1 – Zeal & Ardor – Zeal & Ardor
2 – Absent in Body – Plague God
3 – Porcupine Tree – Closure/Continuation
4 – Lacuna Coil – Comalies XX
5 – Bloodbath – Survival of the Sickest
6 – Strigoi – Viscera
7 – League of Distortion – League of Distortion
8 – Chat Pile – God’s Country
9 – Muse – Will of the People
10 – Clutch – Sunrise on Slaughter Beach
2022 produced A LOT of good albums. In the 19 years that I’ve been coming up with these lists, this was possibly the most difficult one that I’ve done. But, for someone that enjoys new music as much as I do, that’s a good problem to have.
I had never heard of Zeal & Ardor until this year. They’ve been around for just under 10 years and they were recommended to me by a friend due to their unique blending of genres. Their Wikipedia profiles describes them as “avant-garde, black metal, and neo-soul.” That alone was enough to get me interested. Then I started looking on YouTube for videos and I could not stop listening. I got a copy of their latest album and again, I could not stop listening. They have such a unique sound that (as I’ve said) combines so many genres into one cohesive musical vision. Being that I like more some more extreme metal, blues, and soul music, this is the band that I never knew that I needed to hear. I also had the pleasure of seeing them live in Brooklyn a few months ago and it was an incredible experience.
Some of the songs that got me hooked on this album and band include “Run,” “Death to the Holy,” “Golden Liar,” “Feed the Machine,” “Church Burns,” and “Götterdämmerung.”
If it wasn’t for Zeal & Ardor, Absent in Body’s debut album, Plague God, would easily be my number one album this year. I know that sounds like an almost silly thing to say, but it’s true. This album is THAT good. And just like last year’s Album of the Year, Amenra’s De Doorn, I became aware of Absent in Body because of All Elite Wrestling’s Malakai Black. He uses a song from De Doorn as his entrance theme for this singles matches and he uses a “Rise from Ruins” from Plague God for one of the teams he’s in. Absent in Body is actually sort of a “sludge metal” supergroup that has members of Amerna, Sepultura, and Neurosis. I would list what tracks stand out more than others, but there’s only five songs on the album, and they’re all pretty good.
Porcupine Tree broke up in 2011. Their 2007 album, Fear of a Blank Planet, was my Album of the Year. They had others ranked high in my lists. Their last album before their split, 2009’s The Incident, was not good. In the time since their split, their front man/main song writer, Steven Wilson went on to do some really good stuff with his solo band and some others. I was not sure what to expect from the Porcupine Tree reunion, but Closure/Continuation, was excellent. I was able to see all of the songs on the album and a lot more of my favorite songs from them at Radio City Music Hall in September and it was such a great show. Not only did I get to hear some of their “classics,” but hearing the new songs live really made me like them more. If you were a fan of Porcupine Tree from their original run and didn’t listen to Closure/Continuation, I highly recommend that you give it a listen.
“Harridan,” “Of the New Day,” and “Herd Cullling” are the songs that I consider to be my favorites on this album.
I put a lot of thought into whether or not Lacuna Coil’s Comalies XX was even eligible to be considered for this list. For many years, I’ve had an established set of rules that include “the album must be new material (for the band or artist).” Comalies XX is Lacuna Coil paying tribute to the 20th anniversary of their 2002 album, Comalies. They didn’t just re-master it or re-mix it, they re-imagined it. While the melodies are very close to the original and the lyrics are the same, that’s where the similarities end. They re-wrote every song and played them in a style that more accurately reflects their current sound. And after hearing a few songs from Comalies XX, I joked that some of them were the versions of the songs that I’ve always wanted to hear. But, even after that, I still wasn’t sure about if I could include it in my list. I was lucky enough to see Lacuna Coil a few times in September and was able to discuss the album with members of the band and they told me about the effort that they put into making this version of Comalies different from the original. They succeeded.
The track listing is the same as the original so it starts off with “Swamped.” The new version of the song is (in my opinion) the most similar to the original than any of the others, which is probably a good way to ease the transition for any skeptical fan. The next song, “Heaven’s a Lie” goes in directions that I wouldn’t have expected, but I’m glad it did. Hearing Andrea Ferro do the growling vocals that he’s enjoyed doing over the last few years really added to that for me. I’m not going to go song by song on this, as it would take up so much time, but in addition to the ones I’ve already listed, the other new versions that really stood out to me include “Daylight Dancer,” “The Ghost Woman and the Hunter,” and especially “Unspoken” (where Ferro growls vocals orginally done cleanly by Cristina Scabbia, who sounds great on this album too).
Bloodbath makes another appearance in my Top 10 Albums of the Year list with Survival of the Sickest. I believe this album is easily the best one that the Death Metal Supergroup has done with Paradise Lost’s “Old Nick” Holmes as their vocalist and the best one from the band since 2004’s Nightmares Made Flesh. It’s just a good Death Metal album. And if you’re a fan of Paradise Lost, Katatonia, and/or Opeth, you should be aware of Bloodbath.
The opening track of “Zombie Inferno” is one of the better songs on the album, and the video for it is perfect for the song. I also recommend checking out “Malignant Maggot Therapy,” “Affliction of Extinction,” and my personal favorite song from the album “No God Before Me.”
Continuing with albums that feature members of Paradise Lost, the 6th Best Album of 2022 is Strigoi’s Viscera. Strigoi was founded in 2018 by Paradise Lost’s Gregor Mackintosh. Instead of just playing guitar, like he does on Paradise Lost albums, Mackintosh is the vocalist for Strigoi, and like Bloodbath, this album is just a good Death Metal album. And like I said about Bloodbath, if you’re a fan of the bands I mentioned earlier, you should check this one out.
Some of my favorites from Viscera include “King of All Terror,” “A Begotten Son,” and “Byzantine Terror.”
Like Zeal & Ardor, Absent in Body, and Strigoi, League of Distortion are also making their first appearance on my list with their debut self-titled album. YouTube suggested to them to me and YouTube did well. Not only did YouTube introduce me to League of Distortion, but it also made me aware of it’s lead singer Anna Brunner’s other work, which I hope will make this list at some point. But in the meantime, League of Distortion’s sound reminds me a bit of Butcher Babies, Snake River Conspiracy, and Drain STH.
“Wolf of Lamb,” “It Hurts so Good,” and “I’m a Bitch” are my favorite songs from this album.
The final band making their first appearance in my Top 10 is Chat Pile. They’ve been around for a few years, have released a few things, but their first full-length album, God’s Country, is my 8th Best Album of 2022. I was not aware of Chat Pile until a just before I finalized my list. They were recommended to me and I listened to some songs and I was immediately in need of more from them. Maybe it’s just me, but I think this album reminds me of early Clutch, some IDLES, with late 1980s era Mike Patton style vocals. I listened to the entire album and knew it was one of the best of the year. I’m looking forward to hearing more from them in the years to come.
The opening track “Slaughterhouse,” “Why?,” “Wicked Puppet Dance,” and “I Don’t Care if I Burn” stand out a lot.
Muse is the most well known band on my list. I’ve enjoyed all of their releases, and this one is no exception. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Muse a few times. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to on this tour. I would have liked to have heard some of the new songs in person.
The title track, “Compliance,” “You Make Me Feel Like it’s Halloween,” and the last track on the album with the “f word” used a few times in the title stand out as some of the better ones.
While Clutch’s Sunrise on Slaughter Beach is obviously good enough to be ranked as the 10th Best Album of 2022, it still wasn’t close to their best work. I don’t want to really make it seem like I’m disappointed by it, but it didn’t draw me in as much other other releases of theirs. If you’re a fan of Clutch, as I certainly am, this album is worth listening to, and at only 33 minutes and 10 seconds, it’s a very quick listen. Maybe I just expected more.
Regardless of what I just said, the songs “Slaughter Beach,” “Nosferatu Madre,” and “Mercy Brown” do stand out a lot.
As I stated at the beginning of this post, there were a lot of good albums in 2022. Here is a listing of other albums that came out during the year (in alphabetical order by artist):
– Amorphis – Halo – This album really didn’t do much for me. I’m hoping that after the last few really good albums from them, that this is just a mis-step.
– Dead Cross – II – This is a good album that barely missed the Top 10.
– Downset – Maintain – This is easily the best thing that Downset has done since 1996 and could have made the list if the Top 10 wasn’t so stacked.
– Florence & the Machine – Dance Fever – Another album from a band that I like that didn’t really do anything for me.
– IV and the Strange Band – Southern Circus – IV is the 4th Generation of Hank Williamses to be in the music industry. This was a solid debut and I look forward to hearing more from him.
– The Gathering – Beautiful Distortion – I wanted to like this, but I’ve never been able to get into the Gathering since Anneke Van Giersbergen left in 2007.
– Ghost – Impera – This was a good album that also could have made my Top 10. It has the least progression of any Ghost album from the previous, but that’s probably intentional since they didn’t change the character of the singer this time.
– The Halo Effect – Days of the Lost – It took a bunch of ex-In Flames members to reunite and do a good In Flames record.
– Patriarchs in Black – Patriarchs in Black – This was a solid “stoner rock” album.
– The Pineapple Thief – Give it Back – Their 2020 album Versions of the Truth was ranked as the 4th Best Album of the Year. This one didn’t come close to being as good as that.
– Slipknot – The End, So Far – It just didn’t do anything for me.
– Tedeschi Trucks Band – I am the Moon (volumes I – IV) – The Tedeschi Trucks Band released four albums in the year, and while they’re good, I think they may have been better off releasing just one with maybe two of them combined. And then maybe do it again next year. There was just too much in 2022 and not much stood out as a result.
– Those Poor Bastards – God Awful – I REALLY want this group to have an Album of the Year. God Awful, while A LOT better than the name would allude to, wasn’t their best work. It does have some good songs though.
I know 2023 will have a new album from Katatonia. Will they receive their 3rd Album of the Year from me? I also know of the debut album from Host, which is Nick and Gregor from Paradise Lost returning to the sound of their underappreciated album of the same. Other than that, I don’t know what else 2023 will bring as far as new music goes. But, I do know that I’ll enjoy listening to some stuff along the way.
A note about eligibility for my 2022 Album of the Year:
– the album must have had a United States release date in 2022.
– the album must be new material (for the band or artist).
– live albums are only eligible if they’re new material.