Mazen’s albums of the year 2023

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As we approached the end of the year it was easy to create a list of the albums I had purchased over the past 11 months, since I hadn’t bought as many CDs compared to last year my whole focus was solely on the death metal genre with a few exceptional nonmetal albums that I found myself inclined to. Lately, I started to listen to some 80s synth pop, stoner doom, and dark folk music, but my top ten list provides guidelines for the aficionados of extreme metal and the best releases that came out during the year. Although I have assembled around 33 albums, the good news is that all of these albums from different genres like death, black metal, thrash, and heavy metal will be listed in this article.

The bad news is that I was not concentrating on the black metal genre as much as before and there might be tons and tons of albums that I had somehow missed but much of what I have listened to didn’t grab me as I always look for quality instead of quantity and to be honest, I'm running out of space, so I decided to buy less. My list of death metal releases is broad and includes tons of great albums and quality releases from bands like Memoriam, Cryptworm, Frozen Soul, Carnation, Aeternus, Vastum, Ageless Summoning, and many more. Although my top ten bands/albums hailed mainly from the United States, Sweden, and Finland there is much to be unfolded within this article where you can take a look at the list of my honorable mentions at the bottom of the article.

So let’s get started here with my top ten albums of the year 2023:

10 - Cirith Ungol - Dark Parade

October 20th, 2023 (Metal Blade Records)

Epic heavy/doom metal veteran Cirith Ungol’s sixth full-length album “Dark Parade” brings us to the utmost frontier of the fantasy world and elevates their sonic tome by achieving an epic piece of classic heavy metal. This is probably my favorite heavy metal album of the year 2023 because the riffs on “Dark Parade” are mainly inspired by bands like Black Sabbath and Judas Priest and those legends remain true and heavy to their sound since they began their journey in the 70s era. With this album, Cirith Ungol illustrates its trademark in the genre of heavy/doom metal and NWOBHM, along with other cult bands such as Manilla Road, Manowar, and Saxon who have had an endless pursuit of glory, the album’s epic atmosphere conjures an absolute slab of heavy metal making it quite irresistible and engaging as fuck.

Read my full review here.

9 - …And Oceans - As in Gardens, So in Tombs

January 27th, 2023 (Season of Mist)

On their newest album, the Finns unleash a maelstrom of symphonic black metal assault by using the method of the classic 90s era. “As in Gardens, So in Tombs” offers gripping songs from its exquisite symphonic arrangement exploding in reverb, the riffing is quite dynamic and brought with semi-technical clarity mainly focusing on fast-picked tremolos. As in whole, the sixth album will remind many fans of how bands like Dimmu Borgir, Odium, and Old Man’s Child prospered back in the late 1990s …And Oceans has achieved great standards and the new album is beyond expectations. Each of the ten tracks infuses sharp and piercing tremolos fashioning out the timeless beauty of symphonic/melodic black metal, which reflects the majesty and the essence that makes it incomparable. In my humble opinion, “As in Gardens, So in Tombs” stands as their most accomplished album since their masterwork debut “The Dynamic Gallery of Thoughts”.

Read my full review here.

8 - Marduk - Memento Mori

September 1st, 2023 (Century Media Records)

Swedish black metal war machine Marduk has set the world ablaze with their newest album “Memento Mori”. The band’s fifteenth album grasps all the characteristics of sounding fast and furious. Personally, Marduk has raised the bar high on the latest material and the new drummer Simon Schilling is a great fit for the band. Marduk mercilessly unveils unprecedented aggression and powerful integrity, delivering an outstanding sonic performance showcasing fierce drumming between the rapturous tempos. To me “Memento Mori” settles itself as one of Marduk’s best works after the 2015 album “Frontschwein”. Daniel Rostén and Morgan Håkansson deliver unforgettable performances, showing how they can craft a perfect soundtrack for sonic warfare. As an old skull like me, I always like bands who stick to their roots and keep the sonic art within the spectrum of classic 90s black metal, this is why “Memento Mori” kicks ass!.

Read my full review here.

7 - Asphodelus - Sculpting From Time

August 25th, 2023 (Hammerheart Records)

Asphodelus brewed its dark melodies, and they have flawlessly crafted a unique sound that matches with the traditional style of doom metal. The overt inspiration and the dreamlike quality from early Katatonia albums such as “Jhva Elohim Meth” and “Dance of December Souls” were intently processed. The second full-length album “Sculpting From Time” portrayed an honest tribute to the classic melodic doom metal bands of the nineties. Four years in the making, Asphodelus makes another entry by conjuring a flair of its doom death metal, although the band doesn’t play the typical death doom style music rather they emphasize sorrowful dirges layered with lush guitar melodies. While the songs often follow a remarkable rhythm, they beautifully flow into each other. Asphodelus sculpts its niche in the realm of gothic doom in such a beautiful nostalgic fashion, therefore “Sculpting the Time” has all the elements that embody the aesthetics of 90s gothic doom metal.

Read my full review here.

6 - Dying Fetus - Make Them Beg for Death

September 8th, 2023 (Relapse Records)

Dying Fetus is one of the bands that don’t mess around with its relentless energy, frenetic pace and constant bludgeoning. Ever since they released their album “Destroy the Opposition” the band’s musical evolution took a turning point and contributed to pursuing merciless aggression. While the later albums like “Reign Supreme” and “Wrong One to Fuck With” were rip-roaring in every sense and chock-full of monstrous savagery. “Make Them Beg for Death” kicks off with Dying Fetus’s technical proficiency, the album in conclusion is a slab of brutal death grindcore and probably their most accomplished work. This is an instant banger from start to finish and will have you floored by the constant bludgeoning and infectious grooves, for this reason, I couldn’t neglect such a great album from these veterans.

Read my full review here.

5 - Suffocation - Hymns from the Apocrypha

November 3rd, 2023 (Nuclear Blast)

I can’t fucking believe how stupid I had been when I gave the album an average rating, but now, I regret doing this mistake, so let’s cut the bullshit and allow me to tell you that “Hymns from the Apocrypha” is one hell of an album. Suffocation immediately kicks off the album with insane riff barrages and the trademark brutality of the classic Suffocation style, demonstrating the perfect balance between technicality and uncompromising brutality. Starting with the album’s title track Suffocation takes its sound back to its gritty roots, however, the nine tracks have their mixtures of brutal old-school refined sound. The departure of the former vocalist Frank Mullen resulted in finding the right replacement for the band, and the addition of Ricky Meyers as the lead vocalist fits in with the standard of the band. Throughout forty-one minutes, the riffs mercilessly pummel the listener with the intricate drumming and the groovy sections and the shredding solos keep you hooked up to the absolute bombardment.

Read my full review here.

4 - Cruciamentum - Obsidian Refractions

November 24th, 2023 (Profound Lore Records)

The long-awaited sophomore release “Obsidian Refractions” unleashes consecrated incantations of supreme darkness that seem to be bolstered by the hefty rhythm guitars creating an otherworldly eeriness. The scorching riff assaults measure the onset of the dynamics, in all its bestial solos and blistering drums Cruciamentum unfolds great intellect. The guitars are draped in flimsy gossamer that contrast with the rapid drumming and boost the tempo to a chaotic sonic clarity. “Obsidian Refractions” instantly erupt out of the cauldron, thus crafting an otherworldly mixture of slow and rapid riffs. Along with the thick pounding bass guitar, crashing cymbals, and powerful percussive dynamics, the guitar arrangement flows perfectly in the rapid tempos. Some wonderful guitar hooks sound multi-faceted, and the slow doomy opts for such a sepulchral and more sinister nuances. Cruciamentum certainly does not disappoint, although I somewhat prefer their 2015 album “Charnel Passages”. This is a great comeback album.

Read my full review here.

3 - Moonlight Sorcery - Horned Lord of the Thorned Castle

September 29th, 2023 (Avantgarde Music)

Finnish black metal stalwarts Moonlight Sorcery’s first studio album was received well by fans of melodic death/black metal, as much as I enjoyed listening to this fantastic full-length, I cannot deny the influence from bands like Children of Bodom, Wintersun, and Yngwie Malmsteen. Moonlight Sorcery showcases galloping riffs and superb musicianship that combines bombastic synth arrangements, blazing tremolos, and addictive melodies filled with fantastical synth and shredding guitars. “Horned Lord of The Throned Castle” has that nostalgic symphonic vibe with the thundering riffs, and ultimately delivers a glorious symphonic performance. With the excellent blend of death and black metal, the guitars take center, offering tons of hooks with strong and catchy leads. The trio keeps the focus on the melodic style of 90s melodic death/black, while the rhythms provide plenty of catchy moments and the use of tremolo picking adds to the ferocity of the song.

Read my full review here.

2 - Varathron - The Crimson Temple

December 1st, 2023 (Agonia Records)

Even though the songwriting is very similar to the album “Patriarch of EvilVarathron managed to infuse its unique flair. Being at the helm, for thirty-five years, Stefan Necroabyssious returns with themes of mystery and darkness. There are many great tracks on “The Crimson Temple” like “Cimmerian Priesthood”, “To the Gods of Yore”, “Swamp King” and “Constellation of the Archons”. The riffing stems from the classic melodic style of old-school and modern Hellenic black metal, coated with scorching tremolo-picked riffs. However, Varathron remarkably puts focus on balancing the dark effect of the atmosphere. The performance is a marvelous example of Varathron’s epic melodies including the ebbing and the flow of the choir, boasting a powerful climax. Varathron’s seventh album pursues symphonic moments, catchy dark melodies packed with tons of folk qualities, and entrancing choir passages. You can hear some beautiful instruments like the lute enhancing the epic atmosphere where the band explores the instrumental aesthetics. “The Crimson Temple” is a landmark in the modern era of Hellenic black metal, and deserves all the praise for its grand performance, this is by far my personal favorite black metal album of the year 2023.

Read my full review here.

1 - Sulphur Aeon - Seven Crowns and Seven Seals

October 13th, 2023 (Ván Records)

Having the otherworldly sinister hallmark at the core of songwriting, Germany’s Lovecraftian cosmic blackened/death metal Sulphur Aeon upped its sonic creation that resonated with the literature art of H.P. Lovecraft. Following the third dreadful opus “The Scythe of Cosmic Chaos” which marked its ominous entry to the fictional horror work of the Cthulhu universe, the fourth album “Seven Crowns and Seven Seals” communes with the ancient powerful leviathan Cthulhu of the deep ocean and introducing the Yoggothian theme amidst the maddening beating of the muffling drums. The shimmering guitar melodies create a dark vortex that manifests tremendous potency, with the eldritch growls enhancing the swirling chaos and the titanic Tom-Tom of the drums. The atmosphere conjures up ominous images of unspeakable horror, and colossal riffs unleashing a potent embodiment of brutality. The slow crawling pace of the crushing drums and the twisted Middle Eastern melodies paints a primordial landscape that captures the forbidden nameless city of Irem. “Seven Crowns And Seven Seals” is a masterpiece and holds to the trademarks of Sulphur Aeon and simultaneously embraces new ideas, expanding unique context in the canonical multiverse of blackened death metal.

Read my full review here.

My list could have not been completed without adding some essential releases, you will find some worthy death metal albums:

  1. Phobocosm – Foreordained (Read my full review here).
  2. Autopsy – Ashes, Organs, Blood, and Crypts (Read my full review here).
  3. Tomb Mold – The Enduring Spirit (Read my full review here).
  4. Reverence to Paroxysm – Lux Morte (Read my full review here).
  5. VoidCeremony – Threads of Unknowing (Read my full review here).
  6. Fossilization – Leprous Daylight (Read my full review here).
  7. Vomitory – All Heads Are Gonna Roll (Read my full review here).
  8. Cannibal Corpse – Chaos Horrific (Read my full review here).
  9. Runemagick – Beyond the Cenotaph of Mankind (Read my full review here).
  10. Frozen Soul – Glacial Domination (Read my full review here).

Another small list of black metal albums that I have enjoyed listening to this year:

  1. Vargrav – The Nighthold (Read my full review here).
  2. Immortal – War against All (Read my full review here).
  3. Tsjuder – Helvegr (Read my full review here).
  4. Dødheimsgard – Black Medium Current (Read my full review here).
  5. RUÏM – Black Royal Spiritism (Read my full review here).
  6. Troll – Trolldom (Read my full review here).
  7. Ekrom – Uten Nådigst Formildelse (Read my full review here).
  8. Mystic Circle – Erzdämon (Read my full review here).
  9. Tribulation – Hamartia (Read my full review here).
  10. Wolves in the Throne Room – Crypt of Ancestral Knowledge (Read my full review here).

Lastly, I thought to include a few albums from the heavy/doom metal genre including one nonmetal album I hope you check them out:

  1. Reign of the Reaper (Read my full review here).
  2. Host – IX (Read my full review here).
  3. Tenhi – Valkama
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