If there’s one thing that we at Last Rites cannot be accused of, it’s not expressing ourselves enough to get the points across. Maybe it’s our enthusiasm in discussing the finer points of this wide world of heavy metal – or maybe we just love to figuratively hear ourselves talk – but the result is the same: We are some long-winded sunsagunses. We even have a dedicated subset of reviews that we implemented to inspire ourselves to Keep It Short Stupid, and we often under-utilize said subset because we cannot be constrained to a mere 400 words. Even as one of the grindiest of staffers, I’m as guilty of this as anyone else – can I write 800 words about a 7 minute blastfest? A better question is: Could I possibly write less than 800? And the answer is, often, unequivocally… no.
But hey, that’s us, and we ain’t ever gonna change.
If nothing else, we’re at least smart enough to recognize and appreciate the benefits of brevity when we run into them. Sometimes you (although probably not us) can say in 10 minutes (or 5, or 15) everything that needs to be said, and so today, we celebrate those bands that can keep themselves reined in, at least enough to release quality shorter pieces that still capture all the necessary fire and fury.
So, in the spirit of matters and the interest of preventing myself from rambling on for 500 more words: With no further ado, I present to you: 2022’s Top 10 EPs & Demos. [ANDREW EDMUNDS]
10. HERUVIM – SHADOWHEART
Ever get the feeling that a band’s sound is made just for you? Ukraine’s Heruvim brings a mix of Edge of Sanity’s swaggery bigness (the chorus in the title track feels right off of The Spectral Sorrows), peak Amon Amarth’s driving force, and a Cannibal Corpse level of riff technicality. So everything ‒ from the massive growls and towering, beefy riffs to the enthusiastic double kick drums and smooth soloing ‒ speaks right to a 90s (melo)death metal heart of hearts. [ZACH DUVALL]
9. EMISSARY – EMISSARY
The debut EP from Finnish trio Emissary sounds like it’s ripped straight out of 1988. Speed, power, and heavy metal combine for a particularly intoxicating cocktail that feels like it’s flirting with instability, yet manages to hold it all to the track like an ‘85 IROC-Z spinning its tires around a deadman’s curve. A runtime of thirty minutes may feel like it’s pushing the EP boundaries a bit, but Emissary does deliver exactly what an EP should: the desire for more. [Ryan Tysinger]
8. DELIRIANT NERVE –
“…debut EP Uncontrollable Ascension is one such blast of sickness warranting fewer words so your ears won’t be distracted from its whirlwind 12-minutes of raucous grinding. That runtime could lead you to the mindset of blink and you’ll miss it, but they write actual songs and pack in enough killer riffs that your attention will have no choice but to be whipped back to the madness in progress.” [SPENCER HOTZ]
7. NAPALM DEATH –
RESENTMENT IS ALWAY SEISMIC –
A FINAL THROW OF THROES
Can we continue calling it a creative resurgence when it now spans two-thirds of the band’s career? Since the turn of the millennium – now (gulp) twenty-two years ago – Napalm Death has been firing on all cylinders, and even that’s a bit of an understatement. I mean, how good is a band when even their outtakes make a year-end best-of list? Born of the leftovers from 2021’s outstanding Throes Of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism, the even more verbose Resentment Is Always Seismic: A Final Throw Of Throes fits snugly alongside that record, with its continued exploration of the band’s now-signature mishmash of all things extreme and loud and ugly. The blistering “Narcissus” is an immediate highlight, all skittering riffs and a series of Barney-bellowed, world-sized hooks. From there, it’s full steam ahead through the industrial-tinged first “Resentment” and a smashing cover of Slab’s “People Pie,” which is strong enough to make me – and hopefully you – track down that band’s hard-to-find Relapse-issued compilation. Even with the continued absence of a key creative contributor in Mitch Harris’ semi-retirement, Napalm Death just keeps steamrolling. Get on board or get crushed, or better yet, do both… [ANDREW EDMUNDS]
6. WORM – BLUENOTHING
“…Bluenothing’s 26 minutes make for a seamless, engrossing listening experience, they don’t necessarily construct a singular narrative arc, and in that sense, the use of the EP format is smart. It doesn’t feel like a grab-bag of leftovers, but it also doesn’t represent a uniform or fully realized change in direction. Instead, especially given the differences in personnel across these four songs, Bluenothing feels like an interregnum that caps a period of thrilling expansiveness…” [DAN OBSTKRIEG
5. ANCIENT DEATH – SACRED VESSEL
This past summer, a little single popped up on Bandcamp that caught the eye. Ex-members of Garroted? For fans of Pink Floyd, Autopsy, and diSEMBOWELMENT? Sign me up! “Labyrinths Of Self Reflection” struck a sacred chord–one often reserved for bands such as the aforementioned diSEMBOWELMENT. Ancient Death’s blend of classic, crushing riffs, odd intuitive songwriting structure, groove-laden doom, and gratuitous usage of thick-as-molasses atmospherics delivered–and this was just on the teaser track! “Labyrinths” captures everything that’s great in the uncertainty of early 90s Scandinavian death metal. That Finnish groove, that Swedish knack for melodicism–both channeled through the worship of early Morbid Angel that fascinated the early days of both scenes.
The debut EP from the Massachusetts quartet exposes a range of potential. Comparisons could be easily made betwixt At The Gates’ The Red In The Sky Is Ours, Adramelech’s Psychostasia, Demigod’s Slumber Of Sullen Eyes, and a pinch of Demilich’s skronky groove coupled with diSEMBOWELMENT’s willingness to explore slower, more contemplative passages. Needless to say, the wait for the full EP was pretty excruciating, but it paid off in spades on release day.
The entirety of Sacred Vessel taps into those loose thread ideas that branched off the death metal tree in the early 90s and delivers them like an unheard gem from the era. That immediate itch for death metal to satiate some primal desire for ignorant riffs is met, as is the greater desire for something cerebral and challenging, yet accessible. But perhaps the best part of Sacred Vessel is how fluidly Ancient Death tap into this strain, the way they so eagerly sniff out these cobwebbed corners of the past and present them in new light. Is it totally new? Not a chance, but they do tap into the creativity so many understated cult classics were playing with while death metal was still finding its identity, and what’s more, they bend said influence to their will with ease. [RYAN TYSINGER]
4. PREHISTORIA – CURSED LANDS
“…all of Prehistoria’s players bring a level of knack and sophistication that begs the question, ‘why the fricken hell aren’t more people talking about Prehistoria?’ However, please be extra prepared to have your ears blown off by a vocalist who’s equally adept at hitting pure power highs as he is at layering those same heights into something that’s really not that far off from King Diamond.” [CAPTAIN]
3. DARK FOREST – RIDGE AND FURROW
Ridge and Furrow follows directly in line with Dark Forest’s wonderful 2020 album Oak, Ash & Thorn, presenting another five songs of triumphant, power metal-undergirded heavy metal. Dark Forest doesn’t sound anything like Skyclad, but there’s a spiritual kinship in the way that both bands weave British history, folklore, and pastoralisms into storming heavy metal. For Dark Forest, this means that each song resonates at the same rambunctious, exuberant frequency, whether it’s the golden strut of “Skylark,” the wistful swing of “The Golden Acre,” or the countryside folk melodies of “Under the Greenwood Tree.” Do you want heroically melodic heavy metal or do you want to continue being a sad-sack idiot? The choice is clear; quit furrowing your brow and get the hell over that ridg-[author is crushed by a falling suit of armor]. [DAN OBSTKRIEG]
2. MOONLIGHT SORCERY –
PIERCING THROUGH THE FROZEN ETERNITY
“Finland’s Moonlight Sorcery has made some unholy pact with a dark wizard and conjured one hellishly fiery debut EP. The band has been around since 2018 but they appear to have been spending all those years working on their spell craft to cast one perfect 25-minute charm over black metal fans in the form of Piercing Through The Frozen Eternity.” [SPENCER HOTZ]
1. DEFECT DESIGNER – NEANDERTHAL
“…Neanderthal is a sort of meticulous chaos, and one gets the sense that the experience of listening to it would not be appreciably different if you played these seven tracks in a random order each time. Does this mean that Neanderthal is structureless? No; shut up. Does this mean that Neanderthal’s structure invites you to question whether you understand it? Yes; shut up. Does Defect Designer sound like if Darkthrone’s Soulside Journey somehow landed on Relapse Records in the early 2000s alongside Cephalic Carnage and Agoraphobic Nosebleed? Yes; no; shut up; fuck you.” [DAN OBSTKRIEG]