Katarina McGinn Best of 2022

Sunday, 4th December 2022

Not having to sit around and review every single release that comes through my inbox has been a blessing in the best way this year.  It gave more time to truly appreciate the releases that caught my ear, and give them the attention that they deserved. While I am taking a bit of a writing reprieve, the year just doesn’t seem complete without putting everything into a nice list of some of my favorites.  While on the whole, 2022 seemed a bit of a disappointment in comparison to the previous years – perhaps now that everyone has released new material due to COVID, they are busy getting ready to hit the road again hard – there were still plenty of gems to discover.  As it usually goes, some great songs from established acts as well as some new blood injecting themselves into the scene makes for  a thriving community.  Let’s hope for even better things in the year to come in 2023!

12. Bad Omens – The Death of Peace of Mind (Sumerian Records)
Go back one year, and I’d be hard pressed to think of this band as ending up on my top list, but The Death of Peace of Mind is diverse, with a wide casting of songs that hook you in and never let go.  Some excellent heavy ones, some great melodic ones, and just about everything in between.  Not “purely” metal, but worth a shot for those who want some metalcore that hits the marks.

11. Setyoursails – Nightfall (Napalm)
Yet another band that found plenty to work with when digging outside of the metal boundaries, Setyoursails brought melodic metalcore, post hardcore, and pop together in a way that never alienated any fanbase.  Able to bring in some abrasive moments and pair them with some genuinely vulnerable ones made their second effort one to remember for the long term.  They’ve tapped into something that many people can latch onto.

10. Soilwork – Overgivenheten (Nuclear Blast)
Where would I be if Soilwork didn’t make my top list at the end of a year?  Overgivenheten does exactly what you’d hope a recent Soilwork album would.  Catchy, yet heavy, melodies with plenty of energy and melancholy take the forefront (even if they occasionally dip into Night Flight territory – not a bad thing) with soaring choruses and blistering moments peppered in to give listeners that rush they are seeking.  RIP David Andersson, you will be missed!

9. Horizon Ignited – Towards the Dying Lands (Nuclear Blast)
It’s never been a secret that pretty much everyone at DR loves melodic death metal.  But that also means we have high expectations.  Horizon Ignited essentially does everything you’d want to hear done in the genre, and does it with a passion and flair that is simply hard to ignore.  Hard to find a fault in something that manages to channel both new and old styles of the genre into something so ridiculously catchy and memorable.

8. Venom Prison – Erebos (Century Media)
Never one to spin their wheels and rest on the laurels that they have rightly received, Venom Prison really went all in on Erebos.  Taking the visceral edge that made their previous releases so violently attractive, there is a sense of control and restraint here too (dare it be said, maturity) that showcases them as leaders of the extreme metal scene.  As thought-provoking as it is heavy-hitting, and that’s never a bad thing in my books.

7. Nordic Union – Animalistic (Frontiers Music)
As a growing fan of Eclipse in the last few years, Nordic Union scratches the itch by bringing things into a more purely metallic state.  It’s absurdly catchy and fun, and ultimately that is the ultimate bottom line with an album like this.  It hits hard and leaves you wanting to hit repeat and sing along with each song over and over again.

6. Fit for an Autopsy – Oh What the Future Holds (Nuclear Blast)
The Sea of Tragic Beasts sits as one of my all-time favorite metal releases, and Oh What the Future Holds delivers what you would expect from the follow-up.  It continues the masterful genre blend of influences that said release absolutely nailed, as well as continues to push the envelope for the band moving forward.  Fit for the Autopsy brings snarling heaviness, but there’s always an emotive core to it that elevates them above the competition.  It’s all about the in-betweens with this band, and they know just how to deliver it in the best way possible.

5. Deathwhite – Grey Everlasting (Season of Mist)
Gloomy and utterly depressive (with a splinter of hope) has been Deathwhite’s M.O. for a while now, and it’s been pleasing to see how they continue to evolve with each release.  Bucking the harsh/sung trend and diving right into the good stuff, as always, Grey Everlasting leaves the listener with a genuine case of sorrow.  Despair and bleakness reign supreme, but it’s still remarkably accessible for material of this type.  Something you can listen to when you want to enjoy the quiet of a dreary day and just revel in it, yet don’t want to just lose yourself in the abyss.

4. Future Palace  – Run (Arising Empire)
The modern metal winner of the year, Future Palace provides an insidiously catchy backdrop as they deliver an instantly catchy, yet memorable over the long-term album that just grabs you and never lets go.  It’s been a while since an album of this nature really dug in deep and demanded attention for such a long time, and that speaks volumes to the songwriting that Future Palace consistently provides.  If things move justly, they are a band you’ll hear from plenty as they move forward.

3. She Must Burn – Umbra Mortis (Grey Rock Records)

Grimoire left a positive impression 5 years ago, but wow, Umbra Mortis takes those expectations and launches them to the moon.  Taking their deathcore roots and tastefully evolving them into something more grandiose and symphonic, this is a tour de force of modern metalcore that holds no punches, yet delivers something that is as eloquent as it is devastatingly brutal.  Rare is the band that can pull off both sides of that coin, and She Must Burn deserves every bit of respect for pushing their sound past their peers and into something that is devastating AND beautiful.  Satisfying on every level.

2. ClariS – Parfaitone (Sacra Music)

A left-turn with this one compared to the rest of the list, but long-time J-pop act ClariS returned for their sixth full-length and it’s a more mature offering than just some catchy, pop-driven tunes.  There’s the upbeat ClariS sound that they are known for, but there’s a new sense to some songs like “missing you” and “Summer Delay” that give this one an edge to their previous works without tossing their framework into the trash.  Not metal in the least, but I’ll be damned if this didn’t get more play than almost everything else I listened to this year.  It’s catchy, beautiful, and simply drills its way into your skull more with each listen.

1. Allegaeon – Damnum (Metal Blade)
The absolute pinnacle of what Allegaeon has done to date, Damnum saw them step outside their comfort zone in some many ways, and they completely killed it when it came to delivering a product that went above and beyond the high expectations already set for the band.  With a sound emotional core that just wasn’t there at the same level before, and merging it with the established technical playing that got them their reputation, this effort is a success that peaks to what Allegaeon has been doing since their onset.  There’s some trepidation with vocalist Riley McShane parting ways since, but Damnum is a flawless success that should thrust Allegaeon further into the upper echelons of the metal community with it’s sense of melody, brutality, and flair.

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