It's always the mark of a great year for music when whittling down a Best Albums of the Year list already feels like an impossible task — and it's only June. For all the political instability and uncertainty of the world around us, one thing that has been remarkably consistent is the quality of music that's hard, heavy, angry and cathartic. From grand statements by big names like Ghost and Korn to riotous up-and-comers like Soul Glo and Static Dress making their mark, 2022 has already been a sonic success story. Below, see the 25 best albums released thus far.
Supergroups are often over-hyped ventures that amount to less than the sum of their parts. Absent in Body is not that. This band's debut transcends the renown of its roster: Amenra's Colin H. van Eeckhout and Mathieu J. Vandekerckhove, Neurosis' Scott Kelly and Sepultura's Iggor Cavalera. Opener "Rise From Ruins" casts the die, smoldering with grim ambient textures, electronic swirls and tribal drumbeats before erupting into a planet-crushing riff and hellfire vocals. The rest of this devastating end-times meditation? Heavier, angstier and even more menacing.
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").
Time heals nothings — and changes little, too, when it comes to Crowbar. Led by the inimitable Kirk Windstein, the NOLA sludgecore veterans never fail, and Windstein's latest opus, Zero and Below, offers more of the weathered and scarred Southern sludge that fans and collaborators like Philip Anselmo and Jamey Jasta know and love. The only thing more endless than the riffs is the beautiful misery. We wouldn't have it any other way.
Devil Master are a beautifully quixotic anomaly. The Philly-based crew make black 'n' roll with chorus pedals and country twang. Their songs emit the stench of sweaty Doc Martens and evoke the image of a corpse-painted outlaw's trusty switchblade glistening in the moonlight, but their sophomore LP never strays more than an arm's length from something whistle-able — a creaky lick or a huffed snarl. Ecstasies of Never Ending Light is like dropping acid in a witch's castle: trippy, haunting and potentially life-altering.
Considering he'd already earned his metal bona fides two decades back with his all-star Probot project, we knew Dave Grohl's tribute to doom, death and thrash wasn't going to be bad, but the quality of these Dream Widow songs is alarmingly good. The companion album to the Foo Fighters' Studio 666 horror comedy are rippin', riffin' and gleefully heavy odes to bands like Trouble and Corrosion of Conformity that are more than mere pastiche, but still tickle all the familiar senses. More Dream Widow, please.
Fit for an Autopsy have long proved themselves as one of the most relentlessly brutal bands in deathcore, so on Oh What the Future Holds they moved on to conquer other heavy-metal nation states. Songs like "Pandora" and "Far From Heaven" are epically melodic in a way that's much more Gojira than Job for a Cowboy — beaming guitar leads, misty clean vocals and songwriting that's more triumphant than it is brutal. There're still plenty of apoplectic breakdowns, but the record's most unpredictable moments are its most gratifying.
Sure, Impera is a record about "spiritual annihilation" that's rife with social commentary and existential interrogation, but it's also just so goddamn fun. Tobias Forge's giddy devotion to glam-metal bombast sounds more vivid than ever on this LP, from the plunky pianos of "Spillways" and glowing melodies of "Call Me Little Sunshine," to the thrashy chugs that trot through "Watcher in the Sky" and the Dickinson-ian belt that throws open the door of "Kaisarion." Impera feels like dusting off a buried treasure chest and basking in the unearthly glow for 46 glorious minutes.
L.A.'s prolific electronic-rock group come correct with another one of their star-studded collab albums. DISCO4 serves up a broad spectrum of bangers: from industrial groove metal with Lamb of God ("COLD BLOOD") and ethereal sound baths with Poppy ("DEAD FLOWERS") to Nine Inch Nails–fueled electro-industrial ("ISN'T EVERYONE") and intoxicating soft-loud stompers with Ho99o9 ("GNOSTIC FLESH/MORTAL HELL"). DISCO4 is a gloomy, gorgeous and hypnotic ride. We can't wait to hear where, and with whom, they travel next.
Heriot presently hold the title for the world's heaviest metalcore band. The U.K. group's debut project lives up to the bone-snappingly violent standard they sat on last year's string of singles, but there're also glimmers of moody clean vocals and gnarled industrial ambiance amid the chaos, pointing toward a more dynamic musical future. Wherever they go next is bound to be great, but the sheer sonic assault of tracks like "Carmine" and "Near Vision" is what make them such an incomparably ear-scouring force.
As the founder and main songwriter of A Perfect Circle, Billy Howerdel is revered for his shoegazing guitar heroics on alt-metal classics like "Judith" and "The Outsider." Which makes it all the more remarkable that, for his first solo album under his own name, he would put that instrument on the back burner. The resulting synth-focused offering does not disappoint, however, bringing to the fore Howerdel's love of Depeche Mode with captivating modern goth anthems steeped in neon and smoke.
What happens when rap-punk riot-starters Ho99o9 team with blink-182 drummer, MGK impresario and Kardashian significant other Travis Barker? The idea sounds frightening on paper. It's even more frightening — in a good way — in practice. Produced by Barker, Skin is the Jersey-bred, L.A.-based duo's most skin-peeling creation yet, aptly referencing Napalm Death on electro-grind rager "Nuge Snight" and crucially enlisting Slipknot frontman and Ho99o9 superfan Corey Taylor on the rabid "Bite My Face."
Trivium main man Matthew Kiichi Heafy had been teasing a black-metal solo project for years, and Rashomon is well worth the wait. Though his songwriting retains some of the triumphant melody of his main band, the most musically scathing parts Heafy's ever written lie within this tracklist, and the assistance he got from Emperor's Insahn — as well as the unexpectedly heavy vocal feature from My Chemical Romance singer Gerard Way — make this much more than just a casual pandemic experiment.
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").
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 solved.
Moon Tooth aren't an easy band to describe, and these days, when it feels like everything's already been done, that's an immense strength. Phototroph, the New York band's third studio album, is packed with moments that make you think, "Damn, that singer can fuckin' belt!" and "Holy shit, that guitarist shreds!" They're a prog-metal band for people who can't stand the masturbatory meandering of most prog, but appreciate superior musicianship. And they're a heavy yet still amazingly catchy rock band for tech-heads who love to tally up time signature changes but also want something they can sing to in the car.
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.
Diaspora Problems contains multitudes. Musically, it's a brilliantly synergistic handshake between punk, noise-rap and every sub-style of hardcore — from emotional screamo to metallic mosh. Lyrically, singer Pierce Jordan's spitfire outpourings are as politically profound and socially urgent as they are self-examining and gut-twistingly vulnerable. It's the most breath-snatchingly thrilling and brain-nourishingly on-point hardcore album not just of 2022, but also in recent memory. Yes, it really is that good.
This isn't to say they won't get there today, but if Static Dress arrived in the early 2000s then there'd be major label reps stalking them to their van. The U.K. troupe's full-length debut is a masterclass in 21st century post-hardcore — so much intentionality to each transition, so much heart behind each yelped lyric, so much force driving each breakdown and an instinctual grip on melody that many bands of their ilk sorely lack. Rouge Carpet Disaster is anything but a calamity.
The 20-year mark is usually when hardcore bands start to check out and coast on the legacy of their early shit, but Terror are built different. Pain Into Power is a reunion with original guitarist-songwriter Todd Jones (the force behind Nails) that sees Scott Vogel and Co. sounding heavier and angrier than ever, rivaling the material they built their name with and trouncing the energy of most bands half their age.
Nothing Undeath are doing is particularly groundbreaking, but at this point in time, no one's doing their sound better. 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."
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.
The title of Vein.fm's sophomore LP isn't a threat but a guarantee of the bleakness and pain to come, and their music sounds like a manifestation of a cursed life on this tortured plane. Convulsive, throbbing and emotionally wounded, the heaviest songs on This World Is Going to Ruin You are just about as intense as metalcore can get, while the brief reprieves of melody and mood offer little to heal the bludgeoning dealt by the tracks before. Few band batter the soul quite like Vein.fm.
The convergence of symphonic black-metal atmospheres and mosh-pit-ruling deathcore chugs isn't a new formula at this point, but Worm Shepherd's latest opus is such a brilliant execution of that beastly sound. Vocalist Devin Duarte's fiendish shrieks and shadow-soaked growls are imbued with a cinematic wickedness on songs like "Ov Sword and Nail," while the rest of the band deals in village-leveling rhythmic detonations and churning guitars.
Zeal & Ardor started as response to a racist troll. But it has grown into so much more. Main man Manuel Gagneux's initial vision — merging black metal with Black spiritual music — is as potent and relevant as ever on the new self-titled. But Zeal & Ardor also shows Gagneux evolving and incorporating new elements from post-rock, prog, hip-hop, soul, nu-metal and Morricone-esque atmospherics, once again proving that this project holds countless unexplored and thrilling possibilities.