The best heavy metal albums of 2023 are tabulated as the year comes to a close
As we stand on the cusp of bidding farewell to 2023, it’s undeniable that this year has been a seismic shift in the landscape of heavy metal. It has been a time of paradoxical juxtapositions, where genre-busting mavericks have shared the stage with unyielding traditionalists, collectively shaping a musical narrative that challenges preconceived notions of what heavy metal music can be.
In a scene that is constantly evolving, this year witnessed the emergence of albums that dared to defy the conventional boundaries of heavy music. These genre-bending iconoclasts pushed the envelope, beckoning listeners to reconsider their understanding of the very essence of heaviness. Yet, in the midst of this avant-garde wave, 2023 also saw the resurgence of true-blue traditionalists, each carving their niche within the thrashing realms of thrash metal, the visceral intensity of hardcore, the brutal depths of death metal, and the dynamic fusion of metalcore.
METALLICA, the heavy metal titans, returned with a sonic proclamation that echoed through the metal world, reminding us of their indomitable influence. Bands like OBITUARY and DYING FETUS unleashed a death metal onslaught, reaffirming their mastery over the macabre, while acts such as IN THIS MOMENT and SPIRITBOX breathed new life into metalcore, injecting it with a potent dose of ferocity.
The diversity within heavy music’s identity in 2023 has been nothing short of revolutionary. It is a melting pot where sonic experimentations coalesce with time-honored sounds, creating an alloy that defines the very essence of this headbanging era. The scene has become a canvas, painted with the brushstrokes of innovation, tradition, and the relentless pursuit of sonic excellence.
As we delve into the realm of heavy metal in 2023, the pulse of the year’s music beats fervently. In this extensive list, we bring you the 13 best albums and EPs, carefully curated to encapsulate the essence of a year that will undoubtedly be etched in the annals of headbanging history. From the iconic names that have forged the genre’s path to the emerging talents pushing the boundaries of what metal can achieve, this compilation serves as both a comprehensive guide and an end-of-year primer for the colossal sonic offerings that have graced our ears.
Let’s now embark on a sonic pilgrimage as we unveil the best heavy metal albums of 2023. Each note, each riff, and each guttural growl encapsulates the spirit of a year that has redefined the boundaries of heavy music.
13 – CATTLE DECAPITATION – “Terrasite”
In the relentless world of grindcore, CATTLE DECAPITATION stands as a titan, and their eighth studio album, “Terrasite,” solidifies their position as innovators within the genre. Released in 2023, this album demonstrates the band’s unwavering commitment to pushing the boundaries of extreme music. CATTLE DECAPITATION has never been one to shy away from visceral brutality, and “Terrasite” is no exception; however, what sets it apart is the seamless integration of progressive elements and surprisingly melodic sensibilities.
As the grindcore veterans navigate through this pulverizing, sonic journey, the band exhibits a penchant for unearthing unique ways to deliver chaotic brutality. The twists and turns of prog find a new home within the relentless onslaught, creating an auditory experience that transcends the traditional confines of the genre. “Terrasite” doesn’t merely aim to pummel listeners with sheer aggression; it elevates the sonic landscape by infusing atmosphere and intelligence into the smashing brutality.
The inclusion of “Terrasite” in the roster of the best heavy metal albums of 2023 is a testament to CATTLE DECAPITATION‘s ability to evolve without losing the ferocity that defines their sound. In a genre known for its unyielding aggression, the band manages to deliver an album that not only meets but exceeds expectations. “Terrasite” showcases the collective’s mastery in creating a sonic maelstrom that captivates with its brutality and surprises with its depth, earning it a well-deserved spot among the standout metal releases of the year.
12 – GREEN LUNG – “This Heathen Land”
GREEN LUNG‘s latest album, “This Heathen Land,” is a captivating journey through the mystical and folklore-laden realms of Albion, paying homage to the tales of pixies, fairies, and witches that once colored the landscapes of the British Isles.
Picking up where their previous album, “Black Harvest,” left off, the band wastes no time immersing listeners in the enchanting atmosphere with the opening track, “Prologue.” The anthemic “The Forest Church” follows, channeling the epic grandeur of bands like RAINBOW and BLACK SABBATH, featuring massive doom-laden riffs, proggy leads, and the distinctive vocals of Tom Templar.
Amidst the scattered geographical references that pepper the lyrics, “This Heathen Land” unfolds as a sonic tapestry with standout tracks like “Mountain Throne,” “The Ancient Ways,” and “Hunters in the Sky.” These songs burst with energy, driven by Matt Wiseman‘s dynamic drumming and Templar‘s soaring vocals.
The album seamlessly weaves between different sonic landscapes, incorporating synths and organ in tracks like “Maxine (Witch Queen)” and the closing piece, “Oceans of Time.” While some moments nod to classic metal tropes, others, such as the ethereal semi-folk of “Song of the Stones,” showcase a more diverse side of GREEN LUNG, capturing the eerie, otherworldly essence of the British moorlands and coastlines.
11 – DYING FETUS – “Make Them Beg For Death”
DYING FETUS, Baltimore, Maryland’s venerable force in death metal, continues to unleash sonic devastation with their ninth album, “Make Them Beg For Death.” For many, the introduction to DYING FETUS came through their monumental 2000 release, “Destroy the Opposition,” a record that exemplified the extremities of metal. The bombastic production, the relentless fusion of riffs and growls, and the thunderous kick-drums courtesy of Kevin Talley left an indelible mark on the landscape of death metal. Now, decades later, DYING FETUS proves that their relentless pursuit of sonic brutality knows no bounds.
In a subgenre known for its difficulty in maintaining freshness and innovation, “Make Them Beg For Death” stands out as a testament to DYING FETUS‘s prowess. The crushing trio masterfully navigates the treacherous waters of slamming, brutal death metal, ensuring that each ferocious attack and technical flourish captivates without succumbing to monotony.
The album’s dynamism and astonishing variety become immediately apparent, with each track offering a rollercoaster of auditory experiences. A delectable riff seamlessly transitions into a grooving, sputtering break, only to wind through a grindcore-like vortex of brutality and speed before emerging entangled in another melodic chord progression.
The sonic journey presented in “Make Them Beg For Death” is a thrilling and relentless ride that demands to be experienced at maximum volume. DYING FETUS not only solidifies their standing among death metal‘s elite but propels their legacy forward with this latest opus.
10 – OVERKILL – “Scorched”
Proving that East Coast thrash is still a force to be reckoned with, OVERKILL, the veteran New Jersey thrashers, unleash their twentieth studio album, “Scorched.” Led by the charismatic Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth, OVERKILL continues to be a torchbearer for old-school thrash, reminding the metal world that the magic of East Coast thrash is alive and thriving.
“Scorched” stands as a testament to OVERKILL‘s unwavering commitment to the genre they helped shape. The album delivers a masterclass in thrash dynamics, showcasing the band’s ability to fuse aggression, precision, and a relentless energy that has defined their sound since their inception. Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth‘s signature snarl remains at the forefront, guiding listeners through a sonic onslaught that captures the essence of the East Coast thrash scene.
With “Scorched“, fans can expect nothing less than a relentless barrage of thrash metal excellence. The band’s twentieth studio effort not only cements their status as thrash legends but also serves as a powerful reminder that the fire of East Coast speed metal continues to burn brightly. With each track, OVERKILL reaffirms their dedication to the genre they helped shape, proving that, decades into their illustrious career, they remain as potent and relevant as ever.
9 – HEALTH – “Rat Wars”
In the realm of “Rat Wars,” HEALTH explores two distinct facets, crafting an album that seamlessly weaves between melancholic, personal moments and pulsating industrial soundscapes. The opening track, “Demigods,” introduces the album with minimalist synths and a commanding snare, creating an atmosphere that delicately explores the edges of synthwave and industrial. The journey continues with “Future Of Hell,” a track that plunges into a rave-like atmosphere, characterized by a pounding beat and pulsating alarm-like synths.
HEALTH‘s creative spectrum extends even further, showcasing their versatility and innovation. “Unloved” emerges as one of their standout tracks, blending icy industrial tones with aggressive production, creating a noise-laden soundscape that simultaneously invites misery and dominates goth club dancefloors. On the opposite end of the sonic spectrum, “Children Of Sorrow,” featuring Willie Adler of LAMB OF GOD, introduces a pit-inciting riff that undergoes HEALTH‘s meticulous, aggressive production treatment, resulting in a creation entirely their own.
“Rat Wars” successfully updates the nihilism of GODFLESH or NINE INCH NAILS for the online generation, maintaining HEALTH‘s adeptness at creating a distinct and compelling sonic experience. The album spans just over 40 minutes, offering a journey through mechanized, dehumanized drum beats, icy synthwave, and intensely personal confessions.
While “Rat Wars” may not represent a radical departure from HEALTH‘s previous works, it stands as a triumph, showcasing the band’s evolution by taking bold steps forward creatively and solidifying their position as sonic innovators with a sound uniquely their own.
8 – IN THIS MOMENT – “Godmode”
In a bold proclamation, IN THIS MOMENT christens their latest album “GODMODE,” and true to its name, the band delivers a statement that resonates with power and authority.
Over the span of two decades, IN THIS MOMENT, led by the dynamic duo of vocalist Maria Brink and multi-instrumentalist Chris Howorth, has undergone a remarkable evolution from angst-driven melodic metalcore to pop-infused, occult-themed industrial rock. With their eighth studio album, the band’s current sonic iteration emerges with unprecedented grandeur – a sound that rivals German Neue Deutsche Härte giants RAMMSTEIN.
“GODMODE” not only boasts colossal dimensions but also features Maria Brink‘s bewitching vocals that add an extra layer of enchantment to the proceedings. Brink effortlessly navigates between sonic choruses in tracks like “Skyburner,” yet goes on to unleash throat-shredding 26-second screams on “The Purge“. The album lives up to its declarative title, presenting a sonic realm where IN THIS MOMENT wields divine control.
7 – OBITUARY – “Dying Of Everything”
OBITUARY, the stalwarts of Floridian death metal, have remained steadfast in their commitment to delivering lumbering, mid-paced, extreme metal. While this approach hasn’t always yielded universal acclaim, there’s an undeniable magic in the moments when the band settles into a groove. OBITUARY‘s consistency in tapping into the veins of old-school death has defined their enduring legacy.
With their latest offering, “Dying Of Everything,” OBITUARY continues to uphold their musical legacy. Comparisons to their 2017 self-titled predecessor reveal a positive evolution with the iconic band. While both albums deliver a welcome, hypnotic brutality, “Dying Of Everything” stands out as more varied, considered, and dynamic, possibly marking a pinnacle for OBITUARY, making it their strongest album in the last 30 years.
“Dying Of Everything” appears to be a testament to OBITUARY‘s enduring prowess, showcasing a band that not only stays true to its roots but also evolves with each release. The album’s blend of substance, detail, and dynamic range demonstrates a maturity and musical depth that positions OBITUARY as seasoned architects of death metal, firmly asserting their place in the genre’s storied history.
6 – CANNIBAL CORPSE – “Chaos Horrific”
With “Chaos Horrific,” CANNIBAL CORPSE continues their gruesome legacy, although this time, the band’s more graphic tendencies are intentionally somewhat restrained, yet the album as a whole is an unrelenting pursuit of a body count that surpasses even the horrors of war.
Produced by guitarist Erik Rutan, known for his work with MORBID ANGEL and HATE ETERNAL, the album exudes a sharp, deadly edge that elevates the beefy riffs to an extra layer of wickedness.
George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher, with his incomprehensible vocal delivery, remains an unparalleled force, showcasing why nobody does it better in the realm of death metal.
The album’s sonic landscape is enriched by a bountiful supply of riffs, demonstrating that CANNIBAL CORPSE has not depleted their well of creativity. Tracks like the aggressive “Frenzied Feeding” and the opener “Overlords Of Violence” embody a brutally crazed yet oddly comforting familiarity. The title track, with its thrashing intensity, deviates from the norm without fundamentally altering the quintessential CANNIBAL CORPSE sound, providing a change of pace within the established brutality. “Chaos Horrific” stands as a testament to the band’s enduring excellence in delivering relentless, high-caliber death metal.
5 – ORBIT CULTURE – “Descent”
With “Descent,” ORBIT CULTURE set out to create an album that takes the listener on an all encompassing sonic journey. Judging by the outcome, the Swedish metal act have undoubtedly succeeded in achieving their ambitious goal.
Throughout the album’s runtime, ORBIT CULTURE masterfully navigates between panoramic epicness, as evidenced in tracks like “Black Mountain” and “From the Inside,” and the sheer blast-beaten heaviness found in “Vultures of North” and the title track “Descent.”
What sets “Descent” apart is the band’s ability to expand their sound into more accessible territory without compromising the intensity that extreme-seeking fans crave. ORBIT CULTURE seamlessly blends epic and melodic elements with brutal heaviness, creating a dynamic and engaging listening experience.
The album showcases the band’s versatility and willingness to explore diverse sonic landscapes, making it a standout addition to the metal scene. “Descent” not only fulfills the band’s vision of taking the listener on a musical odyssey but also demonstrates ORBIT CULTURE‘s prowess in delivering a balanced and captivating metal album.
4 – IN FLAMES – “Foregone”
IN FLAMES, the Swedish heavy music stalwarts, have made a triumphant return to their roots with “Foregone.”
While the band has been synonymous with alt-metal since the early 2000s, this latest offering sees them revisiting the nineties’ Gothenburg melodic death-metal scene, marking a significant and welcome return to their original sound. Vocalist Anders Fridén and the rest of the crew not only re-embrace the old-school extremity of melodic death metal but also harken back to their formative folk-metal influences, as evident in the compelling track “Foregone Pt. 2.”
“Foregone” proves to be a testament to IN FLAMES‘ enduring vitality and creativity, showcasing a band that sounds more invigorated than ever.
The album captures the essence of their early years while infusing a contemporary energy that resonates with both longtime fans and a new generation of listeners. With its solid execution and a perfect blend of melodic death metal elements, “Foregone” stands out as a remarkable addition to IN FLAMES‘ discography, affirming their prowess in delivering a captivating and authentic metal experience.
3- METALLICA – “72 Seasons”
METALLICA has once again reignited the flames of thrash metal with their latest album, “72 Seasons,” delivering a sonic experience that harkens back to their roots with unrelenting intensity.
The album’s arrival is not only a rare event in the band’s discography, but it also carries a poignant undertone, following a turbulent period in frontman James Hetfield‘s life. Despite the challenges, METALLICA has managed to produce a body of work that stands out as a significant milestone, capturing the essence of their thrash origins.
“72 Seasons” has quickly garnered acclaim as the band’s best album since the iconic “Black Album,” surpassing the expectations set by their previous releases. The band have revisited the thrash sound that defined their early years, showcasing slash-and-burn thrills, arena-filling chant-alongs, and groove-metal stomps.
The album’s diverse range, featuring tracks like “Shadows Follow,” “Lux Æterna,” and “Sleepwalk My Life Away,” presents METALLICA at their best, steering clear of experimental detours and awkward attempts to conform to contemporary trends. With “72 Seasons,” METALLICA has returned to the core of their musical identity, offering fans a compelling and authentic thrash metal experience.
2 – SPIRITBOX – “The Fear Of Fear”
SPIRITBOX‘s 2023 EP, “The Fear Of Fear,” may not be a full album, but it undoubtedly holds a significant place among the year’s noteworthy heavy music releases. Positioned in a phase of massive recognition within the genre, where many bands might lean towards softer, more mainstream sounds, SPIRITBOX, on the contrary, showcases their unyielding commitment to heaviness.
“The Fear of Fear” introduces some of the heaviest tracks in SPIRITBOX‘s repertoire, exemplified by the bone-rattling “Cellar Door” and the ferociously hard-hitting “Angel Eyes.” These tracks amplify the band’s prowess in delivering powerful and visceral metal. Simultaneously, the EP displays the versatility of SPIRITBOX‘s sound with compositions like the skittering and flickering “The Void” and the atmospheric, electronically-infused “Jaded,” pointing towards an ongoing evolution in their musical journey.
SPIRITBOX‘s ability to maintain their heavy edge while exploring diverse sonic landscapes is a testament to their artistic depth and refusal to conform to genre expectations.
1 – SLEEP TOKEN – “Take Me Back To Eden”
In 2023, SLEEP TOKEN‘s journey from enigmatic cult band to a major force in metal stands out as one of the year’s most improbable success stories while “Take Me Back to Eden,” serves as a powerful testament to their undeniable ascent. While the six-and-a-half-minute epic “The Summoning” has become a viral hit with over 82 million Spotify streams, the entire album stands out for its dazzling and bewildering fusion of numerous genres of music, creating a remarkably singular sound.
While some critics may argue that every song on “Take Me Back to Eden” sounds all too similar, a closer listen dispels that notion. Tracks like “Vore” and “Aqua Regia” showcase SLEEP TOKEN‘s versatility and the dynamic range within their musical palette. The album’s diversity and excitement are further heightened by the band’s commitment to masked anonymity.
SLEEP TOKEN‘s enigmatic persona invites listeners to connect with their art on a profound level, emphasizing a unique approach that prioritizes the music itself as the primary means of communication.
The decision to worship SLEEP TOKEN, as conveyed in their own terms, is a reflection of the deep impact their art has had on audiences. “Take Me Back to Eden” not only solidifies SLEEP TOKEN‘s position as an influential force in modern metal but also reinforces the idea that, in an age of information overload, the power of music to speak for itself remains unparalleled.