2022 Best of Metal: #8 Psychonaut-Violate Consensus Reality

Release date: 10/28/2022

Origin: Antwerp, Belgium

Personnel: Stefan de Graef-guitar/vox, Thomas Michiels-bass/vox, Harm Peters-drums

The Belgium metal scene really stepped up in 2022. This is the second Belgian entry on the list so far. Psychonaut has made a very significant statement in the post-metal world with their second album. This three piece has crafted an interesting sound scape with Violate Consensus Reality. You’ve got the trademark long non-linear song structure and a combo of clean harmonizing and harsh vocals. These guys remind me quite a bit of the other “Naut” band, Intronaut. It’s gotta be just a matter of time before these two bands end up on a tour together.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

8. Psychonaut-Violate Consensus Reality
9. Eric Wagner-In The Lonely Light of Mourning
10. SpiritWorld-Deathwestern
11. Psycroptic-Divine Council
12. My Diligence-The Shape, Matter 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: #9 Eric Wagner-In The Lonely Light of Mourning

Release date: 3/4/2022

Origin: Chicago, IL

Personnel: Eric Wagner-vox, Dave Snyder-guitar/drums, Chuck Robinson-guitar, Sean McAllister-bass

This album works on two levels. First, it’s a nice slab of classic doom metal crafted by one of that genre’s true greats. Eric Wagner was the long time front man of Trouble and later Trouble offshoot, The Skull. His world weary voice was one of those that just got better with age. His voice conveyed a life thoroughly lived. Second, this ended up being a posthumous release. He passed away in 2021 due to complications after contracting Covid. So, in retrospect, this became the very definition of a poignant release. Fittingly, he went out with a very solid release and one that reflects nicely on his passing. Lyrically, there is a lot of contemplation of death and what comes after. I hope that he’s found peace on the other side.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

9. Eric Wagner-In The Lonely Light of Mourning
10. SpiritWorld-Deathwestern
11. Psycroptic-Divine Council
12. My Diligence-The Shape, 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: #10 SpiritWorld-Deathwestern

Release date: 11/25/2022

Origin: Las Vegas, NV

Personnel: Stu Folsom-vox, Randy Moore-guitar, Matt Schrum-guitar, Justin Fornof-bass, Thomas Pridgen-drums (guest)

Well, ever since Riley Gale’s passing, I’ve been looking for a band to fill the void of Power Trip’s blend of old school thrash, crossover punk and death metal. It looks like SpiritWorld has stepped up to the plate. They’ve got a strange little gimmick going on as evidenced by the album art and title. Very much a spaghetti western themed death metal album. Hell, from the live videos I’ve seen of these dudes, they are taking the whole western theme to their live show with matching outfits straight out of ZZ Top’s Fandango days. Lyrically, it almost has a similar feel to White Zombie and their obsession with horror movies. Musically, you’ve got a cross between Power Trip and Slayer. Guitar-wise, this thing definitely worships at the altar of King and Hanneman.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

10. SpiritWorld-Deathwestern
11. Psycroptic-Divine Council
12. My Diligence-The Shape, 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: #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