Festive greetings all! ’tis that time again and we’ve had some proper cold for once, which makes everything better and more seasonal and better and more seasonal. As does a stollen bread carbo-coma.
But what’s kept the music fires blazing through the year?
Here are three metallic diamonds (?) from 2022 – not a definitive shortlist but certainly albums that caused much excitement AND lived up to it. That’s what we’re looking for right now: true musical love and long-term listening, so let’s start with the big one from a very strange year.
KING’S X – Three Sides of One
It starts badly. Really badly. What in the name of Satan Clause has happened to Dug’s voice?
Hang on – wrong speed. Amateur Hour over here, the record’s a 45rpm-er. Anyway, King’s X. First new album for 14 years. Fan froth. Where will it sit in their staggering back catalogue?
Chances are it’ll slide right up towards the top of the King’s X table because it’s got the very things the first four albums had and XV somewhat lacked. Stylistic range. Acoustic guitars. Choppy riffs and rhythm shifts. Dark and light, not just groove, and – of course – heaviness, melody and harmony all over, aka the KX factor.
Record one, side A: Let It Rain rings out a pounding apocalyptic vision before Flood Pt 1 cranks a jagged riff as heavy as they’ve ever done and Nothing But The Truth takes you back to Dogman’s very own Flies and Blue Skies.
Not a bad start? No, a bloody great start – and so it goes on. Driving hard rock singalongs (Festival), glacial bass-heavy vibrations (All God’s Children), Hendrix-y screamers (Give It Up) and early-days recreations (Watcher). Swipe Up repeats Flood Pt 1’s punishing riff, but without the Beatles-esque sweetener this time around, it hits even harder.
So, again, there’s every chance that Three Sides of One will turn out to be a top-tier record. On first listen it’s the most King’s X-sounding record since 1992’s King’s X, at least to me – don’t know why exactly, not over-analysing it either, it just somehow brings back not only the sound but the feeling of that album. After a couple more plays, fragments of songs and riffs worm into your head and stick. Just how we like it.
Whatever issues Dug Pinnick, Ty Tabor and Jerry Gaskill had during the making of XV, they’re straightened out now and if this ends up being their last record then it’s a rich, vibrant, complete send-off.
King’s X are back. 100%.
CAVE IN – Heavy Pendulum
Who’d have thought there’d be a follow up to Final Transmission? Me neither. Heavy Pendulum is Cave In’s first album of new material without the late Caleb Scofield, but with credits on three tracks and artwork space in the booklet, he’s still present. Nice. Brother-in-arms noisemonger Nate Newton keeps the bass close to home and the band carve out another molten post-hardcore trip. Tracks like Blood Spiller and Floating Skulls shred with barbed riffs and open aggression while Heavy Pendulum drops a proggy descender of a riff so sublime you wish it’d never end.
As is often the case with Cave In and their collaborations and crossovers, the slower tracks have a knack for nailing a transcendent, awesome beauty and we get two of those to close out the album. Reckoning‘s unplugged heaviness feels fit for a campfire ritual, while album finale Wavering Angel burns a 12-minute pathway to the ether. Only Cave In themselves know if it’s an epitaph for their departed bassist but it sure as hell feels like one, traversing from acoustic picks to juggernaut chugs to full-circle convergence. Class.
DEAD CROSS – II
32 minutes and 11 seconds. That’s all you need for Dead Cross’s 2022 OTT hardcore goth-creep assault and it’s a grinningly perverse, relentless beating from Michael Cain, Justin Pearson, Mike Patton and Dave Lombardo. How can you not succumb to Nightclub Canary‘s full throttle discharge and skipped beats? Or Christian Missile Crisis with its sneaked-in Slayer riff? Or Imposter Syndrome‘s insane realisation of art-thrash/punk expression?
There are plenty of non-solos and shadowy breaks peppering II – the Tomahawk vibe oozes through in those moments – but, for the most part, Dead Cross don’t hold back. At all. Prepare to be flattened.
And there we have it, a trio of faves from 2022. What are yours? Do share – after all, it’s the season to give.
’til next time …Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!