The new wave of American death metal showed no sign of plateauing out this year, with a clutch of formidable debuts appearing in 2022. But the UK scene showed is mettle once again, while a host of veteran acts returned revitalised… and ready to slay.
Our best death metal albums of 2022 list reflects a vibrant year for the genre…
10. Tribal Gaze – The Nine Choirs (Maggot Stomp)
Texans Tribal Gaze pulverized their way into the DM scene with this head turning debut.
Sinewy death metal collided with concussive hardcore in a brutal fight pit, and the results were sickeningly good.
The ground burst fretwork from Ian Kilmer and Quintin Stauts, the spine jarring percussive shifts, the deranged roar of McKenna Holland… it all locked together perfectly on the likes of Jungle Rituals and Jealous Messiah.
The Nine Choirs could be the start of something special.
9. Vacuous – Dreams Of Dysphoria (Me Saco Un Ujo)
The London underground is a gift that keeps on giving…
Dreams Of Dysphoria cast a shadow over the capital this year and sent the faint-hearted running for cover, as Vacuous summoned up Body Of Punishment, Paranoia Rites and the spectral, soul sucking Devotion.
Like fellow Brits Live Burial and Vacivus, this quintet have one foot in the netherworld, and they truly put the fear into death metal.
Dreams Of Dysphoria was a nightmarish record… and a debut to truly savour.
8. Phobophilic – Enveloping Absurdity (Prosthetic Records)
Another landmark in the new wave of American death metal, Phobophilic’s captivating debut twisted into our consciousness back in September.
Death and Demilich’s progressive masterworks sprung to mind as the quartet weaved tapestries of cerebral DM into a technically stunning album.
And the North Dakota band’s organic approach allowed their talents to truly shine.
Influenced by Camus, Sartre and Nietzche, Phobophilic shone a new light on old school death metal.
7. Ripped To Shreds – 劇變 (Jubian) (Relapse Records)
Dealing with the experience of Chinese-Americans as a minority and the horrors of the Korean War, 劇變 (Jubian) was a typically passionate record from Ripped To Shreds.
And Andrew Lee and co. married the album’s message to a vicious attack that balanced rabid intensity with rhythmic intricacy.
Powered by shattering blastbeats and wielding dozens of jagged riffs, 劇變 (Jubian) was a deep record that unveiled new gems with each listen: just check out 漢奸 (Racetraitor) and Split Apart By Five Chariots if you want the evidence…
6. Autopsy – Morbidity Triumphant (Peaceville Records)
We’d waited eight long years for a new Autopsy album.
And Morbidity Triumphant didn’t disappoint, when it finally emerged in September.
The band’s eighth album was a paean to putridity that dripped with rotting riffs and acidic tones.
And with new bassist Greg Wilkinson in tow, there seemed to be a new hunger to Autopsy – typified by The Voracious One’s gore grooves and Stab The Brain’s unhinged assault.
A worthy addition, then, to the Californians’ illustrious canon.
5. Live Burial – Curse Of The Forlorn (Transcending Obscurity Records)
Live Burial’s 2020 effort, Unending Futility, may have arrived just as Covid hit, yet it still established them as one of UKDM’s most thrilling acts. Tours had to wait, but the momentum was there for the Newcastle act.
And thanks to Curse Of The Forlorn, the quintet built on that promise with a record that defined their complex and corrosive sound.
Time seemed to shift as My Head As Tribute opened pitch-black passageways, Despair Of The Lost Self erupted in hellfire and This Prison I Call Flesh cloaked us in freezing cemetery mist.
Atmosphere and aggression converged in a monstrous conflagration… and Live Burial’s ghastly vision was made flesh.
Check out the full review here.
4. Static Abyss – Labyrinth Of Veins (Peaceville Records)
Born in San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall during the Coronavirus pandemic, Labyrinth Of Veins saw Autopsy drummer/vocalist Chris Reifert and new Autopsy bassist Greg Wilkinson enter a world of sonic horror.
Drawing on grimy DM, chilling death doom and even punk, the Static Abyss debut explored a tortured landscape, where songs like Tectonic Graveyard and Morgue Rat Fever slithered and skittered their way into deformed life.
Of course, there was more than a hint of Autopsy lurking in Labyrinth Of Veins, but Static Abyss bore its own mutant DNA.
Get the lowdown on the origins of Static Abyss from Chris Reifert here.
3. As The World Dies – Agonist (Transcending Obscurity Records)
A potent combo of Memoriam guitarist Scott Fairfax and Notts crew Pemphigoid, As The World Dies unleashed a real planet killer with Agonist.
Fairfax’s ‘million dollar riff vault’ (in the words of Memoriam’s Karl Willetts), was well and truly plundered for this astonishing album.
And there were guest appearances by Willetts, Benediction’s Dave Ingram and Massacre’s Kam Lee.
But this band follow their own path.
And scintillating songwriting, arcing riffs and a towering vocal performance from Jay Price made Agonist a captivating debut.
Check out the full review here.
2. Immolation – Acts Of God (Nuclear Blast)
Over a sprawling, 15-song set, Immolation bent death metal’s infernal energy to their will – yet again.
The veteran Yonkers act have nothing left to prove after decades in the game.
But the quartet continue to intrigue and astound in equal measure.
Immolation’s eleventh album surged with primal power and intricate grooves, tearing up the fabric of reality in a swirling sonic maelstrom.
From Overtures Of The Wicked’s promethean firestorms to Immoral Stain’s nerve-shredding pulse, there was no hiding from the band’s shattering onslaught.
Check out the full album review here.
So which record topped our Best Death Metal Albums of 2022 list?
1. Undeath – It’s Time… To Rise From The Grave (Prosthetic Records)
And it was difficult to see how the Rochester, NY crew would better that record. Or live up the subsequent hype, for that matter.
But with It’s Time… they answered any doubters with ten displays of exhilarating death metal that came drenched in DM’s primordial soup.
Main writer and guitarist Kyle Beam has an innate grasp of classic DM songcraft.
Undeath’s nuclear riffs sear flesh to the bone.
And fearsome songs like Rise from The Grave and Bone Wrought were catchier than a zombie plague.
Undeath are unstoppable.
Read the full review here.
Check out our interview with Undeath’s Kyle Beam and Alexander Jones here.
Undeath band photo by Errick Easterday.
Enjoyed our Best Death Metal Albums of 2022 list? Check our Best Thrash Metal Albums of 2022 here.