2022 Top 10 - Colin McNamara

Another year gone by (still better than 2020 though as I actually got to go to some shows this year; namely the top one being Hypocrisy back in May at Amplified in TX). Have to say this year it was hard to pick albums for the top 10. I had a lot of releases I was excited for but when they came they didn’t quite live up (such as Machine Head’s “Of Kingdom and Crown” or Demon Hunter’s “Exile” which I SO wanted to love, but only really enjoyed half and was severely disappointed). And then there were the releases I was hoping for that never came (C’mon Old Man’s Child and Vital Remains- we’re past 15 years now for a new album, please don’t turn into another Tool…). Still, griping aside, there were a few standout releases that grabbed me, some from my fellow writers on Brutalism.com here, and others a little more mainstream. If someone is looking for some contenders to make their year a little better before it is up, well here are my recommendations in no particular order…
Special thanks to my other writers for sharing their interests in music with me.

1. Behemoth - Opvs Contra Natvram
Special thanks to Death8699 for reviewing this one. Behemoth has been one of my favorite Polish death metal artists (next to Vader) ever since I heard “Demigod” back in 2004. Since then the band has gotten more of a polished sound, but have not lost their edge a bit. “Opvs Contra Natvram” is in a similar vein as the last release, “I Loved You At Your Darkest.” Still blasphemous, still anti religious, so it should rile up listeners pretty easily. A lot negative or so so reviews have come through on this one, but Nergal and co. still sound on top of their game, just a bit more restrained, a bit darker, and that is a good thing. From the slow Nile styled ‘Post-God Nirvana’ to the thumping ‘Off to War!’ it goes to show that while Behemoth have slowed down a bit compared to the olden days of ‘Conquer All.’ But, this is not a bad thing as the music is soaked in darkness and sounds even better at a mid to slow pace with the atmospheric elements, varied vocal tones, and just a very sinister sound that pretty much creeped its way in since “The Satanist” back in 2014. It is safe to say that Behemoth will keep changing over time and not get any worse.

2. Lamb Of God - Omens
I was skeptical of this one considering I didn’t last the last effort they did.  I felt the ‘pure American metal’ outfit from Richmond, Virginia had rushed their self titled effort, while 2015’s “VII: Sturm Und Drang” was fresh, featured new elements (for better or worse), and had a solid sound. Here with “Omens,” despite a 2 year gap from the last album, it sounds like we’re back on track to the “Ashes of the Wake” days- thank Lamb of God! The tracks are heavy, ferocious, and have that ‘fuck you’ attitude that made Lamb of God so popular in the first place ever since the polarizing “New American Gospel” (say what you will about it, I still enjoy it for the vocals no matter how bad they sound). “Omens” is chock full of the right marriage of groove metal and death metal, with solid stompers like ‘Ditch’ that are sure to become pit favorites. ‘Ill Designs’ has some excellent grooves and vocal hooks. And who could forget the foreboding build of ‘September Song’ before it explodes. Randy Blythe still sounds vicious as ever but less experimental on his vocals as there are no ‘Overlord’ epics here; Lamb of God pretty much have gone back to their roots and as a result have put out a stellar album. Those looking for just some solid metal will enjoy this one.

3. Disquiet - Instigate To Annihilate
These guys were a surprise to me but a welcome review back in May. A mixture of melodeath and thrash from the Netherlands, each track had something different to deliver, but highlights included ‘Designed to Violate’ which had some excellent clean/ harsh vocal play off and leaned more towards the melodeath side than the thrash. The big factors for me to enjoy this album were the guest vocals of Vicky from The Agonist and Charlotte from Delain whose added vocal variety just gave Disquiet new depth and something not heard before with ‘Wrecked’ and ‘A Final Trumpet.’ Still very melodeath and thrash, but fresh and an attention grabber. There wasn’t really a ‘bad track’ on the album and despite their core sound, it feels like Disquiet stepped up their game- guest vocal spots aside- and delivered their best album yet. Definitely an underrated band that should be up there with the likes of Soilwork or older Dark Tranquility.

4. Crown Magnetar - Alone In Death
Special thanks to Max James for reviewing this one. Unique Leader Records is one of my top labels, so almost every month I scour Indiemerch.com for new shirt designs and also any hint of new artists or albums that I might have missed on my metal calendar from Loudwire. Crown Magnetar I discovered back in 2021 with “The Codex of Flesh” and at first the album didn’t sit well with me, but it grew and soon became one of my favorite deathcore bands with technical touches. Their EP “Alone in Death” is a little more deathcore-ish, but still very solid and will appeal to fans of the genre in general. While it is brief, bangers like the title track and ‘Graverot’ are sure to become fan favorites. This is a nice preview of what Crown Magnetar has in store for listeners and will give them on their next full length album.

5. Hypocrisy - Worship
Hypocrisy were one of the first ‘real’ metal bands I heard back in 2004 with “The Arrival,” and since 2013 I’ve been waiting patiently for a new release. While it was expected to be a bit as Peter Tagtgren has been busy with 2 other projects on top of being mayor to a town, “Worship” was well worth the wait as it brings me back to the “Arrival” and “Virus” days for some low growling, heavily melodic death metal. Still alien themed but never stale, Hypocrisy injects fresh twists such as on ‘Children of the Grey’ with its slow, foreboding touches or the groove driven fun of ‘Chemical Whore.’ While the album is a little slower than some might like, there isn’t a bad track on the album, and less polarizing features such as the dividing “Catch 22.” For faster “Final Chapter” fans, the closing ‘Gods of the Underground’ will surely please them. ‘We’re the Walking’ dead is a personal favorite for the backing choirs and the doomy pace, but I always appreciated the slower melodic Hypocrisy songs in general anyway. With their last few efforts it was a 50/50 enjoyment, but with “Worship” it is pure slow to mid paced melodeath excitement.

6. Deathspell Omega - The Long Defeat
Deathspell Omega has never disappointed me, so pretty much any time a new album comes out from these guys it is an auto win for my top 10. “The Long Defeat” lives up to expectations with epic, chaotic black metal tracks that seem to take forever, but are far from boring. DSO find new ways to impress with the fast and slow sections and vocal variations of a track like ‘Eadem, Sed Aliter’ or the building title track that builds like a tidal wave before it crashes down and destroys everything in its path. While there aren’t too many ‘experimental tracks’ such as ‘You Cannot Even Find the Ruins…’ from their last effort “Furnaces of Palingenesia” back in 2019, this album feels a little bit more like a longer “Kenose” with its dramatic, sweeping tracks. Those who are used to DSO’s shorter, more standard black metal assaults from their early days, and even their last effort, might feel the album drags on a bit, but give it a chance to swallow you up and it will become a new staple in most black metal listeners’ favorite albums. Similar to Blut Aus Nord who also released a new album this year, DSO’s release is a little more cohesive and less jarring, but a far cry from ‘average’ and is a welcome change from those who feel the genre is too populated by old school kvlt artists or overly symphonic acts. It is a hard listen, but worth the journey.

7. Amorphis - Halo
Amorphis have pretty much found their sweet spot with their last couple albums, thanks to the success of “Under the Red Cloud.” Since then they’ve gotten more on the ‘progressive’ side of the melodeath train, and “Halo” continues that tradition without disappointment. Solid tracks like ‘The Moon’ with the mix of death metal vocals and cleans from Tomi Joutsen are sure to appeal to fans of older In Flames and more current Dark Tranquility. But it is the guitarwork from Esa Holopainen and Tomi Koivusaari that really make this album special. Tracks like ‘Seven Roads Come Together’ and the title track mixed with the keyboards really demonstrate how far Amorphis have come since the “Eclipse” days back in 2006. And who could ignore the slow emotional pull of ‘My Name is Night’ which isn’t much in the melo death area, but more proggy and features great guest vocals from Petronella Nettermalm of Paatos. Ultimately a very varied release with plenty to like and a great demonstration of the ‘harsh verse/ clean chorus’ play off.

8. Fit For An Autopsy - Oh What The Future Holds
Ever since Whitechapel brought for albums like “The Valley” and “Kin,” deathcore seems to have had a sudden shift in trying to be more progressive in the last year. There were other good releases this year like Shadow of Intent’s “Elegy” or Enterprise Earth’s “The Chosen,” but Fit For an Autopsy stood out for the very progressive “Oh What The Future Holds.” Taking things a step above just adding clean vocals, the album features a wonderful mix of technical/ prog deathcore with tracks like ‘Two Towers’ listeners will be pleasantly surprised how much of a change in direction the music is from their last album “The Sea of Tragic Beasts.” A step above the ‘norm’ these guys show they are not afraid to experiment, and it paid off. For those looking for the more classic Fit For An Autopsy style ‘Pandora’ is pretty straightforward but still features plenty of melodic moments with the guitars so it isn’t all breakdowns and chugs. And for those looking for the more modern clean verse/ harsh chorus style, the closing ‘The Man That I Was Not’ is an excellent 180 from anything that Fit For An Autopsy has done before (kind of like how when Lamb of God did ‘Overlord.’) This album is going to be polarizing but fans cannot deny it is good.

9. Decapitated - Cancer Culture
Poland’s Decapitated has a bit of a rough patch since their last album “Anticult” back in 2017. I was at the show to see them in WA right before the alleged sexual misconduct accusation, and since them there has been a little bit of a black cloud hanging over. Five years later they come back with a vengeance in wake of the pandemic and the new term ‘cancel culture’ that have divided a lot of people and bands with a cleverly titled album “Cancer Culture.” In the vein of “Anticult” but a little more on the technical side it brings back memories of “Organic Hallucinations” for a fine collection of technical groove death metal. Some filler tracks are here and there such as ‘Locked,’ but one cannot deny the power behind the title track or the technical prowess of ‘Just a Cigarette.’ Decapitated also add a little bit more mainstream touches by adding guest vocals of Robb Flynn of Machine Head on ‘Iconoclast’ and Tatiana from Jinjer on ‘Hello Death.’ Both add their own flair to the music and add a little more depth to Decapitated’s arsenal. While this is nowhere near the olden days of “Winds of Creation” which many herald as Decapitated’s finest hour- let’s face it we’re never getting an album like that again- their groove death sound is still headed in the right direction as Vogg and crew still know how to create a biting, political album that isn’t quite Rage Against the Machine but has something to say more than the average death metal album.

10. The Halo Effect - Days Of The Lost
Everything that Swede Mikael Stanne of Dark Tranquility has touched in his career has turned to gold ever since he joined D.T. back in 1993 (kind of like Peter Tagtgren of Hypocrisy). His vocal versatility cannot be denied, he’s great with fans at the shows, and even the rougher side projects like Grand Cadaver have had some decent success. He has even done some work with In Flames, and a lot of people since “Whoracle” have always wondered how In Flames would have sounded beyond the “Come Clarity” shift and the likes of the more melo death rock direction since “Battles” for the band. Well, The Halo Effect “Days of the Lost” is pretty much that answer. The band is pretty much made up of all former In Flames members along with Stanne on vocals, and the result is everything one would have hoped for. It’s that marriage between “Clayman” and “Character” that everyone wanted, and is just a solid piece of melo death without too much of the frills of electronics, clean vocals, or progressive moments. Sure there are more familiar In Flames/ D.T. hits like the closing ‘The Most Alone,’ but it is tracks like ‘The Needless End’ and ‘Shadowminds’ that make the album special. Plenty of excellent guitar sections and keyboard moments with ferocious vocals, fans of the early 2000s melo death era are going to love it.  The album features everything a melo death fan could want, and with the talent from such ‘powerhouses’ the hype did not disappoint.