Welcome to the first half of The Elite Extremophile’s Top 50 Prog Albums of 2022. This article covers spots 50-26, and the top 25 can be found here!
Full disclosure: the label of “2022” is not entirely accurate. The music featured here covers December 2021 through November 2022. Trying to find new music in the month of December is a fool’s errand, as much of my time during that month is occupied with writing and editing this list.
As I always say, I’m sure there are some excellent albums not included in my list. This site is a one-man operation (in relation to reviewing, that is; my editors, Kelci and Dan, have been tremendously helpful), and I simply cannot listen to everything that gets released. I also have my personal biases against some rather popular trends in prog, which affects the composition of this list. But if you’ve got recommendations, do not hesitate to shoot them my way.
2022 wound up being a decent overall year for prog. It felt as if the year started off slowly, and there definitely were fewer albums that truly knocked my socks off, as compared to other years. However, there was still a lot of super-solid prog, psych, and otherwise-weird and experimental music to be heard. And I listened to more albums than ever before, which allowed me to draw from a larger pool. That meant I had to make some tough decisions about the final composition of this list, and deciding on the final order was challenging. Outside of the top 7 or 8, most of these albums could have easily been placed several spots higher or lower, depending on my mood.
Now, let’s get to it!
#50: Ebb – Mad and Killing Time | Progressive rock | Bandcamp
Psychedelic and space rock vibes run through this record, and Ebb does a great job at cultivating an alluring atmosphere. I really like this band’s organ tone; it contrasts very well against the crunchy guitars. The vocals are great as well. Ebb does a good job of writing engaging melodies, and every song has plenty of interesting ideas. Some cuts do run a bit long, though.
#49: Besna – Zverstvá | Post-metal, Black metal | Bandcamp
The six songs on this Slovak band’s debut LP are powerful, emotive post-black metal. But mixed in amid broad, impressionistic guitar lines are plenty of exciting, tight riffs. The compositions evolve dramatically, with the occasional folky interlude to provide good contrast to the usual metallic onslaught.
#48: Somalgia – Inverted World | Progressive rock, Progressive metal | Bandcamp
In my initial review of this album, I noted some of my many gripes with the worldview espoused in the lyrics, while still praising the music. That general sentiment still prevails. The music really is fantastically fun and inventive. There’s a wonderful blend of prog, metal, zeuhl, and electronica to create a rather distinctive album. However, upon successive listens, the lyrics have gotten harder to ignore. Hearing someone moan about how wearing masks during the height of a pandemic is tyranny, or listening to someone indulge in their persecution fantasy just grows tiresome after a while. I still want to give credit for the great music on Inverted World, but it’s really hard to tune out the bad messaging.
#47: King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms and Lava | Jazz-rock, Psychedelic rock | Bandcamp
This album starts off on what is by far its weakest track, but once you get past “Mycelium”, there’s a lot to like here. “Ice V” has some tasty jamming; “Magma” has a great build to an eruptive climax; and “Lava” has a distinctive ritualistic feel. Overall, jazz flavors suit King Gizzard pretty well, though the runtime of most of these songs definitely could have been shortened.
#46: Porcupine Tree – Closure/Continuation | Progressive rock | Buy
Porcupine Tree returned in 2022 after 13 years of mixed messaging regarding their future as a recording band. It’s not the band’s best album, but it’s a solid addition to their discography. Steven Wilson demonstrated his musical chemistry with his bandmates, and his willingness to collaborate on songwriting was a boon to this release. C/C is in the vein of late ‘00s Porcupine Tree, but with a bit less metal. It’s dark, menacing prog with plenty of quiet, contemplative moments.
#45: Onségen Ensemble – Realms | Post-rock, Progressive rock | Bandcamp
Onségen Ensemble continues with their usual murky, dramatic post-rock ways on Realms, but they’ve also displayed a clear evolution from their last album, Fear. The band has incorporated vocals, and that adds a new layer of depth to their soundscapes. Mellotron, brass, and flute give much of this album a haunting, mantra-like feel, like it’s the soundtrack to a cultic rite.
#44: Regal Worm – Worm! | Progressive rock, Space rock | Bandcamp
Worm! is a fuzzy, bubbly slice of proggy psychedelia. The warm, retro synths prominently featured on Regal Worm’s last album continue to shine here. The songs on this release are fairly diverse, but the mood remains light and fun throughout.
#43: Fren – All the Pretty Days | Progressive rock | Bandcamp
The music on All the Pretty Days is melodic and thoughtful. Despite clocking in at over an hour, this instrumental album remains stunningly focused. Piano is often the lead instrument, and that lends a lot of drama to these songs. Bits of jazz and classical music show up occasionally in the melodies. An instrumental album like this can be tough to do well, but Fren did a great job.
#42: Verbal Delirium – Conundrum | Progressive rock, Art rock | Bandcamp
Y’know, looking at this album cover, I was expecting something much more metallic. But then the second song, “In Pieces” sounds like an outtake from Magical Mystery Tour. Overall, the album is a refreshing blend of prog, psych, jazz-rock, and other diverse influences. It’s fairly light and accessible, but there are plenty of odd moments and twists to keep the affair interesting.
#41: An Isolated Mind – A Place We Cannot Go | Post-metal, Drone | Bandcamp
A Place We Cannot Go is a lonely, uncompromising record. It vacillates between austere, minimal post-rock punctuated with woodwinds; harsh, bitter metal; and eerie drone. The sense of isolation is palpable throughout this record. Despite the defensive walls of guitar present on this album, synthesizer and reeds lend an undercurrent of warmth and distant hope.
#40: Louison – Magnet Feel | Jazz-fusion, Math rock | Bandcamp
Bassist and composer Louis de Mieulle’s latest album is his most electronic venture yet. Looped synthesizers build a sleek, futuristic feel, and de Mieulle’s label of “cyberprog” is clearly appropriate. This instrumental release is full of fun grooves, and de Mieulle’s background in jazz is evident. Themes are reincorporated and revisited between songs, lending this album the sense of being a unified conceptual piece.
#39: Yurt – V – Upgrade to Obsolete | Progressive rock | Bandcamp
This oddball act from Ireland always has something exciting up their collective sleeve. On their fifth full-length album, Yurt blends high-octane punk energy with winding song structures and interstellar instrumentation. Extended jams serve to build tension, and I like the way the synth and guitar tones play together.
#38: Dreadnought – The Endless | Progressive metal, Post-metal | Bandcamp
The latest release from the Coloradans finds them leaning more than ever into post-metal. These murky sounds mesh wonderfully with their co-lead vocalists. This album’s quiet moments are spooky and subtly morose, while the metallic moments let loose with a visceral fury. Dreadnought has always excelled at balancing textural contrasts, and their thoughtful integration of various keyboards into their music lends a rich depth other post-metal and doom metal acts often lack.
#37: M’Z – La Civilisation de la Graine | Progressive rock, Progressive metal | Bandcamp
This instrumental album smoothly blends a good number of influences. This fusion is probably best exemplified by the song “Au confort de la mémoire qui sublime”, which contains threads of metal, jazz, electronica, and prog, all as a coherent whole. A lot of this album reminds me of Liquid Tension Experiment, but in a more focused manner. If you’re looking for fun, flashy instrumental prog, M’Z offers a solid option.
#36: JPL – Sapiens chaptire 3/3: Actum | Progressive metal, Progressive rock | Bandcamp
The conclusion to JPL’s Sapiens trilogy is a great blend of the more “classic” veins of both progressive rock and progressive metal. The instrumentalism is showy and technical without being overly indulgent, and the long compositions evolve naturally and creatively. Hints of jazz crop up throughout the record, and I’m also very impressed by the particular tone selections for both the guitars and the keys.
#35: Ahleuchatistas – Expansion | Math rock, RIO | Bandcamp
Ahleuchatistas’ particular brand of math rock is an odd combination of tightly-crafted and loosely shambolic. The music often has a woozy, uneven feel to it, amid impressive displays of technical prowess. That balancing act is carried out wonderfully here, with the trio putting forth some of their best work yet.
#34: The Church of the Cosmic Skull – There Is No Time | Psychedelic rock, Progressive rock | Bandcamp
There Is No Time is this band’s most mature-sounding release to-date. As one might expect, this album’s backbone is swirling psychedelia underpinned by seven-part vocal harmonies. Organ and fuzzed-out guitar are the primary instruments on this record, and at certain moments they lend a hazy, almost-folky atmosphere. Electric violin provides sharp contrast and great counterbalance. Despite the dreary title, this album has a hopeful feel to it.
#33: Humanotone – A Flourishing Fall in a Grain of Sand | Progressive metal | Bandcamp
If Elder’s Innate Passage had wound up being a stinker, I was prepared to joke that this was 2022’s best Elder album. This Chilean act is clearly deeply indebted to those stoner-prog Bostonians, but the music here does have its own unique characteristics. The vocals are relatively delicate, and they somehow gel with the heavily distorted, down-tuned riffs. Organ and Mellotron add a lushness to this music often lacking in similar acts, and the songs–while occasionally overlong–feature a ton of strong ideas and inventive riffs.
#32: Don Bolo – Bahamut | Zeuhl | Bandcamp
This Ecuadorian act was a pleasure to find. Their music is full of weird, angular guitars, bouncy brass lines, and punk-like energy. I get a lot of Mr. Bungle vibes from this record, the way metalloid features contrast with bright saxophones. This is a difficult band to describe, especially since they incorporate elements of so many things I normally dislike (like ska, punk, and Mr. Bungle), but it’s absolutely worth your time if you’re into the weirder end of prog. It’s brash, exciting, and completely unpredictable.
#31: National Diet – The Noon Hour | Progressive rock | Bandcamp
The Noon Hour features moments of both noisy bombast and delicate melodicism. The band deploys uncommon chords and outer-space-sounding guitar and keyboard tones. Flashes of alt and noise rock are apparent throughout this release. The closing “Addled Dreams of Youth” is an especially strong track. It builds from a contemplative opening to a tense, driving midsection, and finally to a dreamy, otherworldly finale.
#30: Ben Craven – Monsters from the Id | Progressive rock | Bandcamp
Ben Craven’s latest album is heavily indebted to Yes’s most classic works. The two sprawling suites on this album mix dark and dramatic prog with the sweeping strings of film scores. “Die Before You Wake”, in particular, is a shining example of how the classic prog sound can be reinvigorated and kept alive in a modern context.
#29: King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – Changes | Psychedelic rock, Progressive rock | Bandcamp
Changes is a bit of a hodgepodge, having been recorded sporadically over the last five years. Guitar is somewhat reduced in prominence, and keyboards mostly take the lead. “Change” is a great opener that channels acts like Traffic and Once & Future Band, and “Gondii” is an instant classic. This album overall sticks with the band’s recent jazzy trends, and it melds quite well with their base psychedelic sounds.
#28: Zeal and Ardor – Zeal and Ardor | Post-metal, Avant-garde metal | Bandcamp
Zeal and Ardor’s latest offering sees this Swiss-American act leaning into avant-garde metal more fully than on past releases. Growling electronic pulses are deployed to cultivate an oppressive atmosphere, and the band’s usual soulful backing vocals continue to lend a haunting quality to the music. The metal on this record is the band’s most pummeling yet; the riffs are smothering. Yet other tracks, like “Emersion”, see the band pushing toward more abstract, electronic sounds. This album is clearly Z&A, but it represents some interesting evolutions in their sound.
#27: Magma – Kãrtëhl | Zeuhl, Jazz-rock | Bandcamp
Magma’s newest release doesn’t have a clear place in the band’s overarching Kobaïa story arc, but it’s a strong entry in their discography nonetheless. Kãrtëhl is rather bright and sunny by Magma’s standards. Parts of this album were written in the late 1970s, and that is evident; about half this album sounds like it could have fit in fine on Attahk. This LP has more varied textures than Zёss, and that makes this a much more enjoyable listen. If you like Magma’s usual sound, the odds are good that you’ll like this release. Jazz plays as big a role as ever, but there’s still plenty of usual zeuhl-y oddness.
#26: Arkheth – Clarity Came with a Cool Summer’s Breeze | Psychedelic metal, Progressive metal | Bandcamp
This Australian act does a stellar job of blending harsh black and death metal with softer, more astral textures. Jazzy guitar and sax lines mingle freely with eerie, floating passages of post-metal and the occasional electronic inclusion. This is a mind-bending album that blends dreamy psychedelia with extreme metal in impressively natural ways.
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