Author's Choices

Ray‘s Top 10 Releases of 2023

Considering the many great releases that graced my ears throughout this year, some of them stood out more than others. In general though, I believe 2023 to be an exceptional year for heavy music, hoping the trend continuous throughout 2024. While some releases still worthwhile did not make it to the list (see below), others caught me completely off guard and managed to climb my personal top 10 this year. As I am not a fan of definite ranking, these records are in no particular order when it comes to their greatness as they all have different strenghts and weaknesses throughout. Honorable mentions: Dying Fetus, Cannibal Corpse, Suffocation, Cryptopsy, Alkaloid, Lamp Of Murmuur

Horrendous – Ontological Mysterium
[Season Of Mist]

Oncological Mysterium was the first record that came to my mind when thinking about a top 10 of the year. And with good reason. Horrendous’ latest offering delivered on all aspects promised on their previous outings, delivering heavy and complex death metal rippers such as Leviathan but also incorporating a ton of 70s prog influences (see the grandious Chrysopoeia), weird vocoder segments and a general excitement in the songwriting department that only few bands can match. Additionally they may wrote the best death metal song of 2023 with Cult of Shaad’oah. That song alone should get any head bumping with its insanely catchy main riff. The record is adventurous, catchy and complex at the same time and also aided by great and lively production. Ontological Mysterium should be recommended to anyone interested in forward thinking death metal.

Cruciamentum – Obsidian Refractions
[Profound Lore]

Another quality Death Metal release that absolutely delivered on all fronts, has just been released by these 4 brits after a lengthy release hiatus of 8 years after their debut LP Charnel Passages.

Cruciamentum generally walk a fine line between an all out onslaught of the senses with downright filthy riffing and blast passages and more atmospheric doomy passages as found on opener Charnel Passges and the enormous closer and arguably best song Drowned. What makes Obsidian Refractions so good is the ability of Cruciamentum to write some downright catchy and memorable riffs amongst the more thunderous but always dynamic passages. Additionally the created atmosphere on here is still a captivating cornerstone that will keep you coming back to this release if you are a fan of fellow acts such as Dead Congregation, Incantation or Disma.

Sulphur Aeon -Seven Crowns And Seven Seals
[Ván Records]

Lovecraftian spell crafters Sulphur Aeon once more rose from the depths of their graves of the outerworld to grace us with an atmospheric death metal masterpiece.

Compared to their latest outings Suplhur Aeon ramped up the melodic aspects of their sound significantly, resulting in a very dense and homogeneous record that works as a perfect unit. With only 6 full length songs (minus the Intro Sombre Tidings) and a run time of 45 minutes, the band cleverly utilizes the increased individual runtime to fully flesh out the ideas presented on each respective track. May it be the stellar chorus of Hammer Of The Howling Void, the gothic tinges of The Yearning Abyss Devours Us or the phenomenal and penultimate one-two punch of the title track and Beneath The Ziqqurats, Sulphur Aeon simply deliver on all fronts. While being a little less punishing and punchy in production as their previous records, the increased use of captivating themes and melodies make this their most complete record to date

The Night Eternal – Fatale
[Ván Records]

Another highlight distributed by German quality record label Ván Records, was the release of The Night Eternals second full length LP Fatale.

The quintet managed to improve upon all aspects their great full length debut Moonlit Cross already indicated. The gothic twist on classical heavy metal provided 9 hits to simultaneously shake your ass and bang your head to. What makes the record so great though is the fact that the clever songwriting and the hit character of the songs takes a few spins to truly unfold. Additional praise also has to go to front man Ricardo Baum who offers thunderous vocal hooks galore sound like the perfect mixture of Danzig and Howard Jones, while providing his own unique vocal twists. Good luck trying to get Prince Of Darkness or Stars Guide My way out of your head.

Moonlight Sorcery – Lord Of The Thorned Castle
[Magical Records]

If you told me a mixture of power and black metal would end up on my years end list, I would’ve laughed at you most probably. But here we are.

The relatively new finnish band formed in 2018 and delivered a true blizzard of an album that completely took me by surprise on how good it was. Right from the get go Moonlight Sorcery demonstrate absolutely jaw dropping technical but highly melodic riffing alongside epic keyboard melodies and thunderous blast beat passages. Everything accompanied by the ear piercing shrieks that gives the needed edge to these compositions. Looking at the album cover, the band pictures and the general sound description, this record reads like an absolute cheese fest, but Moonlight Sorcery surprisingly make it work, thanks to the guys being great songwriters. Every fan of old Children Of Bodom, Stormkeep or Bal-Sagoth should be eating this up straight away as it is one of the best black metal records of the year (outside the puristic side of things).

Wayfarer – American Gothic
[Century Media Records]

Wayfarer have been on the rise since the release of their previous record A Romance with violence, which managed to add a special flavour of western bluegrass and americana influence to the tried and true black metal formula. Although nothing completely new (see Panopticon for instance) the Colorado piece manage to achieve a cohesive and captivating listening experience.

With American Gothic, they now further developed their sound, integrating even further atmospheric bits to the mix such as the gothic flavoured A High Plains Euology or the phenomenal closer False Constellation. Make no mistake though. Wayfarer still know how to write biting melodic black metal tunes such as the straight ripper To Enter My House Justified or the longer one-two punch opening the record. American Gothic should certainly open new doors as it stands as one of 2023s strongest black metal outings.


Enforced- War Remains
[Century Media Records]

War Remains is one of the most aggressive records of the year 2023. Period. The third album by the Richmond Death-Thrash outfit managed to deliver one of the most concise records of the year in offering 33 minutes of absolute mayhem.

All people craving for an inofficial Power Trip successor should look no further than this album. Although it should be stated clearly, that Enforced operate far more aggressive and in your face, taking the best pieces of Reign In Blood era Slayer, Demolition Hammer and some hardcore grooves to stamp you in the ground. If tunes such as Hanged By My Hand, the title track or Ultra-Violence don’t get your blood rushing, I don’t know what will.

Majesties – Vast Reaches Unclaimed
[20 Buck Spin]

You are a sucker for true old school melodic death metal in the vain of old In Flames or At The Gates? Then immediately check Majesties latest offering Vast Reaches Unclaimed.

This record is filled to the brim with dual lead guitar work, frantic drumming and screamed vocals similar to Tompa Lindberg. And while nothing to original on paper, Majesties manage to sound just as fresh as their peers of the early 90s, providing ear worm melodies taken right of Gothenburg, honoring the genres originators. Highlights are scattered throughout the tracklist, with exceptional praise to the grandious The World Unseen, Verdant Paths To Radiance or City Of Nine Gates. Other than that though, there are no stinkers to be found here as only killer material made it onto the bands phenomenal debut. Hopefully the band carries on in that sense.


Kruelty – Untopia
[Profound Lore Records]

Kruelty of Japan origin are not original.

They play cavernous death metal that bears influences from the genres mid tempo oriented greats such as Bolt Thrower and fuse it with simpler hardcore grooves, resulting in absolute brutal slow motion death metal tunes that should make any fan of acts such as Xibalba happy. But sometimes it is not about how original you are but in how you present your ideas. And these guys definitely know which exact sound they are going for with their second record. Tunes such as the Burn The System or Maze Of Suffering offer thicker caveman grooves than Biohazard on steroids, so just sit down and enjoy the dumb fun these Japanese fellows provide with their latest offering.

Tomb Mold – The Enduring Spirit
[20 Buck Spin]

Tomb Mold managed to take their sound to the next level on this years The Enduring Spirit, expanding their technical and atmospheric side.

While still being able to rip your head off with filthy riffs and grooves, the greater focus on atmosphere and progressive song structures forces the listener to really dig deep into the whole record to churn out the fantastic guitar work and intricate drumming patterns. Although the Dream Unending similarities are apparent on most of the tracks, they do not take center stage here but enhance the flow of the songs with nice guitar interplays and post rock sections. Tomb Mold manage to stay true to their own identity while expanding on the more adventurous direction which their latest EP already indicated, making The Enduring spirit a total success on all fronts.

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