Every heavy-music subgenre with the prefix "death" in it had a banger year in 2022. We're not going to try and speculate what that says about the world we're living in; we'd rather just focus on the murderer's row of extreme-metal bands who unveiled stellar albums this year. From OSDM revivalists Undeath and deathcore futurists Lorna Shore, to grind aueturs Wormrot and death-thrash rancheros SpiritWorld, these are the 10 greatest death-metal and deathcore albums of 2022.
Death metal's resurgent interest among younger hardcore fans has yielded a wave of simpler, moshier bands that strip away the clutter and bring the genre back to its lean, mean roots. Phobophilic's Enveloping Absurdity is great because it speaks to those modern sensibilities while also operating with a level of nuance and craftsmanship that longtime death-metal heads can appreciate. The tricky yet catchy guitarwork has an undeniable Death influence, the bone-chilling vocals bring to mind early Entombed, but the album doesn't get stuck on old-timey tropes.
Maul aren't interested in flashy guitarwork or bludgeoning breakdowns. The Fargo, North Dakota, band's debut full-length, Seraphic Punishment, is filled with restless song structures that never settle on one part for too long. A rollicking death-metal gallop will crash into a wall of paint-peeling sludge, or plunge downward into a cavern of doom, with echoes of eerie keyboard lines murmuring through the crushing din. Seraphic Punishment offers surprises around every turn and a ton of musical promise.
So many contemporary deathcore bands are aiming to make the darkest, ugliest, most skull-crushingly heavy breakdown fests imaginable — and that's why Enterprise Earth's latest opus stands out. Chosen has the full-bodied production, glitzy effects and puke-inducing breakdowns to hang with their peers, but the luminous guitar playing is really what makes this such a fulfilling listen. The riffs are actually memorable, and the dazzling shredding recalls the catchy guitar heroics of 2000s shredders like Avenged Sevenfold and Dragonforce — but deathcore-ified.
Death metal, deathcore, hardcore — a lot of purists think those genres shouldn't mix. Vomit Forth's music asks, "Why not?" In a sea of bands trying their damnedest to sound like they've been stuck behind the mixing board at Morrisound Studios since 1991, Seething Malevolence proudly cross-pollinates the ugly heaviness of classic death metal with the gurgly brees and giddy breakdowns of modern deathcore. The over-the-top bass bombs on cuts like "Eucharist Intact" and "Pain Intolerance" could trigger an avalanche, and we're fond of the way Deicide-indebted animal roars sound off alongside quirky effects that evoke early Slipknot.
The convergence of symphonic black-metal atmospheres and mosh-pit-ruling deathcore chugs isn't a new formula at this point, but Worm Shepherd's latest opus is such a brilliant execution of that crypt-rattling sound. Vocalist Devin Duarte's fiendish shrieks and shadow-soaked growls are imbued with a cinematic wickedness on songs like "Ov Sword and Nail," while the rest of the band deals in village-leveling rhythmic detonations and churning guitars. Ritual Hymns assures listeners that corpse-painted faces and karate mosh moves can still go hand-in-hand. Few bands are blending the two better than them.
Slayer-style riffs wiggling like spindly fingers over death-metal grooves and hardcore chugs. You've heard it before, right? Not like SpiritWorld. Stu Folsom treats his Las Vegas band (which began as a straight-up cowpunk project) like an evolving franchise of Western films, filtering rich tapestries of cowboy lore through music that sounds like the house band at a saloon deep in the fires of hell. The songs on SpiritWorld's sophomore album, Deathwestern, are a testament to simplicity — one part outstanding thrash riffs, two parts rhythmic sauce, and a heaping dose of Integrity-esque hollers, including some from Dwid Hellion himself on "Moonlit Torture."
Wormrot cracked the code to making an album that bends grindcore into fascinating new shapes without ever breaking the form. Hiss is a delightfully jam-packed (and brilliantly sequenced) grind epic that reels you in with straight-ahead blasts and only gets braver and more musically accomplished as it goes on. There's the skronky "Your Dystopian Hell," the goofy thrasher "When Talking Fails, It's Time for Violence!," the jackhammering "Seizures," the string-laded "Grieve," the contemplative "Sea of Disease," the prog-psych "Pale Moonlight," the soaring post-hardcore finale, "Glass Shards." Almost every moment could be a standout.
Shadow of Intent make the kind of deathcore that could play for a ballroom of slow-dancing skeletons — or the world exploding from a fiery comet. The band's fourth album, Elegy, is a phenomenal smattering of symphonic deathcore outfitted with epic strings, commanding vocals from the beastly Ben Duerr, and some of the tightest instrumentation of any band in their wheelhouse. Songs like "Of Fury" and "From Ruin...We Rise" aren't just great deathcore — they're simply incredible-sounding metal tracks that are creatively composed, exquisitely performed and, yeah, heavy as all fuck.
Death metal's in the midst of an underground renaissance, and Undeath's second album, It's Time... To Rise From the Grave, is where anyone curious about this new wave needs to begin. The Rochester, New York, band operate squarely within the boundaries of old-school death metal, pairing butt-ugly gargles with Florida-style riffage that's brisk but not speedy, catchy but not easy. Most of all, they're having fun with the form, reveling in graveyard camp and goblin-minded songcraft that, in vocalist Alexander Jones' words, "makes you want to inhale 300 beers."
It only took one song with new vocalist Will Ramos, 2021's viral "To the Hellfire," for Lorna Shore to prove that they're deathcore top dogs. On Pain Remains, the New Jersey crew were only aiming to best themselves, and they pulled it off with this gloriously heavy, breathtakingly ambitious display of blackened deathcore. Their breakdowns are more brutal than ever, Ramos' animalistic squeals have never sounded scarier, but the most impressive aspect of Pain Remains is just how real these songs are on a psychic level, particularly during the emotionally devastating three-part outro, which concludes with a nine-minute overture of crushing, symphonic catharsis. This is deathcore that deserves to be performed at an opera house. Bravo.