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Top 20 Metal & Hard Rock Albums of 2022 (So Far)

The first six months of the year have yielded a widely diverse range of heavy albums

top 20 heavy albums 2022 so far
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    Our 2022 Midyear Report continues with our favorite metal and hard rock albums of the year so far.


    The pandemic rages on, but the music industry has finally settled into some semblance of normalcy in 2022. Album cycles and tours have been less affected by delays and postponements, as we all cautiously move forward with a general sense of resignation. That said, the world feels no less dystopian. War broke out in Ukraine, climate change seems like a ship that’s sailed, and there’s uneasiness and unrest abound.

    One thing’s for sure: Heavy music remains as vital as ever. The catharsis of these times demands music that can satiate the anger, the disillusionment, and the despair — or at least momentarily distract us from it. Of course, any genre of music or art can serve this function. But there’s something about heavy riffs and loud volumes that can invigorate the heart and mind during times of utter bleakness.

    When building our list of the best heavy albums of 2022 thus far, we were struck by the sonic diversity of the selections — from the vitriolic hardcore of Soul Glo to the arena rock leanings of Ghost to the metal-meets-blues of Zeal & Ardor. Every entry here possesses its own idiosyncrasies. But what also stood out was the sheer urgency of the artists themselves. This is music made with intent, seemingly in spite of a growing, pervasive nihilism within the cultural consciousness.

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    We hope that you discover something in this list that inspires you to buy a record, go to a show, and acknowledge the music beyond merely streaming it. Directly supporting these artists is now more important than ever.

    –Jon Hadusek,
    Senior Staff Writer

    Animals as Leaders – Parrhesia

     Top 20 Metal & Hard Rock Albums of 2022 (So Far)

    The eccentrically aggressive Parrhesia further solidifies Animals as Leaders as masters of instrumental progressive metal. Specifically, tracks such as “Gestaltzerfall”, “Micro-Aggressions,” and “Conflict Cartography” brandish an almost non-stop frenzy of interlocking rhythms and riffs. Conversely, “Red Miso” and “Asahi” lean toward cosmic calmness. Really, each track accomplishes a typically inventive balance between the djent abrasiveness and soothing respites, with plenty of quirky changeups and lovely nuances to give each piece as much personality as possible. — Jordan Blum

    Boris – W

    boris w

    “Hypnotic” is not used often as a descriptive term within the realm of heavy metal. But the Japanese trio Boris continue to lean heavy on the entrancing side of things on their 27th (!) studio album — the mysteriously titled W. Starting things off decidedly experimental and rather softly (particularly the album-opening “I Want to Go to the Side Where You Can Touch…”), it is not until the middle of the album (“The Fallen”) that the amps finally get properly cranked… before the remainder of the album falls back into mesmerizing mode. — Greg Prato

    Cave In – Heavy Pendulum

    unnamed 166 Top 20 Metal & Hard Rock Albums of 2022 (So Far)

    Despite all the ups and downs Cave In have gone through as a band, Heavy Pendulum is a record not of scorn or remorse, but of prosperous experimentation and expansiveness. There’s a bit of grunge, sludge, blues — you name it — and Cave In probably managed to work it into the incredible hooks and rhythms throughout the record. They may have been knocked down before, but they’re not a band to stay down, and Heavy Pendulum proves it. — Cervanté Pope

    Coheed and Cambria – Vaxis II: A Window of the Waking Mind

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    Coheed and Cambria - Vaxis II - Album Cover - LO

    Coheed and Cambria – Vaxis II – Album Cover – LO

    Coheed and Cambria are back with their tenth studio LP, Vaxis II: A Window of the Waking Mind, and the album’s slick, melodic songs fit well inside the band’s growing catalog. The song structures are typical Coheed and Cambria, with chugging riffs, soaring melodies, and lyrics that take the listener on a journey. It’s an epic concoction that should please longtime Coheed fans and newbies alike. — Anne Erickson

    Cult of Luna – The Long Road North

    COL TLRN Main Cover Top 20 Metal & Hard Rock Albums of 2022 (So Far)

    Cult of Luna continued their unbroken streak of brilliance by both closing ranks and seeking outside assistance. With guitarist and vocalist Johannes Persson returning to Umeå after a long stretch in Stockholm, the quintet was able to meet up more frequently to hone the explosive material on this new album. And for added texture, they called on saxophonist Colin Stetson and vocalist Mariam Wallentin for crucial contributions. The results are as engulfing and breathtaking as a tidal wave. — Robert Ham

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    Devil Master – Ecstasies of Never Ending Night

    Devil Master Ecstasies of Never Ending Night Album Art Top 20 Metal & Hard Rock Albums of 2022 (So Far)

    Devil Master are in the running for best black metal album of 2022. The band broke onto the scene pre-pandemic with a delectable sound and image that was a bit black metal, slightly vampiric, and sonically reminiscent of ’80s Japanese hardcore such as GISM and Death Side. For their sophomore release, Devil Master sought to embrace a more mature black metal identity while emphasizing the romantic occultism inherent to their music. No, they’re not making post-metal — there’s still plenty of fun riffs and the self-aware humor of the first album. They’ve simply committed themselves to the left hand path outright. The 13 candles have been lit, and there’s no turning back. — Jon Hadusek

    Dream Widow (Dave Grohl) – Dream Widow

    foo fighters dave grohl dream widow ep thrash metal studio 666 stream

    Dream Widow, the band from Foo Fighters comedy-horror film Studio 666, is Dave Grohl’s homage to metal. For this project, Grohl handled multiple instruments, including vocals, with help from keyboardist Oliver Roman and Fireball Ministry guitarist Jim Rota. Grohl can’t help being tongue-in-cheek on songs like the Metallica-esque “Come All Ye Unfaithful,” but the stoner-sludge-meets-Bathory sound on songs like “Encino” and “Lacrimus dei Ebrius” makes it clear Grohl is not kidding about his love for heaviness — even with segues into alternative like “Cold” and “Angel With Severed Wings.” — Colette Claire

    Ghost – IMPERA

    IMPERA artwork

    Retro metal enthusiasts Ghost exploration of music history has now hit the late ’70s and early ’80s. On IMPERA, there are distinct nods to arena rock acts like Kansas and Styx, as well as hard rock bands like Queensrÿche and Van Halen, but in a still distinctly Ghost style. Tobias Forge’s smooth soaring vocals and occult lyrics lend well to the grandiose, theatrical rock opera direction of IMPERA, especially evident on songs like “Twenties” and “Darkness at the Heart of My Love.” Standouts also include “Call Me Little Sunshine,” “Watcher in the Sky,” and — for Rush fans — “Kaisarion.” — Colette Claire

    GWAR – The New Dark Ages

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    GWAR - The New Dark Ages

    At this point, we know what GWAR is able to produce and communicate in an album albeit it satirical and outright outlandish at some times. Still, their way of translating societal tragedy into sonic solace is one of the things we’ve so heavily relied on them for for decades. The New Dark Ages takes that effect and flips it on its head, essentially telling the story of the present apocalypse through heavy thrash and a comedic backstory regarding the origins of The Berserker Blothar, with a graphic novel to boot. — Cervanté Pope

    Halestorm – Back from the Dead

    Halestorm Back From the Dead

    Halestorm returned with their fifth studio album, Back from the Dead, offering a heavier, slightly rawer version of a band known for radio-ready rock hits. Back in the studio with super-producer Nick Raskulinecz (Mastodon, Foo Fighters), Lzzy Hale and company took all their pent-up angst and frustration from the pandemic’s darkest days and channeled it into a towering rock album that appeals to both active rock listeners and hardcore rockers. — Anne Erickson

    Korn – Requiem

    Korn Requiem

    Nu-metal statesmen Korn are 14 albums in, and their latest, Requiem, continues in their classic dual guitar, booming low-end tradition. The LP’s nine songs feature strong grooves, menacing melodies, and Jonathan Davis’ contemplative vocals — with a dose of Davis’ beatboxing mixed in for good measure. It’s raw, aggressive music, buoyed by the ethereal and mystical lead single, “Start the Healing.” — Anne Erickson

    Meshuggah – Immutable

    Meshuggah - Immutable

    Meshuggah chose the name of their ninth studio album well. For nearly four decades, the Swedish metal quintet have held firm and true to a technical approach to heavy music that combines mathematical precision and timing with the blunt force of a hammer. Immutable is no exception. The album abounds with tricky time signatures that feel as natural as breathing and a clenched jaw rage that spills into every percussive chug and rips through the fusillade-like guitar solos of Fredrik Thorendahl. — Robert Ham

    Nova Twins – Supernova

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    Nova Twins Supernova

    Supernova is the protest album we all needed, but especially those of marginalized identities. The album is heavily rooted in the happenings that surrounded the Black Lives Matter movement, and the proudly vocal expressions of their feminine power offer an unflinching stance against societal suppression. Incorporating nu-metal, hip-hop and R&B, Nova Twins have carved out their own space in the music scene. Pretty soon, they’ll be taking it all the way over. — Cervanté Pope

    Porcupine Tree – Closure/Continuation

    porcupine tree closure continuation new album artwork announcement harridan new song stream Top 20 Metal & Hard Rock Albums of 2022 (So Far)

    Porcupine Tree disbanded around 2010, so Closure/Continuation was easily among the most heavily anticipated LPs of 2022. Luckily, it’s an absolute delight that evokes related classics like Deadwing and Steven Wilson’s Hand. Cannot. Erase. “Harridan” and “Rats Return” recapture the trio’s hostile chemistry, whereas “Of the New Day,” “Chimera’s Wreck,” and “Dignity” are lighter ballads full of lovely harmonies and curious textures. Admittedly, the absence of bassist Colin Edwin is felt, but it’s still a triumphant comeback. — Jordan Blum

    Rammstein – Zeit

    Zeit artwork

    With Rammstein’s untitled 2019 album 10 years in the making, Zeit’s turnaround time of three years is miraculous even with a pandemic postponing their world tour. If their 2019 album is a progression, then Zeit is a regression — but in the best possible way. Musically, it is nearly a retrospective of the Sehnsucht and Mutter eras, like the industrial gallop of “Giftig” and “Zick Zack,” or the keyboard driven “Armee der Tristen.” But, the band also reflects the passage of time, sadness, and goodbyes on haunting ballads like “Zeit,” “Meine Tränen,” and “Adieu,” all while still having a bit of fun on “Dicke Titten” in quintessential Rammstein fashion. — Colette Claire

    Soul Glo – Diaspora Problems

    87853 SoulGlo DiasporaProblems Top 20 Metal & Hard Rock Albums of 2022 (So Far)

    Soul Glo run the genre gamut on Diaspora Problems. The Philly band has mastered the ability balance chaotic hardcore with approachable hooks and a wide palette of non-hardcore styles. There are plenty of moshers here — i.e. the riff-hitting opener “Gold Chain Punk (whogonbeatmyass)” and the brutal lead single “Jump!! (Or Get Jumped!!!)((by the future)).” But it’s the relentless flow of extraneous influences that elevate this record to elite status. Nothing is off limits, and it makes Diaspora Problems a delight to listen to. — Jon Hadusek

    Star One – Revel in Time

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    star one revel in time

    Revel in Time sees Star One mastermind Arjen Lucassen bringing another superb conceptual opus to life with help from several guest vocalists and instrumentalists. Inspired by films such as Donnie Darko and The Terminator, it’s ripe with hyperactive hookiness (“Fate of Man,” “The Year of ‘41”), multipart introspections (“Prescient,” “Lost Children of the Universe”), and other kinds of idiosyncratic greatness. Whether it’s Star One, Ayreon, or another project, no one does sci-fi prog metal better than Lucassen. — Jordan Blum

    Vein.fm – The World Is Going to Ruin You

    unnamed 94 Top 20 Metal & Hard Rock Albums of 2022 (So Far)

    Altered nomenclature hasn’t stopped Vein.fm (previously known as Vein) from dropping one of the strongest metalcore offerings of the year. The gap between 2022’s The World Is Going to Ruin You and the lauded 2018 debut Errorzone was exacerbated by the pandemic (the band kindly tossed us a remix record to tide us over), but the extra downtime apparently led to fruitful ideas. Well-chosen singles “The Killing Womb” and “Wavery” let post-hardcore and sludge metal elements float to the top. If less decidedly metalcore, the LP as a whole is a more mature and sonically pleasing effort. — Jon Hadusek

    Voivod – Synchro Anarchy

    voivod synchro anarchy

    When it comes to veteran metal acts who are still in business and have been around for decades by this point, it’s quite a common occurrence to pinpoint where they “jumped the shark,” and are now merely living off past glories. Voivod is an exception to this theory/observation – as evidenced by their 15th studio album overall, Synchro Anarchy. The band continues in their trademark sci-fi prog direction throughout, and continues to sound inspired on such standouts as the title track and “Planet Eaters.” — Greg Prato

    Zeal & Ardor – Zeal & Ardor

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    unnamed 22 Top 20 Metal & Hard Rock Albums of 2022 (So Far)

    You don’t name one of your songs after the final chapter of Richard Wagner’s Ring cycle if you’re not making a serious statement. That’s just what Manuel Gagneux has done for the latest self-titled album by his wide-ranging project Zeal & Ardor. The song in question is a molten pool tended by a screeching beast and the whole record is a multi-part suite that makes some bold statements about forgiveness and empathy as filtered through a sound that dares to fuse Delta blues with black metal. — Robert Ham

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