Well, here we are. It’s 2022. Remember Y2K? That disaster-that-wasn’t passed us by 22 short years ago now. Remember the epic fustercluck that was the year 2020? That’s 2 years behind us, thankfully, although not enough has changed since then… It’s pretty safe to say that we’re all hoping that 2022 will be better than the last two years, although at least, in both of those, we’ve had some great music to drag us through. (Don’t believe me? Look here and here.) And if nothing else, 2022 is the year of Soylent Green, so I hope you enjoy some good meals. (Spoiler alert: Don’t eat it.)
So without too much further ado, here are some of the many forthcoming albums that we are highly anticipating in the year two-thousand-and-twenty-two. There are quite a few more we could’ve added here, of course — hell, we’re still waiting on some of the ones from last year (and the year before and the year before that… Hello, King Diamond? Sanctuary?). But we’re a patient lot, we are.
Read on, dear friends, and tell us what you are patiently awaiting. Here’s to a great 2022 for all of us. [ANDREW EDMUNDS]
STAR ONE – REVEL IN TIME
Out 2/18; InsideOut Music
After 12 impatient years, Star One’s third voyage is finally upon us. And if you thought the credentials of previous crews were impressive, this one boasts everyone from Steve Vai, Joe Lynn Turner, and Roy Khan to Michael Romeo, Brittney Slayes, and Ross Jennings – plus like a billion other awesome people who sing and play instruments all good, including repeaters Floor Jansen, Tony Martin, and Damian Wilson.
As much as I like Ayreon, my favorite Arjen Anthony Lucassen project has always been Star One. It’s always seemed a bit less muddled, quite a bit more fun, and a lot more reined in with the songwriting. Based on “Lost Children of the Universe” (Feat. Vai, Martin, Khan, Marcela Bovio, and Irena Janson), “Fate of Man” (Feat. Slayes and Romeo), and “Prescient” (Feat. Jennings and Michael Mills), Revel in Time should be no different.
Star One is top class musical theater type stuff with bite. And that’s always been the main attraction. But what makes this third chapter in the Star One story particularly exciting for me is that we’re hearing not only from living legends but also from their younger counterparts. If Lucassen is one thing, he’s an especially adept talent scout, and I can’t wait to hear how he pieces this all together. [CHRIS C]
Quality Confidence Factor: 85%
VENATOR – ECHOES FROM THE GUTTER
Out 2/25; Dying Victims Productions
There’s something about the kind of heavy metal that walks a line between the toughness of the streets and the lofty, almost naive ideologies of the most fantastical sword-and-sworcery metal that strikes a chord. It’s just as foolhardy and brash, but instead of making the listener feel like they’re swingin’ a sword atop a mountain, it puts an overpowered hog between their legs, wraps ‘em up in leather, and sends them flying through the neon-lit underworld of an insomniatic metropolis. At its core it’s indisputably romantic, perhaps even more so when the musicians behind the wheel themselves are romanticizing an era where bands like Heavy Load and Gotham City went largely unnoticed outside of Sweden.
Austria in particular seem to have a knack these days for capturing the romanticized glory days of the East-Of-NWOBHM sound of ‘82-’84. Not only did Eisenhand end up stealing my Album Of The Year slot for 2021, but Venator themselves took home the gold on the previous year’s EP Of The Year. The Linz quintet have kept the lineup from 2020’s Paradiser EP intact for their debut full-length, Echoes From The Gutter, as well as sticking with the ever-consistent Dying Victims Productions for label duties. If the teaser song, “NightriderNightrider,” is any indication, Venator are poised to knock one out of the park with their debut. Crank the engine, crank the volume, and get ready to sing at the top of your lungs. [RYAN TYSINGER]
Quality Confidence Factor: 87%
SCORPIONS – ROCK BELIEVER
Out 2/25; Vertigo Records
As much as I love Scorpions – which is one gigantic hell of a lot – the last few decades have been pretty uneven, from an album standpoint. A few higher points like Sting In The Tail sit alongside a whole bunch of poppier stuff, written with outside songwriters and less about the anthemic hard rock that built them up to superstars than about trying to cash in on the success of their giant ballads. And then they retired and all seemed neatly tied up and cut off. But of course, that didn’t take — and does it ever, really, when the band can still rock as hard as Scorpions still can, especially live? — so they unretired and haven’t looked back.
All that to this: When Klaus and Rudolf started talking in interviews about how their next album would be a return to their early 80s approach, in terms of sound and also focusing upon their classic songwriting partnership, well… color me interested. Verrrrry interested. And then the first single dropped a few months back, and “Peacemaker” proved that, now an incredibly 50+ years into their career (and February 2022 marks exactly five full decades since they debuted with the prog-tinted Lonesome Crow), Scorpions can still bring those big-riff / big-chorus moments of glory. “Peacemaker” is a classic Scorps rocker, with a singalong arena-sized hook and those simple-yet-damned-killer Schenker riffs, plus the requisite tasteful melodic touches from Matthias Jabs and a re-energized drive courtesy of new-kid rhythm section Mikkey Dee and Pawel Maciwoda. Let’s hope the rest of the record lives up to that promise.
And like all the best Scorpions albums, the cover is ridiculous, so that only gives me more hope. [ANDREW EDMUNDS]
Quality Confidence Factor: 80%
DAWN – TBA
Having released two monster records (and a killer EP) in the 90s but done nothing since, Sweden’s Dawn has one of those limited-but-untouchable legacies that built as much by inactivity as by the music itself. Okay, that’s a big overreach, as the music is still way more responsible for their glowing reputation among fans. Both Nær sólen gar niþer for evogher and Slaughtersun (Crown of the Triarchy) are killer, with the latter an undisputed classic of the melodic, icy, “blue cover” black metal style (despite the cover being offensive shades of not blue), easily able to stand with other towering classics as Storm of the Light’s Bane and Far Away from the Sun.
Slaughtersun came out in 1998 and Dawn has been promising a new record for at least half of the 24 years since. 2021 saw the first real update in ages, as the band posted a teaser of new music on Facebook. It was just 25 seconds long, but it was venomously melodic, frigid, produced in a very 90s manner, and 100 percent Dawn in every way. Again, the teaser was just 25 seconds, but any evidence that they’ve actually been in the studio is welcome, and signs pointing to them largely continuing the Slaughtersun style are also encouraging. Whether or not we actually see the new record in 2022 is to be seen, but things finally seem to be moving. [ZACH DUVALL]
Quality Confidence Factor (if it comes out): 85%
SACRED OUTCRY – TBA
Sacred Outcry’s towering 2020 debut, Damned for All Time, took nearly 20 years to see the light of day. Rather than revisit the grisly details behind that delay again in this limited space, however, I invite you to either roll through our sparkling review, or peep the following summation that reveals the fact that the album managed to land the #1 spot in the 2020 version of We Have the Power. Put briefly, Damned for All Time was very much worth the wait, particularly for anyone who might consider the most ideal collision between Warlord (USA) and early Manowar as a serious blessing, and the only thing that made that wait tolerable was the truth that most of the populace had no idea Sacred Outcry even existed until No Remorse Records finally put the music into our ears two years ago.
Luckily, the reaction to Damned for All Time was positive enough to warrant soldiering forward, but with one unfortunate detail left behind for fans to come to grips with: Vocalist Yannis Papadopoulos (Beast In Black, ex-Wardrum), while a massive part of the debut’s success, was only a guest. GASP. So, how does a band go about filling vocalist shoes the size of a city bus? Well, in the case of Sacred Outcry, you perform whatever rites necessary to request the talents of one of the greatest power vocalists of all time, Daniel Heiman (Dimhav, Warrior Path, Harmony, ex-Lost Horizon, ex-Heed), whose strengths behind the mic are significant enough to warrant his inclusion for the Mount Rushmore of power metal singers that will eventually become carved into the face of the Zugspitze at some future date. Hopefully you know me well enough by now to understand that I freak-the-flip out whenever Heiman’s name gets attached to a project these days, and the prospect of hearing his soaring voice affixed to Sacred Outcry’s brand of absurdly epic metal is enough to keep me bouncing on the edge of my seat right up until the point full-length #2 gets released.
The beauty of all this—beyond the fact that, holy crap, Daniel Heiman is now the vocalist of Sacred Outcry—is the very sneaky truth that principal mastermind ( / bassist) George Apalodimas hid his not-at-all diabolical plan right inside the liner notes for Damned for All Time, which you can see in the following short “Chapter II” video. STEALTH ACHIEVEMENT REALIZED / ACTIVATE CODE RED ANTICIPATION KLAXON. [CAPTAIN]
Quality Confidence Factor: 99.9%
CULT OF LUNA – THE LONG ROAD NORTH
Out 2/11; Metal Blade Records
Cult of Luna hit the post-metal scene just as it was beginning to explode, but have spent most of their career in the shadow of the expansive cloud of Isis and Neurosis. Granted, that’s true of basically every band in the genre, considering clones are regularly referred to as Neur-Isis bands, but still. Over the past five years in particular, these morose Swedes have taken huge steps forward that moves them ever closer to being spoken of in the same breath. In 2016, they collaborated with Julie Christmas to release the exceptional space odyssey that is Mariner, which happens to not only be one of the best albums of their career but also one of the best in all of metal from the last decade. When they returned to their solo work in 2019 with A Dawn To Fear they brought every trick in their bag known to date and made it heavier for an absolutely crushing and satisfyingly exhausting 80 minutes. If you take a peek at our staff best-of lists for 2021, you’ll find their most recent EP The Raging River was our second favorite EP of the year. That incredible EP saw Cult of Luna continue to do what they do best while elevating their sound with a more significant dose of keyboards. Now we are being treated to The Long Road North for their third release in three years. The first single and opening track of the album “Cold Burn” would fit right at home on Mariner with its opening clarion call, wailing keys and synths, pulsing beats and ominous finish. The tracklisting also names guest spots from a Swedish vocalist, percussionist and voice actress as well as a Canadian-American saxophonist who has worked with the likes of Arcade Fire and Bon Iver. Clearly, the drive to experiment and push their sound continues and chances are pretty good they’re going to deliver. [SPENCER HOTZ]
Quality Confidence Factor: 90%
PORCUPINE TREE – CLOSURE / CONTINUATION
Out 6/24; Music for Nations
It’s been twelve years since The Incident. That’s crazy. Maybe you haven’t noticed, since Steven Wilson has been busy with his solo stuff (not to mention about 500 classic album remixes), keyboardist Richard Barbieri’s followed his own muse to eight solo albums and a couple with Marillion vocalist Steve Hogarth, and drummer Gavin Harrison has shared his sticks with a number of acts, most notably and often, King Crimson and The Pineapple Thief. Also during those years, PT members stayed in touch and shared ideas and saved them to various media and forgot about them and remembered them and shared more ideas, and so on until now here we are, with a lead single for the band’s eleventh album, Closure / Continuation, to be released about six months from now.
“Harridan” and its arresting video bode well, from Wilson’s opening energetic bassline to Harrison and Barieri’s twitchy entrance behind it, reminding us that this is a band with real chemistry, time apart or no. It’s all very PT, even if at times it recalls Wilson’s hiatus-era solo work a little more than late-era Porcupine Tree. That’s to be expected, I suppose, and hurts nothing. What’s fresh is a looseness in the verses that feels like jazz, especially against a familiar sort of chilled out late night electro fusion backdrop. As the chorus explodes, it’s clear this is Porcupine Tree at their strongest, especially after a pensive bridge peels off to let loose the jam stretch, a wonderful reflection of peak Porcupine Tree circa mid-aughts. Again, plenty of new, wrapped in everything you already love about this amazing band. Closure / Continuation looks to be everything it’s promised, however cryptically. [LONE WATIE]
Quality Confidence Factor: 90%
AVANTASIA – TBA
Between new Avantasia and Star One, power and prog metal fans with a penchant for the theatrical are going to have their hands full this year. And while I haven’t liked everything Tobias Sammet has released under the Avantasia banner, he has assured us power metal fans that we “will dig” this new one. Given how often I revisit the band’s 2019 release, Moonglow – surprising even myself – I can’t knock this guy’s confidence.
We don’t know much yet, and a promised autumn deadline for the first single came and went, but Sammet himself described the album not long ago: “Short songs, long songs, pop songs, power metal like on the first ones, a very personal album with a lot of magic and fantasy and great guest performances. So are my takes, haven’t sounded this fresh in 17 years.” Most interestingly, perhaps, he’s also said that he’s recorded “probably the heaviest old school power metal track [he has] ever written.” Though I don’t expect a “The Glory of Rome” or “Serpents in Paradise,” necessarily, it would be nice to hear something approaching the first two albums.
Regardless, I have always appreciated Avantasia for being one of the few power metal bands, symphonic or not, that can still create excitement around a release. If you can get Jorn and Hansi Kursch to feature on the same song (“The Raven Child”), you’ve not only got good taste but you’ve got some pull, too. At least half of the fun of digging into new Avantasia is hearing singers together who would never otherwise have a reason to show up on the same album, let alone song. Ronnie Atkins and Mille Petrozza, anyone? [CHRIS C]
Quality Confidence Factor: 70%
KING DIAMOND / MERCYFUL FATE – TBA
Here’s what I had to say in part 1 of our Most Anticipated Albums from January 2019:
“The only thing that stands in the way of us getting a new King Diamond album in 2019 is Kim Bendix Petersen’s boundless capacity for thoroughness. On March 29th, 2018, King conducted a very lengthy interview with Eddie Trunk where it was revealed that 80% of the new album’s storyline was complete and Andy LaRocque was on the way to Texas to commence work on the music in King’s home studio. Nine months could be enough to see a full record’s worth of new material finalized, but I’d still say there’s about a 50% chance that the album won’t see the light of day until December or early 2020 because Andy and King are voracious sticklers.”
Here’s what I had to say in part 1 of our Most Anticipated Albums from January 2020:
“But yes, there’s a ways to go before the—news flash—first part of this two-album concept finally hits ears. In fact, Andy LaRocque recently disclosed the rather unfortunate truth that there are only ‘four or five [songs] in the loop,’ with a number of other ideas currently swimming around King’s head. Additionally, a portion of the start of 2020 will now be devoted to—holy shit again—the reunion of Mercyful Fate for some exclusive European dates. Pretty tough to complain about that element, because that could also lead to new Fate material?
Anyway, both King and Andy are sticking to their ‘late 2020’ guns in interviews, but the likelihood I’ll be writing something King Diamond-related again for our most anticipated records of 2021 is floating somewhere around 80%.”
Here’s what I had to say in part 1 of our Most Anticipated Albums from January 2021:
“Barring some grim, unforeseen Three-Body Problem alien takeover scenario or something equally as inauspicious, it’s going to happen in 2021—this year we will see and hear The Institution, the first of a brand new two-part King Diamond album, and based on a few hints from key members, we will witness a brand new Mercyful Fate record as well. From Hank Shermann’s recent post on social media: “All cylinders fired up for 2021 // Mercyful Fate // solo album and much more I can’t talk about.”
And now, here’s what I have to say in part 1 of our Most Anticipated Albums for January 2022:
Who the hell knows. I suppose I’ll just go ahead and expect we’ll meet up right here in a very similar spot in January 2023. Thankfully, both of King’s projects have provided well enough good-to-greatness to last fans a lifetime. Stay heavily patient! [CAPTAIN]
Quality Confidence Factor: Pass the carrots, please