Meshuggah - Immutable
If you ask what Meshuggah’s classic album is, you’ll get at least three different answers. Immutable could very well be the fourth. They haven’t reinvented the wheel. They already did that. Twice. But the band you love are still running rings around every progressive metal act going, while going harder than reasonably required.
Devin Townsend - Lightwork
Lightwork is the polar opposite of 2019’s unhinged Empath: a simple and heartfelt collection of (mainly) straightforward pop-metal songs, all with melodies so large you could stick a flag in them and claim them for the nation of your choosing. Even its most experimental moments reflect Devin Townsend’s delight at the sheer uplifting power of a good tune. A beautiful curveball.
Oceans Of Slumber – Starlight And Ash
Stripping away pretty much all of their grandiose artillery, this Oceans Of Slumber’s most minimalist record to date, drawing its heaviness instead from a well of emotion, inspired by the dark allure of artists like Nick Cave and Tom Waits. Starlight And Ash is the sound of a band playing to all of their strengths. This is yet another album that marks them out as one of modern metal’s most innovative operators.
Coheed and Cambria – Vaxis II: A Window Of The Waking Mind
Ten albums into a stellar career, Vaxis II is a superbly realised vision from a band whose ambition knows no bounds. The beauty of Coheed has always been that even if you don’t give two hoots about the lore, they pen songs that can stand alone without knowledge of their sci-fi-based melodrama. From the modern pop strut of A Disappearing Act to the grandiose, eight-and-a-half-minute closing title track, this is proof of that.
Polyphia – Remember You Will Die
In an age populated by absurdly virtuosic musicians, it takes a band like Polyphia to really stand out with their fiddly fusion of genres. The Texans cycle through a wickedly inventive collision of metal, prog rock, hip and jazz, led from the front by visionary guitarists Tim Henson and Scott LePage. Some will hate its iconoclastic genre-hopping too much, but that’s their loss.
Animals As Leaders – Parrhesia
Even for a subgenre where technical chops are a necessity, you’ll be hard pushed to find a better-played album in 2022 than Animal As Leader’s fifth effort. Matt Garstka’s drumming is tight and subtly expressive while eight-string wizards Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes underline their status as bona fide, modern-day guitar heroes. Shorn of vocals, it’s up to the leads to add emotional heft to the labyrinthine arrangements, and Parrhesia achieves a tangible resonance.
Voivod – Synchro Anarchy
Almost 40 years into their career, there appears to be no stopping Voivod, as they continue to venture deep into space’s limitless expanse. Their 15th album pulses with tribal rhythms and minor-key dissonance re-jigged into experimental prog-punk with stream of consciousness poetry riding a jet-stream towards a black hole. Long may their journey continue.
OU – One
The debut album from Beijing boundary-warpers OU sees glitchy hall-of-mirrors sonics and rapid bass-pulses colliding with singer Constance Wu’s heavily-processed, sung-breathed vocals. The result sounds like AI-generated music performed by actual humans. If OU are representative of the current Chinese prog-metal scene, then all eyes should be looking east right now.
Kassogtha – rEvolve
Sweden’s Kassogtha’s second album is packed with everything needed for a prog-metal behemoth – it’s heavy as fuck and married to a penchant for melody overlooked by countless ‘brutal’ peers. There’s even a grand 10-minute finale which grows from silken post-rock to a screeching and stabbing heavy metal rampage.
Evergrey – A Heartless Portrait (The Orphean Testament)
Evergrey crafted one of the finest records of their career in 2021’s Escape Of The Phoenix. Their latest continues this process, putting further daylight between the five-piece and a slightly sticky period. Tom Englund’s strong, clean voice soars majestically above pummelling guitars, symphonic keyboards and bruising yet often choral-sounding arrangements. After a quarter of a century, Evergrey really should be better-known than they are.