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. The choices here reflect “traditional” heavy metal with an emphasis on traditional doom metal but there’ll be some non-traditional permutations and some stoner stuff here and there. 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
|TITLE:||Signs of Saturn|
|LABEL(S):||Fallen Temple Records|
|RELEASE DATE:||March 12th, 2022|
Yep, I am starting off a 2022 list with a release that’d come out digitally in 2021 but I didn’t see any substantial coverage of this record until it’d been released on CD in March of this year and Vinyl LP in late April. This Paraguay based quartet play traditional doom metal in the best tradition, somewhere in between early Paul Chain, 80’s Candlemass, and a shade of Pagan Altar in there too. While Lidi Ramirez‘ stylized vocals are sure to catch your ear first with their strong nasal inflection and excellent vibrato control this album has riffs for days alongside an oaken and buzzing rhythm section. Their sound is truly ancient, deep set in its mood and completely sound as pure doom metal. They don’t have a moment of “fun” here and it really helps the consistency of the full listen. Easily one of my favorite doom metal records I’d wished I’d heard back in 2021, and one of the best I’d heard this year.
|TITLE:||Le Diadème D’argent|
|LABEL(S):||No Remorse Records|
|RELEASE DATE:||July 1st, 2022|
Having been such a fan of the melodic black metal influenced heavy metal of Sacral Night‘s debut full-length a couple of years ago I was surprised to not have received any news of a second record until long after it’d released. It’d likely been because they’d chosen to return to their original vocalist who is much more of a power metal leaning talent and the album itself is draped in various elaborate operatic vocal performances to start. Though the opener is quite strong it isn’t until we’ve dug into the record (around “Conquérant des Lumières”) where the more unique sound of the band really begins to shine. No doubt this is the album they’d likely intended to make with the original line-up beyond 2017 and all things considered it is just as good as ‘Ancient Remains‘ (2019) was, if not a fairly typical French traditional heavy metal release. Give this one a chance to flaunt its big, flamboyant performances for a while it’ll charm most folks interested in true heavy metal pretty quick though it won’t deliver the “blackened” guitar work some might’ve hoped for.
|RELEASE DATE:||November 2nd, 2022|
Whirlwind is a Barcelona-based 80’s power/heavy metal quartet from members of Steelforce, Redshark and Körgull the Exterminator who’ve essentially elaborated upon the rhythmic brilliances and melodic wiles of early days Running Wild with this inspired and heavily repeatable ~50 minute record. While I am happy to note that they resemble one of my favorite heavy metal groups in some sense it is important to emphasize that they’ve actually matched the standards of that nearby ‘Under Jolly Roger‘ and ‘Port Royal‘-era of the band in terms of writing catchy as fuck songs throughout this thing. Charging in with “The Call” and hitting the standout single “Under Siege” should have you swinging whatever sword you’ve got hanging on the wall and in my case the melodies continue to impress throughout the full listen. While this album is at times all about the guitar work and what they can do with a kicking pace, vocalist Héctor Llauradó (Noctämbuls) shines just as much both in terms of passion and a decent amount of variation introduced. Though I didn’t get around to reviewing this one in full it’ll likely end up on my best of the year for the sake of pure pleasure listening.
|LABEL(S):||Crypt of the Wizard|
|RELEASE DATE:||June 24th, 2022|
Though the “proto-metal” tag doesn’t work for me in this case without blues rock built songcraft anywhere in sight it doesn’t drag down this strong self-titled debut full-length from traditional heavy/doom metal trio Parish who’ve got just enough early 70’s heavy rock ease and grinning dread in their gig to captivate and entertain. ‘Parish‘ is decidedly soft and aloof, relying on clever and sometimes too subtle guitar hooks alongside baked out of this world vocals which leave the whole thing feeling a bit less subversive than it is. “Soil and Scythe” picks it up mid-album and “Cutting the Stone” shows a bit more personality to the point that I’d recommend Side B over the first half by a short mile if you’re looking for a quick impression. Don’t miss Woe‘s ‘Czernobog‘ also from Crypt of the Wizard this year, one of my personal favorites from September.
|ARTIST:||THY LISTLESS HEART|
|TITLE:||Pilgrims on the Path of No Return|
|RELEASE DATE:||November 18th, 2022|
Though this album did receive some serious attention surrounding its release it deserves another mention since I’d not given it full review at the end of November. Thy Listless Heart is a solo record entirely performed by Simon Gibby a Derbyshire, England-based artist best known as a guitarist in Christian thrash metal band Seventh Angel (‘The Torment‘ being my favorite of theirs) who’d also featured on keyboards on related gothic/melodic doom metal band My Silent Wake. Most of ‘Pilgrims on a Path of No Return‘ ventures into the realm of Isole for its richly realized melodic death/doom metal heaviness with primarily clean sung vocals. Thought there are a few growls placed for the sake of emphasizing certain phrases we shouldn’t confuse this for a death metal record so much as the work of a fellowe with an impressive range of capabilities, the 14+ minute closer “The Search for Meaning” showcases this balance in full theatre. You could probably find a several generations extended influence from mid-to-late 90’s My Dying Bride but only in terms of pacing and atmosphere, here pianos and rich layers of various orchestration set the mood rather than the sparse use of organ we’d hear in older records. The vocal work is the major focus in directing the songs themselves so don’t expect an earthly riff record up front, though there are a few mid-paced chargers here and there (“Confessions”). Undeniably inspired, personal and deeply considered work.
|LABEL(S):||Black Lion Records|
|RELEASE DATE:||October 14th, 2022|
Italian melodic death/doom metal quartet (Echo) have followed up their well-received third album (‘Below the Cover of Clouds‘, 2019) with an equally strong release which’ll appeal to fans of the more atmospheric and modern progressive rock influenced spectrum of the sub-genre. This is of course not at all to my own taste, a record where the vocals never land with any conviction and the riffs lack from my perspective, but I did appreciate the fine and professional work put into this record. Production is warm and expansive enough to accentuate the dire, cold tone of the group and the compositions manage to wander into a few sizable points of profundity as the record stomps along. Four of the songs on this record feature keyboard work from Don Zaros (Evoken) adding a bit of extra interest to their ornate treatment of melodic death/doom. Not my thing but certainly worth recommending to those more inclined.
|RELEASE DATE:||October 22nd, 2022|
This complete crud sounding demo tape from Polish heavy/doom metal trio Pagan Idol is rehearsal grade in terms of render but the effect of the music is not at all obscured. Somber and kinda kickin’ stuff which fans of Finnish doom metal swagger and that first record from Purification will love. The use of backing vocals on “Burning” is cool and I liked the NWOBHM era doom feeling of “Pagan Idol” but, sure, the drum sound will kill off any repeat listening for most folks.
|TITLE:||March of the Obsequious|
|LABEL(S):||GMR Music Group|
|RELEASE DATE:||September 16th, 2022|
When I first got into heavy metal the only way to shop for records like Tad Morose‘s ‘Leaving the Past Behind‘, a record said to be somewhat like Fates Warning circa 1994 or so, was to grab a magazine and look through a text-only distro list, pick a band with an interesting name, send a check, and hope it went through. If you were lucky that list had some kind of sub-genre code (Century Media did this at some point). Anyhow, I bought that record thinking it was going to be heavy/doom since it’d been compared to Solitude Aeternus by the guy who wrote the zine and it’d probably been one of the first “prog-metal” records I’d ever gotten. Anyhow, don’t mind the anecdote brewing here (similar story for Edguy, even) but the main thing is I’d never followed up on Tad Morose‘s work beyond that point since they’d generally begin to shift toward a more standard 90’s power metal formula, of course dependent on whichever vocalist they’d employed at the time.
This latest era of the band is basically a Mark IV version of the group which reflects the continuation of their sound after they’d fractured in the late 2000’s (see: Inmoria) and picked things back up beyond 2013 or so in terms of releases, leaning into heavy/power metal focus without the progressive leanings. Though they play a very straightforward version of power metal which is undeniably heavy metal in spirit their songs tend to be quite long and involved, to the point that this record is a full 80 minutes long spanning just ten songs. The medium is sound, the production values are crisp, and the work well written and performed yet very little of it has any major nuance to cling to. A mountain of simple ideas pile up across ‘March of the Obsequious‘ and as they rack up within similarly structured feats it all lands a bit one note. On one hand I appreciate the direct nature of this yet I’d walked away from the record feeling like I’d heard ten variations on the same anthem more often than not. Of course, right, it is power metal and it ain’t bad at all but I’d wanted them to flex their oeuvre a bit more.
|RELEASE DATE:||February 4th, 2022|
The elevator pitch for a band like Obsidian Sea, which are few and far between, is a traditional heavy/doom metal band made for folks obsessed with classic progressive rock. Of course count me in, especially on ‘Pathos‘ wherein these Bulgarian folks have etched more of their own spiritus into the crowded retro/proto-doom rock field beyond the stately ‘Strangers‘ (2019). The immense unfurling moments that kick off “The Long Drowning” offer the perfect example of the guile guitarist/vocalist Anton brings to this headspace and, hey, it helps that this record manages some kind of big riff within every piece. Favorite song on here is “Mythos” as I must’ve had it on repeat for about three days at one point early in the year.
|TITLE:||Sacred Arts of Navigation|
|RELEASE DATE:||July 7th, 2022|
Portland, Maine-based quartet Sunrunner make no pronounced distinction between progressive rock, traditional heavy metal, and heavy rock and even a bit of doom on this fifth full-length album since forming back in 2008. I’d first heard this band when Minotauro Records released their ‘Heliodromus‘ album back in 2015 and they’ve evolved considerably since then due to the addition of a second (lead) vocalist who brings a bit more Slough Feg-esque vibrato to their station. Unfortunately they’ve really stretched his capabilities on this record in particular wherein the vocals are absolutely strained to a truly broken pitch on “Faraway Worlds” among others. When they sidestep the more performative side of things and stick to storytelling ‘Sacred Arts of Navigation‘ serves a fine compromise between action rock narrative, prog-rock bounding weirdness, and speedier heavy metal rushes. I don’t think I’d ever suggest they’ve been too ambitious, though, since I find something new and well-done on each release this one particularly cuts into slower heavy/doom metal sections that add to the dynamic of their ranting and rushing-in style. Don’t pass this one up too soon if the vocals put you off, they’re all over the place to the point that it shouldn’t sting too bad, or, for too long when you find something that doesn’t gel.
|TITLE:||Cult of Blood|
|LABEL(S):||Majestic Mountain Records|
|RELEASE DATE:||July 15th, 2022|
Italian psychedelic doom metal trio Black Capricorn are back after a bit of a wait between full-lengths and they don’t miss a beat, kicking this one off with a big “Hole in the Sky”-esque groove and plenty of fuzz grinding over their live-in-studio feeling production values here. The presence of ‘Cult of Blood‘ naturally magnifies when played far too loud and this’ll not likely translate too well over streaming services. You’ve got a million choices when it comes to this sort of gig these days and I think a band like this grabs me or the sake of its simple, easy to pick up ride, droning vocals and entirely smoked-out grooves. If you remember those earlier Electric Wizard influenced lo-fi records from Ice Dragon earlier in their career, they’ve got that feeling here as well. Make sure you check out Amon Acid‘s record, ‘Cosmogony‘, too out if this is your kind of thing but you want something less stripped down to bones and wires.
|TITLE:||The Daemon’s Strain [mLP]|
|LABEL(S):||Cruz del Sur Music|
|RELEASE DATE:||June 10th, 2022|
This latest mLP from Brighton, Massachusetts-based heavy metal quartet Adamantis offers a slightly easier induction into their blend of European and United Statues power metal influenced fare with a pretty substantial half-hour run delivered with plenty of energy and strong production values. Consider their sound one delivered with the pristine, almost too glossy strides of Visigoth’s more recent releases but the arena sized panache of early 90’s German power metal, this’ll make a bit more sense as they roll from bigger epic heavy metal nods (“Dark Moon Goddess”) toward faster striding pieces (“Thundermark”). I mostly showed up for the energy of “Storm the Walls” and stuck around for “Thundermark” as I generally prefer this type of sound in sharp five minute chunks though I appreciated the Atlantean Kodex sized closer.
|RELEASE DATE:||June 14th, 2022|
Of course “Darkmoon Blade” stood out to me the moment I’d seen this South Carolina-based occult heavy metal band’s name — I’ll remind folks that I got Rank 2 in the Blade of the Darkmoon covenant before easier non-online access to Proof of a Concord Kept was patched into… eh, anyhow. These folks keep it fairly straightforward here with a set of stomping punkish heavy metal songs which aim for Mercyful Fate but land somewhere nearby pre-‘Temples of Ice‘ Venom. The record starts to fall off the wheels around “My Darling in the Fire” but I’d appreciated the black metal influenced push of “Against Thee Wickedly”. Vocals are a bit up front in the mix, if it was mixed, and that’ll be a challenge for some but I see a lot of promise with what they’re doing here and I love that they’ve got some big personality up front.
|RELEASE DATE:||August 12th, 2022|
German heavy metal crew Acid Blade don’t suck and they aren’t soft rockers. I gotta get that point out up front because anything that looks remotely NWOTHM these days threatens to be some leopard print, floof-haired fucking Winger-ass bullshit in disguise these days and I am not about to celebrate that fake-ass Sunset strip bullshit for a second. Ranting aside, this is a solid guitar driven 80’s style traditional heavy metal record from these Dresden-based folks who you’ll potentially remember as (part of) Angel Blade per their demo and split with Venator a couple years back. ‘Power Dive‘ doesn’t go “epic heavy” like I’d suggested in review of their demo but instead focuses on a sort of ’84-’86 heavy metal inclination conscious of the popular upswing of Priest around that time but with a bit of a sci-fi fantasy bent and an emphasis on their leads. It fits with the post-NWOBHM paradigm minus any too serious speed metal affect. The 4-5 minute mark works for these guys, enough room to tell a story and shred a few leads while still keeping the core riff and rhythm from running stale. At just over ~40 minutes ‘Power Dive‘ manages to pull me into their world just enough that I’d come back wanting more. “Into the Light” and “The Tomb Of Khentika Ikheki” were the choice cuts for my taste beyond the memorable title track but I don’t think they’ve missed a beat on the full listen, even the ballad couldn’t phase me.
|ARTIST:||PILGRIM OF FIRE|
|TITLE:||An Age of Penance and Oblivion|
|RELEASE DATE:||October 14th, 2022|
In the opening moments of British traditional doom metal duo Pilgrim of Fire‘s debut full-length a grieving man enters a church and stabs a priest to death, proclaiming his soul to the Lord of Lies, all while shattering the church windows proclaiming deafness to the words of God and laughing madly while doing so. Of course, Praise Lucifer, you know it is going to be good at that point and ‘An Age of Penance and Oblivion‘ does not disappoint with its bounding rhythms and solemn, neck-gripping dread built in the span of about an hour. Though their resumes suggest black metal heathenry and paganism they’ve a bit of the ole bizarre reverend in their grooves up front but this record is generally an exploration of many textures and sounds, soon leaning into a blissful take on late 80’s doom (“The Bargain”) and a bit of a folkish peak-Witchcraft interruption (“Euphoria”) but most of the record will land somewhere between the affected cadence of circa ‘Lamentations‘ Solstice and the hypnotic spectrum of ‘Nightfall‘-style doom a la Void Moon and Evangelist.
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