To round out our trilogy of end of year articles, we at INSYMMETRY CREATIONS always wrap up with my personal favorite, Top/Notable music of the year. This is mostly metal, but some other genres might sneak in from time to time. Last year's list had the theme 'STAY TECH', due to the large number of technical metal bands that appeared (and it was the slogan of one of the bands as well). This year's list has a BLACKENED feel, but more so it's an INTERNATIONAL EXPERIENCE, with nearly a dozen countries represented / mentioned. This article is split into THREE categories: MOST NOTABLE INDIVIDUAL SONGS: These are normally songs that singularly tickled the ol' eardrums, but aren't specifically a part of an album being shouted out as a whole. NEW 'TO ME' THIS YEAR: One of our mantras at #TeamINSYM is 'Everything is always NEW to SOMEBODY'. We may tire of pitching a specific comic, graphic novel, or album over and over from event to event, but that doesn't matter to the person that's happening upon us for the first time. To them it's new and fresh. We can never forget that. Same thing goes for music. Every year, I stumble upon some super cool song - 'CHECK OUT THIS NEW BAND!' I then dig deeper and it's been out since, like, 2014! What in the world! Those are included on this list as well. Any excuse to share and celebrate is worthy.
TOP ALBUMS OF THE YEAR: The criteria here is simple - what full albums did I find myself circling back to over and over and over again? For there to be any consideration for top album, I need to listen to the majority of the album regularly, not just a track here or there. And a quick disclaimer - Surely there are many deserving albums and songs out there that should be on this list, but aren't - GREAT! So far, every list I've seen has something that I haven't heard, which gives me new music to check out. The main hope is that this list will do the same for you. Who knows, maybe you'll become a fanatic like me, too!
So let's get down to it! MOST NOTABLE INDIVIDUAL SONGS LORNA SHORE: The Pain Remains (Trilogy) (New Jersey USA) This is one long masterpiece right here. Lorna Shore songs are normally unrelenting in their delivery, so over 20 minutes could be too much for most mortal humans. These tracks do have enough variance to where it doesn't feel like a sitcom's length of non-stop blast beats. Don't get me wrong, there's still a ton, and its mega-brutal, but if I'm working and this is playing in the background, it's surprising how quickly time passes.
ZAC LEASER - INVICTUS (Texas USA) My bud Zac only officially released one song this year, but boy is it a doozie. Have no fear however, he does have a brand new EP, entitled LIBERA, that is right around the corner. Keep your eyes (figuratively) peeled for it. I've heard it and its ah-may-zing.
BENI NINAGAWA - Lycoris (JAPAN) During the pandemic I became a HUGE fan of Japan's WAGAKKI BAND. I've always been captivated by bands that can infuse cultural instrumentation into modern music, and WAGAKKI Band is at the top of this list.
In 2022 their Tsugaru Shamisen player, Beni Ninagawa, released a single that focuses only on her instrument. Incredible. I need more of this in my life.
BLEAK FLESH - CAPUT PRIMUM (CHILE) I think this may be the first time a band from CHILE has ever 'made the list'. At first listen you're like okay... this is some pretty brutal melodic death metal, but right down the middle and formulaic. Then out of nowhere, 4 minutes in, it steers directly off the most majestic cliff and bursts into a flaming flamenco inferno. I'd listen to these dudes play flamenco all day long - it's that good.
VARANG NORD - Pārķiuņa Uomurs (LATVIA) I'm gonna consider this a part of 2022 (the album came out in 2021 but this video didn't release until this year, so I'll say it counts). You know I have not one lick of a problem with wild instrument usage in metal, so I love their inclusion of accordion. So freaking catchy.
BONUS: When putting this list together, it was realized they have a brand new video... aaaaand it's something... yep. It's something alright.
VARANG NORD - Troļļs
THE ARCHAIC EPIDEMIC - LORDS OF MISERY (Virginia USA) Good freaking lands SLAM WORLDWIDE. Save some absurd Drop Q heaviness for the other labels. I just gained 10 pounds digesting this meaty beast.
WRATH OF THE NEBULA - BIG BANG IN REVERSE
(FRANCE) This band feels like the 2022 reincarnation of Devildriver. One of the leaders this year for number of 'metal snarl' facial reactions from me.
Next on the list are a pair of masked anonymous bands, both from Europe.
First up is Portugal's GAEREA. Their album 'Mirage' is making a ton of 'Best Of' lists, but here we want to spotlight the first single from this album: 'SALVE'. I'm a big fan of the trend in black metal to have good production. These guys unrelentingly bludgeon with their unique style of blackened riffs. Really dig this band, and SALVE is a perfect example of what they bring to the table.
Every year there's a band that sneaks up on me at literally the last minute, finding a way to force themselves onto the year-end list. This year it's KANONENFIEBER.
The very first song I heard from them was their brand new single DER FUSILIER II. Trudgy, sludgy, doom trekking across the frozen wasteland. The video is moody. Epic. I was intrigued.
Had to find out more on this band... consults youtube... live video appears. SKRRRRRRRT. I had to pop the brakes real fast and do some research on just what they are about. Although at first glance you'd THINK you know what they're preaching, your impression would most likely be incorrect.
The band is themed around 'The Great War Germany' circa 1914-1917 and the plight of the frontline soldiers. They are actually an anti-war band, with nothing to do with the travesties that would grip the continent just a few decades later. All the audio clips are from military personnel and leaders (like Hindenburg) and not any we might be more familiar with.
All these disclaimers are given before sharing their live video, because I want you to be confident that you're not being led down some destructive path with this recommendation.
That being said, holy hell the opening song on here has been eviscerating me ever since the first listen.
KANONENFIEBER Live - Die Feuertaufe
I'll also provide this article from ANGRY METAL GUY that gets deeper into the disclaimer territory:
https://www.angrymetalguy.com/kanonenfieber-menschenmuhle-things-you-might-have-missed-2021/ BONUS: DOUBLING DOWN ON THE LAST MINUTE SHENANIGANS I think the frontman of KANONENFIEBER, Noise, must've had his ear to the ground and heard that his group was the last minute inclusion on this list. 'Oh, Kanonenfieber was added at the last minute, you say? Well hold my stein, and try THIS on for size!' YEP- while putting the finishing touches on this article, he dropped a song from his side project LEIPA, Called 'Reue'. Now I can't in good conscience officially include as a 'Top metal music / song of the year' because let's face it, the song will literally be HOURS old when this article is published. Nonetheless, the song is quality, and I'm not waiting 364 days to post it, so I'm gonna share it here now.
...Okay now back to our regularly scheduled list... HANABIE - WE LOVE SWEETS & NEET GAME (JAPAN)
If there was ever a band I was destined to NOT like its HANABIE. With a song title like 'We Love Sweets' and a look that's like all the worst parts of an Amine convention, I nearly skipped right past them... but I'm glad I didn't. It only took 10 seconds into the song to realize the error of my ways.
The first song I heard was 2021's 'We Love Sweets' but I'm also a big fan of 2022's 'Neet Game'.
Just like a late night calorie count busting snack, this band FEELS like a guilty pleasure... and I'm completely fine with that.
NEW 'TO ME' THIS YEAR
STORMKEEP - TALES OF OTHERTIME (Album)
(DENVER, CO, USA)
There are multiple points about this release being in this section that feel odd: * It was released in November of 2021, so it just barely missed my radar for last year's list. Nonetheless, it has to be in the 'new to me' section.
* Listing this band as from Denver, CO, USA - Unless there is now a city of 'Denver, CO, USA' in Sweden, this MUST be a misprint.
What feels RIGHT about this release is letting it run all the way to the end and then hitting repeat. Amazing moody black metal. DON'T MISS: Track 4 - The Serpent's Stone
BLOODY TYRANT - ODE TO THE FALLING RAIN (TAIWAN) I'd heard of Bloody Tyrant before but never gave them a listen. This year I found myself having a renewed interest in CHINA's BLACK KIRIN. Deep into one of those listening sessions, I decided to take a chance on this youtube recommendation. Now I feel dumb for not listening to them EIGHT YEARS AGO (when this was released). 'Ode To The Falling Rain' has been sitting their patiently waiting for a click. Sorry for making you wait so long, Ode.
TUATHA DE DANANN - RHYMES AGAINST HUMANITY (BRAZIL)
I feel like the year of 2014 must've fallen into a time portal somehow. So many cool songs I happened upon for the first time in 2022 were actually released nearly a decade ago - and not just in the metal world. One of the many hats I wear is as a Soccer P.A. announcer, responsible for the field level music. So so so many 'new' songs on the list this season came from 2014... but I digress. What were we talking about? Soccer... Brazil... that's right - a band new to me from Brazil. TUATHA DE DANANN has been around for quite some time, so me never hearing their name until this year was just shocking. What else was shocking? This band's ability to fuse their South American sound with obvious ELUVEITIE / Swiss influences mixed with DROPKICK MURPHYS. And yes - I think this is the first METAL song on these lists to ever include a BANJO (Russia's folk outfit OTAVA YO has been here before, but metal they are not) .
TOP ALBUMS OF THE YEAR
It's finally time - here are the albums that stood out above the rest and logged the most ear time with me in 2022. BRYMIR - VOICES IN THE SKY (FINLAND)
Brymir is a new band for me in 2022. How they had three albums prior to this that never crossed these ears, I'll never know. Luckily VitS did, and I'm a better person for it. Melodic Death Metal, with a heavy HEAVY lean on the melodic part.
The chorus to VOICES IN THE SKY is one of the catchiest anthems I've heard in quite some time. I'll find myself just walking around the house busting out:
'Let my spirit soar
Soon I'll be no more
Free my haunted soul
Still bound by mortal coil
Take my sacrifice
Gates of paradise
VOICES IN THE SKY (the song)
My favorite track on the album: LANDFALL
TROLLFEST - FLAMINGO OVERLORD (NORWAY)
You ever take two things that don't make any sense being put together, mash 'em up, and somehow it just works? Whelp, that's EXACTLY what Norway's TROLLFEST did this year with FLAMINGO OVERLORD.
What did they combine you ask? Well Flamingos and alcohol - OBVIOUSLY! Every track has to do with one or both. Yes, you read that right.
By far my favorite 'Party' album of the year. The songs are infectious, silly and memorable. The moment of the year in METAL may just be these guys performing in FULL FLAMINGO GEAR on Norway's qualifier show for EUROVISION (on National TV!) A complete travesty that they didn't win!
TROLLFEST - Flamingo Libre
FULL ALBUM (which includes all their music and lyric videos):
And my favorite song from the album - THE FLAMINGORILLA
(Dont miss: - All Drinks On Me, Twenty Miles an Hour)
THE DEVILS OF LOUDUN - Escaping Eternity (Seattle, WA USA
As chronicled elsewhere, the beginning of this year was pretty rough around these parts, and there was a LOT of driving... alone driving. This album, more than any other, was my defacto passenger seat company, coming out just days before some of the loneliest roads that were traveled.
Absolutely incredible TECH DEATH put out by the top label for such fare - THE ARTISAN ERA. I fully expected this would be my AOTY from the first time I heard it in early Feb 2022, and it stayed in that position for four months, until the next album swooped in and smacked me in the face.
(Song to not miss: The Scourge of Beasts, Evolving Winds, Incarnate) ALBUM OF THE YEAR 2022
IMPERIAL CIRCUS DEAD DECADENCE -
First off, YES that is the album title, and running it through translators gives all kinds of wacky results, so I'll leave it as it is above. Second, I've seen a lot of end of the year lists (top 10 top 20 etc...), without seeing this album appear once. Not a single time. Because of this, I had to make SURE my mind wasn't deceiving me and that this INDEED was a 2022 release... checked... yep... just as I recollected - June of 2022. Third - I assume conversations with this band go a little like this:
Questioner: "Hey ICDD, What kind of metal do you play?"
And honestly, that would be the only accurate answer they could give. This band touches on just about every aspect of extreme metal, black metal, power metal, and symphonic metal, all with traditional Japanese stylings woven in. This album is LONG- 72 minutes- but it keeps my ears perked up throughout. The sign of an amazing album is not being able to pick a single favorite song. There are no less than SEVEN tracks on here that I oscillate back and forth between (Tracks 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, and 12 have ALL been my unquestioned favorite at some point). So why am I only giving track numbers? Because most of the song titles ALSO have a weird paragraph of symbols with questionable translations.
TRACK 4 獄 (OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO)
TRACK 5 百鬼夜行 -Pandemonic Night Parade-
TRACK 2 夜葉:罪と罰の螺旋 (Yoba: The spiral of crime and punishment)
So yes. I don't OFFICIALLY know the TITLE of my favorite album of the year, nor most of the songs, but that's okay. Music truly is the international language, and as long as the song moves me, that's what matters, right?
****** I'd be remiss if I didn't remind you that we at INSYMMETRY CREATIONS also have a couple metal albums, available on MP3, CD and Collectible colored vinyl. Here's the bandcamp: Heirsofisildur.bandcamp.com
And here's the link to the physical media, alongside all of our comics, graphic novels, and support merch: www.insymmetrycreations.com/shop
Hopefully there's some new music in here you can enjoy, and if you do - seek out the bands, tell them what you think, and try and support them as well. Thanks!
Got any comments or thoughts about what's on the list? Leave it below! We want to know what you think!