2022 Best of Metal: #11 Psycroptic-Divine Council

Release date: 8/5/2022

Origin: West Hobart, Tasmania

Personnel: Jason Peppiatt-vox, Joe Haley-guitar, Todd Stern-bass, David Haley-drums

There has been a slew of bands that have sort of carried the thrash sound created in the 80s to its next logical form. The resulting mass has resulted in this hybrid highly technical mash of thrash and death metal. Psycroptic, hailing from the far reaches of Tasmania, has been on the forefront of this movement for quite some time. Led by brothers Joe and David Haley on guitar and drums respectively, they have crafted an unbelievably technical attack that still manages to craft enough melody and groove over top to keep things engaging. Divine Council might actually be their crowning masterpiece. This is a concise and straightforward statement of pure metal.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

11. Psycroptic-Divine Council
12. My Diligence-The Matter, Form and Power
13. Blind Guardian-The God Machine
14. Ghost-Impera
15. Jungle Rot-A Call To Arms
16. High Command-Eclipse of the Dual Moons
17. Soilwork-Overgivenheten
18. Messa-Close
19. Ty Tabor-Shades
20. Lamb of God-Omens

2022 Best of Metal: #12 My Diligence-The Matter, Form and Power

Release date: 5/23/2022

Origin: Brussels, Belgium

Personnel: Cedric Fontaine-vox/guitar, Francois Peeters-guitar, Gabriel Marlier-drums

My Diligence is another one of these bands that I had never heard of prior to listening to this album. And I’m firmly a supporter of their cause. I know virtually nothing about these guys except that they are a three-piece and they hail from Belgium. Their sound in an interesting mixture of Torche’s brand of post-punk and Intronaut’s blend of post-metal. Very much a “post” sort of release…whatever the hell that means. At any rate, the guitar sound is very warm and inviting and the songs are simply catchy tunes that will worm their way into your brain.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

12. My Diligence-The Matter, Form and Power
13. Blind Guardian-The God Machine
14. Ghost-Impera
15. Jungle Rot-A Call To Arms
16. High Command-Eclipse of the Dual Moons
17. Soilwork-Overgivenheten
18. Messa-Close
19. Ty Tabor-Shades
20. Lamb of God-Omens

2022 Best of Metal: #13 Blind Guardian-The God Machine

Release date: 9/2/2022

Origin: Krefeld, Germany

Personnel: Hansi Kursch-vox, Andre Olbrich-guitar, Marcus Siepen-guitar, Frederick Ehmke-drums

Man, this one was a breath of fresh air. Blind Guardian was one of the true keepers of the flame during the metal wastelands of the 90s. I wore the shit out of From the Other Side and Nightfall in Middle-Earth. I will say that I haven’t been as enamored with their post-2000 work past A Night at the Opera. Of course, I always kind of thought this had more to do with power metal wearing thin with me over the years more than the quality of their output during this time. However, with the release of The God Machine, I’m kind of thinking something has been missing on a good chunk of their later releases. This new album has a urgency and a ferocity that I haven’t heard from these guys in a long time. The riffs are right in your face from the get-go. Hansi just continues to be one of the best and most versatile vocalist in metal. Ultimately, this one was a really nice surprise and it was nice to see an old favorite rise to the occasion again.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

13. Blind Guardian-The God Machine
14. Ghost-Impera
15. Jungle Rot-A Call To Arms
16. High Command-Eclipse of the Dual Moons
17. Soilwork-Overgivenheten
18. Messa-Close
19. Ty Tabor-Shades
20. Lamb of God-Omens

2022 Best of Metal: #14 Ghost-Impera

Release date: 3/11/2022

Origin: Linkoping, Sweden

Personnel: Papa Emeritus IV-vox, Nameless Ghouls-guitar, bass, keys and drums

I don’t really understand why these dudes (or dude) are so divisive. If you strip away all of the theatrics, costumes and over-the-top concept, you’re basically left with Blue Oyster Cult. I’ll admit that I didn’t really see them reaching the heights they have managed over such a short period of time. I figured that the overt Satanic themes running through their lyrics would have left these guys a little more than a cherished cult band. But, for whatever reason, the public at large has embraced the whole package. Hell, ten years ago, I remember seeing them open for Mastodon and Opeth at a dingy little club in San Antonio. Now, they are headlining arenas that hold more than 10,000 people. Impera feels a bit like a righting of the ship for Ghost. I was a huge fan of Opus Eponyous and Infestissuman, both of which felt like damn-near perfect albums. Their follow-ups, Meliora and Prequelle, felt a bit aimless. I believe the band had a bit of a lack of focus upon their new found stardom and the massive turnover in the ranks of Nameless Ghouls. This new album isn’t exactly on the heavy side, but it is simply chock full of imminently catchy and danceable tunes. I’ll be honest that there is part of me that wants to join the cool kids in heaping scorn on these guys because they aren’t Trve Metal, but dammit, good is good. These guys are fun and they seem to have found their songwriting footing again.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

14. Ghost-Impera
15. Jungle Rot-A Call To Arms
16. High Command-Eclipse of the Dual Moons
17. Soilwork-Overgivenheten
18. Messa-Close
19. Ty Tabor-Shades
20. Lamb of God-Omens

2022 Best of Metal: #15 Jungle Rot-A Call To Arms

Release date: 5/13/2022

Origin: Kenosha, WI

Personnel: Dave Matrise-vox/guitar, Geoff Bub-guitar, James Genenz-bass, Spenser Syphers-drums

Yeah. This one is death metal. Probably couldn’t guess based on that cover art. Jungle Rot is one of these blue collar death metal bands that just keeps plugging away and release outstanding album after outstanding album. I seriously do not understand why they aren’t in the same conversation with Cannibal Corpse, Obituary and Exhumed as the great gore obsessed American death metal bands. If I’m being honest, I think Jungle Rot might be my favorite of the bunch. These dudes just know how to make it groove. I challenge you to listen to this album and not bang your head a little. Hell, we might need to create a new subgenre called Gore Groove to to cover what these guys do. Death metal from the Heartland. Get on it!

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

15. Jungle Rot-A Call To Arms
16. High Command-Eclipse of the Dual Moons
17. Soilwork-Overgivenheten
18. Messa-Close
19. Ty Tabor-Shades
20. Lamb of God-Omens

2022 Best of Metal: #16 High Command-Eclipse of the Dual Moons

Release date: 11/25/2022

Origin: Worcester, MA

Personnel: Kevin Fitzgerald-vox, Ryan McArdle-guitar, Mike Bonetti-guitar, Chris Berg-bass, Ryan Pitz-drums

This one is a nasty little beast. The opening track sounds like it starts mid-stream of a lead. I seriously had to take a beat and check to make sure the disc didn’t just skip ahead to the middle of the song. That basically gives you a taste of what to expect here. This is an absolute frenetic mess of thrashy and deathy metal that kept bringing to mind Paul Baloff-era Exodus crossed with Bolt Thrower. The crunch of the guitar riffs on here brought a grin to my face immediately. And it is just riff after riff after tasty riff for the entire album. This is unapologetic metal.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

16. High Command-Eclipse of the Dual Moons
17. Soilwork-Overgivenheten
18. Messa-Close
19. Ty Tabor-Shades
20. Lamb of God-Omens

2022 Best of Metal: #17 Soilwork-Overgivenheten

Release date: 8/19/2022

Origin: Helsingborg, Sweden

Personnel: Bjorn “Speed” Strid-vox, David Andersson-guitar, Sylvain Coudret-guitar, Rasmus Ehrnborn-bass, Sven Karlsson-keys, Bastian Thusgaard-drums

Bittersweet release, this one. Over the past couple of albums (including this current one) it felt like Soilwork was trying to break their mold a bit. These dudes are one of the originators of the so-called Gothenburg melodic death metal sound. Over the years, you could be fairly certain about what to expect sound-wise from them. Even with multiple personnel changes, their sound was kind of set in stone. Starting with 2019’s Verkligheten and now with the current release, it felt like they were trying to branch out a bit and try out a few more things. Now, granted, it’s still Soilwork. You’re going to know it’s them when you hear it. But, the arrangements and their approach seemed to be breaking their worn formula a bit. A big factor in this new direction was guitarist David Andersson. Which makes the fact of his death less than a month after the release of this album all the more tragic. The band will be carrying on after David’s death as a five piece for now. We’ll have to wait and see how his absence from the band will impact it going forward. At any rate, this was a really nice sendoff for him because this was a damn strong album to go out on.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:
17. Soilwork-Overgivenheten
18. Messa-Close
19. Ty Tabor-Shades
20. Lamb of God-Omens

2022 Best of Metal: #18 Messa-Close

Release date: 3/11/2022

Origin: Cittadella, Italy

Personnel: Sara Bianchin-vox, Alberto Piccolo-guitar, Marco Sanin-bass, Rocco Toaldo-drums

This one feels like the bastard child of Black Sabbath and Jefferson Airplane. And I totally mean that to be a compliment of the highest order. This was my first experience with Messa and this album feels like such a good one to get acquainted with this band. Sara Bianchin’s vocals just recall a version of Grace Slick with a little more range. Combined over top of just some massively heavy riffs and middle-eastern flourishes, this is a mystical and magical doom metal masterpiece. It felt like metal from Italy used to mainly be in the power metal realm. But, of late, it feels like scene there is starting to flourish a bit more and we’re seeing bands like Messa pop up with some really cool takes on different genres. Definitely dig this one if you’re into Candlemass or Pallbearer and the like.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

18. Messa-Close
19. Ty Tabor-Shades
20. Lamb of God-Omens

2022 Best of Metal: #19 Ty Tabor-Shades

Release date: 1/27/2022

Origin: Kansas City, MO

Personnel: Ty Tabor-everything

Slot this one into a “don’t judge an album by it’s cover” category. Woof. That is some bad album art.

If you’re clued into underground metal, you probably know Ty Tabor as the longstanding guitarist of King’s X. What you may not know is that Tabor has an extensive solo catalog. If you’re a fan of the King’s X songs where Ty is the lead vocalist, you’ll be a big fan of his solo stuff. What you’re getting here is much like a harder edge Beatles sound. Look, I’m a super fan of this dude. He is probably my favorite guitarist of all time. He has that perfect balance of feel and virtuosity. When he rips into a lead, it sounds like no one else. So many times he will hit a note and it will just make goosebumps break out on my arms. Dude is just a special talent that is seriously underappreciated. This isn’t the heaviest of albums, but it is chock full of some very catchy melodies.

4 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

19. Ty Tabor-Shades
20. Lamb of God-Omens

2022 Best of Metal: #20 Lamb of God-Omens

Release date: 10/7/2022

Origin: Richmond, Mother Fucking, Virginia

Personnel: D. Randall Blythe-vox, Mark Morton-guitar, Willie Adler-guitar, John Campbell-bass, Art Cruz-drums

Always a good year when the dudes from Richmond put out a new release. By far, I feel like these guys have been THE band of the 2000s. Just a super solid catalog by a super group of dudes. 2022 sees them put out Omens. I’ve got to say that it isn’t one of their best releases overall, but it still has enough quality tracks to clock in at #20 in the countdown this year. This is album #2 with Art Cruz manning the drum throne and it feels as though he is being fully incorporated into the sound. Granted, his style is very complimentary to Chris Adler and the band hasn’t really had any hiccups since he has come aboard. This album feels a little angrier and more topical than some of the recent releases by these guys. My only critique on this one is that is isn’t really breaking any new ground for the band. Rather than reinventing the wheel, this one is basically Lamb doing what they do. Maybe a bit more emphasis on a punk-sort of feel, but this album will feel familiar to fans of the band. Standout tracks include “Nevermore”, “Vanishing” and album closer “September Song”.

4 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

20. Lamb of God-Omens