The 10 best doom and stoner metal albums of 2023

Best stoner and doom metal 2023
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You could easily argue that doom and stoner are the two oldest subgenres in metal, given that they trace their roots all the way back to heavy music’s foundational text, Black Sabbath’s debut album. Despite that age, however, the two styles are still spry, bounding forth every year with many seminal bands maintaining their acidic appeal. And 2023 was no different.

This year, stoner and doom have been sustained by not just your usual suspects (Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, Cirith Ungol, Ahab, etc.), but some surprising new names. The Acacia Strain took an album to jump from deathcore to sluggish misery, while up-and-comers Green Lung announced their presence in a series of infectiously folkloric songs. Limiting the genres’ greatest albums of 2023 to just 10 was a challenge, but we at Hammer persisted to give you a whistlestop tour of stoner and doom’s immaculate health.

Metal Hammer line break

The Acacia Strain – Failure Will Follow (Rise)

Well, we certainly didn’t see this coming. In 2023, deathcore dynamos The Acacia Strain challenged themselves yet again, this time by releasing two twin albums at the same time: one of thunderous metalcore (Step Into The Light) and another of dense, crushing doom (Failure Will Follow). The latter was all-new territory for the band, but – with its thunderously low tunings, cacophonous noise and legion of roared vocals – was a masterclass in sonic claustrophobia. MATT MILLS

Ahab – The Coral Tombs (Napalm)

Following an eight-year dry spell, funeral doom’s nautical travellers finally returned for a new audial odyssey. Ahab dragged inspiration from Jules Verne’s epic adventure novel 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea for The Coral Tombs, and the result sounded suitably enormous. Frontman Daniel Droste’s bellows echoed against a backdrop of immense guitar, the mix of grandeur and immense weight mimicking what it actually feels like to be exploring deep underwater. MATT MILLS

Baroness – Stone (Abraxan Hymns)

Baroness may have ditched their colour-themed titles on Stone, but they undeniably kept the songwriting that had made them stars. In fact, the Savannah four-piece’s sixth album brought with it some of the tightest compositions fans had heard since Purple: standouts like Last Word and Anodyne exploded equally with mud-soaked riffs and melodic sophistication. At this rate, Baroness’ second chapter will end up being even more thrilling than the first. MATT MILLS

Blood Ceremony – The Old Ways Remain (Rise Above)

Sounding like they've slipped through some psychedelia-hued vortex from the late 60s, Blood Ceremony's fifth full-length is a distillation of the brand's patented "flute-tinged witch rock", shimmying and shaking massive grooves that live up to the most fun aspects of the stoner pantheon. It's not hard to see why this lot have been seducing fans for 15 years now. RICH HOBSON

Cirith Ungol – Dark Parade (Metal Blade)

If the announcement of their impending retirement from touring has put any kind of dampener on sixth album, it doesn't show. Triumphant and bombastic as ever, Cirith remain a beacon for the bands now leading the charge for the New Wave Of Trad Metal in their wake, the lkikes of Khemmis, Spirit Adrift and more owing this band more than a tip of the hat - a pointy Viking one, naturally. RICH HOBSON

Green Lung – This Heathen Land (Nuclear Blast)

On album three, Green Lung pulled even further away from doom convention with eight occult and eclectic anthems. No longer “Sabbath but catchy”, the Londoners forayed into full-on acoustic territory on Song Of The Stones, which was contrasted beautifully with the addictively high-octane Maxine and Forest Church. By the time finale Oceans Of Time worshipped at Dracula’s altar, Green Lung were reaffirmed as one of our country’s brightest sparks. MATT MILLS

Khanate – To Be Cruel (Sacred Bones)

Bleak, oppressive, suffocating: in short, Khanate's fifth full-length is everything a growing doomster needs. Drone agitants of the highest order, Khanate have a Swans-like approach to abjection and noise that is as harrowing as spending a week in a petting zoo then immediately turning it into an abattoir, notes stretching out for seeming eternity whilst vocalist Alan Dubin howls and shrieks with the rabid fervour of an end-of-days preacher. RICH HOBSON

Margarita Witch Cult – Margarita Witch Cult (Heavy Psych Sounds)

Hailing from the heart of Sabbath country, it's no surprise that Margarita Witch Cult wear their Iommi-Osbourne-Butler-Ward influences proud. Make no mistake though, there's more to Margarita Witch Cult than just mindless-Sabbath worship; from the Motorhead grease of Annihilation to the militaristic drum-intro to Be My Witch the band capture a simplistic, but no less magic sense of zeal for one of metal's oldest and most traditional schools. RICH HOBSON

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs – Land Of Sleeper (Rocket)

Doubling down on the hellishly intense and crushingly atmospheric Viscerals, Pigs x7 dragged their listeners into another immense sonic vortex in 2023. Land Of Sleeper burst with some of the band’s most direct bludgeonings to date (see the Motörhead-esque Mr Medicine), while also opening up further psychedelic universes on The Weatherman and Ball Lightning. The result more than satisfied every metalhead the Northerners have yanked into their gravitational pull. MATT MILLS

Royal Thunder – Rebuilding The Mountain (Spinefarm)

Almost pulled apart by culminating addictions and self-destructive tendencies, Atlanta's Royal Thunder have nonetheless rallied to create what may very well be their most cathartic record to date. From the soulful strummed open notes of Drag Me to the exhausted, yet no less soaring final flourishes of Dead Star, this is a record that takes you on an emotionally draining but utterly stunning and beautiful sonic journey from start to finish. RICH HOBSON 

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.

With contributions from