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Chaos, uncertainty, existential doom — none of that went away in 2022, but we once again had so much great heavy music to escape with. Death metal and hardcore had banner years; metalcore was ruled by longstanding innovators and next-gen trailblazers; and respected vets, from heavy-metal pioneers to nu-metal provocateurs, returned with new opuses that reasserted their canonical dominance. Below, are the 25 best albums of 2022. Us headbangers have a lot to be thankful for.
2020's Child Soldier: Creator of God, the solo debut from former Dillinger Escape Plan frontman Greg Puciato, was a striking statement, but it was also bloated and uneven, more rambling mixtape than focused album. Mirrorcell corrects this and then some. While still encompassing many styles — alt rock, synth pop, post-metal and more — like its predecessor, Puciato's 2022 LP traces a concise, cohesive and immersive journey. Peaks include "Lowered," a shimmery duet with Code Orange's Reba Meyers, and closer "All Waves to Nothing," a devastating nine-minute sludge-doom epic.
Rammstein took 10 long years to follow up Liebe ist für alle da with their 2019 untitled LP, but only three years to follow up the latter — with an album fittingly titled "time" in the German pyromaniacs' native tongue. So does Zeit come off like a rush job? Hardly. At their best, Rammstein albums encompass somber majesty and sophomoric slapstick and plenty in between, and the industrial-metal juggernaut's eighth LP spans exactly that scope. Indeed, even a song literally named "Big Boobs" ("Dicke Titten") manages to strike a poignant perspective on the album's titular (pun intended) theme.
They've stood at the forefront of metalcore for nearly two decades, and on their explosive eighth album, the Devil Wears Prada explore adult growing pains without foregoing a single iota of their youthful vigor. Standouts include the anthemic, made-for-rock-radio "Broken" and the blistering "Watchtower," both built to stir up rage and longing in equal measure while emphasizing synth-syncopated grooves. Color Decay is TDWP doing what they do best — conjuring emotional turmoil and supplying catharsis through moshy, catchy metalcore.
Chat Pile quickly became the hottest noise-rock band in the scene when they dropped God's Country earlier this year, earning a coveted — and, for a band like them, unusual — "Best New Music" nod from indie taste-makers Pitchfork. The album exemplifies the Oklahoma band's commitment to class-conscious politics (a "chat pile" refers to the lead and zinc mining byproducts forged by laborers in their home state's hills) through lyrical diatribes about homelessness, gun violence, and environmental anxiety, all set to an unnerving mix of Korn-inspired bass riffs and screeching, angular guitar licks.
Polyphia's fourth LP, Remember That You Will Die, is a genre-spanning mindfuck that incorporates elements of trap, bossa nova and flamenco into the Texan quartet's acrobatic shreddery, resulting in a synapse-frying experience that could possibly cause carpal tunnel just from listening. Naturally, Revolver favorites are "Bloodbath," a metallic banger featuring the do-no-wrong crooning of Deftones' Chino Moreno; "Ego Death," with an electrifying appearance by guitar god Steve Vai; and opener "Genesis," which brings to mind Mike Patton's lovable smart-assery.
After more than 50 years in the music business and twice that many brushes with death, heavy metal's elder statesman still has the sense of humor to call his latest opus, Patient Number 9. Ozzy packed his 13th solo album with famous guests, from Jeff Beck shredding on the title track, to Tommy Iommi injecting Sabbathian blues into the jack-off anthem "Degradation Rules." Health issues be damned, the Prince of Darkness soars in his singularly deranged fashion throughout the 13-track collection, squashing anyone's doubts that he's ready to throw in the towel anytime soon.
10 albums in, Machine Head delivered their first-ever concept record — and their best LP in a decade. Inspired by the anime series Attack on Titan, ØF KINGDØM AND CRØWN deals with the moral ambiguity of two tortured characters' lives intertwined in a dystopian future; the album's musical journey is just as dynamic and intriguing. Fortified by Decapitated's Wacław "Vogg" Kiełtyka on lead guitar, Machine Head sound more inspired than they have in years, with Head honcho Robb Flynn seemingly reconnecting with the same creative wellspring that yielded metal masterpieces like Burn My Eyes and The Blackening.
For some fans, Underoath's comeback album, Erase Me — their first in eight years — leaned too heavily on the catchy alt-rock side of their sound, rather than the crushing metalcore side. For those good folks, there's its follow-up, Voyeurist. Glitchy, chaotic and ferocious, the LP fully lives up to the band's description of it as "high-def violence," while lyrically addressing big questions of life, death and faith. When Ghostemane unexpectedly pops up (on "Cycle"), the trap-metal kingpin's outside-the-box cameo only underscores what a brilliantly unhinged ride we're on.
Despite the misgivings guitarist James Root has about the way it came together in quarantine, THE END, SO FAR is still a Slipknot album — and one that meets their own insanely high bar of excellence. Opener "Adderall" is quite possibly their weirdest and most melodic track ever, but after that love-or-hate-it left turn, the rest of the LP finds the Iowa Nine in reliably heavy form. "Chapeltown Rag" and "H377" pulverize the senses, "The Dying Song (Time to Sing)" is a fucking anthem, and cuts like the freaky, side-winding "Acidic" offer a way forward on LP eight and beyond. Like the title says, the end is just the beginning.
Korn have been on a roll ever since reuniting with guitarist Brian "Head" Welch. 2013's The Paradigm Shift and 2016's The Serenity of Suffering were solid returns to form. Then came 2019's The Nothing, the nu-metal OGs' best album in well over a decade. Korn's follow-up continues the winning streak, encompassing sleek goth rock ("Start the Healing"), Gojira-esque pummel ("Lost in the Grandeur") and scat-spiked prophesy ("Worst Is on Its Way"). Nu-metal's in the midst of a nostalgia spike, but on Requiem, Korn once again show they're no mere legacy act.
"There's always a moment on the album where people go, 'Did they go too far?'" Claudio Sanchez muses in Coheed's making-of documentary for VAXIS II. The prog rockers' adventurous 10th LP follows their long-running Armory Wars storyline, referencing its predecessor, The Unheavenly Creatures, in the opening notes before launching into the gorgeously expansive "Beautiful Losers." From there, we're off, bouncing between the funk metal of "Shoulders," the pop punk of "The Liars Club," the eight-minute rock operetta of a closer "Window of the Waking Mind." Did they go too far? Of course, and we love it.
Cave In's previous album easily could have been their last. It was titled Final Transmission after all, and featured the last recordings of longtime bassist-vocalist Caleb Scofield, who died before the LP's completion. Coming in the wake of that tragedy, and with Converge's Nate Newton playing in Scofield's stead, the Boston post-hardcore crew's follow-up is nothing if not triumphant, whether they're delivering raucous stoner metal ("New Reality") or dusky balladry ("Reckoning"). Heavy Pendulum feels like a new beginning.
New Lords begins with a grandiose proclamation: "Who will have the balance of power?/All that you hold dear we devour." Over the next 17 minutes, Mindforce provide all the necessary evidence to back their claim to dominance. Gritty lyrics about life in the urban underworld, delivered by a frontman who drips with the giddy charisma of a rapper who just purchased their first six-figure neck piece. A guitarist who shreds like Randy Rhoads playing Chuck Schuldiner riffs over Leeway songs. And mosh parts. Oh, so many glorious mosh parts.
The hardcore-punk supergroup of Mike Patton, Dave Lombardo, Justin Pearson and Michael Crain was supposed to be a one-off. But galvanized by Crain's recent cancer fight, and then again, by the death of original vocalist (and Locust drummer) Gabe Serbian — not to mention, a fucking pandemic and fever-pitch sociopolitical unrest — Dead Cross had to continue. Unlike most sequels, II improves on the original: It's heavier, nastier, angrier and, above all, weirder than the band's 2017 self-titled debut. No easy feat.
The Callous Daoboys don't waste a second on Celebrity Therapist, merging passages of nightmare-fuel screams, pyroclastic noise explosions and non-sequitur interludes into a bizarre conglomerate of nu-metal and mathcore. It's not all a bombastic assault: "Field Sobriety of Practice" fluctuates between a kiss on the forehead and a skull-smashing freakout as it rocks between emotionally tender and gut-punchingly heavy. Expect this type of manic gear-shifting throughout, and buckle in for one of the year's wildest rides.
Sweden's djent progenitors are one of the most unconventional, yet consistent, bands in heavy music. Their ninth full-length continues this sterling legacy, assaulting the senses with an array of battering drums, snarling vocals, syncopated rhythms, razor-sharp guitar and head-spinning solos. Led by singles "The Abysmal Eye" and "Light the Shortening Fuse," Immutable is alien and cold as fuck — but also totally visceral and headbanging. And, like all their music, it sounds like a genius-level cipher daring to be untangled.
Of all the bands leading the new wave of nu-metal, Tallah are the heaviest — and quite possibly the tightest musicians. So yeah, we're fans of their face-mauling second album, the Generation of Danger, on which the Pennsylvania band mastered their merging of kooky, colorful nu-metal vocals and battering, bruising metalcore instrumentation. For every savory nu-groove, there's a vicious breakdown and a guttural scream, and every time they hook you with one of their deceptively catchy refrains, they'll follow by smacking you with something gnarly for the crowdkillers.
Death metal's in the midst of an underground renaissance, and Undeath's second album, It's Time... to Rise From the Grave, is where anyone curious about this new wave needs to begin. The Rochester, New York, band operate squarely within the boundaries of old-school death metal, pairing butt-ugly gargles with Florida-style riffage that's brisk but not speedy, catchy but not easy. Most of all, they're having fun with the form, reveling in graveyard camp and goblin-minded songcraft that, in vocalist Alexander Jones' words, "makes you want to inhale 300 beers."
Megadeth's 16th LP, The Sick, the Dying… And the Dead!, saw the thrash trailblazers not only ending a six-year drought between albums, but also returning victoriously from ringleader Dave Mustaine's battle with throat cancer. The 14 blazing tracks include some of Megadeth's fastest, more ferocious cuts to date, from the Ice-T-assisted Black Ops saga "Night Stalkers" to the slyly humorous astronaut fantasy "Mission to Mars." But our favorite might be "Dogs of Chernobyl," a moody, mid-paced dirge that ultimately bares its teeth, chomps down and snaps bone.
The Bring Me the Horizon comparisons were once inescapable for Bad Omens. But with their third album, The Death of Peace of Mind, the Richmond, Virginia, metalcore band took a massive evolutionary leap and came fully into their own. Embracing pop influences from the Weeknd and Billie Eilish, cyberpunk electronics and other leftfield elements, vocalist-producer Noah Sebastian and Co. brilliantly reinvented themselves. The result is a singularly modern sound: dark, dynamic, sleek, seductive and still punishingly heavy when the time is right.
Diaspora Problems is an album that speaks for itself. No amount of journalistic accolades could describe the singular intensity of "Gold Chain Punk (whogonbeatmyass?)" or "Jump!! (Or Get Jumped!!!)((by the future))," riveting hardcore convulsions that sit coherently in a tracklist alongside a [redacted]-the-rich noise-rap song like "Driponomics." Pierce Jordan already proved himself a one-of-a-kind frontman on Soul Glo's previous records, but here he earns his crown as the most uncompromising, poetic and genuine hardcore lyricist right now. Stop reading this and go listen to Diaspora Problems.
Lamb of God aren't a band who whiff, but it had been a few records since they cracked one out of the park. Omens is a late-career high point for the Richmond unit that recaptures the fiery vigor that makes the best LoG records so goddamn electric. Standouts such as "Ditch," "Gomorrah" and "Omens" are among the savviest, stickiest, most charismatic bangers they've dropped in a decade, while others, like the snaggle-toothed opener "Nevermore" and skyscraping closer "September Song," throw a few curveballs into their trademark groove-metal formula. Omens is a triumph.
It only took one song with new vocalist Will Ramos, 2021's viral "To the Hellfire," for Lorna Shore to prove that they're deathcore top dogs. On Pain Remains, the New Jersey crew were only aiming to best themselves, and they pulled it off with this gloriously heavy, breathtakingly ambitious display of blackened deathcore. Their breakdowns are more brutal than ever, Ramos' animalistic squeals have never sounded scarier, but the most impressive aspect of Pain Remains is just how real these songs are on a psychic level, particularly during the emotionally devastating three-part outro, which concludes with a nine-minute overture of crushing, symphonic catharsis. This is deathcore that deserves to be performed at an opera house. Bravo.
It's been a massive year for Ghost, complete with AMA wins, MLB first pitches, viral TikToks and other mind-blowing career milestones. But it all started with March's Impera, the Swedish occult-rock juggernaut's majestic fifth full-length. Amid all the hoopla and hijinks of 2022, Papa Emeritus IV and the Nameless Ghouls also became bona fide U.S. arena headliners this year, and fittingly, Impera is their arena-rock album, full of huge, sing-along, Andrew-Lloyd-Webber-gone-Eighties-metal anthems, from the ABBA-on-steroids thrill ride "Spillways" to the gothic power ballad "Darkness at the Heart of My Love." It's ambitious, delirious, biting at times ("Griftwood" skewers Trump VP Mike Pence), fun all the time. Impera might be a concept album about the fall of empires, but Ghost's own empire is rapidly expanding — and rightfully so.