ALBUMS YOU MISSED… Is a yearly tradition of rallying behind overlooked and under-served releases that I’d either missed or that’d deserved more hype as the endless mill of new releases blazed throughout the year. This is decidedly -not- a “best of” list but rather a grip of underrated stuff that the general public should consume. My Top 5 Sludge-related releases of the year aren’t deep cuts (Ufomammut, Cult of Luna, Behold! the Monolith, Northless, Cavernlight, and maybe Intensive Care if they count) but I keep up with new releases despite interest in sludge/post-metal waning over the last few years due to lack of distinct titles reaching me as a fan. In fact last year I’d gotten three releases into the 2021 edition of this list and scrapped the whole thing but, this year I think I’ve gathered a worthy set of releases which generally stand apart. The curation on this list aims for lasting quality, substance and variety. — If you find something you dig go tell the band on social media and support them with a purchase! If you’d like your music reviewed, read the FAQ and send promos to: email@example.com
|RELEASE DATE:||December 2nd, 2022|
Rotterdam, Netherlands-based sludge/post-doom metal trio Gavran impress up front with a hi-fi wall of enormous sound as they dive into this fifty minute-long tragedian exploration of inner triumph, pinging self-doubt, and all-consuming meditation upon loss. Each of these five ~ten minute pieces run the gamut of their well-developed style a still searching form of modern sludge/doom metal which develops sentimental and intimate conversation with the listener, rarely taking a break for dissociation but keeping the greater sensation surreal and forlorn. This’ll be the sort of record to attract the earlier Pallbearer fandom up front and the post-metal side of atmospheric sludge dramatism soon after, it’ll take at least seven or so minutes of opener “Dvorac” to fully get what they’re all about. That said, ‘Indistinct Beacon’ has a trip planned over the course of the rest of the album and I’d found it did not disappoint in immersing, perhaps despite some of the clean vocals on later songs needing stronger cadence/direction. Fair enough you might not’ve missed this one since it released yesterday but the depth of this one shouldn’t be skimmed past.
|LABEL(S):||Silent Pendulum Records|
|RELEASE DATE:||November 18th, 2022|
Interestingly enough northern Virginia-based duo Foehammer started out as a Black Sabbath cover band by way of guitarist, bassist and vocalist Jay Cardinell who’d eventually focused those ambitions into his own craft influenced by everything from Corrupted to traditional psychedelic doom metal acts. The result of his efforts after about a decade is a death metal heavy sludge/doom metal act with two full-lengths under their belt. This time around Cardinell is joined by drummer and general talent Ben Price (At the Graves) for what is essentially a funeral death/doom metal record running on a sludge metal generator, the sort of album that should be pointed directly at the heads who enjoy the menacing grind of Winter but also the sprawling hateful doom of Moss, Coltsblood and such. The tone of the record is perfectly set in its admixture of sludge metal heft, death metal snarl, and explosive doom metal riffs which all carry somber pieces into slow and embittered revelation. Completely immersive stuff here though they do mix it up just enough that it won’t all feel like a mournful slog. Definitely an overlooked record on my part per its November release.
|RELEASE DATE:||October 6th, 2022|
Silesian sludge metal quartet Grief Circle are pretty fresh off the wire here, having formed back in 2021 and arriving with a brilliant debut full-length here at the end of 2022. Their style is well-conceived as stoner/doom-lite influenced grooves and hooks translated to the high fidelity roar of a pensive post-metal band, call it atmospheric sludge metal if you’re feeling old fashioned. It is a difficult experience to convey in plain sub-genre language if only for the sake of ‘Weightless‘ relying on an intense marriage of moods more than anything else. Tragedian futurism meeting up with psychedelic dread in a somewhat original way. Fans already well-attuned to Polish post-metal spheres should appreciate the fusion of ideas here between members of Moanaa and Forge of Clouds, especially as they lead into the crux of more aggressive pieces like “Hangman” and their modern alt-metal side barks through a bit. Definitely a record squarely for the post-metal side of things but the core idea is adventurous enough that it stuck in mind a bit.
|RELEASE DATE:||June 30th, 2022|
Southern Spanish experimental doom/sludge metal trio Orthodox haven’t necessarily delivered a “normal” or average sub-genre record with ‘Proceed‘ but opener “Past Seers” will feel like a stab at the tuneful side of things for anyone who’d not paid attention to their discography beyond the first couple of records they released back in the mid-to-late 2000’s. There is still a live-in-studio feeling to these especially fine production values but far less of the improvisational, meandering soul you’ll find elsewhere in their discography. Instead these Andalusia-based folks lean into dissonant chords in naturally ominous, surreal progressions, distant observations from the vocalist, and a neatly locked-in rhythm section wherein the bass is sweetly prominent with an oft ugly tone in hand. Things do unhinge a bit here and there, such as the noise metal dissolution which happens in the midst of “Starve” and the penitent “The Son, The Sword, The Bread”. Otherwise the record has a bit of early Sleep‘s experimental psychedelic doom metal haunt and a dose of 90’s Neurosis somewhere in there too and this combination absolutely works for my taste. An excellent place to start if you’re not familiar with the band but appreciate doom/sludge willing to experiment with drone and improvisation.
|RELEASE DATE:||September 15th, 2022|
Another Polish band? Yes, this time we head to Poznań over in western Poland for a darker shade of atmospheric black metal influenced post-metal from Hegemone, a quartet who’ve taken their time in arriving on their third album and follow-up to the Debemur Morti issued ‘We Disappear‘ circa 2018. ‘Voyance‘ is the perfect record to convince the post-metal avoidant listener that there is substantive value in this absolutely overwrought and indistinct sub-genre headspace and, well, the black metal influences do a lot of the work in pushing for dramatic progressions, unique vocal expression, and even a bit of peripheral dissonance. Though the grand drama of the record reveals itself in the first three pieces herein with the punched-at basslines of “Odium” and the awakening of the nauseated beast on “Nourishment” it’ll be the more avant-garde Mord’A’Stigmata-esque side of the band that wins black metal fans over on “Abeyance” and outsized closer “After Demise”. Though the sludgier post-metal side of the band is outshined by the blackened result, the crossover which Hegemone begin to perfect here should be entirely palatable yet just challenging enough to stick in mind. One for the torment-enjoyers out there.
|TITLE:||Until We Rest Beneath the Winter Way|
|RELEASE DATE:||October 14th, 2022|
Minneapolis, Minnesota-based quintet Earthrise follow-up their massive 2012 debut double LP with a sophomore release, a massive double LP, which has been developing in some form for the last ten years. ‘Until We Rest Beneath the Winter Way‘ is exactly as polished and considered as it should be per the time put into its ~72 minute run, almost prequalifying itself an “opus” right out of the gatefold. Their style has evolved beyond rhythmically complex loud-quiet-loud atmospheric sludge unto a feat most would consider progressive post-metal and you’ll immediately get why as the 17+ minute ride of the first two pieces (“The New Man”/”From Below”) take us from roaring and riffing to psychedelia-dispersed spaced post-rock drift. It’ll be a tough sell for some progressive music fans who aren’t up for the blunted edge of the insistent vocal roaring up front but the progressive sludge/atmosludge-minded will appreciate the patient and often passionately relayed purpose of the band this time around.
No doubt they’ve found a lush and evocative medium to convey their story here, a well-thought discourse on the failure of humanity to continue passing on lessons learned via education, historical preservation and most importantly action. Progress, manifest destiny, cruelty, etc. Eh, this is told through an arc which relates the perspective of the stray dog, Laika, sent into orbit for science (per Sputnik II) as the Soviet Union gathered data on habitability early on. While their treatment of the referential framing and their own narration is interesting enough the late 50’s space race factoid doesn’t manage any reference beyond the lyrics. The thought is dark and the reality darker still, yet the album art is brightly maximal and inviting, inviting a sort of disconnect when the whole item is considered. The post-hardcore crush depth of Earthrise‘s sound will nonetheless line up if you speak this particular language of chug, yell n’ croon. Fans of Mountaineer and Rosetta should appreciate the softer side of the band and atmosludge-leaning folks will appreciate the hardcorish brusqueness of the heavier side. From my perspective they’ve mostly impressed by way of a richly realized sound and might’ve put too much faith in the extended length of the experience being carried by the narrative. All of the pockets of greatness do eventually accumulate into a positive response but it takes a while, and those sparks began to feel like increasingly distant islands with each successive listen.
|TITLE:||Débris de mondes perdus|
|RELEASE DATE:||February 25th, 2022|
Swiss sludge/post-metal group Abraham returned from their eon-scouring quadruple LP opus (‘Look, Here Comes the Dark!‘, 2018) with two fewer members and a far more succinct concept on this fourth full-length. ‘Débris de mondes perdus‘ follows the post-apocalyptic dread of its predecessor with an omen from the farther flung future, emphasizing that humanity must work together to survive. Otherwise it is a much more violent, harder-shouted atmospheric sludge metal record which leads with heavier dissonant guitar textures and angered vocals. “Maudissements” brings in some strained clean vocals, dabbling in disso-psych dementia to great effect and already this record has won me over within just a few songs. For whatever reason the band appear to be breathing deeper, thinking clearer, and they’ve had to set afire their sound to get there. As it turns out this more-or-less addresses every complaint I’d had about the previous album and delivers a succinct yet still draining pulverization sludge metal should inherently possess, at least in my traditional view of it as anxietous, future-ugly metalpunk music. Fans of post-hardcore and groups like Breach should appreciate this one up front.
|TITLE:||Blueberry Cash [mLP]|
|RELEASE DATE:||April 20th, 2022|
Though I am not getting high this winter I definitely did not pass on a head full of Seum this past April. The Montreal, Québec based sludge metal trio are selling rolling papers, stash boxes, weed grinders, and hot sauce in promotion of this fairly brief 10″ record which includes two new bass n’ rasped-at songs alongside an amped up cover in a nod to their previous life as Lord Humongous. They’re still pretty flawless as a thunder jam crew, still puking out the biggest grooves this side of ‘Dopesick‘, and still don’t need a goddamned guitarist.
|LABEL(S):||Heavy Psych Sounds|
|RELEASE DATE:||October 7th, 2022|
Don’t let the song title spoofs and the Cuphead-lookin’ album art get you thinking this Italian sludge/doom metal band aren’t mean, Turin-based gloomlords Tons aren’t giving up the goofs on this third full-length. ‘Hashension‘ is all ear-scraping snarl and huge riffs all the time, a hissing crawler with all the patience in the world getting to its next lumbering movement or free-floating lead. Is “Hempathy For the Devil” just a slow-motion version of “Seasons in the Abyss”? Probably. You’re going to remember this album for its goblin vocals first and foremost, probably latch onto their big doom metal riffs and huge yet gritty sound soon after, and walk away from the experience wondering if any of it was serious, or if they were just having fun. Either way, they caught my ear quick and ‘Hashension‘ has proven an over the top and finely curated spin upon closer inspection.
|RELEASE DATE:||July 7th, 2022|
Negative 13 spent about six years kicking around sludge metal ideas as Negative Theory in the late 90’s and early 2000’s but at the time nothing much came of it beyond a self-released debut. The same crew returned in 2021 under this new name and they’re back on their bullshit to the tune of two full-length records in the two years since. ‘Mourning Asteri‘ is inarguably the looker of the two but their approach has been consistent in terms of playing a somewhat traditional form of sludge metal wherein doom metal, hardcore punk and a hit of stoner metal all coalesce into a tortured yet tuneful abysm. Guitar feedback, early 90’s hardcore breakdowns, and a healthily sped set of sludge metal riffs fill every free second of this record recalling early -(16)- at their best. “Pain Prism” is the obvious standout here for my own taste but “The Key and the Coat” manages plenty of memorable action and the rupture-core of “Parahell” along with it. A few songs don’t hit for me or might’ve just ended up feeling excessive, such as the ~8.5 minute “Villain”, but overall this’d been a fine first impression made and a sound which should appeal to both modern and early days sludge metal fandom.
|LABEL(S):||On Parole Productions|
|RELEASE DATE:||May 6th, 2022|
Landing a pretty fair split between stoner/sludge metal and 79’s era speed metal a la Motörhead this Slovenian trio have done a fine job of honing in on a signature rhythm and the bustle on their second full-length since forming around five years ago. It is a sound that’ll naturally appeal to fans of Saviours, Black Wizard and maybe Green King. It isn’t your usual sludge metal release proper but the Southern rock/NOLA sludge crossover is there in spirit and the speed/heavy metal side of the band is a much needed palate cleanse that’ll help remind that sludge can actually rock. The vocals aren’t always great, a few of the songs hit upon some repetitive motif but overall this one is a heavy and energetic ride that’d been easy to pick up and enjoy for its guitar forward kick.
|TITLE:||The Quiet Earth|
The Plague Of Man Records
|RELEASE DATE:||July 4th, 2022|
We could consider this apex evolutionary statement found on London-based Morrow‘s third full-length the logical place where ideas like “epic neocrust”, “emo sludgecore” and various identifiers meant to congeal their resonance actually harm the integrity of the many moving parts in action. The emotionally driven modern crust punk affect of the band is key driver for these dramatic post-metal pieces yet sludge, emo, neocrust, and such all feature in various spotlight as ‘The Quiet Earth‘ reveals it complexly woven innards, a messy but naturally built work. Though the dual vocal attack shouldn’t test the seasoned crust enjoyer there is a real symphony of passionate dramatism which builds in the best songs here (“Totemic” especially) which appears rooted in the grand vision of everything from Nausea ’til Agrimonia and neocrust beyond. The anthemic melodrama of the record sells their sound but the vocal trade-off/layers of guests would all become a bit much if the rhythm section wasn’t entirely sound. The faster and shorter songs hit best for my taste but the crust/post-metal combination found in the longer pieces will be the main point of passion for most.
|TITLE:||The Horrible Wilting|
|LABEL(S):||Church of Crow Records|
|RELEASE DATE:||November 18th, 2022|
Italian doom/sludge metal trio Griefbringer features folks you might recognize from various projects in their regional underground spheres (early Sinoath, Hell Obelisco, Schizo) but ‘The Horrible Wilting‘ is stylistically unrelated as a debut entry from a fairly traditional doom metal act fusing sludge metal’s dirge and heft with an almost Candlemass-braced cadence. Though I enjoy the doom metal riffs which direct this album’s major voice they’ve left most of the nuance up to variations on a general theme and it leaves the listener with an experience that is very much set in place, delivering a fairly straightforward set of songs with few surprises along the way. The sound design here is oppressive in a good way and the sludgier aspect of the band works well with their sonorous and pained tonality herein yet I’d felt there wasn’t much more to glean from the experience beyond the first couple of songs which are likewise their strongest. Fine art direction, great logo, excellent sound design, all of this ends up balancing out the droning quality of the full listen and I’m left impressed with where the band have started as they’re already presenting a professional item in good taste.
|TITLE:||All Colours Retract|
|RELEASE DATE:||September 9th, 2022|
Fusing a bit of Haste (or, Breach) styled post-hardcore, 90’s Neurosis, a bit of post-black flailing, and some manner of noise drenched post-rocking progressive warp it’d be fair to consider Copenhagen, Denmark based trio Offernat‘s work here on their full-length debut a lost generational entry into the atmosludge canon. A pre-‘Panopticon‘ era realm of free-wheeling, noisome experimentation wherein those arthouse crust punk shouted dual sermons almost feel more like a product of said first generation. It’d reminded me of discovering the first Cult of Luna record back in the day, knowing where their core idea came from immediately but appreciating the unique take implicated though in this case Offernat have some wilding ideas they’ll either end up emphasizing or reeling in on future releases. This one feels like it’d been writ and performed with passion start to finish and in that sense it’d been an inspiring entry decked out with longform, somewhat immersive pieces. The distorted bass parts on “The Winds” are heavily under utilized.
|RELEASE DATE:||December 9th, 2022|
Of course Groningen, Netherlands-based atmospheric sludge/doom metal quartet Onhou haven’t yet released their sophomore full-length (next Friday, though) but it wouldn’t have gotten a mention from me otherwise due to the ASMR dabbling, multi-vocal freaking of opener “When on High”. The experimental nature of the group shines through immediately on ‘Monument‘ as a slightly more slick and bold follow-up to their 2019 debut LP even if I’m not always on board with what they’re up to. “Null” shows a real knack for atmospheric generation, remiss doom metal riffs, and a certain brand of goblin rasped post-metal which feels anything but typical in its lurching and doomed grooves. Mean in motion per its confrontational-yet-distant vocal performances but graceful in its layered synths and sleepy post-doom metal riffs ‘Monument‘ bears an interesting enough core duality to carry the curious ear through its slow and subtle motions yet there isn’t much to latch onto here in terms of repeatable or experiential songcraft.
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