Best Progressive Rock Albums of 2022
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The 10 Best Progressive Rock/Metal Albums of 2022

The best progressive rock albums are profoundly ambitious and forward-thinking, music that’s immense, expansive, and mind-blowing, with dramatic elements.


Black Country, New Road
Ants From Up There
(Ninja Tune)

Intentionally less proggy, more melodic, and thus, more accessible, Ants From Up There is the follow-up to Black Country, New Road‘s highly regarded debut, For the First Time. This may seem like an unusually sparse album to be included on a best-of-prog rock list, especially when compared to the music of their peers, Black Midi. Still, the latest album from the Cambridgeshire band is playful, mischievous at times, and orchestral due to the wide variety of instrumentation. Many of the songs stretch to six minutes and above (the closing track makes it past 12 minutes), which shows that Black Country, New Road have no qualms about giving themselves plenty of time to marinate in their musical liberation. 

Carrying folk tendencies applied to progressive makeup, Ants From Up There is cinematically cathartic, stirring with structural shifts played by the full band or led by single instruments at precise moments. A singular violin or saxophone never sounded as inspirational as it does coupled with Isaac Wood’s deep, precarious voice. Wood’s vocal tone is tremulous on songs like “Bread Song” and “Haldern”, full of self-doubt yet unabashedly honest. At times, he sounds like you’re eavesdropping on him singing to himself in the other room. Ants From Up There is a profoundly confessional record endowed with an emotional quality that can only be described as sacred.


Gospel – The Loser
(Dog Knights)

Rooted in post-hardcore, Brooklyn’s Gospel never quite fit into the genre, especially during their heyday in the mid-2000s with the popularity of screamo. Gospel was a different kind of monster, heavily overlaying resonant keyboards, punchy guitar riffs, and manic screaming into lengthy progressive passages. For 17 years, the band’s only release was 2005’s prodigious The Moon Is a Dead World. They called it quits only a year later with a short-lived reunion in 2009-2010, but Gospel remained an uncertain yet intriguing force.

Now, they’ve finally bestowed The Loser upon us, their sophomore album. It’s as dramatically theatrical as hoped for, pulling elements of 1970s prog rock and contemporary post-hardcore together like they did when they started. It’s almost as if they’ve been waiting for audiences to grow accustomed to the music they’ve wanted to make. With the wide reception of noisy, shouty bands like Chat Pile and Gilla Band, Gospel seems willing to pump out more roiling, manic compositions.

Indeed, The Loser is a feverishly wild ride. The juxtaposition between the album title and the opening track, “Bravo”, shows a sarcastic, uncaring, almost haphazard feel. Frontman Adam Dooling’s vocals are cathartic and arhythmic as if he reached a peak of epiphany so crazed it stands apart from the music. Nevertheless, he is supported by clamorous yet tightly-knit instrumentals that move from jazz to noise rock to psychedelic textures that fill The Loser with energy from beginning to end.


Animals As Leaders

As far as progressive metal goes, Animals as Leaders are shepherds of the djent movement, characterized by elaborate rhythmic patterns and technical prowess. The Washington, DC band consisting of Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes on guitars and Matt Garstka on drums have been recording albums together since 2009, and Parrhesia is their fifth LP. Once again, the new album sees Animals as Leaders exercising virtuosic maximalism.

It’s awe-inspiring how three people can make such expansive music. Their style of technical fretwork almost seems patternless, and at times it’s hard to believe that these songs are mentally mapped-out, but there’s no doubt that these guys know what they’re doing. Songs like “Conflict Cartography” and “Micro-Agressions” are chock full of frenetic patterns, rapid-fire precision chugging, and sour metal bass tones rattling from the lowest strings of eight-string guitars. Parrhesia is disorienting, unpredictable, compelling through its non-stop movement, impressive in composition, and in its unpredictability is a thrilling amount of tension.


Black Midi
(Rough Trade)

Black Midi have given us three albums worth of cacophonous yet controlled compositions in the last four years. This year we get their third full-length album, Hellfire, which is an utterly befitting title for how it sounds. This record is undoubtedly one of the most highfalutin, unparalleled, and entertaining releases of recent years. It carries an energy akin to a disturbing yet humorously sped-up moment in a David Lynch film, or perhaps it’s the musical equivalent of being chased by security guards and running into someone holding several ice cream cones. 

With every listen, this batch of songs creates a wonderfully flamboyant sonic hellscape, complete with drawn-out passages of auctioneer-style vocals – similar to the ranting style of Andrew Savage of Parquet Courts – frantically jazzy drumming, cartoonishly absurd saxophones and keyboards, and high energy guitar riffs. This is broken up here and there by ponderous songs like “Still” and “Dangerous Liaisons”, which twinkle on soft instrumentation and Murray Head-style talk/singing. Hellfire fits into prog rock territory with its irregular rhythms, big theatrical sound, and musical ambition. “The Race Is About to Begin” and album closer “27 Questions” exhibit it all: high-octane, spastic vocal characterization and big band energy as if from an absurdist take on a 1960s variety show. Without a doubt, no other group of musicians mixes class with chaos like Black Midi. 


…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
XI: Bleed Here Now
(Richter Scale/Inside Out)

It’s rare to witness a band find longevity through as tumultuous a career as seen with Austin, Texas’ …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. With the number of members they have cycled through, Conrad Keely and Jason Reece have maintained their ambition and energy since 1994 and kept the group glued together with a hefty six-member lineup. That said, Trail of Dead never showed signs of taking a hiatus, breaking up, or slowing down. This year, we’ve been blessed with XI: Bleed Here Now, their magnificent 11th album released with quadraphonic mixing to provide its fullest effect. The album clocks in at a whopping one hour and 14 minutes over 22 tracks, which sounds excessive but isn’t when considering the nature of progressive rock. Many songs work as interludes cementing the record together and exemplifying its careful arrangement.

Their music preserves much of their punk ideals from their early days, although more refined and careful, while encompassing a wide variety of rock styles, making them intersect seamlessly. They bounce from blues (“Taken by the Hand”) to punk (“Kill Everyone”) to folk (“Growing Divide”) to 1960s psychedelic pop rock (“Field Song”) to 1970s heavy metal (“No Confidence”) to post-punk to hard rock, sometimes within the same song, without sounding mockish or artificial. Frontman Conrad Keely has an unequaled way of writing warm melodies that deserve multiple listens. Towards XI: Bleed Here Now‘s beginning, he pulls you in with the exhilarating, sticky melodies of “Field Song” and “Penny Candle”.

At the same time, the rest of the band fills in with a stratum of guitars, drums, keyboards, and backing vocals. “Golden Sail” is an apogee on the album, surging voluminously with layers of fierce instrumentation and vocals, all driven by an unrelenting bassline. Other high points include “Water Tower” and “Protest Streets,” but to be honest, XI: Bleed Here Now has too many stand-out tracks to mention in a single blurb. You’ll just have to listen and soak in the brilliance.