As most of you know I am a very committed runner so the above picture is really my personal running highlight of 2022 (a 24 hour running event) but below you will find my top 20 albums of the year for 2022.
The first fifteen are in no particular order, they are just brilliant albums that I really enjoyed throughout the year but the final five are my definitive favourites of the year. So, without further ado, here we go…
David Longdon – Door One
A wonderful collection of songs that made a fitting and poignant epitaph for an amazing songwriter, musician and, above all, a wonderful man. I was lucky enough to meet David a few times and he was the least likely ‘rock star’ you could ever meet but, boy, what a voice and this album was the culmination of his musical career. One that was tragically cut too short.
Gandalf’s Fist – Widdershins
The ‘Clockwork Saga’ will always be seen as a monumental piece of work but, as a stand-alone release, ‘Widdershins’ sees Gandalf’s Fist at their absolute vibrant and dynamic best, every musician giving 100% and, while I’ve always been a fan of this very distinctive band, this new release sees them hitting an entirely new level.
Avandra – Prodigal
AVANDRA have created a thrilling and compelling take on the progressive-metal genre and one that is delivered with not a little expertise and finesse. ‘Prodigal’ is one of those intricate and influential albums that takes some understanding at first but when you peel back the final layer of this epic behemoth, it is a wonder to behold.
The Opening Song – Hidden Walls
Imagine music written like a classic novel of the 20’s and 30’s, there’s a wide eyed and wistful innocence that you just don’t get anymore in the world but behind that innocence, there’s also a world weary knowledge that the world isn’t always what you think it is or what you want it to be. ‘Hidden Walls’ is achingly beautiful but also wistfully painful at the same time. It’s made me quite emotional and that’s a rare thing but, isn’t what what music should do?
Comedy of Errors – Time Machine
After a long five year absence, ‘Time Machine’ is a fine return from one of progressive rock’s premier artists and an album that I am constantly revisiting. Cementing Comedy of Errors‘ status as one of the foremost artists in the genre, it is sure to be one of 2022’s most welcome releases.
Esthesis – Watching Worlds Collide
An object lesson in combining the stylish sensibilities of smokey jazz grooves with an almost 50’s noir film score to deliver a slick musical experience, all wrapped up in a sharp suit. Overall, ‘Watching Worlds Collide’ is a seriously good album with tons of Gallic flair, intelligence and inventiveness, it is also the coolest thing you are going to hear this year and I love it!
The Round Window – self-titled
A high quality release with wonderfully emotive songs and superb musicianship, this self-titled album may be The Round Window’s debut release but it shows a group of musicians who are already playing at a very high level and have creativity to burn. I can’t recommend it highly enough, this should be in everyone’s music collection…
Oak – The Quiet Rebellion of Compromise
Oak have a unique, innovative sound and you can hear it mature and transform on every album they release. Their approach to music is refreshing and sees them deliver meaningful music that has heart and soul and, with ‘The Quiet Rebellion of Compromise’, these talented musicians have created their most accomplished and consummate work yet.
Glass Hammer – At The Gate
Melodic, symphonic and, at times, monumentally heavy, ‘At The Gate’ is a superb, majestic leviathan of an album that enhances the band’s legacy as masters of the genre. This final instalment in the impressive trilogy brings things to a triumphant and proudly pompous conclusion, this is Glass Hammer at their finest, hugely expressive and sonically brilliant.
Threshold – Dividing Lines
For fans of the band it’s been a long five years since ‘Legends Of The Shires’ but when they return with an album as strong as ‘Dividing Lines’, you could say it has been worth the wait. Threshold are one of the pre-eminent proponents of prog-metal performing today and this fantastic new release has cemented their position right at the top of this particular musical tree.
VLMV – Sing With Abandon
There are times when you hear a piece of music that leaves you open mouthed in appreciation and, when I first heard ‘Sing With Abandon’ I was utterly stunned. Albums like this are more than mere music, they pervade your very soul, take over your life and almost bring you to tears at their beauty. VLMV have created something so good that it almost becomes a state of mind and I thank Pete Lambrou from the bottom of my heart for doing so.
Dim Gray – Firmament
I was seriously impressed with Dim Gray’s debut release ‘Flown’ but the last forty five minutes has shown me that this band have elevated themselves to another level entirely. ‘Firmament’ is a magnificent achievement, twelve songs that ebb and flow superbly and sum up perfectly what music is truly about. These three truly inspiring musicians have created something that is prime and organic, their music can get under your skin and influence your very moods and my life would truly be a much sadder place without it!
Ghost Of The Machine – Scissorgames
This superb album was reviewed for Progradar by my good friend Leo Trimming and I have to agree with every single one of his words:
‘Scissor Games‘ is a remarkable debut album. It clearly owes so much to earlier eras of Prog Rock but when it is done with this sheer amount of brio and skill, allied with powerful, impactful lyrics, then it is entirely valid and worthy as a piece of music and art. Many Prog fans will absolutely fall in love the style and emotional content of ‘Scissor Games‘ which will very probably be rightfully be regarded as one of the best debut progressive rock albums of 2022.
Gustaf Ljunggren with Skúli Sverrisson – Floreana
Philosophical and meditative, ‘Floreana’ will leave you in place of utter calm and leave you ruminating on life, the universe and just about everything. It’s as much about the spaces between the notes as the notes themselves and the state of mind that your are left in. To me, it is one of the surprises of the year so far and an album that I implore you to listen to at least once, trust me, it will be worth it…
Omega Point – A Great Escape
Matt Cohen has brought together a stellar group of musicians and, in Omega Point, created a powerful musical statement, close-knit and cohesive. ‘A Great Escape’ is another fantastic addition to the ranks of accomplished new releases we have already been lucky enough to hear in 2022 and can proudly hold its head high along with the best of them. Let’s hope this is just the start of things to come!
So that’s fifteen of the best albums I’ve heard in 2022 and they all rightly deserve a place in this review but now for the top five…
In fifth place:
Bjørn Riis – Everything to Everyone
Music can make a world that seems to be falling into monochrome light up and be revitalised with blazes of colour and vitality and this wondrous new album from musical maestro Bjørn Riis brings all that and more. Power, soul and grace are infused throughout its six tracks and combine to make it one of the outstanding releases of 2022 so far.
Fourth place was taken by:
The Tangent – Songs From The Hard Shoulder
‘Songs From The Hard Shoulder’ is just a wonderful piece of work, The Tangent at their brilliant best. People need some cheer in the world and music has the power to lift people, after just one listen to this amazing album I was smiling again. Andy and the band could just have released their most important record yet…
Now on to the top three, starting with:
cosmograf – Heroic Materials
The sumptuous, questioning ‘Heroic Materials’ is undeniably brilliant. Robin has laid his heart and soul, his whole being in fact, down as music. Emotive, melancholy at times, this record is a story and history at the same time. A plea for the future of the planet it may be but, above all, it is an immersive artistic triumph and one of the best releases of recent years.
And, as hard as I tried,I couldn’t split the final two so we have joint winners of my album of the year and I’m listing them arbitrarily by release date:
Joint First Album of the Year – Marillion – An Hour Before it’s Dark
I have been a fan of Marillion for over three decades and, in a career of superlatives, ‘An Hour Before It’s Dark’ can truly be seen as one of their most accomplished albums. It is an outstanding piece of music that the band should be incredibly proud of and, even though we are only in February, it will take something amazing to knock it off the top of my album of the year list.
Joint First Album of the Year – Galahad – The Last Great Adventurer
When music is as good as this and touches you in a very personal manner, it can’t really get any better. In my opinion Galahad have returned with what can only be described as a modern progressive masterpiece and one that will stand the test of time and should be remembered as being one of the best albums of recent years. It’s my joint first album of the year and I really can’t give it any higher praise than that.
So, in a year of high quality releases, this is my definitive top twenty, a collection of superb albums that would grace anyone’s music collection, tomorrow will see Progradar’s respected contributor John Wenlock-Smith’s top 20 albums and I am already looking forward to what 2023 will bring…