2022 is flying by, with the volume of releases increasing as the weather warms up. Here are our picks for April 2022’s best heavy metal albums.
1. Darkher – The Buried Storm (Prophecy)
Way back in 2016, Realms, the debut release from doom rock goddess Darkher, was my top album of the year. So it is with no small amount of anticipation that I was waiting for The Buried Storm to arrive. And after six years, Jayn Maiven does not disappoint. The Buried Storm is an unearthly joy to listen to, a clinic in combining delicate folk overtures with foreboding doom.
Maiven writes, plays, and produces nearly everything here, with longtime collaborator Christopher Smith taking care of drums, and the songs run the gamut from haunting, ethereal folk-rock to modern doom. Darkher concentrate on atmosphere and mood in the arrangements to convey a sense of oncoming darkness, and do so with stunning effectiveness. Maiven’s voice has been compared to Chelsea Wolfe and Loreena McKennitt, and those comparisons are still accurate. Combine a stunning voice with apocalyptic, cinematic songs and you get one of the year’s strongest doom albums. It’s our pick for April’s best album.
2. Undeath – It’s Time… To Rise From The Grave (Prosthetic)
A lot of legendary death metal bands from the ’80s and ’90s are still around and remaining relevant. The newest generation of death metal bands are also making their mark. The New York state band Undeath are relatively new to the game, having formed in 2018. It’s Time… To Rise From The Grave is their second studio album.
While there’s an influence of classic death metal bands like Cannibal Corpse and Morbid Angel, Undeath bring their own style to the table. The songs are dense and destructive, powered by quality riffs and intense vocals. There’s plenty of extremity, but there are surprisingly catchy moments in tracks like “Rise From The Grave.” Shifting tempos help add variety and show Undeath’s musical proficiency. Albums like It’s Time… To Rise From The Grave show that death metal’s future is in good hands.
3. Satan – Earth Infernal (Metal Blade)
Few metal bands have enjoyed as critically-acclaimed resurgence as Satan, the NWOBHM thrash pioneers. After two strong albums in the 1980s we had to wait 26 years for their third. Now here they are with Earth Infernal, their sixth overall and fourth since their 2013 comeback. And much like the three prior albums, this one is excellent.
Much like 2018’s Cruel Magic, Earth Infernal (an album dealing predominantly with themes of global warming and generations pillaging the earth) is refreshingly sloppy compared to today’s overdubbed and quantized standards. The raw drums, not-quite-tight rhythms, and one-take vocals bring much-needed authenticity to bear. Of course, it helps that Satan write superb material, and the songs here are a touch faster than those on Cruel Magic but just as strong. Satan continue to wow today’s audiences with some of the truest old-school metal out there.
4. Destruction – Diabolical (Napalm)
German thrash legends Destruction return with another fine offering of thrash metal in Diabolical. The said album is monumental as it marks 40 years for the band. Diabolical is a very comprehensive Destruction album. While it’s a modern album with modern production values, many of the riffs recall ‘80s metal and thrash.
Schmier is perhaps best known for his aggressive vocals with occasional eagle screams. His bass work tends to get overlooked. His bass on this album is very audible and makes a major impact on the album, overall. It serves to thicken tracks like “No Faith in Humanity.” “Repeat Your Sins” even features a brief bass solo to fill in between the staccato rhythm. Diabolical is a very heavy album, maybe one of the heaviest of their career.
5. Devil Master – Ecstasies Of Never Ending Night (Relapse)
Devil Master return with spooky theme intact on their sophomore album Ecstasies Of Never Ending Night. For those unfamiliar, Devil Master play a blackened punk metal of sorts with the feeling at times of a punkabilly band’s heart and the overall sound is a bit of a hodgepodge, but a unique one that works.
Take for example “The Vigour of Evil,” whose intro evokes a feeling of distant and cold before dropping into a punk like groove and giving way to vocals from beyond. Being one of the rawest sounding bands in the scene might seem like it comes with a price. However this Philadelphia foursome doesn’t seem to have lost any of that between albums. Combining some of the roughest moments of The Cramps with Venom, Devil Master show no signs of quelling their violent vampyrism any time soon.
6. Mors Principium Est – Liberate The Unborn Humanity (AFM)
The long-running Finnish melodic death metal band Mors Principium Est have shaken up their lineup for their latest album Liberate The Unborn Humanity. 2020’s Seven was recorded as a duo. Andy Gillion has left the band, paving the way for the return of guitarists Jori Haukio and Jarko Kokkoo and bass player Teemu Heinola. Marko Tommila is the new drummer.
Vocalist vocalist Ville Viljanen is the lone holdover from Seven, but the return of former members makes for a consistent melodic death metal sound. Viljanen’s harsh vocals are contrasted by the melodic guitar riffs. There are also progressive moments on songs like “Eternity’s Child” that add a different vibe while keeping the tracks relatively short. There are more expansive songs like “Valley Of Sacrifice” and “Pure” that have plenty of twists and turns to maintain interest. Mors Principium Est have released a lot of quality albums over the years, and Liberate The Unborn Humanity is another strong release from an underrated band.