The past year has been a great year for metal, and I will die on this hill. It’s been my first full year of in-person concerts, and we’ve gotten a moshpit-full of banger new albums too, particularly in the deathcore scene: There’s been some groundbreaking, exquisite new developments in the genre, including some really amazing concept albums that combine the rawness and vigor of death metal with the rich harmonies and technical musical devices from the classical genre.
These new releases continue to keep me going during the tougher times of my in-progress Ph.D, too, as always – for example Lorna Shore’s heartwrenchingly powerful “Pain Remains” trilogy, and the unique up-beat colours and catchy tunes from Battle Beast’s “Russian Roulette.”
In order from least to most potent, my top picks from 2022 are as follows:
- “Circus of Doom” by Battle Beast
This album contains banger after banger, featuring catchy tunes you’ll be humming for days all wrapped up in classic power metal flare. Battle Beast’s unique aesthetic really ties the whole thing together, from the dramatic, orchestral title track to the synth-driven dance piece “Russian Roulette” that has absolutely no chill whatsoever.
- “The Steeple” by Halestorm
You can really hear Halestorm’s sound and content mature over the past few albums they’ve released. Frontwoman Lzzy Hale has explained how a lot of this recent music describes her journey and struggle with mental health issues, which she channels into the music with classic Halestorm power and style.
These last three picks really characterize some novel, deeply profound works that expand the deathcore genre in a potent and powerful way.
- “Maleficium” by Synestia
Synestia is a relatively new two-man American ensemble that I anticipate will rapidly rise in popularity over the next year. Featuring the same rich symphonic deathcore texture that swept so many in the works of Lorna Shore, they’ve produced a beautiful tone poem – Maleficium – in collaboration with Eric Wiseman and Bryce Butler from Shadow of Intent.
- “Elegy” by Shadow of Intent
“Elegy” is a dramatic, elegantly beautiful piece of blackened symphonic deathcore which features the emotions and devastation brought about by war. Every detail is knit together with coherency and depth, the poetics and guttural power of the lyrics and vocals nestled in a rich instrumental palette of pure deathcore.
- “Pain Remains” by Lorna Shore
I had originally given “Elegy” a slightly higher score (10/10) than “Pain Remains” (9.5/10), but in retrospect I would flip the two. “Pain Remains” is a groundbreaking masterwork of blackened symphonic deathcore, taking the genre to unforeseen heights with its conclusion; an epic poetic three-part deathcore ballad. Despite its niche deathcore subgenre and filthy vocals (which are typically difficult for “normies” to digest), “Pain Remains” actually had such an impact that it hit #150 on Billboard top 200 (#6 digital). While the metal elitist might take this as an indicator of a “sellout”; some things are popular because they’re just that good – and “Pain Remains” is one of those things.
I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the Dallas show of Lorna Shore’s “Pain Remains” tour, and they are just as powerful live. I’m not religious, but if there’s anywhere that I might expect to encounter a benevolent god of Beauty, it would be one of those shows.