Welcome to our fourth and final installment of our Top Metal Albums of 2022 list. Thanks to those who have been following along and if you missed any part of the list you can find them here: Part 1 (40-31), Part 2 (30-21), Part 3 (20-11). If you’d also like to hear tracks from the albums that cracked our top 20 you can tune in to the most recent episodes of The Metal Dad Radio Show here: Cygnus Radio. Now, onward to our top 10 metal albums of the year…
10. Exhumed – To The Dead
It’s always amazing to me when a band can still put out stellar material well over 20 years into their careers. I love this band and in my mind Exhumed have never put out a bad record. So when I tell you this is absolutely one of their strongest efforts in the last two decades you should probably pay attention. Blasting, grinding madness meets a more traditional death metal bend all throughout this record and if you’re not outright headbanging by the time it’s over you probably already resemble the cover model.
9. Hush – The Pornography of Ruin
I mentioned in a previous post and on our radio show that I thought sludge as a sub-genre had a fantastic year. There were so many great releases in 2023 and this is easily one of, if not the best among them. Heavy as a sack of bricks, yet filled with a ton of off-kilter atmosphere, this album is about as cinematic in scope as a sludge/doom record can get before it’s forced to start to trading away it’s heaviness. There’s so much depth to this album you could simply get lost in its layers for hours on end, never tiring enough to come up for air.
8. Wiegedood – There’s Always Blood At The End Of The Road
One of my absolute favorite black metal bands in the world today is Belgium’s Wiegedood, and the masters of atmospheric, blackened mayhem returned with their Century Media debut in 2022. I’ve written extensively about this band’s previous albums and yet with each release I come away more and more impressed. This album has a much more violent feel than previous releases, as if the last few years of the world spiraling out of control added an extra sheen of vitriol to their sound. It’s an unrelenting, modern day black metal masterwork, and an album perfectly suited for the upcoming cold, dark winter nights.
7. Eight Bells – Legacy of Ruin
There are two albums on this list I waited a long time for and as such were two of my most anticipated of the year. One was the new full-length from Portland’s Eight Bells. I absolutely love this act, and here’s a bit of what I wrote about this album back in March: Legacy of Ruin builds off the Eight Bells ‘sound’ with copious amounts of harmonized vocals, mesmerizing guitar work, and an angular, discordant take on doom metal. But this album is also their most aggressive, and one that sees the band experimenting and expanding their sound in exciting ways…Legacy of Ruin is hands down one of the more unique and engaging albums to hit the streets so far in 2022, and it’s a pretty safe bet we’ll still be saying that come the end of the year.
6. Watain – The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain
The last show I attended in person before the world collapsed on itself was December 2019 when I saw Incantation and Watain open for Morbid Angel. Watain, despite being down a member, absolutely stole the show. I’ve been patiently awaiting this album’s release ever since. There’s are few better ways to watch the world burn down around you than with Watain on the stereo and they’ve gifted us one of their better releases to date. Fans of black metal done the with one foot in hell and another lurching into battle should be all over this record.
5. Shape of Despair – Return to the Void
If you’ve ever listened to our Metal Dad Radio Show you know I’m a sucker for a great death/doom album. There’s just something about the utter despondency and soaring atmospherics of the sub-genre that I can’t get enough of, and one of the best to do it over the last two decades is Finland’s Shape of Despair. After a somewhat lengthy recording hiatus Shape of Despair returned with one of their best releases to date, and having been released back in February, one I spent a lot of time with this year. It’s a gorgeous record that has the power to mesmerize and transport the listener through time and space.
4. Dreadnought – The Endless
I’ve been a fan of Denver’s Dreadnought for awhile and a quick look back will find their 2019 album Emergence on my year-end list as well. Yet there was nothing that could prepare me for this record. Mixing prog elements with doom, post metal, and even bits of blackened death metal, The Endless is an album that is truly endless when it comes to innovative songwriting. Going from blissfully atmospheric to brutally cacophonous, often multiple times within a single track, this is an album that requires multiple listens to truly appreciate every nuance. Artsy and cutting edge enough that they are nowhere to be found on Metal Archives (ridiculous), yet so perfectly in line for fans of acts who have taken metal on interesting experimental journeys such as Opeth, Sigh, Neurosis, or Ihsahn.
3. Darkthrone – Astral Fortress
How? A band on their 20th (!) album, a band that’s allowed their sound to morph and change on almost every record over the last fifteen plus years, how do they continually put out records that are not only worth owning but are worthy of repeat listens? Walking it back this time to their first wave black metal roots, Darkthrone have once again knocked it out of the park with Astral Fortress. Dripping with icy, frost-bitten atmospherics and some of the best riffs they’ve penned since their foray away from pure second wave black metal madness, this album has a feel to it that’s often hard to pin down in the best way possible. It feels familiar, yet wholly new at the same time, as if an alien body snatcher had come back to you in the skin of an old friend. There are few album I listened to more than this one in 2022 and few I will listen to more into the future.
2. Cult of Luna – The Long Road North
Beautiful. Stimulating. Atmospheric. Progressive. Inspiring. Epic. There are literally hundreds of descriptor words befitting of a Cult of Luna album, yet the Swedish act continue to create albums that defy any that truly convey what you’re experiencing as a listener. Each Cult of Luna record is a journey, and The Long Road North is one of their most memorable to date. From walls and walls of sound cascading down upon you to ethereal interludes that allow brief periods of respite, this album takes the Cult of Luna ‘sound’ and expands upon it even more emotive ways. This is an album that simply must be listened to.
1. Darkher – The Buried Storm
Simply put there was no album in the world that I anticipated its release more than the new full-length from UK act Darkher. There is also no other album I listened to more this year since its April release. I knew upon first listen this album would rank somewhere in my top five at the very least, but at the end of the day it was a no-brainer for it to claim my top spot. Here’s a bit of what we wrote about it in July: Mixing Darkher’s patented dark folk with a heavier, doomier vibe The Buried Storm is even more ominous in both sound and scope than any previous efforts. It’s a bigger, bolder, and more beautiful record than even her most rabid fans could have been expecting. It’s an album that swells with bombast and shards of doom-laden brutality only to float back to Earth with the most gorgeously ethereal elements afoot. It plays out like a seance torn asunder and put back together whole by a musical shaman who will lead any willing to follow.