Time to say that I love you. I really do love you, I'm not being funny or needlessly melodramatic. I love you because you're alive and so am I so we're all we have and that's plenty. I love you because we can listen to music together and that is a miracle. Enjoy.

This is probably the most tired I've been when writing an intro to one of these posts and that's saying something since the process itself is so draining. But this time around, it has coincided with a massive life change for me, general political malaise, and the crumbling climate future we see constantly washing out to sea (literally) in front of us. I am, to be very honest with you, completely drained. It's an odd feeling, being this tired; to be sure, it's mostly a negative experience but it has its silver linings (which I can see dancing right at the edge of my vision). For example, it's causing me to be less intentional about the music I listen to, so I end up falling back on old favorites and actually re-listening to albums I love which I haven't heard in ages (shout-out to Latitudes for Old Sunlight).

Conversly, it's making me more intentional about other things, as I need to carefully consider to what I dedicate the last shreds of my energy. Of course, one of the biggest intentional target of what precious fuel I still have left in the tank is the blog. You might have noticed we haven't posted much this month and that's because this post, our beloved Top 25 Albums So Far post which we do every year, basically took up all of our currently available resources. This ties into the overall state of the blog, and mostly the editorial body, where we find ourselves depleted (mostly by "real life") of much of our capacity and attention. But it's also about another conscious, where in we decided not to drive anyone into the ground (it's bad all over, not sure if you've noticed) and focus on this one thing and do it right without stressing out.

That's been an ongoing theme of the blog for a while now: how do we keep this thing we love so much alive without burning everyone involved out? And, actually, it's been going pretty well! Sure, on bad days I feel differently and that old anxiety of "am I doing enough" comes back. But that's a lie; that's my bad brain setting irrelevant and completely arbitrary goals and then failing at meeting those goals. If we're more realistic and we consider all of the conditions (2023, capitalism, climate change, work, living conditions, you know the lot) it's really amazing that the blog is still around and we are still making the content which we love.

Of which, by the way, this list we do every year is one of the best examples. It's unranked, completely in alphabetical order. It includes albums from varied subsections of the spectrum of the music industry. It talks about why we love them and why we think you would love them as well. In short, it stands for everything that Heavy Blog wants to be and everything we love to be. It also helps that, as always, it's a really good list with some incredible albums on it from 2023, which is turning out to be as prolific, engaging, and excellent in music as some of the best years of the previous decade, when we declared the Golden Age of Metal.

OK, enough words. One last request though which I almost never write: please consider becoming our supporters on Patreon. I'll be frank - we can't really keep up with posting often on there these days. But we do have some big plans for what to do with the money, including the first ever Heavy Blog funded music release sometime near the end of the year/beginning of next one. It's also the best way to help us keep blowing wind into this pile of coals, making sure the flame stays lit until we are ready to conjure back the bonfire. Honestly, it's not mainly about the money; though that helps, give what you can. It's more about the vote of confidence, the show of support, and the community which it creates around us. That is, at the end of the day, the fuel core that has kept this blog going as long as it has.

OK. Time to say that I love you. I really do love you, I'm not being funny or needlessly melodramatic. I love you because you're alive and so am I so we're all we have and that's plenty. I love you because we can listen to music together and that is a miracle.


-Eden Kupermintz

Ahab - The Coral Tombs

For obvious reasons, the subtlety of Ahab’s music is an often overlooked fact. Their brand of punishing, crushing, and momentous funeral doom they became famous for is the reason for that; they’re known as one of the most unrelentlessly heavy bands out there. But over the last decade or so, and most importantly on the brilliant The Boats of the “Glen Carrig”, Ahab have been exploring a more complex, progressive, and beguiling sound. This sound melds deep melancholy and quietude with their furious heaviness, making both sides of the equation stronger from the contrast.

The Coral Tombs is this formula even further perfected in the wake (get it) of Glen Carrig. The tracks are less divided into quiet and loud parts than they intermingle, swimming deftly between the two modes. This creates an even more unbearable weight, leading to an album that you won’t exactly spin every day or even week but rather an experience, a journey deep into the potentials of exquisitely crafted funeral doom. Simply press play on this mammoth of an album. I recommend turning off the light, playing it somewhere cool or conditioned, and letting the waves of sound, sadness, and fury crash over you. It’s one of the most powerful musical experiences of 2023, another step in an already magnificent career.


billy woods and Kenny Segal - Maps

There isn’t a single artist in rap who matches prolificacy and quality like billy woods. The past few years have seen the New York rapper release an unholy amount of incredible records, with 2019’s Hiding Places kicking off his most recent cavalcade of quality and culminating in Maps, one of the best records woods has created. In a similar vein to Hiding Places, Maps sees woods team up with avant-garde hip hop producer Kenny Segal, creating a sort of full circle moment for both and creating a record that feels like a natural evolution from their last collaboration. It’s an exquisite piece of art that has only gotten more compelling with each new spin.

If you’re familiar with woods’ work, Maps sticks to his formula fairly militantly. His textbook spoken-word delivery is ever-present, lilting and bouncing with monotone alacrity over Segal’s woozy and utterly unpredictable beats. Which may make Maps sound like just another run of the mill woods project. But the devil is in the details here, with each track presenting a soundscape and lyricism that feels part of a larger thematic whole without becoming rote or stale. The guest appearances are also stellar, particularly turns from ShrapKnel in “Babylon by Bus” and Aesop Rock in “Waiting Around”, adding flavor and intensity that matches woods brilliantly. From the production to the guests, the themes and lyrics, there’s nothing about Maps that isn’t exceptional.

I’m still on the fence between whether I appreciate this or Aethiopes more, but the more I think about it the less I care. Woods is on an unprecedented tear right now, and any new records we get from him are a welcome breath of fresh air. Maps is just the latest piece of woods’ labyrinthine puzzle to fall into place, and I can’t wait to see what he brings us next.

-Jonathan Adams

Blindfolded And Led to the Woods - Rejecting Obliteration

I knew practically nothing about Australian death dealers Blindfolded and Led to the Woods until 2021’s Nightmare Withdrawals, which raised my attention level from “who?” to “holy shit” in exactly the 39 minutes and 13 seconds it took to complete my first listen of that excellent record. That said, hype for Rejecting Obliteration has been high, and I’m happy to report that their follow-up to an excellent record does not disappoint. Rejecting Obliteration is a natural evolution for the band into more progressive territory that doesn’t lose the plot regarding what made the band’s last release so special, and is worthy of any self-respecting death metal fan’s time and attention.

From the jump, it’s obvious that the band are expanding their sound in a manner that feels consistent with their ethos. The militant drums and explosive riffs are ever-present throughout the record, and album opener “Monolith” is about as good an example of a ground setting opening track as you’ll find. The guitar work is intense yet open ended, while the percussion section is absolute fire as always. But the songwriting here feels more expansive and adventurous than we got in Nightmare Withdrawals, which is welcome progress for an already excellent band. But this expansion of sound is just that, and requires very little mental gymnastics to grasp. Especially when tracks like “Methlehem” are here to rip your fucking face off before the opening moments of “Hallucinative Terror” attempts to softly prepare the damage… then destroy you again. It’s a balance of gentility and brutishness that works wonderfully, and feels both natural and supremely effective.

If you loved what Blindfolded and Led to the Woods have done before, you’ll still love Rejecting Obliteration. If you were hoping for more adventurousness in their sound, this record delivers that as well. It’s a great transition record that both stands on its own as a delicious death metal achievement and a creative shot across the bow that has me wondering where they’ll take their sound next. Wherever they land, I’m here for the ride.


Chained To The Bottom Of The Ocean - Obsession Destruction

One of my favorite strains of metal is the type of slow-burning fire and brimstone that emerges when sludge and doom embrace the caustic nature of noise. The emotive power of doom seems to take on new ferocity when infused with an abrasive edge, delivering a double gut punch of fury and grief. Fortunately for me, 2023 was full of these obscenely heavy releases, with excellent contributions from new and established bands alike, including New England sludge behemoth Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean.

Released in May this year, Obsession Destruction is a monolithic slab of menacing fury. Harsh vocals breathe fire into heavy, haunting instrumentals, seemingly dragging the listener into the depths of Hell itself. It’s the sound of slow, brutal destruction plotted after years of obsession, a finely calculated and mercilessly delivered onslaught of devastation. Masters of sludge, it’s exciting to see how Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean continues to evolve over the years without losing their core sound or signature punishing heaviness.

n contrast to their 2018 album, I Carry My Awareness of Defeat Like a Banner of Victory, which carried an aggressive streak of punk infused into the gloom, Obsession Destruction twists that aggression into an all-consuming attack on the senses with a noisy edge. Relentless, devastating, and crushing, Obsession Destruction proves once again why Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean are stalwarts of sludge.

-Bridget Hughes

Conjureth - The Parasitic Chambers

Conjureth have been on a tear lately, churning out a couple EPs and now two full-length records over the last three years. They’re all great, but The Parasitic Chambers feels like a significant step forward, likely the San Diego group’s best work yet. This album is way too dense and busy for me to lump in and undersell with an OSDM label, but that old-school spirit shouldn’t be discounted—there’s plenty of Immolation and Morbid Angel influence packed into this bad boy. Still, The Parasitic Chambers feels as fresh and vital as anything released this year, in large part due to the over-the-top performances found within.

Part of me wants to call this “technical” death metal given the relentless pace and ferocity of this record, but there’s little here to do with that specific variety of death metal, honestly. Nonetheless, the performances here are insane. Drummer Frank Saenz is a freak, cramming in cymbal fills where they shouldn’t fit, blasting with disregard for anything, keeping pace and matching wits with some extremely gnarly guitar work, and still finding ways to keep each song distinguished.

The mind-melting is also ushered in by unrefuckinglenting display of talent from guitarists Wayne Sarantopoulos and Ian Mann and bassist Nick Lepisto. There’s next to zero let up on this record (the closer does offer a nice death-doomy reprieve), dudes are just stacking ridiculous riff after ridiculous riff while peeling off into ripping solos, effortlessly. These dudes make it sound just that easy, but there’s so much to keep coming back to time after time as there are so many twists and turns to navigate. It’s intense, no doubt, but memorable enough to get you scratching for that play button as soon as its 40-ish minutes are up.

-Jordan Jerabek

fromjoy - fromjoy

If the world was just, Houston, TX’s metalcore upstarts fromjoy are poised to become one of the greatest new forces in creativity within their spectrum of extreme music. The elevator pitch is simple enough; combine the brutality of beatdown hardcore and the chaotic and experimental energy of mathcore, with prominent electronic elements from atmospheric drum and bass and vaporwave.  If it doesn’t make sense on paper, it makes sense when put on tape, as fromjoy’s self-titled sophomore full-length is a success in this fusion of disparate styles.

The opening track “accela” begins with a frenzy of noisy guitar acrobatics and blastbeats before pummeling through rhythmic mayhem from which ethereal synthesizers and soaring cleans swell; seems to be a perfect introduction to the act as one can expect, and fromjoy only gets wilder from there. On this record, fromjoy juxtaposes a collaboration with slam band PeelingFlesh on “docility” with a djent breakdown over some sampled saxophone-lead muzak on “Helios.”

To beat it all, the genre bending is sincere, with the band clearly levying some emotional stakes on this self titled LP without getting wrapped up in attempting irony. This band is offering a wholly unique experience in the world of metalcore without coming across as disingenuous or pretentious, and they are worthy of all the accolades they’re getting and many more.

-Jimmy Rowe

Jesus Piece - …So Unknown

Sometimes when I’m listening to music I just want my skull caved in my riffs. I want to shut my brain off and listen to a bunch of sounds coming from someone’s vocal chords that sound like it would be just as likely to hear them from a garbage disposal. I want drums that are going to pulverize my bones and a bass that is going to turn my organs into liquid.

Jesus Piece hits all of these qualities perfectly. One of the most interesting bands in modern hardcore, the Philadelphia band has crafted an album full to the brim with tracks that pulse with violence and a vocal performance that feels as though it is absolutely dripping with fury. They could be accused of a lack of subtlety and potentially some compositional variety but to be honest that’s not what I come to hardcore looking for. When I’m listening to hardcore the goal is to turn my brain off and listen to loud music for 30 minutes, and this is exactly what this album accomplishes.

I think special note deserves to be given to vocalist Aaron Heard, who is one of the most technically varied and tonally consistent vocalists I’ve heard in the genre. The man has access to an absolute buffet of vocal techniques and swings between them at will depending on what the song needs. This is one of the most captivating parts of …So Unknown and what originally captured my interest, however I soon realized that the whole band is equally talented, albeit slightly less flashy than Heard’s performance. This is the best hardcore album of the year so far, and unlikely to be toppled from that spot unless something truly exceptional comes along.

-Jonah Robertson


Two of the most celebrated creative forces in underground and experimental hip-hop joined forces this year for their long-teased collaborative LP SCARING THE HOES, and it quickly became the most highly rated album of 2023 on Rate Your Music, and as of this writing, currently holds the top spot. The hype among music nerds is absolutely warranted, and the hoes are adequately spooked; this is a groundbreaking LP in experimental hip-hop that showcases the absolute best from both Danny and Peggy while perhaps offering something substantial to those new to the genre with how genuinely fun and catchy these tracks can be.

While the pen game and vocal delivery of the duo are engaging and often hilarious, the star of the show on SCARING THE HOES is Peggy’s production, which is downright avant garde in its sampling. Whether it be flipping Kelis’ classic “Milkshake” into an EDM blitz on “Fentanyl Tester” or laying a foundation of cacophonous Bossa Nova on “Where Ya Get Ya Coke From?”, the beats and production on this record are wildly inventive and unpredictable. There’s no way that the Michael Jackson sample on “Orange Juice Jones” was cleared, so maybe get at this while you can.


Katatonia - Sky Void of Stars

At this point in their career, Katatonia are legendary. With twelve albums over thirty years, their secret weapon is perhaps – paradoxically – their consistency. As with many bands of their cohort, they’ve undergone stylistic changes from their roots in blackened-tinged death doom on through phases of goth and alt metal onto their current iteration of melancholic prog metal, and along the way, shuffled through a revolving door of musicians to and from the fold, but through it all, they’ve never failed to turn in a great record.

Of course, the previous decade-plus of output has been more stylistically cohesive; since about The Great Cold Distance in 2006, the band have really hit their stride with classics like clockwork every three or four years, with their latest offering Sky Void Of Stars feeling comfortable like an old blanket, but it feels fresh and warm all the same, fresh out the laundry. Katatonia’s blend of prog, goth, and alt metal is intoxicating and subtly whimsical, with grooving riffs, ornate keyboards, and heart-rending vocal hooks hitting as hard as they ever have. Let’s hope our favorite Swedish sad boys never lose the charm, but their record’s looking great thus far.


Khanate - To Be Cruel

As much as I love getting my eardrums annihilated by noise and volume, it’d all be a piss if it wasn’t for their longtime rivals: silence, rest, and peace. Khanate pushes these poles to their extremes on To Be Cruel, and the result is an auditory fantasy for my fellow “I don’t just want heavy music, I want to get fucking CRUSHED” types. With their first release in 14 years, I remembered how heavy (thematically and sonically) they could be, but I had all but forgotten the kind of experience Khanate could deliver. I’m not sure if it’s just been the temporal distance that’s made the heart grow fonder, but To Be Cruel feels like a romance reignited.

It’s absurd to say it, but the 2023 iteration of this band is more abrasive, darker, and heavier than ever. Often that’s the result of being simpler, at times taking minimalism to an excruciating extreme. Cymbals and guitars get engulfed by silence, revealing Alan Dubin’s vile vocals, baring hideous lyrics and unsettling utterances (that ghastly hiss-turned-scream at the 13:20 mark in “Like a Poisoned Dog” gives me goosebumps every time). “It Wants to Fly” and the title track are texturally more complex and busy, but nonetheless visceral.

Drones buzz out as if sapped of energy, leaving space for a solitary, life-affirming and body-quaking drum kick; there’s care and attention devoted to every second which makes it feel like you’re constantly rubbernecking a car crash. Yet, it’s not too calculated. There’s an improvisational feel to it: Dubin lurking about threads of a song structure only to appear at the most opportune moments to jar listeners, eerie chords ring out to amplifier warmth and eventual nothingness, percussion punctuating huge moments and quietly shading in the most desolate points.

Simply put, To Be Cruel is a fascinatingly dark listen loaded with detail, worthy of appreciating at high volume (though, do take care of your ears). Cymbal rubs, bass slides, breaths and more await listeners at the most hushed moments, while the threat of disturbing chaos is on a constant prowl. Khanate crafted a space where both sides of the coin shine brightly, coercing ears to find unsettling depths and ravaging those with the curiosity to pursue or understand them.


King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - PetroDragonic Apocalypse; or Dawn of Eternal Night: An Annihilation of Planet Earth and the Beginning of Merciless Damnation

I say it half in jest, but King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard is the best rock band going right now, even if only because of their versatility. There’s an abundance of artists who can change their own signature style and find success—which is no small feat itself—and even fewer who can make a genre change palatable. And then there’s KG&TLW, who’ve basically made it their thing to bounce from genre to genre as unpredictably as possible, all while maintaining an absurdly prolific output. Staying on trend, PetroDragonic Apocalypse erupts with 50-plus minutes of wonderfully and impeccably revitalized thrash.

While 2018’s Infest the Rats’ Nest turned many in the metal community onto the weirdness that is the Gizz, it’s an unfair comparison to measure it up against the likes of PetroDragonic Apocalypse. It’s like pitting Kill ‘Em All against …And Justice. Where ITRN was raw and scrappy, PDA is refined, calculated, and expansive, regularly surpassing the five-minute mark and even nearing the 10-minute mark a few times. Here, jammy psych, prog, and stoner rock bulk up the Gizz’s thrashy skeleton, confirming not only their technical prowess, but also their absurdly keen songwriting abilities that I assume only come from honing chops on jazz, pop, Krautrock, garage punk, hip-hop, folk, and… well, you get the point! It’s obvious these dudes understand album craft.

It’s not like these dudes are just tossing on some tattered Slayer shirts and white sneakers and hammering out a little homage, either. It'd be a mistake to call this re-thrash. You can hear the flavors of Motörhead, Megadeth, High on Fire, and all the classic metal ilk, but they’re glossed by all the prime King Gizzard-isms: weird bridges, abundant vocal interplay, a love for odd time signatures, unforgettable hooks, and themes about a dying planet—all with a sense of fun kept at the forefront. It all makes PDA stand out not just as a highlight in their own catalog and not just as a great release in 2023, but more completely, a post-80s thrash metal hallmark. Their fresh perspective lends a ridiculous amount of color to a genre that’s in dire, dire fucking need of some modernizing. It just so happens that it took the dudes who wrote Fishing For Fishies to make the next great thrash album. Who would’ve guessed?


Krallice - Porous Resonance Abyss

I wrote about Porous Resonance Abyss at length in our last installment of Kvlt Kolvmn, but as I’ve had even more time to sit with the record I couldn’t help but want to revisit it once again here on the blog. For those of you who may not know my opinion of this record, I’ll be brief: it’s a masterpiece. It’s the culmination of Krallice’s latest sonic branching out that’s been boiling over mainly during their, for lack of a better phrase, COVID period, and it stands not only as one of the best records of the year, but one of the band’s best ever. It’s legendary. So go listen to it if you haven’t.

But for this mid-year review of the record I’d like to spend a couple paragraphs discussing a core tenet of why this record works so well. Mainly, that it feels like the apex of a multi-year, multi-record evolution in the band’s sound and is one of the best examples in recent memory of a band expanding their style with almost uniformly successful results. It’s actually fairly rare that a band develops its style so obviously and deliberately with this much craft and overall success, and I think there’s a distinct reason for that: Krallice took their fans along this journey with them.

There’s a lot of caterwauling in the metal community regarding bands changing their style out of nowhere. Look at the reactions to Blood Incantation’s one-off wonder Timewave Zero as a recent example. Now, I’m not saying that complaints against bands performing a full, whiplash-inducing stylistic u-turn are unfounded. To the contrary, actually (with caveats). As listeners, we are by necessity separated from an artist’s creative process, development, and evolution mainly because we’re, uh… not them. We’re not there for the endless hours of songwriting and rehearsal, sleepless nights listening to new music and being creatively inspired by the world around them. That’s an insular journey, and often the rapid development of taste and performative preference in artists we love translates to recordings that make us scratch our heads and say “where in the fuck did this come from?” As fans, it often sucks when our favorite bands develop in directions completely contrary to what made us love them in the first place. But I think this gap between the music we love and a band’s creative evolution often takes place over one album, which understandably feels confusing and often elicits immediately negative or pretentious reactions in listeners. In contrast, with Krallice we’ve seen this evolutionary process slowly develop over several records. Which is why, in my mind, their growth has been so successful with fans.

Starting with Demonic Wealth back in 2021, and evolving through Crystalline Exhaustion and Psychagogue last year, Krallice have been slowly and deliberately incorporating synth-heavy stylings and even more progressive soundscapes into their black metal with obvious intention. None of what we hear in Porous Resonance Abyss feels like a wild surprise because the band have let their creative process expand publicly, bringing their fans along with them with incremental yet powerful changes being incorporated into each new record, culminating in one of their best and most stylistically divergent records to date. It’s the opposite of style whiplash, inviting fans instead to peek under the hood as the band tinkers and explores in ways that feel natural and genuinely progressive. It’s one of the most consistently successful style developments in recent memory, and I’m so grateful for it.

Metal bands take note: There’s value in letting your style develop publicly over several records, and bringing your listeners along that journey with you. Krallice is proof that the results can be spectacular, and their entire discography has benefited from their approach. More of this, please.


Lunar Chamber - Shambhallic Vibrations

There has been a flurry of exceptional progressive death metal albums this year from the likes of Anachronism, VoidCeremony, and Sarmat among several others. Each band’s approach captures slightly different visions of what “progressive” means in their own musical contexts, whether by employing tangled, labyrinthine-like song structures or by integrating the unpredictability of improvised jazz.

However, Lunar Chamber, who coincidentally share a member with VoidCeremony’s live lineup, has taken yet another approach by building upon the ethereal atmospherics pioneered by bands like Cynic and Fallujah, and developing a loose concept story “about a journey east in search of enlightenment that contains elements of Buddhism, Hinduism, and spirituality/esotericism in general”, according to the band. With those reference points, one might expect the album to be purely in the clouds, a light and fluffy affair attempting to lift the listener to spiritual transcendence.

However, even with heavenly synth swells, acoustic guitar plucks, and fluid fretless bass slides, there is no denying the stark contrast offered by the angular, sometimes dissonant guitar work as well as the near-relentless pummeling of the drums. As soon as those aforementioned celestial elements fade out in “Interlude (Ancient Sage)”, the beginning of “The Bodhi Tree” rips you away from enlightenment and back to the tumult of earth-bound attachments with a complex cacophony that would make Demilich blush. Whereas “The Bodhi Tree” captures the band at their most vicious, it’s the slow-paced album closer “III. Crystalline Blessed Light Flows...From Violet Mountains Into Lunar Chambers” that gives space for reflection and seamlessly blends these conflicting visions.

And that’s precisely what Shambhallic Rituals feels like: an observer to the inner human conflict between the material and immaterial worlds and our constant striving toward the latter. Whether intentional or not, simply no other band this year has captured that uniquely human struggle better than Lunar Chamber.


Model/Actriz - Dogsbody

Dogsbody is a fascinating whirlwind of post-punk and industrial influences that come together to create a pulsing, intense and uncomfortable listen that feels equally like you could hear it at a club or in a horror film. The implementation of the varied influences, feeling equal parts Nine Inch Nails and The Cure, combines with the clear instrumental prowess of the band to create by far one of the most interesting albums of the year.

Early album highlight "Crossing Guard" providing an exceptional example of this, as it's pulsing drum and bass combination, along with synths that would feel right at home in a John Carpenter film, provides a rhythmic and steady build throughout the track, creating a consistent feeling of rising energy and unease until it finally explodes at the very end, beautifully transitioning into the follow track, which this album does marvelously. The vocal performance throughout Dogsbody is at times monotone, but not uninteresting, and at times manic and frenzied in a way that is just absolutely fascinating.

This is a wonderful album in a genre that I'm admittedly not that fond of, and I'd love to see more of this in the future. The combination of sounds and the carefully crafted composition of each track come together to make something truly special, and I think fans of industrial music, post-punk, or anything in between should absolutely give Dogsbody a listen.

-Jonah Robertson

Nightmarer - Deformity Adrift

Signed to blog-favorite label Total Dissonance Worship and producing an eerie, punishing breed of dissonant death metal, it’s no surprise that Nightmarer has made routine appearances on Heavy Blog. Their cacophonous take on dissonant death metal is equal parts harsh and atmospheric, incorporating influences that range from Ulcerate to Plebeian Grandstand.

Their 2023 release, Deformity Adrift, is their most expansive and ambitious work to date. The signature sound of Nightmarer has always been a heady mix of aggressive vocals and bludgeoning drums juxtaposed against swirling, reverb-heavy guitars, but Nightmarer has taken the next step in their evolution with a heavier atmosphere steeped in industrial harshness.  

The album stands as comfortably next to death metal as it does next to industrial metal, doom, and even noise as it pulls the listener deeper into Nightermarer’s distinctive fever dream of sound. Unlike most dissonant death metal, Nightmarer doesn’t rely on the sharp edges of technicality to overwhelm listeners with intensity. Instead, Deformity Adrift drowns the ear in a punishing descent into the depths, slowly crushing the spirit under the weight of Nightmarer’s dissonance.


Oromet - Oromet

There must be something in the water in Sacramento. Every month or so, a new band seems to rise from the California capital fully formed and ready to rage. Already home to fantastic artists like Chrome Ghost, CHRCH, Battle Hag, and more, Sacramento has a doom scene that seemingly can’t miss. Featuring members of stoner doom tribe Battle Hag, sludge gloomers Occlith, and haunting dark ambient group Pastoral, Oromet launched themselves to the forefront of the funeral doom world with their devastating self-titled debut last month.

Oromet delivers a monumentally orchestrated album that defies expectations for a debut release. Inspired by Tolkien (Oromet was a hill near Andúnië and the western shores of Númenor in The Silmarillion), Oromet is a beautiful and sweeping concept album that explores the legendary landscape with soaring funeral doom that distills into delicate, haunting atmospheric ambience. An unusually emotional and evocative strain of metal, funeral doom is the perfect medium for celebrating the crashing waves along the shore and adventuring to the coldest, most inhospitable mountaintops.

Glimpses of Pastoral, Battle Hag, and Occlith all abound as Oromet ventures from the depths of doom to the triumphant orchestral sweeps, delivering a powerful journey that puts them in the race for AOTY. Elegantly constructed and powerfully delivered, Oromet is an experience unto itself.


Sarmat - Determined to Strike

As Noyan once told me, there’s progressive death metal that sounds like jazzheads making death metal and there’s progressive death metal that sounds like death metal fanatics who also like jazz making an album and Determined to Strike is definitely in the latter category. The unbridled aggression and full frontal assault approach to production dominates this release, dotted and broken up by trumpets, pianos, and saxophones on one side and winding, impossible to fully decipher sweeps and odd time signatures.

All of these elements connect into Sarmat, a blistering group that feels right at home in the I, Voidhanger catalog, challenging what we know and expect from their genres while, critically, holding on to everything that makes them great. Determined to Strike is, like almost all of the albums I’ve covered for this list, not an easy listen but an incredibly rewarding one, chock full of some of the best experimental and forward-thinking metal of 2023.


Spotlights - Alchemy for the Dead

A friend of mine has been trying to get me into Spotlights for the better part of five years. He showed me Seismic when we first met, and while I enjoyed some of the components of the sound it didn’t fully capture me. The same happened with Love & Decay when it released in 2019. All the components of music I loved were there, but something was missing. Thus I came into Alchemy for the Dead without much optimism, and was wonderfully surprised. The addition of some more grunge-influenced elements and an increased sense of melancholy brought exactly what I needed from the band to make it finally click for me.

The mixture of fuzzy and textural guitars, pulsing drumming, thunderous bass, and over it all a combined vocal performance that is equal parts soothing and haunting make for an album that I can always return back to. When you might think it’s going to overstay it’s welcome in the soothing and softer moments it suddenly explodes at you with massive riffs and thunderous drumming, and when you think it might be spending too much time with the heaviness it suddenly plunges back down into gentle melodicism, never giving too much of one component and always keeping you wanting more. This is a beautifully crafted album made by clearly talented musicians who I finally am excited to hear more from.

-Jonah Robertson

Teeth - A Biblical Worship of Violence

There is a quote repeated ad nauseam on social media, often apocryphally attributed to singer-songwriter Keith Sweat, that reads “Before something great happens, everything falls apart.” There seems to be no better summation of the product and context of Teeth’s debut release, A Biblical Worship of Violence. A band statement describes the release as “a snapshot of a moment in time where we were all going through dark shifts in our personal lives that forced us to see life through a lens of true pain and discomfort.” Upon first listening, it’s easy to see how the personal circumstances of the band members led to such a nihilistic first release from this Canadian quartet.

While catharsis is an oft-cited driver of bands writing extreme music, Teeth sound like every ounce of energy was put into this crushing collection of life-cleaving anthems. The band’s urgent channeling of visceral energy, through an expert melding of grindcore blasts, punk urgency, and metalcore breakdowns, is readily apparent throughout all of A Biblical Worship of Violence. Opener “We Eat Our Young”, for instance, immediately consumes the listener in disarray as the rhythms quickly progress through cycles of relentless blasts, punk gallops, and slamming breakdowns, eventually arriving at a tension-filled buildup with chromatically-ascending intervals before releasing into a near-euphoric ending - an ending that is arguably the only breath that the band allows the listener to take throughout the EP’s five tracks.

The contempt evident in the voice of Blake Louis Prince, along with the clarity of his rasp, makes the circumstances around the album that much more tangible. Whether it’s the “we are not the same” callout in Drip” or the “my back is against the wall” declaration in “EyesHornsMouth”, Prince’s vocals are the centerpiece in a portrait of hopelessness that is palpable throughout the entire 15-minute running time of the release.

Every track on the EP stands on its own as a declaration of disdain toward a modern life as part of a larger work steeped in “pain and discomfort”. Do yourself a favor and baptize yourself in the violence of A Biblical Worship of Violence. What else do you have to lose?


Telos - Delude

One of the coolest and least explored fusions of extreme music right now is that of black metal and mathcore. The two are seemingly at odds with one another, born out of vastly different scenes, with drastically different aesthetics and ethos. Yet, those with the artistic merit who have dared to bring the two together such as Noise Trail Immersion, Serpent Column and Telos have all exceeded with flying colours at creating some of the most exciting new music in the metal and hardcore scene, and Delude is a prime example of that.

Telos come from the growing Danish extended-universe of heavy music, either sharing members with or having one degree of separation from the likes of Hexis, EYES, and LLNN. If you've heard of those bands you'll have some idea of what you're getting from Telos on their debut full length: gritty, sludgy, bleak atmospheric chaos that will leave you disoriented and unsettled like a traumatic psychological thriller. And just like a film, a key to delivering the effective tension on this album is its strong sense of flow and pacing. Relentless blast beats are given room to breath with stop start chugs and clever and dizzying laser-gun riffs. That unpredictability keeps things moving and from ever growing stale, while maintaining their filthy heaviness and generally vile disposition that rivals the likes of Portrayal of Guilt.

The production here also deserves praise. The low-end especially is massive, as the bass is layered perfectly with the guitar and percussion to deliver a punishingly heavy and nasty tone that fits both their black metal and hardcore elements. A standout is the album closer “Throne” that incorporates more soaring post-black riffage, accented by polyrhythms where the percussion really punches through nicely. And of course the vocals match the sinister nature of this release with some vicious blackened snarls, occasionally fluctuating to more Jacob Bannon-isms that work with that metalcore edge. Delude is peak Rotten to the Core and one of the most wicked things you’ll hear this year.

-Trent Bos

Ulthar - Anthronomicon/Helionomicon

The tagline of this site might be “documenting the golden age of underground music,” but lately, it’s been feeling like documenting the golden age of dissonance. The wave of extreme, experimental takes on the subgenre has only continued to grow over the past few years, producing heavy-hitters that dominate lists just like this one. Since releasing their first demo in 2016, blackened death metal monstrosity Ulthar has carved a distinctive sound in dissonant death metal that was pushed even further with the double release of Anthronomicon and Helionomicon in February.

Anthronomicon is the more “traditional” of the two, comprising eight tracks ranging from four to seven minutes. Helionomicon, on the other hand, is just two sprawling, cavernous songs spanning approximately 20 minutes each. In true Ulthar fashion, the Helionomicon tracks contain zero ambient or electronic passages. Quite literally all killer, no filler.
Brilliant musicianship and technical songwriting is a given with Ulthar, of course, but the albums are even better in the context of Ulthar’s ability to thrive within the context of dissonant death metal while also completely shunning its conventions. Their chaotic-yet-detailed approach to technical death metal incorporates styles from black metal, progressive metal, and even krautrock in ways that highlight the best qualities of all styles. But it’s the inspiration and ethos of the band that unites these elements in a fascinating way.

Named after a town in the Mythos of Cthulhu, Ulthar embeds horror into every aspect of their music, building an entire universe in their albums in true cosmic horror fashion. The complexity and off-kilter pacing feel just as much like a horror movie as they do an album. In the title track of Helionomicon, Ulthar takes the listener through the emotional journey of a full horror movie. Opening with a few bars of ambience, we’re thrown into a dramatic chase with high-octane guitars cut by Steve Peacock and Shelby Lermo’s echoing growls. It’s hard to catch the lyrics, but chaos reigns in his fierce performance. A hint of skronky guitar evokes panic as the tempo picks up.

The hunt is on, the killer is loose. Something has gone very, very wrong. The octave drops as the mystery deepens and our main character spirals in terror, only to return to their frantic quest for escape. A chugging bass breaks through, perhaps an attempt to fight back? Slower, more ominous passages pull the listener into a moment of realization as Peacock and Lermo’s howls elongate. Cavernous guitars take a backseat to a heart-pounding drumbeat as our hero and our killer race towards their final confrontation, broken by sudden stillness and lilting, almost jazz-like, guitars. One moment of peace before our bloody resolution. Illustrated by a breakneck tempo and buzzsaw guitars, our journey reaches its violent, dramatic destination. Ambient synths echo as the victor surveys the carnage and escapes into the night.

Anthronomicon and Helionomicon showcase the twisted DNA of Ulthar in the best way possible, infusing crushing death metal and intricate technical execution with the off-kilter spirit of krautrock, the ferocity of grindcore, and darkness of black metal. It’s excellent dissonant death metal, but more importantly, it’s the new frontier of Ulthar.


Victory Over the Sun - Dance You Monster To My Soft Song!

Dance You Monster To My Soft Song! is easily one of 2023’s most complex and dense albums. Filled to the brim with progressive black metal goodness which swims between caustic heaviness, delicate intimacy, and intriguing musicianship with the ease of a shark, it’s an album which contains multitudes. Which is why “Black Heralds”, the track which closes, is probably underheard and underrated, if I had to guess. But the more I listen to this album, and I listen to it a lot, the more I gravitate towards the off-kilter aggression of it.

There’s something about the track which ties the album deeply to the previous Victory Over the Sun releases; I wouldn’t say it’s microtonal but it’s definitely non-traditional, with a structure that feels drunken and collapsing. It also highlights just how many tricks, approaches, and themes Victory Over the Sun has up her sleeve and how far and wide this release can go. And for these intricate extremities, so powerfully channeled into “Black Herald”’s oppressive chaos and its mournful instruments, it is one of this year’s most impactful and effective albums, in its first half and probably beyond that.


Voidceremony - Threads of Unknowing

Being a death metal kid at heart, bands like VoidCeremony bring me a type of joy and fascination that’s hard to express in writing. The level of creativity, historical knowledge and respect for their forebears, and general competence this band has displayed in each of their first two full-length releases has been nothing short of inspiring, which makes my expression of opinion on their sophomore record kind of redundant now. Yeah, it’s fantastic, and a continuation and expansion of everything that made their debut excellent. Threads of Unknowing feels somehow even more distinct, more progressive, and more cohesive than their first record, and on this trajectory it’s hard to imagine what the band are capable of pulling off next. Either way, I’m here for it.

Those already firmly under VoidCeremony’s spell will find plenty to love right out the gate with the album’s title track and follow-up “Writhing in the Facade of Time”, which encapsulate the album’s general sound as well as put the band’s musical talent on full display. The guitar work in particular here is spectacular, with riffs and solos bouncing off one another with a flow so smooth that it sometimes feels difficult to pull out specific moments and transitions. This is where the band’s songwriting comes in.

While I thought Entropic was a generally well-written piece, there were certainly some moments that felt disconnected from the album’s general musical tone. Those divergences feel far less common here, with the album as a whole feeling both deeply cohesive and uniformly compelling. If this is the trajectory the band will maintain as far as songwriting quality goes, there will be a few death prog classics in their future.  

If you enjoy progressive death metal at all, I’d strongly recommend you give Threads of Unknowing a proper playthrough. It’s an excellent record that solidifies VoidCeremony as one of the premiere new voices in this sonic space. A fantastic collection of tracks from start to finish.


Wanderer - Indulgence of the Unreal

Minnesota’s Wanderer hilariously describes their own particular intersection of extreme music as “remedial mathcore/metallic false grind/brutal hardcore”, but that is doing a massive disservice to the band’s honed amalgamation of sludgy hardcore and grindcore. Indulgence of the Unreal find the band further extending their sound in a variety of ways. During the middle of opener “Pure Human Despair”, there is an ominous guitar lead, perhaps intentionally made to sound more like a synth, that recalls barren post-industrial landscapes, not unlike the imagery often conjured by Meshuggah with similar sounds. “Slow Death of the Crowned Head” and “Vivisection of Consciousness” both include different types of clean singing and to different degrees. But don’t think the band has turned mallcore quite yet.

The clean singing in the former is relegated to something akin to background chanting whereas the latter has approximately 15 seconds of throat singing at the end after all of the other instruments have dropped out. These are all relatively insignificant pieces of the larger puzzle, but they deserve attention if only to illustrate that the band is unafraid of experimenting and pushing their sound forward.

On Indulgence of the Unreal, that sound continues to be just as, if not more, inexorably nihilistic as their previous releases. During EP’s short running time that just cracks the 13-minute mark, the band further explores the depths of human despair by seemingly peeling back the layers of existential discontent. Primary contributors to this sound lie within Dan Lee’s vocals, which sound clearer and higher in the mix than they did on the band’s excellent 2021’s LP Liberation from a Brutalist Existence. Lee’s painful scream as well as his throaty growl have a clarity that give voice to the cry for help that we all feel when faced with existential malaise.

Wanderer continue to plumb the depths of human anguish and despair in ever darker turns toward meaningless on Indulgence of the Unreal, and it’s all we can do to plumb with them.


Ὁπλίτης [Hoplites] - Ψευδομένη

There are two bands that spring to mind when I think of “immediate hype” in the metal sphere. One is Blackbraid, the other is Hoplites. To be honest one of these makes at least some form of sense. North American black metal wearing its Native American influences and style on its sleeve and producing a few excellent projects right from the jump. Then there’s Hoplites, a one-man act hailing from China and playing black metal inspired by Greek culture and mythology. I mean… not on my bingo card for 2023’s dissonant blackened death metal hype machine of the year. But here we are, three records in and barely a year deep into a career that already seems destined for world domination. We could place either of the project’s 2023 releases in this spot, but there’s something particularly destructive and special about this one. It’s an absolute banger.

If you’re unfamiliar with Hoplites, imagine Cryptopsy and Serpent Column breeding a hellspawn that takes everything these groups did well and somehow makes it more sinister and clear. That’s what you’re getting here, and the relentlessness of the music is at times thoroughly dumbfounding. But there’s a great deal of artistry and songwriting prowess contained here, with tracks developing deliberately as the record progresses between utterly merciless and militant death metal beat downs and more woozy, progressive-leaning passages that somehow exist as brief sonic relief while providing almost no comfort. This is a discomfiting record through and through, creating a thematic throughline that makes the entire affair feel utterly cohesive regardless of its emphasis at any given moment. It’s a shockingly concise and thoroughly transfixing masterclass in extremity that almost no one has been able to match in 2023.

If you, like me, miss Serpent Column with your whole heart, meet the project’s natural evolution. Hoplites is an entity that takes an already chaotic sound and maximizes its potential through incredible songwriting and performance. You won’t go wrong giving either of his 2023 releases a shake, but I strongly suggest you start here. It’s a violent, fantastic journey that I cannot get enough of.


Eden Kupermintz

Published a year ago