Monday, December 19, 2022

Albums of the Year 2022

"Aye", the eldest of the owls answers softly. "They are still glittering in the night of those who tread the path of solar solitude. To the rest - to the flock - they are already dead and all but forgotten."
- Lines from The Long Defeat.


Another important checkpoint was reached a while ago in October, when this blog turned 10 years old and even if I had some ideas on a thematic playlist / article for the anniversary, I settled for a simple banner. Activity hasn't been the same throughout the decade but the gears are definitely turning at the moment and hopefully for the near future. After another universally turbulent turn around the sun, we were once again pushed to resonating with certain famous Prof. Farnsworth quotes, yet like a candle of hope, the impulse to fight the tide endures all and justifies why you should always greet with one hand and hold a rock with the other.

Posts emerged more consistently during the latter part of the year in the form of shorter, more concise review texts, as the decision was taken - contrary to a wide array of high quality bloggers and music hotspots around - to elaborate less on the work arounds of each album and instead stamp a distilled statement, like a summary of an otherwise full-length review. However, I still stick to uniform, candid reviewing, now in the form of a 300-350 word paragraph, where sugarcoating for the sake of promotion is condemned as a war crime against the scene and quite often already, the hammer has fallen harshly. 

Once again, things went awry when attempting to track down all listened new releases for the last 12 months but this time I used a cheat code, since I started to quickly rate everything I come across on RYM. As of today, the records show that I manage to mark a grand total of 983 releases of all kinds that came out in 2022, which almost perfectly abides to the 1/10 rule of the liked/listened ratio, as a quite rough pool of good albums I made contained 91 entries. Next year, if I am consistent with it (a big if), the number will be even more accurate as now I started 3-4 months in already. 

And without further ado, here are Arson Cafe's top 50 albums of 2022:

50. Ateiggär - Tyrannemord (Eisenwald)
49. Lunar Tombfields - The Eternal Harvest (Les Acteurs de l'Ombre Productions)
48. Eisflammen - Следуй За Мной (Depths of Void)
47. Abduction - Black Blood (Candlelight Records)
46. Sunset - Sunset (Self-released)
45. Acranius - Mercy Denied (Self-released)
44. Bloodbath - Survival of the Sickest (Napalm Records)
43. Artificial Brain - Artificial Brain (Profound Lore Records)
42. Azaxul - Echoes of Dreariness (Misanthropia Discos)
41. Faetooth - Remnants of the Vessel (Self-released)
40. Spiral Staircase - Visions Shifting Form (Death Hymns)
39. Ripped to Shreds - Jubian (Relapse Records)
38. The Chasm - The Scars of the Lost Reflective Shadow (Lux Inframundis Productions)
37. Blood Tyrant - Codex Cruor (Tour de Garde)
36. Ultra Silvam - The Sanctity of Death (Shadow Records)
35. Owls Woods Graves - Secret Spies of the Horned Patrician (Malignant Voices)
34. Μνήμα - Disciples of Excremental Liturgies (Phantom Lure)
33. Antecantamentum - Saturnine December (Self-released)
32. Konvent - Call Down the Sun (Napalm Records)
31. Chaos Invocation - Devil, Stone & Man (World Terror Committee)
30. Kathaaria - To Be Shunned by All... As Centres of Pestilence (End All Life Productions)
29. Autopsy - Morbidity Triumphant (Peaceville Records)
28. Becrah - Βωμός μιας αλήθειας (Self-released)
27. Wiegedood - There's Always Blood At the End of the Road (Century Media Records)
26. Watain - The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain (Nuclear Blast)
25. Deathhammer - Electric Warfare (Hells Headbangers Records)
24. Encrypment - D​ö​dens F​ö​dsel (Nuclear Winter Records)
23. Darvaza - Ascending Into Perdition (Terratur Possessions)
22. Drudkh - Всі належать ночі (All Belong to the Night) (Season of Mist)
21. Cloud Rat - Threshold (Artoffact Records)

20. Bones - Sombre Opulence (Invictus Productions)
19. E-L-R - Vexier (Prophecy Productions)
18. Heaving Earth - Darkness of God (Lavadome Productions)
17. Theriomorph - Diabolical Bloodswords (Terratur Possessions)
16. Licht des Urteils - Uhraamo (Purity Through Fire)
15. Mortuus - Diablerie (World Terror Committee)
14. Bad Manor - The Haunting (Avantgarde Music)
13. Imperial Triumphant - Spirit of Ecstasy (Century Media Records)
12. Hyngwar - Eternal Glory (Forbidden Keep / Hexencave Productions)
11. Nocturnal Triumph - Nocturnal Triumph (Amor Fati Productions)

This Bones debut sneaked in and got established in my playlist as an almost easy-to-listen old school death metal album full of burning riffs, and the mixture of post/sludge/atmospheric doom metal of E-L-R makes up for a quite addictive listen that grows on you. The Czechs Heaving Earth released an ultra technical but pure death metal album that you probably missed, and I have never hid my admiration for the Finnish project Cornigr, whose sole member is also behind Theriomorph and kinda reminds of it. Staying in Finland, the organic and straightforward Licht des Urteils record is finally an album that isn't a shameless copy cat of what every other black metal band does over there, and the new Mortuus was simply massive. Bad Manor released The Haunting on Halloween, and it is quite a conceptually relevant release but finally done in a respectful, not cliche, not cheesy way in what for many would be the most well-written and diverse raw black metal album of the year. I lost Imperial Triumphant a bit with Vile Luxury but Spirit of Ecstasy is a monster, Nocturnal Triumph's four song debut made waves and it's totally justified, while I found myself repetitively murmuring all the wonderful riff melodies in Eternal Glory by newcomer Hyngwar

10. Aenaon - Mnemosyne

Agonia Records

Upon my tongue two lovers are swirling

Whenever this band puts out a release, it's a reason to celebrate. Aenaon's experimental leanings have grown into their own whole ecosystem where black metal is at heart but the music takes on directions on a lot of different tentacles, with their now characteristic saxophone use deviously partaking in the unique atmosphere and compositional bloom they have achieved. It's on point production-wise and the lyrics are ever intriguing, Mnemosyne has all it needs to keep you hooked as one of the most competent and particular extreme metal bands out of Greece right now.

9. Triumvir Foul - Onslaught to Seraphim


Horned creations

I can say that's the only Triumvir Foul album that actually made an impact on me, even though previous efforts were generally on the right track but not sufficient. We are aware of these guys' prowess in atmospheric black metal (Ash Borer) but also in death metal (Superstition). However, in my opinion only this year with Onslaught to Seraphim they have finally managed to hit the red mark. Full of stomping riffs and a sound to glorify them, the record is merciless and varied enough, continuing the lore of the band by touching on the same lyrical subjects but now, the material is much more acute and effective. [post here]

8. Blackbraid - Blackbraid I


Defilement of our sacred mother

While a lot of high quality Native American-themed black metal bands have stayed in the shadows of the underground scene, this new project of an otherwise experienced musician caught everyone's attention with just a single earlier in 2022. While a bit overproduced, Blackbraid I offers a sensational journey with powerful atmosphere, authentic nature and excellent balance between aggressive and clean guitar folkish parts. Lyrically wondrous, the album's ferocious compositions and over-the-top sound make it maybe one of the cleanest black metal releases of the year but also of these kinds of projects.

7. Ultha - All That Has Never Been True

Vendetta Records

Mourn the sleepless children

What I like about Ultha is how they play with words in their song titles, album titles and lyrics in general. However, what I love about them is the haunting, drowning ambience they create by employing a set of simple tools, with the guitars having the leading role and formulating colossal, repetitive riffs that are so compelling as they are memorable. The distinct painful howls of singer Chris Noir and the liberties the band takes into more doom-ish / post-metal tricks, makes All That Has Never Been True exactly what we needed after the two EPs and split release since their last full length. A record fully enjoyable from start to finish.

6. Deathspell Omega - The Long Defeat

Norma Evangelium Diaboli

Forever-festering wound

Noticeable line-up differences and a subtle but loud turn in terms of creation are the reasons behind the new Deathspell Omega album being what it is. A hit or miss record whose value can completely go unnoticed if the listener is randomly shuffling around music, yet it not only is an 100% DsO work, it also shows that the band will not dare to rest, not even on the shoulders of their own empire. The scene's most resilient and creative musicians have been involved for guest vocals in The Long Defeat, the booklet of its physical releases contains a story to discuss for months to come, the sound is as organic as you can possibly wish for, and the music, oh well...

5. The Antichrist Imperium - Volume III: Satan in His Original Glory

Apocalyptic Witchcraft Recordings

Vilest of beasts

I was not aware of the existence of this project even though I have generally been following Akercocke and their activities for a long time now. As Akercocke members are involved, The Antichrist Imperium has their mark on the music and this automatically makes Volume III a wholesome and entertaining death metal album stands far from the rest of the bands of the scene, almost on its own island. Not only the intense parts of the record feel like a meteor to the face, all tracks are infused with intoxicating clean guitar / experimental passages that you should already know from Akercocke, creating this wild musical roller coaster and then drenching it in textual blasphemy. Bliss.

4. Dødsengel - Bab Al On

Debemur Morti Productions

The skull you are holding is your own

One of the two buzzer beaters in this list goes to the fine brand of the Norwegian Dødsengel, a fascinating project that never made it to my end year posts but was always within my line of vision. While worrying whether the cover art reminds too much of Whoredom Rife or not, Bab Al On unleashes itself with ingenious and scourging black metal that is second to none, musically daring and with a ton of intricacies to discover the more you listen to it. With a healthy dose of Latin reading (excuse the scholars for the accent), perfect vocals, perfect flow and perfect material, we finally witnessed the best Dødsengel record and a record to hold close to your chest for a long time.

3. Verberis - Adumbration of the Veiled Logos

Norma Evangelium Diaboli

Tomb of the heavens

There are some musicians that, like elite sports athletes, completely turn the scale in their favor when present in an album. That being said, the drummer of Ulcerate, who is most probably and simply the best drummer in extreme metal, was involved in the new Verberis record, a record that is indeed reminiscent of the aforementioned band but frankly, scarier. Adumbration of the Veiled Logos has more black metal content than death metal, it lasts almost one hour and it's a labyrinth of murkiness, dangerously inventive with prodigious tracks and a gargantuan presence while it plays. As a listener, all you have to do is lay back and let the vehement melodies, the resonant riffing and its kernel of acumen swallow you and spit you breathless on the shore.

2. Misþyrming - Með hamri

Norma Evangelium Diaboli

Blood revenge

As it happened last year with Funeral Mist, I delayed the writing of this list in anticipation of the new Misþyrming album on the 16th of this month. I knew they would catapult themselves into the first spots just because of how magnificent and effortlessly brilliant this band is, and thankfully Með hamri not only fills the shoes of its predecessors, but it also takes things even further. The sharp edges of the record project unmatched fierce guitar work, while they are also proficient in slower parts and fill the blanks with dark ambient / noise soundscapes, as it happened in Algleymi but with extra bodies on the wall of death they have been building the last seven years. Interestingly enough, the pale synth melody of "Engin vorkunn" is quite similar to "Tomorrow's Victim" by Six Feet Under, a parallelism I never thought would occur.

1. Wormrot - Hiss

Earache Records

Imploding sensations of ultraviolence

Hiss is by far the best thing that happened to extreme sound in 2022. It feels like Wormrot have found the golden recipe for grindcore, which contains the absolute perfect balance between complexity, speed, musicianship and structure. Any other album that is less or more complex, is worse. Any other album that is slower or faster, is worse. And so on. While still listening to this daily since the time it was released, I placed it no. 1 when it came out and nothing knocked it off since. I never expected that a band from such a genre would be so high in my end year lists, let alone being album of the year, and that's how masterful Hiss is, it's really ridiculous. But then again, in this territory, you always need to tread lightly. [post here]

By now, you can see that 3 out of 10 picks are albums by Norma Evangelium Diaboli, and some names that begin to circulate in these lists over the years, for example: Misþyrming (album of the year 2019), Deathspell Omega (top 10 of 2019, EP of the year 2016), Verberis (Ulcerate was the album of the year 2020, but the two projects are not completely equated) and Aenaon finally made it to the top 10 too (previous appearance was #27 in 2014 with Extance). More familiar bands reside in the lower positions of the rankings, some that you have definitely seen in the past and maybe expected higher. Heck, maybe I expected the same.

Disappointments of the year include Behemoth, Panzerfaust, Venom Prison, AltarsDecapitated, Mord’A’Stigmata, Falls of Rauros, Druid Lord, Undeath, Father Befouled, Acid Witch, and Aeviterne. Later on in December, albums by Nocturnal Departure, Abysmal Lord, Satanic Warmaster and Necrodeath will be released, which I didn't have the chance to listen to before making this post.

On my radar for 2023 are already announced releases from: The Howling Void, Deiquisitor, Imperium Dekadenz, Thy Darkened Shade, Slegest, Ablaze My Sorrow, Palace of Worms, Sanguisugabogg, Rotten Sound, Drakon Ho Megas, Cadaver Shrine, Deviser, In Flames, Hellripper, 7 H. Target, Grá, Carathis, Heidevolk, Profane Order, Enslaved, Haken, Askeregn, Isole, Liturgy, Insomnium, Ne Obliviscaris and Immortal.

See you all next year.



  1. Enjoyed reading through this—Really glad you enjoyed Bad Manor, that's a wild one. Definitely some consistencies with how my list is shaping up, but some real surprises as well!

    1. Bad Manor is amazing, and it is worth it to have it in physical format too! There's a whole story in the booklet, with great drawings too...

      Can't wait for your list!

  2. A lot of great albums! Glad to see some lesser known projects too.

    The return of Kathaaria is not discussed enough.

  3. Absolutely loved Dødsengel's Bab Al On. The use of Latin chants was spot on.

  4. Very interesting list and much of what you like is completely off my radar so now I have a few that I want to explore based on your comments, so thank you for that. Also, I like your writing style very much.

    1. Hope you find something you like, thanks for the kind words and for sticking around!

  5. Great list! Always a pleasure to go through the reviews and illustrations.

    1. Thank you! I've also added you to my blogroll too.