It’s that time of year again. Time for metal publications the world over to list what they feel are the top albums of the last 12 months and inevitably piss off a ton of people on the internet with their picks. Of course you know we’re not going to miss out on the chance to stir the pot a little bit with what counts these days as heavy metal “discourse.”
To say this year wasn’t jam packed with killer fucking records would be a lie. We’ve got amazing releases from some heavy hitters like Cannibal Corpse’s Chaos Horrific, Cattle Decapitation’s Terrasite, The Callous Daoboys’ stellar EP God Smiles Upon The Callous Daoboys, Wayfarer’s American Gothic… Hell, even Metallica put out a new album.
And as it turns out, none of those records were chosen by MetalSucks’ staffers and contributors as their favorite. That’s not to say we don’t love those records — we absolutely do! But the choices we’ve got this year represent the albums we just couldn’t quit. These records would be worn the fuck out if we weren’t all piggybacking on our family’s Spotify Premium accounts.
So yeah, here are our picks for 2023. Try not to get too upset in the comments!
Mutoid Man – Mutants
When it came time to start thinking about the album I’d be featuring in our yearly “these albums fucking rock” list, I have to admit, I had a hard time picking one. Yes, I enjoyed 72 Seasons. Sure, Wayfarer’s American Gothic made me want to dive further into black metal and Church of Misery’s Born Under a Mad Sign was my jam for a while there. But the one album I just couldn’t stop going back to time and time again was Mutoid Man’s Mutants.
I knew straight from the first time I heard “Call of the Void” that this was going to be a hell of a release for the trio. We all know the combination of Converge’s Ben Koller and Cave In’s Stephen Brodsky is potent as Hell, but with High on Fire’s Jeff Matz on bass, it all often proved too much for me to avoid. At one minute, Mutants grooved and swayed in my braincase with “Graveyard Love” and “Demons,” while “Broken Glass Ceiling” and “Siphon” kicked my ass with how heavy they got. From the singles to the closing track “Setting Sun,” which ends on one hell of a note, this album just hit all of the right marks for me. It’ll definitely be one I come back to throughout 2024, too.
– Hesher Keenan
End – The Sin of Human Frailty
This record, released October 27 via Closed Casket Activities, is, in my mind, the perfect hardcore record. Equal parts just punishing breakdowns and classic mosh mixed with high-end production and metallic goodness, I liken this record to work from my all-time favorite band, Pig Destroyer—A comparison the band clearly hear too, as PxDx vocalist JR Hayes contributes to one of the tracks. Each song is heavy as hell, but a few have some nice surprises as well in the form of synth and memorable melodies. If you haven’t checked out this amazing hardcore album yet, what are you waiting for?
– Mandy Scythe
Shining – Shining
Shining’s self-titled eleventh full-length triumph is beyond perfection and, in my opinion, one of the greatest albums ever created. This gorgeous masterpiece is so intensely pleasurable that it feels like being raped by knives. I have never been so addicted to the pain inflicted by a single work of musical genius. Shining’s supremely gifted mastermind, Niklas Kvarforth, a heaven-sent little hellraiser, delivers a vocal performance so sublime that it could make you want to end your life: it reminds you of the fact that you will always be infinitely inferior to the legend himself.
Shining was entirely composed by Kvarforth, minus “Åttahundratjugo” — an Erik Satie cover — and “Fidelis ad Mortem” — an older song that was co-written. Kvarforth’s poetic lyrics are so brilliant that they are more worthy of a major award, yet nothing could do them justice. Yes, Kvarforth is the performer, lyricist, and composer whom this musical expert respects most. Simply stated, Shining is even better than orgiastic sex, cocaine, and violence.
– Bree Halmsted
Humanity’s Last Breath – Ashen
This Swedish export’s latest installment of self-christened “Thall” music brings all of the earth shattering heaviness and experimental time changes that have people comparing them to their countrymen Mesuggah. The difference between Humanity’s Last Breath and other purveyors of detuned guitars becomes their unabashed creativity. We’re talking breakdowns under Bulgarian choirs, bewitching melodies interspaced with unhinged bottom string abuse. It’s chaotic enough for Ion Dissonance, but doomy enough for Katatonia. It’s almost coming in direct response to how boring the djent runoff has become… These guys like their low chugs and string bends, but never at the expense of unbridled songwriting and creative arranging.
– Max Heilman
Human Instrumentality Project – LCL SEA
“A species gambling with their future. Finally, it has spoken: Do you want punishment or an answer?” Metal is always gambling with its relevance and future. What’s more relevant then, than an anime series that came out nearly 30 years ago? That’s right, nothing.
Human Instrumentality Project looked again to Neon Genesis Evangelion for inspiration regarding the human condition on LCL Sea, an album that evolves the genre of anime-inspired metal to its next phase. “Fly me to the moon. And let me play among the stars. Let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars.” In other words, Human Instrumentality Project take the trophy this year.
– Ryan Dyer
Jesus Piece – …So Unknown
There were a ton of great albums to choose from this year from a myriad of subgenres, but if I had to pick one that completely came out of nowhere and really rocked my shit, it would have to be this one. I’m not even really into hardcore like that, but this album gets me so damn hyped up that I have to take a deep breath and stop myself from throwing a chair through a window, it’s just so much fun to listen to. It also doesn’t hurt that I’m a Philly transplant, so to see a band from my old stomping grounds put out something that not only lived up to the hype but far exceeded it warmed my cold, dead heart.
– C.C. DeLorean
Sermon – Of Golden Verse
The emotional crescendo a song or album can have when done right takes you out of your “moment” and puts you in a collective emotional space. Now me being a firm believer in nonsense like “Moments Have You” and not the other way around, adds to this revelation when a band can encompass this upon repeat listens. Tool, Opeth, The Ocean, and other acts that lean in that progressive/alternative/metal realm are repeat offenders in pulling this off and Sermon’s “Of Golden Verse” is on equal page with releases from those aforementioned bands. The drums are feverish throughout, the lyrics resonant in all realms of human thought, and the song structure is a 50 minute journey that immediately warrants a relisten that keeps you in that space and keeping that “moment” in time personalized and frozen.
– Petar Spajic (Host of The MetalSucks Podcast)
Putrascension – Forever Below
While not an album release I was highly anticipating (or paying attention to at all), a bit of an underdog I had come across by the name of Putrascension released their album “Forever Below” in October of this year and truly caught me off guard. Despite it being their first full album it still comes across as competent and well-produced. The album as a whole acts as an exploration of an earth-bound hellscape with the use of heavy riffs and vocals. It came across very reminiscent of bands such as Behemoth, All Out War, and Goatwhore. “Forever Below” contains a torrent of black and death metal with the song “Stillness” standing out to me the most and I’m excited to see how far these guys go.
– Jess Ripper