Our 2022 Annual Report continues with our Top 30 Metal and Hard Rock Albums list. As the year winds down, stay tuned for more awards, lists, and articles about the best music, film, and TV of 2022. You can find it all in one place here.
Touring returned in full force in 2022, if not more so, as bands made up for lost time on the road. During that concert-industry shutdown of 2020 and 2021, many artists used the time to hit the studio.
Veteran acts like Ozzy Osbourne, Slipknot, Rammstein, and Lamb of God, who had all just released albums in 2019 or 2020, were able to record new albums during their time off the road, and thus unleashed follow-ups in a relatively quick manner in 2022.
Other acts like Megadeth and Alexisonfire ended long waits, releasing their first albums in six and 13 years, respectively. And Ghost continued their meteoric rise to the upper echelon of metal bands with their fifth album, as the Swedish act brought their stunning live show to arenas around the world.
Meanwhile, younger bands such as Soul Glo, Nova Twins, and Bloodywood — all of whom are pushing the boundaries of heavy music while delivering thought-provoking and socially conscious lyrics — offered exciting and groundbreaking releases this year.
Heavy music continues to evolve on a yearly basis, as evidenced by the wide range of releases that made Heavy Consequence‘s list of the Top 30 Metal and Hard Albums of 2022. Below are the albums that stood out among the rest this year.
— Spencer Kaufman
Managing Editor, Heavy Consequence
30. Voivod – Synchro Anarchy
Voivod returned this year with their 15th studio, Synchro Anarchy, the longstanding metal band’s follow-up to 2018’s The Wake. Synchro Anarchy features the band’s classic heavy metal sound, and while they aren’t reinventing the wheel, they are performing at their highest caliber. Songs such as “Paranormalium” and “Memory Failure” feature the fiery riffs and tempos that fans have come to expect, showing off a band that sounds more confident than ever. — Anne Erickson
29. Arch Enemy – Deceivers
Five years after releasing the killer Will to Power, Arch Enemy arguably topped themselves with intentional grower Deceivers. Opener “Handshake with Hell” alone showcases singer Alissa White-Gluz’s perpetually sophisticated dexterity and the band’s growing knack for catchy variety. Later, “The Watcher” incorporates some dazzling guitarwork before “House of Mirrors” offers up a ton of dynamic syncopation. Then there’s brief instrumental “Mourning Star” and grand closer “Exiled from Earth” to add emotional gravitas to the entire affair. On that note, Deceivers greatest feature is how fluidly it flows from beginning to end, solidifying why Arch Enemy remain masters of their kingdom. — Jordan Blum
28. Devil Master – Ecstasies of Never Ending Night
For as commodified as black metal has become, Philadelphia’s Devil Master provided a refreshing blast of old-school raunch when they burst onto the scene with their 2019 debut Satan Spits on Children of Light. It was playful and sinister in the vein of Hellhammer and Japanese underground heroes such as Sabbat and GISM. Most importantly, the music had a sense of humor. Thus, when Devil Master got swooped up by a big label (Relapse Records), there was reason for skepticism — unfounded skepticism, as it turns out. The band’s sophomore album Ecstasies of Never Ending Night is another slab of bullshit-free punkish black metal that wears its old-school influences proudly. — Jon Hadusek
27. Korn – Requiem
Lean, mean, and surprisingly approachable, Korn’s 14th album clocks in at just under 33 minutes and continues to refine Korn’s unique brand of nu-metal meets goth rock even after all these years. Korn capture the sentiment of many of us when it tosses a bit of optimism for the future amongst its exploration of darkness (both musically and lyrically). Case in point, the album’s first single reminds us to “break apart the pain and start the healing” — a welcome message after a difficult couple of years. — Colette Claire
26. Bloodywood – Rakshak
What started out as a parody act has blossomed into one of the most exciting bands to hit metal in recent years. India’s Bloodywood originally uploaded metal covers of Bollywood songs, then went viral with a nu-metal version of Linkin Park’s pop-leaning song “Heavy.” Now, they’re a full-fledged band with original songs, as captured on their debut album, Rakshak. Influenced by such bands as Rage Against the Machine and System of a Down, Bloodywood punch you in the face with their scorching songs and two-vocal attack, while also standing up for social and charitable causes. — S.K.
25. Megadeth – The Sick, the Dying… and the Dead!
Following up a Grammy-winning album is never easy, but Megadeth aren’t afraid of much, and that confidence is all over the band’s 16th studio album, The Sick, the Dying… and the Dead!. With complex songwriting and Dave Mustaine’s cutting vocals as strong as ever, the album — which follows up 2016’s Grammy-winning Dystopia — marks another triumphant record in the Megadeth discography. From lightning-fast thrash to speed metal, the album features classic Megadeth sounds with a touch of experimentation. — A.E.
24. Deathspell Omega – The Long Defeat
Though “omega” carries finality in one of its definitions, French experimental black metal trio Deathspell Omega have plenty of life left in them. Their eighth release, The Long Defeat, is as foreboding and ominous as anything considered a “death spell” could be. Yet another lyrical narrative masked by avant takes on metal and heavy atmospheres, the album opens with a procession-esque 12-minute credo of sorrow, an intricate cacophony of curdling guitar and bass riffs and pounding drums. The track, and the album itself, don’t leave room for interpretation. It’s haunting, and it wants you to know it. — Cervanté Pope
23. Slipknot – THE END, SO FAR
Slipknot are more than a quarter century into their career, and THE END, SO FAR shows they’re continuing to challenge themselves and push the envelope. Long gone are the days when critics thought the masked metallers were just a gimmick band. Now, as one of metal’s most respected veteran acts, Slipknot are still topping the charts and incorporating new sounds into their music, from the goth of “Adderall” to the a capella vocals in “The Dying Song (Time to Sing).” — A.E.
22. Cave In – Heavy Pendulum
The return of Massachusetts’ Cave In is one of the most triumphant comeback stories of the year. Following the tragic passing of bassist-singer Caleb Scofield in 2018, the group’s future was uncertain. Yet, Cave In trudged onward with new bassist Nate Newton to record Heavy Pendulum. The title of the album’s lead single, “New Reality,” couldn’t be more fitting. “New lineup, new label, new album… a new reality indeed, and it all adds up to a new lease on life for Cave In,” as lead vocalist Stephen Brodsky aptly put it. Overall, it’s easily Cave In’s heaviest album to date, often veering more toward stoner metal and atmospheric sludge as opposed to the metalcore/post-hardcore of seminal works such as Until Your Heart Stops and Jupiter. A welcome return indeed. — J.H.
21. Halestorm – Back from the Dead
On Back from the Dead, Halestorm returned with a renewed sense of purpose after facing dark times. The title “to me is survival” proclaimed singer-guitarist Lzzy Hale. The music reflects this phoenix-from-the-ashes vibe on big choruses and even bigger guitar licks coupled with slower introspective interludes. The well known vocal prowess of Hale on songs like “Raise Your Horns” is not to be outdone by her own guitar work and that of Joe Hottinger on songs like “My Redemption,” which signals an epic resurgence of the Grammy-winning band. — C.C.
20. Darkthrone – Astral Fortress
Having helped define the aesthetics and core principles of black metal in the 1990s, Norwegian legends Darkthrone have now reached a stage in their career where they simply do whatever they want — often to the chagrin of genre elitists looking for a rehash of Transilvanian Hunger. The sleeve for the duo’s latest album Astral Fortress makes this abundantly clear. Rather than opt for a lo-fi black-and-white image of a corpse painted ghoul wielding candelabras and medieval weapons, we get a picture of someone — ostensibly Fenriz — ice skating. It’s downright wholesome; however, the cover model’s Panzerfaust backpatch provides a clever subtext for Astral Fortress. Darkthrone might have the balls to eschew black metal’s latent no-fun misanthropy, but they’ve still got riffs for days (hence the Panzerfaust callback) and genuinely memorable songs that conjure the adventurousness of first and second wave black metal. — J.H.
19. GWAR – The New Dark Ages
GWAR are as much a mythos as they are a band at this point, soldiering on without any founding members. The New Dark Ages is the second album to feature vocalist Blothar the Berserker (Michael Bishop), and the sound is decidedly thrashy and anthemic, with punching rhythms, big guitar riffs, and memorial choruses on songs like the title track and “Mother F**king Liar.” Lyrically, it’s an almost introspective (for GWAR, that is), taking on the duality of self as depicted in the accompanying GWAR: In the Duoverse of Absurdity graphic novel where the barbaric interplanetary warriors grapple with evil versions of themselves. — C.C.
18. Alexisonfire – Otherness
When Alexisonfire released Otherness, the weight it carried was a bit heavier than the band intended it to be. As their first album in 13 years, it came during a time when society reached a near peak of collective decline. Not only did it showcase a bit of maturation on the band’s part, but it tackled a pretty purposeful societal concept. More than just an album title, Alexisonfire explored the individual and communal effects of this outlying idea — their post-hardcore nature perfect for communicating the utter bullshit of ostracizing. Musically, Alexisonfire certainly still hit (I mean, “Sans Soleil,” amirite?), but it’s the voice and the conversation that strike the deepest. — C.P.
17. Rammstein – Zeit
Zeit is probably best known for its ingenious mockery of plastic surgery (“Zick Zack”), but there’s plenty more to love about Rammstein’s follow-up to 2019’s untitled album. Of course, you get the requisite doses of hypnotic Neue Deutsche Härte (“Armee der Tristen,” “Giftig,” and “Angst”), yet some other pieces explore vastly different shades of the group. For instance, both the title track and “Schwartz” are at times evocatively atmospheric piano odes, whereas “OK” and “Dicke Titten” are — respectively — belligerently and playfully symphonic. Honestly, Zeit encompasses just about all of the stylistic and thematic variety that makes Rammstein a one-of-a-kind band. — J.B.
16. Porcupine Tree – Closure/Continuation
There’s no denying that many metal bands enjoy sprinkling a few tricky bits into their tunes…but what about good old fashioned prog bands that lean more towards the “rock” side of things? Porcupine Tree have been satisfying your prog needs for decades. Their eleventh studio effort, Closure/Continuation, sees the band (still led by singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Steven Wilson) expertly balancing melody and unsuspected twists-and-turns with space rock — particularly on such standouts as “Harridan” and “Dignity” (both of which contain some unmistakable Pink Floyd elements) and the rocking “Rats Return.” — Greg Prato
15. Candlemass – Sweet Evil Sun
Nearly 40 years after they first popularized epic doom metal, Sweden’s Candlemass reestablished their supremacy with Sweet Evil Sun. Their second studio LP since original frontman Johan Längqvist returned, it wastes no time showcasing why he’s an immensely fitting — if understandably different — vocalist. Indeed, gems such as “Wizard of the Vortex,” “Devil Voodoo,” and “Scandinavian Gods” are toweringly powerful in all the right ways; in contrast, “When Death Sighs” is relatively melodic ballad and “Goddess” is punctuated by triumphant backing harmonies. Although Sweet Evil Sun isn’t the group’s finest work, it’s a damn fine addition to an inarguably seminal catalog. — J.B.
14. Cult of Luna – The Long Road North
Swedish post-metal purveyors Cult of Luna have painted themselves into a corner… in a good way. With over two decades of consistently strong output, the band has cultivated a cult of its own — a dedicated fanbase with exceedingly high expectations for each subsequent release. The Long Road North won’t do much to sway that perception. Once again, Cult of Luna deliver an enthralling hour-long atmospheric sludge opus that sticks close enough to the band’s core sound to appease longtime fans, while providing enough surprises as to not bore them. The way the band creates and structures records is more akin to visual art or literature: It’s an experience that’s meant to be consumed as a whole. — J.H.
13. Behemoth – Opvs Contra Natvram
Behemoth rolled out their latest album Opvs Contra Natvram in style, dropping a series of lavish music videos for the LP’s promotional singles — a rare move considering the notoriously reclusive nature of black metal. The album’s release would then culminate with a livestream performance from atop Poland’s Palace of Culture. It was a massively symbolic gesture given Behemoth’s status as an overtly anti-Christian black metal band in a predominantly catholic state. Furthermore, it was a testament to the sheer power of their art, which has outweighed the many controversies Nergal and company have faced over the years in their native Poland. While Opvs Contra Natvram doesn’t reach the stature of the band’s 2014 career-defining work The Satanist, this latest effort lives up to its epic promo push with frequently entertaining blackened death metal. — J.H.
12. Elder – Innate Passage
When it comes to creating entrancing prog/psych/stoner rock, few — if any — modern acts can rival Elder. Their sixth LP, Innate Passage, is a terrific testament to that. Kicking off with the feisty and trippy “Catastasis,” it’s a nonstop journey of vibrant keyboards, warm acoustic guitars, and hectic grooves that basically merge into the blissful offspring of Baroness, Wobbler, King Gizzard, and The Mars Volta. Although the complexly cosmic “Coalescence” and the surreally multifaceted “Merged in Dreams – Ne Plus Ultra” are clear highlights, the entire sequence is wonderfully engaging and adventurous, making it a very worthy successor to 2020’s Omens. — J.B.
11. Pike vs. The Automaton – Pike vs. The Automaton
Hot take: Pike vs. The Automaton is the strongest project to feature guitarist-singer Matt Pike in over a decade. Better than Sleep’s The Sciences… better than the last few High on Fire records. Yep, it’s that good. Freed from the sonic bounds of those bands, The Shirtless One carved out some of his most diverse material to date for what is essentially his debut solo album. There’s sludge (“Abusive”); there’s D-beat hardcore (“Acid Test Zone”); there’s noise dabblings (the album’s brilliant audio segues). It’s a musical funhouse of everything Pike has done in his other projects and proof of why he’s become a cult hero. If you’re a fan of Sleep or High on Fire, Pike vs. the Automaton is a must listen. — J.H.