Brittany Barkasi Best of 2022

Thursday, 9th March 2023

There’s a chance I got a bit burned out trying to make sure I didn’t miss anything pretty late in the game for 2022. I decided to check out over 300 albums that were things I may have missed, so really just scratching the surface, I know. I had a list of albums that I really enjoyed this year, but there was so much more that I realized I had overlooked. What started to happen is if I listened to a song or two and felt it couldn’t unseat something from my current list, I simply moved on. A lot of the albums were great and given more time to digest maybe they could have shifted the list around more. All that said, let’s get into my top albums of 2022.

15. Riverwood – Shadows and Flames (Independent)
Initially, listening to a song or two got this a spot on the consideration list, but it did not seem destined for a top spot. After listening to the whole album though, it was clearly impressive. The track that really instantly captivated was “Blood And Wine.” It immediately starts with an awesome riff, but still has that hint of middle eastern folk that really makes this stand out as a very unique project. Suckers for choirs will be drawn in quickly. This is the longest track on the release; clocking in at just over 12-1/2 minutes, and they use every second to really show off how talented they are. While there are other bands that have done the progressive middle eastern folk sound such as Orphaned Land and Myrath, Riverwood absolutely has a sound all of their own. With this being their second full-length, this is a band to really keep an eye on.

14. A Devil’s Daydream – Misfortune of Suffering (Independent)
Do you enjoy those black metal demon shrieks, but also the deep growls? Conveniently, both are on offer in this debut. At first listen it’s clear this is a solid release, but when the haunting violin hits on “Lost Morality and Disposition,” it’s cause for pause. Yours truly stopped to give full attention at that point and thus, here we are.

13. Evergrey – A Heartless Portrait (The Orphean Testament) (Napalm Records)
Evergrey is a band many fans of progressive metal with a dark and melancholic feel know and love, but this album might actually be a personal favorite from their catalog. They’ve always put out solid content, but this one hooks one in the same way Recreation Day did. Magnificently arranged solos, ominous riffs, eerie keyboards, pounding drums and of course the very distinct vocals we’ve all come to know and love, all come together to make this a very memorable release.

12. Seventh Wonder – The Testament (Frontiers Records)
It’s fair to say it’ll be hard for anything to top Mercy Falls, but that said, this album comes super close. Especially when tracks like “The Light” and “Under a Clear Blue Sky” come on; it feels so much like a track that would be right at home on their magnum opus. Tommy Karevik has a voice that expresses so much emotion and passion. It’s always amazing to listen to how different his voice is between Kamelot and Seventh Wonder. If you enjoy crunchy guitar work, while still having melodic leads, plus hard hitting drums, and boisterous keyboards, then this should tick those boxes and more. This release is exactly what you want to hear from progressive metal, especially the ones with more melodic leanings.

11. Moonshade – As We Set the Skies Ablaze (Independent)
If you enjoy melodeath, do not sleep on Moonshade. This is only their 2nd full-length and after a phenomenal first, it was exciting to see what they had in store. Take a moment to appreciate the awesome album name? Expectations were set high and did not disappoint. This will hook one in from the moment that first note hits and never lets up. Top tier riffs, alluring melodies, and seductive vocalizations make up this masterfully crafted work of art.

10. Blackbraid – Blackbraid I (Independent)
This has gotten a lot of folks talking, and rightfully so. This is a one man project by Sgah’gahsowáh, a Native American man from the Adirondacks. He uses many Native American instruments throughout his debut album, and it works better than one could ever hope. Very exciting to have something so unique in a genre that can often feel overly saturated with the same old same old.

9. Fragments of Lost Memories – Divagate (Independent)
When this writer saw this band name, the first thought was “please don’t suck” because what a badass name. Thankfully the music did not disappoint. Prepare to be sucked into this Japanese wall of crushing doom. This band has 3 albums out (2 of them came out in 2021) and they absolutely need far more attention. If you are a fan of funeral doom in the vein of Ahab and Mournful Congregation, then you’re in for a treat.

8. Warkings – Morgana (Napalm Records)
In case it is not immediately obvious, there’s a concept to much of this album which is regarding the Arthurian legend about the enchantress Morgan le Fay, whom is usually portrayed as King Arthur’s sister. There are some tracks which deviate from that theme, such as “Row (Into the Storm)” which is about the Battle of Salamis. One might prefer a single theme, but they have found a way to make these different themes work all on the same release. Lacri’s vocals as Morgana Le Fay really put things over the top. This is fun power metal, but it’s also decently heavy power metal. The harsh vocals Lacri provides really provide an amazing contrast to Georg Neuhauser’s voice that many power metal fans have come to know and love from Serenity. Markus Pohl’s (from the legendary Mystic Prophecy) guitar work and solos on this are top notch and are a standout. Chris Rodens’s bass work, especially on tracks like Immortal really catch the ear. We have Steffen Theurer on drums categorically killing it the whole time. Another guest artist that really helps pull everything together is Luki Knoebl on keyboards.

7. Ultar – At the Gates of Dusk (Rockmark)
Post-black metal at it’s finest! Gleb & Max Sysoev are twin brothers who clearly love to make amazing music. Don’t misunderstand, the whole band is a package and does amazing work, but as many have seen on other lists, their other projects Second to Sun and Grima have generated a lot of buzz. In fact, Second to Sun’s album Nocturnal Philosophy ranked 34 on this writer’s list of 50 albums. Grima’s Frostbitten was also a consideration, but didn’t make the top 50, while still being extraordinary.

6. Candlemass – Sweet Evil Sun (Napalm Records)
Upon hearing there was going to be a new Candlemass, one could never have expected to get Epicus Doomicus Metallicus Part 2! That’s not just because Johan Längquist is on vocals, but the whole album feels like a continuation of that masterpiece. If you enjoy Candlemass at all, then you’ll love this amazing epic doom release.

5. An Abstract Illusion – Woe (Willowtip Records)
You’ll find a common theme among reviews of this album; everyone is immediately hooked. What an amazingly unique project. It’s obvious they put a ton of work into this, and wow did it pay off. This recording has a bit of everything, so here’s to hoping we won’t have to wait another 7 years for another masterpiece.

4. Kreator – Hate Über Alles (Nuclear Blast)
If the title track isn’t pure Kreator, I don’t know what is. Missing them live this year on their tour with Mercyful Fate and Midnight is a personal big music related regret of 2022. They didn’t come to Florida, but neither did Carpenter Brut and yours truly made that happen, so no excuses. Back to the album though, this feels like it can easily fit in with Enemy of God and Violent Revolution era. And what a pleasant surprise hearing Sofia Portanet on “Midnight Sun,” and that is a momentous track.

3. Defacing God – The Resurrection of Lilith (Napalm Records)
The 3rd spot was really a tough pick, and many of the ones following at one point were a consideration for this spot. In the end, something about this release really caught the ear. Symphonic black metal with a touch of gothic scratched an itch I didn’t know I had. It’s still a bit amazing that this is a debut album for them. Everything sounds so tight, and Sandie Gjørtz is an incredibly talented vocalist. One cannot wait to see what this band does next.

2. Blind Guardian – The God Machine (Nuclear Blast)
There was no way this wasn’t going to end up on the top 5. Blind Guardian gets back to their older sound with this heavy hitting release. The moment “Secrets of the American Gods” was released, it was clear this was going to be amazing. Sadly, much like with Somewhere Far Beyond being created during the loss of Hansi’s father, The God Machine was coming to life during the loss of Hansi’s mother. I could be wrong, but I think writing this was probably very therapeutic for him.

1. Parasite Inc. – Cyan Night Dreams
This writer had a feeling this would end up on top from the time the end of year list was being contemplated, and nothing was able to overtake it. Parasite Inc. has been able to perfectly combine melodic death metal and synthwave. It’s an absolute blast to listen to front to back. Plus, they get some bonus points for their perfect incorporation of a clip from the 1962 film, “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die” (my fellow MST3K fans may remember this awful movie) into the intro to the track “In False Light.” This whole package feels like Dark Tranquillity and Carpenter Brut had a glorious bastard child. Kai Bigler’s vocals in both clean and growl formats are an absolute pleasure to listen to. Benjamin Stelzer’s drumming is hard hitting and exactly what you want from melodeath. Dominik Sorg’s guitar work is heavy, melodic and and instant ear worm. Of course, you can really hear the powerful bass work from Lucien Mosesku throughout the whole record. These gentlemen combined have produced an album that will be one to constantly go back to and enjoy.

Continue on to page 2 for top 10 songs of the year and expectations for 2023.

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