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We say this every year, but 2022 was a fantastic year in metal. With literally too many killer releases to cover, especially with the increase of digital-only/Bandcamp releases.

And as usual, there was a mix of veteran acts that are still at the top of their game, and fresh new blood to get excited about and the future of metal seems to be in good hands.

Our carefully cured lists cover a whole gamut of styles and releases, so feast your eyes on our best of 2022 staff lists, check out the linked reviews and feel free to comment, let us know what we got right or wrong, and post your own lists in the comments.

Here’s to 2023 continuing the trend of great years as we get the likes of Metallica, Obituary, In Flames, Insomnium, Distant, Ne Obliviscaris, Extermination Dismemberment, Sanguisugabogg, and no doubt, exciting debuts from up and comers.

As always, thanks for reading, sharing, liking, and commenting. You are why we do this (and maybe some early free music). So please keep coming back here for your metal reviews, features, and general metal fuckery.

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What a year, eh?! Even through the lens of a world gone friggin’ berserk over the last 3 or so years, 2022 still managed to be even a little bit more extra. An increased smattering of the usual domestic terror, an all-out blitz on women’s autonomy, a billionaire space-race to the benefit of absolutely no one, Elon Musk turning Twitter into a glorious dumpster fire, KKKanye West openly praising Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party in history’s only successful attempt at making Alex Jones look sane and rational… this all only barely scratches the surface of the batshit insanity that happened JUST IN THE U.S. Elsewhere we’ve got a shirtless munchkin threatening to send the world into nuclear war, the UK playing musical chairs with it’s most powerful political seat, unprecedented protesting in China and Iran. OH and nobody has any water anymore. So that’s fun.

These are (mostly) all things of far greater import and sociological impact than the goings-on in the world of extreme music, but 2022 certainly left its mark on Metal as well, forcing headbangers around the world to really wonder what the future of our beloved scene is going to look like. Bands are starting to really have to decide if touring is even financially viable anymore, the way music is distributed and how bands are going about releasing new music has changed drastically, and bands are being forced to find new ways just to remain relevant and viable (an active social media account is now arguably as important, if not more important than recording a great album). I don’t mean to get all doomy and gloomy, because once again 2022 provided a year of incredible metal releases, but I guess my point is – let’s all enjoy this while we can because who the fuck knows what’s coming down the road. In that vein, as always, my list is strictly the releases I had the most fun listening to, not necessarily what anyone would say are the albums that “deserve” album of the year status – so don’t @ me just because I don’t have Lorna Shore on here. Erik Thomas already wants to assassinate me.

1: Aquilla –Mankind’s Odyssey (Ossuary Records)

This is not only my favorite album of the year, but it’s also my greatest discovery as well. I had no idea this Polish act even existed until maybe 4-5 months after this album was released, and it’s not even their first record! I don’t know where these dudes have been hiding for the last 5 years, I’m just glad they finally made it onto my radar. This thrashing Speed/Power Metal space opera is such a pure joy to listen to, with riffs that will send your heart rate skyrocketing and a story that will keep you just as engaged. If you’re like me and never knew these guys existed, GO AND MAKE THEM PART OF YOUR LIFE RIGHT NOW. 

2: Wolfheart King of the North (Napalm Records)

Wolfheart‘s revival that started with 2020’s Wolves of Karelia has built up even more steam, and the band has seemingly reached its apex predator form. The simple addition of a consistent clean vocal presence through new guitarist/vocalist Vagelis Karzis unlocked a whole new dynamic to the band’s sound, giving mastermind Tuomas Saukkonen even more firepower to unleash on listeners. The best album of the band’s already impressive catalog.

3: SonjaLoud Arriver (Cruz del Sur Music)

Aside from Loud Arriver just being a giant, double-birded “fuck you” to everyone who did guitarist and vocalist Melissa Moore dirty during and after her bullshit firing from Absu, her first effort with new band Sonja is just a fuckin’ master class in Heavy Metal guitar playing, backed by a superb duo of musicians who seem eager to make a real statement through their craft. Always root for the underdog.

4: Atomic Witch Crypt of the Sleepless Malice (Redefining Darkness Records)

I mean, this is an album absolutely purpose-built for sadistic fun. From start-to-finish, Atomic Witch lays on the throttle and hits you with an endlessly entertaining mix of thrash, death, and King Diamond worship (god damn those falsettos are epic). If you haven’t already gotten familiar with the band, I can’t recommend enough that you do so ASAP.

5: Intoxicated Watch You Burn (Seeing Red Records)

The riffs. GOOD GOD THE RIFFS. Hot on the heels of one of Death Metal’s most interesting comeback stories and albums, the dudes that helped make Andrew W.K. the king of the party return with even more focus and precision to finally give this longtime project the attention it deserves, and damned if we all aren’t reaping the benefits. Obituary‘s thrash metal cousins are here for real.

6: BlackBraid BlackBraid I (Self-Released)

That this album didn’t reach higher on my list is a real testament to just how good we had it in 2022. One of the most buzzworthy new acts of the year, and with good reason – BlackBraid I had no business being as amazing and well-crafted a record as it is, if only for the fact that the band’s singular mastermind, Sgah’gahsowáh, seems to have come out of absolutely nowhere. My own personal love for the Adirondack mountains that I call home may have been my initial draw to BlackBraid, but the intoxicating mix of atmospheric Black Metal beauty and ferocious riffs made me stay for the long haul.

7: Amorphis Halo (Atomic Fire Records)

You’d think at this point that these guys can’t just keep going back to the well again and again to re-hash a sound they’ve been riding for as long as they have but… here we are? Halo isn’t re-writing any books, but the core of Tomi Joutsen, Esa Holopainen, and Senteri Kallio is still more than enough to make any Amorphis release one to be excited about, and “Where Seven Roads Come Together” ranks among the bands best songs of their career. Halo may sound very familiar, but Amorphis aren’t sleepwalking by any means.

8: Spiritworld – DEATHWESTERN (Century Media Records)

So, basically, you’re taking All Out War‘s hardcore-leaning Slayer worship, cranking the Slayer-isms up to 11, and packaging it all up in a hilariously cooky demonic Spaghetti Western veneer? SIGN ME THE FUCK UP. The concept is absolutely bonkers (in the best way possible) but don’t sleep on the real songwriting chops on display throughout DEATHWESTERN. This album is an absolute banger from start to finish.

9: The Halo Effect Shadow World (Nuclear Blast)

A band featuring Mikael Stanne, Jesper Stomblad, and Niclas Engelin is pretty dang good, you say? NO FRIGGIN’ WAY. Look, I don’t know if anyone else out there was asking for the Melodeath revival we got in 2022, but I’m all here for it – and more supergroups featuring former or current members of Dark Tranquility and In Flames sound just super duper to me. What’s next? Niklas Sundin, Bjorn Gelotte, and Daniel Erlandsson are gonna collab on a melodic black metal record? MAKE THIS HAPPEN AND TAKE MY MONEY.

10: Sordid Blade Every Battle Has its Glory (Gates of Hell Records)

It seems like every year I come across an album that I end up loving WAY more than I thought I could or would, and for me, Every Battle Has its Glory takes the cake this year. I think I’ll start calling it the Greyhawk Award given that they’re the band that essentially kickstarted this apparent yearly tradition. ANYWAY, this album wears its heart so proudly and openly on its sleeve that it’s nearly impossible not to give in to it’s chainmailed charms. I would protect this album with my life.

11: Defacing God The Rise of Lilith (Napalm Records)

Speaking of rooting for underdogs, this debut record from Danish Melodeath squad Defacing God centered around the demon Lilith (amongst others) kept finding itself back in my rotation again and again. The captivating mix of old-school Arch Enemy and the unmistakable Rotting Christ influence come together to make for a super engaging, energetic record that you’ll find yourself coming back for.

12: Tower Hill Fighting Spirits EP (Self-Released)

I know a lot of times EPs kinda get set aside into their own category, but for me – if a release makes an impact, it shouldn’t matter how long it is, and for epic Canadian Heavy Metallers Tower Hill, their little 3 track EP punched me right in the face in the best possible way. Yes, opening track “The Claw is the Law” is about slamming White Claws, and don’t scoff, it’s so much fucking fun. No joke, whatever their next release is going to be is already my most anticipated release for 202whatever (let’s hope that year ends in a 3).

13: Slowbleed A Blazing Sun, A Fiery Dawn (Creator-Destructor Records)

One of the first albums I reviewed this year, and still pound-for-pound one of my favorite heavy hitters of the year. An absolute bruiser at the crossroads of Death Metal and Hardcore, packed with a seething emotional rage that few records could match in 2022, and yet another amazing addition to the underrated Creator-Destructor family. Get on board or get out of these guys’ way.

14: Hoaxed  Two Shadows (Relapse Records)

Bar-none, probably one of 2022’s most captivating records. The Portland, Oregon duo are primed to make a big name for themselves if they keep up the kind of incredibly catchy, bewitching output found on Two Shadows – a record that could find itself a spot on the shelf with fans of everyone from The Gathering, Moonspell and Alcest, to Fleetwood Mac, Tori Amos and Natalie Merchant.

15: Blind Guardian The God Machine (Nuclear Blast)

Is it just me, or does it seem like this album somehow got swept under the rug? It’s Blind friggin’ Guardian for crying out loud! Where’s the fanfare? Where’s the great feast in celebration of this album’s glory?! I’m outraged because The God Machine rips. The band stripped back some of the epic orchestrations that have become a hallmark for their more recent work, and instead focused on the thrashy sort of Power Metal that defined their mid-career, Nightfall in Middle Earthera selves – and the result is nothing short of magical.

16: Saor Origins (Season of Mist)

Caledonia’s prodigal son returns with Saor‘s most accessible, and yet most ambitious and successful album to date. Improved production and a bigger leaning towards catchy, classic Heavy Metal riffing have paid off in a big way, making for Andy Marshall’s most memorable album to date. A huge start to his step up to one of the biggest labels in the game.

17: BastardRotten Blood (Distortion Music Group)

It’s gotten to the point now with the whole blackened speed/thrash metal thing where telling bands apart is starting to get more difficult – and this is coming from someone who generally really enjoys that kind of thing. That said, St. Louis’ Bastard stood head and shoulders above the pack this year with an album full of friggin’ gnarly riffs and the right amount of attitude to make it all stick.

18: Horror WithinAwaiting Extinction (Pathologically Explicit Records)

In a year dominated by the kind of Lorna Shore-inspired Symphonic Deathcore, leave it to the French to come up with perhaps Deathcore’s next major evolution (or at least, it should be in my mind) – Swedish Deathcore! And by that, I mean Deathcore played with super buzzsaw-y, HM-2 drenched guitars. Grooves on grooves on grooves on grooves, and then, BREAKDOWN! Horror Within came in strong with one of the more original takes on the genre this year, and even smattered in a good dose of 2000’s metalcore for good measure. Such a fun record.

19: Blood Command Praise Armageddon (Loyal Blood Records)

An argument can be made that this isn’t… really metal? At the very least, it’s probably Blood Command‘s least “Metal” offering yet, but it most certainly isn’t lacking in the fun aggression department. Norway’s purveyors of “Death Pop,” along with ex-Pagan vocalist Nikki Brumen now leading the way are a match made in Heaven (or Hell, depending on how you wanna see it), making for an explosive combination ready to set the world on fire.

20: Sabaton – The War to End All Wars (Nuclear Blast)

Quite simply, Sabaton are just about the biggest metal act in the world right now, and you don’t get that was just by having some crazy live sets (of which they obviously do). While we’re used to the band going all-out batshit crazy with everything they do, TWTEAW is comparatively restrained, leading to much more focused, memorable songs. The result is one of their finest records, with their crown jewel, “The Christmas Truce” proving this band is more than just a gimmick, they’re legitimately amazing song writers.

21: Nite Voices of the Kronian Moon (Season of Mist)

Following up the immaculate debut, Darkness. Silence. Mirror. Flame. was never going to be an easy task – but the Bay Area Blackened Heavy Metallers upped the ante with a full-on science fiction concept album that’s every bit as fun and unique as their previous effort. This is a band starting the career on quite a roll, and it’s going to be a joy to see where they take the project from here.

22: Nechochwen Kanawha Black (Bindrune Recordings)

I didn’t have 2022 as being a sort-of breakout year for Native American Black Metal on my bingo sheet, but I’m sure as hell glad it happened. Nechochwen added a unique spin with their folk-inspired offering, dripping with spooky Appalachian spirit that haunts listeners from the very first listen.  I cannot wait to hear more.

2021 album I missed but discovered this year and want everyone to buy and fall in love with: Morgul Blade Fell Sorcery Abound (No Remorse Records)

I almost cheated and added this to my official 22 of 22 list, because goddamn do I love this album. Given that it was a late November ’21 release, I think it’s possible that a lot of people missed out on this one last year as well, so in case anyone still hasn’t caught up, GET YOUR DAMN HANDS ON THIS RELEASE. IT’S SO GOOD.

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