My Top 10 Albums Of 2022

It’s that time of year for album lists. For me, things snapped into place pretty easy this year. I haven’t had to deliberate much on what should be here or what order it should go in.

Most of this stuff hasn’t really been discussed here, beyond a glimpse from one of my preview posts. I’ve only discussed two of these albums at length this year and a few weren’t mentioned at all. Covering new music is tough and requires a lot of time so it’s something I do very sparingly.

Last year I split this up and gave the album of the year its own post, this year I’m keeping it simple and doing everything at once. Let’s get to it and see where all this stuff ranks.

10: High Command – Eclipse Of The Dual Moons

This is some very nice dirty thrash that also pulls influence from a lot of ’80’s metal legends and also incorporates a fantasy story arc across its lyrics. It can be enjoyed on a surface level for its great music and can also be explored further for the story. Really great stuff here.

9: Witch Fever – Congregation

This is the debut full-length from a group billed as punk but playing a harsh version of doom, noise and grunge. The album takes aim at institutions of power, especially religion. It’s a great, pretty unique sound Witch Fever have going on here and hopefully there are great things to come for the English group.

8: Undeath – It’s Time … To Rise From The Grave

What’s old is new again, and this year old school death metal returned in a big way. That was thanks in large part to Undeath and their much-hyped second album. This album slots in nicely alongside the death metal classics of the early ’90’s and is a signpost for a new generation of death metal mayhem.

7: Lorna Shore – Pain Remains

This was one of the most anticipated releases of the year after the hype over To The Hellfire in 2021 went to a whole new level for deathcore. Lorna Shore delivered by avoiding the trap of trying to recreate what they did a year prior and mixing things up a bit. The ending Pain Remains trilogy of songs is some majestic stuff.

6: Mother Of Graves – Where The Shadows Adorn

It’s been awhile since I’ve heard some good death/doom, yet here it is in a new form from a newer group out of Indiana. This hits all the right notes and shows its influences while still very much being its own thing. A really great album that, in a way, kind of came out of nowhere.

5: Blind Guardian – The God Machine

The German power metal legends returned with their first proper studio album in seven years and they came back in a huge way. This album is very to the point and direct, no mucking around here. The band haven’t lost their touch and have re-explored some of the speed metal elements of their earlier career. This album is a true highlight of an already impressive catalog.

4: Chat Pile – God’s Country

Chat Pile had built a healthy amount of buzz over the past few years and delivered on that this year with their first full-length record. This sludge/noise offering is a disturbing listen that looks at the less savory side of life in Oklahoma and nails the perspective. The music and themes aren’t for everyone but those who get it, get it.

3: Lamb Of God – Omens

I was one of several who had thought Lamb Of God’s best days were behind them, I hadn’t been wowed by a release in quite awhile. All of that is out the window now – Omens is a sharp, stark return to form for the groove metal legends. This is an ass kicking from start to finish and I was totally blown away by it.

Omens is the only album from this list that I covered as an Album Of The Week, that post is here.

2: Scorpions – Rock Believer

Now, you want to talk being surprised and impressed by some old dogs? The Scorpions coming out in 2022 with this absolutely killer set of tunes was not something I saw happening. While they’ve had some moments in the past few decades, this band was long thought to be in their twilight. But no, they totally reinvigorated their sound and came out fresh despite being literally older than dirt. Klaus Meine sounds fantastic here and he’s older than a lot of old rock singers that have lost their voices. And the songs are some of the best they’ve done in a long, long time.

I did cover this album in more detail a bit after its release, here is that post.

Album Of The Year 2022

Cave In – Heavy Pendulum

The New England group known through the 2000’s for metalcore, post-rock and/or whatever you want to call it had been quiet through the 2010’s and suffered the loss of bassist Caleb Scofield in a car accident in 2018. The band reconvened with Converge bassist Nate Newton handling those duties and recorded their return album through the course of the pandemic.

Cave In’s return was nothing short of a massive success. Heavy Pendulum visits all points of Cave In’s past and works with a variety of sounds to shape concepts in the 2020’s. It’s a monster of an album at 71 minutes but everything here works, especially the epic album closer Wavering Angel. The bag of riffs on this album is of insane size and visits about every kind of rock and metal you can think of.

That wraps it up for the 2022 stuff. I did more last year but I think just doing the album list is fine enough. Only a few weeks until it’s time to stary worrying about what 2023’s top albums will be.

Album Of The Week – October 17, 2022

It’s been quite a while since I’ve tackled a recent album as AotW, that usually involves a lot more work than talking about a record that’s been out for 40 years. But this return-to-form album from one of metal’s most influential bands of this century is significant enough to warrant immediate discussion.

Lamb Of God – Omens

Released October 7, 2022 via Epic Records and Nuclear Blast Records

My Favorite Tracks – Ditch, Gomorrah, Grayscale

Lamb Of God have always presented a harsh, visceral world view, and this new album in the post-2020 era is a fiery takedown of whatever’s left in the ashes of our culture. It’s probably easier than ever to craft a metal album in today’s negative, nihilistic climate; but it takes on a new form when combined with the groove and riffs of a seasoned metal act.

The band recorded the album in the same room with each other, rather than handling specific parts alone. Something about the spontaneity and changing of the process has led to a rejuvenated band back on the attack. A “Making Of Omens” mini-documentary is available online for anyone who has purchased copies of the album or concert tickets (I think…)

There is no beating around the bush here – 10 songs come in right at 40 minutes. The attack is savage and precise, so let’s get right to it.


This track was the first preview single and was offered up in June. The song delves into the issues surrounding the “culture war” happening in a lot of the US and here specifically in the band’s hometown of Richmond, Virginia. The battle here is whether to remove or leave up statues and other images of Confederate military figures and has been a hot button issue through the South for awhile now.

Nevermore’s presentation of the issue is “well, everything is fucked” which is a pretty accurate portrayal. There are also a few lines thrown in to pay tribute to Edgar Allen Poe’s epic poem The Raven.


A hard hitter here, this song seems like it’s about a civilization being wiped off the planet. It could possibly be about one of the many peoples who were wiped out or subjugated by colonial powers. The song has a pretty neat outro part that switches up the pacing.

To The Grave

A neat song about that one thing from your past that can come back and bite you. Another song that highlights how inspired and refreshed the band sounds.


This will probably count as a single as the song was given a video on release day. The song is the classic kind of “confrontation” tune that works so very well in the groove metal realm. The “ditch” appears to be the one the whole country is in. This was an instant favorite for me when I heard the record and I’ll wager that this song will be ranked among the band’s best after the dust settles.


The title track has a nice twist on the idea of omens and ides. The world so screwed that, well, the hell with all the signs pointing it out. “I can’t pretend to care about how this will end” sums up the spirit of the song and the whole album.


This is a song about failure – and not just, like, missing a field goal or something. It’s stark, bleak, abject failure of the all-consuming kind. It doesn’t paint a pretty picture and it’s a type of song or art theme that has always drawn me in for whatever reason. I don’t know if it’s me hitting middle age or if it’s the state of the world or what, but this kind of total human failure really stands out, and it’s captured in perfect form by Lamb Of God here.

Ill Designs

Again with the failure, but this time apparently of some corporate head or other power figure that is being taken down. It is the collapsing of the house of cards the figurehead built, and of course everyone is caught in the demolition. Some very standout guitar work on this one too.


This song apparently almost didn’t make the record but was “voted in” by the producer. The riffing is more militant than a normal LoG song but isn’t out of place or anything. It’s about a struggle within one’s self, and pretty extreme one at that.

Denial Mechanism

Here is an absolute barnburner. Not that Lamb Of God would ever be accused of not being heavy, but this is a whole other world for them. It has a more hardcore feel than a typical LoG track and bashes the end of humanity and the world into the listener’s head. While the song presents a call to action to fend off the end, things sound pretty bleak around here.

September Song

The album’s finale keeps the theme of “we’re fucked” and presents it on a grand, global scale. This one also moves a bit differently than what we’ve come to expect from LoG, with a bit more of an epic build-up and use of movements and atmosphere. It still communicates its brutal message in typical fashion but is a welcome stretching out of the creative muscles for the band.

Omens does what many long-in-the-tooth metal bands strive to do, and a handful achieve – it presents a refreshed, revitalized attack for a band that had been previously written off as a throwback to better, older days. Lamb Of God have not lacked for name recognition or legacy status, but recent efforts were not viewed in the same hallowed light as their peak offerings, now well over a decade old.

But the word on Omens is out, and many who maybe haven’t paid LoG much mind in a long time find themselves back for another round. The backdrop of the pandemic and America’s possible disintegration have led to a ferocious new record. You don’t have to teach an old dog new tricks, sometimes they learn their own.

Ditch (Or – Crooked Wanderer Improv Hour)

Ok, so today was supposed to be a “real” post. I had a few paragraphs to finish up and I was going to post it for tomorrow.

However, life intervened. And by life, I mean that I went out for a few beers with a buddy, then he left and another buddy showed up right as the first one left, so I wound up being the guy holding a bag of a lot of beer and a huge tab when all was said and done.

So – I am going to put off the real post for next week. I have real posts for the next two days lined out already so that’s all good.

Instead, have a taste of what will be the next album of the week. I don’t usually do new albums as AOTW anymore, but this one has hooked its way into my brain and I’ve listened to it over 20 times now so I’m giving it billing next week.

And I promise I won’t get messed up again and put stuff off – the post I originally had for today will be on next week, and I already have most of next week’s crap lined out. This just became a a temporary, one night halt order when I spent more time drinking than doing what I should have been doing.

In fact, there might be a few appropriate lyrics from this song for that:

You’re face down, down in a ditch that you dug yourself

You can live or die by the hand you’re dealt

Tales From The Stage – Crowbar and Spirit Adrift

Back on Tuesday, July 26th, I took in what was – uh, I guess it’s actually my first metal show since the pandemic. Probably since some time in 2019. Some kind of metalhead I am, right?

Anyway, so I drug my poser ass out to a show. There was no way to ignore this one – Louisiana sludge legends Crowbar were in town and they brought one of doom metal’s hottest current names with them, Spirit Adrift from Texas.

I was all about the show when it was announced, but then the realization set in – it’s a weekday show and I’m in my mid-40’s. It wouldn’t have phased me in my 20’s or even 30’s, but dammit I’m old and cranky and need my sleep. Yes, yes, I know that people older than I do the road warrior shit for shows to much further extremes than me going to a place that’s honestly 2 miles away from my house, but that didn’t stop that weariness and dread from setting in a few hours before the show.

But alas, I manned up and went to the show. Two local acts played – being unable to tell time, I missed the first one. The one I did catch was named Martyaloka, they are a newer act local to Springfield and this was my first exposure to them. They do a very noisy and nasty take on death metal with sludge-like riffs that were very much at home at a Crowbar show. I haven’t been in touch with the local metal scene since the pandemic hit and tore everything apart, I’ll have to keep an ear out for these guys in the future.

It was straight into Spirit Adrift after a quick line change. It does amaze me how quickly even small clubs execute their gear changes now – back in decades past it could take eons for gear to get swapped on stage, now it’s like a Formula One pit crew.

Anyway, Spirit Adrift are a band I’ve been jamming out to the past year or so and I was really excited to see their name on this tour. While plying their trade in doom, this isn’t the slow and downtrodden “everything sucks” kind of doom. Instead it’s a riff-filled journey that hits the right groove and translates very, very well to a live stage.

Spirit Adrift played a great set from songs pulled from their four studio albums and handful of EP’s. There was no “big hit” or anything like that, the group is very consistent and the set was killer from start to finish. The band got their set in despite time running a hair long, but we’re talking a matter of minutes, no Axl Rose drama here to delay anything for hours.

Below is a full set video from a SA performance earlier in the year. I haven’t found any suitable video from this specific tour.

After Spirit Adrift it was on to the main event. Crowbar are celebrating over three decades in existence and continue to pound eardrums with their heavy-as-hell sludge and doom. While never “famous,” Crowbar is known the world over as masters of the metal scene and they retain a solid fanbase after all these years plugging away from coast to coast.

To anyone’s knowledge, Crowbar had never played in Springfield before the show a few weeks back. Kirk Windstein had been through town as a member of Down, but this was the first time Crowbar had been booked here.

Crowbar ran through a career-spanning set, including stuff from their latest album, 2022’s Zero And Below. They are at that point where they have to make some choices, having 12 studio albums to construct a set from.

The band ran through tunes old and new in the death-dealing heat of southwest Missouri in late July. It was stupid hot, both inside and out. I had to duck out once or twice to catch some air but thankfully I remained upright for the set’s duration. Even Louisiana native Kirk Windstein commented on the heat, and it’s something he’s probably used to.

It was a great show from Crowbar and one that the crowd ate up. I’ve noted a lack of energy and movement from Missouri concert crowds over the decades, but the lot at the Crowbar show that night was into it and having a good time. It’s pretty easy stuff to get into when you can literally feel the riffs pounding through you.

Seeing Crowbar and Spirit Adrift was a great way to get back into the show scene, something sorely lacking from life since COVID changed all the rules two years back. (And no, despite being in a small room with a lot of people, I or no one I know fell ill to it or anything else). I might not have caught a ton of sleep that night, but hey, sacrifice is what life is all about. We don’t get a ton of shows our way these days, or at least stuff I’d like to see, so having this one was pretty awesome.

Here is a performance from Crowbar on the next night of the same tour.

Judas Priest – RnR HoF Class of 2022

I’ll have at a quick post today to discuss the unexpected but very welcome news that came down yesterday – Judas Priest will be among the inductees to the 2022 Class of the Rock N’ Roll Hall Of Fame.

The induction is kind of surprising. Priest were on a months-long fan ballot with other acts and did not place well in the results. The institution behind the Hall of Fame has always stated that the fan ballot is only one component of selection and so the group saw fit to grant Judas Priest induction.

In fact the group is being inducted in a different category from the typical “performers” one. Priest are being inducted via the Musical Excellence category. This is not a very big deal, despite some of the wankery being aired on social media about it. There are several different categories for the HoF so getting in by way of this one is not some huge issue.

With induction to the HoF comes the issue of who exactly gets in. In the case of Judas Priest, the following members will be inducted – current members Rob Halford, Ian Hill, Scott Travis and Glenn Tipton will be enshrined. Along with them, former members K.K. Downing, Les Binks and Dave Holland will also be inducted.

This does leave a few people out, of course. Original Priest singer Al Atkins won’t be inducted and I’m sure he’ll have something to say about it. Halford’s replacement in the 90’s Tim “Ripper” Owens also will not be enshrined, and I’m sure will be gracious as he often is about such things. There are a smattering of other members with some contributions but the Rock Hall generally just gets the classic-era names in for induction.

There are a few points of potential drama with a few of the names on the former members list. I won’t even get into one of them, I don’t know how that’s gonna play out but hey, they’re inducting him so I guess that’s decided. In the case of K.K. Downing there has been some past acrimony over his departure, but there’s no point in getting into all of that now. Early indications are that Downing is very happy about the induction and Rob Halford has already extended an invitation for Downing to be there so I’ll just play the part of the optimist and hope it all ends well.

But in the end drama is just drama, the point still stands – Judas Priest will be in the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame. I wasn’t really expecting to see the day, I’d honestly given up on the institution years ago. I’ve deliberately avoided writing posts about who I think are the biggest snubs and things like that – I would prefer to just not give a shit about the whole thing. But I will set all that aside to celebrate the very deserved induction of one of my favorite groups and one of heavy metal’s pioneering outfits. It is fully earned and finally realized, and may the world celebrate the glory of Judas Priest later this year at their induction to the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame.

The Scorpions – Rock Believer

Last Friday the Scorpions released Rock Believer, their 19th studio album in a storied career spanning over 50 years. It also marks their first studio effort in 7 years.

The Scorpions have been hit and miss a bit with their albums in the past long while. Some of their 2000’s output didn’t quite hit the spot, though with decided variances in quality. The early offerings from Rock Believer seemed to indicate a return to form for the legendary group.

I’m just going to go through this with some quick thoughts about each song and wrap it up at the end. This is one of the releases I’ve really been looking forward to this year so I wanted to give it a bit of extra attention. I will say that on my first few listens through I am really impressed with what I’m hearing. I’m only going to cover the proper album and omit the bonus disc on this sweep through the songs.

The Scorpions – Rock Believer

Released February 25, 2022 via Vertigo

Gas In The Tank

The opener hits with a nice rocker that seems to be a mission statement from the group. There still is gas in the tank and the Scorpions can still rock with the best. The lyrics are dripping with sly references to their own catchphrases and past songs as well as a small nod to Motorhead in the second verse. It’s a great opening track that sets the tone for more to come.

Roots In My Boots

Silly title aside, the songs keeps the pace going with a song that would have fit very well on their seminal 1990 outing Crazy World. It’s got melody for days and as a great solo section to put a stamp on everything.

Knock ‘Em Dead

Three tracks in and it’s looking like we have a winner of an album. It’s another signature Scorpions rocker that hits all the right notes. The party is going strong in 2022.

Rock Believer

This was the second single released ahead of the album and obviously also the title track. The song starts in ballad-like territory but then the song kicks it up a notch. This serves a reaction to the oft-cited “rock is dead” cliché. Sure, rock isn’t what it once was and isn’t likely to be again. But here are one of the pioneers of the format still at it many years after rock was declared dead.

Shining Of Your Soul

Here we see the band pick up a bit of a reggae beat. It mixes things up a bit but still keeps the hard rock alive and flowing. The band doesn’t tackle too many love songs on this record but this one keeps the band’s long-storied career of educating its fans on the nuances of love going.

Seventh Sun

This slow burner pounds its way through some heavy riffs and a marching-like pace from Klaus Meine, who is sounding especially vibrant on this track. The band have not let up at all through this record and are on pace for a classic. It recalls China White from Blackout, one of the band’s best.

Hot And Cold

The pace kicks back up for yet another hard rock gem. Lyrics and music are kept simple for this one as the band gets hot and sleazy, they aren’t breaking new ground here.

When I Lay My Bones To Rest

Klause Meine and the band go off the rails on this barn burner. I had thought by the title that this might be the signature Scorpions ballad but it’s the exact opposite. The song recalls drummer Mikkey Dee’s old band Motorhead, this song just drips with Lemmy’s influence.


This was the first song we were given the chance to hear in advance of the album. It is a massively heavy track that laments the state of war, a topic the band have handled many times over the years. Sadly this album comes to us in a very troubling time on that front but the song itself is magnificent.

Call Of The Wild

The Scorpions kick down the tempo a notch but keep the heaviness going for this new entry into their extensive catalog of songs about getting with it. The man may get older but the thoughts and desires don’t change.

When You Know (Where You Come From)

The album concludes with a ballad, a song type the Scorpions have excelled at over the decades. This tune is an uplifting song about keeping your head up and believing in yourself. It’s a nice message for these pretty dark times and another winner in the band’s long history of knocking it out of the park with ballads.

Rock Believer is a massive statement from the Scorpions. It stands out head and shoulders above their past several albums, I have to go back to 2010’s Sting In The Tail to recall the last one I’d begin real comparisons with. I’m not ready to say what I could say, which is that this is their best since Crazy World, but it’s a thought going through my head right now. I’ll give this album more time to settle before going out on those kinds of limbs.

No matter – Rock Believer is rock done right. The Scorpions sound great on this record and this album is a triumphant statement from a band many thought were well past their prime. The album is unreservedly great and is a fine addition to their catalog. Everyone into old rock stars knows that age is a debilitating factor in performance, but that is absolutely not the case here. The Scorpions came out swinging on this effort and there’s really no excuse for anyone else who can’t execute at a passable level. Rock isn’t dead, it’s right here.

Upcoming Releases Spring 2022

2022 is in full swing now and there are a pile of new releases on the horizon. It’s a ton of metal and a bit of old school rock this time. I’ve got a ton of preview singles to get through so I’m gonna jump right into it.

Matt Pike Versus The Automaton – Alien Slut Mum

Our lead offering here is from longtime High On Fire/Sleep wizard Matt Pike. He’s entering the solo album market and this is the debut cut from the self-titled effort out on February 18. The song as a whole doesn’t wildly depart the High On Fire wheelhouse but does go off in a few more tame directions not suited for the noisy outfit. The video is an absolute trip too. This is good stuff from one of the more prolific musicians of the 2000’s and I’m looking forward to the album’s release.

Muse – Won’t Stand Down

The British stadium rockers put out this new song earlier in the month ahead of a yet-to-be announced album. It seems as if Matt Bellamy is still on his shit as the video goes into some puppeteer symbolism in keeping with his conspiracy-laden world viewpoint.

The song is interesting, both at times in line with the band’s electronic side and at other times very heavy, perhaps a nod to their earlier signature works. It certainly gained my attention enough to be on the lookout for their still unrevealed new record.

Corpsegrinder – Acid Vat

It’s back to “solo albums no one was really expecting territory” as Cannibal Corspe vocalist and the most recognizable death metal vocalist around, George “Corpsegrinder” Fischer, is offering up his debut solo album on February 25. It’s unclear who else plays on the album but Cannibal Corpse bandmate Erik Rutan is featured on this song. Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed was behind the effort production and organization-wise.

It appears Corpsegrinder decided against exploring other musical territory like country or smooth jazz for this effort and remains solidly in the death metal camp. The song is pure death metal without sounding too close to Cannibal Corpse, something that would’ve rendered the project unnecessary. Corpsegrinder has been manning the CC helm for over 25 years now so a solo effort seems fitting.

Abbath – Dream Cull

After a bit of time off for personal reasons, the former face of Immortal is back with his third solo outing. Dread Reaver will see the light of darkness on March 25.

Abbath is up to his usual tricks, those being riffs and growling. The song hit me as a bit odd at first but I’ve settled into it a bit more after repeated listens. It’s not out of Abbath’s wheelhouse but I did find some of the riff choices a bit odd here and there. Overall though I’m fine with it and I look forward to seeing what else he has up his sleeve coming in March.

Slash ft. Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators – Call Off The Dogs

This is apparently the second single from the upcoming album from Slash and friends. The album is simply titled 4, in stark contrast to the band name. The album is right around the corner and will see release on February 11.

I missed the first song so I’ll have to backtrack and hunt it down. This song is a very nice rocker and hints at good things to come from the album. Quality rock is sometimes hard to track down these days but old reliables like Slash don’t often fail to deliver.

Ghost – Call Me Little Sunshine

I wrote a bit about a new Ghost song awhile back but wasn’t sure if it was a lead for a new album or a one-off. As it turns out, that song and this one are part of a new album Impera entering the world March 11. I wasn’t too moved by the prior song.

This one does a bit more for me. It’s slow and kind of plodding but it suits the mood well enough. This song just, I don’t know, feels better than the other one. I haven’t been the band’s biggest fan but I have enjoyed some of their stuff in the past so I’ll lend an ear to the new album when it hits and see what they’re up to these days. The video is quite nice, they are a band often owing to a good visual presentation.

Caliban – Ascent Of The Blessed

I’m in somewhat unfamiliar territory here talking about metalcore veterans Caliban. I have seen the name around a lot over the years but I haven’t heard much of their music at all. I have spun this new song, a lead single from a new album called Dystopia that as yet has no release date.

I can’t say a whole lot but I do enjoy what I’m hearing. I’ll certainly be exploring their extensive catalog between now and the new album, which is their 13th full-length. Seems like I have quite a bit of catching up to do.

Dark Funeral – Let The Devil In

The veteran Swedish black metal outfit has seen their profile rise considerably in the past several years and is releasing a new album We Are The Apocalypse on March 18. This is the lead single, replete with somewhat gory video.

The song stands out in a way for being a slower pace than much of Dark Funeral’s catalog. The band have historically been known to bash the everliving shit out of any instrument around but they seem to have found some nuance over the past decade. The song sounds promising and it seems like we’re in for another treat in March.

Undeath – Rise From The Grave

Here is the not age-restricted Spotify link for audio

This New York-based death metal outfit have been making waves across the Internet for the past few years. This song is the quasi title track from their upcoming album It’s Time … To Rise From The Grave, out April 15. This gives us Americans time to get the record just before Tax Day.

This song has been catching buzz all over social media since it hit last week and all of the accolades are deserved. Just as it seems there is no ground left to cover in death metal, a new group of bands come along and make it all fresh and vital again. Undeath are one of many bands hitting the scene hard as this screwed up decade of the 2020’s gets rolling, and this year the band might shoot ahead of the pack. Undeath are a name that is going to be said a lot between now and the end of the year (and beyond).

That’s all for this month. The new releases keep stacking up so next month looks to be much of the same, a whole pile of new offerings to headbang to.

Album Of The Week – January 3, Zero

America is reborn in 2022. A series of attacks and disasters have led to a global rebranding. Previous civil liberties have been suspended in the interest of survival. The Bureau of Morality ensures citizens are in lockstep with the current message and agenda. The government is now a Christian theocracy in partnership with the First Evangelical Church of Plano. Water supplies have been treated with a drug to ensure immunity to biological agents as well as complicity with the new order.

Welcome to Year Zero.

Nine Inch Nails – Year Zero

Released April 17, 2007 via Interscope Records

My Favorite Tracks – My Violent Heart, Capital G, The Beginning Of The End

The introduction is a dystopian fantasy, of course. This work of fiction, composed in 2006 and released in early 2007, is simply the figment of Trent Reznor’s imagination. Thankfully the world we enter in 2022, the fabled “year zero” of this album, looks nothing like the hellscape depicted on the record. (…)

Year Zero was released into the world in spurts with a viral campaign to distribute digital music files on USB drives in random locations. While fans ate up the media, the Recording Industry Association of America did not and began issuing cease and desist orders to people who were uploading the songs. They did this even while noting that the record label Interscope was on board with Reznor’s ideas and fully promoted the effort.

The album promotion did not stop with this viral distribution. An entire subsection of the Nine Inch Nails website was dedicated to lore about the story behind the new album, and a phone number on an album insert featured a faux message from the Bureau of Morality. A web-based “detective” game would also see release over a few months that provided a great deal of storyline for the events of 2022/Year Zero.

The lore and message of Year Zero can be (and has been) studied extensively. At the end of the day though, this is a recorded album of music and is also deserving of evaluation on those merits.

The album remains in the general realm of industrial rock that Nine Inch Nails had made a pioneering career of. This record would depart from its more accessible predecessor With Teeth by incorporating more electronic and what has been termed “digital hardcore” elements. Even for an unconventional act like Nine Inch Nails, the songs stand apart from others in the catalog.

Though the record features 16 tracks, the runtime is kept just over an hour and only one song breaks the 5-minute mark. The songs are lean and get to the point, even when invoking atmosphere and instrumental exposition rather than communicating a direct lyrical message. It’s a strange balance of concise music and extended passages that somehow work to elevate the work well above standard fare.

While some songs provide atmosphere, others stand out as highlight tracks. The Beginning Of The End, Survivalism, and Capital G all invoke their own individual meanings outside the context of Year Zero’s themes. The latter two especially stand out as real-world influences on this dystopian nightmare. It isn’t hard to make the links between 2007 political discourse and these tracks, and especially today both are ever-present themes in how things have wound up.

As a musical document, Year Zero is a standout effort from Nine Inch Nails. Electronic soundscapes give shape to these disturbing themes of fascist government control and the resistance fighting it. The album requires a degree of attention above and beyond casual music enjoyment, but this has long been the case with Nine Inch Nails. It is, in my canon, one of the band’s best records.

It is a bit challenging to access the themes and lore provided in supplemental material through these songs but the overarching story is still present. Songs like Survivalism and Capital G highlight the base greed and selfishness that brought about this grotesque future, while The Good Soldier and My Violent Heart question the status quo and establish a resistance. Something cataclysmic happens toward the end in the album’s final tracks In This Twilight and Zero-Sum. Whatever happened to this timeline, it was not a happy ending.

While this record is turning 15 this year, there is still a trove of information about the story behind Year Zero. The compiles a great deal of info taken from pre-release materials as well as the web game. Though incomplete, it appears that America and the world resets on 2022 to start a new age. Year Zero does not last very long as a mysterious Presence, thought to have been a drug-induced hallucination, appears over Washington DC and heralds the apparent end of the world. The album and supplemental products tell a tale of the heavy-handed government and the various resistance factions that pop up. One group attempts to send data back in time to warn people in 2007 of the coming problems. This message is symbolized by the instrumental Another Version Of The Truth.

Of course reality is not in line with the nightmare portrayed on Year Zero. But how far away really is it? We have not adopted a theocratic government in America, though many are still trying to make that happen. It might be year zero here, but there certainly is a downward spiral that doesn’t seem to be reversing itself.

I don’t have real answers to those kind of questions. I have little to no role to play in whatever might be unfolding, here in the US and in the world at large. While I don’t really expect a pair of ghostly hands to appear over the White House and end the world next month, I can’t act like I don’t see frightening real-world prospects that parallel the themes of Year Zero. The course of the world isn’t looking great, with pandemics, disasters and bitter arguments over how to handle it instead of any real action.

Year Zero the album is a landmark release from Nine Inch Nails. Its inventive viral distribution techniques captured the attention of many and the music behind the campaign went on to be considered among the group’s best by many. Year Zero the concept, however, is a much different issue that seems to be scarily playing out in front of us in some form or another.

2021 – A Final Look

After dispensing with the Album of the Year on Monday and a more fleshed-out list the week prior, I’m back to wrap up 2021 with a variety of thoughts on things. I’ll discuss music as a whole, where I’m personally at and going with this blog into the new year, and I’ll give out a few “… of the year” awards as I go along.

The End Of The Year In Music, 2021

It’s about time to bring 2021 to a close. Christmas is just days away, and with that just one more week until 2022 begins. The COVID pandemic rages on after a brief glimmer of hope in the summer. Political unrest and partisan hostility continue to define the social conversation. We appear headed to the brink of some dystopian disasterpiece, but it’s kinda hard to say.

In music, the industry and artists tried their best to get back to the business of making music, tours and money. Legacy acts sold off catalog rights for large sums while smaller acts hit the road in uncertain conditions to try and make a buck. Bands who had sat on albums hoping to air them out as part of a new touring cycle instead chose to release their efforts and see some recompense.

Psychical formats came back strong, even in the wake of massive streaming numbers. But those formats might be threatened by short supply. Record plants are backed up on orders for years, only pushed further when one of the world’s biggest artists needs half a million copies of her album pressed ASAP. Cassettes have returned as a novelty but are only made in one place on a mountain in some remote Himalayan nation. More and more physical format collectors are casting fond eyes once again at the CD, a format thought to have been rendered obsolete by streaming. Hey, some people want to have something on their shelves.

Fans have turned out again for the bands who have braved the perils of travel to tour. While many places in the world continue to lock down over virus concerns, other parts have flat outlawed health restrictions and are as open as they were before 2020. It’s in these enclaves that bands and fans have met again after a nearly dead touring scene in 2020. It appears that the touring machine is preparing to fire up in a bigger way for 2022, replete with arguments about vaccination requirements and other protocols that have become as divisive as opinions about the best Metallica record.

2022 appears to be promising for a real return to the business of music, at least on the surface. Bands left and right are queuing new albums for next year’s release and many acts who sat on the sidelines during 2020 and last year are gearing up for tours this next go around. It might be a tenuous hope, but it is some hope after all that these groups can get back to what they need to do in order to keep themselves going.

Live Album Of The Year 2021

I’ll just be real – I didn’t listen to a lot of live albums this year. I don’t know of that many even released. I know some legacy acts like Kiss and Metallica pump them out almost in constant rotation, and that Deep Purple dumped a few old recordings on the market. Hell, I guess Pink Floyd just did a massive dump of early 70’s live stuff the other day. But I haven’t got to any of it yet. There’s stuff I’ll give a spin to later, sure, but live albums as a whole aren’t the biggest part of my music experience.

Of course, one live album did get released that caught my attention this year. In fact I spent a good portion of time on here discussing the band in the lead-up to the album’s release.

The live album of the year, to probably no one’s shock: Oasis – Live At Knebworth 1996.

I went into very full detail on this album and the accompanying documentary already in this earlier post, so I’ll spare details now. I’ll probably back off on Oasis content for awhile since knocking out the first two albums and the Knebworth discussion does tend to cover most of their career highlights. Liam does have a solo record hitting sometime in 2022 so I’ll certainly give space to that, but for now Oasis can give way to a multitude of other stuff I want to discuss.

This Blog In 2022

I was uncertain how I’d feel about getting back into blogging after a 10-plus year absence. Also I was unsure of sticking with one topic – in the past I would just write about whatever I wanted. But these days require a bit more specialization of subjects to hold any attention at all and music has always been one of my primary interests, so music it was.

So far I have to say I’ve been quite pleased with how things have turned out. I don’t find myself with as much time to write and plot out future stuff as I’d like, but I’ve started getting a handle on that. I have some new series and project-style features I want to air out and I should be getting to some of those early next year. I do hope at some point to expand to at least 4 days a week of posting, but for the time being I’m going to hold to 3 a week as it suits my present routines and time constraints.

One project I had intended to have going by now was a YouTube channel. I figured it would be a good way to do some list-style things like ranking a band’s albums and stuff of that nature. I haven’t found the time to get to work on that yet though I have a bit of planned content ready to go. It is a whole other animal with more demanding time requirements than the blog so it’s been a bit to get it going. I’ll be knuckling down after the holidays to get that ball finally rolling, though in reality the blog will remain my main mode of expression.

Thanks to everyone who has dropped by and read, and either left comments here, on social media or in person. It’s been a different world than when I blogged in the past, when it was semi-anonymous and almost no one knew or cared what people were writing. Even in an age where social media and video have driven many people from this written format, I’ve still found that people are interested. Time marches on into the new year, and this thing will keep going.

Song Of The Year

I’ll leave off with one more “award” presentation. Albums are fine and all but the individual songs do mean something and have their own processes to evaluate and take in. I didn’t bother with a ranked list or anything else for this one. Perhaps next year I’ll take some extra time to give a list.

But for this year I’m just going to crown a champion. I discussed this EP early on in the blog’s beginnings and I’ve been over it a time or two since. It wasn’t much of a contest for me to determine my pick for Song of the Year – To The Hellfire by Lorna Shore.

I went over it in my Spotify Wrapped review a bit ago – I played the shit out of this song. I was reeled in right when I heard it. I did miss it when it actually released in June due to being busy with a million other things, but I got into it right when the EP released in August. And I played it a few hundred times since.

I’ve noticed a lot of adverse reaction to this song after the hype built for it across the Internet. Now I can find as many people dismissing it or digging up every other deathcore release in 2021 to proclaim that “better.” I guess that’s how things go, but no other deathcore act captured that many ears and put up the kind of numbers that Lorna Shore and this song did.

But hey – it isn’t worth it to try and argue against people arguing against something. The song struck a nerve with a whole lot of people and did great things for the band and the subgenre as a whole. A rising tide lifts all ships, as they say. Lorna Shore have completed recording their new full-length, an album I’d expect to see sometime next year. They gave themselves a tough act to follow with this song and EP, we’ll see if they can live up to it.

Wrap It Up

That’s about all for my look back at 2021. A wild year, unsettling and chaotic with everything going on and the uncertainty of the future. But the music landscape looks to possibly be brighter in the coming year, and even with all the chaos, it seems many artists were able to turn in some great releases over this pandemic-soaked landscape.

I will be posting on my regular schedule for the rest of the year – this coming Friday and 3 days next week. And I’ll have a special album of the week that ties in to the coming of 2022, I’ve been looking forward to this since I got this up and running back in August. Have a good holidays, I’ll be around on my normal schedule, and off to the new year we go.