Reviewer – Album Of The Year – Chris Cleo

Chris is the last of our core reviewers to share his AOTY… and it’s a monster post…. lets gooooo!

Welp, it’s about that time where we have to go and look back on all the stuff that came out this year.

Generally I find coming up with a list of the best releases of the year pretty hard, either because I can’t narrow it down enough, or because I’ve just gravitated back to the same old stuff about a month after something gets released; and with my approach to metal getting ever-pickier I’m only ever in search for the deadliest tracks going (I can’t exactly put Avril Lavigne on this list).  Something that I’ve never really seen a lot of people do with reviews are specifically put the criteria for which everything is being judged, which I’ve had to pay a lot more attention to this year.  I will essentially judge metal on 3 things: 

Impact (how nasty the riffs or how powerful the melodies are – I like power metal too guys)

Consistency (you can’t have one good song with 35 minutes of crap after it)

Creativity (the intro riff of 2 minutes to midnight has been done already).

I’ll also take into account is any immediate red flags – where depending on the severity can instantly kill a release.  Not joking.  I’ve been 2 minutes through a song that I thought was really cool and then instantly turned it off because someone decided to put D-beats in death metal.  There’s also one final point when it comes to my rankings that I’ve dubbed the ‘Iron Maiden bonus’.  That being if a release happens to be by Iron Maiden, it instantly will win album of the year by default.

With the housekeeping out of the way here’s the list:

5. 10SCOOPS – THE LIFTER ZONE

Now this is a really weird pick. I’m not really a hardcore kinda guy and I am sceptical to say I like slam – but FUCK YEAH THIS IS HARD. Obviously the perfect soundtrack for when you go to pay penance in the church of iron – you’ve got breakdowns (not the cringe deathcore kind), hard stomping riffs and awesome vocals (the sample in the intro is great too). This compact little EP is pretty comparable to the UK’s Street Soldier – and makes the list because it’s just a mountain of mass. If this year had a highlight reel this would be the theme tune – it sounds like RPE 10 and broken blood vessels, it definitely makes me think about some of the most fun I’ve had. Ever.

4. Protector – Excessive Outburst of Depravity

If you know me at all you know that I’ll back that late 80’s – early 90’s death thrash as being the best genre of metal (excluding the Iron Maiden genre of course). What we’ve got here is a veteran old-school thrash band that hasn’t put out some trite regurgitation of what they once were. Protector’s 2022 album is simply a solid slab of death(y) thrash. I’ve knocked it down a place because the D-beats are very meeeehh, but I can sit and listen to the whole thing – and also enjoy it at that. Is it ‘A Shedding of Skin’? No. Is it fast and violent? Undoubtably. Usually I’d be bummed about a band shedding their Demolition Hammer-isms, but Protector have just become another extremely solid band post-reunion. And this album is proof.

3. Besieged – Violence Beyond all Reason

Oh boy now we’re heating up. If you’ve found your supply of thrash running short over the last few years you’ve probably started digging around for some fresh cuts, and if you’ve dug as far as Canada, you might’ve found Besieged’s last album ‘Victims Beyond all Help’. If you know Besieged at all, you know that they’re a real punch in the face, imagine the fastest modern thrash albums but faster and generally better in every possible way. Besieged are (like Harlott in my last top 5 list) just a cut above the rest – and while I may prefer the debut LP to ‘Violence Beyond all Reason’, it’s definitely one of the hardest releases of the year.

2. Revenant – Live in Hengelo 1991

Another controversial pick, but I’ve put an EP on this list so what gives if there’s a live album here. Now, is this album bootleg as fuck? Yes. Is it an official release? Yes (no it isn’t but just pretend it is). Despite how you want to look at this release on this list, it was a constant spin from as soon as I shelled out the cash on Bandcamp. If you don’t know, Revenant were an old-school thrashy death metal band that split up around the mid 90’s. They only ever put out 1 full length album (‘Prophecies of a Dying World’), but by God is it brilliant. If you don’t want to track down a physical copy of the album – mainly because they’re pretty hard to find, definitely take the chance to get these tracks. The bootleg live sound is something you might have to grow accustomed to, but it’s clear enough to get the picture. You’ll definitely dig the tracks ‘Spawn’ and ‘Asphyxiated Time’ which will serve as great introductions, and the most underground listeners will dig a chance to hear all 3 parts of ‘The Faithless’ in one 10 minute package. Frown upon me putting an unofficial release on this list (but suck it because it came out this year), but it’s here because you need every pointer to go and listen to this band.

Honourable Mentions:

  • Demo – Lobotomica

One of the weirdest, most creative thrash outputs you’ll hear around the UK

  • 3rd Stage of Decay – Viogression

A great old-school sounding Obituary like death metal band.  They’d definitely had made the list if I’d found this sooner and had more time to listen.

  • Twisted Existence – Unburier

Post thrash massive death metal. Professional as fuck (respect). You might’ve heard them a couple years back but now they’ve come back with bigger balls.

1. Schizophrenia – Recollections of the Insane

Oh yeah. This was the rare occasion where an album gets announced and the release date goes on the calendar instantly. Schizophrenia are without a doubt at the top of the metal game. They’re the perfect mix of old and new, wrapping up the old school sound in a crisp package with lots of extra flavourings. If you like thrash and don’t refuse to listen to anything but ‘Bonded by Blood’ for the rest of your life definitely give this a spin. It’s got it all. Top tier thrash, blast beats, melodies, beautiful solos and KEYBOARDS??????? (see Testimony of the Ancients and Altars of Madness – this is in no way pussy metal) These guys just know what the hell they’re doing – which (I have to say it) is rare. This is about the closest I’ll get to giving a band that isn’t Maiden that kind of treatment, because this is just brilliant (I can’t help but love this despite it not being exactly what I wanted from the ‘Voices’ EP. Every song is crushing – Monolith is about as techy as you can get – Onwards to Fire does melody in a beautiful way – Inside the Walls of Madness does mid paced thrash without being cringy pizza thrash – I could go on (and on and on and on). Just for the love of all that is holy go and listen to this in full RIGHT NOW.

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