Xavier’s albums of the year 2023

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Personally, I did not like 2023 that much when it comes to album releases. A year that stands in stark contrast to 2022 that was a little overfilled with album releases (so I did quite some rediscovering of albums I had scoped over too quickly back then).

5. Nytt Land - Torem

(06/10 - Napalm Records)

The recent release of these giants within the pagan folk scene can certainly not be overlooked. A lot of the typical songs, with the mezmerizing throat singing, but also some more ambient songs with synth.

The song Nord I immediatly liked. The contrast of Anatoly‘s throat singing with Natalya‘s beautiful soprano makes the hairs on my arm stand up. In the same line lays ‘Rise of Mitgard’ with an amazing shamanistic music video, using fast frame changes to create a real transcending experience, not just giving you a musical experience, but taking you away in a full ritual.

4. Avatar - Dance Devil Dance

(17/02 - Black Waltz Records)

I know this album will be deemed one of the more successful ones, particularly in the US, where it has attained some commercial success with a more general audience. And I can understand why. First of all, ‘The dirt I am buried in’ is more rock than metal and has a friendlier sound, while at the same time still being a good number, both musically and lyrically. As such, the song really grew on me and I am certainly not going to resent the band or the album for this song.

Also, a song such as ‘Dance devil dance’, which does retain a real metal sound, can charm me. But when you realize that this is the ‘best metal song’ on the album, with some really redundant or too lengthy songs, I also have reservations. For instance, ‘On the beach’ really sounds as a rather cheap rehash of songs we heard in Avatar Country.

What I mostly missed was this kind of burlesque and a dark, philosophical undertone that characterizes the band. Something that was certainly more pronounced in recent songs such as going hunting or secret door.

That said, songs such as The dirt I am buried, dance devil dance and Valley of disease are just too good not to include them in the list.

3. Gloryhammer - Return to the kingdom of Fife

(02/06 - Napalm Records)

With my daughter being a great Gloryhammer fan, I must add this to the list. However, I must admit that it also indicates a certain poverty in album releases this year. Now first of all, for me Gloryhammer‘s previous singer, Winkler, has lost a lot of credit, whereas Michael Souzos certainly held his ground in very difficult times and is just a really nice guy. Does that mean he is a better singer … well … not really. But it also does not mean he is absolutely not up to the task. Fly away was an excellent example thereof and is one of my most favourite Gloryhammer songs, because it was well written on the voice of Michael.

Did this album succeeded in the same task … not really, at least not as well as Fly away did. It is not the best album of the band, but it has some great numbers nonetheless. Keeper of the Celestial flame is one of those and will probably be a timeless song in the repertoire of the band. Moreover, what I really like is that the Gloryhammer lore is further explored, giving a real compelling background to Zargothrax (the role of Chris). And the Gloryhammer’s universe is certainly one as a fantasy and sci-fi fan I want to know more about.

2. Kludde - De horla

(31/03 - Consouling Sounds)

Also in Belgium, we had a great album release – this time even in our beloved Asgaard – of Kludde with Horla. I was a cold amateur of the band previously, but this album truly convinced me. Giving these real good and hard Norwegian vibes while retaining a distinct own style. So for me, this was the Belgian release of the year.

1. Dymna Lotva - The land under the black wings

(04/08 - Prophecy Productions)

This band made its debut on Prophecy Fest this year, and we were all deeply, deeply impressed. This is a band – sludge / post-metal – that reminds a little of Amenra, playing on the same negative emotions lurking in the darkest caverns of our hearts. The fact that in their latest album, the war, and sounds such as crying children are clearly intermixed with the music makes it the album of the year for me.

It is not just about the atrocities of life, it is a product of these atrocities. These people have been banished from their own country, Belarus, for their explicit opposition to the war. And their music is their weapon against the Belarusian regime and for their own people. I therefore certainly invite you to come and see this band in our own venue Asgaard and to support them as much as you can.

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