The WillToRock Top 10 Albums of 2022
Welcome back to the 1980’s! Well, kinda. No fewer than HALF of this year’s Top 10 were bands that (I had previously thought) reached their pinnacle in the glorious Decade of Decadence. Sure their careers kept on going…a few highlights here and there, but 5 of the bands that crack this list have thrust some of their best work into our eager faces.
Also included in this year’s list is an album I wouldn’t even have thought I’d have added to a Top 10 list, never mind my own CD collection (Yes, I’m still CDs or die).
Filling out the Top 10 was difficult at first (And there are a few honorable mentions added) but the #1 of the year was never in question and anything I’ve heard since it’s release didn’t change that.
WILL’s Top 10 Albums of 2022.
10. Halestorm – “Back From The Dead”
To be clear, Halestorm never had to come back from the dead. I mean it’s only been 4 years since “Vicious” was released and that, along with most of their previous catalog, will always remain a large part of my weekly rotation. So how does “Back From The Dead” fit in with the previous efforts? I think it fits squarely in the middle somewhere.
Halestorm collectively are an amazing band, but it all starts and ends with the lady at the front. I was just about to type that on “BFTD” Lzzy Hale once again proves why she’s the best female vocalist in metal today and that would be a disservice. She’s simply the best vocalist out there. I dare you to listen to “Raise Your Horns” and tell me differently. Although there are moments of pure Halestorm brilliance on this album; “The Steeple” “Wicked Ways“, “Terrible Things“, “Raise Your Horns” that all rank up there with some of my all time favorites, I think as a whole the album is a bit uneven. Regardless of that, the album still packs enough punch to land at #10. Another great add to the collection and more opportunity for me to stare at new videos of Mz Hale.
9. Skid Row – “The Gang’s All Here”
Welcome Back Skid Row! Amazing return to glory for the band after so many attempts with different singers. “The Gang’s All Here” is chalk full of catchy riffs, great choruses, and truly amazing vocals. The addition of Erik Grönwall is a large reason this album is so great and yet also why I think they can still do better.
The ONLY reason that this album didn’t rank higher in my Top 10, is because we’ve already heard Skid Row make this album before. Musically and lyrically this is way too eerily similar to their 1989 self-titled debut. All the way down to “Tricky Little Vicky” who makes an appearance.
That is no fault of Erik Grönwall’s who is an incredible singer. But it’s no secret that his introduction to the masses was made basically doing an imitation of “he who shall not be named” on “18 & Life” during his Swedish Idol audition…the show which he went on to win. What I’m looking forward to is their next release. I think that one will be the true return to the top for Skid Row. Or, maybe it’ll be Slave To The Grind Pt. II. We shall see…
With that all said…this album really does kick ass!
8. Arch Enemy – “Deceivers”
Arch Enemy finally made me do it. I held out as long as I could, but I caved. They made me purchase an album with “Growling” Vocals. It’s just not my bag, but Alissa White-Gluz and the dudes in Arch Enemy have changed that. “Deceivers” is a blistering shred-fest of an album that is chock full of glorious metal melodies and yes, some amazing vocals. Alissa peppers in just enough “clean” vocals to offer me a breather here and there, but I don’t even know if I needed them.
I received this album online to review a while back and after my first run through, I knew I had to grab the physical CD to get the full effect of every note. It was THAT impactful from the first listen up to right this second on my umpteenth spin of the disc. If you’re a metal fan and have also been resistant to try out the growls, make this your introduction. It really is that damn good of an album.
7. Queensryche – “Digital Noise Alliance”
In the #7 spot (last year held by QR singer, Todd La Torre for the amazing “Rejoice In The Suffering“) is what I’m considering a GREAT return to form by Queensryche. This is an album that has a very familiar feel to it. I was drawn to it by some great tips of the hat to early Ryche that I haven’t heard from the band in quite a while. This collection of songs seems more accessible to me than more recent efforts and that’s not to say that it’s a commercial sounding album. This is no “Empire“; not at all.
All the prog elements are still here, and the writing on DNA is just at the next level. Whip’s guitar work on this album is also incredible and I love having a new QR disc that I’m happy to throw on and repeat and repeat…
Also, I LOVE the D.N.A. Double Helix Tri-Ryche Album cover!
6. Hardcore Superstar – “Abrakadabra”
Welcome to the Swedish Sleaze! I was introduced to Hardcore Superstar on the 2019 Monsters Of Rock Cruise and had been told by many that they were such a great live band. (Very true!) So I checked out a few of their previous albums and even though I thought that the live show really was where it was at for them, there was a definite progression from album to album and they just kept getting better.
And then they released “Abrakadabra“. Damn! They knocked it right out of the park. This is one hell of an album from start to finish. There are no skips on this disc for me. “Jocke” Berg’s vocals on this album channel all of the great 80’s Sunset Strip bands and the licks on this disc would be right at home with the best of that era. I beg you to check it out. I’m even throwing in the title track video so you can get a taste.
5. Scorpions – “Rock Believer”
Part “Love At First Sting” part “Blackout“, part “Animal Magnetism” and the Scorpions have once again made Rock Believers out of us. Nowhere near as blatant a replication that Skid Row released, but “Rock Believer” is more of an homage to everything great that they’ve done. A ton of killer choruses and anthem’s that will certainly be part of the Scorp’s live shows for years to come.
Klaus Meine sounds incredible on this album (As he did live when I saw them earlier this year) and the songwriting from start to finish is just great. I love the singles that were released (title track and “Peacemaker“) but lots of good stuff to choose from here including “Seventh Sun” (definite Animal Magnetism vibe), the speedy “When I Lay My Bones To Rest” and the beautiful ballad “When You Know (Where You Come From)” We even get reggae tinged verses on “Shining Of Your Soul” that just fits and shows that this go around, the band could do no wrong.
Of note, on the Deluxe Version (Disc 2) the song “Shoot From the Heart” is a complete corker of a song that should have been on the main disc. Just sayin’.
4. Ozzy Osbourne – “Patient Number 9”
I’m gonna be honest, I had written Ozzy off. I wouldn’t have been surprised if we never heard another original tune out of the Prince of Darkness. But he pulled a Santana and enlisted a bunch of Rock Royalty to help him produce one of the greatest Double O albums in decades. Not only is Zakk back on a number of tracks, but Tony Iommi and Jeff Beck double dip on a couple of songs, Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready makes an appearance and so does old “Slowhand” himself, Eric Clapton.
There is so much great stuff here, but the stand outs to me are the title track with Jeff Back on guitar, “Parasite” with a killer Zakk Wylde groove and my favorite chorus on the album, as well as the 2 Iommi tracks, “No Escape From Now” and “Degradation Rules” that bring back all that Jazzy Sabbath swagger from days of old.
Of note, the late great, Taylor Hawkins also makes an appearance on 3 of these tracks.
3. Def Leppard – “Diamond Star Halos”
The final “Blast From the Past” band on this year’s list are Def Leppard with “Diamond Star Halos“. Excuse the pun, but this album just Kicks! After hearing lead off single “Kick” I thought they’d finally just said “fuck it’ and were going to release a full on T-Rex tribute album, but DSH is not that. It’s so much more!
No, it’s not a return to the days of “High & Dry” (My fave Lep album), but it has amazing hook after hook on this album. They’re never going to go back to that type of rock, but they are the Kings Of Power Pop Rock and they NAIL this album. “Take What You Want” just starts everything off on the right foot and just keeps pulling you in and in. It DID take me a few repeat listens, but even some songs that I thought were original skips have somehow ended up growing on me.
Highlights are “Take What You Want“; the beautiful Phil Collen penned, “This Guitar” with guest Alison Krauss (Robert Plant wants her back by the way); “Goodbye For Good This Time“; “Unthinkable” (my favorite on the album), and closer, “From Here To Eternity”.
If “Hysteria” was your favorite DL album, this one may push for a spot near the top of your list.
2. Orianthi – “Rock Candy”
Love at first listen! Where Orianthi’s last album, “O” had flashes of greatness, “Rock Candy” has seen the Aussie guitarist, singer, songwriter make a complete, kick ass, soup to nuts corker of an album. There’s nothing I don’t like about “Rock Candy“.
The album is bookended with “Illuminate I” and “II” instrumentals and there is nothing in the middle of that sandwich that doesn’t kick ass. “Light It Up” and “Fire Together” just GROOVE, and those along with the majority of songs on this album just take you to sing-along city. On an album that has nothing but killer tracks, two that I keep going back to are “Red Light” and the acoustic “Living’s Like Dying with Out You” penned with (ex and/or current beau?!) Richie Sambora.
On top of the amazing songwriting, Orianthi’s bluesy, rock guitar work is given plenty of space to shine and every opportunity she gets, she throws in some tasty licks. Also a HUGE shout out to Jacob Bunton (Neon Coven, Adler) who has his footprint all over this album. Not only did he produce it, he plays all the instruments on it outside of Orianthi’s guitar work. A stellar album that begs to be listened to again and again.
1. Alter Bridge – “Pawns & Kings”
Unlike “Rock Candy“, Alter Bridge’s “Pawns & Kings” was not a love at first listen. Instead it took a lot of repeat spins to allow this album to unfold and grow, and grow and grow on me. And what a masterpiece it has turned out to be. Alter Bridge have a distinct knack of always taking the road less traveled in their music. And what we have here is a completely layered, fully fleshed out collection of songs that fits right up there with the greatest albums AB have released.
It’s a full highlight album, and one that I don’t like skipping around on. It’s start to finish for me each time. Mark Tremonti produces some of his heaviest riffs on this album and Myles Kennedy vocals are just next level. Bryan Marshall’s bass lines are all over the place (And I mean that in a very good way) and Scott Phillips inserts so many nuanced little fills and drum passages.
If you have the time (and ability), listen to this album with the bass low, listen to it again with the guitar cranked, listen to it with the drums isolated, or crank Myles’ vocals. The intricacies and subtleties are many and that’s part of why this album just continues to get better each time.
Also of note is is the inclusion of Alter Bridge’s longest opus to date in the 8 minute plus, tempo-be-damned “Fable of The Silent Son” that will surely rank as an all time AB classic.
Why Alter Bridge have not reached the heights of success in the U.S. that they have in the U.K. and beyond eludes me. They quickly became one of my favorite bands and “Pawns & Kings” cements them as one of the most creative and consistent acts around.
Check out AB’s “Silver Tongue”
As mentioned here are the 2022 Honorable Mentions:
Slash feat. Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators – “4”
Released in February of ’22 it would be easy to let this fade into the distance, but this is really a very decent album. I was not really a fan of SMKTC’s 2018 release, “Living The Dream“, but the horribly titled “4” has somewhat restored my faith in the band.
The band threw everything at the wall on this release and even though not all of it stuck, you get a ton of diversity that makes it at the very least an interesting addition to the catalog.
You get some grungy sounding geetar on opener, “The River Is Rising“, some Eastern flair on “Spirit Love“, a dash of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” deja-vu on “Fill My World“, the ripping “Call Off The Dogs” and of course all of it is infused with Slash’s signature solos disguised as riffs and Myles’ amazing vocals.
Thundermother – “Black & Gold”
Thundermother could be the Swedish, Double X Chromosome cousins of AC/DC. “Black & Gold” is actually their 5th album and by far their greatest effort to date. Yes, musically the band channels the Young Brothers, but B&G adds a more modern flair and offers a little taste of what may be to come from these ladies. Vocalist, Guernica Mancini’s bluesy, rock soaked vocals help propel some of these songs that may have ended up more bland in lesser hands.
A big Thank you to the Scorpions for bringing Thundermother out as support on their U.S. tour this year. Live, these 4 ladies just kick ass.
Tuk Smith & The Restless Hearts – “Ballad Of A Misspent Youth”
Tuk Smith and the Restless Hearts were all set to be unleashed on the world via the opening slot on the Leppard/Motley Stadium when a global pandemic decided to put a wrench in those plans. It also put on hold “Ballad Of a Misspent Youth” which was a damn shame. The album I have only has 6 songs on it (I’m owed 2 more!) so it makes it more of an EP in my estimation. Lots of great things to like about this album like the title track, the Thin Lizzy sounding homage “Girls On The East Side Of Town” (At least I hope that was the intent) and the bouncy closer “Forgive But Won’t Forget“.
H.E.A.T. – “Force Majeure”
A strange thing happened on the way to “Force Majeure“, singer Erik Gronwall (Who brought the band to the next level during his tenure) was recruited by Skid Row and H.E.A.T. brought back their original vocalist, Kenny Leckremo. Turned out to be a win-win for both bands. Although this album isn’t as catchy as it’s predecessor, the very successful “H.E.A.T. II“, there’s enough here to make it a great addition to their catalog and yet another album that gets better with repeat listens.
American Jetset – “Cat’s Got Your Tongue”
Baltimore’s American Jetset add another set of sleaze laden songs to their catalogue with “Cat’s Got Your Tongue“. Jetset get better with each release and even though the 7 songs on CGYT aren’t breaking any new musical ground, they have an ability to write songs that transport you back to the glory days of the Sunset Strip. There are some gritty rockers as well as a couple of heartfelt ballads that could be instantly popped into the cassette deck of your daddy’s old Chevrolet.
American Jetset have been popping up as support for the likes of KIX, Stephen Pearcy, Jetboy etc.. which gives you an idea of what the band are about. A band worth getting to the venue early for.
And that’s a wrap on 2022!
Last year I had a HUGE miss by not adding The Pretty Reckless‘ “Death By Rock & Roll” to my list. I got a hold of it after my Top 10 was published and it easily would have been one of the best of the year.
So this year who did I miss?! What were YOUR albums of the year? Let me know, because I’m happy to make an admission of “I fucked up again” for this year’s list.
As I did last year, I want to remind all you music lovers to help keep your favorite bands and artists afloat. Go to the shows, buy the albums, purchase the merch. They need you just as much as you need them.
And also again as it’s the time of year for giving (and we’re all animal lovers at WTR) I want to offer up two charities for your consideration that are near & dear to my heart.
Peace and Love and Music to All!