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Diamond's Mine: The Best Albums, Bands And Shows Of 2022

Photo of Konvent

Band Photo: Konvent (?)

It's been quite a year. A year that saw regular live shows return, bands hit the road once again, festivals re-open and most importantly, some stellar new music! We said goodbye to bands such as Nuclear Assault, Tristania, The Sword and Every Time I Die and welcomed back old favourites like Biohazard, Coal Chamber, God Forbid and most surprisingly, Pantera. But we'll start with something new and hand out the award for...

Best Newcomer

2022 saw quite a few bands emerge with their debut albums. One which really caught the ears of listeners was Philadelphia's, Empress, with their first album, "Fateweaver." Some truly wonderful artwork leads the way into some excellent symphonic power metal and won over plenty of new fans. Other notable debuts came from the East of the globe with such bands as Ou from China, whose progressive debut "One" was an interesting one (oh ho ho,) while to the south of China in India, we find the winners of this year's award.

Bloodywood

Maybe a slightly controversial one as Bloodywood has been around for a little while, but it was in 2022 that they released their first full length album of original material, "Rakshak." Metal has always been open to incorporating new genres and cultures (even if a section of fans that we don't like to talk about aren't so keen on the latter) and in a year which saw the USA hear the sounds of Indian folk metal in a broader sense. Bloodywood has reached a much wider audience by releasing their first album and the metal world were happy to welcome them. Let's hope they're around for a long time to come.

Best Live Band

As mentioned in the introduction, live music was back in full force in 2022 and I feel it would be prudent to admit that the best live band I saw all year wasn't a metal band, but rather Bosnia's Dubioza Kolektiv, who mix a wide range of genres with their take on Balkan music, but unfortunately not metal, so I can't give them the award here. I did see plenty of brilliant live bands at Desertfest London, including the always incredible Orange Goblin, 2020 winners Eyehategod, the trippy sights and sounds of Electric Wizard, the cultlike atmosphere of Green Lung and the international live debut of BlackLab, who could all be praised for hours about their live quality.

All of these put on great shows, while outside of the festival, I was also fortunate enough to see such exciting younger bands as Nervosa, Burning Witches and Baest, while veterans like Moonspell, Primordial, Therapy?, Sigh and Napalm Death are still showing everyone why they command such loyal fan bases and were able to craft legacies that made them legends. However, this year's winner goes to a band that I'm shocked has never won this award before. Truly one of the best bands to ever come from Wales, the one and only....

Skindred

So some metal purists will try and argue this one, but quite honestly they can fuck off. Skindred dominates the stage every time they take to it and only the most miserable of bastards can resist their charms, hooks, banter and skill. With their sound fully established and their live shows the thing of legend by now, Skindred are so good live that it's almost hard to put into words, one simply must experience them for themselves. It's nigh on impossible to not have a smile on your face by the time they've finished. We all like a bit of evil and darkness in our metal, but Skindred is a reminder of a time when heavy metal was fun, when fans would gather to enjoy themselves and not try to prove that they were the coolest by being as emotionless as possible. All aboard the Newport Helicopter and get ready for the show of your life.

Best Albums Of 2022

Now, the main event. The time when opinions are berated and recommendations offered, both of which I welcome. 2022 had some big releases, with heavy hitters like Ozzy Osbourne, Meshuggah, Slipknot and Lamb Of God all releasing new albums. Other legends like Scorpions, Saxon, Darkthrone, Therion, Soulfly and Megadeth added to their extensive catalogues while The Hu, Conan, Municipal Waste and Alestorm continued to grow theirs. But ultimately, this scribe needs to boil them down to a top five, so get those pitchforks ready because here we go.

5. Sigh - Shiki

We kick off with the first legendary band on this list, in fact one of only two beloved veterans, Sigh. Arguably the most trailblazing metal band to ever come from Japan, Sigh kept their legacy of challenging music alive and well with "Shiki." While not as hard to crack as the previous album, "Heir To Despair" but not as accessible as 2015's amazing, "Graveward," "Shiki" was everything longtime fans wanted from the band. It was epic, it was extreme, it was surreal, it was Sigh. Those who like their metal on the esoteric side need to pick up this record.

4. Konvent - Call Down The Sun

Mainland Europe's first entry on this list, Danish death/doom outfit Konvent released a fantastic debut in 2020 named, "Puritan Masochism" but with their second effort, "Call Down The Sun," they took everything that made their first album so good and amplified it immensely while also adding new elements. "Grains" may well be their best song to date and the whole album is wrapped in an atmosphere which is a little hard to describe; a cold landscape where the music feels as much like the snow beneath your feet as the wind that bites your face. Konvent are a growing force and at the rate they're expanding their sound, which will no doubt be aided by the addition of guitarist Sophie Lake, they're going to be one of death/doom's most popular bands in a short time.

3. Kreator - Hate Über Alles

Undoubtedly the biggest thrash metal band outside of the USA, Kreator has a legacy all of their own which has always been strong, but at times has had trouble following a great album. That habit seems to have been put to bed as five years after the excellent, "Gods Of Violence," Kreator unleashed "Hate Über Alles," an appropriately anthemic collection of visceral thrash, drenched in chaos and mayhem as only Kreator can muster. The title track alone is worth the price of the album, while other songs like "Strongest Of The Strongest" and "Crush The Tyrants" have that distinctive sound of theirs which remains so hard to beat. No doubt, the best thrash metal album of 2022.

2. BlackLab - In A Bizarre Dream

It seems fated that BlackLab would come second on this short list, given that they're also the second female collective and second Japanese band, but still, "In A Bizarre Dream" was an album which I could hardly leave alone this year. After an impressive debut, "Under The Strawberry Moon" and a superb follow up, "Abyss," Osaka's "doom witch duo" have crafted something truly special with "In A Bizarre Dream." Expanding on the psychedelic influences and sounds displayed on previous releases, this ten song collection is a sonic journey of its own, forcing the listeners imagination to kick in and create sights of its own to compliment this mind opening album. Second single, "Crows, Sparrows & Cats," which features guest vocals from StereoLab's, Laetitia Sadier, may be the most catchy metal song of the year. I can't recommend this album enough to doom and psychedelic fans who love the sixties sound.

1. Mantar - Pain Is Forever And This Is The End

Perhaps longtime readers won't be surprised by my choice, but no doubt others will. Mantar, another duo this time hailing from Bremen, Germany, narrowly missed out on winning album of the year in 2018, beaten to the punch by Judas Priest's, "Firepower" but this time there was no rival. Fans had been eagerly awaiting a full length of new music, as their previous effort, 2020's, "Grungetown Hooligans II," was compiled of well chosen cover songs. The wait has proved to be well worth it however as Mantar continue their abrasive sound, with all the in your face fuck you attitude of punk rock combined with classic metal musicianship and 90s alternative influences to create their catchiest, most varied album to date.

"Pain Is Forever And This Is The End," the title coming from opening number "Egoisto," was by frontman Hanno Klänhard's own admission, an incredibly stressful process but while I don't want to dismiss the mental toll it took, the end result was absolutely incredible. It took everything which makes Mantar so exciting and didn't just build on it, it built a skyscraper. The break neck speed of "Piss Ritual," the AC/DC-like "Grim Reaping," the paranoia of "Odysseus," it all comes together for an eclectic mix of vicious music which grabs the listener by the ears and screams in their face until they love it. What an album. What a band.

2023

And that was 2022. Looking ahead, 2023 promises to be just as good, if not better, with new albums from the likes of Metallica, Rotten Sound, Enslaved, Steel Panther, Obituary and Katatonia right around the corner, while Judas Priest, Anthrax, Sodom and Accept are just some of the legends with material in production. Add to that the new names we'll be meeting in the year ahead, the younger bands with a foundation to build on and the inevitable reunions and 2023 could very well be the best year for metal this young but troubled decade has given us.

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com since 2007 and a metal fan since 2001, going as far as to travel to other countries and continents for metal gigs.

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