February was an incredibly strong month when it comes to new releases. To see this many quality releases so early in the year is rare. It was a challenge narrowing it down to the final six, and even more difficult ranking them. You’ll certainly be seeing some of these albums on 2022’s best albums list several months from now. Here are our picks for February 2022’s best heavy metal albums.
1. Persefone – metanoia (Napalm)
Five years ago we reviewed Persefone’s excellent fifth album, Aathma, a superb platter that made its way up to Number 4 in our year-end list. A well-deserved feat for this group of talented Andorrans, and here they are with metanoia, the much-anticipated follow-up. As with past releases, metanoia is a vast, all-encompassing epic album. It is also excellent, featuring stellar performances from all musicians and versatile vocalist Marc Martins Pia.
Persefone show why they should be at the forefront of the modern progressive metal movement. The music is cinematic in scope, painstakingly arranged and perfectly executed. The biggest surprise on this excellent album is “Consciousness (Pt. 3),” a stunning addition to the two Spiritual Migration songs. metanoia is our pick for the month’s best album.
2. Cult Of Luna – The Long Road North (Metal Blade)
Post-metal titans Cult Of Luna return with their eighth full-length effort, The Long Road North. Expectations are suitably high; every Cult of Luna release over the past decade and beyond has been a classic. Epic-length tracks of intense sludgy post-metal may be the bulk of The Long Road North’s compositions, but there are plenty of forays down shorter roads.
The nine songs on The Long Road North clock in at a not-svelte seventy minutes, with four songs near or over the ten-minute mark, and is a dense listen that commands attention. Could it be trimmed down a bit? Sure, but that’s not Cult Of Luna’s style, and we’re better off for it. Massive in sound, epic in scope, awash in both light and dark moments, The Long Road North is a superb album.
3. Amorphis – Halo (Atomic Fire)
Finnish legends Amorphis are back with Halo, their fourteenth album and the final chapter in a trilogy that includes the stellar Under The Red Cloud and Queen Of Time. The band continue with their trademark style, adroitly mixing death metal heaviness with power metal, symphonic metal, folk elements, and progressive tendencies and in the process showing us why they continue to be the preeminent melodic death metal band on the planet.
While overall the heaviness of the band might be dialed down a bit here, the material on Halo is no less engaging. Amorphis have mastered the art of crafting melodic earworms that seem a lot heavier than they are due to Tomi Jousten’s harsh vocals, but musically this is a very accessible album. Many bands that have been around this long have begun their slow slide into mediocrity, but more than three decades into an undeniably legendary career Amorphis show no signs of slowing down, once again releasing an amazing album that will deservedly perch near the top of many year-end lists in 2022.
4. Venom Prison – Erebos (Century Media)
Previous releases aggressively proclaimed Venom Prison as one of extreme metal’s most exciting new propositions. Erebos, the Welsh death metallers’ third full-length of new material is their strongest yet. Opening track proper “Judges Of The Underworld” exudes an urgency that’s instantly captivating, infusing tasty guitar melodies and seismic-shifting breakdowns.
The group could’ve unleashed an entire album of vicious bangers in this vein and it would have succeeded. And they deliver such fare – see “Nemesis” and “Comfort Of Complicity.” But the band soon adds extra color and a sharpened sense of songwriting, via elements like synth-y nuances, strings and Swedish-influenced melodicism. “Pain Of Oizys” is a clear standout. Its piano-infused atmospherics, emotionally hefty textures and melancholic clean vocals mesh with some truly crushing and harrowing moments. Venom Prison offer a mosh and a message, as throughout the LP vocalist Larissa Stupar dissects topics like mental health, the legal system and government policy with vein-popping intensity.
5. Immolation – Acts Of God (Nuclear Blast)
New York death metal legends Immolation return with their eleventh studio album, Acts Of God. It follows the highly acclaimed Atonement, released five years ago. Time certainly played a role in making Acts Of God a quality release. One thing about Immolation, if you’re a fan, you come to know what to expect, and the group always deliver. While there are subtle nuances that separate each album including this one, Immolation stick to their style. That style is one that embraces complexity. While they often go for the throat with spread forward speed, one can be certain tempo change will come.
One aspect of Immolation albums that the group pull off extremely well is playing dark harmonies and melodies. These melodies aren’t the kind that where you skip down the sidewalk under a clear blue sky. No, their harmonies and melodies are creepy and ominous. Consistency is the name of the game with Acts Of God. Clocking in at nearly an hour’s length with 15 tracks seems ambitious for a death metal album, but each song moves smoothly and the album never gets tiresome. Expect nothing less from a bona fide top ten death metal group.
6. Zeal & Ardor – Zeal & Ardor (MVKA)
Since emerging in 2014, Zeal & Ardor have shown they are one of metal’s most unique and original sounding bands. Since their last full-length studio album, 2018’s Stranger Fruit, Zeal & Ardor have issued a live album and an EP.
Zeal & Ardor, their third full-length, once again blends extreme metal with blues, soul and gospel music. In addition to guitars, the sonic palette incorporates some synths and electronic elements, such as on “Emersion” and closer “A-H-I-L.” “Golden Liar” is stripped down and mellow, while “I Caught You” is intense. Most of the songs combine those elements, making for a wide-ranging sound that still manages to be cohesive. Frontman Manuel Gagneux seamlessly transitions from melodic singing to throat shredding harsh vocals. Zeal & Ardor not only pushes musical boundaries, it does so with songs that are catchy and memorable.