It’s an annual event for a lot of us, but this is my first actual “favorites” list. Some traditions need to be followed…
This is not a “Best Of” list. I’ve fallen into that trap a few times, declared something as the “Best Album of ____”, and then never listened to it again, or if I do it’s on some random list I made. No thanks. There’s also no particular order to this list. These are just the recordings that I predict I’ll listen to over the coming years, the ones bands 20 years from now will use as a reference.
The list is longer than I usually write, but 2022 was better than any single year I can remember. No slight against my generation: it’s just that the kids are, indeed, alright. They paid attention, honed their craft, and carried on with reverence and respect: more than some of us deserve, if we’re honest about it.
This is their sound…
Godless Suns/Godless Suns
I can’t get enough of this album. It came out of nowhere for me when the band reached out and said, “hi.” This is a DIY project from a band that clearly knows what they’re doing, knows how they want to sound and are learning how to capture it. Professional production might have ruined it, and hopefully the band will merely refine their skills. Anyway, an epic concept created by real people. Amazing.
Sergent Thunderhoof/ This Sceptered Veil
Sweeping, majestic, awe-inspiring. Sergeant Thunderhoof is mind-bogglingly good. Too good, if that’s possible. The attention to detail, immaculate production and world-class musicianship accompanying the ethereal vocals of Dan Flitcroft may be too much to absorb for most people. They’re certainly too good for Desertfest London. If you haven’t listened to this album, you’re missing out on one of the best releases of the past decade, let alone the past year.
Besvarjelsen has always had a lot of potential. Atlas is one of those albums that not only lives up to it but can make one realize they underestimated it. They’ve backed off of the “Doom” a bit, and managed to craft a perfect hard rock album without sacrificing the heavy…and then they Doom again. This is the sound of a band coming into their own, marking their territory and taking their place among the elite. A band other bands will be compared to for years to come. It’s just so good!
Ruby the Hatchet/Fear is a Cruel Master
Quite a few of my illusions and delusions are fading away. Probably as a result of aging, and most likely replaced with new ones. One of them as that “music is not a competition.” Bullshit. All bands compete for play time, air time, venue space and overall sales. Competing against Ruby the Hatchet…? Probably not a fair fight. If there’s any band that can cross over into the mainstream and get some commercial success, this is the one to do it. By far the best hard rock, Doom-adjacent release in years. Perfect writing, perfect production, and probably the best live act there is. It’s only a matter of time. Slip 1000 Years into your closest Classic Rock fans playlist, and just watch what happens…
For over 45 years, this is the album I’ve been waiting for. I just didn’t know it until I heard it. For this blogger, this a generational band. One that defines an era, and represents the absolute peak of writing, arrangement, musicianship. I’m so biased towards this band that I couldn’t even write a cogent review. Words. I am without words.
Of course, no single band defines an era: King Buffalo and Elder go together like peanut butter and chocolate. They also know each other well. When I heard KB outside Raleigh in 2017, their warm-up/sound check included the opening riffs of a song from Lore. I was too FANBOI to accurately recall which one, but I think it was Compendium. All I know is it was perfect.
King Buffalo has been our guide, our trusted friend throughout the Pandemic. The Quarantine Sessions were and are one of the most remarkable performances I’ve ever seen. Then they released The Burden of Restlessness and Acheron, and we explored some dark spaces together. Regenerator is that one perfect album that ties it all together, grasps us by the arm and takes us out of hibernation and back into the world. Simply essential, and probably destined to be one of the most influential albums of the 20’s.
Desert Wave/Deafening Silence
You don’t have to look very hard to find that influence. You just have to pay attention to a little band from Italy. Deafening Silence starts as an unapologetic homage to King Buffalo, and then morphs into one of the most engaging and refreshing takes on Desert Rock I’ve heard in a long time. Full on Heavy Psych with great production, clever hooks and unbridled adoration for the genre. Closing tune Endless Night is one of my favorite tracks. Ever. But I have to put it on repeat because the damn thing’s too short!
Behold! the Monolith/From the Fathomless Deep
This is my kind of heavy when heavy is what I need. You can call this Blackened, Sludge, Death/Doom, whatever you want. I just call it fucking brilliant. The slow plod, the harsh vocals and the virtuoso guitar and BASS playing. There’s a lot going on here, not just straight brutality. The deep may be fathomless, but it’s crystal clear and a headphone-fanatics dream. Not for the faint of heart or the average Metallica fan, that’s for sure.
Telekinetic Yeti/ Primordal
Primordial is one of those albums that I will always remember where and when I first heard it. I was in the porch/conference room here at Cleanandsoberstoner, after our nightly business meeting.
I put my trusted Airpod Max’s on, hit play. Newbie-Doomer took one look at me, asked what was wrong. I gave her a puzzled look, and she mimicked my face, contorted and looking like I was on the back-end of Carolina Reapers, you know, the next day. That’s what it’s like, hearing brilliance like this. Face-squishing of the highest order. I would never recommend this to a newbie in the genre, though. Like the aforementioned Carolina Reaper, you gotta build up to this level of heavy. But once you get a taste for this, Telekinetic Yeti burns oh so well.
Faetooth/ Remnants of the Vessel
Easily the most unexpected and exciting release for me this year, Remnants of the Vessel is the kind of release I’d expect after three or four are under their belt. It’s hard for me to think of a better debut in recent years, and I’m still blown away by this release. This band has the potential to be big. Really big.
Steak/ Acute Mania
April, 2022 was hell for me, for professional reasons, and I lost my shit. Had I taken the time to give this a thorough listen, had I been focusing on this blog, it wouldn’t have been quite so bad. I mean, 8 tracks that embody just about everything that’s great about the 20’s. Steak exists in that twilight, that magic hour, between heavy and hard. They just didn’t make music like this back in the day…
Wo Fat/ The Singularity
Whoa, did I come into this one late. May was when the shit that hit the fan in April made it to the wall, so again, I missed this when it was released. Like most of the bands on this list, The Singularity seems to be defining the sound, or at least the feel, of the 20’s. Nothing and no one else sounds quite like Wo Fat and their improbably “Mahavishnu Orchestra meets Earthless” mastery of tone and technique. Essential.
Holyroller/ Swimming with Witches
Yeah, so, things in the Carolina’s are different than I expected. BBQ isn’t exactly Texas or Memphis style, but it’s still low and slow. For me, this was the ultimate Summer album, salty sweat dripping in my eyes as the ribs were smoked at a perfect 250 degrees, the humidity hanging in the air like thick blanket. There’s something in the air in North Carolina, fer shoor. Holyroller is the latest in the seemingly un-ending stream of outstanding music from the region, and the best place to start if you need a taste.
Righteous Fool/ Righteous Fool
Reed Mullen passed away in 2020, without the fanfare and national year of mourning a certain other drummers’ death brought. But dammit, in my world there are few that are the equal of Reed, and it fucking sucks. No disrespect to the other dude, but…
Released 2 years later, with respect and care by Ripple Music, this is a must-own. A celebration for one the most important people in the heavy underground, one who didn’t have a public face and a private reality. Righteous Fool isn’t just a hint of what could have been, but a reminder of what is. Fuck, man. Shit…
Vitskar Suden/ The Faceless King
A lot of people and bands have helped this site, but the day that Vitskar Suden reposted my review literally changed everything. I remember listening to The Faceless King, feeling like a teenager with a whole new musical world opening up for me. It took me somewhere new and familiar, and from what I can tell, The Faceless King is doing the same for a lot of other people around the world. Timeless and essential.
I’ll never forget the feeling when I found out Messa had been in a horrible accident this year. The fact that they’re gigging again is kinda astounding. Another example of how bands sometimes put their lives on the line for this passion we all have.
Close? Maybe a little too close for comfort. Regardless, Messa not only managed to bo beyond Feast for Water, but transcended most notions of Doom or heavy music in general. These are the sounds of real guitars without a ton of effects, pure and raw. Creative use of the 8-string bass, adding heft to the chords while maintaining fierce rhythm along with highly technical drumming. And then…Sara’s voice, a bit clearer and up front in the mix, delicately overpowering. Thank the gods they’ve avoided the “Prog” moniker. As much love Prog, it can be the kiss of death to be labeled with it. But I can’t think of any band who’ve moved Doom forward and progress in ways never before heard.
And that’s what I have, but I’m sure I could spend most of 2023 catching up on what I missed. All I know for sure is that this is the largest list of favorites I’ve ever had. Not since I started this site, but since I was 12, going back 48 years! That’s a lot of ground to cover.
Thanks for reading, for clicking on my site, and supporting it along with the bands I cover. I’m sure that the last thing you needed was yet another list, but if you read this along with the dozens of other sites and bloggers, I really appreciate it!