Don’t look now, but half of the year has already passed us by. Don’t know how or when that happened, but here we are. Thankfully, 2023’s given us a metric assload of killer tunes from a variety of bands representing a huge range of genres. And while we’ve still got six more months to go before we pull the plug on this trip around the sun, now’s a good time to evaluate what we’ve heard so far and what stands out above the rest.
So as we take a look at the year that was… so far.. we reached out to our various contributors to see what’s been in heavy rotation. Will these stick around as our end of the year picks? Only time will tell…
Bandit, Siege of Self
On their first full-length album, East Coast trio Bandit expand their horizons, mixing in elements of death metal and metallic hardcore into their sound. If “Pig Destroyer with more breakdowns and mastered by Colin Marston” sounds appealing, Siege of Self is the record for you.
Immortal, War Against All
With a refined production process and improvements to both vocals and songwriting, Immortal returns with a record that more aptly reflects the talents of Demonaz. While Demonaz’s earlier attempts weren’t bad, “War Against All” truly sounds like an Immortal record.
Vengeful Spectre, Vengeful Spectre II 殞煞 二
If you have been following the Chinese black metal scene during the past few years, Vengeful Spectre’s self-titled debut album from 2020 was likely in your rotation, and quite possibly made your own best-of list. The Shantou, Guangdong – based band, featuring Frozen Moon vocalist Fan Bo, represent an era of seamlessly blending traditional Chinese folk elements (with instruments like the pipa and suona) with harsh, though crystal-clear-produced black metal.
Their second record (the second part of a trilogy) keeps the musical elements from the first, while also including artwork by the soon-to-be-legendary Guang Yang, who sets the mood before even pressing the play button. Tracks like “鏖戰 Storming Insurrection of War” offer innovation present in modern-day Chinese black metal, which could become a trend in the scene if the rest of the world were to tune in. If that risks tainting the sound, though, maybe bands like Vengeful Spectre should stay rather obscure.
Venomous Concept, The Good Ship Lollipop
Change is afoot in all corners of this release…the biggest step has the band making the move from candy corn blasts of grind to a more canorous and resonant, post-punk, hardcore/punk rawk outfit that now has a flawless album in its back pocket…there are 13 tracks in total here and not a single bit of filler on any of ‘em…The Good Ship Lollipop may be a drastic about-face away from expectation based on the past, but the way its sweeping agglomeration of elements have been lassoed and genuinely presented stands as a brilliant redefinition of the many shades of punk rock and its family tree.
Dødheimsgard, Black Medium Current
Dødheimsgard’s Black Medium Current is a masterpiece that puts other masterpieces to shame. This is a work of profundity, radical innovation, sophistication, and utter genius. I was delighted that Vicotnik, DHG’s co-founder and driving force, handled vocals himself on this album. In my humble opinion, Vicotnik’s artistry is simply unmatched in black metal. The self-proclaimed “Supervillain Outcast” conquers every time.
Creeping Death, Boundless Domain
Releasing just in time to get in during the first half of the year, Creeping Death did not disappoint with their latest album, Boundless Domain. While many old-school death metal bands fall into a rut after a few records, these guys prove they can keep up the stamina and avoid falling into familiar patterns. They nail the sound of a more mature, well-rounded death metal band on this record.
Petar Spajic (The MetalSucks Podcast Host)
Sermon, Of Golden Verse
As I get older every year I tell myself “This is the year I’m finally going to understand Opeth’s post Watershed era.” Although that has not happened yet this new Sermon album makes me feel I’m getting closer because I can’t stop listening to it, and every song captures my focus, and that for a new album is a grand achievement.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, PetroDragonic Apocalypse
Whenever a new King Giz album (or three) come out, it’s always an exciting moment. So when I learned these Australian chameleons of sound were returning to their take on thrash metal, I gotta admit I was stoked.
The last time they took on thrash for Infest the Rats’ Nest, it was a hell of a time and PetroDragonic Apocalypse; or, Dawn of Eternal Night: An Annihilation of Planet Earth and the Beginning of Merciless Damnation is another banger in that style. While the singles “Gila Monster” and “Dragon” were great, it wasn’t until I listened to the entire entry that I was able to appreciate its tale of humanity’s mistreatment of the planet, but there’s dragons and witches and shit because of course there is. It’s a hell of a wild ride that you’ll want to take over and over.