Press on, intrepid reader, to find out our top albums of 2022, as voted for by the cast, crew and hangers-on of the good ship Ghost Cult. Over 275 albums were nominated (including one stray and errant vote for Stryper… we’ve had words), some people lauded albums as the greatest of all time that no one else noticed, other albums picked up a steady stream of votes across the board without tickling the top of anyone’s charts, but through it all, we’ve been able to compile our team list of the best 75 albums of the year. And there are some absolute corkers, here. 75 of them, to be exact…
We’ve talked you through those albums that piqued our collective interests (Part 1, covering 75 – 41), those that got the blood pumping (Part 2, 40 – 21) and now we come hurtling to the those that raised the horns the most and make up our our collective Top 20 releases of a year that has seen “the new normal” feel quite a bit like the old one, really. And as that means lots of great riffs and tings, we’ll take that and run with it…
20. Amon Amarth – The Great Heathen Army (Metal Blade Records)
“Amon Amarth still proves to be an imperiously unconquerable force. Another authoritative slab of head-severing valkyrie violence, The Great Heathen Army is another masterclass in Viking death metal delivering axes, goats, victories and riffs all worthy of the God of Thunder [Thor, not Gene Simmons – Ed] himself.” GC Review
19. Meshuggah – Immutable (Atomic Fire Records)
“Although the word itself suggests an in-susceptibility or inability to change, Immutable (Atomic Fire), the title of the ninth studio album by prog/tech death metal act Meshuggah, proves to be the opposite, acting as another step forward in the band’s natural evolution… keeping listeners on their toes with something surprising, new, or from the past.” GC Review
18. Ithaca – They Fear Us (Hassle Records)
“…an ambitious follow-up which expands on their sound and sees them develop a style which perhaps signifies the evolvement of a band who are looking to break out of the pure underground scene… a strong and absorbing sophomore effort, for a band that seem to have stylishly found their sound in 2022.” GC Review
17. Wiegedood – There’s Always Blood At The End Of The Road (Century Media Records)
“Wiegedood manage to strike the perfect balance of a vitriolic performance while retaining enough measure and control to keep the musical output at the highest level and from descending into a chaotic mess. These are not new clothes exposing an emperor, but nastier spikes added to an existing arsenal of violent weaponry.” GC Review
16. Conjurer – Páthos (Nuclear Blast Records)
“The secret to Conjurer’s volatile sound catching so many off guard is that they tend to mask the upcoming freight train of sound… down-tuned guitars crash down like thunder and recall Car Bomb and early Mastodon… sprinkling in d-beats, blasts and volleys of double kicks while guitarists Brady Deeprose and Dan Nightingale bring the napalm” GC Review
15. Venom Prison – Erebos (Century Media Records)
“What you have to admire most about Venom Prison is their no frills/gimmicks style and readiness to work… Erebos is simply a lean exercise in aggression that’s mostly death metal but isn’t afraid to delve into hardcore or even black metal… If this is the bar, we’re setting this early then 2022 should be a banger of a year.” GC Review
14. Immolation – Acts of God (Nuclear Blast Records)
“With over thirty years and eleven albums under their belt, it’s good to see Immolation still plying their trade with a satisfying level of consistency. Acts of God still manages to maintain Immolation’s proud record of never having released a bad album… not many others in the genre can say that.” GC Review
13. Megadeth – The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead (Universal Music)
“There’s no question that The Sick, The Dying… and The Dead! often packs a serious punch… (and) songs attack with refreshing savagery, the melodies are strong, the riffs are satisfyingly solid and the solos are enough to strip the enamel from your teeth” GC Review
12. Behemoth – Opvs Contra Natvram (Nuclear Blast Records)
“Behemoth unshackle themselves completely and continue, as the translation to the album title suggests, to go against the grain. Arguably their most mature album to date, Opvs Contra Natvram is exciting, vibrant and, of course, downright fucking evil… (and) only goes and stupidly raises the bar again, doesn’t it?” GC Review
11. Rammstein – Zeit (Universal Music)
“From more serious and introspective themes, to songs about plastic surgery and boobs, Rammstein’s eighth studio album never strays too far from their tried and tested formula but is still more than capable of throwing the occasional curve ball. Cohesive, memorable and impressively consistent.” GC Review
10. The Halo Effect – Days Of The Lost (Nuclear Blast Records)
“One of the largest movements in European metal during the nineties and early ’00s, the so-called ‘Gothenburg Sound’ may have only begun life as death metal with Iron Maiden style melodies but soon went on to influence a countless number of bands. Essentially Dark Flames or, if you prefer, In Tranquillity, Days Of The Lost (Nuclear Blast) effortlessly merges classic metal with European death metal, a uniquely distinctive sound of which these five exponents of the art are so adept. Boasting a production that packs a punch while seamlessly combining the raw energy of the early Gothenburg sound with a tempered and more cultured approach, Days Of The Lost is modern melodeath with a nineties heart.” GC Review
9. Lorna Shore – Pain Remains (Century Media Records)
“It takes quite a lot in the subgenre of deathcore to really excite me nowadays. Fortunately, a new full-length is out now entitled Pain Remains (Century Media) and this may be a great spot for any new listener to start their journey. Blast-beats galore, deep gutturals, high-end shrieks, and guitar riffs to round out the background orchestration really builds out the expectations.” GC Review
8. Goatwhore – Angels Hung From The Arches Of Heaven (Metal Blade Records)
“Goatwhore have gone from strength to strength, delivering album after punishing album of anti-religious, satanic nihilism, the band’s latest record, Angels Hung From the Arches of Heaven (Metal Blade) showing no signs of slowing down or compromise. Aided by drummer Zack Simmons and more recently acquired bassist Robert “Trans Am” Coleman, Goatwhore’s eighth full-length studio release is every bit as unrelentingly savage as you would expect, albeit more refined and precise than the enthusiastic rawness of their earlier years.” GC Review
7. Cult of Luna – The Long Road North (Red Creek Records)
“The Long Road North provides exactly what one would expect, and want from Cult of Luna: punishingly heavy riffs, dark soundscapes, anguished screams and extended song arrangements make up a large portion of the album. At 69 minutes (and with only nine songs), the overall experience is nothing if not epic. Due to this and the sheer vastness and density of the record, It will take most people a few listens for The Long Road North to really get under their skin. Either way, The Long Road North, tortuous and demanding but equally sublime and transcendent, is a route well worth embarking upon. ” GC Review
6. Zeal & Ardor – Zeal & Ardor (MVKA)
“Zeal & Ardor checks all of the boxes when defining versatility. This is a band that exceptionally fuses heavy music with some more popular sounds. Have you ever thought you were going to listen to a Black Metal album with R&B melodies and more? Manuel Ganeux, brings some genius vocal melodies on the entirety of the album. Not only that, their catchy, groovy riffs will have you completely obsessed over how memorable they are. This is one of the most refreshing bands out there and it is worth anyone’s time to keep close attention to what they do.” GC Review
5. Gaerea – Mirage (Season of Mist)
“Album opener ‘Memoir’ feels like it’s purpose in life is to musically yank the wisdom teeth out of your head and drummer Diogo Mota’s playing strictly reflects this feeling… ‘Deluge’ alone takes care of the price of admission. As its title suggests it heavy downpour of blasts, shrieking guitars and pained vocals. Mirage is quite the savage journey into noisy black metal terrain and again only makes me curious as to what other forbidden worlds Gaerea is willing to travel through.” GC Review
4. Ghost – Impera (Loma Vista Recordings)
“For those who prefer their Satanic messages to be roared, croaked and shrieked across a howling void against a backdrop of buzzing guitars and relentless blastbeats, once again, Ghost most definitely remains None Of Your Business. Not that this warning will deter the internet, of course, where just a single mention of the band’s name is usually more than enough to trigger an immediate Pavlovian response from hordes of opinionated gatekeepers salivating furiously over their Caps Lock buttons. But the mere fact that Ghost keeps coming back, bigger and stronger each time simply proves one thing: the angrier the haters, the wider Papa’s grin.” GC Review
3. Devin Townsend – Lightwork (InsideOut Music)
“Devy returns with Lightwork, his latest and much anticipated musical journey into the unknown. Similar to Empath, opening track ‘Moonpeople’ begins with the sound of the ocean, only this time with a coastal atmosphere complete with foghorn and seagulls. Airy vocals and a pop music rhythm build towards something more pronounced as the song reveals a strong but understated chorus. Delightfully unorthodox yet deviously accessible, Lightwork manages to be heavy without being oppressive and sentimental without being excessively twee. Extrovert and celebratory one moment, thoughtful and restrained the next, Townsend’s music remains as bi-polar as ever but aside from the occasional moment of whimsy or flash of quirky humour, it also happens to be one of the most balanced and cohesive of his career. Pop prog metal perfection.” GC Review
2. Cave In – Heavy Pendulum (Relapse Records)
“The quality really stands out, though, when they drop the pace on songs like the title track, which mixes a slower Southern rock drawl with a beautifully haunting bridge section, and on ‘Blinded By A Blaze’ and ‘Wavering Angel’, the two longest tracks on the album which both beautifully weave their way through the listeners emotions. Cave In is a band who have always constantly evolved their sound, with the style often changing from album to album and it would appear that they are looking to make a statement with this release, incorporating a little bit of everything that has come before, but with a maturity and experience in songwriting that sees them creating some of their finest ever work. This is a classy and eclectic collection of songs that shows a band that, against the odds, still have a hell of a lot of life left in them.” GC Review
1. Machine Head – ØF KINGDØM AND CRØWN (Nuclear Blast)
If you made it this far reading this, thanks. A lot of superlatives have also been bandied about on this list, and with good reason. You may not agree with the rankings, but every album here represented is worthy of your attention, unless you are averse to certain genres. We have reviewed over 600 albums this year and we care very deeply about rock and metal music
We have spent a lot of time discussing Machine Head and their legacy here at Ghost Cult HQ this year. It shouldn’t be surprising to see them in voted #1 on the strength of ØF KINGDØM AND CRØWN, which has been years in the making. In the decade before Ghost Cult existed (est. 2012), the band released two of their best albums with Through The Ashes of Empires and The Blackening (both Roadrunner). Of course they are responsible for two more genre classics: their debut Burn My Eyes and the often imitated …The More Things Change. Many bands thirty years into a career are just coasting. Making albums to justify the high cost of touring.
Not Machine Head.
ØF KINGDØM AND CRØWN is one of the most adventurous, complex, and thoughtful journeys into sound by a modern metal band in ages. Similar to the leap the band made with The Blackening, every element seems to have improved from songcraft, riffs, clean guitars – with almost classical musical passages, fiery solos, and killer vocals. Between Robb Flynn and Jared MacEachern’s vocal attack: the call and response passages, soaring chorus parts, and the best harmonies this side of Power Metal, this is the best singing/screaming on any album by this band. Thrash at its core, signature heavy riffs, and few cool breadowns aside, this record is a P90X level of licks, time signature and tempo changes, and fierce attention to detail in phrasing on solos. The drums were provided by bonafide genius Navene Koperweis (Entheos, ex-Animals As Leaders, Job For A Cowboy), and they slam, groove, and even provide the occasional Blackened Death Metal blitz. Next time Matt Alston. Next time.
And the lyrics are a stroke of genius, and perhaps not often enough talked about as a talent in this group. Based on the manga/anime Attack on Titan and inspired by Robb’s two son’s passion for the genre they shared with their dad, this is a fully fleshed out concept album, with deep moments of reflection, and equal amounts of black-out, unquenchable rage. However, it’s also not so locked in to the concept, that the singles did not also work as standalone tracks. No easy feat. The best single moment here is the track “My Hands Are Empty” – featuring a co-write by co-founder Logan Mader. Chill-inducing and one of the best songs ever by MH. Topped off with the brilliant artwork by Seth Siro Anton (SepticFlesh), and the sterling production from Flynn and Zach Ohren (Darkness Everywhere), this record is a triumph. Due to the pandemic it was recorded over years, at times remotely, and in batches of work; but you cannot even tell from the sound of this record, or the mix.
At the same time while they strive to grow and improve, the band cannot help sound like the best part of themselves, as noted by our scribe Hans Lopez:
Let’s take another moment here to shine a spotlight on one of Machine Head’s greatest assets: the ability to sneak in a crushing breakdown when least expected. The aforementioned ‘Become the Firestorm’ has one detonate right before Flynn and Kiełtyka put on a lead guitar clinic and ‘No Gods, No Masters’ has a belter of a breakdown that seems to pay homage to ‘Davidian.’
ØF KINGDØM AND CRØWN takes its place among the best music this band has to offer and the #1 Album of 2022 from Ghost Cult Magazine.
We reached outto Robb Flynn for a comment and here what he said:
What an honor it is to be chosen as winners for your ‘Album of the Year’ award! Considering it is voted for by people who live and breathe the metal genre, and especially considering the quality of albums released this year, it’s an accolade that Machine Head are stoked to receive!
Read part 1 (75 -51) here:
Read part 2 (40-21) here:
If you lack the time to read, this countdown is also a video and a podcast!