GRIMM’s albums of the year 2023

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It's a difficult task every year to narrow down what were those releases that deserve to be named as the best of the year. It's a highly subjective thing, something that was even more clear this time around than ever before, with a very diverse range of AOTY lists coming from our team members, making it a quite tight race in the end for the top spots. But this is what we got to for the year 2023:

10. Marduk - Memento Mori

(01/09 - Century Media Records)

It took a moment, but here it finally is: the next piece of brutality coming from the Swedish force of nature that is Marduk! ‘Memento Mori’ was released at the end of summer, heralding in the decline of good weather and oncoming grimness. The war machine that is this band got started up again, and their 15th studio album perfectly fits with the raw aesthetics they bring with them. The ten tracks offer sinister and furious, uncompromising black metal and is easily one of their best albums of late.

Read our full review here.

9a. Kludde - De Horla

(31/03 - Consouling Sounds)

There’s been somewhat of a surge in the Belgian black metal scene, with many bands delivering stellar music and shows. One of these bands, is one that has been around for quite a moment already. Kludde takes some of the darkest bits of Flemish mythology and spread that abundantly on their ferocious kind of black metal, that also carries a healthy dose of sludge with it, making their sound even more filthy than it already is. Creating the perfect atmosphere to tell the dark tale of a tormented creature, that they managed to enhance even further with its own graphic novel! With the music itself, the guys of Kludde dare to go off the beaten path and bring in sounds that you wouldn’t necessarily expect on a black metal record. Kludde is really a treasure of the Belgian underground scene, and we sure hope more people would pick up on them!

9b. Blink-182 - One More Time...

(20/10 - Columbia Records)

This one is for all the nostalgic people among us. Blink-182 was back, and how! The original guys put away all their disputes, so we finally got the first new music in over a decade from the band we all know and love, with a returned Tom DeLonge besides Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker. And there just is something about those 3 guys together that results into magic. Their songs haven’t been as good as the ones on this album in ages, and even the sound brought back those better times with a more back to basics approach. Tracks like ‘Edging’ and ‘Dance With Me’ showed that they definitely still have that old school Blink-182 punky vibe in them. And ‘One More Time’ most definitely got the people growing up with the band in their teens emotional as fuck, especially with the music video that came with it going through all the Blink-182 signature moments. A track that is on par with the now legendary ‘I Miss You’ song. What a comeback!

8a. Blackbraid - Blackbraid II

(07/06 - independent)

Last year’s debut album of Blackbraid didn’t even make our list because of most people in our team having overlooked that release completely (except for our editor-in-chief in his AOTY 2022 list: But this project quickly blew up, and now the whole world seemingly can’t stop talking about them. So it’s not a huge surprise that their second album ‘Blackbraid II’ was featured here this time around. It’s basically a continuation of what we got with the debut album: atmospheric black metal that has Native American mythology, nature, and paganism as its core themes, and Native American instrumentation woven throughout to really nail down those vibes. While there have been Native American (or similar cultures) based black metal bands before, this one really popped out to the world somehow. This is the kind of atmospheric black metal we all fell in love with when Wolves In The Throne Room first popped up, and we’re already looking forward to what is coming next from this project!

8b. Orbit Culture - Descent

(18/08 - Seek & Strike)

The Swedish metal band Orbit Culture has been quite the revelation and one of the pandemic’s success stories, with tons of people picking up on them and really liking what they heard. And they continue to impress release after release, with ‘Descent’ (and later the EP ‘The Forgotten‘) as their latest. The album is filled with crunchy and groovy riffs, intricate yet catchy songs, harsh parts that hit you like a wrecking ball and sweet melodies that takes things to another level. They really found their sound and are continuing to build upon it, not really making extreme changes, but just enough to still captivate and surprise. These guys are slowly, but steadily growing in popularity and climbing up the ladder (and line-ups), and it feels like there is no holding them back at this point! This was the last release on their Seek & Strike label, and we’re really looking forward to what the next chapter for these lads will bring!

7a. Gloryhammer - Return to the Kingdom of Fife

(02/06 - Napalm Records)

Power metal isn’t really a metal subgenre that usually gets a lot of attention on our site, or manages to climb up into our AOTY lists, but somehow Gloryhammer managed to do just that! Even though they made a significant change in booting out the vocalist they were known for and bringing in someone completely new, the sound they are known for and the epic fantasy stories everyone loves them for is still there. ‘Return of the Kingdom of Fife’ is another epic tale of glory in the fantasy world created by the band and takes you away from the real world for the length of the record. And while the music is the usual fare for these guys, there are a couple of really surprising and fun moments, like even bringing in a sax solo on ‘Wasteland Warrior Hoots Patrol’! Sozos Michael as Angus McFife, while no Thomas Winkler, impresses immensely as the new vocalist, and it seems there is no stopping the Gloryhammer!

Read the full review here.

7b. Ne Obliviscaris - Exul

(24/03 - Season of Mist)

It’s unlikely to have an AOTY list without any progressive metal album as an entry. And so here we are with the Australian Ne Obliviscaris, who finally released their new album ‘Exul’ over half a decade after their much celebrated release ‘Urn’. While at its core it’s a very progressive metal album, the heavy dose of extreme metal gives it plenty of oomph, and the violin play of vocalist Tim results in regular mesmerizing and captivating parts. They don’t sound like any other artist, though if we’d have to make a comparison, their intricate play between harshness and beautiful melodies reminds us of an early Opeth. It’s a gorgeous record that goes up and down like the best rollercoaster ride, and lengthy tracks like ‘Equus’ and ‘Suspyre’. We were all too happy that these guys are back, hopefully it doesn’t take as long again to welcome the beauty that is their musical compositions!

6a. Hypno5e - Sheol

(24/02 - Pelagic Records)

Besides progressive music, its little cousin avant-garde is welcomed eagerly within our team quite often as well. The French avant-garde metal outfit Hypno5e returned with their sixth studio album ‘Sheol‘ and what a piece of art it was again! Not known for doing things in a conventional manner, the album forms the last piece in the closed conceptual cycle that it forms with ‘A Distant Dark Shore’, being both a sequel and prequel to that album. The music on this release is as unpredictable as ever, bringing elements of progressive and technical music, while regularly meandering into acoustic, atmospheric and ambient parts. It just feels like the whole piece needs to be listened to as a whole, like the soundtrack to a captivating movie that won’t let you go until the last notes dissipated. It gives the kind of post-metal vibes that a lot of us are suckers for, and it’s therefore no surprise they ended up on our AOTY list this year.

6b. Periphery - Periphery V: Djent Is Not A Genre

(10/03 - 3DOT Recordings)

Often being named as one of the pioneers of djent, it’s kind of a boss move to release a new album titled “Djent Is Not A Genre”. Self-awareness aside, Periphery will always be at the top of their game and similar bands. Yet again they deliver a damn strong album filled with heavy slabs of their signature blend of progressive metal and metalcore where infectious catchiness is always around the corner, giving anthems like ‘Wax Wings’ that easily fit with the others they made in the past. When they’re bringing together all the familiar elements of the sound they’re known for, it really doesn’t get much better than this, like in tracks like ‘Wildfire’, ‘Atropos’ or ‘Zagreus’. This band is a force and has long outgrown the boundaries of a genre they sort of kick-started.

5a. Dying Fetus - Make Them Beg For Death

(08/09 - Relapse Records)

On our 5th spot in the list, we see 2 massive death metal releases sharing the space. Of course, there is the glorious return of brutal death/grindcore greats Dying Fetus with ‘Make Them Beg for Death’, a 9th album in the catalog that really cements the extreme brutality and technical prowess the band is known for. As expected, they don’t mess around and throw a relentless energy, frenetic pace and constant bludgeoning your way. There are simply no weak moments on the album, and can probably be counted as their most accomplished work to date. And from what we’ve seen, a lot of people were really into this album!

Read the full review here.

5b. Obituary - Dying Of Everything

(13/01 - Relapse Records)

And on the other hand, we of course have the crushing new album from Floridian death metal heavyweight Obituary! With their 11th album ‘Dying Of Everything’, they captured the core of their classic sound. They’re not necessarily ones to change things up all that much, but they do what they do oh so well. It’s simply a stomping banger of a record that will get you to whipping that hair around in no time. John Tardy‘s roars backed by rumbling and pounding music is unforgiving and has just the right amount of groove to satisfy any death metal fanatic. This album will grind you to pieces, and it could be no different than claiming a spot on this list of top albums of the year!

Read the full review here.

4. Avatar - Dance Devil Dance

(17/02 - Black Waltz Records)

Avatar has become a highly valued and established player in the metal scene, and they’re known for their theatrics, big personalities and banging songs. But they’re also not scared from doing things differently and vastly surprising everyone with a sound shift or something else crazy. Their latest release ‘Dance Devil Dance’ confirms their stature as one of the most exciting metal acts of today with songs that get you moving and aching for a moshpit like ‘Chimp Mosh Pit’ (which has already become a staple at their shows) or title track ‘Dance Devil Dance’. But also, a couple of surprises with the main highlight the oddly satisfying ‘The Dirt I’m Buried In’ is a tour de force and is easily one of their best songs even though there’s barely any heaviness to it. It really is a bop of a song.

3. Svalbard - The Weight Of The Mask

(06/10 - Nuclear Blast)

On our number 3 spot a band that is not a huge surprise for us really. The UK blackened post-hardcore outfit Svalbard has been on our radar as one of the most promising up-and-coming acts of the past decade or so. Their blend of post-hardcore and post-metal with just that right amount of black metal spice added to it is captivating at every turn and their records are always an emotional ride, and even more so for this release! ‘The Weight Of The Mask’ centers around mental illness and the demon that is depression, and if you’ve had even the slightest inclination towards having some mental issues, this record will touch you deeply and resonate with you like no other. It’s a deeply personal album for vocalist Serena, and the way she shares her plight with the world is absolutely mesmerizing. Lines like “I don’t feel joy, I just fake it. I don’t feel hope, I just fake it.” or “I’m too depressed to show you just how depressed I am.” are blunt, but ring so much truth for many of us. We couldn’t fault the album for anything, perfect from start to finish and easily the best thing Svalbard has produced to date.

2. VV - Neon Noir

(13/01 - Heartagram/Universal/Spinefarm)

When we saw HIM play their last shows back in 2017, there were so many emotions coming from the crowds, that it’s not too mind-boggling that this album made it this high up on the list. VV, better known as the Finnish music legend that is Ville Valo, brought back that oh so familiar sound we’ve missed so dearly for over half a decade, but with his own personal touch. It very much sounds like HIM, but it also clearly isn’t. It was a very gloomy, yet shining early musical highlight of the year 2023 and seemingly brings us every iteration of HIM and Ville Valo we’ve heard before on a widely diverse album that still somehow carries a certain cohesion with it. Some of the songs on this album are almost instant classics and fan favorites and quite possibly the best work since the classic HIM album ‘Love Metal’.

1. Sleep Token - Bring Me Back To Eden

(19/05 - Spinefarm)

Probably one of the most talked about releases of the year within the metal and rock community, and at the same time probably one of the most divisive records of the year, Sleep Token managed to convince enough of our people with ‘Bring Me Back To Eden’ to come on top in our list. And well, even if you’re not into what is Sleep Token is doing musically, there simply is no denying that this is the album of the year, considering the coverage and discussions that have erupted everywhere. But talking about the music itself, it’s quite the ride. They continue to harness the rather poppy vibes from earlier releases, but somehow surprised a lot of people when they inserted some tasty heavy bits, including even some harsh vocals, but also really offbeat and weird moments to throw everybody off. And while they were already liked plenty with earlier work, somehow with the compositions on ‘Take Me Back to Eden’ they really struck gold, taking them out of that “cult status” into stardom. The overall soundscape is incredibly clean, almost too clean for some, but that fits just perfectly with the anthromorph AI-like aesthetics they bolster. It will be interesting to see how this meteoric rise will continue and what will be the next chapter of this interesting project, since this album was the closer of the trilogy that was started in 2019.

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