We hit the ground running with new metal releases this year, the likes of VV, Obituary, Avatar and In Flames showing the scene is in stunning form right now. It's not just fan favourites and big names that make metal so brilliant in 2023, however: there's also an incredibly healthy offering of up-and-coming talent to discover.
Each month, we scour the world of rock, metal, punk and beyond to find the very best and most exciting bands you need to know about. Last month we asked you to weigh in and tell us which new band excited you most, and the results are in - deathcore heavies She Must Burn taking the top spot in our January poll.
But who'll take top spot in February? It's a diverse offering again, with everything from Californian hardcore to Icelandic post-punk, but we're sure we've unearthed some gems that may yet enter your regular listening diet. So let us know which band interests you most in the vote below - and check out our updated new bands playlist at the bottom of the page.
Mirroring the frozen, sacred landscapes of their home in Iceland, Kælan Mikla are simultaneously bewitching and brutal. The band’s name has similarly glacial origins, and comes from the Icelandic translation of ‘The Lady Of The Cold’, a winter spirit who appears in Moomins.
“If you look into her eyes, you freeze to death,” explains synth player Sólveig Matthildur Kristjánsdóttir. “The character is like a children’s femme fatale, and we relate to that a lot.”
Growing up in an isolated country, Kælan Mikla often had only nature and the fairytales and folklore of their homeland to turn to for inspiration, singing stories in their native tongue about wishing stones and cunning elves, among other magical entities.
“We just played in the countryside, heard stories and sang songs,” Sólveig says. “I always feel like the elves are a metaphor for nature because they’re very dangerous, but very beautiful.”
Since forming in 2013, the trio – completed by bassist Margrét Rósa Dóru Harrýsdóttir and vocalist Laufey Soffía – have taken their sonic spells around the globe. Favourites of The Cure’s Robert Smith, Kælan Mikla favour a fervent gothic sound, driven by atmospheric synth, haunting melodies and pensive lyrics lifted from old poetry notebooks, and the bleakness of black metal.
In turn, Kælan Mikla were invited to support The Cure at their 40th anniversary show, and were handpicked by Smith to play at Meltdown festival in 2018. They’ve also played alongside bands as diverse as Alcest, Placebo, Pixies and Deftones. They’re currently touring Europe and the UK as special guests to goth icon Ville Valo.
“We’re definitely a live band,” says Sólveig. “We put so much effort into our performance, I’m very proud of that aspect. We emphasise the visual arts and spend about an hour backstage putting on make-up and dresses that are always well thought out. We’re like three witches screaming in your face.” Liz Scarlett
Kælan Mikla are on tour with VV in March.
Sounds Like: If deathly winter winds could talk
For Fans Of: The Cure, GGGOLDDD, Björk
Listen To: Sólstöður
Scowl are the most exciting new hardcore band going. With just two EPs and a debut – complete with atypical, cartoonish sleeve art – the Californians have taken their scene-smashing sound around the world, their stage-breaking live shows even seeing them open for Limp Bizkit at Madison Square Garden. A monumental achievement, but not one they ever planned for.
“I’ve never played in a band before,” confesses vocalist Kat Moss. “Malachi [Greene, guitar] learned guitar just to write Scowl songs. When we started we just wanted to play local shows… opening for Limp Bizkit was never in the conversation!”
What Scowl lacked in technical proficiency, they “made up for in creativity”, Kat says. Bloodhound, the 90-second opener of debut album How Flowers Grow, charges forward with wild abandon, propelled by Kat’s confrontational snarl, while the title track is all sun-kissed Californian summer, Kat switching gears to an emotive croon like a gender-flipped hardcore Mike Patton.
Rejecting preconceptions is immensely important to Kat, who cites My Chemical Romance as a formative inspiration. Her band share MCR’s penchant for connecting with the disenfranchised, their lyrics frequently confronting issues of mental health.
“I have faced a lot of depression and anxiety,” she says. “Our EP Reality After Reality was written in a time where I couldn’t get out of bed. Even talking about it now, shame wells up, but that’s why I push myself. Because when I was a kid, bands like My Chemical Romance had these vulnerable lyrics that gave me something to relate to, which is so powerful… vulnerability is so powerful.” Will Marshall
Scowl play Outbreak in June
Sounds Like: Short, sharp blasts of raucous, attitude-drenched hardcore
For Fans Of: Minor Threat, Drain, End It
Listen To: Fuck Around
“Nature provides the truth I need to live on – it sustains me, mentally and physically,” says Bruno Augusto Ribeiro. The two albums that the black metal vocalist has made with countryman Caio Lemos as Vauruvã place this life-saving ethos at their pulverising core.
The Blakean gateways to the mythical realms of the imagination are Vauruvã’s escape from the brutalities of an informationsaturated and pollutant-intoxicated age, a malaise exacerbated by the destruction wrought by Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s ex-president, on their country. Multi-instrumentalist Caio sees the need for a musical sanctuary as critical.
“I’m an inveterate pessimist, or maybe a frustrated optimist,” he explains. “I want to be more positive, because life already throws up so much suffering. Vauruvã is an idyllic refuge.”
Secreted within Vauruvã’s dichotomies of hope and despair, beauty and brutality, Caio hints towards the experimental tendencies of his other projects, the avant-garde post metal of Bríi and the folky Kaatayra. Tropical rhythmic phantoms, Brazilian folk intermezzos and local field recordings all penetrate Vauruvã’s ambitious chaotic metal flux, imbuing the music with its regional feel.
“How could it be any different?” asks Caio. “This is the culture I inhabit and love. It’s all there – all the patterns and harmonies – buried in the unconscious and being cast out, even if it is hidden behind a great big wall of noise.” Spencer Grady
Sounds Like: Tempestuous atmospheric black metal featuring Amazonian rhythms, progressive rock and Brazilian jungle genies
For Fans Of: Yellow Eyes, Krallice, Bathory
Listen To: Maresia
Google 'Undeath' you’ll get a host of headlines declaring the same thing: that this band are making death metal fun again. “We’ve never tried to posture as a tough band, because we’re not,” lead singer Alex Jones tells us. “We’re a bunch of fucking dorks.”
The geekery shines through on their second album, It’s Time… To Rise From The Grave. Its songs combine relentless drums and low-fretboard tremolo picking with hummable yet roaring hooks. This is metal you’d mosh and scream along to at the dingiest dive bar.
“I love Autopsy, Bolt Thrower and Cannibal Corpse so much that I’d never tell you, ‘Don’t listen to them, listen to my band instead,’” Alex laughs. “But we’re drawing influence from what we love while adding our own spin to it.”
Undeath rampaged their way across the UK in January, co-headlining a run with fellow death metal revivalists Celestial Sanctuary. Alex promises, “Our sets are very aggressive and very fun. I want people to walk away from our shows either wasted or determined to start their own band.” Matt Mills
Sounds Like: Floridian death metal that’s armed with razor-sharp hooks
For Fans Of: Cannibal Corpse, Autopsy, Obituary
Listen To: Rise From The Grave
Operating at death metal’s outer fringes since 2018, Costa Rican entity Astriferous are clawing their way ever closer to our pitiful ream with their brilliant debut album, Pulsations From The Black Orb.
If the title sounds nuts then it is (check out the wonderful, abomination-filled artwork, when you have a moment…) but it’s also deeply fitting, since the band weigh their fondness for old-school Finnish and Floridian death metal against a variety of cosmic horrors and an interest in the work of outlier creators like David Lynch, Maya Deren, Kenneth Anger and Austin Osman Spare.
“The songs deal with different subjects from cosmic horror, existentialism and magick to cinema and even video game lore,” says guitarist/vocalist Felipe Tencio. And as for that title? “It comes from a recurring dream I used to have about a floating, gigantic black orb in the sky that emitted pulsating vibrations,” he says.
For all its slobbering, oozing brutality the album isn’t without a certain deftness of touch, and Astriferous prove adept at steeping things in a sour, discomforting atmosphere. “We always try to incorporate ambience, particularly in the intros” says Felipe. “It contributes to that feeling of strangeness and unease and hints at what's to come.”
With Astriferous sharing members with feted death-doom act Bloodsoaked Necrovoid, it seems reasonable to ask whether the two bands operate in isolation or represent the tip of the spear when it comes to Costa Rican metal.
“Our local scene is witnessing a good moment in terms of quality and variety” says Felipe, who tips his hat to the likes of VoidOath, Culto Negro, Pazuzu and the long-running Pseudostratiffied Epithelium.
“Our vision has always been to contribute something to the genre,” he concludes. “We recognise death metal as a global movement and a network of people that share the same passion, so we wanted to raise our hand and show the world our version of it.” Alex Deller
Sounds Like: An old-school death metal nightmare that has gazed beyond the event horizon.
For Fans Of: Demigod, Vacuous, Morbid Angel
Listen To: Teleport Haze