By Greg Maki
And just like that, we’ve come to the end of another year. And as always—if you know where to look and keep an open mind—2022 was filled with plenty of good to great releases in metal and hard rock. Here are the best of what made it to my ears in the past 12 months.
Alter Bridge – “Pawns & Kings”
Architects – “The Classic Symptoms of a Broken Spirit”
Bad Omens – “The Death of Peace of Mind”
Clutch – “Sunrise on Slaughter Beach”
Corpsegrinder – “Corpsegrinder”
Crobot – “Feel This”
Dream Widow – “Dream Widow”
Slipknot – “The End, So Far”
Stabbing Westward – “Chasing Ghosts”
Wednesday 13 – “Horrifier”
10. Skid Row – “The Gang’s All Here”
“You’ve written me off, but I know I’m not dead yet …”
If you’re surprised to see this here, then so am I. Bolstered by powerhouse new frontman Erik Grönwall, Skid Row came back in a big way in 2022. “The Gang’s All Here,” only the Skids’ sixth full-length and first since 2006, is a flat-out great hard rock record. It’s the sound of a group that’s hungry and energetic, that would still sound believable playing “Youth Gone Wild,” not one that formed 36 years ago. Grönwall gives a dynamic, star-making performance, while guitarists Dave “The Snake” Sabo and Scotti Hill provide the sleazy riffs that give the recording its edge.
Key tracks: “The Gang’s All Here,” “Resurrected,” “Tear It Down”
9. Dark Divine – “Halloweentown”
“The party lies six feet underground …”
After forming in 2021, the newest spooky band on the block arrived in a big way with its debut EP in 2022. While the Motionless in White influence is strong, Dark Divine stands on its own, using horror imagery to support lyrics that are more personal in nature. “Halloweentown” is a metalcore-based funhouse of horrors, perfect for anyone looking to keep the spooky vibes strong all year long.
Key tracks: “Run Away,” “Circles,” “Halloweentown”
8. Motionless in White – “Scoring the End of the World”
“One mutilation under God …”
Speaking of Motionless in White, the band’s sixth album steadily grew on me throughout the year and became a favorite after I saw a handful of its songs performed live on the Trinity of Terror Tour. It’s the Pennsylvania quintet’s most complete and diverse effort to date, featuring everything from the smash power ballad “Masterpiece” to the all-out banger “Slaughterhouse” to the electronic, seductive groove of “Werewolf,” maybe my favorite Motionless song to date.
Key tracks: “Meltdown,” “Werewolf,” “Slaughterhouse”
7. Ozzy Osbourne – “Patient Number 9”
“No, I’m not getting out alive …”
Producer Andrew Watt gave new life to the Prince of Darkness with 2020’s “Ordinary Man,” but as good as it was, it didn’t really sound like an Ozzy album. That’s remedied on “Patient Number 9,” Osbourne’s best solo effort in three decades, with the man himself giving an exceptional vocal performance bolstered by an all-star lineup of supporting players, including Tony Iommi, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Zakk Wylde and the late Taylor Hawkins. While it’s increasingly looking like Ozzy’s touring days are behind him, he clearly still has much to offer as a recording artist.
Key tracks: “Patient Number 9,” “One of Those Days,” “Degradation Rules”
6. Crowbar – “Zero and Below”
“Burning for eternity/The fire that’s inside of me …”
Twelve albums in, we all know what we’re going to get from Crowbar. But that does nothing to diminish the greatness of “Zero and Below.” Call it sludge, call it doom—whatever. Kirk Windstein’s riffs are as thick and heavy as they’ve ever been—they don’t call him the “Riff Lord” for nothing. His vocals are a bit more musical on this one, too, perhaps a carryover from his more melodic 2020 solo album (“Dream in Motion”). Hopefully, we won’t have a 5½-year wait for the next batch of new Crowbar tunes.
Key tracks: “Chemical Godz,” “Bleeding from Every Hole,” “It’s Always Worth the Gain”
5. Ghost – “Impera”
“I’ll be the shadow, you’ll be the light …”
Ghost’s biggest hit of the year (the viral “Mary on a Cross”) may have been released in 2019, but the Tobias Forge-led act’s actual 2022 release, “Impera,” still shines brightly. This is the arena rock version of Ghost, with songs designed to fill the largest possible rooms and an up-tempo sound tailor-made for maximum crowd participation. Though not as heavy as it once was, it’s been a natural evolution for Ghost, and Forge continues to churn out some of the catchiest hooks in rock music.
Key tracks: “Spillways,” “Call Me Little Sunshine,” “Respite on the Spital Fields”
4. Lamb of God – “Omens”
“Hanging by a threat, so go and choke on it …”
Has there been a more consistent 21st century metal band than Lamb of God? On its ninth studio album, the Richmond ragers are at their ferocious best, absolutely annihilating all 10 tracks, each of which could go toe to toe with the best of the band’s back catalog. “Omens” feels thrashier and perhaps a bit heavier than Lamb of God has been in a while and is my favorite LOG release since “Sacrament” (2006).
Key tracks: “Nevermore,” “Ditch,” “Omens”
3. Machine Head – “Of Kingdom and Crown”
“Stand strong and fight through the scorn …”
No doubt about it, Machine Head’s Robb Flynn is at his best with his back to the wall. After half the band left following 2018’s much-maligned “Catharsis” album, Flynn regrouped, spent some time celebrating the 25th anniversary of “Burn My Eyes” (Machine Head’s now-classic debut album, released in 1994), then returned with a vengeance, unleashing the band’s best record since “The Blackening” (2007). “Of Kingdom and Crown,” which tells a dystopian sci-fi story, is an anthemic album, full of shout- and sing-along choruses and plenty of fist-in-the-air moments, while also employing an adventurous, proggy spirit. Focused and razor sharp, it shows that when on its game, few bands can rival the greatness of Machine Head.
Key tracks: “Slaughter the Martyr,” “Choke on the Ashes of Your Hate,” “Arrows in Words from the Sky”
2. Parkway Drive – “Darker Still”
“I’m swinging hard for all my life/Reaching across this great divide …”
By all accounts, Parkway Drive almost reached a breaking point during the making of “Darker Still,” its seventh full-length. Luckily, the Australian quintet pushed through the hard times and emerged with this ripper of a record, which comes with more of a pure metal sound than the metalcore on which it made its name. Though it likely alienated some longtime fans, “Darker Still” feels like the fully realized version of the past couple Parkway albums, packed with searing leads from guitarist Jeff Ling; pounding rhythms from guitarist Luke Kilpatrick, bassist Jia O’Connor and drummer Ben Gordon; and a dynamic performance from vocalist Winston McCall. Getting my vote for song of the year, the epic title track adds orchestration and even mournful whistling to the mix. If this creativity is the result of a band pushing itself to the brink, then it was worth the struggle.
Key tracks: “Ground Zero,” “The Greatest Fear,” “Darker Still”
1. Lorna Shore – “Pain Remains”
“If the past is just dust, then the future could be our dream …”
Years from now, 2022 might be remembered as the point in time when deathcore went from being sort of a niche subgenre to a vital part of modern metal. And no band has done more to make that happen than New Jersey’s Lorna Shore. Following up last year’s EP “… And I Return to Nothingness,” which featured the viral hit “To the Hellfire” with maybe the sickest breakdown ever recorded, “Pain Remains,” the band’s first full-length with vocalist Will Ramos, is an epic, devastating masterpiece—equal parts death, black, symphonic and progressive metal while retaining familiar hardcore/metalcore influences. If that sounds like a lot, it absolutely is, and the band revels in that excess, cranking everything up to 11 for more than an hour. The record demands the listener’s attention and rewards it with its massive ambition and flawless execution. Lorna Shore has raised the bar not just for deathcore but all of metal.
Key tracks: “Pain Remains I: Dancing Like Flames,” “Pain Remains II: After All I’ve Done, I’ll Disappear,” “Pain Remains III: In a Sea of Fire”