My annual review of what I’ve most enjoyed listening to during the last 12 months, and my albums of the year.
- Lamb of God—Omens
- Porcupine Tree—Closure/Continuation
- Machine Head—Of Kingdom and Crown
- Thy Dispraise—A Human Trilogy (EP)
- Slipknot—The End, So Far
- Steve Lawson—The Waiting Game
- PreHistoric Animals—The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter 2)
- Anti-Clone—Human (EP)
- Carceri—From Source to End
- Kings X—Three Sides of One
- Megadeth—The Sick, the Dying… and the Dead
- Rezet—New World Murder (EP)
- Spectral Darkwave—Live Fire Exorcise
- Voivod—Synchro Anarchy
With more of a focus on writing reviews on my 195 metal CDs site, 2022 was a much better year in terms of the number of albums acquired. This year I added 45 new releases to my collection, compared with 17 last year. A far cry from the 123 I acquired in 2005—three years before I had children, mind! It was only a prolonged period of ill-health between August and December that slowed down this project.
Before launching into my top 10 albums though, I’ve just taken a look at my Last.fm top 20 artists over the last 12 months. This reflects what I’ve actually been listening to over the last year, mostly on my desktop PC but also on my Android smartphone.
These were my top 20 artists listened to throughout the year:
- Porcipine Tree—529 tracks
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart—313
- Big Country—226
- King’s X—169
- Machine Head—148
- Foo Fighters—139
- Lamb of God—139
- The Smashing Pumpkins—136
- Faith No More—130
- Depeche Mode—126
- Howard Shore—125
- Chris Remo—122
Entries above in bold indicate artists that also feature in this year’s top 10 of new music.
Reflecting on the past 12 months saw me move from Sky to Safeguard Global in January, working from home, while still enduring arguably the worst British government in living history and trying to avoid Covid-19, I am not surprised that I retreated into my favourite artists for familiarity and comfort through such turmoil.
I pushed ahead with my project to try to listen to all 200 CDs from the Mozart 225 complete works box set that I bought myself as a gift following my divorce in 2018.
I clearly enjoyed some artist-a-thon binges during the year. Unsurprisingly, Foo Fighters features at #12 following the tragic and untimely death of drummer Taylor Hawkins. I was clearly in need of some soul with Seal landing at #11, and the more soothing tones of the soundtracks of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit (Howard Shore) at #17 and the Firewatch soundtrack (Chris Remo) at #18 which I enjoy working along to.
The long expected release of King’s X’s album Three Sides of One clearly triggered a binge of their back catalogue, as did the new albums from Porcupine Tree, Machine Head, Lamb of God and Meshuggah.
Randomly, I really got into The Smashing Pumpkins again after hearing a track on Planet Rock radio and remarkably binge-listened them so much they made the top 15 in just a few weeks.
Anyway, on to my top 10 albums/EPs of 2022…
10. PreHistoric Animals—The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter 2)
A new artist to me, I discovered PreHistoric Animals over on the 195 metal CDs site and immediately fell in love with the album.
From the first moment I heard “Ghostfires” I was hooked on this album. I really can’t award it anything other than full marks.
There is such humanity captured in this album, at times it literally moved me to tears—that’s maybe not a very ‘metal’ thing to say but that’s what I love most about rock music, heavy music, metal music: it is unashamedly human—it captures the depth and width of what it means to be human, the lightness, the darkness, the pain, the sorrow, the joy, the anger and laughter. This album feels like the soundtrack to the life that I want to live.
9. Steve Lawson—The Waiting Game
What can I say about my dear friend, (solo bass) Steve Lawson that I haven’t said before? As his website states, he repeatedly produces the soundtrack to the day you wish you’d had.
Steve offers a subscription service where for a single price you can get access to all his music including some subscriber-only releases, including this four-track EP. This year Steve has been treated for cancer. This EP was recorded while Steve was waiting for results post-treatment.
This was the last album that I acquired last year, a Christmas gift from my brother and his family (thanks Eddie!). I added it to my wishlist after seeing the breathtaking cinematic video for “Adieu” (below), although I do also have all of Rammstein’s previous studio albums.
I’m pretty sure I discovered Gnome thanks to a YouTube algorithm (thanks YouTube). And what a discovery. The video for “Wenceslas” is one of my favourite promo video in the history of ever, it always makes me laugh with its lo-fi, lo-budget genius. The album itself is a thing of beauty with standout tracks “Wenceslas”, “Ambrosius” and “Kraken Wanker”.
6. Slipknot—The End, So Far
Following on from Slipknot’s more experimental 2019 album We Are Not Your Kind, this year’s The End, So Far continues in a similar vein. Opening track “Adderall” is surprisingly laid back—are Corey, Shawn, Jim and Co. mellowing in their old age? Track two, “The Dying Song (Time to Sing)” answers with a quick and decisive NO. I have enjoyed this album a lot this year, a fabulous mix of heaviness and melody.
This album has everything that I’d want from a Meshuggah album, and everything that I needed from an album in 2022 to help me navigate the political dysfunction and societal mess.
I didn’t fully connect with Meshuggah’s last release, The Violent Sleep of Reason (2016), at least not for a long time and I’m thankful for persisting—as with all their albums, I encounter something new with every listen. But Immutable spoke to me almost immediately. Which is extraordinary for such a long album—clocking up at 13 tracks over 66 minutes and 48 seconds. You wouldn’t fit that on one side of a C90 cassette back in the day!
4. Thy Dispraise—A Human Trilogy (EP)
Another find via my 195 metal CDs project, Thy Dispraise hail from Turkey and Iran and from my first listen, this three-track EP connected immediately. They sound like a slightly more experimental Lamb of God.
As band leader Abtin Zahed described, “These three songs are about the situation that we all are in. A new world that is full of lies and we all are burning in it. The first track “Ignited by lies” is about our new world that makes us slaves and we are prisoners who don’t feel it and we will be ignited by all the lies that are around us. The second track “Rising inside” is about our awakening. We suddenly see that there is nothing left from the world, and we just see nothing. Just ashes of dreams and emptiness and deep inside we want to rise. The last track “Out of the Shadows” is about our redemption after awakening. Now we know the lies. Now we know what is behind this. Now we are fighters who come out of the darkness and reach for true light.”
3. Machine Head—Of Kingdom and Crown
In my humble opinion, Machine Head’s previous album Catharsis (2018) was a bit of a damp squib. The final album to feature drummer Dave McClain and guitarist Phil Demmel, the album was less heavy, focusing more on groove and melody. But it didn’t really connect with many listeners and reviewers alike.
Roll on 2022 Rob Flynn has regrouped for their tenth studio album. stylized as ØF KINGDØM AND CRØWN, and they are on fire, delivering an album that is an absolute return to form. To be honest, I don’t think they’ve produced as good an album as their debut, Burn My Eyes (1994).
2. Porcupine Tree—Closure/Continuation
Who ever believed there would ever be another Porcupine Tree album after frontman Steven Wilson went AWOL from the band in 2010 to focus on his solo career?
I was somewhat nervous before I listened. I love Porcupine Tree—Lightbulb Sun (2000) and Fear of a Blank Planet (2007) are among my all-time favourite albums. Fear of a Blank Planet spoke to me straight away; Lightbulb Sun took a few listens before I ‘got’ it and the lightbulb lit up—Closure/Continuation has been like that. It has been like listening to an accent that you’ve not heard in quite a while, the nuances and articulations some familiar but aren’t immediately clear. Day two of listening and my ear had tuned in to the subtlties of compositions, the sudden changes of direction and aural textures.
You can read my full review on 195 metal CDs.
1. Lamb of God—Omens
And so to my number one album of 2022. Lamb of God were yet another band that somewhat lost me a little on their previous release. Their self-titled Lamb of God (2020) welcomed new drummer Art Cruz to the congregation after the departure of founding member Chris Adler, but I found it somewhat derivative and lacklustre (sorry).
The downtime imposed on the band due to the Covid-19 pandemic seems to have done wonders for the band’s creativity. They bounced back in 2022 with a killer album. From the first riff in album opener “Nevermore” to the more laid back closer “September Song” LoG deliver riff after riff with precision and passion. I couldn’t hope for a better album from one of my all-time favourite bands.