Riley’s given his picks for 2022’s best metal albums from around the world, so here’s mine, in no particular order. I gotta say, it’s strange, being a metalhead and spending years unaware of all the amazing metal coming from surprising countries. Getting to write for this site has helped broaden my horizons, and hopefully yours, too.
Alright, with that out of the way, here we go…
Experimental Metal Album of the Year
Sigh – Shiki
Released via Peaceville Records
We’re starting this post with an album so freakin’ bizarre, it sounds like it was written by Hirohiko Araki himself. If that description passed by the heads of any non-weeb readers, imagine an album strange enough to make a hardcore straight-edge kid feel as though they just took every drug to ever exist, and that’s basically what listening to Shiki is like.
I placed Shiki in the experimental metal category, but frankly, that was for the sake of convenience. I don’t think the album, or by extension, Sigh, can even fit into any one genre description. You might as well try to fit the entire Mall of America under the category of “store.”
I say this because Shiki is an odd blend of black metal, doom metal, prog, classical, Japanese AND Middle Eastern folk music, jazz, even trap… there are a ton of other genres I didn’t mention, but this post would be way too long if I listed every single one, and I don’t want to spoil the rest for you. Besides, I think the better question is, which genre isn’t Shiki?
What makes this especially mind-blowing is that at no point does Shiki feel forced or like it’s trying too hard to be innovative. The album is incredibly varied, each song has its own identity, but you can tell they’re all part of the same record, and nothing feels out of place. Somehow, this Frankenstein’s Monster of music blends together perfectly, forming an insane concoction I highly recommend to any metalhead, or better yet, music lover. It’s the sonic drug trip to end all sonic drug trips, and I fucking love it.
Shiki might just be my favorite metal release from around the world this year. There’s one other which can rival it, but we’ll get to that gem a bit later.
Shiki by Sigh is awarded Rafi’s Experimental Metal Album of the Year for 2022
Favorite songs: “Shikabane,” “Satsui – Genshi No Ato,” “Fuyu Ga Kuru”
For Fans Of: Literally any metal genre ever.
Neoclassical Metal Album of the Year
Noah – Recollection
Don’t let the cute anime girl on the cover art fool you; this ain’t an anison album. That being said, Noah’s Recollection is sure to be a huge hit amongst those who love the kind of metal heard in Castlevania games, JRPGs, and fantasy anime. Subsequently, Recollection is from start to finish, an extremely melodic, well-written album, with every song being an instrumental.
Much like Noah’s previous work, there are a lot of prog and symphonic metal elements added to the mix, and even some jazz sprinkled in for good measure. Almost every instrument typically used in classical music makes an appearance, and you’d be forgiven for thinking Recollection sounds like a mess as a result. However, thanks to Noah’s superhuman mixing skills, that’s never a problem.
Admittedly, due to about half the songs sounding like epic final boss themes, Recollection feels quite excessive if you try to listen to it all in one sitting. I think the album could have been much better if it just had one or two songs in that style.
Even so, I still recommend it. Noah‘s incredible musicianship, the impeccably composed songs, and overall experience make Recollection more than worth a listen.
Also, I gotta ask, what is it with Japanese musicians all being so unfathomably talented? I swear, these folks are just built different.
Recollection by Noah is awarded Rafi’s Neoclassical Metal Album of the Year for 2022
Favorite Songs: “Symptom,” “Prejudice,” “Rosa Rugosa”
For Fans Of: Castlevania music, JRPG music, early Dark Moor (y’know, before they were awful)…
Black Metal Albums of the Year
Arallu – Death Covenant
Released via Hammerheart Records
I already wrote an in-depth review of Death Covenant, so I’ll just give a long story short this time:
After the underwhelming Six and En Olam, Arallu were either going to make it or break it with their next album. Thankfully, they achieved the former, and the result was one of the best releases in their entire discography.
Favorite songs: “Under Jerusalem’s Temple Mount,” “Satanic Spirit,” “Mystical Sultan”
For Fans Of: Melechesh, Dark Funeral, Mayhem…
Astralvm – Existence
Yes, this is a single and not an album. No, I don’t care what you say, I make the rules here, cry about it (actually, Riley does, but eh, knowing him, he’ll let this one slide).
Like Noah, Astralvm’s songs are all instrumental, fully immersing you in all their musical glory. The project’s mastermind, Egon Gubernatis, makes some of the most relaxing atmospheric black metal one could come across, and he really outdid himself with his latest opus.
Existence is definitely the best Astralvm song since “Real Horizon,” possessing a delicate balance of ambience, melody, and the tiniest dash of intensity. It’s the kind of song to listen to when you’re anxious or have trouble sleeping, soothing the mind, body, and soul. As such, this breathtaking song is tied with Sigh’s Shiki as my favorite metal release from around the world this year.
Existence by Astalvm is awarded Rafi’s Black Metal Release of the Year for 2022
For Fans Of: Wolves in the Throne Room, Midnight Odyssey, Uada…
Thrash Metal Albums of the Year
Sinnery – Black Bile
Released via Exitus Stratagem Records
Since a full-length review of Black Bile was already written for this site, like Death Covenant, I’ll make it short and quick:
Black Bile is a great thrash / groove metal album that proved Sinnery are able to take on more than one style without losing their edge. The musicianship, vocals, and lyrical content are all top-notch, marking another impressive bullet point on Sinnery’s resume.
Unfortunately, the album’s second half sounds like a semi-rehashed version of the first, which is a massive flaw, but Black Bile’s positives still outweigh the negatives.
Favorite songs: “Black Bile,” “Sever,” “Mouthful of Nails”
For Fans Of: Lamb of God, Slayer, Power Trip…
Astro Choleras – The End Doesn’t Scare Us
Ever heard of these guys before? Me neither, so now it’s time to change that.
The End Doesn’t Scare Us is Astro Choleras’ debut, and it’s a walking contradiction of an album (in a good way). It sounds both professional and amateur, dark, yet tongue-in-cheek. The skill of each musician is unmistakable, but it still has a raw, garage band sound. As well, The End Doesn’t Scare Us has the 80’s hardcore energy heard in old-school American thrash, and combines it with the black / death metal elements common in modern Israeli thrash. There’s a hefty rock ‘n’ roll influence here, too, which ought to put a smile on any Mötorhead fan’s face.
The best part about The End Doesn’t Scare Us is Sema’s vocals. It’s not the punk-influenced shout most common in thrash metal, nor a death metal growl, or a black metal shriek. No, Sema’s shouts sound like those of a mental asylum escapee. He constantly goes from higher to lower notes seemingly at random, all while focusing on never sounding even remotely focused at all. I’ve only heard one other vocalist employ this kind of style, that being Paul Baloff (R.I.P) in Exodus’s debut, Bonded by Blood.
My only real gripe with the album is that it’s a bit repetitive, but like Sinnery’s Black Bile, the pros outweigh the cons.
The End Doesn’t Scare Us is a highly promising debut, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what Astro Choleras do next.
Favorite songs: “Possessed,” “Death Mental,” “Black Water”
For Fans Of: Exodus, Dark Angel, Deströyer 666…
Death Metal Album of the Year
Septicflesh – Modern Primitives
Released via Nuclear Blast
Modern Primitive has just about everything you’d want in a Septicflesh album; an epic orchestra, eerie, occult-ish vibes, quality riffs, an unbelievably heavy sound, and every band member giving 100%.
While this album does sound like traditional Septicflesh, the mildly increased usage of clean vocals gives Modern Primitive a slight metalcore-ish feel. I’m sure that would make someone else on this site very happy.
Besides that, Modern Primitive doesn’t really stick out much amongst Septicflesh’s other albums, but honestly, I’m just glad to see my death metal gateway band released another great album. It’s insane to think these guys have been around since the early 90’s and are still crushing it now like they were back then.
Modern Primitive by Septicflesh is awarded Rafi’s Death Metal Album of the Year for 2022
Favorite Songs: “Coming Storm,” “A Desert Throne,” “A Dreadful Muse”
For Fans Of: Fleshgod Apocalypse, Behemoth, Hypocrisy…