Obituary - Dying Of Everything (Relapse)
Since 1989's seminal Slowly We Rot, Floridian death metal stalwarts Obituary have stayed the course when it comes to lumbering, mid-paced death metal. The approach hasn't always served them amazingly well, but when the band settle into a groove there's no denying they tap a vein of old school death metal magic.
Dom Lawson offered favourable comparisons to 2017's self-titled predecessor, saying that "killer songs stack up throughout, with more substance and detail than the last LP’s smash-and-grab volley. Both records contain 10 tracks, but Dying Of Everything is more varied, more considered, more dynamic… and possibly Obituary’s strongest album in 30 years."
Orbit Culture - Descent (Seek And Strike)
Swedish extreme metallers Orbit Culture had been marked as one of the European scene's most promising bands, and with Descent, they formally turned that promise into spine-tingling, bowel-shakingly heavy brilliance. "With Descent, Orbit Culture may have finally lit that all-important spark," remarked Hammer's own Adam Brennan.
Overkill - Scorched (Nuclear Blast)
East Coast thrash may not always get the same reverence as its Bay Area counterpart, but New Jersey thrashers Overkill showed the magic is still alive and well on their twentieth studio album, Scorched as Bobby 'Blitz' Ellsworth and co delivered another masterclass in old school thrash.
But as Paul Travers points out, "What makes Scorched really stand out are the moments that reach out in new directions. Wicked Place has a slow-burn build-up reminiscent of Diamond Head’s Am I Evil?, but when the dam bursts, it releases a rollicking bluesy riff like something from Metallica’s Load/Reload era. Won’t Be Coming Back packs in Iron Maiden levels of clean guitar melodies and there are several points throughout the album where they lean towards classic metal rather than straight-ahead thrash."
Periphery - V: Djent Is Not A Genre (3DOT)
Tongue-in-cheek album titles aside, Periphery have delighted in pushing boundaries and being an all-round unpredictable force even in the ambitious confines of prog metal.
V: Djent Is Not A Genre sees the band veer off in wildly different directions as they incorporate everything from jazz to electronica whilst creating a surprisingly cohesive and hook-laden release, Adam Brennan remarking that "a key part to Periphery’s enviable run over their recent output is the self-aware undertone that permeates the polished mix of scintillating heaviness, fiendish dexterity and seductive earworms. It’s these standards by which V is judged, and the album could usurp some of its forebears from the podium."
Primordial - How It Ends (Metal Blade)
30 years since their journey first began, Primordial continue to strive for higher bars of excellence with each new release. The band's tenth album, How It Ends arrived after a five year period of minimal activity but nonetheless marked a triumphant return for a band whose brilliance knows no bounds, writer Dom Lawson ruling that, "visceral, emotional, overpoweringly muscular: this is what Primordial do, but here they’ve upped the ante to heroic levels."
Pupil Slicer - Blossom (Prosthetic)
With their debut album Mirrors, Pupil Slicer arrived as a whirlwind of mathy, grind-adjacent metalcore with a sound as chaotic as their name is brutal. Second album Blossom doesn't dial back, as such, but rather expands the band's repertoire, Stephen Hill explaining that "the band have also decided to explore far more subtle, elegant and soaring emotional territory as well, indulging in elements that would seem comfortable on an Alcest, Chelsea Wolfe or even My Bloody Valentine album."
Rotten Sound - Apocalypse (Season Of Mist)
Now in their 30th year, Rotten Sound's all-out assault on the senses via scabrous grindcore shows no signs of relenting. The band's eighth album, Apocalypse flings out 18 songs in a little over 20 minutes, a whirlwind of furious noise that was described by reviewer Dom Lawson as "may be the fastest and most insanely brutal thing they’ve ever recorded."
Royal Thunder - Rebuilding The Mountain (Spinefarm)
Royal Thunder have always traded in emotional, soulful doom-adjacent rock, but Rebuilding The Mountain feels especially poignant given the band effectively broke up in the five-year gap between releases. Catherine Morris acknowledged as much in her review, summarising that "Rebuilding The Mountain is a record that you sense the band have bled for, but it’s their sheer talent and tenacity that make it such a triumphant return – and not a moment too soon."
Sleep Token - Take Me Back To Eden (Spinefarm)
Perhaps the biggest metal success story of 2023, Sleep Token's ascension has truly come about on third album Take Me Back To Eden. Amidst feats like their streaming stats ballooning to over 2 million monthly listeners and selling out Wembley Arena in under 10 minutes, the band's third record perfects their mixture of soulful R'n'B and tech metal.
Dannii Leivers assessed as much in her review, summarising that, "…Eden is Sleep Token’s strongest effort to date. And, while they’ll always be Marmite, there’s no question it will delight those already onboard. This is a record that not only expands the band’s universe and continues to prod metal’s boundaries, but considers what it means to be human. Otherworldly they may be, but there’s the deepest empathy within."
Svalbard - The Weight Of The Mask (Nuclear Blast)
Never one afraid to wear her heart on her sleeve, Serena Cherry unveiled new layers of stunning beauty and heart-wrenching pain on the UK extreme metallers' fourth studio album. Picking up on the themes of depression and isolation that arose during the pandemic and continued to fester since, The Weight Of The Mask is, according to the words of Hammer's Dannii Leivers, "an exercise of extremes that never offers answers, but that stands as a stunning monument to the human experience."
Sylosis - A Sign Of Things To Come (Nuclear Blast)
Bubbling from within the British metal underground for over a decade, Sylosis produced an album that, with any justice, should take them roaring into metal's big leagues. "Not only is Josh Middleton crafting better hooks than ever, but he’s surrounded by possibly the best collection of musicians he’s ever had alongside him in Sylosis," said Hammer's Stephen Hill in his review.