2022 has been a stellar year in metal for a few big reasons. First, the number of quality albums released since January is staggering. Thank you to all the bands and labels who put out such memorable music. Second, I’m overjoyed by the return of shows and festivals. The pandemic negatively impacted the livelihood of so many bands who rely on touring and merchandise sales for income. It also prevented them from doing what they love most in the world — performing their music for an audience. After two plus years of closed venue doors, I can’t even imagine what it feels like for musicians to be welcomed back to the stage. As a metal fan, seeing bands play live again has been an absolute spirit jolt for me, especially since I moved back to Chicago from Honolulu. Even without pandemic restrictions, Hawaii is almost completely devoid of heavy music. Yeah, gazing at the ocean every day was a pretty fair trade-off for two years of zero live metal, but now that I’m back home I feel big waves of bliss crashing against the walls of my black heart whenever I wade into the pit.
Third, I celebrated my fourth year as a host on the Metalheads Podcast. The boys and I got to raise middle-aged man hell together in Baltimore at the phenomenal Maryland Death Fest (MDF) by drinking supernatural sums of beer and devil horn hugging each other as much as possible. We also recorded another 12 incredibly fun podcasts. It’s hard to believe I’ve been on the show for 40+ episodes now. I’m not sure where the hell the time went, but I do know that hangin’ with my metal brothers each month is something that always gets me excited. Thank you fellas.
Of course, when talking about the Metalheads, there is nothing more exhilarating or as feverishly anticipated as our year-end show, where we count down our Top 25 albums. And that brings me to the purpose of this post and the culmination of a phenomenal year for all things heavy — my favorite metal albums of 2022!
My list is below. I hope you spin these 25 gems and find a few to delight your ears. I hope one or two even make you bang your head and throw up the horns. But most of all, I hope you and yours have a very Happy New Year. May your 2023 be filled with all the adventure, love and music you can handle. Hold on tight as we ride ahead, dear metalheads. — Markisan
My selections on the list below were originally given verbally on on our big Metalheads Podcast Episode 133: The Top 25 Metal Albums of 2022, but as in years past I’m delivering them here in text form, counted down with covers, creative thoughts and Bandcamp links for your listening pleasure.
Make sure to visit the Metalheads Podcast website where you’ll find the official MP Top 25, scientifically calculated from our six lists. Our individual Top 25s can also be found there.
Okay, let the countdown commence!
25. Abduction – Black Blood
A progressive black metal bombshell. Riff heavy and eccentric with acid blood vocals, and dirty injections of death metal and ambient music.
24. Black Royal – Earthbound
Thunderous sludge and roll metal with catchy stoner grooves and stomping death riffs that will boost you adrenaline faster than an epinephrine shot to the heart.
23. Gaerea – Mirage
Season of Mist Records
Icy and aggressive atmospheric black metal with a dark magic weave of delicate and melodic threads.
22. Darkest Era – Wither on the Vine
A sorrowful but soaring mix of traditional heavy metal and doom, punctuated by gorgeous vocals and layers of convincing dread.
21. Trollcave – Rotted Remnants Dripping from the Void
Gurgling Gore Records
A heavy, devouring ooze of doom death that drips with dark, tormented energy. It’s the sound of trolls being gutted by rusty blades and dropped into a murky pit of despair.
20. Ante-Inferno – Antediluvian Dreamscapes
A phenomenal dark lullaby of haunting emotion. Storm-charged riffs, harrowing vocals and airy pathways that deliver menace, melody and beauty in equal measure.
19. Dark Millenium – Acid River
Chunky buzzsaw guitars and rasp husky croons anchor a progressive death-doom album steeped in nostalgia (Acid River was recorded on analog using the band’s original guitars, amps and drums from the 90s). But Dark Millenium’s modern songwriting approach fills this time capsule with layered complexity and curves.
18. Daeva – Through Sheer Will and Black Magic
20 Buck Spin Records
Neckbreaking blackened thrash full of violent volcano hot riffs, complex structures and a sinister atmosphere. One of the most relentless and terrifying albums I’ve heard in quite some time.
17. Psychonaut – Violate Consensus Reality
This concept album (built around an idea of a reimagined humankind as a civilization rooted in a living sacred universe), is an uplifting mix of progressive and technical post-metal with some absolutely gorgeous melodies and epic, swelling fretwork. A massive cinematic force.
16. Autonoesis – Moon of Foul Magics
Vivacious black/death with absolutely blistering thrash-edged guitars, blackened shrieks and the occasional acoustic guitar strums. But it’s the scorching solos on Moon of Foul Magics that make me howl in delight. This album may be number 16 on my list, but it’s my number one air guitar album of 2022.
15. Jade – The Pacification of Death
Jade plays a compelling style of blackened atmospheric death that features evil synth and a macabre mix of guttural demon growls and spooky semi-cleans that sound like they were recorded in an eolian cave. The vocal interplay, along with the harrowing engine of guitars makes this a unique and powerful listen.
14. Ancesthor – White Terror
Les Acteurs de l’Ombre Productions
Incredibly vibrant, dynamic progressive thrash with deadly solos and a sexy injection of Mexican enchantment on tracks like the stunning La Llorona. My favorite speed metal album this year.
13. Celeste – Assassine(s)
Nuclear Blast Records
Celeste weaves a blackened post-sludge tapestry of misery behind a heavy slab of guitars. But it’s the nuanced atmospheric layering on this album that makes it shine. The dark melodic quality, along with an almost shoegaze-esque beauty give Assassine(s) a ritualistic and viciously meditative feel.
12. Mountaineer – Giving Up the Ghost
A perfect, pretty landslide of post-metal. Giving Up the Ghost is doomy and dreamy with stunning, emotional vocal harmonies that put a lump in my chest every time I listen.
11. Goatwhore – Angels Hung from the Arches of Heaven
Metal Blade Records
This is savage, thrash-bladed black death propelled by high octane riffs like Goatwhore does, but the arrangements on this album are simply next level. The varied extremes and shifting atmospherics throughout Angels Hung from the Arches of Heaven make the band sound more epic, energized and dangerous than ever.
10. The Otolith – Folium Limina
Blues Funeral Records
The Otolith has risen from SubRosa’s ashes and delivered a breathtaking continuation of their symphonic doom with a haunting well full of deep bass, somber strings and ghost-woven vocals. Folium Limina is velveteen avant-garde darkness.
9. Dream Unending – Song of Salvation
20 Buck Spin Records
Song of Salvation paints remarkable vistas of austere frozen shores lingering in the last remaining light of a dying sun. Gloriously atmospheric, progressive death/doom with star bolts of psychedelic reverb and phenomenal guitar work by Derrick Vella.
8. Inanna – Void of Unending Depths
Memento Mori Records
The supergiant star destroyer of death metal. This album is mammoth Immolation style death mixed with the progressive, galactic dust wizardry of Cynic. It’s heavy and complex, but never fails to bombard your ear planet with its monstrous artillery.
7. Cloud Rat – Threshold
The unexpected melodies, the abstract ambiance and the glorious sludge shifting tempos give this phenomenal record a command of brutality and range I didn’t really think possible in grind metal. An absolute game changer for the subgenre.
6. Liminal Shroud – All Virtues Ablaze
All Virtues Ablaze is a colossal beast of atmospheric black metal fire. It drops you in a gorge of darkness with furious abandon, then throws you an escape rope with its gorgeous, hypnotic melodies. Fierce and dazzling devil rescue music.
5. Phobophilic – Enveloping Absurdity
Enveloping Absurdity hitches a ride on the old school dark and doomy death wheels of bands like Incantation, but it throws chains and spikes on those wheels, and then drives over your face bones repeatedly. A gorgeously produced and crushing record with a dash of progressiveness that gives it an immediate and modern sheen. The standout death metal record of the year for me.
4. Chrome Ghost – House of Falling Ash
Seeing Red Records
House of Falling Ash is a heavy, modern crash of gorgeous melodies and thunderbolt doom with some progressiveness, noise rock and post-metal thrown in. The album features beautifully sung lead vocals and vocal harmonies that provide an emotional and uniquely compelling atmosphere that I never want to stop breathing.
3. Amorphis – Halo
Atomic Fire Records
Amorphis has become an institution of consistent metal glory. We expect their songwriting and musicianship to be at the highest level every time they release a record. Unfortunately, when a band achieves this hallowed stature, it can become so easy to take them for granted. Halo has all the fantastic progressive elements, riffs and choruses in place that have made Amorphis exceptional for years, but it also elevates beyond the formula with some of the most kinetic and memorable songs in their storied catalog. This is essential Amorphis. Check your stagnant expectations for the band at the door. Halo puts you on notice.
2. WAKE – Thought Form Descent
Metal Blade Records
When a band puts out my album of the year like Wake did in 2020, my anticipation for the next record is insanely high. And yet, it’s so incredibly rare that a follow up lives up to the brilliance of what came before. But Wake not only met my expectations, they blew them up with a black mortar star explosion. Thought Form Descent is a diabolical masterpiece of progressive and modern post-blackened death metal.
1. Falls of Rauros – Key to a Vanishing Future
I’ve long admired Falls of Rauros’ ability to consistently alter their sound while still delivering that post-black sorcery in their music that I connected with from the start. But as high as I am on their past efforts, this album takes the band’s alchemy to a whole new stratosphere. Key to a Vanishing Future is an astonishing record. It’s a soaring stab wound of stark and beautiful emotion that I haven’t stopped spinning since I first heard it. The greatest compliment I can give this phenomenal album is that every time I listen, I travel to the places it conjures. When I play Key to a Vanishing Future I feel the desolate snowscape crumbling beneath my boots. I hear the the old wind whistling across the tundra like untethered spirits searching for a place to belong. I picture myself walking toward moonlit woods where the dead pines creak and sway as the gusts pick up and the sky starts to darken like drying blood. I imagine myself touching an ice covered branch at the forest’s edge and I hear the gentle thoom of distant thunder in the lands beyond the trees. I step forward slowly and vanish into the thicket, hoping never to return.
BONUS METAL LIST
Metal EPs don’t always get the attention they deserve, but every year there are some outstanding releases. Here are my Top 5 for 2022.