Top 25 Albums Of The Year

Top 25 Albums Of The Year

By Punktastic

Dec 1, 2022 9:59

2022 has been a bit of a mixed bag, with political parties changing leaders more than they change their underwear, a cost of living crisis and an ongoing war in Eastern Europe. It’s fair to say it’s living up to the new standards created since 2020. However, the big change from the past few years is this – LIVE MUSIC IS BACK BABY! We’ve had a full festival season, bands fully back on tour and countless albums to drown in. As we rest our weary joints and voices after dozens of gigs over the last few months, Team Punktastic have gathered round the fireplace to reflect on what a year it’s been. Pull up a chair, grab a mug of cocoa (whiskey not required) and settle yourself in as we tell the tale of Punktastic’s Albums Of The Year, 2022 edition.

25. Pale Waves – ‘Unwanted’

Three albums in, and Pale Waves continue to be the gift that keeps on giving. ‘Unwanted’ sees the band return to their roots of providing heartbreak anthems you can’t help but sing along to, with the riffs to match. The band continue to dip into early 2000’s pop punk and give it a new lease of life, with songs offering the perfect mix between a ballad and the pop punk they’re known for. Heather Baron-Gracie has once again delivered catchy lyrics which no doubt will continue to become firm favourites in their live shows. Inspired by Avril Lavigne, Paramore and Sum 41, this album borrows from the golden pop punk era for a new age of listeners. Songs like ‘Jealousy’ and ‘Alone’ were made for live audiences and will no doubt become a staple within their sets. Overall, this record is the perfect mix of chaotic and angsty, an album that keeps on giving. [Kirsty Fox]

24. October Drift – ‘I Don’t Belong Anywhere’

With a title of ‘I Don’t Belong Anywhere’, you could be forgiven for thinking October Drift’s sophomore album is a bit of a disjointed anomaly compared to their previous releases; in reality, it’s anything but. Building on their back catalogue, and with the familiar vocal qualities of Kiran Roy, October Drift haven’t necessarily strived for progression, but have managed to hone their sound perfectly. Tracks like ‘Airborne Panic Attack’ and ‘Webcam Funerals’ touch on the fragility of the planet and human nature, with the latter being particularly effective at touching on the pandemic. ‘Waltzer’ and ‘Parasite’ heavily lean into mental health and wellbeing, and whilst being a little bleak, the choruses are catchy and anthemic. ‘Old and Distant Memory’ closes at a slower pace but builds vocal harmonies and a delicate string refrain that take the edge of what could be a bit of a mournful ending. Ironically, its closing line of ‘I’m an old and distant memory / I got cold and you got bored of me’ is the very opposite of the repeatability of this album. With a tinge of realistic angst that lingers throughout, this is an album that doesn’t just have its heart on its sleeve, it rolls them sleeves up to show you every cell of its limbs. October Drift have honed their craft, and ‘I Don’t Belong Anywhere’ is them at their best. [Andy Joice]

Read our full review of ‘I Don’t Belong Anywhere’

23.The Chats – ‘Get Fucked’

These really are boom times for Australian bands screaming in your face. Alongside compatriots Amyl & The Sniffers, the Sunshine Coast’s The Chats continue to make waves across the punk landscape. This snotty, scrappy, garage band three-piece blew on to the scene shouting about pub grub, smoke breaks and venereal diseases. Their third record, ‘Get Fucked’, shows their variation as they now shout about knackered vans and getting drunk in the bars of Brisbane. Of course, there’s much more to The Chats than this. Behind the frantic chords and the Queensland slang-heavy vocals, there’s social commentary. Whether it’s the racism in surf culture (‘Emperor of the Beach’), the rise of inflation and cost of living crisis (‘The Price of Smokes’), the overzealous nature of authority figures (‘Ticket Inspector’) or the value of strong unions (‘Dead on Site’), The Chats cut through the bullshit with a searing wit. ‘Get Fucked’ comes and goes in just under 28 minutes, but it leaves a lasting impression. It’s the throwback punk of the Buzzcocks with the sneer of the Sex Pistols, and it absolutely rips. [Tom Walsh]

Read our full review of ‘Get Fucked’

22. Nova Twins – ‘Supernova’

It’s no question that Nova Twins have already had quite a significant year, and ‘Supernova’ marks a poignant moment within it. The album is loud without being obnoxious, inclusive without pandering, and relevant without feeling overdone. It’s expertly crafted by vocalist/guitarist Amy South and bassist Georgia Love who execute and design every element of their craft – even down to the clothes on their back – this roots the act in authenticity that not only makes the music great, but the duo captivating. ‘Supernova’ is a striking record that makes decisively bold choices in a fun and refreshing way, playing with genre and the unexpected. The duo aren’t just ahead of the curve, they are paving the way. [Jessica McCarrick]

Read our full review of ‘Supernova’
Read our live review of Nova Twins at 2000Trees
Read our live review of Nova Twins at Slam Dunk

21. Joyce Manor – ’40 oz to Fresno’

In the era of bloated deluxe editions and multiple remixes to game the charts, a 16 minute album is more than a novelty – it’s a clear statement of intent. On the excellent ’40 oz. to Fresno’, Joyce Manor took their signature pop-punk sound and further refined it, concluding so quickly that they left you shellshocked. A charming record, littered with the
nostalgia that keeps fans returning, ’40 oz.’ is a true highlight of 2022. Look no further than ‘Gotta Let It Go’, a late-stage Joyce Manor classic that typifies the album entirely. This was a sign of a band at the very peak of their powers, and it’s left us hoping they’ll be back again sooner rather than later. [Alex Sarychkin]

Read our full review of ’40 oz. to Fresno’

20. Viagra Boys – ‘Cave World’

Viagra Boys’ third album ‘Cave World’ follows on from last years ‘Welfare Jazz’ as the perfect accompaniment. Where ‘Welfare Jazz’ focused on a more singular subject – the band and, specifically, frontman Sebastian Murphy – ‘Cave World’ takes a more encompassing look at society as a hold. Or, more aptly, the dregs of society. Pointing the finger at conspiracy theorists, internet trolls, and the less educated but more vocal political followers (it’s one hell of a Venn diagram), Murphy and the gang pepper each track with their discordant sounds and subtle yet effective melodies. Full of snark and witty putdowns, Viagra Boys have an edge that’s as visible as it is jagged. They’re not afraid to throw pointed barbs at anyone that takes their fancy and, although it may seem aimless, they’re thrown with accuracy and near deliberate malice. There’s a sardonic tone that resonates throughout the record, with ups and downs that matches the sometimes muted, sometimes chaotic instrumentation. ‘Cave World’ is another successful venture from the Swedish outfit, fitting nicely in the slightly genre-bending area of post-punk that Viagra Boys have made their home. [Andy Joice]

Read our full review of ‘Cave World’

19. Mom Jeans – ‘Sweet Tooth’

Evoking imagery of sunny day drinks on the beach in favour of the traditional sobbing alone in your bedroom, ‘Sweet Tooth’ is a refreshing and cathartic listen. Fear not, purists, the thirteen tracks are still dappled with malaise; this is, after all, a Mom Jeans record rooted in emo sensibility. However, it’s far less edgy. From a songwriting standpoint, it feels as though the band aren’t trying nearly as hard as they were on previous efforts… and it works. Loosening the shackles that caused their second album ‘Puppy Love’ to fall flat after the impressive debut of ‘Best Buds’ has resulted in a far superior end product. It’s hardly a revolution, but ‘Sweet Tooth’ is the kind of fun that reminds us why we enjoy music in the first place. [Aaron Jackson]

Read our full review of ‘Sweet Tooth’

18. Spanish Love Songs – ‘Brave Faces Etc.’

Like almost all of us, Spanish Love Songs spent the best part of two years isolated. It allowed the quintet to engage with fans through Patreon, yet in the case of ‘Brave Faces Etc.’, it provided them with the opportunity to experiment. Going beyond the standard “reimagining” treatment, ‘Brave Faces Etc.’ elevated the bleak lyrical nature of 2020’s ‘Brave Faces Everyone’. On tracks such as ‘Kick’ and ‘Self-Destruction (As a Sensible Career Choice)’ there’s an aching fragility to Dylan Slocum’s vocals, whereas ‘Losers’ and ‘Brave Faces, Everyone’ are hauntingly executed and compelling. Flashes of synths, lo-fi electronica and distant piano keys appear throughout, complementing the downbeat lyrical nature. It’s a touching, relatable record that undoubtedly hits hard emotionally. [Sêan Reid]

Read our full review of ‘Brave Faces Etc.’

17. Stray From The Path – ‘Euthanasia’

There aren’t many more consistent bands than Stray From The Path, who released another healthy dose of rap punk fury. Drew York has penned some of his most ferocious lyrics on the bands tenth record, and considering the current climate we live in, is it any real surprise? Lead single ‘Guillotine’ buzzsaws its way through the speakers, whilst ‘III’ is the third of the series of ‘Badge & a Bullet’ songs, taking aim at the police forces who have made questionable choices and walked free from court. ‘Law Abiding Citizen’ invokes so much Rage Against The Machine influence and ‘Bread & Roses’ sees Jesse Barnett of Stick to Your Guns give a career best vocal feature on a very Deftones-like track. ‘Ladder Work’ closes ‘Euthanasia’ in a way that a movie soundtrack finishes, a giant soundscape that the band have thrown their paint over, resulting in the biggest sound they’ve ever committed to record. Stray From The Path proved that they can still deliver meaningful and relevant music which is consistently brilliant and thought provoking. [Adam Rosario]

Read our full review of ‘Euthanasia’

16. Conjurer – ‘Páthos’

The thing about Conjurer is that they let the music they create speak for itself. ‘Páthos’ is their latest output, and it feels cathartic to listen to, with its heaviness in sound as well as the subject matter. The album takes you through an emotional journey, especially with the song ‘All You Will Remember’. With eight tracks on the album, ‘Páthos’ doesn’t overstay its welcome and keeps the listener immersed in the music. Conjurer are a band that still stands out in the UK metal scene, and it’s going to be exciting to see what happens next for them. [Sarah Tsang]

Read our full review of ‘Páthos’

15. The Wonder Years – ‘The Hum Goes on Forever’

Throughout The Wonder Years’ career, there has been a sense of optimism through all the self-doubt Dan Campbell and company have expressed. Having welcomed fatherhood, ‘The Hum Goes on Forever’ looked to accept that constant subconscious feeling of uncertainty. Lyrically rich and earnest, songs such as ‘Summer Clothes’, ‘Lost it in the Lights’, and ‘Oldest Daughter’ are sentimental. Whereas, ‘Wyatt’s Song (Your Name)’ and ‘Low Tide’ showed The Wonder Years haven’t lost the ability to write massive hooks. Anchored by a consistent rawness, ‘The Hum…’ is built on The Wonder Years’ emotional foundations and has organically evolved it into another captivating collection. [Sêan Reid]

Read our full review of ‘The Hum Goes on Forever’
Read our live review of The Wonder Years at The Electric Ballroom, London

14. Parkway Drive  – ‘Darker Still’

Parkway Drive have fought tooth and nail to see this album released, and deservedly so. While the dry humor of previous albums isn’t as present here, ‘Darker Still’ is no less of a PD album for it. It is a tale of resilience in the face of overwhelming opposition and, at times, it feels as though we are listening to a record meant only for the band itself, with promises upon promises to keep struggling through, no matter the circumstances. ‘Ground Zero’ feels like the perfect encapsulation of the album’s journey; moments of honest fragility peaking through the coal performances interspersed with brutal, defiant guitar lines. They never shy away from their origins though, and while the record is full of unfamiliar territory for the band, their classic old hardcore vibes still bleed through the cracks on tracks like ‘Glitch’. Though ‘Darker Still’ might become one of the quintet’s most divisive pieces, it is by no means aimless. Parkway Drive deserves all the recognition coming to them for producing a record that is wholly theirs, a self-reflective piece that’s without compromise in its composition. [Fiachra Johnston]

Read our full review of ‘Darker Still’
Read our live review of Parkway Drive at Alexandra Palace, London

13. Polyphia – ‘Remember That You Will Die’

With the release of ‘New Levels New Devils’ in 2018, every Polyphia release since has felt special. Tim Henson and company have never had anything to prove, neither in their technical ability nor their writing creativity, but ‘NLND’ was perhaps their biggest leap forward yet. It’s good to see the bag of tricks isn’t running dry any time soon, as ‘Remember That You Will Die’, their first full LP since, is just as exciting as its predecessor. Amongst the classic instrumental displays of musical prowess, such as the Spanish-influenced ‘Playing God’, and ’Ego Death’, a truly grand collaboration with the legendary Steve Vai, Polyphia has upped their guest vocalist game as well. Chino Moreno of Deftones fame joins for the suitably distorted ‘Bloodbath’ while Sophia Black adds an infectious positivity to ‘ABC’ that should feel out of place but instead feels right at home. The biggest pull of ‘Remember That You Will Die’ is that there’s something for everyone here. No two tracks feel similar, yet its consistently stellar production means the album never lacks cohesion or feels disjointed in its presentation. In doing so, Polyphia have crafted their most well-rounded record yet. [Fiachra Johnston]

12. Boston Manor – ‘Datura’

The past few years have seen Boston Manor challenge themselves without limits, catapulting their music from their pop punk roots to a darker, more complex sound that’s difficult to define. Their latest venture, ‘Datura’, showcases their phenomenal growth and further positions them as one of the strongest names in British music, giving us high hopes for what’s next, and securing confidence that their trajectory will only continue upwards as we move into 2023. This is a band who aren’t afraid to take risks and while ‘Datura’ may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s an authentic approach to a concept album that will draw in new fans as well as excite many of those who have been around from the beginning. This eerie, sultry, somewhat romantic record is a must listen.  [Yasmin Brown]

Read our full review of ‘Datura’
Read our live review of Boston Manor at Electric Brixton, London

11. Kid Kapichi – ‘Here’s What You Could’ve Won’

With this album, Kid Kapichi have managed to strike a balance of irreverence and indifference – knowing just when to play the right hand. The track list is brimming with forceful narratives that are heightened with diverse, powerful, and downright dirty instrumentation, leaving the listener feeling fulfilled in every capacity. It’s strongest attribute though could be the softness that is woven throughout; subtle and sombre heartfelt lyrics and production that highlight versatility. ‘Here’s What You Could Have Won’ is a formative record for the band as they push the boundaries of their style and prove we’ve not yet seen everything they have to offer. Besides, who doesn’t like their post punk with a side of hard-hitting politics and social commentary that make you question everything as you headbang? [Jessica McCarrick]

Read our full review of ‘Here’s What You Could’ve Won’
Read our live review of Kid Kapichi at Electric Ballroom, London

10. Ghost – ‘Impera’

One question was on the lips of Ghost fans heading into album number five – what direction was Tobias Forge going to take them in this time? The mastermind behind the Swedish occult band has never been afraid to evolve their sound from album-to-album, and while 2018’s ‘Prequelle’ dipped its toes into the realm of arena rock, ‘IMPERA’ firmly steps onto that stage and turns the dial up to 11 with stunning results. Musical influences from Def Leppard to Van Halen, Europe and (quelle surprise) ABBA shine through across the record – thematically focused on the rise and fall of empires – as Ghost embrace the bombast of 80s rock’s biggest and best, with all of the hooks, riffs and pop sensibility that Papa Emeritus and his band of Nameless Ghouls have become known and loved for. From the rip-roaring opening salvo of ‘Kaisarion’ and ‘Spillways’, to entrancing power ballad ‘Darkness At The Heart Of My Love’ and sprawling closer ‘Respite On The Spitalfields’, ‘IMPERA’ is a stunning tour de force from start to finish, with its commercial success rightfully positioning them as future major festival headliners, not just in the UK, but worldwide. [Brad Stratton]

Read our full review of ‘Impera’
Read our live review of Ghost at The O2 Arena, London

9. Cave In – ‘Heavy Pendulum’

After helping define metalcore then space-rock, Cave In have spent nigh-on twenty years trying to combine the two. In the past, their ideas may have struggled to cohere but by pinning them to metal on ‘Heavy Pendulum’ they perfected it. This isn’t an album, it’s a journey. Always creative, always restless, they always wanted to explore and that is also true here, but united under a singular vision, these fourteen songs feel focused, fresh and expansive, magical even. Stephen Brodsky’s singing is delightful and paired with carefully deployed yells for maximum impact. Each song is underscored by big metal riffs, easily drifting between genres and styles while being threaded together by twisting effects-laden guitars, resulting in a tour of every project they’ve been involved with. You can hear their major label hooks on ‘Floating Skulls’, their underground roots on ‘Amaranthine’ and the Hydra-Head era interludes on ‘Pendulambient’ all woven together in a tapestry where each part supports the next. And finally, after thirteen hard-hitting songs, they have the audacity to end the album with ‘Wavering Angel’. Eclipsing even the genius of the now-classic ‘Sing My Loves’, it starts as a small acoustic song, slowly building layer after layer until the tension becomes too much and it erupts into a blistering guitar solo, only to fade into an outro riff with a whole planet’s gravity, ending what isn’t just a record, it’s an entire career distilled into one epic tour of the cosmos. [Ian Kenworthy]

Read our full review of ‘Heavy Pendulum’

8. Architects – ‘the classic symptoms of a broken spirit”

Just over a year after their chart topping album “For Those Who Wish to Exist”, Architects returned in 2022 with their tenth album and further pushed their sound with “The Classic Symptoms of a Broken Spirit”. The band stick to their stable sound, but with the addition of further electronic elements. While the last album brought the band to arena level, this album will have ensured it. The industrial thud of ‘tear gas’ shows the interconnectivity to the last album, but the band are not afraid to push into newer territories. ‘burn down my house’ becomes one of the standout tracks through its beautifully slowed tempo. While pushing into these territories, classic fans will be satisfied with the stomping closer ‘be very afraid’ and the return of the much lauded “Bleugh” in ‘spit the bone’. Architects find the perfect balance between the new and old with one of their most concise albums, cementing them as one of the top British bands on the scene. [Glen Bollard]

Read our full review of ‘the classic symptoms of a broken spirit’
Read our live review of Architects at Alexandra Palace

7. Bob Vylan – ‘Bob Vylan Presents The Price of Life’

Here in Britain, there’s an increasing feeling that those without inherent privilege are being punished for simply existing. Particularly pertinent today is the cost of living crisis, to state the fucking obvious. Of course, it’s not a situation unique to home but regardless, Bob Vylan aren’t having it. Their brand of brash London punk/hip-hop/grime couldn’t have resurfaced at a more apt time and, in ‘Bob Vylan Presents The Price of Life’ this eponymous duo have launched a sonic statement loud enough to be heard across the nation and beyond. Crucial message aside, the album sounds fantastic, and there are plenty of hooks and riffs to warrant endless revisits. That said, the bottom line is that this is the most important album released this year, bar none. [Aaron Jackson]

Read our full review of ‘Bob Vylan Presents the Price of Life’
Read our live review of Bob Vylan at The Underworld, London

6. Rolo Tomassi – ‘Where Myth Becomes Memory’

There’s something that’s so special about Rolo Tomassi and the way that they’ve shape-shifted from unpredictable math-metal meddlers into some of the most powerful and progressive songwriters that the UK has to offer. ‘Where Myth Becomes Memory’ further strengthens their claim to that title; an incredibly moving ten track outing that journeys through dizzying highs and devastating lows with true elegance and emotional potency, perfectly closing the book on their unintentional trilogy of albums. The crushing brutality in ‘Drip’ and ‘Cloaked’ is impossibly colossal, and the delicate piano sections on tracks like ‘Mutual Ruin’ and ‘Stumbling’ are so raw and spacious that the emotional weight is overwhelming. Throw in explosive and gloomy heavyweights like ‘Labyrinthine’ and charmingly serene epics like ‘The End Of Eternity’ and you’ve got yourself the whole package. A stunning album by a stunning band that just seems to get better and better. [Dave Stewart]

Read our full review of ‘Where Myth Becomes Memory’
Read our live review of Rolo Tomassi at Oval Space, London

5. Zeal & Ardor – ‘Zeal & Ardor’

Manuel Gagneux is Swiss-American, he’s a multi-instrumentalist and he’s the visionary behind Zeal & Ardor. Having gained praise for the band’s eclectic blend of black metal and spiritualist singing, he’s already proved he’s talented. He’s proved he had ideas. On this third album, he’s finally proved he’s a genius. Previous records sounded fresh and unusual, they were creative and always tried new things but there’s no trying here, everything is deliberate, meaning these songs aren’t just better, they’re essential. Each dips into different genres in interesting, intoxicating and important ways, yet the album fits together perfectly. With a purposeful tone and careful structure, the raw and stripped back ‘Götterdämmerung’ sits easily beside the sumptuous ‘I Caught You’ without compromising the overall vision. There’s a clear message and dissatisfaction bubbles beneath the surface but it’s all slickly executed in a way that previous efforts weren’t, and although it trades gritty production for something a little more refined, their sound doesn’t lose any of its edge. The real trick though is making avantgarde black metal accessible to a wide audience and songs like ‘Church Burns’ combine dark riffing and soulful gospel singing to create an intensely likeable package. The results are stunning and you can’t doubt the conviction. Heavier, more melodic, restless and relentlessly creative, Zeal & Ardor’s self-titled record isn’t just a chance to redefine themselves, it’s a chance to redefine what black metal can do. It’s awe-inspiring. [Ian Kenworthy]

Read our full review of ‘Zeal & Ardor’
Read our live review of Zeal & Ardor at Electric Brixton, London

4. The Callous Daoboys – ‘Celebrity Therapist’

There’s a certain breed of metalcore bands that can be loosely defined as ‘bands that really like Converge and the Dillinger Escape Plan’, but few of them manage to be as original, interesting, and batshit insane as their heroes. The Callous Daoboys have a relentless force of personality that allows them to absolutely nail it, playing angular, pacy, and technical metalcore while bringing plenty of their own twisted charisma to the party. And it really is a party. The lyrics are laugh-out-loud absurd, the instrumentals ludicrously heavy, and the melodic sections are palatable enough for anyone to get into – even if the rest of the album isn’t. If you like your music fast, heavy, and unpredictable, there’s every chance The Callous Daoboys will become your new favourite band. [Ash Bebbington]

Read our full review of ‘Celebrity Therapist’


The Canadian kings of melodic punk returned to our speakers in 2022 with an absolute barnstormer of a record that blends irresistible hooks with a furious punk edge in their own inimitable style. Four albums in they’re yet to put a foot wrong, and must now surely be considered one of the world’s best punk bands of the last decade. The record’s lyrics drip with irony as a three-part interlude sees singer Stefan Babcock sing from the perspective of a musician who’s sold out to the “board of directors” bankrolling the album. There’s also a song written from the perspective of a robot, and another from the perspective of a guitar. But above all else, this record is just an absolute blast to listen to. Songs like ‘Totally Fine’ and ‘Matilda’ are pure cathartic punk joy that’ll put a smile on your face and a spring in your step. [Ash Bebbington]

Read our full review of ‘THE UNRAVELING OF PUPTHEBAND’

2. Alexisonfire – ‘Otherness’

Is there anything better than one of your all time favourite bands getting back together? I mean, maybe – I hear childbirth is meant to be pretty magical and I imagine winning the Euromillions probably feels alright too – but when it comes to music, few feelings match up to having your one of your all time favourites release new material and simultaneously fix your broken heart. Alexisonfire did exactly that with ‘Otherness’, a record that floods your senses with post-hardcore nostalgia and emotional power, helping to pick up all of the pieces that their hiatus created and put them back together over the album’s 50 minute run-time. It has so many different sides and demonstrates just how far they’ve come as songwriters, including everything from cathartic angst-riddled riots to delicate and seriously moving masterpieces. Tracks like ‘Dark Night Of The Soul’, ‘Blue Spade’ and ‘World Stops Turning’ all dip their toes in the rock epic world, ‘Reverse The Curse’ and ‘Survivors Guilt’ are classic early-band-days bangers, ‘Sans Soleil’ and ‘Sweet Dreams Of Otherness’ both pick up exactly where they left off on 2009’s ‘Old Crows / Young Cardinals’; it all sounds wonderfully effortless, almost like they never went away, making their decade of silence seem like but a moment. It’s like they were never gone, and that really is a wonderful feeling. Welcome back, Alexisonfire – we missed you. [Dave Stewart]

Read our full review of ‘The Otherness’
Read our live review of Alexisonfire at O2 Academy Brixton

1. Ithaca -‘They Fear Us’

One of the most common tropes amongst musicians is the concept of the “difficult second album”, also known as the Sophomore Slump. When noisy London-based outfit Ithaca released ‘The Language of Injury’ in 2019, they set the bar for themselves incredibly high with their intense brand of off-kilter metalcore, heavily influenced by the “white-belt” bands of the early 00s like Poison The Well and Misery Signals. It’s a dark, angry record that bubbles over with energy and feels like it could fall apart at any minute due to its own momentum. Long story short: it’s a perfect metalcore record.

‘They Fear Us’ is, in no uncertain terms, a flawless follow-up. It is undoubtedly more polished than its predecessor but it hits with just as much power and acidity, as is immediately and abundantly clear on opening track ‘In The Way’. “I take your calls in the bathroom so that no-one can hear, and wash your blood down the sink ‘cause we don’t keep souvenirs” may well be the HARDEST line on a track released this year, thanks in no small part to Djamila Boden Azzouz’ venomous delivery and the flurry of buzzsaw riffs the rest of the band backs her up with.

For the next few tracks, the album is pretty relentless. First single and title track ‘They Fear Us’ is carried by a real neck-breaker of a riff, leading up to a staggering mosh-call of “BOW BEFORE YOUR BLOOD” into a savage breakdown, ‘Cremation Party’ is some serious circle-pit fodder, and ‘Number Five’ (which is annoyingly the sixth track on the album) contains some lead guitar lines that sound downright unhinged. Ithaca have taken everything that made their debut album so great and somehow improved upon it without ever feeling like they’re rehashing old ideas or over-treading familiar ground.

Up until this point, ‘They Fear Us’ has been a metalcore record. A fantastic and innovative one, sure, but a metalcore record nonetheless. On the last three tracks, however, Ithaca break free of any genre restraints they may have felt shackled by and really let their diverse influences shine through. ‘Fluorescent’ is a fantastic showcase for how far Djamila has come as a clean vocalist, working her way through their most measured song to date with really interesting phrasing and bags of style and charisma. ‘You Should Have Gone Back’ mixes the band’s sound with post-metal atmosphere, but features a soulful guitar solo that Prince would be proud of. Closing track ‘Hold, Be Held’ is perhaps the biggest curveball, blending Bon Iver-esque electronic passages with gospel vocals (that repeated line of “how much more can I take? When will I heal?” is absolutely heartbreaking) and prog-style callbacks to motifs from earlier songs. If Ithaca release a third record, and let’s hope they do, it would be fantastic to see them lean into their progressive side more; they clearly excel at it.

Whilst this is a review of the album itself, it feels remiss to not mention the album art and general aesthetic of this release and the campaign behind it. Very few bands would have the guts to put such a striking band photo on the front cover of their record, particularly in this genre of music, and the powerful, regal nature of Djamila’s look in particular feels very appropriate for the content. ‘They Fear Us’ carries a message of triumph and hope: your trauma does not define you. This record is emotional, passionate, introspective, and empowering. It’s also just a seriously fun heavy metal record to bang your head to even if you don’t feel like you need anything else out of it. What more could you possibly ask for? [Liam Knowles]

Read our full review of ‘They Fear Us’