SBR Top 7 Black Metal Albums of 2022

Black metal in 2022 is a diverse genre with many branches in its family tree. The bands that play fast tremolo rhythms with lo-fi blast beats and no hint of traditional heavy metal sound a million miles away from those that incorporate death and speed metal into their arsenal. Atmospheric black metal, blackgaze and post-black metal are often heavy on emotion but not so much on the guitar riffs. At the other end of the spectrum, blackened death metal continues to produce some of the most technical music in the genre. Many sub-genres have the adjective of ‘blackened’ prefixed to the description of their art in recognition of the enduring power and aesthetic of black metal.

Big names such as Dark Funeral, Behemoth, Abbath and Darkthrone released records in 2022, but perhaps the biggest surprise was the sudden appearance of a new album in March from French titans, Deathspell Omega. Where is the centre of black metal these days? Is it still a European phenomenon? The likes of Imperial Triumphant and Garea challenged the definition of the genre in 2022 with abstract interpretations rooted in experimentation. Is black metal a feeling with common parameters or a definitive sound? We will let you decide, but these are the SBR top seven black metal albums of 2022…

7. VOAK – Verdrängung

What we said at the time: “Nothing about this LP is predictable. Listen how the heroic rock drums of ‘Öffnungen’ thud like a vintage Ministry beat and circle the rhythm with subtle mid-register guitar patterns. The melodies buried beneath the violence are just as impressive. You can hear the visceral rage of the early Darkthrone output, but VOAK have a personality of their own in the way they swerve between interconnected sub-genres like university professors presenting a summary paper on different theoretical interpretations of a major social problem.”

Country: Greece

Released: 30/09/2022

Label: I, Voidhanger Records

Read the original SBR review here.

6. Wiegedood – There’s Always Blood At The End Of The Road

What we said at the time: “If there’s one word to describe There’s Always Blood at the End of the Road, it’s unhinged. Even the quieter parts pray on you like a capricious demon spirit waiting for that moment to drag you into the abyss. ‘Now Will Always Be’ uses clean guitar patterns like wind chimes and builds on digeridoo vocals before the distortion takes over and the chords squeal like half-dead creatures whelping in the last hour of their existence. The band’s determination to play out of key on closing track, ‘Carousel’, is just as unsettling. You’ve done well if the blast beats and tremolo rhythms give you no vertigo effects at the end. This is an ugly musical experience.”

Country: Belgium

Released: 14/01/2022

Label: Century Media

Read the original SBR review here.

5. Thundering Hooves – Radiance

What we said at the time: “Like their debut Vestiges LP, album number two reaches far and wide through the annals of heavy metal for inspiration but still sounds like it could swipe your head off with a mace.… These are exciting times for Thundering Hooves and for UK black metal. There’s a little bit of everything here with a strong core of traditional heavy metal and extreme metal hacking away at your taste buds. Radiance has the making of an instant cult classic.”

Country: England

Released: 07/10/2022

Label: Mercenary Press

Read the original SBR review here.

4. Darkthrone – Astral Fortress

What we said at the time: “You’re in for a shock if your last reckoning with Darkthrone was in the ugly analogue savagery of their Transilvanian Hunger days. You might not believe this is the same duo if you lost touch with their prodigious output in the twenty-first century… There’s no need to worry if doom metal is not your thing. The seven songs spread over forty minutes here are nothing like the monotonous power chord fatigue of the genre’s most notorious inducers of sleep. Blackened thrash tangents and galloping rhythms add variety to the dominant mid-paced tempos… This is yet another admirable album from one of metal’s most respected artists.”

Country: Norway

Released: 28/10/2022

Label: Peaceville Records

Read the original SBR review here.

3. Sacred Son – The Foul Deth of Engelond

What we said at the time: “Armed with album number three, the band explore the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt in England as the subject matter for a modern allegory on the disparities between rich and poor in a fractured society… Sacred Son take pride in their unorthodox approach to black metal, yet their spirit matches the original dynamism of the second wave pioneers. Make no mistake: this is a major triumph for the English underground and a record that will resonate for many years to come. The next question is where to find a metal-headed mace for a future march on Parliament…”

Country: England

Released: 13/05/2022

Label: True Cult Records

Read the original SBR review here.

2. Watain – The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain

What we said at the time: “The noise levels are insane in the first thirty seconds when drums, bass and guitars lock in and break through the ceiling of advisable decibel levels like an Israeli fighter jet performing a sonic boom in the skylines of Gaza. This is the definition of bludgeoning black metal that’s just as terrifying as the band’s image… Yet a closer listen also reveals the true genius of Watain – melodic undercurrents permeate through the impenetrable darkness like pocket torches… This is another excellent record from the genre’s most consistent band of the last two decades.”

Country: Sweden

Released: 29/04/2022

Label: Nuclear Blast

Read the original SBR review here.

1. Blut Aus Nord – Disharmonium – Undreamable Abysses

What we said at the time: “It’s true that the band’s raw black metal days are a thing of the past, but opener, ‘Chants of the Deep Ones’, reminds you that those artists masquerading as blackgaze should go back to their Blut Aus Nord records for inspiration. This is how you create a transient guitar sound built on ambient tones and misaligned autonomous shadows. The heavy reverb settings and trapped voice effects blunt the pre-programmed drums with a drowsy sense of time, almost as if you’re listening to the song at the precipice of a catatonic episode… Disharmonium – Undreamable Abysses carves out another chapter in the ongoing development of Blut Aus Nord as a musical artist beyond genre classification.”

Country: France

Released: 20/05/2022

Label: Debemur Morti Productions

Read the original SBR review here.

Honourable mentions

Abbath – Dread Reaver (Label: Season of Mist)

Belphegor – The Devils (Label: Nuclear Blast)

Cirkeln – A Song To Sorrow (Label: True Cult Records)

Drudkh – All Belong to the Night (Label: Season of Mist)

Terzij de Horde – In One Of These, I Am Your Enemy (Label: Consouling Sounds/Tartarus Records)