The 15 Best Metal Albums of 2022
Trends may come and go, but the rage and triumph of heavy metal never go out of style. Both of those feelings were welcome in 2022, as headbangers felt more comfortable moshing at concerts and venturing out to record stores, and artists both big and small came out with some glorious and cutting albums. The Prince of Darkness, Ozzy Osbourne, showed the world he’s still metal’s comeback king, Meshuggah found new polyrhythms for their death rattles, and Slipknot found a happy balance between serene, Radiohead vibes and bilious callbacks to their great Vol. 3. Meanwhile, underground artists like Chat Pile, Undeath, and Blackbraid breathed fresh life into the genre. Here are the year’s 15 best brain bashers.
Dead Cross, ‘Dead Cross II’
An alternate title for Dead Cross’ second album could have been Dead Cross2 since frontman Mike Patton and his metal-punk cohorts sound even deadlier and crosser than on their first outing. Sample lyric: “Time to wake up and puuuuuuke” on “Strong and Wrong.” As with the first Dead Cross, the group — which features current and former members of Slayer, the Locust, and Retox — command pummeling riffs, shadowy filigrees, and neck-ache-inducing rhythms as Patton and bassist-vocalist Justin Pearson generally lose their shit, howling about climate change (“Reign of Error”) and conservatism (“Christian Missile Crisis”) and expectorating whatever one-liners occur to them in the moment (“I love you so much that I could shit” on “Love Without Love”). It’s crude, cutting, uncouth, and thought-provoking — everything a hardcore-metal crossover album should be. —K.G.
Blackbraid, ‘Blackbraid I’
When Blackbraid’s debut single, “Barefoot Ghost Dance on Bloodsoaked Soil,” came out last February, the metal world took a collective gasp. Creator Sgah’gahsowáh may not have anticipated just how much of a sensation his one-man Indigenous black-metal project would become, but the attention is richly deserved. A powerfully emotive album with lyrics rooted in nature and history, Blackbraid I marries the icy melodies of the mid-Nineties Scandinavian scene with lilting Indigenous instruments and acoustic folk interludes like “As the Creek Flows Softly By.” In turns harsh and delicate, Blackbraid take cues from black metal’s old guard on the album while consciously crafting something that feels new, fresh, and vital. —K.K.
Boris, ‘Heavy Rocks’
Prolific Japanese face-melters Boris celebrated their 30th anniversary this year with Heavy Rocks, an album which shares its title and kick-out-the-jams aesthetic with two of the band’s previous albums (released in 2002 and 2011, respectively), but also features far more experimental twists than its like-titled predecessors. Revved-up tracks like “She Is Burning,” “Cramper,” “My Name Is Blank,” and “Ruins” sound like Fun House-era Stooges crossed with early thrash metal, but even the more unclassifiable excursions like the sludgy cacophony of “Nosferatou” and the agony-filled six-minute piano ballad “(Not) Last Song” are compelling thanks to Wata, one of the most inventive and expressive — yet still sorely underrated — guitarists in the heavy-rock universe. —D.E.
Lamb of God, ‘Omens’
Lamb of God’s output has been so consistently excellent over the past two decades that it’s easy to take the hard-grooving metal quintet for granted. But even by their own lofty standards, Omens is great. Not only does frontman Randy Blythe sound more pissed off than usual on apocalyptic cuts like “Nevermore,” “Vanishing,” and the title track, but the way LoG recorded the album’s basic tracks live in the studio clearly enabled them to ratchet up their usual intensity and artistry by several notches. And drummer Art Cruz, whose playing seemed somewhat muted on his first album with the band, 2020’s Lamb of God, sounds fully unleashed here, proving himself a more than worthy successor to original skinsman Chris Adler. —D.E.
Mizmor + Thou, ‘Myopia’
Thou are Southern metal’s greatest modern survivors, scions of Louisiana sludge who have spent 15 years infusing the atavistic form with the politics of liberation and unsuspected extreme influences. They have achieved this, in part, with feverish collaborations — adding muscle to Emma Ruth Rundle’s gothic grandeur, angles to the Body’s frontal assaults, and, this year, turmoil and tension to Mizmor’s graceful solo doom. Cut in secret in New Orleans as a surprise for the festival Roadburn, their joint debut is a colossal game of tug-of-war, the victor shifting from one moment to the next. On standouts like “Manifold Lens” or “Subordinate,” arcing riffs are battered or smeared into submission, at least until they return in some warped form. These winding lines are the tensile steel inside these poetic philippics against forsaken public trust and the failures of contentment. Myopia feels like the sin-eater of these past three years, inhaling the frustration of our times only to breathe it out again in one riveting paroxysm. —G.H.C.
Slipknot, ‘The End, So Far’
On their seventh studio album — their last for Roadrunner Records, hence the title — Iowa’s masked marvels split the difference between the keyboard-heavy atmospherics of 2019’s We Are Not Your Kind and the skin-flaying metallic assault of 2003’s Vol. 3 (The Subliminal Verses), with savage tracks like “The Chapeltown Rag,” “The Dying Song (Time to Sing),” and “H377” delivering the time-honored ‘Knot brand of brutality. Corey Taylor’s vocals, always one of the band’s strongest attributes, are especially remarkable; he can still scream with the best of them, but his nuanced clean singing on “Adderall,” “Yen,” and the cinematic closer, “Finale,” vividly prove he’s just getting better with age. —D.E.
Mo’ynoq, ‘A Place for Ash’
The Raleigh black-metal quartet’s self-released sophomore full-length, A Place for Ash, is a slow burn, but it’s one that sears down to the bone. The album revels in its unrepentantly abrasive posture, and from the first scream of opening track “Penance,” there are few moments of respite. But there is a dynamic quality to the band’s aggression and deep emotional catharsis concealed within the thicket of muscular riffs. The elegiac moments on “Effigies Adorned in Fire” showcase their ability to weaponize melody when it suits them, and ambitious closer, “The Beast That Mourned at the Heart of the Mountain,” is absolutely stunning in its tense, serpentine grandeur. —K.K.
Five weeks before the seemingly relentless Singaporean grindcore trio Wormrot released their fourth album, Hiss, they actually relented: Pinball vocalist, Arif, announced he was leaving the band he’d co-founded. “I have to stop pretending that I am still interested [in] being in the band,” he wrote. It’s impossible, though, to trace waning interest within Hiss, a record so masterfully breathless and dense it’s best savored piece by piece like a rich chocolate cake. Squeezing 21 tracks into 33 minutes is hardly a feat by grind standards, but it’s the quality and quantity of ideas within these tracks that astounds. The power electronics of “All Will Wither,” the shrieking malevolence of “Grieve,” the shout-out-loud triumph of “When Talking Fails, It’s Time for Violence”: Every section of every track scans as an adventure, a frenzied plunge into the unknown. Arif’s exasperation seems to appear in the lyrics, sick-of-it-all manifestos against most everything. At least on tape, however, his resignation translates into rage, the fuel behind one of the most thrilling bands to ever claim the grindcore mantle. —G.H.C.
Megadeth, ‘The Sick, the Dying … and the Dead!’
If you thought a cancer scare and pandemic-related recording delays would put Dave Mustaine in a more mellow and reflective mood for Megadeth’s first new album in nearly seven years, then you just don’t know Dave Mustaine. Not only does the pioneering thrash band sound fully revitalized here, but Mustaine spits out such ferocious missives as “Life in Hell,” “Junkie,” and “We’ll Be Back” like someone with a full tank of bile and a mile-wide chip on his shoulder. Throw in some thrilling shredding from both Mustaine and lead guitarist Kiko Loureiro, and The Sick, the Dying … and the Dead more than lives up to the legacy Megadeth forged on their elliptically titled Eighties albums. —D.E.
Undeath, ‘It’s Time … to Rise From the Grave’
For a band that bellows about turning human skeletons into chandeliers, plundering graveyards like they’re goldmines, and pining for the next victim in a ceaseless serial-killer rampage, there’s very little that’s controversial or terrifying about Undeath. A quintet of self-identified “greasy, perpetually stoned gamers,” Undeath deeply revere death metal’s crazed Florida Man heritage — Cannibal Corpse, Death, Obituary — but pay little mind to any self-serious need for actual evil. They’re here to party and play, to live it up with songs about, well, dying. Much to the chagrin of bands who’ve been working this carcass-clotted lane for decades, that energy and the resulting accessibility are the tandem lures to It’s Time … to Rise From the Grave, a very fun record that has the distinction of being one of the year’s great breakthroughs while sounding a lot like the past. In 2022, who needs metal heroes to pretend they’re monsters or, let alone, actually be one? We’ve had enough of those, thank you, and now we’ve got these coiled and hook-bound tunes, no portentous pretense necessary. —G.H.C.
Chat Pile, ‘God’s Country’
Chat Pile’s industrial-strength noise rock conjures visions of rusting factories, burn pits, and broken asphalt beneath a heavy, gray sky. A bleak, anti-capitalist malaise runs through the Oklahoma City group’s first full-length, God’s Country. It’s an ugly, necessary album that shines a harsh surgical light on everyday cruelties. The hypnotic, Dystopia-esque “Why” confronts a real American horror story, the housing crisis, first innocently, then increasingly frantically. Heaping slabs of sludge anchor nihilistic slow bangers like “Slaughterhouse” and “Anywhere” (which sounds like a malignantly warped In Utero B side), and the near-silent surrealism of “I Don’t Care If I Burn” shreds your nerves before ending on the nine-minute agony of “Grimace_Smoking_Weed.Jpeg.” You’ll never look at a Happy Meal the same. —K.K.
Tobias Forge and his gang of Nameless Ghouls foretell the fall of an empire on their latest slice of theatrical metal, Impera — and it sure resembles the faltering U.S. There are allusions to powerful men grabbing women by the privates in the Broadway thrasher “Twenties,” the use of religion to control masses in the riff-tastic “Griftwood,” and the stamping out of science in “Kaisarion,” which opens with arguably the best metal scream of 2022. But Forge can’t help but add a dash of humor to the collapse of society. While Impera‘s theme sounds overly serious on paper, it succeeds because of sharp humor and well-crafted (dare we say, pop-metal) songs. Forge, as his alter-ego Papa Emeritus, dances as the world burns, and you can’t help but want to join in. —J.H.
Listening to Meshuggah can be as disorienting as sprinting off a Tilt-A-Whirl — the ground just keeps punching you in the face, as do rhythm guitarist Mårten Hagström and bassist Dick Lövgren’s riffs on the group’s ninth album, Immutable. You sort of just have to submit and let an album like Immutable happen to you, absorbing the descending guitar cacophonies of “They Move Below,” the black-metal trembling riffs of “Black Cathedral,” and the pneumatic nail-gun rhythms of “Armies of the Preposterous.” Once inside Meshuggah’s chaosphere, vocalist Jens Kidman’s whispers and howls about the dangers of right-wing extremism on “Armies of the Preposterous” and the follies of social media on “Light the Shortening Fuse” worm their way into your consciousness. Even a koan like “The truth is, we never ever had truth in sight” on “Broken Cog” makes sense amid Meshuggah’s punishing rhythms and shadowy textures. As with every great album the band has made, everything is constantly changing (despite the title, Immutable) and somehow they’ve never taken a wrong step. —K.G.
Ozzy Osbourne, ‘Patient Number 9’
The Iron Man has spent the past few years journeying to hell and back, but on Patient Number 9 he’s got the crazy train back on track. Like his surprising 2020 comeback album, Ordinary Man, the new LP finds Osbourne collaborating with artists who’ve inspired him, some of his peers, and musicians he’s influenced. But even with the cameos, it always sounds like an Ozzy Osbourne album, and it’s even heavier than its predecessor. The two tracks he cut with fellow Black Sabbath co-founder Tony Iommi (“No Escape From Now” and “Degradation Rules”) bear the band’s signature gloom, while “One of Those Days,” which features mournful soloing by Eric Clapton, is one of Osbourne’s best-ever blues numbers as he sings, “It’s one of those days I don’t believe in Jesus.” “God Only Knows,” co-written with late Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins, is also one of his most moving power ballads, as he sings about the world at large: “God’s looking down on what we’ve done, watching the children play with guns.” The album is a glimpse into the diary of the madman, and it makes more sense with every listen. —K.G.
Soul Glo, ‘Diaspora Problems’
On Diaspora Problems, hardcore-metal bruisers Soul Glo live up to the cinematic aspirations of the album’s opening bong toke (set to the rhythm of the 20th Century Fox drumbeat). On 12 angsty outbursts, the Philly crew narrates their experience as Black American artists and their own personal turmoil with brute-force guitar riffs, hip-hop-influenced programming, and frontman Pierce Jordan’s larynx-shredding confessionals. He pleads for respect on “Coming Correct Is Cheaper” (soundtracked by the “hoo/yeah” of “It Takes Two”), comes to terms with his own suicidal tendencies on “(Five Years and) My Family,” and lambastes liberals who preach change without fighting for it over wailing sirens on “We Wants Revenge.” Throughout Diaspora Problems, the group, whose guitarist Ruben Polo stepped away from the band after the album’s release, pairs hardcore-punk rage with sophisticated production ear candy (are those horns on “Thumbsucker”?), making for an album that sounds deeper and livelier with every spin. —K.G.