The year is almost over, and the best metal albums of 2023 is diverse, so there’s something for everyone in this list. In fact, you might find your new favorite artists or album! Join us for our last music post of the year.
The Best Metal Albums of 2023: A Truly Metallic Retrospective…
The end of the year is finally upon us, and we have all seen our “Spotify Wrap-ups” by this point. This year was full of new releases, and it was hard to round them all up. There are some big bands on this list, like Metallica.
But we did not forget any of the smaller bands either, and any genre of Metal/Rock is up for grabs. Metal has too many sub-genres to even list here, so we have included everything from Doom to Thrash. If it rocks, we added it to the list!
When it comes to putting these in order, it is almost impossible. As a musician myself, I never think that “art is a competition” anyway, so these albums are not in any type of order. At the end, I will reveal my personal favorites, but otherwise these are in no particular order.
We had so much more that we wanted to include, but these were the tracks that kept the EJ team coming back all year long! So let’s dive into the first album that really made a mark this year, and see if your playlist is anything like ours!
1. Metallica: “72 Seasons”
Metallica has been around for quite some time now, and to be honest with you, they probably don’t need to release another album. They could easily tour with “just the hits” like so many classic bands do, but the band still has a lot to say, apparently.
This was an interesting album for me, as it has a little bit of everything that Metallica has to offer. Over their 40 year career, the band helped to establish Thrash Metal as a genre, perform so legendary covers, and change styles several times. Whether you liked “Load/Reload” or not, those albums were a creative departure that introduced Metallica to more mainstream audiences.
I love Metallica, and “72 Seasons” does a lot of things that I expected. But James has never been so reflective and vulnerable with his lyrics as he is here. The music works because it is dialed back, and the production is stripped down.
“72 Seasons” sounds like a band playing together, which is rare these days. A few tracks stay past their welcome, but most are tight and heavy. This is a great way for Metallica to stay relevant in a Metal landscape that they helped to create.
2. Baroness: “Stone”
We already covered the newest album from Baroness in-depth. But this was a huge departure for the Sludge legends, and I think it worked in their favor. The spoken-word passages weave a story in between the dueling guitars that blend heaviness with psychedelia perfectly.
This is the first album from Baroness that does not have a color theme, signifying a new leaf for the band in general. The whole album was written as a band as well, and it shows in almost every track. If you loved the progressive elements of the older albums, then that element is still here on “Stone”.
Hopefully we will continue to see Baroness evolve as a band, traversing into different sonic territories. The band has come a long way from their sludge-fueled, prog roots. Those elements are still there, but the band is just more mature now, and tons of experience.
3. Avenged Sevenfold: “Life is But A Dream…”
Well, this one is going to be divisive no matter how you look at it, and rarely does an album come around like this, that has such polarizing reviews and opinions. Avenged Sevenfold definitely took a chance with this album, and for many people it worked.
The whole idea was to experiment, and M. Shadows (Vocals) talked a lot about the cycle of life and death before the album dropped. This is a universal theme, and the perfect journey for a concept album. The twists and turns that the band takes on this album is totally new territory.
There are plenty of heavy riffs that you would expect, as well as epic guitar solos that Avenged Sevenfold are known for, but there are also some surprises. I was not expecting to hear synthesizers and sequenced electronic samples, nor was I prepared for the symphonic parts.
“Life is But A Dream” is still being debated by fans, but frankly I applause the band for taking a risk so far into their career. A lot of this album really works for me, while a lot of it fell absolutely flat. But the important part is that the band went out of their comfort zone.
So love it or hate it, we think this album is at least worth a listen. I am not particularly a fan of the band, so I enjoyed a lot of the riskier tracks. This album is certainly a creative, risky venture from a band that usually doesn’t take many risks.
4. Katatonia: “Sky Void of Stars”
This is one of my favorite bands of all time, and Katatonia did not disappoint with this new album. Never has the band sounded better, with the production being the centerpiece of this new album. This is not to say that the band’s other albums ever sounded bad, but the live shows almost always outshined the album.
This all changes with “Sky Void of Stars”. The sound is huge on this album, and finally Jonas can be heard over the wall of sound the band creates. His vocals are more upfront, along with the fantastic harmonies. The guitars are heavy, and the synthetic sounds are dark and ambient.
Nothing has really changed in the Katatonia formula. The band still likes heavy, anthemic songs with understated vocals. You can just finally hear every part of the band. I have always felt like Katatonia is more like a “mood”. Their sound is dark, but also beautiful at the same time. If you have never heard of the band, this is a great place to start.
5. Sleep Token: “Take me Back to Eden”
Sleep Token has been around for a little while, but they are just now gaining some attention. Social media has really pushed Sleep Token to the forefront, and the band’s style of Metal is perfect for the current landscape. Dripping in mystique and emotion, this album is certainly different.
The band has a whole “lore” behind it, a lot like Ghost, using costumes and theatrics. But there is also a whole story behind the band, with the singer “Vessel” at the helm. The lyrics refer to the lore of the band, but they also work as artistic statements on their own.
The band blends all kinds of genres, using electronic elements along with heavy guitars. But the main focus is Vessel’s incredibly soulful voice. Sleep Token leans on a lot of the usual tropes, but the group has really blown up due to the internet.
6. Tesseract: “War Of Being”
Tesseract is a band that started off really well, right out of the gate. The UK band was one of the first to be dubbed “Djent” in the Metal zeitgeist, and it looked like the group would be the trailblazers for this new genre. But it didn’t really work out that way, unfortunately.
Tesseract had several vocalist changes, and it definitely stunted the band. I never forgot about Tesseract, but I have wondered what the band has been doing for the last 5 years. As it turns out, they were creating a progressive masterpiece.
“War Of Being” has been worth the wait, and I think this will put the band back on the map. The ethereal tones and tight guitar work that tesseract is known for is all here on this album. But all of those sounds are more refined, and the band has never sounded better.
Tesseract was the band that made a lot of guitarists pick up a 7 string over a decade ago, and if you loved the band back then? You will really enjoy the journey this album takes you on, and it is nice to have Tesseract back!
7. Sylosis: “A Sign of Things To Come”
As sad as it was to see Josh Middleton leave Architects, I am glad to see he channeled that energy into a new Sylosis album. For a while, it seemed like Sylosis was relegated to always be his side project. It is good to see him back in full force, and extremely angry.
This album has everything you could want from a epic Metal soundscape. The long, brooding intros and segues are still there. The pummeling riffs hit a little harder than usual, and Josh sounds angrier than ever before. This is hard and heavy Thrash Metal, and it is downright brutal on most tracks.
Sylosis has always had a message that the world may not be what it seems, and that society is failing. The band has definitely made the soundtrack to the apocalypse with “A Sign of Things To Come”. The title track alone is enough to understand where this album is going, and it deserves a spot on the best Metal albums of 2023.
8. Periphery: “Djent Is Not A Genre”
This is another album that we already reviewed, but Periphery certainly needs no introduction. The boys that put Djent on the map have returned with an album that is literally all over the place. There are brutal riffs, odd time signatures, growling vocals, and…synthpop melodies?
It’s true, Periphery refused to pull any punches on this album, and it sounds like organized chaos. Every song offers a different “flavor” and highlights each band member extremely well. This is truly a collaborative effort from the band, and it shows in every track.
9. Better Lovers: “God Made Me An Animal”
We have already gave this album a thorough review, but it really needs to mentioned here. I was quite sad to see two of my favorite bands dissolve, so close together, for different reasons. But both bands were still at their peak, and had more to offer.
So if you love ETID or Dillinger Escape Plan, then you know that you are in for a ride. Every song is completely unpredictable, and incredibly bombastic. Everything that you would expect is here, but there are some surprises on the journey as well.
10. Blackbriar: “A Dark Euphony”
Blackbriar is a band that did not make my radar over the years, since they have been around for a while. Symphonic metal is not usually a genre that I can get into. But there’s something different about this band, and they have certainly changed things up with this newer material.
I checked out some of the older music , and Zora spent more time screaming and growling in the past. On this new album, she really showcases how amazing her voice can be. She is really a siren, and the effort has not gone unnoticed. The band was featured on The Charismatic Voice, and praised for their arrangements and Zora’s vocal technique.
If you have never really dove into this kind of Metal, then you should definitely check out Blackbriar. Every song has great lyrics and themes, usually regarding folklore. The standout hit ” My Soul’s Demise” is about The Death Eaters of mythology, and it ROCKS. This is definitely one of the best Metal albums of 2023!
11. Sugar Horse: “Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico”
You probably have not heard this band, and that is exactly why we added them to this list. Sugar Horse is a band that does a little bit of everything, and their cover of Tears For Fears earlier this year was just a taste of the weirdness yet to come.
This is “technically” the band’s first big effort for a cohesive album. While they have released singles over the years, and collections, this is the first time Sugar Horse has released a full cohesive album that weaves tracks together with a concept. Well, semi-cohesive… it gets weird.
The band’s other album “The Long Live After” featured a lot of their previous singles, and my personal favorite track “Shouting Judas At Bob Dylan“. But it was scattered to me, while this album follows a definitive theme throughout.
If you listen to the first two tracks, and you don’t get it? This band is not for you. But if you give these guys a chance, you will see the full range of what they are capable of…and it is DARK. If you like bands like Pallbearer, then this will be right up your alley. I am pretty sure they have never been to New Mexico.
These just did not make the list for us, but they might be right up your alley. Some of these came close to making the main list, but this just barely missed the mark for us. What do you think? Leave us a comment or shoot us an email!
- Spiritbox: “The Fear Of Fear”
- Teenage Wrist: “Still Love”
- The Acacia Strain: “Step Into The Light”
- In Flames: “Foregone”
- Silent Planet: “Superbloom”
What was your favorite album of the year that really rocked your world? Let us know in the comments! We love hearing from our readers, and you all usually have great opinions and ideas!
The best metal albums of 2023 was hard to pick, but it was also a rather lean year. We saw some big releases, but the album format is on the way out. Bands often release singles now, and eventually a full album. But many of the artists I wanted to list did not have a full album/EP unfortunately, just singles.
There is something special about listening to a full album. It is an experience, but it takes time and attention. It seems like these are things that the masses seem to lack these days. At the sake of sounding pretentious, making and appreciating an album is tough these days.
But just like everything in life, the full album format seems to be making a comeback. There are still bands out there that are making albums, and they get listened to more often now. I think that albums will be “cool” again in another year or so, as other genres like Rap have tons of big albums this year.
Singles are great for promotion, don’t get me wrong. They get people hyped for the upcoming album, but shouldn’t be a replacement for a full album. We will see you all next year, stay HEAVY.
Have a wonderful 2024, and keep rocking!
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