Yes, 2022 is over already. This last year marked the first year of tours returning (largely) to normal following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the reemergence of many long-beloved festivals, and the first series of releases where bands were once again able to collaborate in the studio rather than via videoconferencing. With this return to some semblance of normal came a slew of incredible albums, spanning from melodic hard rock through extreme metal and everything in between. And while some familiar names sought to cement their legacies (titans like Megadeth and Kreator among them), there were also numerous bands who made spectacular debut efforts (like hard-rockers Classless Act). There were well-known legends that made impressive comebacks (turn to Giant and Porcupine Tree), and eclectic experimentalists who made waves (look no further than Zeal & Ardor). Even where this year seemed to pass by in a blink, there was more than enough great music to keep everyone busy.
Given this sheer variety and all-around excellence, choosing only 50 albums to name for their greatness was a daunting task indeed. But after careful thought and consideration, we present the our Top 50 Albums of 2022. Congratulations to all that made the final cut, and we look forward to what the new year brings.
OUR TOP 50 ALBUMS OF 2022
50. Fozzy – Boombox (Century Media Records)
“Boombox” follows four years after Fozzy‘s Gold-certified “Judas,” and it offers all of that same infectious passion and fire. This album is radio rock at its finest, with irresistible hooks that capture the listener from the very first riff, and choruses that have enough spirit to encourage anyone to sing-along. Fozzy continues to play with serious style, flair, and personality, the type of charisma that has always been meant for the big stage. Not only has Fozzy continued to “wow” musically, the singles and music videos accompanying the album have offered looks at the band’s youthful spirit and ever-persistent enthusiasm for the craft. Soak in the splendor of the spotlight and enjoy the hard-rocking thrills contained within “Boombox” and its tracklist packed with single-worthy bangers.
49. Alter Bridge – Pawns & Kings (Napalm Records)
Alter Bridge have again proven themselves a cut above their hard-rocking contemporaries, and “Pawns & Kings” provides a paragon of excellence while erring towards the heavier side of their skillset. This album is not only Alter Bridge at their very best, but it is a call and a challenge for other artists to try and meet this bar that the band has set. Some songs are saccharine and nostalgic, while others are a fresh take on radio rock with a biting metallic edge. Above all else, “Pawns & Kings” is a fun, heavy romp from the best in the business. It might not break much ground in a purely stylistic sense, but it reaffirms the strengths that this band has long expressed to achieve star status in the industry, and solidifies why they will for many years to come. Check out our full review of the album here.
48. An Abstract Illusion – Woe (Willowtip Records)
Although An Abstract Illusion have only just recently ventured into their sophomore outing, they have shown a maturity and exploration of sound that few heavy bands are ever able to achieve, much less in their second album. “Woe” is the band’s first album in six years, and it is full of fire, extravagance, and not an ounce of compromise. Flavored with progressive complexity, the sheer heaviness and brutality of “Woe” is sure to please fans of death metal and black metal alike. The pensive balances against the aggressive, and the beautiful balances against the passages that leave listeners aghast in near horror. Pure elation of creation melds effortlessly with artistic talent, and An Abstract Illusion solidify themselves as an act worth watching as another year passes by.
47. Sigh – Shiki (Peaceville Records)
There are few albums as immediately transfixing, spiritually arresting, and breathtakingly diverse as “Shiki.” Sigh has long been a legendary extreme metal act in Japan, evolving from raw black metal to contemporary avant-garde, with the latter exemplified in traditional Japanese chord progressions and a wide variety of genre influences. Full of stark contrast that truly exemplifies how great Sigh are, “Shiki” explores realms of metal and beyond (including lo-fi hip-hop beats) with brilliant and distinctive aplomb. “Shiki” is about much more than merely listening to the album, but embraces the very process of listening. The flow, the changes, the grasp of dynamics and the wonderful timbre of the instrumentation speaks deeply to any thoughtful listener. Read more of our thoughts on the album at this location.
46. Fallujah – Empyrean (Nuclear Blast Records)
An album that is far more than merely superb, “Empyrean” brings a new energy and dynamism to Fallujah‘s discography that culminates in an utterly phenomenal record that challenges the status quo in the current death metal scene. New vocalist Kyle Schaefer excels in matching the vocal styles of the band’s previous vocalists, but in doing so he brings his own (extra raspy) timbre into the fore. New bassist Evan Brewer is also well-integrated into the Fallujah fold, particularly with his solidly laid bass lines that integrate effortlessly with the complete and all-consuming soundscapes that dominate “Empyrean.” The new melds with the old, and the old gives way for the new, and Fallujah solidifies themselves as a continually strong force in the modern death metal scene. Check out a full review of the album here.
45. Girish and the Chronicles – Hail to the Heroes (Frontiers Music SRL)
With this third album release, one that is more polished, just as well-written, and expertly produced, it is clear that Girish and the Chronicles are not just a passing novelty of Sunset Strip hair metal. Headed by titular guitarist and vocalist Girish Pradhan and his presumed brother Yogesh (bass, keys, and producer), this quartet is a faithfully authentic revival of the style, a genuine demonstration of heart and talent that the scene hasn’t been treated to in quite some time. Although a touch heavier than their sophomore outing, Girish and the Chronicles manage to make this album sound even more mature and more refined. Between passionate style and fun music videos this album is easy to fall in love with. This band is the real deal, and with “Hail to the Heroes,” it’s apparent they’re here to stay. Check out our full review here.
44. Joe Satriani – The Elephants of Mars (earMusic)
Excellent with its relentless diversity and talent, “The Elephants of Mars” sees Satriani yet again upping his game, and creating a new standard for guitar-oriented albums to strive for. No two tracks are alike, which leads to a thrilling guessing game of where in the world the listener will arrive next. With flavors that range from psychedelic to bass-heavy rock, Satriani channels inspiration from great guitarists across history, but does so with unmistakably unique flair. “The Elephants of Mars” is Satriani’s 19th album, and although it seems impossible for an artist so advanced in their career, it sees Satriani yet again upping his game and increasing his self-imposed quality control that has consistently yielded something new and refreshing. Check out a full review at this location.
43. Seventh Wonder – The Testament (Frontiers Music SRL)
The Seventh Wonder crew, headed by the charismatic Tommy Karevik, have delivered an opus that rivals their previous masterpiece “Tiara.” Although fans had to wait almost four years (albeit a shorter break than their previous eight-year hiatus), “The Testament” is another splendid display of what modern progressive-power metal can sound like. This album is absolutely stuffed to the brim with action and constant activity from the keyboards, guitars, and percussive elements. There are mid-tempo single-ready tracks alongside high-energy melodic thrills, all brought to even greater heights by Karevik‘s irresistible vocal talents. Strong musicianship and stellar production tie together all album elements to make something greater than the sum of its parts. Read more of our thoughts on the album here.
42. Goatwh**e – Angels Hung From the Arches of Heaven (Metal Blade Records)
Nothing less than pure brutality has brought Goatwh**e‘s “Angels Hung From the Arches of Heaven” blazing to the top of the charts and many AOTY lists. Saturated with the darkness and unforgiving desolation that Goatwh**e has long been known for, there is no sign that the band is dialing back their metallic fury as they enter the twenty-fifth year of their career. “Angels Hung From the Arches of Heaven” maintains the band’s signature blend of black, death, and thrash metal, and the production keeps the raw edge shining through. Goatwh**e has truly tapped into their artistic side on this album as well, using visual components and intentionally designed sigils to make this musical journey one that is both illustrative and aural at the same time. Buckle up for this album – it has fangs and it goes straight for the throat.
41. King’s X – Three Sides of One (Inside Out Music)
After a painfully long hiatus that lasted more than a decade, King’s X finally sees a glorious return, and uses “Three Sides of One” to revisit their unique sound and produce one of the greatest records they have made in a long time. Even if there is a sense of finality about it, this album has a mysterious and magical sensation about it, one that embodies all of the band’s trials and tribulations. Three different vocal contributions add variety and quirks while still remaining cohesive, and it similarly balances the nostalgic signatures of early progressive rock while giving a considerable modern touch. This trio have created an indescribable musical chemistry, and “Three Sides of One” shows their persistent passion and perseverance in a bright light. Explore our additional thoughts on the record here.
40. Tony Martin – Thorns (Dark Star Records)
Recalling his tenure with Black Sabbath during the dark days of the mid-1990s, veteran vocalist and heavy metal mainstay Tony Martin reignites his solo career with a dank, forbidding beast of an album that brilliantly merges his hard rock and heavy metal roots with a modernized arsenal of doom. “Thorns” is full of inspiration from across Martin’s career, and it also includes a quasi-supergroup lineup to give even greater variety to the album’s diverse textures. And although this is the first solo outing from this accomplished artist since 2005, it is comprehensive, well-measured, and a strong demonstration of his musical past and present. Given Martin’s accomplished and prolific career, “Thorns” serves as one of his more unique offerings to reach the market. Read our full review on the album at this location.
39. Shadow of Intent – Elegy (Blood Blast Distribution)
“Elegy” is a dramatic and dark celebration of extreme metal, its technically complex riffage interwoven with thunderous blast beats and demonic howls. Deathcore tinged with symphonic prog, Shadow of Intent have begun to make a name for themselves as a leading force of modern deathcore, and have shown that the notoriously brutal genre can be defined by spectacular depth. Taking on touches of black metal’s raw power and progressive metal’s intricacy, “Elegy” is a tremendous opus that will certainly cement Shadow of Intent’s legacy in the deathcore scene and beyond. 2022 also saw Shadow of Intent tour with Cannibal Corpse, Whitechapel, and Revocation. By expertly balancing influence from numerous genres without compromising their unique stylistic signature, this ever-impressive act have made another promising step in the band’s sonic growth and a great addition to 2022’s extreme metal catalogue.
38. Lalu – Paint the Sky (Frontiers Music SRL)
Bring together four top-tier musicians, sprinkle in an assortment of all-star guests who lend their collective talents to a dozen inspired songs, and what do you get? In the case of Lalu‘s “Paint the Sky,” named after the titular artist Vivien Lalu, you get one of the best albums of the year. Vivien Lalu‘s vision gets knocked out of the park by his hand-picked band of virtuosos who deftly handle any style thrown at them. Solidly rooted in a modern style of progressive rock with affectionate glances back to the genre’s pioneers, Lalu has created a stunning work of art that sets a new bar for where prog can (and perhaps should) go in the twenty-first century. Elevating the experience even further is the visual experience offered by the accompanying lyric video, seen below. Read more of our thoughts on the album here.
37. Nordic Union – Animalistic (Frontiers Music SRL)
Nordic Union is the energetic collaborative project between legendary Danish rock singer Ronnie Atkins (Pretty Maids) and Swedish songwriter and producer Erik Martensson (Eclipse, W.E.T.), and “Animalistic” is the dynamic duo’s third album under the Nordic Union name. And although Atkins was recently diagnosed with stage four cancer, “Animalistic” is an expression of melodic hard-rock joy, and is as inspiring as it is inspired. Each artist brings with them experience and influence from their other respective projects for a tasteful balance between melodic brightness and rock’s heavier touch. If someone is looking for an exciting, engaging, and true-to-form melodic hard rock album, they need look no further than the comforting embrace of “Animalistic.”
36. Persefone – Metanoia (Napalm Records)
Persefone has, possibly more than any other band in the contemporary prog metal sphere, set itself apart by pairing devastatingly brutal technical death metal with uplifting, inward-looking lyrics, and concept album “Metanoia” is no exception. Proving themselves to be master of their craft, Persefone use “Metanoia” to push their musical limits and creativity to another album, and done so with a breathtaking combination of technical complexity and emotive soundscapes. The band has truly succeeding in creating a fascinating and immersive experience. “Metanoia” is the sound of repose disrupted, rage restrained, and of fear conquered, and as such encapsulates the essence of the human experience with all the agony and ecstasy of simply being. Read our full review here.
35. Jonas Lindberg & The Other Side – Miles From Nowhere (Inside Out Music)
The hooks and melodies keep flowing throughout this remarkable album from Swedish artist Jonas Lindberg and his band The Other Side. Well-conceived, well-executed, and well-produced “Miles From Nowhere” succeeds with short, catchy songs alongside long, elaborate epics. This is only the second album from the band, and its production is as great as its songwriting. This greatness only excels because of the excellent musicianship from the entire band, but particularly with Lindberg taking on bass, production, and primary songwriting for “Miles From Nowhere.” At almost an hour and twenty minutes long, the epics contained within are quite worth settling down and drinking in in full, and the listener’s palate is frequently cleansed by shorter and more dynamic pieces. If melodic contemporary prog is your scene, this album is likely among your best of the year. Check out the full review at this location.
34. Amon Amarth – The Great Heathen Army (Metal Blade Records)
Swedish death metal pioneers and stalwart bards of the Viking Age, Amon Amarth deliver a pummeling, modernized kill-blow that has shaken the metal masses to their very core. “The Great Heathen Army” takes some inspiration from the unforgiving grit that brought them to fame, but it is defined by the clean polish that has kept them a household name since the late 2000s. There isn’t a dull point to be found in the gargantuan battle axe that is “The Great Heathen Army,” and every bit of this tremendous force is exemplified by the infectious melodic hooks that clash alongside thunderous power. This album can be comfortably asserted as a rung above Amon Amarth‘s last handful of releases, and while not exactly a return to form, it is a reminder to listeners of the history that drives the band’s long-enjoyed success. You can check out more of our thoughts on the album here.
33. Cosmograf – Heroic Materials (Independent)
Cosmograf delivers a concept album for their ninth release, and what a whopper it is. Making a devastatingly emotional impact, “Heroic Materials” is one of musician Robin Armstrong‘s finest moments musically, lyrically, and thematically. His masterful production skills beautifully support the tasteful and measured instrumentation, making this one of the most successful prog albums of the year. “Heroic Materials” is an artistic triumph, immediately accessible, but is still multi-dimenstional on both a musical and lyrical levels. The pacing is relaxed, which invites frequent repeat listenings. And although it is accessible, there is no doubt that Armstrong‘s dazzling musicianship will wow even the most reserved listeners. Click here to read our complete thoughts on the album.
32. Machine Head – Of Kingdom and Crown (Nuclear Blast Records)
These fabled metal titans brought their tenth full-length album to light with “Of Kingdom and Crown,” a dark concept album set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland from some distant future. Not only does the album follow the tales of two dynamic main characters and the tumultuous dangers of their world, it does so with a welcome heaviness. There is no better match for this mammoth story than the Bay-Area riffing that has made Machine Head a force of the metal world for years. Face-melting solos pair wonderfully with delectable groove, and every minute is stuffed with speed and aggression. Many fans have touted “Of Kingdom and Crown” as a true return-to-form for Machine Head after years of experimentation, but regardless of whether this is an album for nostalgia’s sake or the start of a new chapter, it is well-worth enjoying.
31. Arena – The Theory of Molecular Inheritance (Verglas Music)
British prog-rockers Arena present “The Theory of Molecular Inheritance” as their tenth studio album, and their first with new singer Damian Wilson. This latest collection of songs presents greater depth and dynamic dimension than prior outing “Double Vision,” and it does so with both a greater vocal range available and greater chemistry to their songwriting. Distinctly audible bass makes “The Theory of Molecular Inheritance” entirely comprehensive upon listening. Both percussive rhythms and guitar melodies are purposeful, expertly crafting an atmosphere that varies from somber to mysterious, all the way through pleasant elation. The many facets Arena have captured shows that this band has not only continued to evolve their skills, but bring their audience content that uses those talents to their fullest.
30. Marillion – An Hour Before It’s Dark (earMusic)
“An Hour Before It’s Dark” flatly refutes the adage that old dogs can’t learn new tricks. Both bleak and buoyant, this album reassures fans that not only does Marillion have some great music left in them, but that they can do so without falling back on old habits. There is considerable and familiar darkness buried in this album’s folds, but alongside it are shout-outs to the band’s past content. This is an album that begs listeners to suspend their disbelief while listening, and there are moments that will leave the audience feeling like there’s a sunset that reaches over a pitch-black horizon. Refreshing and memorable, there is little question that “An Hour Before It’s Dark” is as fervent and passionate as any other piece of Marillion‘s discography, and is a worthy release for the modern prog age. Read more in our review here.
29. Lost Society – If the Sky Came Down (Nuclear Blast Records)
Modern metal masters Lost Society grapple with a unique and sincere darkness in their latest album “If the Sky Came Down.” The diverse sounds of this album evolve beyond thrash and take on alternative and melodic overtones to make Lost Society a formidable and evolving force of sonic style. There are also hints of metalcore and grunge that take the ominous themes to the next level. This particular blend of styles harkens back to early-2000s alternative metal, but it does so with a fresh and modern production approach that integrates the more raw elements seamlessly with speed and aggression. Front-man Samy Elbanna carries a unique vocal signature that is enough to make “If the Sky Came Down” stand out from other radio-ready metallic fare.
28. Arch Enemy – Deceivers (Century Media Records)
Emerging after five years of studio silence, the old-school melodic death metal stalwarts Arch Enemy deliver a torrent of unfettered rage with some auspicious moments of versatility. It seems that “Deceivers” is their most polished work to date, with its massive sound fully realized by expert production and engineering. “Deceivers” is a mixture of new and old, drawing from the stylistically diverse era that served as the band’s foundation, while simultaneously matching pace with other leaders in the modern melodic death metal scene. Although there are certainly other acts in the genre vying to be top dog, with this album Arch Enemy proves that it still has what it takes to enter the fray and emerge victorious head-and-shoulders above the rest. Read the full review here.
27. Pattern Seeking Animals – Only Passing Through (Inside Out Music)
It’s hard to believe that in 2018, no one had heard of Pattern-Seeking Animals, considering that 2022 marks the third excellent album released under the name. “Only Passing Through” may be the most accomplished of the lot, blending an inspiring array of influences, instrumentation, and songwriting. Infused with rock, jazz, and world music influences, their arrangements are among the most interesting in the prog world today, while remaining entirely engaging and accessible. Beyond the notable strengths of the band members themselves, this album also includes the skillful layering of vocals and integration of additional instruments like violins, bassoon, brass, and cello, among others. Ted Leonard, Jimmy Keegan, Dave Meros, and mastermind John Boegehold are on the cutting edge of modern prog, and they are the Pattern-Seeking Animals. Check out the rest of the review here.
26. Silent Skies – Nectar (Napalm Records)
Sorrow has never been more beautiful or fulfilling as it is in the comforting embrace of “Nectar.” Adorned with the splendor of breathtaking musicianship and melancholic creative vision, Silent Skies continue to excel in the craft of making memorable and deeply touching soundscape. The poignant lyricism and beautiful instrumentals provided by Vikram Shankar have a way of burying themselves deep in the listener’s heart. Touching vocals by Tom Englund (Evergrey, Redemption) convey emotions that cling to the soul long after the final track has ended. And although the depth and breadth of this album are impressively expansive, the cinematic rock approach makes “Nectar” accessible for listeners of all preferences. Check out what we thought of the album in-depth here.
25. Statement – Dreams From the Darkest Side (Mighty Music)
Danish hard rock quintet Statement have stepped up to impress with “Dreams From the Darkest Side.” The band’s desire for perfection is apartment in a polished, well-engineered album that has the very signature that they began to build in their critically acclaimed album “Force of Life.” By delving deeper into metal’s influence the band has elevated an otherwise rock-oriented sound. Guitar solos build out memorable tracks that span from fiery rock singles to emotional ballads. There is both power and fragility to be found in the deeply personal lyrics and illustrative sonic presentation as the band crafts memorable atmospheres for their listeners. Being so personal, it’s clear that “Dreams From the Darkest Side” contains emotion and ambition, and it certainly asks for a considerable spotlight.
24. Porcupine Tree – Closure/Continuation (Music For Nations / Sony)
“Closure/Continuation” pulls off the daunting task of giving a majority of Porcupine Tree fans what they have long wanted while maintaining artistic integrity and inspiration, and it comes more than a decade following 2009 album “The Incident.” This is much more than a comeback album, and it toys with nostalgia while ambitiously pursuing a sound that carries forward the sum of its members experience in the genre and beyond, experience that has largely been earned over the band’s relatively extensive hiatus. Both familiar and fresh at the same time, this is a modern Porcupine Tree for a new decade, deftly embracing its signature sounds without wallowing in nostalgia. Whether a final statement or the start of a new chapter, this album is a win for both the band and its fans. Read our review of the album here.
23. Devin Townsend – Lightwork (InsideOut Music)
There’s not much left to say about Devin Townsend‘s creativity that hasn’t been said already. The sheer scope of his musical ability and his mastery of every aspect of creation are unmatched in the world of metal. “Lightwork” is yet another triumph in Townsend’s discography, with a wall of sound that is spacious and full of sincerity. This is a collection of delectable songs that reach into the listener’s inner being. It soothes, assuages, and assures with great delight. To follow up the career-defining opus “Empath” seemed an impossible task, but for the indomitable Heavy Devy, “impossible” is little more than a welcome challenge. Naturally, this skilled and multi-talented virtuoso has done it again, with an album that breathes deep with absolute artisinal craft. Check out the album review here.
22. Perfect Plan – Brace for Impact (Frontiers Music SRL)
A tremendous year for melodic hard rock is exemplified with the tremendous effort encapsulated in Perfect Plan‘s “Brace For Impact.” By adding in hints of blues and progressive rock, tempered by solely one ballad, “Brace For Impact” is a storm of energy and kinetic activity that carries its momentum from its opening to closing notes. As stated in initial press releases from the band, these are songs that feel they are meant to be played on the jukebox, or perhaps in a car speeding down the highway with the top down. Given that Perfect Plan debuted with their 2018 album “All Rise,” “Brace For Impact” shows impressive maturity, growth in songwriting, and a clear sense of direction for the band moving forward. This heavier and more focused release is well-deserving of attention and a spot on this year in review.
21. Voivod – Synchro Anarchy (Century Media Records)
Weird tuning, dissonant chords, sci-fi lyrics, and thrash mixed with prog? Yep, it’s another Voivod album! “Synchro Anarchy” is yet another highlight of this act’s career as they deliver the successor to 2018’s “The Wake,” which was by all measures tremendous. Somehow, “Synchro Anarchy” further expands their musical and lyrical palette while embracing the complexity and chaos that makes their style so recognizable. Not only is this album one of the most consistent in the Voivod discography, it is matched with exquisite production that rivals the very best of their career, and shows that even old dogs can learn new tricks. Evocative solos, atmospheric lulls, and progressive interludes leave the listener wanting more long after the final notes fade. Read more at this location.
20. Lacrimas Profundere – How to Shround Yourself with Night (Steamhammer)
Lacrimas Profundere‘s last album was an unequivocal success, with “Bleeding the Stars” setting expectations for the quartet higher than ever before. And although others would have balked in the face of a challenge, this German dark metal band continued to create and innovate with stunning perseverance, resulting in the tremendous “How to Shroud Yourself with Night.” This is more than a mere sequel to success, however, as this material is passionate with an overcast atmosphere. The blackness of the cover art reflects across each track, particularly in the seemingly endless depth and care that went into crafting such a thoughtful album. To revel in the beauty of isolation and despondence, look no further than Lacrimas Profundere, and stay tuned for what they have in store for the future.
19. Battle Beast – Circus of Doom (Nuclear Blast Records)
After several years of seeking to pave their own path following the exit of principle songwriter and guitarist Anton Kabanen, the remaining members of Battle Beast have reforged the tempered steel that typified their early sound. “Circus of Doom” is bold and quasi-symphonic, and its release in early 2022 was the perfect masterpiece to kick off the year. Songwriting has once again come into focus for this exceptional act, which gives a straightforward vocal approach accented by symphonic flourishes. There are notable callbacks to the earlier Battle Beast and its formations, but the strength of this album comes into focus when gazing upon its pummeling metallic fury. For the first time in nearly a decade, Battle Beast seems content to shred, scream, and percuss their way through the awaiting hordes. Read more here.
18.Evil Invaders – Shattering Reflection (Napalm Records)
Channeling the most intense and insidious sounds of the mid-1980s, when early heavy metal was giving way to thrash in both Europe and the Americas, Belgian quartet Evil Invaders deliver a truly forbidding third studio entry. “Shattering Reflection” should put all New Wave of Traditional heavy Metal revivalists on notice, as this band is going to ride the front of the wave with little contest so long as they product content as solid, stunning, and sincere at this. This throwback is harrowing with its intensity, and its excursions into speed metal make this delicate balance between the high-octane and impact-based approach function as a perfect precursors to Teutonic thrashing extremities. For the blazing contents of “Shattering Reflection,” caution is not just thrown to the wind, but set ablaze with an industrial strength flamethrower. Read more in our full review here.
17. Junkyard Drive – Electric Love (Mighty Music)
Teen angst has drawn to a close with the mature, introspective lyricism that dominates the album “Electric Love” from cross-continental rockers Junkyard Drive. With more than 100 concerts under their belt and the power of mixing/mastering by Eclipse’s Erik Martensson, there was no room for “Electric Love” to fail. Junkyard Drive has masterful control over ballads, as exemplified in single “The Wonderland of Temptations,” and this sensitive side is later balanced by the hard-rocking riffage that the genre demands. Absolutely impressive vocal leads and the passion of a band that has yet to truly achieve their time in the hard rock spotlight, “Electric Love” is as touching as it is exciting, and promises to elicit profound reactions from any fans of heavy and melodic music.
16. Ibaraki – Rashomon (Nuclear Blast Records)
Beautifully crafted and fiercely original, Matt Heafy‘s new extreme metal project Ibaraki is an awesome storm of sonic reverie. Brilliant musicianship, songwriting, and inspiration collide to bring “Rashomon” to life, adn this album offers up Heafy‘s very best beneath the light of a truly unique aesthetic. Heafy has chosen to bare his soul for the world to see in perhaps his most personal outing yet, and he has done so with the utmost care for all he holds dear. A combination of death metal roots and Japanese folk influences craft an album that speaks to this talented musician’s roots while drawing in the exquisite talent of guest musicians from across the metalsphere and beyond. Long tracks span heart-wrenching stories and an almost divine fury for the beast of “Rashomon” to come to life with tears in its eyes. Dive into our in-depth review of the album here.
15. Queensrÿche – Digital Noise Alliance (Century Media Records)
Despite the revolving door of personnel over the years, the DNA of this band has been rediscovered and reignited with “Digital Noise Alliance.” Queensryche is truly emerging from the aches and reaching forward to not just touch, but improve upon, their heralded glory years. The tone choices make this particular outing particularly listenable for new and old fans alike. There are both solos and choruses that soar much the way any proper Queensryche record should, and this is exemplified by the use of vintage amps that were recovered from the band’s early days. “Digital Noise Alliance” is a fantastic addition to the band’s catalogue, and is one that builds on the classic sound and signature style while utilizing modern production to build a better final product. Read our review of “Digital Noise Alliance” at this location.
14. Invictus – Unstoppable (MNRK Heavy)
Artists breaking away from their established groups is a trend on this year’s list, and Invictus is no different. Featuring Kataklysm’s Maurizio Iacono at the helm, with other talented musicians building out its sound, there is beautiful discovery and truth to be found within the depths of “Unstoppable.” There is also something poetic for an album to be named after its own unrelenting momentum. It has a rare beauty that can only be found in debut albums, as it is raw, wild, and distinctive. Invictus proves to be intricately emotive in its compositions, and in doing so it blends together melodic death metal and technical death metal with seamless fashion. And even if there are hints of the Iacono that Kataklysm has spent many years forging, there is much more original content worth listener’s time. Check out our full review at this location.
13. A-Z – A-Z (Metal Blade Records)
Addictively hooky without once being hoaky, the self-titled “A-Z” bravely launches into hazardous wasters and resists the urge to sail into the seas of cheese. Packed full of infectious riffs and melodies, as well as the ingenious interplay of a rhythm section seldom heard in such direct music, the band this household defiantly pronounces “A through Zed” delivers an absolutely delectable variation of a genre that has been rarely explored with such ingenuity. Featuring the near-titular talents of Ray Alder on vocals and Mark Zonder on drums, with Philip Bynoe, Vivien Lalu (featured elsewhere on this very list), and Joop Wolters, there is little left out from the scope this instantly captivating release. And while A-Z may be like a baby zebra struggling to gain its footing, just like the cover’s inspiration, it has transitioned smoothly from inception to running towards the horizon. Read our full review at this location.
12. Evergrey – A Heartless Portrait (The Orphean Testament) (Napalm Records)
Over the past few years, Evergrey has been absolutely relentless. This streak began in 2019 with the release of “The Atlantic,” followed by 2021’s tremendous “Escape of the Phoenix,” a live Evergrey album, two albums with front-man Tom Englund‘s side project Silent Skies, and finally, 2022 album “A Heartless Portrait (The Orphean Testament). A brilliant display of continued artistic ambition and ever-evolving musicianship, “A Heartless Portrait” is Evergrey at their very best. From heart-stopping guitar solos to a breathtaking command of synth melodies, this is an emotional journey brought to life by one of metal’s greatest melancholic masters. Infectious, filled with hooks, and brimming over with nuance, there is no excuse to miss the latest and greatest from the Evergrey camp. Read the in-depth review here.
11. Megadeth – The Sick, The Dying . . . and the Dead! (UMe)
Following a harrowing six years of studio silence, a nasty bout of cancer, and the subsequent departure of co-founder and bassist Dave Ellefson, the thrash pioneers Megadeth rise from near death to deliver “The Sick, The Dying… and the Dead!” Dave Mustaine manages to muster up the Megadeth name for one of the most aggressive and action-packed metallic extravaganzas since the early 90s. And although the Megadeth legacy is absolutely packed with memorable albums, there is little question that this album manages to make a place for itself among the otherwise legendary. By drawing from the classics while ensuring a fresh, modern, and ever-evolving sound, the Megadeth of the twenty-first century is a serious beast to contend with. Click here for even more thoughts on the album.
10. Threshold – Dividing Lines (Nuclear Blast Records)
The newest offering from England’s prog-virtuosos Threshold takes on a new tack, putting a harder edge on their progressive offerings. This is not a concept album like their previous effort was, but it is nonetheless a strong record that presents views on the dystopian world facing us all. It does so with some incredible hooks, apparent thoughtfulness in composition, and careful production that lets talent shine with crisp polish. There are certain nods to early progressive rock influences, but it does so by drawing from the heavier and less-forgiving aggression of progressive metal. Doing so makes “Dividing Lines” flirt with the edges of arena rock without abandoning the complexities these genres otherwise require. Atmospheric, momentous, and dynamic, Threshold proves that their busy work during the peak of the pandemic was well worth waiting for. Peruse our full review here.
9. Crobot – Feel This (Mascot Records)
Who said heavy music couldn’t be at least a little indulgent? What about decadent? Crobot delivers just what they have long intended, as “Feel This” is designed to elate and delight in every possible dimension. As “Feel This” leans heavily into the party-like atmosphere that Crobot brings to the live stage, every second and every note feels natural for the band’s long-practiced chemistry. And even amidst the sinfully indulgent joy there is emotion and sincerity, the sort that comes from a band truly pursuing its dreams. For all of the teasing commentary in press releases and from the mic at festivals, “Feel This” is anything but sophomoric, and follows harmonious melodies through soul-soaking guitar solos. Thunderous rock and roll meant for the free spirit, Crobot bare their souls as their spirit soars in this latest opus.
8. Wilderun – Epigone (Century Media Records)
After the absolutely tremendous and career-defining “Veil of Imagination” in 2019, it was hard to imagine how Wilderun might craft a satisfying following up. Yet with “Epigone,” this quartet have proven that they’re just getting started, and the sky’s the limit. Clocking in at more than 70 minutes long, “Epigone” features moments of carefully orchestrated chaos and grandiose instrumental backdrops for an atmospheric experience that envelopes the listener wholly in its magic. Progressive experimentation and symphonic ambition are tempered by ambient interludes, and the album’s momentum carries through with tracks that vary from short excursions to bona fide epics. Wilderun heard the call from their fans for more, and they delivered. More thoughts on the album in our full review here.
7. Stratovarius – Survive (earMusic)
With “Survive,” Stratovarius cements their status as one of the very few bands out there to have created winning streaks with more than just one ‘classic’ lineup, and does so in a way that honors their illustrious past without merely copying it. Stratovarius 3.0 is so much more than a mere Stratovarius tribute band, and they’ve proven beyond any reasonable doubt that their current output stands up not just to their past, but more importantly, stands on its own as well. There are frenetic drumming, catchy hooks, and a bright disposition that keeps this heavy celebration of metal well-grounded. This is power metal that exists to make the listener feel alive, be it with the fiery riffage or soaring choruses, but it is a sincere album that speaks to the very heart of metal’s most faithful. Read our review for “Survive” review at this location.
6. Kreator – Hate Uber Alles (Nuclear Blast Records)
Fifteen studio albums and Kreator is still at the very top of their game. “Hate Uber Alles” is a brilliant showcase of versatile songwriting that matches the extreme aggression with a more epic and elaborate take on the thrash game. Heavier tracks incorporate a blend of power and old-school heavy metal elements to augment the obligatory brutality and dance alongside speed-oriented tracks with ease. The riffing approach has a classic metal charm that makes the Kreator sound so recognizable, particularly with descending harmonies that match experienced technical flair. The vocal range of Mille Petrozza has evolved to blend clean vocalizations with the more guttural ones, but this is just one way the band has grown over the years. To enjoy the sum of their experience and brutality, “Hate Uber Alles” is a must-listen. Read our full review here.
5. Amorphis – Halo (Atomic Fire Records)
Another subline effort from the Kings of Karelia, “Halo” further cements Amorphis as one of metal’s most consistently excellent and reliable bands. “Halo” is folk-inspired progressive death metal with no shortage of hat-tips of the acid rog and prog elders of yore, hooks in abundance, moments that teeter on the edge of symphonic, and even the occasional blistering guitar solo. It’s a sonic identity that has been decades in the making and has been continually refined over fourteen albums. The result is something that confidently fits in the Amorphis catalogue, with subtle adjustments that give an excellent sense of experience and modernity. Amorphis haven’t reinvented themselves – they simply don’t need to. Three decades of work have culminated in the well-polished “Halo,” and it certainly shows. Check out the full review here.
4. Lorna Shore – Pain Remains (Century Media Records)
Exquisitely brutal. Exquisitely beautiful. There is no other way to characterize the unyielding aggression that Lorna Shore has delivered with precision and determination. This is an album that cannot be described simply with allusions to some abstract “heaviness.” No, this is an album that is earth-splitting, soul-shattering, absolutely cosmic in its scope. The fury contained within “Pain Remains” is like that of the bright red storm that has raged on Jupiter’s surface for hundreds of years, expansive beyond measure, awe-inspiring with trembling existentialism. Not only is “Pain Remains” an absolute paragon of excellence in the genre, but it comes as near to perfection as one could possibly conceive. From vocals that sound as though they were torn from the depths of hell to thunderous percussion, Lorna Shore truly delivers the whole package, and an album that will be heralded for its excellence for years to come.
3. Zeal & Ardor – Zeal & Ardor (MKVA)
There’s little chance you made it through 2022 without hearing the name “Zeal & Ardor” uttered at least once – and for good reason. Zeal & Ardor are ahead of the curve when it comes to creating music that truly knows no boundaries. The eccentric yet wildly intelligent mix of black metal, blues, soul, and electro is something that leaves listeners surprised and most certainly entertained. This is an album that dives deep into music at its sub-atomic level, and combines elements that would otherwise seem impossible to fit together. Seamless union between genres shatters any possible expectations while delivering excellence. Tracks offer up both eager heaviness and tangible ambience, and a range of vocal styles that match the otherwise eclectic mix of styles. There is no better offering way to make a definitive self-titled album. Check out more of our thoughts on the album at this location.
2. Ghost – Impera (Loma Vista Recordings)
The fifth studio album from Ghost is a rocker with big guitars, killer melodies, and angry lyrics that call upon the listener to really think. Tobias Forge has reached a new peak of performance, building his empire brick by brick into a magnificent whole. “Impera” is an opus full of depth and substance, both conceptually and musically. There is a balance of light and dark that is more than a mere satirical brush with the spiritual. Forge‘s philosophy bleeds into every note, and shows that this is music that looks for signs of something better just around the corner. With “Impera,” Ghost is not just taking down empires, but it is building something new and positive. Although the name “Ghost” may once have elicited laughter from the masses, “Impera” is absolutely no joke. This is the real deal, and it’s real good. Read our full review here.
1. Oceans of Slumber – Starlight and Ash (Century Media Records)
Houston’s Oceans of Slumber have delighted the metal community by evolving from a promising young band with an orthodox vision into one of the most dominant beasts in the genre. Largely shedding their extreme metal exoskeleton, Oceans of Slumber have used “Starlight and Ash” to morph splendidly into extreme Southern gothic while remaining true to their progressive doom heritage. “Starlight and Ash” and its visualization of deeply flawed characters engaged in unspeakable deeds sounds like sonic ecdysis, feels like the extreme metal soundtrack to a lost Tennessee Williams manuscript, and might very well be a bold new mission statement from one of the most gripping merchants of contemporary metal. Read the full review for our 2022 album of the year here.
EP OF THE YEAR
Spirit Adrift – 20 Centuries Gone (Century Media Records)
In an auspicious departure from the brevity of 2021’s studio EP “Forge Your Future,” epic doom and traditional metal craftsmen Spirit Adrift unleash a duo of well-polished original anthems and a veritable retrospective of where their sound originated via a series of covers. On of this EP’s charms is that is provides a complete line of succession from the early days of proto-metal through the bluesy swagger of the rocking 70s to the dark and dreary vibes of the ongoing doom craze. The choice of cover songs is illuminating as to the band’s past and present inspiration. Taken as a whole, this is undoubtedly a diverse offering, but it is ultimately a very well realized one, and those with a pallet diverse enough to encompass four decades of stylistic evolution can surely sink their teeth into. Read the rest of our thoughts here.
LIVE ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Soen – Atlantis (Silver Lining Music)
Soen’s “Atlantis” provides a concert experience like no other. Overflowing with enchanting orchestral arrangement and vocals that soar in fervent abandon, this unique studio venue captures the passionate heart that has long defined Soen’s genius. The tracklist explores the entirety of Soen’s catalogue (with the exception of “Tellurian”), and even includes a cover of Slipknot’s “Snuff.” The visual performance is subdued and perceptibly pondering, which creates an atmosphere that is essential to this album’s success and the audience’s near instant immersion. Whether one listens (or watches) this endeavor as the main course, or simply has it on for mere background noise, this is a gem in the Soen discography that is not to be missed. Read everything we had to say at this location.
DEBUT ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Classless Act – Welcome to the Show (Better Noise Music)
Keeping up with the times while remembering the glory days of hard rock, a new fold of musicians have put together a superb display of musical versatility that ties together every aspect of the style from the 70s to the present. For all of the old-school elements Classless Act keeps at the fore, there is a very current sense of vitality to this music that keeps it from becoming completely retro, particularly in how the rustic and compact character of these songs are given a massive boost in studio production. “Welcome to the Show” has all the welcome staples of arena rockers and radio singles while balancing a kitchen-sink approach to stylistic inclusion. This is one act that has been making waves (and with class, despite what their name might have you believe), and are worth paying attention to as they grow and evolve. For the full review, click here.
COMEBACK ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Giant – Shifting Time (Frontiers Music SRL)
Even without Giant’s original guitarist and singer Dann Huff at the helm, the blueprint from the powerhouse 80’s band is intact here. The songs and performances on “Shifting Time” are strong, and it stands tall on its own merits as an excellent melodic hard rock album that instantly satisfied. While there are other bands that have grown to prominence in the genre, few have managed to capture that classic sound that Giant was born from, and “Shifting Time” is a testament to that classic charm. “Shifting Time” pays respect to the band’s legacy, and it does so with songs that are catchy, accessible, and easily recalled. Big choruses, blazing rockers, and power ballads intertwine to make an album fit to compare with the days of yore and put another feather in Giant‘s cap. Check out what we thought of the album in-depth here.