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!

Top Metal Albums of 2022…So Far

If you’re a fan of heavy, extreme music then 2021 was a great year for you. It certainly was for me in that regard. 2021 was perhaps the greatest year for metal that I’ve ever experienced. Some of the greatest albums I’ve ever heard came out last year, in the form of releases from Whitechapel, Slaughter to Prevail, and Every Time I Die. Somehow, 2022 is following in its predecessor’s footsteps. We’re only halfway through the year, but there have already been a number of incredible albums released. Here are my top 5 metal albums of 2022 so far.

“Malicious Intent” – Malevolence

As I mentioned, three of the best albums I’ve ever heard all came out last year. I say that not as a teenager just beginning his journey into the world of metal, but as a guy who’s nearing middle age and has been listening to heavy music basically since the womb. That’s not to say that I don’t have blind spots, however. One of those blindspots for me has been the “Hardcore” genre.

Growing up, I was pretty big into the mainstream punk scene. Especially when bands like Green Day broke onto the scene. I’m talking actual punk-era, “Dookie” Green Day, not the “American Idiot” days. But somehow as my tastes got heavier and more extreme, that didn’t ever translate to me giving hardcore the time of day. Then I checked out “Radical” last year, and I’ve penciled in Hardcore as one of my genres to make sure to give a spin.

My first exposure to Malevolence was checking out the song “On Broken Glass” on Tank the Tech’s YouTube channel. The guitars and aggression in the vocals were great, but what really hooked me was when the melodic vocals kicked in for the chorus. The voice just hit that part of me that gravitates towards uniqueness in music. I pre-ordered Malicious Intent immediately, and I’m so glad I did.

The song that really cemented Malicious Intent as a top 5 metal album of 2022 was the ballad “Higher Place”. I’m a sucker for a hard, heavy band who can pull off a slower, emotional song. And they pull it off very well here. The clean vocals fit the song to a T, and the solo is so full of emotion, which is something that seems to be harder and harder to find in today’s metal scene. This album is great front-to-back, and if you’re a punk fan and haven’t checked it out yet, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Fix that as soon as you finish reading this piece.

“Zeal & Ardor” – Zeal & Ardor

What can I say about Zeal & Ardor that hasn’t already been said? If you’re into eclectic metal – genres that shouldn’t mix, but do – then this is the band for you. Manuel Gagneux and the crew are absolute masters at blending two styles – black metal and gospel – that on the surface could not be more opposite. I don’t know how it works, but it absolutely does, and the self-titled album is a wild ride that typifies that.

The ability to seamlessly transition between soulful singing and shrill screaming is immediately captivating, and the intensity and feeling are sustained from cover to cover on the album. We’ve got a great mix of creepy lyrics, masterful storytelling, and lyrics in multiple languages. Just about everything that really appeals to my ear is covered here. It’s one of those albums that truly feels like someone went into my brain and picked out things that would appeal to me in specific.

The fact that this album only comes in at number four on my top metal albums of 2022 so far really is a testament to how strong the first half of this year has been. Don’t let the low appearance fool you, I am absolutely in love with this record. I was never a big Zeal & Ardor fan before this came out, but you can bet your ass I am now. It will be really interesting to see what they do in the years to come to follow this record.

“Erebos” – Venom Prison

Have you ever had one of those moments where you make a discovery and immediately feel embarrassed at your past self for making an assumption that turned out to be wildly inaccurate? That’s what my journey into the Death Metal genre has been. I grew up with a very specific, very narrow idea of what constituted “Death Metal”. And I knew that I didn’t like that sound, so I figured I just didn’t like the genre across the board.

Then we started up a podcast and I realized just how wrong I was. The moment that cemented it for me was stumbling upon my number three metal album of 2022: “Erebos” by Venom Prison. They’re categorized as Death Metal, but could not be further away from the sound I had in my head when I thought of the genre.

Everything about this album just speaks to me. Larissa’s lyrics are aggressive and brutal, yet at times almost hauntingly beautiful. There’s a ton of variation in the vocals, something I didn’t think was possible in death metal before Blast Beats. The guitar work is some of the best I’ve heard since starting to explore the genre. There’s a ton of experimentation and genre-blending going on in “Erebos”, but it rarely feels forced or like it’s taking away from the music or the message. 

There are intensely personal lyrics, politically-charged lyrics, lyrics relating to mythology. There are clean vocals in parts. Parts have proggy influences. There are even piano interludes. It’s a record where pretty much whatever you’re into, there’s going to be something for you here. Venom Prison put on a master class on how to blend myriad influences while staying true to the genre they’re in.

“The Chosen” – Enterprise Earth

If you’re over a certain age, you probably have some very specific associations that come to mind when you hear the term “deathcore”. Cringey, over-the-top lyrics. Guitars downtuned to the absurd. Breakdowns for the sake of breakdowns. And all of that is certainly present in a lot of the genre. But if there’s anything that 2021 taught us – or at least me – about this genre, in particular, is that it can be so much more. The releases from bands like Lorna Shore and Slaughter to Prevail really opened my eyes to the influences that can be brought to the genre – and the potential it can have.

This year has just furthered that trend. Where 2021 was capped by two deathcore bands, my two top metal albums of 2022 at the halfway point are also deathcore. However, these two albums have a much different bent than the Slaughter to Prevail and Whitechapel releases of 2021.

Whereas Slaughter to Prevail and Whitechapel brought a lot of different influences in – and can be argued weren’t exactly “deathcore” albums – Enterprise Earth played it much closer to the vest on “The Chosen.” And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There’s a lot to be said for expanding influences and pushing the boundaries of a genre. But there’s also a lot to be said about being able to work within a formula and perfect your craft within those confines. I truly believe that’s what Enterprise Earth did with this album.

It’s hard, heavy, and brutal. It has all of the insane vocal talent we’ve come to expect from Dan Watson. The instruments are heavy, technical, and the backbone of their sound. The lyrics are at times inspiring, at times devastating, and at times mysterious and even haunting. While they stay largely within the confines of what we’ve come to expect from the label “deathcore”, there’s hardly anything about this album that I would consider “generic” or “boring”.

It’s a shame Dan left the band after putting out such a banger album. But his work with Mire Lore is also great, and it seems like Enterprise Earth isn’t losing any steam with his replacement.

“Oh, What the Future Holds” – Fit for an Autopsy

“Oh, What the Future Holds” is a title that sounds inspiring; almost whimsical. A title that sounds like it could be straight out of a Dr. Suess book. That is decidedly not the vibe that you get from this album, though. If anything, my top metal album of the year so far is the antithesis of that. And after all the shit that we’ve been through over the past couple of years, it’s not hard to see why a record like this would serve as a welcome catharsis.

This album is heavy. Dark. Unrelenting. It kicks you in the teeth from the jump and doesn’t give you a moment to catch your breath. It opens with a (largely) musical introduction that builds and really sets the table for what you’re getting yourself into with the rest of the record. Then “Pandora” hits and you get a glimpse of the darkness that’s to come with the rest of the record.

“Oh What the Future Holds” really taps into the darkness and despair that a lot of folks are feeling looking at the world around them. There’s a bleakness to this record that is crushing, but also deeply relatable. And the music itself is outstanding. Fit for an Autopsy really embraces the “core” element of deathcore on this record, really tapping into the hardcore influence. There are still the deep, harsh vocals and heavy breakdowns that you expect from the deathcore genre. But at the same time, the vocals definitely have a more hardcore vibe, and the breakdowns generally have more of that feel. Especially when the “four-on-the-floor” kicks in on Far From Heaven. That was the moment this album really clicked for me.

Overall, the first half of this year has been great for heavy music fans. With some truly heavy hitters coming in the second half of the year, it’s going to be a wild ride! Come back in December to see how my list of top metal albums of 2022 changes!