2022 is just a couple weeks away from concluding, and there’s no better time to talk about some of my favourite records that came out over the last 12 months. I found that there was quite a lot of quality death metal albums that grabbed my interest throughout the year, so much so that I found myself shelling out money on more new releases than ever, especially those that were available on vinyl. In fact, I bought almost everything I listed here (and hope to grab the couple things I didn’t find yet). For this list, I’ve picked my 20 favourite full lengths of the year, plus a handful of other releases (EPs/compilations/splits) that I really enjoyed. As always, I’ve included links to listen to everything here via Bandcamp or YouTube.
Acephalix – Theothanatology
Anyone who’s kept up with death metal over the last decade knows that the Bay Area has been a hot spot for the genre, and Acephalix are one of the many stand out bands out there. I loved the crusty Entombed grooves of “Deathless Master” when that came out, and it feels like they haven’t lost steam years later with their 4th full length. It boasts some new members, and hits as hard as Acephalix ever has. There’s nothing too complicated about this record, but it keeps me coming back with its infectious sense of rhythm and punky approach to death metal.
Ares Kingdom – In Darkness at Last
The masters have returned with their fifth full length and sound just as lethal as ever. Ares Kingdom have always exuded the spirit of metal, and have always delivered powerful songs with constantly improving DIY production. “In Darkness at Last” sounds just as crushing as ever, as their unique style of death/thrash delivers an endless supply of powerful riffs and venomous vocals. Some of the heavy metal influences that sneak into these tracks (such as in the latter half of the album) keep it fresh and dynamic. Ares Kingdom can do no wrong!
Assumption – Hadean Tides
Italy’s Assumption caught my attention with their 2018 debut, which was a brilliant display of death/doom with some ethereal atmospheres and creative use of unorthodox instruments like flutes. This was merely foreshadowing what would come with “Hadean Tides,” as we end up getting a double LP here. The heavy death/doom of the first half of the record is contrasted with some more experimental songwriting in the second half that adds a ton of dynamics and atmosphere to the experience. Crucial for fans of diSEMBOWELMENT.
Autophagy – Bacteriophage
Debut album from this Portland based death metal group, coming after a demo and major line up changes. I became aware of this band when Adam Wheeler (ex-Ritual Necromancy, ex-Weregoat, etc) joined the band, and it seems some of his song writing has seeped into this full length. Dual guitars simultaneously wreak havoc with one playing evil tremolo melodies on top of gut wrenching low tuned riffs.
Autopsy – Morbidity Triumphant
The legendary Autopsy returns with their 8th (or 9th, pending on how you view “Skull Grinder”) full length, and first release that runs beyond 30 minutes since 2014’s “Tourniquets, Hacksaws, and Graves.” This is arguably their best album since they reformed in 2009, as it feels like a very focused effort. Although I have been a fan of most of their reunion material, some of those records are either far too long (“Macabre Eternal”), rushed (“The Headless Ritual”), or just too damn short (“Puncturing the Grotesque,” although I’ll take too short over too long any day!). Greg Wilkinson’s addition to the band appears to have been a perfect fit, as his bass tone is probably the nastiest one Autopsy has ever had!
Besieged – Violence Beyond All Reason
A dozen years have passed since these Canucks first self released “Victims Beyond All Help,” and finally, they return with its follow up. The similarly named return is a mere 26 minutes, but wastes absolutely no time with some finger-twisting, ferocious riffs and thrash their way throughout without any bullshit. If you like thrash that is more on the brutal side like Sepultura, Incubus, Demolition Hammer, or Morbid Saint, this is mandatory.
Black Death Cult – Diaspora
Quickly following up their debut from 2019 (wait, that was three years ago?), one of Edmonton’s strangest metal acts has graced us with another bizarre record. With only six songs, it’s considerably shorter than “Devil’s Paradise,” giving the rest of us simpletons more time for repeat listens to digest all the weirdness going on. Black Death Cult aren’t afraid to incorporate whatever they feel like alongside their bestial black/death metal sound, making them a truly unique sounding band.
The Chasm – The Scars of a Lost Reflective Shadow
After deciding to go fully instrumental on their 2017 album, the Chasm returns with one of their most ferocious albums to date, and it also marks the return of vocals. They get downright thrashing mad here, but not to fret, as the Chasm’s signature sound is in tact here, it just feels renewed and refreshed and isn’t afraid to keep it simple at times. The result ends up being a dynamic journey of killer riffs, and the few instrumental tracks shine with some fantastic lead work.
Dream Unending – Song of Salvation
Following up their debut from last year, the death/doom duo of Dream Unending delivers another dreamy slab of music. “Song of Salvation” seems to have more focus on their more atmospheric side of things, especially in the middle 3 songs, showcasing a lot of excellent clean guitar work. The two longer songs that bookend the record definitely show that this is still a death/doom project, but do so with elegance. Derrick Vella’s (Tomb Mold) guitar playing is phenomenal throughout this record, and he uses a wide variety of effect pedals that really add to the whole experience.
Egregore – The Word as His Law
The debut recording from Vancouver’s Egregore takes the form of a full length, and strongly delivers occult sounding black/death metal. The two piece band features members of other black/death metal bands, Auroch and Mitochondrion, and although there are some things in common with their other bands, Egregore carves out their own niche. The drums are a lot more primitive in nature, and there’s some focus on more atmospheric songwriting on the second half of the records via some neo-folk influences. Also, the artwork by Karmazid is among one of the best pieces of the year.
Exhumed – To the Dead
Oakland’s practitioners of Carcass worship have returned once again with their 8th album, and have managed to put out something full of catchy songwriting and heavy riffs. With the release of this album, I ended up binging their discography, and this feels like classic Exhumed through and through. I felt like “Death Revenge” was a little too bloated with the orchestral interludes, and I loved how “Horror” just went back to short grindcore songs. This is certainly back in death metal territory, but they definitely kept it lean, and even got some four former members to each contribute a song to the record.
Grave Infestation – Persecution of the Living
No frills death metal that sounds fresh without compromising its old school values. With former members of AHNA (in addition to many other killer Vancouver metal/punk acts), it retains a similarly sinister vibe but eschews the thrashy Sacrilege influence in place of more death metal. As always with this group of musicians (known as the Scum Division), it sounds sinister, evil, and relentless. Eerie lead soundscapes soar below the crushing riffage for an extra layer of evilness. Death metal should strive to be this dark, and I can only hope Grave Infestation follows this one up in the future!
Mortuous – Upon Desolation
Another band from the Bay Area, Mortuous returns with their sophomore full length, which was released on the drummer’s own label, Carbonized Records. Like many of their peers, this was recorded at Earhammer Studio so it has quite a familiar production job. This record feels a lot catchier than their debut, and manages to stay clear and heavy despite the density and darkness of the material. Mike Beams (ex-Exhumed) is credited with the music on every track, and shows he’s capable of writing more than gore soaked metal.
Negative Plane – The Pact
Negative Plane have been silent for many years, with their last album coming out in 2011. I never loved that album as much as their debut, but “The Pact” immediately had my attention by coming back to all the elements that made them great to begin with. Intricate songwriting weaved together with thoughtful riffs and occult storytelling make this album an absolute must hear, and one of the few black metal bands I actually give a shit about.
Predatory Light – Death and the Twilight Hours
If that Negative Plane wasn’t enough for you, Predatory Light has also unleashed an occult black/death metal album that will surely satisfy anyone looking for something similar. This west coast band’s debut from 2016 did a fantastic job filling in the void that Negative Plane left open for over a decade, so it’s kind of fitting they both released records this year. With only four songs on the LP, there’s some real lengthy songwriting, but seeing as it’s a single LP, it’s not an overwhelming listening experience.
Ripped to Shreds – Jubian
My friend and Azath bandmate Andrew Lee is one talented dude, and that’s no secret if you’ve heard Ripped to Shreds before. This is the third album by these San Jose death metallers, and their first for Relapse Records. Ripped to Shreds continue to deliver a furious death metal riffs soaked in the classic HM-2 buzzsaw tone, and pretty much destroy every riffless band that tries to rely on the aesthetics of being “Swedish death metal” with that classic BOSS pedal. There’s quite a variety of stuff here, from a 10 minute epic to a 50 second grinder. The band has grown beyond its solo project days and is even stronger due to a full line up of talented musicians, with the drums being tighter than ever, and also a better production job than they’ve ever had.
Sedimentum – Suppuration Morphogénésiaque
Disgusting and downtuned death metal from Quebec City, this is Sedimentum’s debut album. I quite enjoyed their 2019 demo, and they definitely delivered on the momentum they had going on. There’s definitely a Finnish influence on here between the ultra low tuning, the balance of midpaced and fast riffs, and the low vocals. It’s a lot like Demilich but not quite as technical, although it certainly has some jerky rhythms you’d expect with that comparison.
Static Abyss – Labyrinth of Veins
Static Abyss is an Autopsy side project, featuring Chris Reifert and new Autopsy bassist Greg Wilkinson. With Reifert behind the kit and on the mic, it certainly sounds like Autopsy, but there are some unique differences. Wilkinson handles all the guitar and bass tracks, and layers in some really sinister lead work atop powerful death/doom riffs. Even when there’s already a creepy lead line going, he’ll throw in additional subtle stuff behind it that’s a lot more simple, but it really adds to the overall sinister atmosphere here.
Voivod – Synchro Anarchy
It’s incredible to me that a band like Voivod, who put out their classic records in the 80’s, are still putting out albums that are worth listening to. Not only is their 15th album, “Synchro Anarchy,” worth listening to, it’s one of the best records they’ve put out in decades. Everything since “Target Earth” has progressively been a stronger record thanks to Dan Mongrain’s contributions in the writing department, bringing the band back to their classic sound and staying completely authentic to themselves. Furthermore, this record arguably has the nastiest bass tone of the year (and that’s quite the feat when up against the Autopsy/Static Abyss albums).
WAKE – Thought Form Descent
The evolution of Calgary’s WAKE has been astounding, especially with their shift from grindcore to black/death metal starting in 2016. In this six year period, they’ve released four(!) records, and halfway through realized they have the ability to write songs longer than two minutes. “Thought Form Descent” adds a heavy dose of melodic leads, all while retaining the speed and intensity they’ve always had. These guys have been working extremely hard over the years, both with touring and their recordings, so it’s well deserved that they ended up putting this one out through Metalblade Records!
There’s no shortage of incredible music coming from both the Bay Area and Canada, as seen by this list. Some honorable mentions include Bloodbath – Survival of the Sickest; Fake Meat – 腐肉; Foreseen – Untamed Force; Immolation – Acts of God; Innumerable Forms – Philosophical Collapse; KEN mode – Null; Phobophilic – Enveloping Absurdity; and Vermin Womb – Retaliation.
Below are my top picks for things that aren’t full lengths. EPs, splits, demos, and compilations are all fair game here.
Bleed – Somebody’s Closer
The first time I saw the cover art of this Texan band’s EP, I assumed they were something like early Nine Inch Nails. My assumption was incorrect, but they are a total throwback to 90’s (and maybe early 2000’s) alt rock, and dare I say a little bit of numetal influence too with its usage of groove. Bleed makes some pretty ethereal sounding atmospheres with some pretty engaging rhythms, and top it off with soaring vocal melodies. For me, this is a total nostalgia trip to my preteen years, when bands like the Deftones were breaking away from numetal to make something a little more substantial. 20 Buck Spin took a bit of a risk doing something like this, but I think it’s paid off, and can’t wait to hear a full length by Bleed.
Hedonist – Sepulchral Lacerations
This Canadian death metal band was formed out of the ashes of Iskra, which right away should be a clue that this is a quality release in both production and songwriting. Hedonist take Bolt Thrower style riffs and play them with the classic HM-2 chainsaw tone. They avoid sounding like a tired Swedish-death clone thanks to strong songwriting, and the vocal performance is also extremely savage. This demo was initially released digitally last year, but the physical releases didn’t hit until this year, hence why I’m talking about it now.
Incantation – Tricennial of Blasphemy
To celebrate 30 years of death metal, Incantation and Relapse has teamed up to release this double CD/triple LP compilation. It contains non-album material, including all their 7″ releases, rare material from promotional tapes/compilation appearances, and even some unreleased songs spanning their entire career. Although I own a lot of these releases already, having them in one large, official release like this is nice. The high point is certainly the unreleased stuff, as I am particularly fond of the track they cut from “Diabolical Conquest.”
Napalm Death – Resentment is Always Seismic: A Final Throw of Throes
Following the release of the fantastic “Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism” in 2020, Napalm Death offers up an EP of further material recorded in that session. Clocking in at half an hour, there’s a good amount of material here, including a couple covers that fit into their eccentric influences. Needless to say, if you enjoyed their latest full length, this will also satisfy. I personally love all the weird noise rock/post-punk/no wave influence Napalm have been injecting into their modern material.
Ritual Necromancy/Fossilization – Split
Somehow, this is the only split I got into this year, but it’s a damn good one. The first half features a single song by Ritual Necromancy, which appears to have been recorded during the same sessions as their 2018 sophomore album. It is the doomiest and longest song in their catalogue so far, but rest assured, they go into their signature whirlwind style of death metal here too. Brazil’s Fossilization takes up the other two tracks, which continue their filthy path of death/doom metal that was introduced to underground on their debut EP last year. This is a really great pairing of bands, and quite honestly, I wish there was a full 20 minutes from each band, because what’s presented here is just that damn good.
I hope that anyone reading this list found something that perks their interest. I’m sure, as always, that I’ll find some albums later on from 2022 that I end up liking more than some of the stuff listed here, but that’s the nature of the beast. One last note about 2022 was that Begrime Exemious’ 4th album, “Rotting in the Aftermath” finally dropped on Dark Descent this year, and I also did vocals on a punk EP with Suicide Pact’s “With the Earth.” Here’s to more music in 2023!