I sit here writing this intro essay crouched at a too-small desk, my fiance’s mother’s childhood desk, huddled beneath a blanket in my fiance’s childhood room placing the finishing touches on our list just before Christmas Eve. My body is currently scratched and busted up; I have a bad hematoma on my left arm from elbow to armpit, with deep scratches on that forearm while my left hip and right elbow feel jacked to hell. That is because last night, after bursting out of my apartment door to tell a neighbor to quiet down after they paced screaming at the top of their lungs for over two hours, I found myself locked out of my apartment with my 12-year old dog locked inside. So, I attempted what any grown man left on their own in such a situation would: I attempted to scale my apartment building to the third-floor balcony I call my own to get in through the balcony door. And, after cinching in a tight anchor lock with my armpit and walking my way up the bricks, I very nearly had it, had an arm just a foot or so from gripping the top of the rail of my own balcony some 20-ish feet off the ground. But, as it turns out, metal in the rain is quite slippery and, after about half a dozen or more near-falls, I called it and climbed my way back down my building, beat the shit and incredibly humiliated.
This is all to say that we never really know what the year will throw our way. 2022 was a lot of things to me personally; I lost a number of friends, some to the fatal sting of the opioid scourge that seems to matter so little to those in power, some because they got tired of the kind of person I am. It’s also the year I got properly engaged to the love of my life after us talking idly about it for a couple years now as well as the year I took over as the general manager at my day job. It’s the year Joe Schafer, who founded this column and brought me aboard more as a way for us to finally work together, left Mining Metal, but it’s also the year Colin Dempsey, a writer I’ve wanted to work with, came on board. Art comes and art goes but, and even great artists know this, what matters more is the lives they twine themselves up with, where and how they meet us on the road to comment on and elucidate the shapes and colors we encounter.
A benefit of our publication schedule is we get to see all the other lists as they come out, get to remind ourselves of albums we loved that we forgot about, and, just like everyone else, jeer at selections we disagree with. But both Colin and I write about a lot of stuff outside of metal and this, plus our stated strictures of only highlighting underground material and stuff you can give your money to in good conscience, means we have the opportunity to not do the thing that bores us to tears, which is making a best-of list that’s designed to impress some abstract intelligentsia or Rate Your Music/Metal Archives type. Objectivity in these types of endeavors is a great exercise and I suggest anyone who hasn’t tried to make definitive lists to give it a go. But for those of us who’ve done it a hell of a lot, the opposite becomes attractive, a radical honesty of what things met us on the road and gave themselves over to our lives the most whether these are the obvious picks or not.
So, in that spirit, we give you Mining Metal’s best underground metal albums of 2022. Are these the best? Who cares! These are our best. Keep it weird, forever. Time for me to take some more ibuprofen.
— Langdon Hickman