Metrical Dimensions & The Creeping Man - Auditory Virus
Released: February 2
A strange and eerie journey, Auditory Virus makes for a fitting name for this collaboration between Metrical Dimension & The Creeping Man. The album is defined by an odd sense of unease that manifests through drawn-out atmospheres and the use of odd, uncomfortable, and occasionally perplexing vocal samples alongside deep and dark textures that growl and crawl through your headphones or speakers. This persistent aura of mysterious unease dominates much of the album with its surreal soundscapes.
However, the album also temporarily takes us out of this space in an appropriately named track "A Moment of Clarity." This track begins much the same with low and strange textures until we are suddenly snapped away into a world that feels surprisingly real and almost mundane as we hear the sounds of people talking as they exit what sounds like an amusement park ride. This sudden jolt had me wondering whether this odd journey was nothing but a ride to be taken on. This break is short-lived, however, as the final track "Reasons Unknown" throws us right back into the madness we had previously experienced.
Malarki - Emergence
Released: January 25
Having heard and loved several prior releases from Malarki, I can safely say that his signature sound continues to solidify with each one, and Emergence is no exception from this. Heavy, dark, and percussive atmospheres saturate this album with cinematic vibes. Malarki is excellent at channeling all of the energy of soundtracks from my favorite sci-fi action movies, specifically The Terminator franchise (minus the most recent two of course). There's just something about the intensity of his music that calls to mind the complexity of the philosophical implications juxtaposed with intense action sequences.
I could spend hours describing the scenes that come to mind as I listen, but for now I want to talk about my favorite track on the album "Mutiny." This seemingly soaring track holds back on the intensely rapid percussion and focuses instead on creating this incredibly expansive atmosphere. It feels like being taken up in the air and staring out over a vast field of machines that bear no resemblance to anything we've seen so far. The percussive textures are there, but they take something of a backseat to the massive pad sound that sets this stage so well.
Clocolan - Empathy Alpha
Released: January 27
This album from Clocolan is an extremely cerebral and uncomfortable deep drive into psychological underpinnings. The music is a perfect embodiment of the sci-fi of the 1980s and 1990s but is taken even further with the help of some extremely talented voice actors that bring Clocolan's vision fully to life (a bit of a loaded phrase considering the content). From the very first track, you will become instantly aware that you are not just getting an album - each track is a story all its own.
Of these stories, the first track "Empathy (alpha)" was by far the most unsettling for me. As the arpeggios and pads play out, they fade away temporarily to reveal a female voice speaking to what sounds like a child. However, as the scene played on, I suddenly realized that this was not just a simple interview between a therapist and a child. I'm not even sure that either was truly human by the end of it. The other tracks tell their own stories in a similar way - vague and with a sense of foreboding. You're giving just enough to draw only the fuzziest of conclusions. But this is what makes for a great story, at least in my opinion.
Sacred Oak - For Great Halls and Dark Times
Released: January 31
Coming back from something of a hiatus since their debut album, Sacred Oak brings us a single that carries on their sound but has also seemed to tone things down a bit. Still filled with guitar-driven drones, the intensity is brought down slightly and now droning pads join in to complement this semi-spiritual experience. The whole track slowly rises in intensity as it nears its end with all elements ringing out spectacularly until quickly fading away into silence. A beautiful effort from Sacred Oak that hopefully leads to more from them.
Leifendeth - Phantoms in Static
Released: February 4
In his first release of 2022, Dan of Leifendeth gives us another solid entry in his discography of genre-melding industrial albums. This one sees his stick to his established sound with a bit of playing around in uniquely different rhythms. "Phantoms in Static" opens the album up with an absolutely slamming and somewhat dubstep-inspired beat that hits with an impeccable force. Of course, all of the wonderful synth lines he's known for are still there with those craftily arpeggiated basses present throughout the whole runtime.
Notably, this release seems to build on what he started with his last release Speak to the Dead with well-placed vocal snippets talking of ghosts and spirits. As an added bonus, we even get a remix of the title track at the end done by Armageddon Speaking which sees the drums disappear and throws us into a wandering world of spooky synths with those same driving basslines keeping us reminded of the original track. It makes for a great and varied end to this somewhat sinister-sounding album.
Backwire - Sing Joyfully
Released: January 28
This debut EP from Backwire (a side project of NG, the brain behind Bent Window Records) takes the harsh noise genre to a much more subtle level with a surprising variety in sounds and styles. Tracks such as "Watching from the North" give a quieter take on noise but remain firmly in that realm while "Kneel" gives us a soft and guitar-driven sound with plenty of static and ambiance surrounding it to remind you that it's not necessarily meant to be pretty.
The ambient nature of this EP may give the illusion that it is meant to soothe. However, the persistence of inescapable static coats every track in that perfectly uncomfortable feeling. Combine this with Backwire's use of odd clicking percussive textures akin to spray paint cans being softly shaken, and the result is as mesmerizing as it is unsettling. It both manages to fit well with and contrast against the other releases from the newly formed Misanthropic Vendetta label.
M.H.H. - Cassiope: Protection Songs for Guitar
Released: February 4
In his second release on the Home & Garden label, ambient guitarist Matthew Himes brings us a wonderful and positively psychedelic EP of semi-improvisational works. Each is named after an ancient force or deity and centers around the idea of conjuring protection. Quite an interesting concept that caught my attention, each song varies in its tone and atmosphere but maintains an ultimately peaceful and tranquil mood.
The tracks are well set apart from each other and lean into a wide variety of techniques. One of my favorites here is "Soteria," which conjures up a feeling of the Spanish-style guitar but only insomuch as it borrows the elements without copying the style exactly, offering simple improvised lines without overt flourishes. Another standout comes right at the end with "Verbena," as this track strikes me as the darkest of all the tracks here with lower and more muted tones buried under washes of reverberation. The entire album gives off the aura of what it aims for, though the format of each differs splendidly from track to track.