The best metal albums of 2023 so far

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."

Empire State Bastard - Rivers Of Heresy (Roadrunner)

Empire State Bastard's album

(Image credit: Roadrunner)

An extreme metal side project from Biffy Clyro frontman Simon Neil also featuring Mike from Oceansize and Dave Lombardo from Slayer?! Needless to say, our interest was piqued, and boy, did Empire State Bastard deliver here. "This is a superbly twisted debut, and an album that’s hopefully only part of an ongoing journey," said Paul Travers in his 8/10 Metal Hammer review.

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."

Green Lung - This Heathen Land (Nuclear Blast)

Green Lung: This Heathen Land

(Image credit: Nuclear Blast)

Darlings of Britain's underground stoner/doom scene, Green Lung provided their rapidly expanding audiences a record that truly realised their theatrical ambitions as This Heathen Land leaned harder on epic, grandstanding 70s-style doom more than ever before. Achieving a Ghost-like sense of playful, insidiously catchy brilliance, Chris Chantler judging that on Green Lung's third record, "the sheer quality of songwriting edges ever upwards."

Hanabie - Reborn Superstar (Music For Nations)

Hanabie's album

(Image credit: Music For Nations)

Adding a welcome burst of glittery J-pop into their mix of furious metalcore breakdowns and hooky EDM, Hanabie don't sound quite like anything in the metal scene right now. "Hanabie have got ambition and talent in spades, and it shows on Reborn Superstar!" said Hammer's Catherine Morris. "A multifaceted and massive record that deserves to make them an international sensation."

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."

Incantation - Unholy Deification (Relapse)

Incantation: Unholy Deification

(Image credit: Relapse)

While the world of death metal grows ever more diverse, some things remain reliably unstoppable. New Jersey's Incantation are certainly among that list, the band's 12th studio album Unholy Deification sticking to the tried-and-true sounds of the past for an ungodly racket that will surely please longterm fans, Dom Lawson certainly among them, writing: "even by their own lofty, genre-defining standards, Unholy Deification is an absolute beast. Boasting the heaviest and most vivid production in their history, Incantation’s 13th studio effort sounds imperious from the opening seconds of Offerings (The Swarm) IV and stays that way for the next 40 minutes."

In Flames - Foregone (Nuclear Blast)

In Flames new album Foregone artwork

(Image credit: In Flames)

Ever since In Flames unveiled State Of Slow Decay in June 2022, fans have been abuzz at the prospect of the Gothenburg melodeath pioneers returning to the sound that made them so iconic. Thankfully, Foregone delivered on that promise and then some, keeping some of the scope of more recent In Flames whilst delighting in the visceral pleasure of epic, sweeping melodic death metal.

 Stephen Hill acknowledged that "the arrival of former Megadeth and Nevermore man Chris Broderick as a full-time member has re-sharpened one of the most essential attacks the band have in their arsenal. The riffs on The Great Deceiver are sharper than the tip of a samurai sword, and on Forgone Pt. 1 both Chris and Björn Gelotte brilliantly duck, weave, pound and thrash along in awesome style."

Katatonia - Sky Void Of Stars (Napalm)


(Image credit: Napalm Records)

Katatonia have come a long way from their doom metal roots, embracing goth metal and prog across their career to ensure their sound remains an ever-evolving entity. Twelfth studio album Sky Void Of Stars offers a stunning vision of the wide scope of their sound amidst some of the most enchanting melodies the band have ever written, Dom Lawson ruling that "Katatonia sound as absorbed in their meticulous, mercurial work as they ever did. The only predictable thing about Sky Void Of Stars is how absurdly fucking great it is."

Metallica - 72 Seasons (Blackened/Universal)

Metallica: 72 Seasons

(Image credit: Blackened/Universal)

Metal's biggest band ride again. A new Metallica album is rare enough these days that it always warrants fanfare, even if said album wasn't delivered with unrelenting pace that threw back to the band's thrash roots. 

But 72 Seasons also arrived with an added sense of poignance as it followed a turbulent period for frontman James Hetfield. Stephen Hill acknowledged as much in his Metal Hammer review of the album, judging that "rarely has [James Hetfield] laid himself so bare as he does here." 

Mutoid Man - Mutants (Sargent House)

Mutoid Man: Mutants

(Image credit: Sargent House)

With the talents of Cave In's Steven Brodsky, Converge's Ben Koller and High On Fire's Jeff Matz, Mutoid Man come with an immense pedigree and an undeniable sense of high expectation. Thankfully the band have proven time and again to be up to the task of matching their respective groups, Mutoid Man's third record Mutants hailed by reviewer Kevin Stewart-Panko for "perfecting the balance between technicality and bore-into-brain hooks. The energy is bristling and unparalleled, the songs are unfettered earworms."

Myrkur - Spine (Relapse)

Myrkur: Spine

(Image credit: Spinefarm)

After branching out into the realms of Nordic folk with 2020's Folkesange, black metal maverick Myrkur again took a drastic stylistic left turn with 2023's Spine. Embracing elements of goth and art rock whilst still incorporating subtle black metal elements, her fourth full-length opened the floor to go just about anywhere going forwards, reviewer Joe Daly ruling that Spine is "an album that discovers expansive new musical territories and emotional hinterlands. Here, Myrkur has orchestrated an aural kaleidoscope that balances darkness and light, the euphoric and the devastating, to produce a magnum opus in her ever-evolving catalogue."

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.