Hey everybody, and welcome back to the 5th installment for 2023 albums; The Top 10 Albums of 2023. This month was easily the hardest for me to narrow down to 10, having had 26 albums that would have perfectly fit, but it was my sole duty to cull the heart and let the cream rise to the top. So without further dilly dally, let’s get into my rules for how all of this works and get into these 10 fantastic albums.
1.) This 10-part saga covers albums from January 2023-October 2023. November 2023 will have My Top 100 Albums of 2023 and I won’t be covering any December 2023 releases unless they make the Top 100 list in November. This will come out on the last Friday of every month to cover all of that month.
2.) These are all brand new, original studio LPs that I’ll be talking about. So now EPs, cover albums, rarity albums, live albums, re-releases, or remake albums. Easy enough right?
3.) These are all in ALPHABETICAL ORDER. Not in order of what I think was the best of the 10 albums talked about. That comes at the end of the year.
4.) Yes, I get promos in advance, but I am not asked to put an album on my list from any label or PR. All thoughts are my own. If I don’t get a promo in advance, I wait till release day to check it out. Everything is nice and legal.
5.) What ends up on a Top 10 of the Month list or doesn’t make it on the list is no indication that it will be or not be on the Top 100 list at the end of the year. I miss out on albums throughout the year and my thoughts may change on ones I’ve already heard.
6.) Check out what you may enjoy. That’s 100% the purpose of all of this. Have Fun & Enjoy!
So Let's Begin!
Arrival of Autumn- Kingdom Undone
FFO- Metalcore, Thrash Metal, Progressive Metal
This Canadian band’s sophomore album and first on Nuclear Blast is an album that perfectly blends contrasting styles of metal and makes them fit like a glove. If you like the sounds of 2nd and 3rd wave metalcore, that sound is here. If you want heavy thrash overtones, that is definitely on display. And if you want a progressive take on both of these, that is also on display more subtly, but done with enough nuance; you surely won’t be disappointed. Overall, it’s great to see a newer band playing what they want to play and blending genres to fit their mold. Overall, a fantastic album that leaves me wanting more.
Battle Born- Blood Fire, Magic, and Steel
FFO- Power Metal, Skyrim Metal
Much like it says in the FFO section, if you want a power metal band that is the perfect backdrop to Skyrim, Battle Born is the band for you. I really mean that as well, you listen to the lyrics, watch the videos, and see the imagery and you feel like you have been dropped into the Elder Scrolls Universe. The production sounds pristine and the musicianship is top-notch. The band is more than the illusion of a gimmick, they back up their style with fierce musicianship that more bands in power metal need to take note of. If this is just their debut album, I can’t wait to see what’s next…I just hope it comes out faster than the next Elder Scrolls game.
Cattle Decapitation- Terrasite
FFO- Extreme Progressive Death Metal, Deathgrind
The masters of predicting the future (yes I had to make a joke about Bring Back the Plague) have returned with their very first concept album and it takes everything you love about the band and turns it up to their max. If you love the deathgrind style they have made their own, it’s filled throughout this. If you like what the band has done over the last decade and change, the more progressive and technical death metal stylings with sinister clean vocals also appear throughout. They really picked out where to go brutal and where to go more...I won’t say majestic, but maybe magically dark? It makes more sense if you check it out for yourself. If you don’t like brutal death metal, this probably won’t make you change your mind, but I still recommend giving it a fair shake as the proggy and technical moments may just finally win you over. It’s a devastating and sad ride, but a journey worth taking.
Death of Giants- Ventesorg
FFO- Funeral Doom Metal, Gothic Metal
I hereby proclaim this to be the saddest album of 2023. Seriously, I can’t imagine a sadder album coming out for the rest of the year and nothing before this competes with it. The debut album from Morten Søbyskogen’s new project is a concept album from the diagnosis to the death of his wife from Cancer and the very real feelings that comes with dealing with losing someone who is terminally ill. The music matches the lyrics perfectly giving hints of Draconian, Paradise Lost, a heavy inspiration of Woods of Ypres, and occasionally some Devin Townsend-style vocal inflections that maybe only I hear (hey, you might too). So yeah, this is not the feel-good hit of the summer, but this is one of the most cathartic albums you may experience in the 2020s if not the 21st century. I teared up the first time I heard this album, I teared up on my latest listen and I probably always will when I listen in full. If music can actually make you feel something, that’s a true sign of what it can do. Easily one of my favorite albums of the year and it could very well be the number 1 pick come the holidays. We shall see.
FFO- Heavy Metal, Speed Metal, Power Metal
The latest album from Sweden’s Enforcer can make the argument of being their best work. Picking out what works best for the band and making the fan base happy leads to some fast numbers, mid-tempo stadium anthems, and ballads that can be sung from the mountaintops. It also features one of my favorite album covers of the year so far. Basically, this is like the best of Enforcer, but with brand new material. If you are brand new to the band, this is the perfect starter album. For the rest of us; enjoy the best of Enforcer so far.
Metal Church- Congregation of Annihilation
FFO- Heavy Metal, Thrash Metal, Power Metal
This begins the next chapter of the Metal Church story. With new vocalist Marc Lopes taking over and bringing some of the best vocal takes in the entirety of the band; Metal Church has come back sounding stronger than they have in a very long time. This could be the angriest album they have put out. There is not much for ballads on this album (1 for sure, maybe 2 depending on how you look at it) the album is filled to the brim with fast thrashy tracks and a couple of more sleazy riffs for good measure. While other bands have been around for as long as Metal Church has, it is hard to find any band that matches the musicianship, power, tenacity, and above all, heart and soul that Metal Church has managed here. I am so here for the new era of the band. Now...what comes next?
Mystic Prophecy- Hellriot
FFO- Heavy Power Metal, Thrash Metal, Speed Metal
The 12th album from this legendary album is sadly the first album I ever checked out from the band and if this will go down as the worst album they have, I need to check out the past eleven albums immediately as this band is pure fire from start to finish. Super catchy choruses, jaw-dropping solos in just the right spots, unbelievable vocals, what is not to love about a band like this. If you want some super duper heavy power metal that is just as catchy, check out the latest album from Mystic Prophecy; you won’t be disappointed.
Oryad- Sacred and Profane
FFO- Symphonic Metal, Progressive Doom, Opera
The debut album from this Denver duo caught me completely by surprise and I love every second of it. Combining the likes of Epica, Nightwish, Novembers Doom, and even Mr. Bungle into a blender and the concoction is something like none other. Progressive symphonic doom with operatic stylings and quirky avant-garde moments to keep you on your toes at the right moments. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into this album; you can hear it from start to finish. I simply can’t wait to see what’s next because I feel like the sophomore album will take the world by storm. Till then, give this album a shot and see if it’s for you.
Thulcandra- Hail The Abyss
FFO- Melodic Blackened Death Metal
The 5th album from this legendary German outfit led by Steffen Kummerer has put out their most efficient and uncompromising album to date. While the band slowly expands their sound in tempo and style; the band is just as consistent as ever making that love of 2nd wave black metal sound as evil as ever, just better produced than in the 90s. Basically, if you want the best of meloblack in 2023, you’re not going to find much better than Thulcandra in 2023.
Vintersea- Woven into Ashes
FFO- Extreme Progressive Metal, Progressive Black Metal
The 3rd album from this Oregon-based metal band is easily their best work to date. They constantly improve upon every album they release and with the love and respect they have been garnering over the years, they are only going to keep getting bigger and better. This goes around; Vintersea expands upon their sound once more with more extreme moments, more North American folk instrumentation, and for a lack of a better way to phrase it; taking that Ne Obliviscaris sound, removing the violin, and making it their own. I really hope this is the album that makes the band break through and get them all the attention they deserve as they have more than earned it at this point. If you don’t believe me, get ready to have your jaw drop at the over-the-top musicality and songwriting here on your first listen and do yourself a favor and check out the previous 2 albums. If this disappoints you, you clearly just don’t like the style. To the rest of us, rejoice in this modern masterpiece.
And there you go folks, my Top 10 albums of May 2023. There's so much more I wanted to include, but that’s the brakes for cutting it off at 10. Tune in next week when I cover my Top 20 Albums of the ½ Half of 2023. Till then for Heavy Debriefings, this is Josh Rundquist saying, See Ya!
- Josh Rundquist (Heavy Debriefings)