EPs and Demos are a criminally overlooked style of release that showcases some incredible works that a band often times uses to kickstart a new sound, a new project, or just is trying to get their name out there. In the early 90s Death Metal underground was ruled by some of the greatest Demos and EPs of all time. Blasphemy’s Blood Upon the Altar, Morbid Angel’s Thy Kingdom Come, Morbid’s December Moon, and hell, even Metallica’s No Life ’til Leather demo!
These releases are the groundwork for everything we love with extreme music, and I believe they deserve the spotlight with their own end-of-the-year list.
So without further ado, let’s dive into…
25. Tomb Mold – Aperture of Body
Death Metal from Canada
24. Unembalmed – Serpents at the Doorway of Death
Death Metal from Phoenix, AZ
23. Excavate – Imperial Horror
Death Metal from Memphis, TN
22. Ritual Fog – Visions of Blasphemy
Death Metal from Memphis, TN
21. Groaning Retch – Blended with Bile
Death Metal from Massachusets
20. Iron Tomb – Vile Retribution
Death Metal from The United Kingdom
19. Cairns – Keening
Atmospheric/Post-Black Metal from The United Kingdom
18. Heathen Prayer – The Devil and the Day Laborer
Metalcore from Atlanta, GA
Bitter Melody Records
17. Tormentor Tyrant – Tormentor Tyrant
Death Metal from Finland
Everlasting Spew Records
16. Extinguished – Vomitous Manifestations
Death Metal from Finland
15. Malefic Throne – Malefic Throne
Death Metal from Florida
Hells Headbangers Records
14. Dungeon Steel – Night Entity
Black/Speed Metal from Ecuador
13. Kontusion – Kontusion
Death Metal from the United States
12. Besotten – In Filth it Will Be Found
Death/Doom Metal from Portland, OR
11. Dødskvad – Krønike II
Death Metal from Norway
10. Caustic Phlegm – Putrifying Flesh
Death Metal from Scotland
Putrifying Flesh is a quick listen, 3 tracks coming in just over 13 minutes, but their statement is made with authority in that little time, showing that the band doesn’t get paid by the hour. Also, in each song, they have this very eerie synth that usually shows up that reminds me of so many killer horror movies from the ’70s. An excellent touch.
This is as disgusting as it gets. The production, vocals, and overall sound of this demo is just gross, and I mean that in the absolute best ways. This is why I love demo and EP releases because you can get away with this type of production.
The person behind Caustic Phlegm is, Evangelos Vasilakos who also is involved with the brilliant band Chestcrush who blacken up their death metal upon delivery. But there is something so primal about Putrifying Flesh that stays with me after a listen. Stay Disgusting indeed.
9. Clairvoyance – Threshold of Nothingness
Death Metal from Poland
As the cover art hints, this EP is absolute darkness and chaos. This EP is a war that lasts for a bit over 23 minutes before it comes to a blistering end. The riffs do not stop as an onslaught of punchy drums surround brutal vocals and an unsettling wail of guitar solos tear through the pile of dead bodies this EP leaves in its path of destruction.
Hailing from Poland, Clairvoyance build upon the evil that they started with their 2020 demo, and turned it up to another level that will put a smile on the OSDM fans and the new school fans bleeding faces.
Killer production, great songwriting with excellent song progression, I can’t wait to see what this band delivers with a full-length album hopefully in the near future.
8. Jesus Wept – Psychadelic Degeneracy
Death Metal from Detroit, MI
Redefining Darkness Records
So I have had a lot of time with this release since it came out in early 2022. It was an EP that I liked, but throughout the year I kept coming back to it. And while Jesus Wept is classified as Melodic Death Metal on Metal-Archives, I don’t really hear it. Sure you have some moments of melody, but I still don’t find them settling into that genre. Here’s the problem and ultimately the reason why I ranked it so high on this list. I think about how I would classify this band a lot. And where I am would be Metalcore in the vein of early Zao, except with the exact opposite lyrical content.
With that said, the fact that I can’t get this release out of my head and hear something new and different every time I play it brings it into the top 10. Also, great production and Incredible vocals. Don’t be scared off by genres in the end though as this release will be appealing to anybody who likes heavy music.
7. Moonlight Sword – Elfenwinter
Symphonic Black Metal from Greensboro, NC
Carmilla Dracul, the woman behind Winter Lantern, which is showcased earlier on in the list with the EP, Umbrae Obscurae a Luna Allatae, had another project as well called Moonlight Sword. Dracul does something incredible, well for me she does, with the two Moonlight Sword releases, which is make raw, lo-fi black metal that just so happens to have synths, and feel way bigger than any other raw black metal has before. It wasn’t until the end of the second track Valkyrie Satanic Kommand that I heard the stark contrasts of the instrumentation and what the synth did to embellish the rawness of the black metal and vice versa. I’m not entirely sure if that makes any sense at all, or if my brain is just broken, but this release is special to me for that reason.
I picked Elfenwinter to put on this list as I do like the composition just a touch bit more than the release that came later in the year; Elven Blood. However, what we are seeing is an incredibly talented woman who is absolutely crushing this scene right now in the States.
6. Nuclear Christ – Twisted Idols for Nihilism
Death Metal from Miami, FL
Goat Throne Records
In 1984 one of my all-time favorite death metal bands was formed in Morbid Angel. If in the beginning, Morbid Angel decided to embrace a more thrashy raw black metal sound as opposed to the thrashy death metal sound we all fell in love with in 1989 when they released Altars of Madness, it would have sounded like Nuclear Christ.
This insanely talented young band from Miami, FL blew me away this Spring when they released this insanely powerful EP. An EP frankly, I can’t believe wasn’t talked about more throughout the year. With artwork by the incredible, Nizin Lopez we have the total package here. I do hope they are embraced more with their next work because this young band along with Cryptic Hatred, are two future titans of death metal if they want to be.
If you’re a physical collector the Tape is still available on Goat Throne Records Bandcamp page. The tape contains a cover of the song Remnants by often overlooked New Jersey Thrash Metal legends, Blood Feast. Get this tape while you can. Trust me.
5. Hulder – The Eternal Fanfare
Black Metal from Washinton State
20 Buck Spin
Hulder to me is one of the most interesting Black Metal projects going right now. Last year She released her debut full-length album, Godslastering: Hymns of a Forlorn Peasantry. If I were to re-rank the albums I ranked as the top 10 albums of the year last year now, I would include this album. I just missed it until it was too late. Which is honestly the worst part of being a music fan. FOMO am I right?
I’ve also had the worst luck this year with getting to see Hulder live. In July she and her live band were headlining in the South and I got Covid and had to miss it. Then it was announced she and her band would be coming back supporting Exhumed and due to undisclosed reasons, she had to pull out and they were replaced by the excellent Escuella Grind. But I’ll get to see them eventually, in the meantime. I have her incredible work to get me by, especially with the newest release in The Eternal Fanfare.
Longer than most EPs are nowadays, sitting at nearly 26 minutes I can see why she would want to refer to it as such. However, this doesn’t feel like anything less than an absolute quality Black Metal release. An excellently produced album with great vocal production. So many black and even death metal releases hide the vocals behind the instrumentation which works in some places, but with Hulder’s incredible vocals, you want those front and center. I also have to say, the riff in Sylvan Awakening may be one of my favorite riffs this year.
4. Sanguinária – Sede Vampírica
Black Metal from Finland/USA
If you release something with a purple and black cover, I’m almost always going to check it out. You add vampires to the mix, and I 100% believe that in 2022 you can find the best vampiric entertainment in Black Metal, I stand by that statement to the bitter end, you ultimately have a winner in my book.
But to my pleasant surprise, Sede Vampírica brought us, in my eyes, the best vampiric black metal release of 2022, EP or LP. Even with the synth-driven intro, you can feel that the temperature drops in the room. If you close your eyes, you’ll be transformed to a silent and black night. Suddenly you are drawn to an elaborate organ playing beautiful yet lo-fi synth, and the second you walk through the door and see the pale ghastly figured wailing on the instrument you have the first frigid notes of the guitar and finally, the whole world in front of you comes crashing down as you are taken into the night by Sanguinária.
3. Grotesqueries – Haunted Mausoleum
Death Metal from Boston, MA
When Caligari first shared the artwork for this EP, I kind of knew that I was going to love it. I know they say don’t judge a book by its cover but is that still the case if you are doing it in a positive way? Anyway, they did everything right here regarding the logo and artwork. This color pallet is literally my favorite. Neon pink, purple, but then horrifying blacks and grays. And oh yeah, let’s give it an alien theme, which seems to be the theme for death metal in 2022, and I mean that in an awesome and complimentary way.
While only three songs, and at just under 17 minutes, the real reason why this was my favorite EP last month is that they lived up to the imagery cultivated within the artwork. While this is a full band that will be making their live debut soon, Grotesqueries was formed solely by ex-Black Mass drummer Yianni Tranxidis. And with that, he was also the main force behind this EP. I love that he clearly had a vision, and knew exactly how to produce that image via his art.
In a year where quality death metal lived in the EPs and Demos, Grotesueries reigned supreme.
2. Moonlight Sorcery – Piercing Through the Frozen Eternity
Melodic Black Metal from Finland
This EP was released in mid-February, and when I heard it, it hit everything on my checklist for an amazing black metal release and then some. Not only do you have absolutely beautiful orchestral synth work, but you have great vocals mixed perfectly with the release, and of course, the stand-out for an album such as this, is the incredible guitar work. I remember thinking the first time listening to the 5-track EP just south of 25 minutes that this is the renaissance of 90’s era symphonic black metal. Work that could continue the legacy that early Dimmu Borgir and Limbonic Art gave us and then abandoned for other sounds. But what we are left with is something much more unique than that. We have Midnight Sorcery showing us that we have a new era being unleashed upon the scene and that they aren’t throwing it back to anything. They are making absolutely massive Symphonic Black Metal that will be talked about for decades to come in the same conversation as Nightside-era Emperor.
1. Worm – Bluenothing
Death/Black/Doom Metal from Florida
20 Buck Spin
Last year, Worm’s full-length album, Foreverglade was my number 2 album of 2021. 2021 was also my first exposure to Phantomslaughter and company and I was instantly hooked. It was Funeral Doom Metal but delivered in a very unique Black Metal package. The band wore corpse paint, the production was very aetherial, and mysteries and the synth work although subtle drove the album in a way many Funeral Doom bands would stay away from.
After that, I began following Worm on Instagram. That’s where I saw how active he (he as in Phantomslaughter) was with the community, but also how active he was at sharing so much of his personal tastes, and inspirations in his stories. I discovered so much new music just with his Insta stories alone. So much so that I even created a YouTube playlist called FantomGram that collected as much stuff he shared as I could find. One of the things I noticed is that he shared quite a bit of 90s Symphonic Black Metal. Acts like Odium, Limbonic Art, Obtained Enslavement, Abigor, and so on. It was the first time I have ever really seen somebody with a super eclectic taste in music that somewhat matched mine.
When Bluenothing was announced as well as the addition of guitarist Philippe Tougas, aka Wroth Septentrion (Atramentus, Chthe’ilist, First Fragment, and many more), I knew we were in for something special. The inspiration was there, we had an incredible guitarist joining the fold, will this be Funeral Black Metal?
When it was released in late October we had already been teased with so much art and grimy VHS horror-style video teasers, and just an all-around incredible aesthetic that spoke to my soul that I knew that this would be incredible, and I was right. I don’t know if you can call it Funeral Black Metal, but it certainly blends the two genres in a way I have never heard before. From the epic synths dominating slow burn tracks like Centuries of Ooze II, to the epic title track with some legendary guitar work by Wroth Septentrion, and of course, the guitar work we hear in Invoking the Dragonmoon, to what I believe is the star of the show with Shadowside kingdom. The new era of Worm has been ushered in, and with live shows and touring seemingly on the horizon, I predict this to be the next huge band to break out from the underground and show the world who they are. Not only is this my favorite EP of 2022, but this is also my favorite release of 2022.
This year literally thousands of EPS, Demos, and Splits were released. I can’t even begin to have listened to everything. So what did I miss? Are there any must-listens that I didn’t include? Please comment down below, or even better, come join the party over on the Sounds of the Void Instagram page where we post daily content, memes,