heavy metal

Top 5 Metal Albums of 2023

Top 5 Metal Albums of 2023

I apologize for being late to the party this time. The list was completed before 2023 ended, but I knew I would still had to publish it even if I couldn’t until the summertime. My list of favorite releases at the end of the year is something that I still feel compelled to complete and share every December, and I hope there is somebody reading this that has come to expect and look forward to it from me. While there was a lot going on in my world that made procrastinating this task virtually inevitable, I still refused to let it go undone. Enjoy!

5. Enforcer - Nostalgia
Enforcer’s sixth release is credited with being a proper return to the style they’re known for after doing some experimenting on 2019’s “Zenith”. I somewhat disagree, but there is so much to love about this album, especially for fans of its predecessor. Most of the stuff that sounds different for them on “Nostalgia” sounds like what was different on “Zenith”. As highly as I rank them amongst 21st-century metal bands, they have yet to write a ballad that has thrilled me, and the title track may have kept this release from ranking slightly higher in my top 5. This time around, they have a lot more traditional heavy metal songs than speed metal songs. If you’re seeking more of the latter, you’ll be very pleased with “Coming Alive” and “Metal Supremacia”. To me, “Heartbeats” and “No Tomorrow” fall somewhere in between the traditional heavy metal Enforcer songs and the “arena rock” style of “Die For the Devil”. Plus, the clean, bluesy chorus of “Keep the Flame Alive” will instantly remind you of “Sail On”. My personal favorite songs would be “Demon”, “Kiss of Death”, and “At the End of the Rainbow”.

4. Raven - All Hell’s Breaking Loose
While it’s not quite as amazing as “Metal City”, it is Raven at their fastest and heaviest! You’ll be surprised by how often they use blast beats on their newest release, and how it works like a charm every time! Don’t think for a minute that that’s the only reason to praise Mike Heller’s drumming. His performance is always phenomenal, and it should go without saying that the same is true for the Gallagher brothers! “Victory’s Call”, “The Far Side”, and “Go For the Gold” get my vote for the standout tracks.

3. Freeroad - Do What You Feel!
This new Mexican quartet churns out fun NWOBHM-influenced hard rock/metal that just makes you want to rock out. You’ll find most of their faster songs on the second half of the record. Their lyrics are nothing complex or evil, they mostly focus on life, society, and music. “Five Hours to Mexico”, a song about a fugitive on the run from the police, is a bit different for them lyrically, though. “Liar”, “Nature of Change”, and “Do What You Feel!” are some of their best originals. They also do an awesome cover of “Pray for the King”, one of two songs from a demo from a very obscure ‘80s Mexican band called Midas Touch. It’s one of those tunes that leaves you surprised and disappointed when you find out it’s a cover, maybe I should have given you a spoiler alert. This band will be on my radar for many years to come!

2. Destructor - Blood, Bone, and Fire
Another solid album from Cleveland’s kings of leather and spikes. “The Calling” will likely still get my vote for the best metal instrumental of the decade six years from now. My favorite tune on this release, though, is “Never Surrender” because it is so memorable and chock full of fierce ambition, both musically and lyrically! In fact, it’s one of the major reasons why I hold this release in second place. It has excellent lead guitar work as well, which is often a key factor when picking favorite songs. However, it’s “Hammering the Steel” that will truly satisfy your craving for thrash. Each musician does a great job of commanding the listener’s attention, and the rhythm section gets right up in your face where it belongs.

Cruel Force - Dawn of the Axe
It was very hard to develop an order for the Top 5 this year, as every album came very close. However, I saved the heaviest for last this time! A nice, raw slice of blackened German thrash coming from a band that first formed in 2008 and went away for about a decade. They stormed back eager to rage, appropriately, around the time that the pandemic was fading. If you like fellow German thrashers Hellish Crossfire, you’ll love these guys! The record is quite consistent, but it’s also the kind of record that starts and ends with a couple of its strongest tunes.

What was your favorite release of 2023? What was your favorite album from my list? Let us know in the comments!

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Tags:  EnforcerFreeroadCruel ForceDestructorRaven

    January 27, 2024

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