This is, by its very nature, an extremely subject list. These are my personal favorites so far in 2022, not some grand pronouncement of what everyone else should objectively acknowledge as the best. Some of these albums surprised me when they showed up here, in all honesty. I hope you like some of them.
20. Moon Halo – Together Again
I jived so much better with this sophomore Moon Halo record than I did with the debut. Born of a collaboration between members of Mostly Autumn and Riversea, I had high expectations for this band. I think this release met those expectations through its diversity, emotion, and color. This is a wholesome and human sort of record.
19. Rashida Prime – Chroma
I really like Rashida Prime. Their style of dreampunk electronic music is exciting and calculated, but somehow also vividly dreamt and vulnerable at times. I love their previous record Plastic Void, and Chroma almost matches it in energy and serenity. Great release.
18. Nordic Giants – Symbiosis
Nordic Giants have released so many great works in their career, and they are always meaningful affairs. Oftentimes, that meaning is injected through voiceovers and the like. On this release, besides a couple of tracks with vocals, they let their percussion and piano primarily push their passions. There are some truly profound atmospheres on this release, and the song “Faceless” with vocals from Alex Hedley is one of my favorites of the year.
17. IANAI – Sunir
IANAI makes music that is enchanted and alien, yet also grounded and globally minded. Some of the absolute greatest melodies of 2022 are found right here. Beware, though, because it is easy to get lost inside this musical world.
16. Tears for Fears
– The Tipping Point
I love Tears for Fears and their much anticipated return did not disappoint for me. I think The Tipping Point has both maturity and gravity in both its music and lyrical content. It also contains two of my favorite songs this year, “My Demons” and “Rivers of Mercy”.
15. Stabbing Westward
– Chasing Ghosts
Stabbing Westward is one of my favorite bands ever, and to see them return with such skill and artistry has been really something for me. Infusing their industrial, dark alternative sound with electronica was a genius move, and their exploration of other sonic vistas has really paid off, too. “Push” is one of the best songs of the year without a single doubt in my mind.
14. Threads of Fate
– The Cold Embrace of Light
I loved the Threads of Fate EP a few years back, but this debut still beat my expectations. It is a richly layered offering of progressive symphonic metal pregnant with theatre and scale. And yet those things are created by the delicate melodies, expressive performances, and simple moments of beauty, not some cold, hard machine. I really like this one.
13. Wilderun – Epigone
While I prefer their previous Veil of Imagination for its color and regality, Epigone is a dark and reserved version of this band’s striking progressive metal style. There are more quiet moments on this one and more synth, and I like that. I would also say that it feels more personal and burgeoning below the surface. Most of all, it is ambitious.
12. Messa – Close
Messa’s ferocious blend of heavy rock, doom, world music, and stoner rock is so much fun to hear. That is what initially drew me to them, but it’s the spellbinding vocal performance that keeps me returning. This is simply a dark and beautiful delight.
11. Dance with the Dead
– Driven to Madness
If I made this list based solely on which albums I listened to the most, this would certainly be closer to the top. Dance with the Dead is like a non-judgmental zone: no pretention here. Their brand of spooky, horror-influenced synth metal is just so much fun, and certain tracks have grown in ways I did not expect. If you are a metal snob, maybe this isn’t for you, but if you like excellent songwriting, this definitely is.
10. Darkher – The Buried Storm
Darkher’s stirring and haunted new work is the sort of album that grows with time. Her style is lingering, floating, and sacred in tone, and so it might not have the flash or pep of so many other albums out there. But as her elaborate and textured sound continues, it floods the chambers of my heart more and more. Quiet power abounds, along with ominous feelings and moments of complete deluge.
9. Duncan Patterson – Grace Road
Duncan Patterson has moved on from Anathema, and so should anyone who still wants to follow his music. However, this new album retains the hushed sacredness that I loved in his tenor with the band. This album doesn’t ever “get going” as far as metal or energy. No, this is a masterfully written, exquisitely beautiful piece that does its own dimly lit thing—with amazing vocals. And I love it.
8. Michael Whalen – Imaginary Trains
I love Michael Whalen’s brand of spunky, bright progressive electronic music. Especially with the loss of Vangelis this year, Whalen is one of the few that can emulate and even expand that sound. He offers more than that, too. Imaginary Trains is full of rich tapestries of feelings and places, and even the track with vocals is a complete success. He always seems to know exactly what he’s doing.
7. Hermyth – Starseeds
Look, I know that this might not be everyone’s cup of tea. I happen to love cosmic drone, though, and this ambient, doomy, ethereal, meaningful sound is portrayed wonderfully on this Hermyth debut. I like the voiceovers and the thoughtful topics just as much as the poetic music and Romantic lyrics. I’ve listened to this album countless times this year.
6. Big Big Train
– Welcome to the Planet
Big Big Train always make beautiful albums, but with this new release they once again made something exciting and interesting. With the tragic loss of David Longdon, I don’t know how the band will sound in the future, but this record itself is a zesty and artistic achievement for their career. Gushing and riveting in all the right ways, this is one I’ll be listening to for many years to come.
5. Imminent Sonic Destruction
– The Sun Will Always Set
ISD has always been known for their over-the-top progressive supermetal sound, and that indeed does show up on this release. However, I found that my love for their sound has grown tremendously due to the maturity and new dynamism they have established here. The final epic, for example, is a tender and even ambient beauty. The band crushed my expectations with this one.
4. Pure Reason Revolution
– Above Cirrus
I love PRR’s spellbinding, action packed sound. It adds so much value to the modern progressive rock scene. This album has some seriously amazing guitarwork, hotheaded barrages of pure skill; not to mention the fantastic vocal harmonies. “Scream Sideways” and “Dead Butterfly” are two of my favorite songs this year.
– Every Moment, Everything You Need
I love shoegaze, and so I appreciated the Deserta debut a couple years ago. However, this sophomore album features a full band and what I consider a layered, fleshed-out sound, and so it is clearly head-and-shoulders above the debut. The band has created an infectious record here, one where both nuance and extravagance have a home. As far as times listened, this is near the very top for 2022 so far, and I’m in love with pretty much every song on it.
2. Evergrey – A Heartless Portrait
What can I say about this album? Evergrey is my favorite metal band ever, and they keep delivering at an incredibly high level. This album is one of their more inventive ones in awhile, too, with some seriously interesting tracks, such as “Ominous”, my current song of the year. Every single song on this album is amazing, and the album is perfect in my eyes. I should mention, too, that “Save Us” is a constant request from my son.
1. Silent Skies – Nectar
I had the biggest problem this year trying to decide whether to put Evergrey or Silent Skies at #1. I chose Silent Skies for a few reasons. First, this album is a spine-tingling sonic experience production-wise; cranking this on my old turntable feels like nothing else out there. Second, the vocal performance from Tom here is second to none in his career; he creates pure poetry with his masterful vocal lines throughout this work. Third, Vikram’s ear for melody and ambience is heightened above anything else he’s done; I love his deft playing, but this album shows more nuance and emotion from him, and I love the lengthy surprise on the vinyl addition that features his piano musings. From the heartfelt lyrics to the sheer artistry of the production, this album is definitely my favorite so far this year.
Silent Skies? Not aware of that release. Sounds fantastic! Ianai is a fantastic release! I’ve been playing that in constant rotation for my morning routine. I would add Seventh Wonder’s The Testement, Shamblemaths II, and Michael Romeo’s War of the Worlds pt 2. Dino absolutely crushes it on vocals. The legacy of Jorn and Russell Allen passed down and is in good hands. Marillion, Flower Kings and Tull would not be on my list either. Awaiting to see what Damian does with Arena, however…
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Will second Seventh Wonder’s The Testament as a thoroughly excellent metal album. Definitely one of my favs of this year.
Thank you very much, a great guide to me to listen new and good music.