As a longtime fan of rather extreme Metal music, I am always thirsting for new material. As this August faces one of the biggest release-cycles in 2022, I want to share five outstanding albums here which even upvalue the musical year so far.
Rarely before I remind on two or three weeks within a single month were at least five of my favorite bands do a release battle. Alas, this August 2022 tops it all and while this flood of releases is actually rather unreal, having some second thoughts on that tells me that this all is indeed happening. Five releases, five bands, five albums that will definitely define my Top Ten of 2022 within a single month - unbelievable! Terminating talking now, let’s head to those five Metal-albums that clearly show how precious good music can be in these dark days…
Amon Amarth - „The Great Heathen Army“
Hailing from Tumba just outside Stockholm, Sweden, Amon Amarth are a quality seal for 30 year now. Starting as a classic Death Metal-band, the guys have developed their own style and found their niche with everything related to „Viking“ over the years without abandoning their brutal roots.
Basically it’s hard for me not to praise the current new album of the Swedes to the skies but this is just not possible. Release by release Amon Amarth have explored new ways, eliminated boundaries and grown on terms of songwriting and storytelling. Appearing with „With Oden on our Side“ in my world in 2006, each following album has topped the previous one and while I thought „Jomsviking“ (2016) or „Berserker“ (2019) could have reached a final milestone, Amon Amarth just kept on crushing. „The Great Heathen Army“ is another proof that stagnation is something that the band simply ignores and while this release is definitely heavier, the different songs are as catchy as brilliant with the 30-year-old renowned Amon Amarth-flair.
Thus spoken, Amon Amarth are still Amon Amarth. And if the band doesn’t find a way, it simply makes one - which isn’t needed here as „The Great Heathen Army“ is definitely more Death Metal-like that „Berserker“ was. Apart from that each song is catchy and highlights simply string together throughout this album. No further words needed - this one is a candidate for my personal album of the year!
The Halo Effect - „Days of the Lost“
Sometimes, there is something good rising from every bad aspect. In this case, out of the ashes that defined the still-present COVID-pandemic, former musicians of Gothenburg-pioneers In Flames and Dark Tranquillity‘s sole founding member Mikael Stanne founded The Halo Effect with the idea of reviving the 1990‘s Gothenburg-Melodic Death Metal-sound.
Although the In Flames-comparison is omnipresent just by the common history of the band members, The Halo Effect does, on the one hand, of course remind of the „Lunar Strain“-times over „The Jester Race“ up to „Reroute to Remain“. On the other hand, the band managed to adopt the spirit and flair of this outstanding Swedish era into the 21st century, giving their debut album (which is, obviously, a metaphor of our times) an own sound that goes beyond its own past and stands for a band that has, indeed, risen out of the ashes... of 90’s empires.
We already knew what to expect with the first singles „Shadowminds“ or „Feel what I believe“ but I admit that I also feared that these two songs were already highlights of this debut. But, to be honest, the whole album is a consequent highlight without any exclusions, even polished by „Conditional“ or „Gateways“ to name specific and outstanding songs. After all, The Halo Effect managed its personal transition from the 90‘s Gothenburg-sound to the 21st century without any hassle - and without copying the bands that once were the common base for the single members. This debut is so fresh-crawling, so solid, so modern and traditional simultaneously - never again we may have welcomed the „Days of the Lost“ with that open arms!
Arch Enemy - „Deceivers“
Four of five releases in this month are located within the Swedish Death Metal-genre so, fortunately, Arch Enemy is a band that shouldn’t be omitted here. Underlined by the latest masterpiece „Deceivers“, which has finally been released, the international combo originally hailing from Halmstad line up to form another album aiming at the top five in 2022.
26 years after their „Black Earth“-debut, Arch Enemy consequently continue to surpass the previous records in terms of brilliance and technical variety. Hard to imagine that „War Eternal“ (2014) and „Will to Power“ (2017) would ever get a worthy successor that would top these release - but in terms of imaginations, reality often comes with a bang which is entitled „Deceivers“ here.
The perfect guitar-based duel between Michael Amott and Jeff Loomis extended in further various and technical demanding dimensions, driven by Sharlee D’Angelo’s Bass and Daniel Erlandsson’s precise drumming. Decorating everything and sticking to the Death Metal roots in terms of growls and screams, Alissa White-Gluz even ventures into new dimension when singing (!) clean (!!) - „Handshake with Hell“ as an opener already proves this. „Sunset over the Empire“, „The Watcher“ or „Spreading Black Wings“ enqueue as well and while „Exiled from Earth“ finishes this masterpiece, Arch Enemy have once again shown that topping the last releases is something that this band managed to achieve easily. One album, one red thread - one overall brutal but versatile Death Metal-experience at its best and an album you must consider when talking about this year’s highlights!
Soilwork - „Övergivenheten“
After Björn Strid’s appearance on Esa Holopainen’s glorious „Silver Lake“-debut with„Promising Sun“ in the last year, 2022 faces the long-expected new release with his main band Soilwork. Three-and-a-half-years have passed since „Verkligheten“ was released and, today, Soilwork’s 12th studio album once again raises the bar and shows the mere versatility of the mates hailing from Helsingborg, Sweden.
Far away from the old moniker of being a „Melodic Death Metal“-band, Soilwork has grown once again, delivering an opus which is marked by a time period that probably no one on this planet will forget so quickly. Paired with a heavy grade of versatility, Soilwork have probably never been that accessible than with „Övergivenheten“.
While „Övergivenheten“ can be translated to „The Abandonment“, Soilwork is far from abandoning anything. Instead the bands’ development process through darker times can virtually be felt like a red thread through the entire album. While some songs need some more run-ups to spark, they finally do - delivering a modern masterpiece of extreme Metal music in all facets!
Five Finger Death Punch - „AfterLife“
You love them or you hate them and, definitely, Five Finger Death Punch is one of those polarizing bands on this planet once you haven’t dealt with the surprisingly versatile style of this Las Vegas-combo - and the lyrics behind the music. The ambivalent new album title „AfterLife“ presumes a lot and is yet another landmark in the history of 5FDP.
5FDP always had a certain sense for great opener and „Welcome to the Circus“ is no exception here, followed by the not less versatile, 5FDP-flavored title track „AfterLife“. „Times like these“ somehow reminds on „A Little Bit Off“ while especially the video is once again a hommage to the fans of Five Finger Death Punch, the „knuckleheads“. Generally, 5FDP are - well - 5FDP: Driving, pushing, stomping, grooving and, together with Ivan Moody’s lyrics - with a moral pointing finger towards our society.
If you ever expected 5FDP to drastically change their sound, you may omit this release and the band does what it stands for and sticks to well-paved, legit paths. But, with the sense of „AfterLife“ in mind, the guys from Vegas definitely improved in terms of lyrics (and the story behind those) and compositions without really venturing new ways you really wouldn’t expect from 5FDP. Solid release and - expectably - another candidate for my Top Ten of 2022 - if this is the „AfterLife“ we may experience once, everything is going to be okay!