2022 is off and running. While the number of January releases is generally one of the lower months of the year in quantity, there was definitely quality. Here are our picks for January 2022’s Best Heavy Metal Albums.
1. Wilderun – Epigone (Century Media)
Critical darlings Wilderun are back with their fourth release, Epigone. Three amazing independent releases garnered them a ton of label interest, resulting in this album being their first with Century Media. Huge fan expectations coupled with the move to a big label have never disappointed, have they? Will they here?
Luckily, not. Epigone might take a while to get going (it is alarmingly subdued for the first eight minutes) but once it does oh boy, hold on to your hats. It is far too early to say if this is the album of the year, but I’m confident in the declaration that this is the most ambitious album we’ll get from anyone. Soaring, epic, all-encompassing, full of folk influences, Opethian moments, and sprawling yet engrossing compositions, Epigone could very well be the epitome of epic progressive metal. Hands down, it’s our album of the month.
2. Wiegedood – There’s Always Blood At The End Of The Road (Century Media)
Wiegedood return with their fourth album, There’s Always Blood At The End Of The Road. The Belgian trio can be straight forward with seething speed and white-knuckle intensity or experimental and cerebral. Some tracks are dissonant and angular. The trio know how to build intensity using pause points and unconventional recording techniques. Black metal is their forte, but the group inserts jazz, samples, synth and tape recorders.
Levy Seynaeve takes a gasping breath before belting out a ferocious scream on opener, “FN Scar 16.” Swirling with jagged curves, the music follows the intensity of his scream. “And in Old Salamanos Room The Dog Whimpered Softly” follows with similar velocity before taking a chunky, trudging turn. “Noblesse Oblige Richesse Oblige” mixes these fast tempos with dissonance and ends in incendiary ambiance. “Wade” ends with diabolic, cartoony jazz. There’s Always Blood At The End Of The Road requires numerous listens to appreciate and understand its numerous, brilliant idiosyncrasies.
3. 40 Watt Sun – Perfect Light (Svart)
It has been six years since former Warning frontman and guitarist Patrick Walker has graced our ears as 40 Watt Sun. Perfect Light is the band’s third proper album and perhaps the most beautiful entry to date. Right from the opening of “Reveal” you get the feeling of unrivaled elegance and become awash with emotions. Walker’s guitar playing and emotive voice carry an immense, impassioned weight and might be the “heaviest” thing he has done since Warning’s masterpiece Watching From A Distance.
At over an hour, this is a harrowing and poignant album with the ability to tug at your heartstrings at every turn. There is a good amount of subtlety on shorter tracks like “Colours” with distant piano sounds juxtaposed against acoustic guitar. The whole combination is just marvelous. It is an absolutely gorgeous album, especially for fans of general alluring and atmospheric music. A must hear for early 2022.
4. Silhouette – Les Retranchements (Antiq)
Somewhere between Alcest, Myrkur and DSBM, French newcomers Silhouette have created a delightful mixture of black metal on their first album Les Retranchements. Crystalline guitars and brooding orchestration make up a vast portion of the run time, giving way to walls of distorted guitars and frantic blast beats in the climaxes. The production is clear, yet shrouded in reverb, which tames the characteristic edge of black metal under a dreamlike veil.
At only 31:38, this is a brisk affair, and the songs flow seamlessly into each other, almost blurring into a single monumental piece. This flow is reinforced by the common themes explored throughout the album’s lyrics: The inexorable passing of time, the primal beauty of nature and the despair inherent to the human condition. Les Retranchements is a very strong debut that plays on its melodic sensibilities to create a powerful emotional statement.
5. Celeste – Assassine(s) (Nuclear Blast)
The French black metal band Celeste were pretty prolific early in their career, but more and more time has been elapsing between released lately. Assassine(s) is their sixth full-length, and first since 2017. They have also signed with Nuclear Blast for this album.
Celeste inject avant-garde and post moments into their songwriting, sending traditional black metal structures in interesting directions. On songs like “De tes yeux bleus perlés” the riffs are heavy with an oppressive atmosphere, while tracks such as “Il a tant rêvé d’elles” are more deliberate in pace and give more room to breathe. They change things up with the dynamic instrumental “(A)” that ebbs and flows with some cinematic moments. Celeste don’t overstay their welcome, bringing the album in at about 40 minutes. It’s a strong return from a talented band.
6. Fit For An Autopsy – Oh What The Future Holds (Nuclear Blast)
New Jersey deathcore veterans Fit For An Autopsy kick of 2022 in a crushing manner with their sixth full-length Oh What The Future Holds. Being off the road due to the pandemic gave them some extra time to write, resulting in their longest album and some new directions.
FFAA bring plenty of intensity and temper that with melody in both the guitars and vocals. That’s evident on songs such as “Far From Heaven” and “Two Towers.” The arrangements give the songs room to breathe, twist and turn in various directions while remaining cohesive. Joe Badolato gives a potent vocal performance that helps elevate the songs. The band has an added advantage of having one of metal’s most in-demand producers as a member. Wil Putney crafts a sound that showcases the band’s versatile blend of extremity and melody.