There have been many years since we started counting and 2022 sure is one of them. Luckily, most of the recent years have involved a lot of metal releases and now we’re past halfway of 2022 I want to yell at you to listen to some of them, specifically the lesser known ones because then you’ll be able to impress your friends who think Slipknot is the heaviest band. In the world. Also, these brilliant bands deserve more support for their hard work and musical skills. This list isn’t meant to be in any particular order, it’s just a general overview of releases that deserve attention but few people seem to care about.
Heidra – To Hell or Kingdom Come (folk/melodeath)
Why don’t people know or like Heidra? Genuinely one of metal’s greatest mysteries. I first found about the Danes when they opened for In Mourning and Omnium Gatherum and that was one of my favourite line ups I’ve ever seen. Sadly, the crowd was rather dead when the evening started, but Heidra did their job well and sounded really good, which made me delve into their discography deeper. The band manages to combine growls and cleans very well, in a very catchy way, which is why I’m especially surprised they’re not more popular. “To Hell or Kingdom Come” focuses on that aspect even more and there are hints of power metal song structures in the album, which therefore takes a step towards being more appealing to the newer or casual metal fan as well, although the album is far from being overly simplistic or boring. What I’m basically saying is Heidra is great, this new release is great and even their album art is cool. And they’re all (maybe not all?) very beardy and beards are obviously very cool.
Songs to hear: “Retribution’s Dawn,” “Two Kings”
Kuolemanlaakso – Kuusumu (death/doom)
I’ve put death/doom in the genre box there, but this album is so much more. This album goes from black metal to doomy softness to harrowing, haunting death growls from Mikko Kotamäki (Swallow the Sun) as well as dreamy cleans to symphonic elements. It’s hard to describe how many fantastic elements “Kuusumu” combines into a single album and does it so effortlessly as if it was the most natural thing in the world. There’s complexity and romance and horror in this release which has all the lyrics in Finnish and those focus on a global cooling that happened in 535 and resulted in a “10-year winter,” which seems like a fantastic topic to write a cold, dark album about and I’d love to know more about that story. It’s hard to see this album dropping out of my top three this year and it seems to bring me new gifts each time I listen to it.
Songs to hear: “Katkeruuden malja,” “Tulessakävelijä”
Full review: here
FT-17 – Aisne 1914 (blackened death/symph death)
Ever since 1914’s outstanding album “Where Fear and Weapons Meet” last year World War I has been a bit of a morbid fascination for me. The album gives a glimpse into the unspeakable horror of trench warfare and now here we have another WW I focused album from the French FT-17 (named after a French tank from WW I). The album has a very interesting intro in the form a French soldier reporting on the situation, which is, of course, bleak, but it puts you in the mood for a war album. Quite frankly, this release is not spectacular, but it’s sufficiently exciting that I think more people should know about it and it generally manages to combine those symphonic elements well with the rest of the sound and I’m looking forward to what the band comes out with in the future.
Song to hear: “Les baïonettes de Corbény”
Xaon – The Lethean (symph death)
Xaon are apparently not as unknown as I thought judging by their Spotify listeners, but I don’t really see people talking about them so they’re staying on the list. Another band that I found out about live, as they were a part of the opening package for Septicflesh and I found their vocalist particularly impressive. The past releases from the French band have been perhaps a bit too focused on death metal and lacked a bit of melodics, but I find “The Lethean” to be a big step in the right direction as it just simply offers a lot more of everything. There are more cleans, more symphonics, which function well with the metal part of the sound and more diversity. Too often bands forget to evolve with the times and very few bands can be Amon Amarth or Kreator who have released the same album roughly 54 times. Xaon is realising this and their time is coming. And not to brag, but I’ve been saying this band is going places for three years. “The Lethean” is a very solid release that actually surprised me by how large of a step away it took from its predecessor “Solipsis” and I really hope I get to see them play this album live.
Songs to hear: “The Hunt,” “A Golden Silence”
Katharos – Of Lineages Long Forgotten (symph black)
The second album from the Swedes was another thing I stumbled on by mistake in May, mostly due to the name sounding intriguing and it happened to be a pleasant surprise. “Of Lineages Long Forgotten” is a well-produced release that has a good take on symphonic black metal, although it’s nowhere near as symphonic as that of Carach Angren or Dimmu Borgir, but there’s enough to add flavour to their sound, which also focuses on the instrumentals a lot more than the vocals. It could be said the album suffers a bit from monotony and needs some variety, but it’s still a very solid and modern release that should be getting more attention. This album will likely be appreciated by anyone who really likes pounding drums as that’s very much the force driving it forward and I definitely enjoy that sonic violence.
Songs to hear: “Those Hornclad,” “I Waged War”
Full review: here
Will all of these records make it to my official Best Albums list come December? Probably not. This article is not necessarily about bringing into the spotlight the best possible releases, but more so about cool new things that are developing in the scene, which is something that always needs more support. If you’re looking for a new metal shirt these are the bands to support; Metallica will be fine without your 20€, I promise. And then you get to say you knew these bands and supported them before they really made it, which, I can promise you, all the girls you’ll try to impress will absolutely love.