Album of the year season is upon us! Granted, we're not ready to unveil the Hammer lists - Critics or Reader - just yet, but already we're getting the first stirrings of end of year lists from across the rock and metal spectrum, while events like the Grammys continue to miss out entirely on just about everything happening in modern metal.
But then, that's what lists like these are for, and with that in mind: here are the results of last week's vote! It was a colourful and diverse array of sounds and faces on display last week - everything from Korpiklaani and "Samurai" metallers Ryujin to a Megan Thee Stallion/Spiritbox collab - but third place ultimately went to shred star Sophie Lloyd, while Nepalese metal heroes Underside took a triumphant second place with Prey. There was no contest for top spot though, Germany's Eurovision entrants - and all-round colourful, wonderful weirdos Lord Of The Lost - taking top spot.
This week we've got an altogether heavier offer, whether you're in the mood for trad riffs from Judas Priest, the massive grooves of Five Finger Death Punch or even all-out extremity from Escuela Grind and Heriot. There's also some interesting leftfield inclusions with one of GosT's heaviest tracks in ages and Bright & Black, an orchestral collaboraiton between members of Opeth, Watain and Apocalyptica make their epic debut.
As ever, we need you to tell us which tracks excite you most, so don't forget to cast your vote below!
Judas Priest - Trial By Fire
Does anyone do triumphant trad metal so well as Judas Priest? Granted, they basically set the blueprint for it back in the late 70s, but over 50 years since they first formed the band are still on unassailable form. The latest single from next year’s Invincible Shield, Trial By Fire is exactly what you need to fight back against anything that would impede you, Halford delivering each line with a defiant intensity.
Five Finger Death Punch - Burn MF (feat. Rob Zombie)
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of The Wrong Side Of Heaven And The Righteous Side Of Hell, Five Finger Death Punch have unveiled a rare rendition of Burn MF featuring the guest talents of Rob Zombie. It’s a surprise collab, but makes sense given both band’s propensity for hard-riding groove metal riffs, Zombie bringing his distinctive drawl as a counterpoint to Ivan Moody’s fiery growl. While we’ve heard nothing about a new FFDP just yet, the fact the band are in Europe next summer certainly suggests the machine will be running at full steam in 2024.
Amaranthe - Outer Dimensions
The days might be getting shorter, but there’s no shortage of light and vibrant energy on Amaranthe’s latest single Outer Dimensions. The band’s capacity for switching things up is well established by this point, and Outer Dimensions dances its way through everything from shimmering pop metal to glorious power metal cheese, anchored around Elize Ryd’s massive vocal hooks.
Ihsahn - Pilgrimage To Oblivion
Ihsahn might not have on a new album with Emperor in over 20 years, but the spectre of the black metal legends looms large on Pilgrimage To Oblivion. The first track taken from his upcoming eponymous record - due February 16 - Pilgrimage… offers grandeur amidst imperious symphonic black metal, underlying prog sensibilities showing that the singer is hardly marching back the progress he has made with his adventurous solo output to date.
Health - Unloved
One of heavy music’s most consistent modern names return with another propulsive, industrial-noise banger tailor-made for sticky dance floors in a dimly lit goth club at 3am.Following recent singles that included appearances from Godflesh and Sierra, Unloved is the latest cut to be debuted from upcoming new Health album Rat Wars, the LA collective’s seventh full-length studio LP.While you’ll have to wait a little while longer for the record - which lands on December 7 via Loma Vista - their current run of form suggests it’ll be well worth it. This could prove to be a defining year for Health; the band are about to head out on a run of European dates with Sleep Token, the metal hype band of 2023, before returning to North America for a headline tour of their own. We suggest you don’t miss it.
Heriot - Soul Chasm
After their 2022 EP Profound Morality firmly put them on the map, Heriot spent much of 2023 touring, including a fully sold-out debut UK headline tour. The band are now building on that momentum with Soul Chasm, the first taste of new material since signing with Century Media. Punishingly slow and sludgy, the track offers a whole new sense of nastiness as the rising British stars tip right over into death metal territory with one of their most intensely heavy tracks to date.
GosT - Judgement/Prophecy
When it comes to synthwave, GosT has always existed in the heavier end of the spectrum, approaching the retro-futurist sound with an extreme metal sensibility that evokes the horror-adjacent sounds of the 80s. Judgement/Prophecy is no exception; a frantic, claustrophobic journey through industrialised sounds with massive beats and oppressive, menacing tones. The first track from new album Prophecy - due March 8 via Metal Blade - it’s a sign that GosT is headed back to his vicious roots.
Better Lovers - Two Alive Amongst The Dead
With members of Every Time I Die and Dillinger Escape Plan in their ranks, it’s hardly surprising that Better Lovers have been hailed as one of the most exciting new groups to form in 2023. Even after the wild sonic acrobatics of the God Made Me An Animal EP, Better Lovers are showing just how incendiary and creatively potent their new team-up is with Two Alive Amongst The Dead, an early Christmas gift of wild-eyed hardcore and alt sensibilities that has us eagerly awaiting what they might pull out in 2024.
Bright & Black - Nidhugg!
While you might not have heard of Bright & Black, you’ve almost certainly heard of its members. Featuring Fredrik Åkesson of Opeth, Apocalyptica’s Eicca Toppinen and Watain’s Erik Danielsson, the project is effectively an inversion of symphonic metal’s efforts to bring an orchestral sound to metal, instead asking what happens if you go the other way and get a 65-piece orchestra to perform original metal compositions. Nidhugg! Is both the debut single and opening track of the project’s debut The Album! - due January 26 - an impressive and subversive composition combining metal’s sense of foreboding and maximalism with the grandeur of a classical composition.
Bokassa - Let’s Storm The Capitol
Don’t worry, stoner punks Bokassa haven’t gone all MAGA; Let’s Storm The Capitol a typically cheeky slab of riff-driven stoner brilliance. The first single from the band’s upcoming fourth album All Out Of Dreams - out February 16 - …Capitol stays the course for bouncy rhythms and massive sing-alongs, a fun mix of 70s rock and hard-driven heavy metal making it another triumphant outing for the Norwegian band.
Escuela Grind - Ball And Chain
Switching things up from their usual progressive grindcore base, Escuela Grind’s Ball And Chain is a filthy, low-end lurking slab of brutal death metal, throttling in atmosphere and electrifying for its sheer energy. Taken from the upcoming DDEEAATTHHMMEETTAALL EP - due January 12 - the band explain the EP is about exploring the genres that inspire them most, making Ball And Chain a loving tribute to one of metal’s nastiest and most extreme subgenres.
BLACKGOLD - Back With Another One
2023 has been a big year for masked nu metal revivalists BLACKGOLD, tours with Limp Bizkit and Skindred - as well as an appearance at Download Festival - exposing them to massive new audiences. Not resting on the release of the Volume 2 EP earlier this year, the band have released Back With Another One, another energetic showcase of classic nu metal tropes done with a sense of fresh zeal that has us partying like it’s 1998 all over again.