The best metal albums of 2023 so far

Best albums of 2023 so far
(Image credit: Future)

2023 hit the ground running so far as new releases goes, the January releases from Ville Valo and Katatonia kicking open the gates for another stellar year of metal. Since then we've had welcome returns from massive bands Avenged Sevenfold, Babymetal and Metallica, as well as crowning achievements from ascendant talent like Sleep Token, Pupil Slicer and Bury Tomorrow. 

But where do you start with it all? That's where we come in - we've searched far and wide to find the metal albums that are causing the biggest waves in 2023. From death metal and thrash to alternative and goth, these are the albums you need to check out this year (so far). And believe us, there's plenty more to come. 

Metal Hammer line break

Avatar - Dance Devil Dance (Black Waltz)

Avatar: Dance Devil Dance

(Image credit: Black Waltz)

In the run-up to Avatar's ninth studio album, frontman Johannes Eckerström said the release would "save heavy metal". It was a bold statement from a band given to theatrical grandstanding, but we'll be damned if Dance Devil Dance didn't deliver some of 2023's most fun metal anthems thus far, Holly Wright noting that, "just when it feels like there’s nothing left to explore, their ninth studio album pulls [Avatar] in new and surprising directions". 

Avenged Sevenfold - Life Is But A Dream... (Warner)

Life Is But A Dream album art

(Image credit: Avenged Sevenfold)

The seven-year wait for a new Avenged Sevenfold album was at least somewhat vindicated by the fact Life Is But A Dream... is surely the band's most ambitious release to date. Prog, heavy metal, thrash, psychedelia; A7X well and truly pushed the boat out with their eighth album, Dave Everley assessing "Avenged Sevenfold have scaled the mountain and looked out over all that surrounds them, then plunged headfirst into the void, not knowing where, when or even if they’ll land. What kind of madness is this? The very best kind."

Babymetal - The Other One (Babymetal/Amuse)

Babymetal: The Other One

(Image credit: Babymetal/Amuse)

Since returning from a twelve-month hiatus in October 2022, Babymetal had been drip-feeding fans a new single each month from their fourth album. Even that couldn't prepare us for the sheer scope they had embraced on new concept album The Other One, dispensing some of their earlier hyperactivity to create what Alec Chillingworth judged "unquestionably their strongest compendium of delirium to date."

Bury Tomorrow - The Seventh Sun (Metal For Nations)

Bury Tomorrow: The Seventh Sun

(Image credit: Music For Nations)

Tired of being called the underdogs of British metalcore, Bury Tomorrow's seventh album was all about showing just how massive their sound had become whilst losing none of the sheer ferocity at their core. Stephen Hill ruled that, "the easy career path for Bury Tomorrow would be to pander to the rock audience. Their popularity may still surge off the back of The Seventh Sun, but that they’ve arguably got even heavier says everything about their attitude and commitment to making the music they love."

Cattle Decapitation - Terrasite (Metal Blade)

Cattle Decapitation: Terrasite

(Image credit: Metal Blade)

Eight albums in, and Cattle Decapitation are still finding unique new ways of turning stomachs with unrelenting, chaotic brutality as they incorporate the twists and turns of prog alongside surprisingly melodic sensibilities. Hammer writer Dom Lawson acknowledged as much, explaining that Terrasite "is still vicious, skullclubbing brutality, but with atmosphere and intelligence in abundance."

Death Pill - Death Pill (New Heavy Sounds)

Death Pill: Death Pill

(Image credit: New Heavy Sounds)

Recorded against the backdrop of the Russian invasion of their country, Ukrainian hardcore punks Death Pill seethe with defiance and fury on their self-titled debut. Granted, the album was written before the war broke out, but Death Pill rage hard on topics ranging from sexism and personal empowerment to anti-war sentiment, Stephen Hill assessing that "Death Pill have made one of the best crossover albums of the modern era". 

Delain - Dark Waters (Napalm)

Delain: Dark Waters

(Image credit: Napalm)

With most of the band quitting in 2021, Delain's Martijn Westerholt was left to effectively reboot symphonic metal contenders Delain for their seventh studio album. With new vocalist Diana Leah front and centre, Dark Waters proved the band were still striding forward confidently, Dannii Leivers assessing that "this feels like a band reborn: grandiose and fizzing with bright energy."

Demonstealer - The Propaganda Machine (Self Released)

Demonstealer: The Propaganda Machine

(Image credit: Demonstealer)

As one of the key figures behind India's burgeoning extreme metal scene, Sahil ‘The Demonstealer’ Makhija is known to have something of a midas touch when it comes to producing top-tier ambitious extreme metal. Demonstealer's fourth album proved to be no exception, Chris Chantler writing that "with this fourth Demonstealer album, [Sahil] is back doing what he does best: dynamic, progressive blackened death metal, festooned with blunt riffs and cosmic licks."

Distant - Heritage

Distant: Heritage

(Image credit: Century Media)

In case you missed the memo, deathcore is big business again in 2023. Lorna Shore might be leading the charge, but the whole scene is packed with ambitious talent ready to take the genre in exciting new directions - which is where Dutch nasties Distant come in. Heritage sees the band embrace sci-fi sensibilities in a powerful, visceral outpouring of extremity, Sophie Maughan explaining that "this third studio album lands on Century Media trimmed of excess and aimed straight at the solar plexus."

Enslaved - Heimdal (Nuclear Blast)


(Image credit: Nuclear Blast Records)

Few bands have taken black metal as far afield as Enslaved, and on their sixteenth studio album the Norwegians are still finding fresh ground to tread. Mixing in elements of prog, folk and even psychedelia, Heimdal is testament to the band's commitment to reaching for the horizon, Paul Travers summarising that "the Bergen five-piece are far from the only band to have piloted black metal into stranger tides since its misbegotten beginnings, but they are one of the most consistently inventive and engrossing."

Godflesh - Purge (Avalanche)

Godflesh: Purge

(Image credit: Avalanche)

After a six-year gap between albums, Justin Broadrick brought his filth-crusted industrial behemoth Godflesh lurching back to life on Purge, the band's ninth studio album capturing the calustrophobic, choking intensity that made them a key influential force in industrial metal. 

But then, that reliability and consistency is exactly what fans want from Godflesh, Alex Deller ruling that, "by now, even casual listeners will know what to expect: bleak, mechanised, industrial metal par excellence, played by a duo who helped pour the genre’s foundations."

Immortal - War Against All (Nuclear Blast)

Immortal: War Against All

(Image credit: Nuclear Blast)

Demonaz may be the sole survivor of Immortal's departures and messy legal disputes in recent years, but thankfully that drama hasn't dulled the furious whirlwind of frost-bitten black metal raging at the heart of the band. The band's tenth studio album, War Against All doesn't tinker with the formula that Immortal have perfected the past 30 years plus, but nonetheless feels fresh and furious, Joe Daly explaining that it "boasts riffs as catchy as anything the band has ever released, and there’s plenty of depth across the tracks."

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.