How in the ever-loving hell has it been another twelve months since I last sat here before my computer discussing with you all the marvelous moments that I found myself experiencing in 2021? It feels like just yesterday I was doing so with there being so many interesting prospects on the horizon, but it is now once more that I stand here to discuss with you all my favorite albums of 2022, and let me just say one thing above all else: this has been a truly difficult list to make! Every year’s list has its own struggles and headaches when it’s being crafted, but it is 2022, in particular, that has left me no less than dumbfounded. I wouldn’t have it any other way! With loads of excitement every week and more than a few surprises from new names as well as ones more than familiar to my ears, it’s been a hell of a ride since the very first of January! While I find myself bewildered it has been twelve months already, it is now time for me to take my turn and present to you my Top 30 Albums of 2022!
There’s no doubt that my leanings since the start of Head-Banger Reviews have been towards metal above all else, but rock has always held a dear spot close to my heart since I was a child with this year, especially, showing me that my roots still hold with there being more rock, particularly of the psychedelic variety, than I had initially anticipated even as the months piled onto each other and I was acutely aware of the other major style in my palette but not the other. Funny how things work out that way, aren’t they? New names, as well as old, converge yet again here as the world of rock and its heavier veins found me confronted by new testaments of excellence from the likes of established greats like King Buffalo and Elder alongside the return of the great Josiah to really show us how it’s done while newer acts like Sergeant Thunderhoof and The Necromancers continue to show us that the new blood is not lacking once in its potency. Metal has never once been lacking, of course, with death metal finding new faces from bands like Molder and Panzerfaust to the sorrowful goodbye to Triumvir Foul while we’re granted grand visages from all over the soundscape with names like Gaerea, Veilburner, Onhou, Devenial Verdict, and more showing us that there is still so, so much glory to be had out there in the dense underground.
As always, there is but a single person behind all that goes on within Head-Banger Reviews. With one review a day to make for a total every year of “only” 365 albums, I am bound to not have reviewed many albums that may grace many other lists if not yours. Slipknot, Alestorm, Wormrot, Wake, Chat Pile, Undeath, Misþyrming, and many others are still on my personal list of albums that I haven’t made my way around to yet, and it pleases me greatly to know that regardless of my involvement that those creations and many, many others have found their own audiences who love them dearly just as I love these 30 that I present you with now. From personal losses to pulling me out of depths that I’m not keen on revisiting to keeping my spirits high when I needed them the most, these creations and many others have made 2022 a year that I can look back on fondly for all the glory that came with it of which I’m eternally grateful for.
Should it interest you, I beg you to investigate my Honorable Mentions of 2022 for there were plenty of albums that just barely didn’t make the cut for the top 30 but are far more than worthy of investigation for all that they also manage to bring to the table in their own magnificent fashions. They deserve love as well, and I can only hope you can enjoy them and these as much as I have. As with every year, to listen to the album in question, click the album and band name, and should you want to read my review of the album simply click the cover art.
Enough of my blathering, already! Enjoy my Top 30 Albums of 2022 and feel free to judge and discriminate at your own leisure! Onwards into 2023! Onwards to even further glory!
1. Sergeant Thunderhoof – This Sceptred Veil
A rising name that has been one to know in the heavy reaches of the modern rock landscapes, Sergeant Thunderhoof has established itself as a need-to-know name that demands and quickly earns respect. Showing clear talent at every turn up to this point, it is every gripping aspect of “This Sceptred Veil” that must be hailed as Sergeant Thunderhoof’s undeniable magnum opus! Epic in its scope, moving in its message, and intoxicating in its musicianship, this is one of those few efforts that tempt the use of the term “unmitigated masterpiece”. The future is ripe for the Sergeant’s taking, and nothing is stopping it from achieving that deserved destiny!
2. Black Space Riders – We Have Been Here Before
Few forces are as unstoppable or less infectious than that of masterfully executed space rock, and by all measures, Black Space Riders have been performing that for several years now. With another massive creation boasting hypnotizing rhythms tied together gorgeously alongside captivating visages and soul-touching themes, the very title of “We Have Been Here Before” certainly rings true in a multitude of ways for both the band and its listeners.
3. Josiah – We Lay on Cold Stone
After the return of Lowrider two years ago, the rock universe was in for another stellar resurrection in the form of Josiah whose impeccable old-school approach was everything we didn’t know we’d been missing. A fascinating journey amongst the stars that leave the mind boggled and the body feeling weightless as Josiah guides us through its glowing cosmos, “We Lay on Cold Stone” is as offbeat as it is magnificent in every regard!
4. Elder – Innate Passage
Delving even deeper into their progressive leanings that saw them travel down a new path on their previous album, Elder goes even further down that very same rabbit hole with “Innate Passage” as an undeniable testament to the talent, power, and glory that this band has long held. Every inch of the creation still holds their untouchable magic with each corner having a true feast for the senses. There’s no way to deny Elder’s firm and unending grip upon all that is heavy in today’s rock climate.
5. Molder – Engrossed in Decay
The nigh-on impenetrable world of death metal in the underground has produced many truly magnificent acts over the decades, and Molder is one of the more recent but easily of the most potent. With galloping riffs and an absolutely venomous approach that coats the absolute entirety of “Engrossed in Decay”, the very power and compelling horror of this album are what death metal was all but made for. There is naught but corpses in the wake of Molder with the future sure to be just as much a bloodbath, if not more so.
6. The Re-Stoned – Stories of the Astral Lizard Vol. 2
They always say that the sequel is never as good as the original, but leave it to The Re-Stoned to make an exception and they will deliver. The continuation of “The Stories of the Astral Lizard” touches upon different themes and locations than its predecessor, but it’s in every way that it lives up to that very same glory with how viciously captivating it is at every turn with The Re-Stoned not just keeping their claim to one of the absolute best psych-rock bands in today’s world, but put together an effort that defines the very concept of what all psychedelia could ever possibly be.
7. Messa – Close
One of the most prolific bands in the modern landscape of the underground, Messa’s potent take on doom metal has led to more than one instance of evocative material that’s just as fascinating as one could ask for, “Close” makes for a hell of an argument for being Messa’s best to date. The very epitome of magical right from the beginning, Messa’s power and ability to sway the soul to its rhythms simply can never once be underestimated.
8. Parius – The Signal Heard Throughout Space
Every band must start somewhere, and the beginnings of Parius were the very definition of humble with the current state of the band utterly jaw-dropping with what has been achieved with “The Signal Heard Throughout Space”. A gripping odyssey that takes enough twists and turns to leave you with severe whiplash, the progressive rock on display here is enough to have Parius named as one of the premier acts of their act in today’s world with the very throne of the style ripe for their taking.
9. Heads for the Dead – The Great Conjuration
Any band with a gimmick or theme can easily be one that’s dismissed for lack of substance, but some manage to thrive like none others in a particular niche. Having been overflowing with talent from the beginning, Heads for the Dead has never once been an act to sleep on but it has all truly come to a head with what’s been summoned forth for “The Great Conjuration”. The culmination of these long-established masters of metal moving as one devastating unit, every minute is a tribute to horror media in the most immaculate form.
10. Et Moriemur – Tamashii No Yama
There’s nothing quite like a surprising twist in a band’s direction. Having made their music central to ancient Roman themes and sounds, Et Moriemur’s transition to a Japanese backdrop made for a wondrously successful excursion in more ways than one. Delightfully experimental, undeniably potent at every turn, and damn near tear-inducing in multiple instances, “Tamashii No Yama” is the twist to an already immense act that I don’t think anyone could’ve ever seen coming.
11. Panzerfaust – The Suns of Perdition – Chapter III: The Astral Drain
The third entry in what’s already being heralded as an album series that demands to be experienced, Panzerfaust’s “The Astral Drain” is the seamless progression from the second chapter of “The Suns of Perdition” with all the power, expansive wonder, and dark hypnosis at every turn to match. Once the meaty hooks of this album sink into your flesh, any and all hope of escape is as futile as your miserable life before the primal force of Panzerfaust.
12. Warlung – Vulture’s Paradise
Having been an underground darling for multiple albums, “Vulture’s Paradise” is the culmination of all that Warlung has been leading up to since the band’s inception. Positively overflowing with fantastic riffage that begs the volume to be at maximum and the very voice of Warlung heard beyond the horizon, this album is what it means to be infectious down to the smallest of its delicious details.
13. Stöner – totally…
Consisting of some of the biggest icons that the modern psych-rock world has to offer, Stöner was a name to know instantly at the very announcement of the band not even two years ago, and it’s with “totally…” that we see such a team-up offering us the most delicious of fruits. Supremely chill to its deepest layers, riffs abound at every turn, and a damn good time in every sense of the notion, it’s not hard to consider “totally…” as the quintessential stoner rock creation of the past few years.
14. Gaerea – Mirage
As one of the most interesting bands in the entirety of black metal to have come around in years, Gaerea’s meteoric rise through the ranks has not come without more than a few marvels with “Mirage” simply being the latest of such. Everything that can be considered cathartic and evocative has been poured into this effort such that every moment of “Mirage” is wrenching upon the soul in the darkest of ways as Gaerea’s vicious power cannot be understated now more than ever.
15. King Buffalo – Regenerator
The final entry of King Buffalo’s trilogy of albums recorded during the pandemic, “Regenerator” the combination of its two predecessors rolled together into one behemoth package that is only to be expected from King Buffalo at this point. A marvelous creation in every aspect that plays upon every single one of the band’s immense strengths, “Regenerator” is yet another unmitigated success for King Buffalo and everything heavy psych.
16. Bog Wizard / Froglord – A Frog in the Bog
By almost all accounts, this is a split record with a clear gimmick that works too damn well. Both Bog Wizard and Froglord have been making waves in their own respective swamps for years now, but it is together that they’ve brought forth what’s likely their best performances yet. It’s such that “A Frog in the Bog” quickly transforms from a silly premise to two bands jamming out, having a great time, and throwing down some truly exceptional riffs at the same time.
17. Triumvir Foul – Onslaught to Seraphim
Among the most devastating acts in the underground since they first arrived upon the scene, Triumvir Foul has only gotten better with time and it’s only fitting that it is with the band’s final album that they leave us on what could easily be argued as their most grandiose offensive yet. Every feasible inch of “Onslaught to Seraphim” is an assault upon life itself and the very notion of goodness in its world as there are no survivors whatsoever come the end of this record with the memory of Triumvir Foul sure to live on in horrifying perpetuity.
18. Sumerlands – Dreamkiller
The revival of heavy metal in our current digital age cannot be ignored for all that it’s accomplished in such a short time, and it’s in that time that Sumerlands has established itself as a name that demands respect and earns your attention instantly. On just its second album, “Dreamkiller”, Sumerlands has yet again put forth a performance that any fan of the style simply much entrench themselves in as every possible aspect of this effort does naught but wonders for both the senses and the entire style.
19. Veilburner – VLBRNR
Now known as an unstoppable force in the underground with their particularly vicious blend of black and death metal with a distinguished experimental curve, Veilburner’s conquest upon the scene as a whole cannot be unquestioned with the impact of “VLBRNR”. Voracious and darkly intoxicating right from the beginning, Veilburner has summoned another fiery creation that is made only to consume those not ready for the band’s tremendous power.
20. Domkraft / Slomatics – Ascend/Descend
A match made in doom heaven, Slomatics has already been killing it with all the splits over the years with the addition of Domkraft in the mix a recipe for tantalizing glory that is no less than a chef’s kiss in heaviness. Infectious on all levels and powerful that’s no less than captivating, “Ascend/Descend” is a team-up that fans of heaviness everywhere need to experience.
21. The Necromancers – Where the Void Rose
The world of heavy rock has found itself in a bit of a golden age with all the many different efforts that have come out in the past few years more than enough to catch the ear of anyone curious, and The Necromancers has to be named as one of the most accomplished. However, all that was brought to the table with “Where the Void Rose” simply must be heralded as the band’s greatest to date. The result of The Necromancers constantly honing their skills, this is heavy rock at some of its finest.
22. Onhou – Monument
There is nothing that can compare to some proper intensity that is just as vicious as it is cathartic in every feasible way. Since the beginning, Onhou has been perfecting its approach to just that with “Monument” being a true testament to its dedication to that craft. Not a single weak moment with a crushing presence that ensures each moment of the record is a highlight burned into one’s psyche, Onhou’s offensive upon the underground is as deadly as it is effective.
23. Psychlona – Palo Verde
Having already pulled off an astronomical rise through the scene with their infectious rock and roll glory, “Palo Verde” sees the quartet in no less than peak condition as its third creation is as captivating, riveting, and intoxicating as one could ask for. Overflowing in undeniable riffs and a party-on attitude that only ceases come the final notes of the album, “Palo Verde” is the rock glory that many of us are always craving.
24. Vanum – Legend
Having been a bastion of black metal even in their earliest days, Vanum’s transformation into its modern form is utterly jaw-dropping for all that it dares to bring to the table with success the only reality. The vast expanse and wonder of “Legend” cannot be understated as you can feel Vanum in a state dripping with absolute euphoria with all that they delivered in this album no less than spectacular for all the senses.
25. Devenial Verdict – Ash Blind
Some may make the argument that there has been a sort of stagnation where death and black metal intersect with many bands starting to hit on the same notes and beats with few managing to shake things up even a little bit. That’s just part of what made the entrance of Devenial Verdict so fascinating as it’s with everything brought forth in “Ash Blind” that shows a band already knowing precisely how to devastate its audience while still managing to deliver something that feels as fresh as it is gripping right from the get-go.
26. Tome of the Unreplenished – Earthbound
Coming back into the fold of black metal after a few years dwelling within the realm of noise, Tome of the Unreplenished has put out one of the most striking works of its kind that I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing in some time. Undeniable in its depth and gorgeous in its scope with the levels of craftsmanship here downright fascinating, “Earthbound” is a return to form for Tome of the Unreplenished that is no less than welcome and engrossing.
27. The Otolith – Folium Limina
Much like the phoenix rising from the ashes of its previous incarnation, The Otolith rose to fill the void that SubRosa left in the scene with this debut album precisely what we could ever dream of from such a talented band. To step into “Folium Limina” is to find yourself before true beauty and majesty the likes of which makes for the most transcendent of metal with this new chapter a very welcome and deeply anticipated one.
28. Esoctrilihum – Consecration of the Spiritüs Flesh
Some names just don’t know what it means to pump the brakes for any reason. Esoctrilihum’s breathless offensives upon the underground have been wildly successful with the fresh assault that is “Consecration of the Spiritüs Flesh” somehow the darkest onslaught from the act to date. Nihilistic in even its smallest moments as just as all-devouring as its predecessors, Esoctrilihum’s power almost seems immune to the passage of time with the stamina to match.