2023 has certainly hit the ground running, where new releases are concerned. From the return of goth metal prince Ville Valo to a very welcome return to melodeath from Gothenburg pioneers In Flames, right through to the prog metal majesty of Katatonia, technical wizardry of Periphery or genre-blurring powerviolence of Zulu, there's been a flavour for just about every type of metalhead this year so far - and that's to say nothing of new releases from Babymetal, Metallica and Avenged Sevenfold that are just on the horizon.
So how do you keep up with it all? Our handy tracks of the week guide is a sure-fire way to stay on top of the week's hottest singles (here's the latest, in case you missed it), but what of the bands that don't necessarily get their time in the spotlight?
Well, we've got you covered on that too. Each month, we'll be selecting seven killer albums from the lesser-sung heroes of the metal scene, digging up treasures from the underground and emerging artists who are very much worth your time and consideration.
From the apoplectic fury of Finnish grindcore veterans Rotten Sound, to the progressive death metal howl of Indian metal pioneer Demonstealer, post-metal newcomers Dirge and the transgressive sonics of Lana Del Rabies, you'll want to make sure you don't miss these seven killer records - and just to make doubly surte, we've even included a handy playlist at the bottom of the page for your listening pleasure.
Rotten Sound - Apocalypse (Season Of Mist)
With the obvious exception of the much-missed Nasum, no one has ever embodied grindcore’s lust for the extreme with more vigour than Rotten Sound. The Finns have been destroying ears since the early 90s, but despite its creators’ veteran status, Apocalypse may be the fastest and most insanely brutal thing they’ve ever recorded.
From the opening seconds of Pacify onwards, listening to this is like being taken apart by machine-gun fire. Bolstered by the sound of drummer Sami Latva doing some serious overtime, 40-second blasts of pure aggro like Equality and Ownership butt skulls with Sharing’s ominous sludge and the wild, death-punk blitzkrieg of Empowered, and everybody leaves with a bloody nose.
Twenty-one minutes of violence, and no fucking about, Apocalypse sounds huge, too. This is boss-level grind, executed by elite experts. Dom Lawson
Ad Infinitum - Chapter III (Napalm)
With three albums in three years, you’d think that Ad Infinitum had bitten off more than they can chew. Remarkably, Chapter III is a stunningly accomplished record, with delectable hooks, sparkling production and gorgeous vocals from Melissa Bonny.
Consistently a step beyond the formulaic, all 12 songs balance metallic dynamism with heartswelling melodies without sounding contrived. Ravenous has shades of Eluveitie-esque folk metal while the excellent Seth nods to Evanescence, which only serves to highlight their songwriting ability.
Nestled among chugging guitar grooves and technical breakdowns, New Dawn’s impossibly lovely chorus could melt even the iciest of hearts. Catherine Morris
Demonstealer - The Propaganda Machine (Black Lion)
Over his 25-year career, Sahil Makhija has been one of the most prominent and hardworking figures in the Indian metal scene, not only fronting a slew of bands, but founding the subcontinent’s only metal devoted recording studio and even fronting his own metal-themed cookery brand, Headbanger’s Kitchen, too.
With this fourth Demonstealer album, he’s back doing what he does best: dynamic, progressive blackened death metal, festooned with blunt riffs and cosmic licks. The subtle symphonic urges and catchy clean vocal melodies lend emotive textures and atmospheric resonances to killer grinders like The Great Dictator and Crushing The Iron Fist without ever compromising the relentless brute-force energy.
Joined by members of Triptykon, Aborted and Ne Obliviscaris, Sahil continues nudging his band to a world-class level with a string of propulsive volleys containing plenty of meaty food for thought while still seeming to whip by in no time. Chris Chantler
nothing,nowhere. - Void Eternal (Elektra)
With razor-sharp nu metal riffs and a bruising honesty, Void Eternal is nothing, nowhere.’s most intense release yet. A stunning shift from previous work, this record drowns Joseph Mulherin’s emo-tinged trap and electro-pop punk in thick, black paint and heavier soundscapes.
From Psycho_Psychiatry’s Linkin Park-tinged brutality through the oppressive, woozy tenderness of Chr0makill3r, to Thirst4Violence’s visceral fusion of hip hop and screamo, Void… dissects and transforms emo through a slew of raw, accomplished sounds and star guests.
Will Ramos growls on the anthemic Trag3dy, while Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz unleashes spoken word on Cyan1de. An instant classic. Emily Swingle
Kruelty - Untopia (Profound Lore)
Kruelty capture the fetid atmosphere of cavernous death-doom and the chest-beating energy of beatdown hardcore, all while emphasising the most crushing aspects of each.
This second full-length is even more metallic than their lauded 2020 debut, with dense opener Unknown Nightmare packing an almighty punch as bleak doom dirges collide with punchy, Celtic Frost-esque grooves – complete with traditional Tom G Warrior ‘UGH!’s, no less.
The combo of ultra-guttural vocals, deathly detuned tone and lumbering riffs that speak directly to the reptilian part of your brain feels similar to fellow Tokyo residents Coffins at times, but this quintet definitely have a punkier sound.
Their hardcore roots shine through on the aptly titled Harder Than Before, with that knuckle-dragging breakdown at the end destined to soundtrack all manner of moshpit injuries. Kez Whelan
Lana Del Rabies - Strega Beata (Gilgongo)
The brainchild of Arizona-based musician and producer Sam An, Lana Del Rabies has never shied away from the human psyche’s darker passageways. Strega Beata sees Sam explore her own trauma and abuse – a process that has rippled outward to encompass an examination of the unceasing avalanche of grief, horror, loss and tragedy we are exposed to on a daily basis as a species.
Attempting to give this swirling vortex of human misery narrative form is an ambitious endeavour, but Strega Beata is a resounding, chest-crumpling success. Genres are smashed, spliced and mixed like the toxic ingredients for flying ointment ground down in a witch’s mortar and pestle, with gothic moodiness leeching into industrial churn, tape-decayed prettiness and coruscating noise-outs.
Despite everything weighing down upon it – sonically, conceptually, emotionally – Strega Beata never once threatens to buckle or crack. Instead, Sam channels the world-razing sorrow of her subject matter into something potent, terrifying and beautiful, fashioning a true sonic one-off that lives, breathes and perpetuates its own dark magic. Alex Deller
OHHMS - Rot (Church Road)
Explorative quintet OHHMS have never been afraid of an overarching theme to their albums, with 2017’s The Fool exploring the Tarot, and 2018’s Exist casting its eye upon animal cruelty.
On Rot, frontman Paul Waller gets to explore his love of horror. Such macabre material has been plundered countless times in metal circles before, but OHHMS approach it with a fresh ear.
Rot is a lot of fun, but like all the best horror, there’s substance lurking under the festering carcasses. Body Melt may sound like a hip-shaking rager, but it lyrically deals with the eating disorders that consumed Paul’s life for decades. Meanwhile, A Dark Song sees him reflecting on the death of his alcoholic father.
OHHMS never lose their sense of fun with this entire project, even when the music itself turns dark. Even if you never quite know what you’re going to get from a new OHHMS album, you can be assured that it will be quality, and on their fourth, the rot has yet to set in. Remfry Dedman