Ladies, Gentlemen, and Everyone in Between! Thank you for coming back to my monthly list of 10 albums that I think you should check out in our current month. February 25th is here meaning it's the last Friday of the month, meaning It's time for me to cover the shortest month of the year when it comes to heavy music. If you are familiar with how I do my top 100 or you checked out last month's inaugural start to all of this, you can skip right on down, but for the rest; here is the rules for which I do this whole thing.
1.) These will be Original Studio ALBUMS. Not EPs, live albums, cover albums, rarities albums, lost albums, splits, collaboration efforts, etc. Simply Original Studio Albums from bands. Simply enough, right?
2.) These will be ALPHABETICAL ORDER. Not ranked. I don’t give away my secrets of what will be in the top 100 that easy. At least buy me a drink first!
3.) These reviews will be like my top 100 list where I give the band name, the album and the FFO section; followed by a paragraph review. I could easily go track by track on every album; but then I will have given everything away. I want YOU to check any of these albums out and make up your own thoughts if you dig it or not. I’m just here to let you be aware these albums are out and for your listening pleasure.
4.) There is nothing sponsored here nor stolen content. Just my own thoughts. I have been given almost every album I review as a stream or promo and anything I missed I checked out on Spotify or bandcamp after release.
5.) I will be covering more albums in audio form on my podcast every week there is a new show. There may be some crossover, other ones may just be in audio form. So check out both for the optimum experience.
6.) None of these albums are set in stone for the best of 2022. I may be high on them now, but that could change for a multitude of reasons (mainly if the band does something asinine).
7.) Any album not featured here or in the podcast can EASILY still be featured in my top 100. I don’t have the ability to hear every album and some will slip through the cracks now or even then. So I just need to hear an album and make assertions from there.
8.) These are done for YOU. So I hope you can discover some new music on my behalf and be shown that new music has never stopped being great. Just go discover it.
Now let’s begin!
FFO- Melodic Death Metal, Progressive Metal, Folk Metal
Amorphis has just but out my favorite album from the band since 2009's album, Skyfor ger. It hits everything I love out of the band from beautiful hooks, soaring vocals both from the depths of hell and the heavens of your heart (sorry for the pun), some of the catchiest choruses you'll hear in all forms of music this year, and done in a style that allows for their signature sound and also to be outside of the box with their creativity. I am in the camp that Amorphis has yet to put out a clunker of an album and this is so far from being an exception. It also feels like a great starter album for those that want to get introduced to the band. If you like the heavier sides of the band, check out their early work, if you like the proggier adventurous stuff, check out their middle catalog. If you mike the definitive melodeath sound, check out what they've been up to in the last 10-15 years. This is a sheer gem of an album.
Arjen Lucassen's Star One- Revel In Time
FFO- Progressive Rock, Progressive Metal, Time Travel Movies
In what is a first for the Star One Moniker; Arjen Lucassen has decided to break the formula of his previous two Star One albums and include various different singers and write an album that's not a conclusive concept album. This is a thematic album that covers the themes of time travel movies from the likes of The Terminator, Groundhog's Day, Donnie Darko, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, & so much more. In contrast to Lucassen's previous album, Ayreon's Transitus, which captured one of the most serious and darkest sounds of his career; Revel in Time is a lot more of an energetic and fun having album. Both sides of his personality are incredible, but in the state of the world we live in today; sometimes we just need a silly song about a time traveling phone booth to make us smile. The music is simply incredible and the cast of vocalists is jaw dropping to say the least. We really needed this album in 2022 to help take some of the pain away. Give it a shot whether you love Arjen's style, the movies in question, or just wish you lived in a different time period as many of us do right now.
Dagoba- By Night
FFO- Modern Metal
Dagoba has been running strong for over 2 decades now and 19 years since their self titled debut. A band that focuses much more on layers rather than technicality. Substance rather than flash in the pan. And songwriting rather than following trends. Dagoba has put out the perfect Dagoba album in 2022. It hits all the marks of their signature sounds of modern metal, industrial, and overall metal all while continuing to show that every album sounds uniquely different than the one before. It's poppy, catchy, soulful, hard hitting and you'll be singing the choruses for days well after the album is done. Never be afraid to experiment and never be afraid to shine the brightest you can, even if the City Lights are in Neons (I'm really liking the puns this month).
Hangman's Chair- A Loner
FFO- Doom Metal, Atmospheric Metal, Bands Talking about Mental Health
Hangman's Chair's latest album is the most personal album of the band's career. It covers the grounds of depression, anxiety, and mental health as a whole. While when you think of a topic like this you would like to think the answer to all of the problems are sunshine, rainbows, lollipops, and just smiling through the pain; that's simply not accurate. A Loner covers the fact that sometimes when you are at your lowest, you need to be alone with yourself. Being an introvert can be lonely, but when you are one, it can be the only thing that can help get you through. Of course it helps knowing that people care about you and want to help you, but it comes down to you. You gotta do what's going to work best for you. When it comes down to the music, it's heartbreaking both in terms of the lyrics and the notes used to make the music. It has tinges of 80s goth, doom metal, and a tinge of the Blade Runner soundtrack without the synth patches. This is definitely a band for you if you enjoy the likes of Pallbearer. Overall, This album hits so close to home for me and if you feel anything like I do or if you just enjoy what you've just read, hopefully you'll enjoy this as well.
Immolation- Acts of God
FFO- Straight Up Death Metal
When it comes to death metal, and I mean that classic, straight up, brutal & chaotic death metal. Not the most technical music you'll ever hear, not the most simplistic, and not your typical death metal that bands far and wide try to duplicate but will never replicate; Immolation is the masters of the death metal sound that those in the know are fully aware that they are simply one of the best the genre will ever see. Acts of God is simply one of the best death metal albums we will get this year. It's production is raw but so clear. The songwriting is so powerful and brutal that every song is guaranteed to grab your attention and make you pay attention when a particular riff strikes you just right and wonder what just happened. There will be other bands to put out brutal albums in 2022, but nothing that will hit you quite like this.
Manic Sinners- King of the Badlands
FFO- Hard Rock, Melodic Metal, 80s AOR
In the polar opposite of what I just covered above; Manic Sinners is a perfect throwback to bands of the 70s, 80s, and early 90s that now how to write the most catchy and melodic songs that were just meant to be sang along to at festivals and arenas. Not afraid of wearing their inspirations on their sleeves (and more bands should not be afraid of this either. A good sound is a good sound) Manic Sinners have written album of stadium anthems, heart grabbing ballads, and just the right amount of heavy moments that work out for anyone who checks this album, no matter what kind of rock and metal you enjoy. It's 80s AOR passed through a heavy metal filter created with the musical knowledge of 2022. I can't sell it much better than that. This is just a friggin' fun album!
Serious Black- Vengeance is Mine
FFO- Power Metal, Heavy Metal
Probably my favorite band that is a play on words of a Harry Potter character (That's where they got it from, right? Sirius Black? Anyways...) Serious Black have returned and with 6 albums in 8 years and they very well may have written their best album to date. Even with some pretty....serious...changes to the band's lineup over the years; the lineup is finally solidified here and bringing in new vocalist Nikola Mijic into the fold was the best decision for the band as everything now perfectly gels together and every song just works magnificently. No matter how heavy, how orchestral, how sorrowful of a ballad or full of energy; Serious Black is firing on all cylinders. This is the Serious Black album I've been waiting for since their inception and I didn't even realize it till I heard it. For anyone who enjoys their power metal with more of a mystical feel; this is the band and the album for you.
Shape of Despair- Return to the Void
FFO- Funeral Doom Metal
In the opposite reaction to Hangman's Chair talked about earlier in this list, where loneliness can be cathartic and needed to push forward; Finland's Shape of Despair have returned with their latest opus to prove that once you lost the light, even if you find it again, there's no escaping the darkness. This dirge encrusted funeral doom album is the soundtrack of being lowered into your grave being figuratively or realistically. The songs truly capture that loneliness, that feeling of being obsolete and left behind in your own life, the pain that will never escape you. This captures the other side of mental health struggles where that loneliness, depression, anxiety and all of the hell that comes with it is all too real and sadly, it never truly goes away. It's always there once it hits you and all you can try to do is get the better of it or let it consume you. Return to the Void is that album of the latter, letting the music and depression consume you once again after trying so desperately to escape it's claws. I love this album so very much and I 100% fully support the notion that having an album like this can do the opposite of it's sound and message actually help you as it's a relatable feeling and it can really be so cathartic to hear an album like this know, know others feel a similar pain that you do and are still here. As you are. Keep trying to get better and one day you may be able to get it under control. Until then, this album will hit you so very hard if you let it. So get some Kleenex, turn off all the lights and return to the void.
Silent Skies- Nectar
FFO- Cinematic, Ambient
Tom Englund and Vikram Shankar. Two of the best musicians in the worlds in progressive metal joined together first in the band Redemption, and after working together realized they had something even stronger than dark progressive metal to tie their bond together and decided to create a new entity of dark infused ambient and cinematic rock/pop in the form of Silent Skies. Their debut album was my number 2 album of the year when released and they immediately started work on their sophomore album that became known as Nectar. Adding more atmosphere when needed, more instrumentation when called for and of course, more sorrow and a sense of hopeless optimism more than ever before creates a dark vision that equally makes you cry and makes you think. If you want a different take on what Adele was all about at one point or if you want to hear something that can combine the likes of Sigur Ros and Anathema in terms of emotion and songwriting; Silent Skies is not a band to miss out on. I can't wait to see where this lands on my top 100 list at the end of the year.
Zeal & Ardor- S/T
FFO- Experimental Black Metal
It's only been over the past year or two where I realized how polarizing Zeal & Ardor. TO me, they have been an underground band that captures the idea of what would happen if African American Spirituals were about Satan instead of God that became even more than the initial idea. Last year's Wake of the Nation EP hit so hard about both police brutality and the racial divide in America (living in Minnesota, this especially hit home with me) and now with their 3rd full LP and an ever growing fan base; the band has put out their most cohesive and forward thinking album to date. If you like the original sound of Devil is Fine, it's here. If you like what they've done with Wake of the Nation, it's here as well. If you like them continuously experimenting to their heart's content; of course, that's still here in strides. It's black metal by the ways of atmospheric, African American Spirituals, blackgaze, and Emperor sounding riffing that no one else even tries to attempt. It's a modern day album looking at modern day problems while also looking at the past for some of it's evil. It's catchy, it's dark, it hits you hard. This is what Zeal & Ardor should be in 2022. And it doesn't hurt to pay attention to their message. Oh, and before I forget. Jordan Peele, meet Zeal & Ardor. Zeal & Ardor meet Jordan Peele. Now that you are acquainted, make a horror movie based on Devil is Fine. Thank You!
And there we go folks, 10 of my favorite albums that I wanted to talk about in February 2022. March looks like it is coming in strong with some killer heavy albums so be on the lookout and return next month for when I talk about the top 10 albums of March 2022.
Till Then, this is Josh Rundquist saying, See Ya!
- Josh Rundquist