Another year, another list of records that caught my ear. Most new releases I heard were death metal, which shouldn’t be a huge surprise. There were a couple big sophomores that hit this year after several years of waiting, and these ones truly delivered. In addition to my top ten, I’ve included an honorable mentions list, and the ones that I was able to write about most enthusiastically made the top ten (how’s that for methodology?). The usual list of releases that aren’t full lengths is also included, and since I bought a ton of reissues this year, I included a list of those. Enough banter, here are the ten records I enjoyed the most this year.
Ascended Dead – Evenfall of the Apocalypse
When it comes to absolutely ripping fast death metal, this Californian group have certainly been one of the most furious of the bunch. Their 2017 debut was like the fastest parts of early Morbid Angel combined with the evil atmosphere of Necrovore. They continue to blast everything to death with their follow up album, which absolutely lives up to expectations. Although this album is fast, it is not without dynamics, especially when it comes to the fluidity of the dual guitar work. They even go as far as to include some flamenco guitars in parts that work surprisingly well.
Autopsy – Ashes, Organs, Blood and Crypts
Hot off the heels of last year’s “Morbidity Triumphant,” Autopsy strikes again with another full length. This is their tenth album, and Autopsy sounds as fresh as they ever have. New bassist Greg Wilkinson seems to have more input on this album, as he wrote a few more songs this time around, and put his skills as an audio engineer to use on this album too. The result sounds like classic Autopsy, and that’s all anyone could really ask from a band that’s been around as long as these guys have.
Cruciamentum – Obsidian Refractions
I’ve been a fan of Cruciamentum since a friend hooked me up with a copy of their demo many years back. Their debut LP from 2015 was a stellar display of cavernous (but well produced) death metal, so the anticipation for a follow up album has been high. With main man DL moving to the US, the band’s sophomore has finally been unleashed, and it lives up to expectations. In addition to their ripping brand of tremolo heavy riffs, there’s some gloomy parts throughout that really add to the overall experience. All things considered, “Obsidian Refractions” is the album of the year.
Death Knell – Taste the Bitter End of a Once Brilliant Dream
Back in 2019, I went down to Calgary to record a new band that some friends started called Death Knell. I ended up coming down again at the onset of the pandemic the next year to do another EP for the band. Death Knell decided to go to a proper studio for their full length, and the result is fantastic. Combining elements of crossover thrash and crust punk, this 8 track LP will rip you apart in a mere 20 minutes. There are two re-recorded tracks from the second EP on here, and they sound as powerful as ever. Honestly, this is one of my favourite bands in Calgary right now, which is no surprise given how strong this debut LP is!
Disimperium – Grand Insurgence Upon Despotic Altars
I first got to hear Disimpirium while I was touring with my own band this summer, and they opened the show we played in Portland. I was absolutely blown away by their approach to war metal, doing so with blistering speed and whirlwind riffs. Their live show was enough reason to check this album out, and it is pulverizing as I was hoping. Guitarist/vocalist JR also plays in the aforementioned Ascended Dead, who are similarly lethal in their blitzkrieg approaches to their given styles. As someone who doesn’t really bother checking out too much war metal these days, these guys are certainly a cut above.
Excarnated Entity – Mass Grave Horizons
The Pacific Northwest region of the US has produced some incredible death/doom bands in recent years, and Excarnated Entity is another one that’s had my full attention since the release of their demo in 2019. After relocating to Portland from Seattle and retooling their lineup, the band finally dropped their debut full length. There seems to be a healthy influence from early Peaceville bands like Paradise Lost, minus the goth sounding parts. Much of the artwork and presentation of this album looks very similar to the demo, foreshadowing the fact that the music is very much a continuation as well. There’s a healthy amount of dynamics between the pure death metal parts and the slower doom sections that work together seamlessly.
Godflesh – Purge
I don’t have to express how much I love Godflesh, or how they are the absolute legends of industrial metal. Fans have had to wait 6 years since their last album, and “Purge” delivers on all fronts. JK Broadrick stated that this album saw them come back to some of the sounds they were going for on 1992’s “Pure,” and although that is certainly true, it also has some similar production and sounds from the last album, “Post Self.” These old influences work really well with their more refined modern sound, and tracks like “Land Lord” are among some of the most banging Godflesh songs in their vast discography.
Trenchraid – War Mentality
Nestled away in the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia, Trenchraid’s debut must’ve been quite the disruption for the rural coastal town. Featuring members of some beloved Vancouver punk bands, they’ve provided a dozen rocking d-beat tunes in the span of a mere 22 minutes. With anthem like choruses scattered throughout, each song manages to present a hook while still presenting an overall bleak message. Calling back to some of the earliest Discharge songs, they’re not afraid to have a bit more of a rock swagger at times, which really helps add some variety. When they hit the d-beats, they hit hard, and it’s hard not to get these stuck in your head.
Vastum – Inward to Gethsemane
Oakland’s Vastum is back again, with 2023 marking the release of their fifth album. I’ve been a fan of these mid-paced death metaller’s brand of brutality since their debut in 2011, and their albums generally have all maintained a very similar vibe. Their albums all contain six songs at about six minutes a piece, with each song going through a game of catch and release with slower sections and faster parts contrasting. The low, eerie clean vocals are there, and some real dreary atmospheres are conveyed alongside these vocals. I was a little disappointed with their previous offering, but this one caught my ear almost immediately, with giant hooks in some of the groovier riffs.
VoidCeremonty – Threads of Unknowing
Every now and then, some really technical death metal band manages to grab my attention, and it’s usually because they’re rooted in the early 90’s style that I still have a soft spot for. VoidCeremony has been one of those recent bands for me, taking the jazz fusion approach, and doing so with quite the line up of musicians. With members in bands like Ascended Dead, Chthe’ilist, and StarGazer, there’s no shortage of chops. Everything is on full display, and it works so well with the jazz fusion approach to death metal. The bass playing stands out, the lead guitar has impeccable tone, the drums are playful and precise all at once. I liked their debut album, and I think VoidCeremony has outdone themselves with this one.
Ceremonial Bloodbath – Genesis of Malignant Entropy [Sentient Ruin]
Fossilization – Leprous Daylight [Everlasting Spew]
Home Front – Games of Power [La Vida Es Un Mus]
Incantation – Unholy Deification [Relapse Records]
Phobocosm – Foreordained [Dark Descent Records]
Rotten Sound – Apocalypse [Season of Mist]
Seraphic Entombment – Sickness Particles Gleam [Everlasting Spew]
Static Abyss – Aborted from Reality [Peaceville Records]
Warkrusher – Armistice [Agipunk]
Archagathus/Cystoblastosis split 7″
Archagathus/Hacked Apart split 7″
Archagathus/Pulmonary Fibrosis – Grinders of Darkness
Blood Incantation – Luminescent Bridge
Extremely Brutal – Remaining Afterlife
Thanamagus – Lie in Wait
Spectral Voice/Undergang split LP
Finally, I wanted to take the opportunity to list some reissues of classic albums I picked up this year. Not only are these albums I love, but in many cases, they weren’t available for some time without shelling out big money on Discogs. Huge credit to these labels who put the time into ensuring these records can be obtained by fans for a reasonable price. Again, these are records I actually picked up the physical copies of that were reissued in 2023.
Ahna – Crimson Dawn [Phobia Records/Anomie Records]
Beherit – Drawing Down the Moon [Nuclear War Now! Productions]
The Chameleons – Script of the Bridge [Blue Apple Music]
Consume – s/t [Insane Society Records]
Disfear – Everyday Slaughter [Havoc Records/La Familia Releases]
Dismember – Like an Ever Flowing Stream [Nuclear Blast Records]
Dead Congregation – Grave of the Archangels [Martyrdoom Productions]
Dystopia – s/t [Tankcrimes]
Exhumed – Gore Metal [Relapse Records]
Exhumed – Death Revenge [Relapse Records]
Godflesh – Us & Them [Earache Records]
Grave – Into the Grave [Osmose Productions]
Napalm Death – Death by Manipulation [Earache Records]
Napalm Death – Diatribes [Earache Records]
Merciless – The Awakening [Osmose Productions]
Morpheus Descends – Ritual of Infinity [The Crypt/Dark Descent Records]
Pestilence – Consuming Impulse [Agonia Records]
Pestilence – Testimony of the Ancients [Agonia Records]
Root – Hell Symphony [I Hate Records]
Sepultura – Morbid Visions/Bestial Devastation [Cavalera Brothers are Wiggers Records – unofficial]
Sinister – Cross the Styx [Cosmic Key Creations]
Sinister – Diabolical Summoning [Cosmic Key Creations]
Skitsystem – Enkel Resa Till Rännstenen [Havoc Records]
State of Fear – Complete Discography Volume I [Sonorize Records]
State of Fear – Complete Discography Volume II [Sonorize Records]
Suffocation – Souls to Deny [Relapse Records]