The 10 best alt metal albums of 2023

Best alt metal albums 2023
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By its very definition, alt metal can be a tricky subgenre to track down, encompassing everything from funk and rap metal to nu metal and beyond. It also remains one of the more fertile grounds for experimentation in the metal pantheon, newer acts like Sleep Token helping to shift the dials and offer a new alternative in the 2020s that draws on new stylistic influences that offer a fresh new take on what metal can look and sound like. 

That in mind, we've looked back across 2023 to pick out ten records that best embody the alternative spirit this year, challenging preconceptions about how metal should look and sound whilst ushering in thousands of new listeners. So with no further ado, these are the ten best alt metal records of 2023.

Metal Hammer line break

Avatar – Dance Devil Dance

In the lead-up to Dance Devil Dance, Avatar promised an album that would save heavy metal. They’d pull the genre away from the technical, soulless mass they’d perceived it had become, and they’d use booty-shaking songs to do it. Ultimately, Dance… didn’t turn the tide of heavy music, but it still boasted a plethora of quality anthems. The Dirt I’m Buried In and Valley Of Disease especially haven’t left our brains since January. MATT MILLS

Godflesh – Purge

For their first album in six years, industrial/post-metal pioneers Godflesh went all in on the electronic dance music inspirations that had always shaped their sound. Before, they had materialised simply in the duo’s use of a drum machine for their brutal beats, but on Purge, songs like Land Lord built punishing riffs atop surprisingly danceable rhythms. The horrifically ugly swagger only reaffirmed how unique Justin Broadrick and G.C. Green are together. MATT MILLS

Health – Rat Wars

During the pandemic, Health collaborated with a host of superstars, from Nine Inch Nails to Poppy. Rat Wars utilised that experience to craft 12 songs of pop-metal sophistication. Singles Children Of Sorrow and Sicko smoothed the metallic attack of collaborators Lamb Of God and Godflesh respectively, using slick electronics and melodies. Meanwhile, Ashamed and Unloved declared that, even when they’re by themselves, Health are some of the sharpest songwriters in heavy music. MATT MILLS

Myrkur – Spine

From her early days as a post-black metal provocateur to more recent experiements with Nordic folk, Amalie Bruun has proven its a fool's errand trying to pigeonhole her work with Myrkur. Her fourth record, Spine both embraces elements of the past - stirring string-and-vocal melodies, blackened blast-beats - whilst forging forward to new realms entirely, Bruun embracing shades of art pop and alternative to produce a soulful, emotive and undeniably gorgeous record which in many ways responds to the challenges the human race has faced in recent years. RICH HOBSON

Skindred – Smile

For the past decade Skindred have somehow managed to inhabit a niche somewhere between beloved fixture and overlooked gem in the British metal canon. TikTok success at the start of the year has helped propel the band towards some long-overdue time in the sun however, and Smile is the sound of a band rediscovering their roots and making the most of what makes them unique. With choruses that can conquer festival fields and arenas alike - we know, we've seen them do it enough - album eight is an unabashed celebration of everything brilliant about Skindred. If you've somehow missed this band over the past 20 years, consider this your essential introduction. RICH HOBSON

Sleep Token – Take Me Back To Eden

Nobody seems to know quite where to place Sleep Token. A little bit tech metal, a little bit prog and a whole lot of genre-pushing brilliance has helped turn the masked mysteries into the breakout success of 2023, their embracing of contemporary R'n'B and modern metal elements making them stand-out candidates for scene leaders for a whole new scene of alternative artists. Love them or loathe them, 2023 has belonged to Sleep Token, capped off with a sold-out Wembley Arena triumph that even a lost voice couldn't derail. RICH HOBSON

Therapy? – Hard Cold Fire

Sixteen albums and 33 years since they first emerged from the wilds of Larne, Northern Ireland, Therapy? remain as defiantly brilliant as they were when they broke into the UK charts with Troublegum. Rather than trying to repeat that success, thier career has been an exercise in pushing boundaries and melding styles, taking everything from crunching 90s riffs and fizzy punk and blending it together into a single, unmistakable package. Needless to say, album sixteen is another resounding victory.  RICH HOBSON

Voice Of Baceprot – Retas

As tempting as many find it to deem online stars flashes in the pan, Voice Of Baceprot have proven their staying power with evocative songwriting and melodic prowess that belies their youth. PMS and (Not) Public Property raged against the trio’s upbringing in hyper-conservative West Java, where they were attacked for being young women playing metal. With that earnest drive alongside hooks as irresistible as God Allow Me Please To Play Music, Retas proved addictive. MATT MILLS

Wargasm – Venom

The nu metal revival might still be in full swing, but Wargasm are one of the few new bands truly pushing the genre's boundaries and give it a much-needed stylistic and aesthetic update. They might have toured with Limp Bizkit, but Wargasm aren't partying like its 1999: their fusion of hip hop flows, electronica and riffs feels decidedly contempoary, and the band's full-length debut is a spiky, explosive showcase of the infectious energy that has put them firmly on the radar in recent years. If this is just the beginning, we can't wait to see where they go next. RICH HOBSON

Within Temptation – Bleed Out

Over 20 years since they helped popularise symphonic metal, Within Temptation are pushing themselves further than ever before with their eighth album. Bleed Out presents the Dutch band at their most direct and powerful, still delivering a sense of grandeur but shifting away from a pure symphonic base to incorporate elements of electronica, metalcore, djent and so much more in an ambitious 11-track package. Taking influence from global events, Within Temptation have produced one of their most essential records to date, an inspiring and triumphant record befitting their status as an arena band. RICH HOBSON

Rich Hobson

Staff writer for Metal Hammer, Rich has never met a feature he didn't fancy, which is just as well when it comes to covering everything rock, punk and metal for both print and online, be it legendary events like Rock In Rio or Clash Of The Titans or seeking out exciting new bands like Nine Treasures, Jinjer and Sleep Token. 

With contributions from