This list is not genre or market specific. This list reflects the diversity of my interests. This list is not based on listening to any radio, podcasts, or influencer pundits. My appreciation for music is relatively broad, but you'll find a heavier edge to recent lists - reflective of the seasons of my life.
This list is my 12th attempt to catalog, track, and recommend the best music of the previous year. If you're interested in what I've ranked in previous years, check out this page where all years are available.
This year was the most difficult year of compiling this list since I started. Not because I lacked entries to this list, but because 2022 featured more great music than I have space for. However, I did cut the list off at 20, and you can see my "Honorable Mentions" at the end of this blog.
Two themes dominated my 2022: my first year as a vinyl collector, and exploration into new artists. I have purchased vinyls for most of the albums on this list (for albums that have vinyls available) and am greatly impressed by the art and artistry that is put into the format. With respect to the newly discovered artists, I gave them priority in this list over many age-old, popular bands that put out albums this year (eg. Slipknot, Rammstein, Ghost). I find the new sounds exhilarating and fresh, and hope you do too.
Please spread the word and share this guidance with your network, and pay forward these suggestions of high quality, relatively underrated music and musicians.
Check out my YouTube playlist featuring clips from every album, linked at the end of this list.
And if you're feeling bold, drop a comment on this blog and let me know what you think. What's on your list of favorite albums for 2022?
I appreciate your interest in my Art and music opinion. Enjoy!
NOTE: I reserve the right to revise this list as necessary. I know I've probably missed some great albums in 2022, and will be sure to update this list to accommodate those next year - as I have done and will do with lists from previous years. Check back for updates!
What Normal Was
I was a big fan of Howerdel's Ashes Divide project, and you can hear the echoes of that great album in the lines and tones of "What Normal Was".
AUTHOR & PUNISHER
Author & Punisher is a one-man, industrial doom metal machine that cranks out atmospheric and apocalyptic jams. The album could work as an Industrial B-side for Tool, with its experimental sound, gritty mechanics and darkly dreamed soundscape. The album features Danny Carey, Justin Chancellor (both from Tool) and Perturbator. Musician Tristan Shone created his own "dub" and "drone" instruments, and the album reflects the best of Godflesh and Tool mixed with NIN.
I've been listening to Toxik since I was in High School, and while I don't have as much appreciation for speed metal as I once did, this is a great album by the venerable metalheads. The title track reminds of "World Circus" while adding a mature vibe and doom power. Josh Christian and band can still scream and slay.
White Ward is always a sonic adventure. Doom/black metal with saxophones and other compelling instruments, I've been a fan of this talented band out of Ukraine since discovering their "Futility Report" album. As I've grown older, I tend to gravitate toward vocals that are a bit more harmonic and less guttural, but White Ward represents the pain of their homeland perfectly with "False Light". Even though this album didn't rank high on my list, I deeply appreciate it in the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the amazing feat this band had to go through just to finish and release this album. In the end, I'm drawn to the balance of glorious guitars and saxophone, a sonic dance that creates a serious sense of gloom. The cover and vinyl insert contain shots from Ukraine, and it breaks my heart to consider what this strong people are enduring at the hands of Russia. #IStandWithUkraine
BLEED FROM WITHIN
Hailing from Scotland, Bleed From Within is a metalcore band that sounds like a European companion to Parkway Drive with excellent vocals and melodies, superb riffs and endless power. "Shrine" is a great album and would rank higher on my list in a year that didn't feature so many great entries.
Their last album, "Reverence", was my #2 album of 2018, beaten out by an overwhelmingly awesome Rabbit Junk album. In 2022, the situation is pretty much the same, only both bands failed to crack my Top 10. Every artist is judged on his/her last effort, and if "Darker Still" is compared to "Reverence", I see very little difference in sound, tempo and content from the last album. Consistency is certainly a good thing, but "Darker Still" doesn't sound fresh - but it does sound good enough to be in my Top 20, just not different enough to stand out.
EAT IT UP, SPIT IT OUT
This two-piece from Los Angeles almost stole the show from Night Club when I saw them at First Avenue's Entry earlier this year. I had no clue who they were at the time, but "EAT IT UP, SPIT IT OUT" became one of my most played albums of 2022, with "Little Godz" in my regular rotation. Fronted by the multi-talented Kat Leon, this band may not be on many radars right now, but is one you should watch out for. Ultimately, sounds and looks similar to K. Flay with a bit of a heavier edge and affinity for the camera.
LAMB OF GOD
Lamb of God channels angry like no other. Metalcore with solid vocals and guitars that slay, Lamb of God never ceases to impress. "Omens" is a great addition to the Lamb of God catalog, but like Parkway Drive, doesn't differentiate well. Across the album, I hear the echoes of "Sacrament" - and as I said with Parkway Drive, consistency isn't a bad thing. "Omens" grinds and slams well, and if you're looking for a soundtrack to your aggression, look no further.
And now for a change of pace. Sometimes I need those. We all do. My list this year is dotted with escapes from the loud cacophony of our brutal lives. Maybe it's me getting older. Maybe it's needing alternate influences to counter my high blood pressure. This band is a new-ish discovery and I expect that I will spend more time listening to them for chill and inspiration. Their dreamy approach is a welcome respite to the hustle and bang of our brutal world. They're considered indie "dream-pop" and their style and swing resonates well with the need for less speed.
Apocalypse for Beginners
I've been a fan of Rabbit Junk for fifteen years now. I've seen them evolve from a relatively-unkonwn rough-and-tumble hardclash band to a well-polished electronic outfit with a sizeable following. JP Anderson and Sum Grrrl continue to anchor their style and sound, with collaborators like Amelia Arsenic and Cyanotic. Their newest release has the grit and edge that I expect from Rabbit Junk, only it feels a bit too overproduced. I long for the rugged days of "Orange Laces" and "Iso Vs. Life", where their album covers were less perfect and their sound lacked the prettiness it exudes now. That may sound like a criticism, but it's not - Rabbit Junk is one of the best electronic acts on the market right now that more people need to know about. Compared to my opinion on their last album "Meditations on Mortality: Rabbit Junk Will Die", "Apocalypse" is a solid effort and worthy of much praise, but doesn't stack up against some of their best works.
A newcomer to my orbit, Carpenter Brut has been a breath of fresh air. One of a couple of bands on my list that built their records off of collaborations with other artists, Brut is a one-man band from France, considered darksynth or dark electronics, mixing horror themes and sounds to create a horror atmosphere. According to Wikipedia, "(Leather Terror) is a continuation of the Leather Teeth trilogy and involves a story of "a character who wants to take revenge on the cheerleader who’s been making fun of him 'serial killer style'." The album features collaborations with Greg from The Dillinger Escape Plan, Gunship, among others.
It's hard not to love these two lifelong friends from England that united to form a powerful urban punk duo. Gorgeously diverse and unapologetically sarcastic, angry and edgy. "Supernova" is an endless jam of great vocals, superb content, and punky guitars. From "Cleopatra" to "Antagonist", their attitude, presence and power is undeniable. They truly are super in many ways and are one of my favorite finds of 2022.
Disco4: Part II
Another one of my favorite finds of 2022 was the band Health. For a band whose name was derived intentionally as an "everyday word", they are strikingly unique with a mesmerizing sound and brilliant balance of electronics and guitars. Listening to the amazingness of "Disco4: Part II" drove me to explore their catalog further, and appreciate the immense greatness that they've produced even before this album. Featuring collaborations with NIN, Poppy, Lamb of God, The Neighbourhood, and Perturbator, "Part II" is a melancholic and hypnotic ride, often brilliant and often exquisite.
This metalcore act from Michigan can crank out some serious power. Their concept isn't original - heavy tunes with two vocalists, one clean and one growly, much like Linkin Park once perfected. More electronic and diverse than Parkway Drive, and with a sound similar to Bad Omens, I Prevail is thunderous and huge, while slinging axes and blasting bad ass beats. "Body Bag" will tell you all you need to know about them, and I Prevail is able to continue that attitude for one truly powerful, boomtastic album.
"All hail the king of nothing."
MOJAVE PHONE BOOTH
Hollow The Numbers + Kill the Messenger EP
Their self-titled album was one of my favorites of 2016, and this album was one of my favorite of 2022. The creative evolution of Tobey Torres Doran (Snake River Conspiracy) and Mitch Doran (Snake River Conspiracy, Queensryche "Mindcrime 2") has been inspiring and amazing to watch, and this album is an adventurous soundscape of mystery and industrial, 80s gothy style. As a whole, the vocal interplay between Tobey and Mitch is fun, highlighting the high level of talent this band possesses across the board. Drums by Lynn Farmer from Meat Beat Manifesto round out their amazing sound. Both the new album and previous EP are layered with superb guitars and soulful vocals, mixed with vocal samples and great electronic atmosphere (and even features Flea from The Red Hot Chili Peppers). "Graveyard Tapes" is an exquisite and hypnotic exploration into the spooky minds of the band, while "Kill the Messenger" was one of my most listened to songs of 2022. Most of all, it is has been awesome to learn Tobey's story from the Snake River Conspiracy era and to witness her persistence, resilience and evolution with Mojave Phone Booth. From what I understand, the invigoration could even lead to new Snake River Conspiracy work. This is a band that deserves serious recognition for overcoming obstacles and producing some of the greatest work in their careers.
Speaking of yesteryear bands returning to produce some of the best work, Stabbing Westward's "Chasing Ghosts" is a phenomenal and confident album that was one of my favorite vinyls of 2022. This album isn't the strongest in my top ten musically, but from cover to concept, it is macabre and amazing. The cover and other album art is genius and darkly wonderful. Musically, it is great to hear the sound of Stabbing Westward again. I was a fan of Hall's side project, The Dreaming, but this album is where he belongs. Stabbing Westward has been a fave since 1996's "Wither Blister Burn & Peel", so it's difficult to measure "Chasing Ghosts" across their great releases, but it certainly stood out as one of my favorites of 2022.
Of Kingdom and Crown
I didn't intentionally group "Kingdom"-related concept albums next to each other. However, two of my favorite albums of have strong themes around Kings and kingdoms (incidentally, even I Prevail has a great song called "Long Live the King"), with "Of Kingdom and Crown" revolving around two characters named Ares and Eros that go through troubles. "No Gods, No Masters" will forever be one of my favorite Machine Head songs, while the rest of the album is filled with power and dark glory. Extra props for superbly macabre album art and an exquisite vinyl package and presentation. Rob Flynn's voice shows no signs of fading, and Machine Head continues to be one of the most relentless and inventive bands in metal today.
Pawns & Kings
Alter Bridge has been a favorite since the dissolution of Creed. Over the years, they've had albums that have dotted these lists, but "Pawns & Kings" has ranked the highest of them all so far. The songwriting on "Pawns & Kings" is amazingly tight and the storytelling on the album is spectacular. Myles Kennedy and Mark Tremonti are an amazing duo, complementing each other's talent. It helps that they - combined with Phillips and Marshall, also from Creed - are four of the best musicians in rock right now. Songs like "This Is War", "Holiday", "Sliver Tongue", "Fable of the Silent Son", "Season of Promise", and "Pawns & Kings" hint of a larger story of class warfare, almost medieval in tone. Many props to Mark's brother Dan for exceptional album art. Look forward to seeing this band in February with Red.
The Death of Peace of Mind
"The Death of Peace of Mind" was my most listened to album of 2022, and their live show was one of my favorite this year (despite serious issues with the venue). They are an amazingly eclectic and polished electro-rock band that features the perfect mix of vocals and creative vision. Each of the videos that they've released are atmospheric and amazing, showcasing endless range of this talented band.
Favorites "The Grey", "The Death of Peace of Mind", "Like a Villain", and "Artificial Suicide" were on constant rotation on my record player, and the electronics pop with life and energy.
The album doesn't have a weak spot, doesn't have a song that I would point to as a flaw or fail. It is an soulful, raw, edgy and beautiful ride from start to finish, punctuated by what is probably my favorite song of 2022, "The Death of Peace of Mind", an epic of romantic and gloomy proportions with a corresponding video that is wonderfully haunting and gorgeous cinema.
ZEAL & ARDOR
To be honest, it was difficult for me to choose between Bad Omen's wonderful new album and this one. I listened to the Bad Omens album more. I saw both bands live. I loved the live sound of both shows. Ultimately, it comes down to this: the influence of the past on their present. Bad Omens show was tightly performed and very entertaining, but too many songs were too Biblically preachy, a reflection on popular work from previous albums.
Zeal & Ardor's set of tunes that supported the great songs like "Run", "Golden Liar", and "Gotterdammerung", were black metal influenced slave tunes, like "Don't You Dare", "Row Row", and "Gravedigger's Chant". I've read that Bad Omens wishes that their recent release is what the public knows them best by, as if the success of this album reflects who they are, not who they were.
I've never heard Manuel Gagneux Iament about his content and the amazing voice he has channeled out of black history and reality. There's a hardcore honesty with every Zeal & Ardor song, and as an atheist and humanist, I probably appreciate that more highly than most.
I stand by Zeal & Ardor's self-titled as my favorite for 2022, and am excited to have been introduced to them. From "Stranger Fruit" to "Wake of the Nation" to their self-title, Zeal & Ardor have an awesome trajectory and creative fire.
2022 Honorable Mentions
I had a long list of albums to choose from for my 2022 list. Here are ones that were considered, but not chosen for the top 20. They may make it there someday.
Conjure One - Innovation Zero
Sabaton – The War To End All Wars
Ghost – Impera
Rammstein – Zeit
Amorphis – Halo
Meshuggah – Immutable
Anthrax - XL
Megadeth - The Sick, The Dying ....and the Dead!
Disturbed - Divisive