MetalBite's Top 10 Albums of the Month - July 2023
Welcome back to MetalBite's Top 10 Albums of the Month! This was (comparatively) a smaller list than we've had in other months, and it's a weird mix of 80s styled heavy metal, modern death metal, and a little bit of weird shit in between. Let's peek behind the curtain and see what hidden treasures there are waiting within.
Organ Dealer - The Weight Of Being
Everlasting Spew Records
Unfiltered old school grindcore the way it was meant to sound: a vocalist who violently scream-yells like Barney Greenway shifted up a few pitches, 95% blastbeats as the rhythmic base, and fast, simplistic yet chaotic riffing. Despite being made up of a few elements with little variation, those few building blocks are tasty enough to keep you going for a while, and the production is rounded enough that it doesn't start to wear on your ears after 10 minutes. There's not a don of drastic experiments on this album, but there doesn't need to be either.
Fen - Monuments To Absence
I didn't realize Fen is on their seventh album already - seems like just yesterday they were a promising up-and-comer in the Agallochy metal realm with the release of The Malediction Fields, an album I spun a lot back in the day when this kind of music was the hot new thing.
This is a good representation of the English folk/black sound - rich in melody without too much cheese, an appropriate amount of grit in the faster, aggressive riffing, and steady, drawn out journeys into oaken soundscapes. I can't say if this is a significant improvement from recent albums since I missed the boat on the last few, but using only the debut as my frame of reference, it doesn't sound like they've missed a step at any point along the way.
Deteriorot - The Rebirth
It took the band 13 years to compose a predecessor to The Faithless but it was worth the long wait. After a short sinister intro the listener gets sucked into a sea of death-doom metal that is old school as hell. No keyboards, no clean singing, just pure, sick metal in the vein of Dead Congregation, Grave Miasma and other moldy, underground filth. The pummeling drums are tight and the guitars are heavy. The vocals have the perfect tone and timbre to match the complete lack of melody. No trend-hoppers or Amon Amarth fans allowed here.
Mizmor - Prosaic
Profound Lore Records
This one-man army has slowly been recruiting followers to his camp with a compelling hybrid of black and doom metal. The subgenre merge reminds me of Nortt, which was always a cooler idea for a band in theory than it was in practice - but Mizmor capitalizes on the potential the hybrid offers via stronger musicianship and production values. The guitar tone on Prosaic will definitely grab your attention - it's got a certain raw prickle that usually accompanies a thin presence, but it manages to sound full and immersive without feeling overblown, still giving the other instruments the right amount of space. The album gets you wondering what's next right away, and pulls you further in as time goes along - a hallmark sign of music that can organically generate a compelling atmosphere.
METALBITE'S TOP 10 ALBUMS OF THE MONTH
10: Winterage - Nekyia
Although this writer's tastes tend to the more extreme ends of the metal spectrum, he is not above having his head turned by the more theatrical attractions of power metal, and when one comes across an album within the sub-genre as good as Winterage's Nekyia, it is time to discard the corpsepaint and bullet belt in favour of loincloths and well-conditioned hair. It will come of little surprise to the seasoned power metal follower to discover that the band hail from Italy, a country almost preternaturally inclined towards the more neo-classical and indulgent musical experience, and although their third album is clearly indebted to their compatriots (Luca Turilli's) Rhapsody (Of Fire), the songwriting is strong enough to ensure that they cannot be dismissed as mere clones. The album really flies when Winterage push the classical element of their sound to the forefront; the bombastic horns, stirring strings, and portentous choral vocals of 'Dark Enchantment' making it a true highlight. This is not, however, to say that the metal component of their sound is in any way an afterthought. In fact, the huge production allows enough space in the mix for the hefty chugging and tremolo melodies of the guitars to ensure that Winterage do not fall into the lightweight pop-metal trap that so many of their contemporaries seem to fall victim to. The Italians are not creating anything especially new here, but not unlike Wolfheart's recent take on melodic death metal, they do what they do with poise and aplomb, and more than enough quality to put themselves at the forefront of an overly crowded pack.
My passion for Italian epic power metal is re-ignited now. This is a big step up from their previous work. They've still got the Rhapsody-esque bombastic orchestral arrangements with lots of violin, But in songs like 'Simurgh The Firebird' or 'Hecate' the guys show a certain heaviness they didn't before - particuarly in the drums, which verge on blastbeat levels with their speed. The classical music is even more emphasized, and it creates a more varied and intriguing listen - overall this is really cool epic power metal with a lot of smart ideas and arrangements. Definitely a highlight of the style for the year.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.5/10
9: The Night Eternal - Fatale
This is one melodic and magical sounding heavy metal album with great instrumental work and catchy songwriting, but the highlight of this album are definitely Ricardo Baum's vocals, which are so much reminiscent of Glenn Danzig's singing. The album has a very foreboding, dark and occult nature behind it, but at the same time it's so incredibly catchy that you just can't let yourself or anyone else skip a part of the song. This album made me beg for more, because as it finished, I was left really speechless thinking that it's unfair how it was over so quickly. Nevertheless, I think that this one deserves some love from the heavy metal community and I would even ask for goddamn tarot cards set that includes this kind of artwork.
-Vlad (also, full review by Michael here)
MetalBite's Rating: 8.6/10
8: Blackbraid - Blackbraid II
Ever since Blackbraid dropped its debut album last year, people just wouldn't shut up about this band and they still don't, but this time I think that it's because there's a good reason, that reason being the follow-up album Blackbraid II. The first album was good but, in some ways, lackluster, still not getting it quite right for me to embrace it fully, yet the second album is in my opinion far superior and more interesting listening experience. I consider Blackbraid II the sequel that easily beats the living crap out of the original, because I managed to come across so many amazing riffs, beautiful sections that incorporate the Native American flute and even wonderful acoustic moments as well. Although the cover of Bathory's 'Fine Day To Die' as the album's closing track is a bit unnecessary, especially since it has been overdone and covered by so many other bands, I think that it was still great and it did the album justice. The band's founding and only member Sgah'gahsowáh really went hard to make this one exceptional and better than its predecessor, so I can't express how much I've actually enjoyed this one.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.6/10
7: Nostalghia - Duelo
I personally never really cared about post-black metal bands at all, but when I accidentally stumbled upon the Mexican band Nostalghia and their eight album Duelo, I was caught by surprise at how well it's done. The album is very melancholic, depressive, maniacal and atmospheric as well, with a very dynamic songwriting that even incorporated some jazz elements with clarinets and pianos. I have never heard anything like it so far, it is in a way one of the most unique albums I've heard so far so I highly recommend that you check this one out if you're into post-black metal or obscure black metal bands in general.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.6/10
6: Outer Heaven - Infinite Psychic Depths
Outer Heaven is one of the lesser-known bands that popped out of the deathened hardcore explosion of the mid-late 2010s (while still definitively being a recognized part of that scene). Cleaner than Full of Hell, but a little less overly groovy than Gatecreeper or Undeath, they're the most traditionally "death metal" of the bunch. They're more aligned with the 20 Buck Spin school of thought even though they're a Relapse band…if that makes any sense.
I get a lot of the same impressions from Infinite Psychic Depths as I did the debut - I wouldn't call this a progression or expansion on their previous effort - The overall aesthetic is perfect - I love the band name, the trippy artwork and the more involved guitarwork that retains a certain level of meat-headedness the whole while. The whole album is thorough and consistent, with the caveat of that being that this doesn't have punchy singles the same way Sonoran Depravation and Lesions of a Different Kind did. It's better for a full album listen than most in this style, but I do find myself craving those overly simplistic moments where I want to ram my head into a wall (in a good way). Maybe it translates better in a live setting?
I like the debut album Realms Of Eternal Decay quite a bit, and this album is definitely an improvement. Old school death metal with an understated dash of technicality. The opener 'Soul Remnants' kicks right into it with furious blast beats, beefy guitars, layered vocals that'll drop your jaw. There's the occasional experiment, but they mostly control the chaos. Lots of grooves are built in to keep everything steady and meshing together perfectly.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.6/10
5: The Zenith Passage - Datalysium
Metal Blade Records
This was always the true logical continuation of The Faceless, whose first two albums are arguably some of the most influential pieces of music in the tech/deathcore spheres. Justin Mckinney was, after all, a colleague of Michael Keene's for a hot minute, eventually splintering off to create his own project here. The debut was already excellent, and this just leans into the tremolo groove style of riffing that is incredibly sought-after in the tech spheres. Soreption are of course the kings of the style, with Vogg-era Decapitated serving as the foundation, and The Zenith Passage may be the only American band that can really hold a candle. Datalysium has a ton of anticipation behind it, and judging by how much praise it got when it came out, it cleared everyone's expectations. The single they dropped a year ago already showed they had it down, and sure enough, 'Synaptic Deprivation' and 'Deletion Cult' have some of the best riffs you'll hear all year. Some of the longer-form tracks kind of lose me for a moment, but they always work a nasty groove in there somehow to keep you hankering for more. The album's a bit of an uneven one for me personally, but that's still not enough to stop me from calling it one a top 3 technical death metal album for 2023 so far, which should tell you how good the best songs on this are.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.6/10
4: Thelemite - Survival Of The Fittest
Sleaszy Rider Records
When I said that bands within the "New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal" are worthy to be considered as "Defenders of The Faith", I didn't even think that one would actually go down that route. Greek heavy metal band Thelemite did a great job with their third album Survival Of The Fittest, from the cover art that closely resembles "Defenders of The Faith" by Judas Priest, all the way down to the songwriting which was done with such care and passion. If it weren't for the modern sounding production, this would easily pass for an 80's heavy metal album because in some many ways it does seem like a lovechild of that particular era of music. Some songs on this album include influences of other bands like Scorpions and Kiss, while the primary influence on this remains Judas Priest and plenty of other classic British heavy metal bands. This is easily one of the best heavy metal albums of the year and I think that a lot of oldschool heavy metal fans including myself have embraced it with open arms.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.7/10
3: Widow's Peak - Claustrophobe
It's not a terribly auspicious band name, calling to mind the kind of balding cleric that might consider Bach a little modern, let alone metal of the deathly variety, but Widow's Peak's Claustrophobe is an object lesson in judging neither the book by its cover, nor the band by their chosen monicker. The Canadian's debut is an adroit blend of catchy melodic death metal, and off-kilter technicality, the guitars' chugging cadences thrown up against the wall by flurries of finger-tapped runs, and some of the most adept basswork since Atheist were in their prime, all delivered by the monstrously talented Alyxx Frayne. While the band are supremely proficient, their brand of death metal eschews the brutality of much modern tech-death, instead ploughing a similar furrow to the criminally under-appreciated UK geniuses Atvm, revelling in spacious syncopated rhythms, delivered with a welcome side order of woozy psychedelia. On the incredible 'Thrombosis', the band really show the full extent of their capability, integrating Meshuggah-style space-jazz leads between their thunderous jackhammer riffing, and the dry, guttural vocals of Travis Godin, but this is one of many highlights of an impressively consistent and intriguing debut. All things point to this being the start of a formidable journey, with the Widow's true peak hopefully yet to come. Until then, Claustrophobe is more than enough to keep the band at the forefront of this listener's mind.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.7/10
2: Stangarigel - Metafyzika Barbarstva
I am not sure how I didn't notice this one earlier, especially since this is a side-project of Adam S. from the Slovakian black metal band Malokarpatan, which is one of the newer black metal bands that I really like. This album has lots of ambient moments that were wonderfully combined with the primitive and barbaric black metal in the style of bands like Graveland. Not so many bands of today have those moments where their atmosphere screams "Dark Medieval Times" from start to finish, so I think that I'll be keeping a close eye on Stangarigel in the future.
-Nate (also, full review by Vlad here)
MetalBite's Rating: 8.7/10
1: Tailgunner - Guns for Hire
Critics, musicians and fans have described this as one of the best British heavy metal album debuts since Iron Maiden dropped their first album in 1980, and I can't say that they are wrong. Tailgunner's debut Guns For Hire managed to take the heavy metal world by storm and conquer the top metal charts of the month, with fans still going crazy about the album weeks after it was released. Although the band undeniably did a great job at their songwriting, the strongest points should definitely go to Olof Wikstrand for doing a masterwork at producing, mixing and mastering this bad boy to make Guns For Hire roar with heavy metal thunder. The only thing better than this album that I can think of right now is a full-on worldwide tour with Tailgunner and Enforcer, because both bands have climbed the top charts, released the best heavy metal albums of 2023 and are in high demand from fans to see them live.
MetalBite's Rating: 9/10
As always, thanks for checking our monthly list out and using MetalBite as your source for the good shit. If you're still craving more, check out past month's lists here:
|The Zenith Passage|