a catchiness instead of industrial doom. At the same time Shore turns his gaze toward the alternative rock and shoegaze scenes. Thus Krüller becomes a strange dreamscape. The hallucinogenic element is vital, still clinging to the sharpness and weight of Author & Punisher, but without losing any of Shore’s direct inclinations. All these aspects have always been there for Shore. But, with Krüller, they shine that much brighter. – Spyros Stasis