State of the Vortex: Mid-year 2022

by Snyde

Tue, 5 Jul 2022

Read in 7 minutes

On and on it spins.

We are 6 months into 2022 and things are looking dire. Worse than being infuriating or perplexing in any sort of amusing way, music in 2022 has been excruciatingly pedestrian. “Risk-taking” is a seemingly unheard-of term and bands that got big off the 2010s' resurgence in heavy music are now old enough to be completely out of ideas. You know the situation is perilous when even Alestorm can’t stoop to a new low, opting instead to recycle music they’ve released on their immediately preceding record.

This seems to have taken a toll on the vortex itself. With interest in current music dwindling by the day, our community activities have been the only thing picking up the slack in terms of meaningful discussion. With that said, the vortex may slow down but it never stops. Its endless churning always manages to dredge up 10 records, however dubious their overall quality, to the top of the heap.

[10.] Light Dweller - Lucid Offering

I had no real interest in this record even though it has been loitering in the top 10 for a couple of weeks. It would be poor form to comment on it on this post without giving it a chance and, after being forced to listen, I… have nothing to say. It’s as standard as dissonant death metal gets. Given the vortex’s favoritism towards the genre, I understand it being up here but otherwise, it just serves as an indictment of the year itself.

[9.] Satyricon - Satyricon & Munch

As if one needed any more proof that these 6 months have been entirely barren, a dark ambient record that was not really intended to be listened to outside of an art exhibition is in the top 10. How desperate can you get? Still, S&M manages to successfully invoke a foreboding atmosphere and occasionally peeks above its atmospheric blanket to tickle the mind of the listener, rising a bit above standard ambient fare.

[8.] Mournful Congregation - The Exuviae of Gods - Part I

Funeral doom fans will praise anything below 40 bpm and the fact that this half-record is at #8 just confirms that belief. This release’s most daring departure from the bare basics of funeral doom is that it’s only 37 minutes long. Even I, noted funeral hater, cannot summon the strength to be mad about this one. Just accept it and move on. Very, very slowly.

[7.] Sonic Assault - Neon-Lit Metropolis

I have to say, I’m shocked that this Sonic Assault made it this far since January. But again, bad year, I won’t bore you with that again. Sonic Assault is at least competent in what it sets out to achieve and that is to riff. Granted the vocals are hideous and it does wear out its welcome by the 40 minute mark but hey, if you’re going to get one thing right, at least make it the most important thing.

[6.] Watain - The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain

After a blistering opening track, it’s hard to have strong feelings about the latest Watain offering. After seeing the experimental The Wild Hunt being panned to oblivion, Watain has settled its most basic formula. I’m sure this makes sense financially but as a piece of art, it’s simply lacking.

[5.] Aeviterne - The Ailing Facade

I was not convinced when I heard Aeviterne’s debut EP Sireless back in 2018 but The Ailing Facade really demands your attention. It’s nice to hear a metal album that takes advantage of metal’s inherently oppressive sonic palette without succumbing to a muddy and indistinguishable mire. Not all the tracks are home-runs but the quality of something like The Gaunt Sky is hard to deny.

[4.] Artificial Brain - Artificial Brain

I still remember Absorbing Black Ignition and Frozen Planets years after I’ve last listened to Labyrinth Constellation. Perhaps this good will is why Artificial Brain continues to be a band for which not outright sucking seems to be enough to maintain a high profile. I don’t remember much at all about Artificial Brain’s 2022 effort besides that bit where the drums go ‘tonk’ for a bit despite listening to it 5 times and it’s safe to say I won’t remember its existence at all in a couple of years.

[3.] Desolate Shrine - Fires of a Dying World

Fires of a Dying World continues Desolate Shrine’s brand of grimy death metal opera. Despite this, however undeniably crunchy they may be, there’s always an air of disposability to Desolate Shrine’s albums that is hard to shake off. The DS platter to truly shake the world is yet to come.

[2.] Immolation - Acts of God

Nobody does it quite like Immo. The longevity and consistency of their basic sound is pretty much unparalleled. Immolation embody a sort of death metal quintessence; the core of death metal from which deviations are often ill-advised: sharp, furious and - simplest of all - heavy.

[1.] Messa - Close

I’m likely the worst person to write a blurb about this album given that I’m the only vortex-dweller to actively dislike it. With that in mind, I’ll try to explain exactly why that is. There’s honestly a lot to enjoy in Close, the album is varied in instrumentation and there are plenty of moments that stand out from the general sound of the album. That sound is, unfortunately, very muted, which is no novelty from Messa. Feast for Water, which I liked, shared this sort of sound. Another thing it shares with FfW is the length of each track which is frankly exaggerated. Nearly every song is 7+ minutes long and most of them don’t have the material to justify it. A track like Orphalese adeptly spends 7 minutes going around in acoustic circles. Even supposedly faster numbers like Dark Horse are needlessly drawn out and that’s before you get into extended cuts like Pilgrim and the endless plodding of 0=2. In the end, though, my main issue with it is really the songwriting and progression throughout the album, which feels mostly haphazard and aimless. After each listen I catch myself wondering what the album was about at all, what did this collection of barely related snippets have to say, and I am left with nothing much. This is best exemplified by the Leffotrak, a number which comes and goes with nary a point or an explanation. The album’s sonic murk, Sara’s abstract wailings and the lack of a clear thematic thread create too many ‘whys’ and not enough ‘becauses’. This leads to a record which is acceptable and even proficient with what it offers moment-to-moment (even though it’s sorely lacking in hooks as well), but frustrating when under any further scrutiny. Everyone else seemed to like it, though.

Spreadsheet statistics (taken July 5th, 2022):

Albums appraised: 2305

Album rate average: 4.46/10 (weighted: 4.77/10)

Average rate given: 4.84/10

Number of rates given: 6383

For more detailed individual statistics, feel free to visit the Vortexplorer.

Here’s hoping there will be 10 records worth talking about by the end of the year. Once again the cantankerous ‘corn has left us with his usual “Ferday’s Fortune”. God bless him.

So, we made it to mid-year 2022. Who would’ve guessed that humanity had the desire to keep going at this point. Certainly, that desire has not been fuelled by 2022 music thus far.

There is a small part of me that somehow feels that this year has been better than last, but looking at the rates it would appear that feeling is merely wishful thinking, or perhaps some sort of fever dream optimism created by long covid. With two greens being enough to crack the top 10 at this median point, it’s evident that things can only go up from here, or at minimum we will be plenty comfortable living in the basement hell that has become the musical landscape.

As per the last few years, the culprit appears to be egregious length coupled with an utter lack of ideas and inspiration, however on closer inspection it seems that perhaps those qualities are not only expected, but desired by the goober ridden masses of “music fans”, or what passes for them these days. Even the glorious vortex herself is but a meagre point source of warmth in this cold space, but we shall live on as a bastion of fairness, accuracy, and commiseration in the hopes that one day, art will again become something that exists.