Tesseract - The War Of Being (Kscope)
Worth the weight? You fucking bet. Five years since their last album, the UK's leading light in progressive metal returning with a stunning, conceptually dense masterpiece that Hammer writer Matt Mills described as "this band’s quintessential release – not to mention a frontrunner for metal album of the year." There's not much higher praise than that, but it was richly earned.
Therapy? - Hard Cold Fire (Marshall)
Almost 30 years since Troublegum established them as Britain's answer to the oncoming tide of 90s American alt-metal, Therapy? are still delivering consistently high quality anthems on their sixteenth studio album. Stephen Hill assessed that "Hard Cold Fire features another 10 sublime, short, sharp blasts of jagged, riff-heavy noise rock, expertly juxtaposed with Andy Cairns’ trademark knack for penning bleakly melancholic, yet hugely anthemic hooks and choruses."
Thy Catafalque - Alfold (Season Of Mist)
25 years of inventive, unpredictable avant-garde brilliance and Thy Catafalque still find ways to push the boundaries of extremity with each new release. The band's 11th album, Alföld is no exception, weaving a twisted path through extreme metal that had reviewer Tom O'Boyle marveling: "The best thing about Alföld [is that] its whimsy keeps you guessing. Unlike anything else of its ilk, Thy Catafalque’s legacy continues, and it’s one that deserves wider acknowledgement."
Torpor - Abscission (Human Worth)
Abyssal sludge metal from the heart of Bristol, Torpor's third full length Abscission is a headlong dive into murky, suffocating depths. For all of its darkness, reviewer Kez Whelan found a sliver of light, writing that Abscission is Torpor's "most cathartic release to date, whether it’s the introduction of eerie clean vocals in closer Island Of Abandonment or the fusion of waves of harsh noise with pummelling blasts on the uncharacteristically fast Carbon. Abscission refines Torpor’s skullrattling post-metal grooves to perfection, and hints at a host of possible futures they could explore without ever diluting the sheer gut-punch heaviness of their trademark sound."
Vanishing Kids - Miracle Of Death (Aural Music)
Twenty years on from their debut, goth/doom experimentalists Vanishing Kids continued to explore the outer reaches of stylistic boundaries with their sixth full-length Miracle Of Death. Over a glorious, oft-morose 41-minutes, the band conjure undeniable magic, defined by reviewer Remfry Dedman as "a swirling gothic/ psychedelic voyage of life, death, love and loss."
Vomitory - All Heads Are Gonna Roll (Metal Blade)
Swedish death metal veterans, Vomitory stayed the course on rampaging riffs and bilious growls after a lengthy five-year hiatus. The title of the band's ninth album - All Heads Are Gonna Roll - is as much a promise as it is a statement of intent, Dom Lawson hailing it as "a tour de force of unrelenting violence, delivered with utmost precision", before ruling that "Vomitory’s razor-sharp blend of old-school songwriting and ultramodern production power is largely without peer right now. This is a near-perfect death metal record".
VV - Neon Noir (Heartagram)
Five years since he laid goth metal icons HIM to rest, Ville Valo's long-awaited solo project finally arrived right at the start of 2023 to kick the year off with flair and panache. Neon Noir is effectively a continuation of the singer's work from the past 30 years, romantic, anthemic goth metal, Dannii Leivers admitting that "as the glorious melodies of these songs start to imprint themselves on your soul, like faded memories rising to the surface again, the heart-shaped hole he left five years ago begins to heal. It’s good to have him back."
Wargasm - Venom (Universal Music Group)
Wargasm have been a galvanizing force on the metal scene in recent years, their spiky fusion of metal, electronica and punk offering a refreshing reboot of nu metal staples for the 2020s. Slots at Download and Bloodstock, as well as supports with Babymetal and Limp Bizkit - whose own Fred Durst appears on the track Bang Ya Head - put them in front of massive audiences, but their debut Venom proved the hype was justified, a full-throttle blast of obnoxious noise that was summarised by Merlin Alderslade as "one of 2023’s essential debut albums."
Within Temptation - Bleed Out (Force Music)
Now firmly established as an arena-sized band, Within Temptation's eighth album Bleed Out matched their spectacular stage-show in terms of scope and ambition, continuing the shift away from their symphonic metal foundations towards an enormous new sound that incorporates electronic elements yet still maintains an air of grandeur in keeping with their roots. Reviewer Catherine Morris was suitably impressed, writing that, "sometimes, Within Temptation’s music has sounded like the end of the world; Bleed Out sees them open a window onto a new one."
Zulu - A New Tomorrow (Flatspot)
As hardcore tears its way into the mainstream consciousness in the most vital way since its inception in the 1980s, acts like Zulu show just how far the genre can go as they mix beatdowns, social-polticial messages and colossal riffs into an unstoppable, vital package.
Stephen Hill was effusive in his praise, writing that Zulu's "lineage belongs alongside the revolutionary likes of Sly And The Family Stone, Rage Against The Machine and Public Enemy. Big words indeed, but A New Tomorrow is unquestionably cut from the same cloth as those bands at their best; the mutinous spirit of those artists, both in their refusal to be sonically pigeonholed and in their pure defiance against the system that tried to marginalise them, is the thing that makes Zulu so special and singular."