2022 Metal Albums of the Year (Part 1)

Chris Spooner's 2022 Top 10 Metal Albums of the Year

The year has come to a close, so it’s time to talk about the metal albums of the year for 2022. Last year was another great year for metal music. There were a ton of solid releases from bands all across the extreme music spectrum. 2021’s releases were a bit more top-heavy than what we got this past year, but I have no problem saying that 2022 was more consistent across the board. There wasn’t as much that blew me away this year, but there was a ton of really good, really consistent metal all year.

This year’s Metal Album of the Year piece is going to look a little different than how it was laid out last year. My methodology has gotten a little bit more precise in my second year of ranking albums, and the scoring is going to reflect that. I want to give a big shout-out to Thrash Metal Dad on TikTok for inspiring me to get a bit more granular with the way I grade each album.

At the end of the day, the grading is still all about my enjoyment of each album. How much did I enjoy listening to it initially, how much replay value did I get out of it, and how much did I enjoy it upon a year-end re-listen? If you caught my mid-year article outlining the best metal albums of 2022 so far, you’ll notice a few big changes. Another big change is that this year the list is coming out in two parts!

Now, without further ado, let’s get into my choices for the best metal albums of 2022, starting with 10-6!

Metal Albums of the Year Methodology

Inspired by Thrash Metal Dad, I have taken a deeper look at the rankings for the 2022 version of the Metal Albums of the Year article. Last year it was based mostly on just vibes and arbitrarily attributing a score to how much I enjoyed listening to the albums. This year is largely the same, but we’re getting a bit more granular with it and judging each song individually, and then the album as a whole. But what does that mean, exactly?

For me, it means that I’m judging my enjoyment of each song on a scale of 1 to 5. A 1 would be a song that I would likely skip were I listening to the album on my own outside of writing a piece on it. A 5 would mean that the song is something I’m going to listen to repeatedly, and is one of the best songs on the album – if not the best. An extra point was given to the songs that I felt were the best singles of the year.

As far as the album ranking as a whole, this took things like the overall storyline of the album, production quality, overall lyrical content, and sonic diversity into consideration. Again, graded on a scale of 1 to 5. Once all of the songs were scored and averaged, the rankings were added together and divided by the number of songs on the album. That score was then added to the overall album score to get a final grade out of 10. And now, onto the rankings!

2023 Metal Albums of the Year: 10-6

10.) Korn – Requiem

We’re starting off our look at the 2022 metal albums of the year with a throwback of sorts. If you’re of a certain age, like me, the Nu-Metal wave had an absolute chokehold over some of your formative years. You couldn’t grow up in the late 90s and early 2000s and not hear bands like Korn, Limp Bizkit, and Slipknot absolutely dominating the airwaves. Korn was certainly the leaders of the movement – whether they wanted the ‘nu-metal’ moniker or not.

While the genre was largely derided at the time, it has persisted into the present day. Looking back on the genre, I would argue that it was just as important for the popularization of heavy music for my generation as thrash metal was for the generation before me. You can see it in the nu-metal influences popping up in today’s new music, even in genres you wouldn’t expect.

You can plainly hear the “Iowa” influence in Slaughter to Prevail’s “Kostolom” album from last year. Tallah is leading the nu-metal revival wave. And the titans of the genre, Korn, have come back with a vengeance

2022 saw Korn drop arguably their best album since the “Untouchables” era. This album has all of the classic nu-metal sounds the genre is known for, but it doesn’t feel dated at all. It has enough modern metal flair that it feels in place with things that are coming out new and fresh today.

It still packs the emotional punch that Korn is known for, and was an absolute masterpiece in the genre’s revival. The newer bands have taken the torch and ran with it, but the old guard still has plenty to contribute!

9.) Machine Head – Of Kingdom and Crown

From one titan of heavy music to another. Machine Head has been kicking people’s asses in the groove metal genre for decades now. They’re a band I never really got into until pretty recently. But once again, if you’re of a certain age they’re a name you can’t help but have heard at some point in your heavy music journey.

I never caught their previous album before, “Of Kingdom and Crown” but the consensus was that it was… not a great effort, to put it mildly. This one, however, was a true return to form for one of heavy music’s stalwart bands. Of Kingdom and Crown comes in and from the very beginning grabs your ear and tells you to strap in for a heavy journey.

OKAC is a concept album, which gets bonus points from me. I love when an album has a cohesive story that you can follow throughout its entirety. An album with general themes that pop up in every song is great, but I love a good, well thought-out story that plays out from cover-to-cover, and for the most part that’s what this album gave us.

There were a couple of interludes that I felt took me out of the story for a bit, and are the reason this album isn’t higher on my 2022 Metal Albums of the Year list. Overall, though, I thought this was a fantastic album.

8.) Shadow of Intent – Elegy

If you’ve followed along with the Blast Beats Twitter account or know me in real life, you know that I’ve become somewhat of a Deathcore fanboy over the past year-plus. It started with the 2021 releases by Slaughter to Prevail, Whitechapel, and Lorna Shore, and it has only grown from there.

Indeed, the deathcore genre will be well represented in this look at the top metal albums of the year in 2022, and it all starts here at number eight with Shadow of Intent.

Lorna Shore and Will Ramos take up the lion’s share of the headlines when it comes to the Deathcore genre, and for good reason. They are absolutely blowing up lately, and as we’ll get into in a bit, their “Pain Remains” release was a masterpiece. It’s been great to see what they’re doing in the genre, but it can overshadow some other worthy bands and vocalists. I think that’s the case here, and I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been guilty of it myself.

When “Elegy” first dropped in January of 2022, I was a fan of it, but it didn’t hit me quite enough to be a top 10 album for me. It was good. I really liked it. But there was just something that was getting lost on me. Something that kept it from really making that top-tier category. After seeing Shadow live a couple of times this year and after going back to Elegy, what it was was not appreciating Ben Duerr’s vocal performance enough.

My main “complaint” about Elegy when I listened to it initially was that I wanted more vocal variety from the album. Initially I felt that the vocals were a bit too flat and one-note for me. After going back and listening a few times in getting my top metal albums of 2022 list settled, I realized that I’d really discounted just how much variety there was. It’s a different type of variety than Lorna Shore and Will Ramos’ vocal acrobatics, which I think slipped by me the first time.

With “Elegy”, the variety is in the layering. Duerr isn’t going back-and-forth between gutterals, mids, and crazy highs like a Ramos. Instead, those tracks are all layered and in such a way that it can be easy to miss if you’re not intently listening. That’s not to say Lorna Shore doesn’t do their fair share of layering – they absolutely do – but the vocal performances are drastically different in how they’re done.

After going back and giving “Elegy” the attention it deserves, this album is a masterpiece. It easily holds up against anything else the Deathcore genre has to offer, and I truly believe that Ben Duerr should be held up with the esteem of the likes of Ramos, Alex Terrible, Phil Bozeman, and the titans of the genre.

7.) Venom Prison – Erebos

For someone who isn’t a fan of ‘progressive’ as a genre, I really tend to gravitate towards progressive elements in my music. I can’t really explain what it is about the ‘progressive’ genre that turns me off from it, but I love when those elements are introduced into other genres. Like the death metal genre with Venom Prison’s “Erebos”.

This album has everything I want musically speaking. There are a plethora of parts that are just heavy and punishing. It gives you parts that are melodic and catchy. There are parts that push the boundaries of what the death metal genre is and what it can be. Lyrically, it covers topics that always resonate with me, like social justice and reform, loss and sorrow, and pure, unadulterated anger.

I’m honestly surprised this album didn’t score higher for me; and initially it did. This is one of the albums that slid down my rankings a bit when I finished my end of the year re-listens. Not entirely because the album didn’t hit the same way for me, but rather because a few albums caught my attention more on re-listen than I gave them credit for. But make no mistake about it, I absolutely loved this album.

Some things have come to light recently about Venom Prison that have put a bit of a sour note on this album for me personally, but this list was completed before those things came to light and did not have an effect on my rankings. What ultimately made me lower on this album than I was initially is that there are a few tracks in the middle of the album that, while good, don’t quite live up to the rest of the album.

It sort of lost me in those moments, but for the most part “Erebos” is a fantastic example of pushing the boundaries in a genre that can feel like a lot of the same things over and over.

6.) Revocation – Netherheaven

One of my favorite discoveries of 2022 was stumbling upon the band Revocation. I’ve missed a lot of music that came out between 2005 and 2020, unfortunately, and it seems like Revocation is one of those big misses. I still need to go back and do a deep dive on their discography, but they made a massive first impression on me.

My first exposure to Revocation was in the early portion of 2022 when I saw them out in Chicago. They were on the bill with Shadow of Intent, Whitechapel, and the headliner Cannibal Corpse – who I also fell in love with, but that’s a story for a different time. After Shadow of Intent played, I was expecting Revocation to come next, simply because I’d never heard of them and knew that Whitechapel was a decently big name.

Revocation wound up being the band right before the headliner, and they showed why they were deserving of that bill. Their brand of technicality, speed, and catchiness was infectious. It was absolutely one of those “holy shit” moments for me, and I’ve been a fan ever since. So when Revocation started dropping singles for Netherheaven, I was all the way in.

When the album finally dropped, it exceeded my expectations. I don’t know whether to call this band a tech death band or a death-thrash band, but no matter what label you put on it, it’s incredible. The tones on the album are everything I want from my thrash metal. There’s so much anger and aggression in the lyrics. The features with Trevor Strnad (RIP) and Corpsegrinder were phenomenal and left me wanting more.

I can’t wait to see what comes next from this band, and I can’t wait to see what’s hiding for me to discover in their back catalog.

Come back later this week as we dive into my top 5 metal albums of 2022! Until then, here’s hoping the first part gave you something to go back to that you may have missed. See you next time!