Best of 2022: Ian’s Medium Heavy Picks

Best of 2022

So, I had an idea for a new list this year.  Because, obviously, I don’t write enough of them.  It just so happened that a lot of my favorite things I listened to this year didn’t really feel like heavy metal in a technical sense, but they definitely felt like they were on the fringes of it.  They’re definitely not metal albums, but they’re also not non-metal albums, you know what I mean? What’s that? You don’t? Yeah, I uh…I don’t think I know what I mean either but let’s just go with it. Like a nice medium roast coffee, these albums straddle the nice fine line between heavy and not without leaping back and forth from one side to the other, and they happen to also be some of my favorite listens this year.

Coheed and Cambria – Vaxis II: A Window of the Waking Mind

I’ve been a fan of Coheed and Cambria for quite a long time now, and while their most recent albums have been good by any standard, they haven’t felt memorable to me like Vaxis II does.  This is the most fun I’ve had with a Coheed album in a long time, and while I don’t care for a lot of the auto-tune on the vocals, the return of big riffs and super-catchy choruses makes this an album that I actually came back to more than a few times this year.

Brutus – Unison Life

Unison Life might be Brutus’ heaviest and darkest album yet.  While the band themselves do not consider what they do metal, this is the closest they’ve come to it.  Unison Life is an album that is chock-full of grief and sorrow and pain, and you feel it in every note from start to finish.  Stephanie’s vocals have never sounded more desperate and raw, and the instrumentation really steps up to match.  This album is a journey, and it is a great example of why Brutus deserve to be a household name by this point.

Moon Tooth – Phototroph

Moon Tooth - Phototroph

After being fortunate enough to catch Moon Tooth live opening for Thank You Scientist, they have been on my radar, and Phototroph perfectly captures why.  The guitar work on this album, as on all their albums, is absolutely mesmerizing, but on Phototroph, all the songs come together in a blaze of glory and focused aggression that is sure to appeal to more than just fans of hard rock and heavy metal.  This album is seated to bring Moon Tooth in the light.

Astronoid – Radiant Bloom

Astronoid - Radiant Bloom

Does Astronoid count as not-metal?  I guess you could argue that there’s a few albums on here that could just as easily go on a straight-up metal list, but I argue that on Radiant Bloom, Astronoid are the farthest they’ve ever been from true metal, and they are so much better for it.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Air, I love their self-titled, but I’m glad they didn’t decide to just give us more of the same.  Radiant Bloom feels like Astronoid are forging ahead in a new direction and truly discovering who they are as musicians and songwriters.

Want more on Radiant BloomChris graced us all with a long-form review!

Ignite – Ignite

Not many bands can come back from losing their frontman of 26 years, but Ignite have proved on their newest self-titled release that not only can they come back, they can come back better than ever.  Ignite feels like the most snot-nosed, defiant and important record that the band have made in a long time.  And if anyone thought that Eli Santana couldn’t fill in Zoli’s shoes is proven dead wrong within the first thirty seconds of the opening track.

Hey, it’s-a me!  I wrote a review of this one! And Buke did an interview with bassist Brett!

Birds in Row – Gris Klein

Birds in Row might be the preeminent screamo band going right now.  Everything they do is the perfect blend of raw aggression, emotional sincerity, technical skill and heartbreaking beauty.  Gris Klein is no exception.  From the shouted gang vocals of “Water Wings” to the guitar noise break in “Cathedrals” to the echoey chords and naked aggression of “Winter, Yet,” every note and every cracked-voice scream cuts like a knife right to the heart, while simultaneously leaning into dance beats, punk stomps and angular, emotional melodies.

Cave In – Heavy Pendulum

Cave In - Heavy Pendulum

To even have a new Cave In album at all is something of a miracle.  Heavy Pendulum is an album that was not supposed to be, as evidenced by the title of Cave In’s last album, Final Transmission.  But with the addition of Nate Newton (the only logical “replacement” for Caleb) and with Stephen Brodsky taking over full vocal duties, Heavy Pendulum sees Cave In poised for a rebirth and renaissance of the project.  The best part of it all is that it still manages to sound like Cave In, which, through it all, is the highest praise I can give this album.

For more words from yours truly, check out the full review here!

L.S. Dunes – Past Lives

L.S. Dunes is what happens when you take every musician who was foundational to my musical taste in high school and cram them all in a room together.  Seriously, how could I not rejoice at the likes of Travis Steever, Frank Iero and Anthony Green all participating in a project together?  Past Lives is no nostalgia trip, though.  The ideas are fresh, creatively different than the parent projects, and most importantly, everyone in the band sounds like they are genuinely, unabashedly enjoying what they are doing.  

Alexisonfire – Otherness

Speaking of bands that got me through high school: over a decade is far too long to wait between releases for any band, but for Alexisonfire, I truly thought I would never see the day that we would get anything new from them.  I am very happy to say, then, that Otherness is well worth the wait.  In some spots on the album, it sounds like a day hasn’t gone by since even Crisis, but the intervening years have also seen the band embrace some of the proggy weirdness and psychedelia they have flirted with in the past, rounding out their sound and showing that they are more than one-trick ponies.  They are, in fact, the only band ever.

Want more of me gushing over OthernessLook no further!

envy – Seimei

envy seimei

When envy puts out a new release, that’s it.  It’s the only thing that matters in the world.  And even though Seimei is only a three song EP, that doesn’t stop it from setting my heart on fire.  envy never do anything half-way, and on these three songs that jump right back in where The Fallen Crimson took them, embracing the lineup changes that almost broke the band up and showing why they are the most unquestioningly un-fuck-with-able band in the game right now.

Want to know what kind of drink pairs with a band like envy?  Look no further than Vince’s Evcharist!


At the end of the day, there were so many good releases from 2022 that I just couldn’t stop myself from coming up with any excuse at all to keep talking about them.  Obviously I will have my main best-of list up soon, and it’ll be there that you’ll find the more traditional metal albums (of which there are plenty I greatly enjoyed), but these are a little hors-d’oeuvre for the main course coming later.  Some tasty little morsels to tide you over for what’s coming later, and there’s plenty of good stuff coming, and probably plenty that I missed as well.  Maybe next year I’ll have to do even more lists…

– Ian

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