The 50 best albums of 2022
The Kerrang! verdict on the 50 albums that shaped 2022.
From As Everything Unfolds and Bimini to Sleep Token and WARGASM, we tip the hottest new acts to track down over the next few days at Donington Park…
Donington’s hallowed turf is calling. The stages are set, the campsites are cleared, and the burger vans are frying for the first full-scale Download Festival in three years. Come rain or shine, these handful of days in June promise one of the most essential UK rock gatherings of our lifetime, with tens of thousands of like minds finally able to come together without restriction, raising horns, chugging beers, and cathartically laying to rest the stifling silence of the pandemic period as we celebrate the very best that heavy music has to offer.
Whether you’ve already got your camping gear packed, or are still toying with the idea of going along, you probably don’t need us to tell you why you should get a good spot for the latest leg of Iron Maiden’s globe-trotting Legacy Of The Beast run, that Biffy Clyro are still one of the greatest Brit-rock bands of their generation, or how big a deal it will be to catch what’s apparently KISS’ final-ever UK show. Instead, we’re shining the spotlight on 20 of the hottest up-and-comers, from sunshine pop-punk specialists Meet Me @ The Altar to skull-caving brutalists Heriot, who’ll be keeping Download in business for years to come.
We’ll see you in the pit...
As Everything Unfolds were just picking up momentum when the pandemic stalled their stellar ascent. Having shrugged of the stasis to build on ear-catching 2018 EP Closure with last year’s excellent debut album Within Each Lies The Other, though, the High Wycombe six-piece are ready to showcase themselves on the grandest stages possible. Between vocalist Charlie Rolfe’s irresistible onstage charisma, and their ability to wring every ounce of catharsis from songs like Hiding From Myself, Stranger In The Mirror and On The Inside, expect them to dramatically deliver on their boundless post-hardcore promise.
Bimini promises a Download performance unlike any you’ve seen before. Also known as Bimini Bon Boulash, the Norfolk-born, East London-based drag queen, author and model found fame while competing on the second series of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, where they finished as runner-up. Having broadened their fanbase with bold, brilliant electro-punk single God Save This Queen (sample lyric: ‘Sipping up on my builders tea / Milk, two sugars but dairy free / Turn me into your favourite meme / I don't eat meat but I do love me some D…’) we can’t wait to see what they’ve got in store for Sunday’s Dogtooth Stage debut...
Crashing the main stage in a scorching explosion of fire and brimstone, Bleed From Within delivered one of the most memorable moments from last year’s truncated Download Pilot. Now they’re back, just over a week after the release of sixth album Shrine, packing box-fresh bangers like Levitate and Stand Down, ready to step on up in front of a full-capacity crowd. One of the hardest-working acts in UK metal, the Glaswegian gang have been slugging away for over a decade-and-a-half, but with things finally beginning to fall into place, their high-octane Dogtooth Stage should be part of a long-overdue procession into metal’s upper echelons.
Boston Manor had a hell of a busy pandemic. Dropping third album GLUE just a few weeks into lockdown, then excellent follow-up EP Desperate Times Desperate Pleasures in October 2021, the Blackpool boys were churning out some of the best material of their career with barely a chance to bring it to life onstage. Now they’re making up for lost time. Having just completed a mammoth Welcome Back To The Neighbourhood United States tour alongside fellow UK young guns Trash Boat and Higher Power, expect them to electrify with the brilliant likes of Brand New Kids, Carbon Mono and brand new single Foxglove come Sunday evening.
When Cassyette stepped out onstage to perform Off With His Head alongside Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes at Download Pilot 12 months ago, it was safe to say that very few in attendance had any idea who she was. What a difference a year makes. Having dropped a slew of singles like Petrichor, Mayhem, Dead Roses and Sad Girl Summer in the interim, the Essex electro-rock sensation has become one of UK rock’s hottest properties, with a grungy, nu-metal-inflected sound that more than justifies the hype. If last weekend’s fiery Slam Dunk shows were anything to go by, her return to Donington should be truly incendiary.
Over nine months on from her debut UK shows at 2021’s Reading & Leeds and ALT+LDN, Dana Marie Wright – better known as her fearless alter-ego Dana Dentata – hasn’t engaged in the same kind of relentless touring as many of her Download-bound peers. Instead, the Toronto-born artist has allowed debut album Pantychrist to speak outrageously for itself, deploying the uber-aggressive shock-horrorcore of tracks like Dstock ’99 and I Know What You Did Last Summer at only a select few engagements. Her unpredictability has always been a potent weapon, though, so expect Saturday afternoon’s bow on the Dogtooth stage to leave some hangover-nursing punters – and plenty of enthusiastic fans – well and truly shook.
Heriot’s latest EP Profound Morality is the kind of record that demands that you damn well sit up and take notice. Eight tracks blending the uncompromisingly dissonant heaviness of early Code Orange with the higher-octane attack of The Chariot, and flashes of heavy atmospherics that could’ve been lifted from Chelsea Wolfe, it had countless fans asking where the hell these guys had come from. That was kind of a long story. Initially formed back in 2015, the midlands metallic-hardcore crew had effectively fallen dormant for a few years before long-term friend and vocalist/guitarist Debbie Gough joined up and brought the spark to set them fully ablaze. Now that things are really moving for them, though, expect Friday’s Dogtooth stage to be well and truly crushed – just like everything else in their path.
Higher Power are in a state of transition right now. Following the departure of founding guitarist Louis Hardy over the course of the pandemic, frontman Jimmy Wizard has stepped up on six-string, with recent single Fall From Grace hinting at an even more massive twist on the alt.rock/hardcore blend we’d already come to know and love. Having already supported Neck Deep on their February UK tour, and Boston Manor on the aforementioned Welcome Back To The Neighbourhood U.S. run, they’re perfectly primed to detonate the Dogtooth stage over a frenzied 25 minutes on Saturday afternoon.
When Kerrang! spoke with Kid Brunswick back in July 2021, he had yet to play a single show. A year down the line, he’s into double figures, but Friday’s Download debut will be a grand introduction to a whole raft of new fans. Mirroring the complex, messy nature of his personal life (addiction, rehab, adoption of straight-edge), the singer-songwriter known to his mates as Harry James deals in the same sort of ramshackle alt. hip-hop as the likes of De’Wayne and YUNGBLUD but, adding a singular sheen, flashes of rave-rock energy, and some painful real world edge, songs like Stained and Bipolar Rhapsody prove he’s very much his own animal.
Is any band in the current wave of British heavy music more fascinating than Loathe? We’d wager not. The Liverpool prog-metalcore / shoegaze / post-rock / nu-metal / who-knows-what collective delivered one of the most fathomless records in recent memory with February 2020’s shapeshifting I Let It In And It Took Everything. All dreamy Deftones-worship and whiplash unpredictability, it marked them as a coming force. Then they followed-up with 2021’s The Things They Believe: an ambient, instrumental offering from even further out of leftfield. Could this weekend mark the next step in their bold musical evolution? We’ll have to wait and see…
Malevolence have brutalised Download a few times before. When we talked with frontman Alex Taylor back in February, he reminisced on how the Sheffield metalcore supremos actually saw their first-ever set at the festival in 2014 stopped for, er, excessive crowd participation – by someone who would later become his boss in a security management day job. Returning for their fourth appearance, and packing righteous, all-conquering third album Malicious Intent, expect even more pit-spinning carnage when they crank up Life Sentence and Still Waters Run Deep, out in the glorious open air for the very first time.
No band this weekend will leave you feeling warmer or fuzzier inside than Meet Me @ The Altar. After a slew of excellent EPs and self-releases, the U.S. pop-punks have spent much of 2022 in the studio prepping their debut album proper, and this summer vacation – taking in not just Download, but also last weekend’s Slam Dunk, and several support slots for the mighty Green Day – offers every opportunity to joyously cut loose. With songs like May The Odds Be In Your Favor and Hit Like A Girl, we couldn’t ask for a sunnier summer soundtrack.
You never know what you’re going to get with Phoxjaw. As their wilfully awkward band name suggests, the Bristol collective – originally formed in 2016 by vocalist/bassist Danny Garland and guitarist Josh Gallop – are all about twisting conventional sounds into an esoteric bigger vision. Running the stylistic gamut from hooky indie-rock to scourging black metal, and touching on subject matter as varied as love and loss, dinosaurs and British colonialism, songs like You Don’t Drink A Unicorn’s Blood and Whale, Whale, Whale will bend minds just as easily as banging heads.
The rise of mysterious rockers Sleep Token continues apace. Fresh from providing main support on Architects’ recent run through British arenas, enigmatic frontman Vessel and his veiled compatriots will sub-headline Friday’s Avalanche Stage, unleashing the haunting delicacy, juddering sweep and occasional fire of songs from excellent 2019 debut Sundowning and last year’s even better This Place Will Become Your Tomb. A high-sheen, piano and synth-driven pop-metal mix, their mercurial sound is notoriously hard to pin down. Some say they’re like James Blake raised on Slipknot; others that it’s Bastille-by-way-of Bring Me The Horizon. We’d recommend that the uninitiated get down the front and make their minds up for themselves.
One of the undisputed hype bands of Download 2022, we don’t really need to tell you why you should go and check out Spiritbox. Following the dissolution of brilliant, schizoid metalcore gang Iwrestledabearonce, husband and wife duo Courtney LaPlante (vocals) and Michael Stringer (guitar) decided to get serious with a new band that factored in elements of prog, djent and post-metal while delivering some absolutely massive individual moments. With last year’s debut LP Eternal Blue, they hit the bullseye, and in songs like the smouldering Circle With Me and explosive uber-banger Holy Roller they have enough firepower to steal the whole damn show.
Another of the acts who turned heads at Download Pilot, Static Dress return to Donington to build on an already buzzing reputation. Following the May 18 release of debut album Rouge Carpet Disaster, fans have a sort of sonic manifesto from visionary bandleader Olli Appleyard and his not-so-merry men: raw-nerve post-hardcore with the scathing emotion of heroes like Glassjaw, but also the colour and jaunty listenability of early My Chemical Romance. Having toured hard as much as possible over the last 12 months, older cuts like safeword and in this fake city are already perfectly drilled, but we’re even more excited to possibly see the newer likes of fleahouse and Unexplainabletilesleavingyouwonderingwhy (Welcome In) get a Donington-worthy run out.
The Last Internationale might be best-known for their high-profile collaborations with a galaxy of rock superstars – from Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello and Brad Wilks to Slash and Lenny Kravitz – but they absolutely deserve your attention in their own right. On one hand, New York-based duo Delila Paz and Edgey Pires pack the sort of fiery old-school rock’n’roll attack that’s got a long history at Castle Donington. On the other, there’s a ferocious social conscience burning beneath the surface, with their band-name a direct reference to legendary socialist anthem The Internationale, while songs like Soul On Fire and Wanted Man perfectly fit our troubled times.
Trash Boat have come a long way from winning the Slam Dunk ‘Fresh Blood’ contest to earn their first major festival showcase back in 2015. Now with three excellent albums under their belts – chief among them last year’s ear-catching Don’t You Feel Amazing? – the St Albans quintet can count themselves among the UK’s most compelling bands. With fascinating fronman Tobi Duncan leading from the front, while songs like Old Soul and Strangers juice out every last drop of emotion, expect their Sunday evening slot to be a late-festival stand-out.
Sex Magick! Lucifer, My Love! Let’s Have A Satanic Orgy! If Twin Temple’s devilishly salacious song titles aren’t enough to grab your attention, then maybe the promise of a little occult doo-wop might do the trick? As anyone who caught them opening on Ghost’s recent European arena tour will already know, Californian duo Alexandra and Zachary James aren’t your garden-variety rock band. Taking the wholesome sounds of the American 1950s, then painting them in blood red and midnight black, they deliver a sexy, Satan-worshipping sonic confection that gets under your skin and, given half a chance, might just steal your soul.
“We like chaos and blood and violence and nudity,” declared WARGASM’s Sam Matlock when K! joined the fast-rising Brit-punks out on the road with Neck Deep earlier this year. That sort of bold, unsubtle mindset pretty much sums up why he and bandmate Milkie Way have become one of the country’s hottest double-acts in 2022. Their tendency to pillage the pop-cultural broom closet and litter their sets with musical titbits from other artists like Guns N’ Roses, The Prodigy and N.E.R.D. has seen them accused of leaning too hard on second-hand cool, but such antagonism only stokes their fires. And, with firecracker cuts aplenty of their own – Rage All Over, Salma Hayek, the brilliantly-titled recent single D.R.I.L.D.O – they’ll doubtless use that heat to cook up one of the more memorable sets of the weekend.
A load more brilliant bands are joining next year’s Slam Dunk bill – from The Menzingers, The Hunna and Boston Manor to WARGASM, Static Dress and VUKOVI.
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Boston Manor singer Henry Cox to talks us through new album Datura – from its conceptual night-time storyline to its powerful messages of hope and solace…
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Frontman Henry Cox pays tribute to his wife in Boston Manor’s new love song, Inertia.