MetalBite's Top 10 Albums of the Month - November 2023
Welcome back to MetalBite's Top 10 Albums of the Month! In the midst of the ubiquitous year-end lists, we like to keep plugging away at our regularly scheduled column in order to give the same appreciation to albums released in November/December as we do the rest of the calendar year. Gotta make sure we don't let bands/albums fly under the radar because they chose to release an album against the grain of the "industry standard", so to speak. The less we let Spotify wrapped playlists and promo/tour cycles determine what we listen to, the better off we'll all be for it.
Despite November being a thin month for sheer volume of releases, what that means for us reviewers is less white noise distracting us from letting the albums we really like sink in. For that reason, I think this is the best time to discover new albums and check out new releases - lines up well with putting together your AOTY list as well. Plus it's not like we ever had a shortage of the good shit here at MetalBite, where seasoned metal nerds tirelessly dig through harsh and unforgiving sounds to bring you the cream of the heavy crop. We still found 25 albums out in November you should hear.
Let's get it!
Rascal - Lost Beyond Reason
Polish speed metal band Rascal has managed to put out a banger of an album that rocks out at full speed ahead from start to finish. Their debut full-length album Lost Beyond Reason is a result of teenage anger mixed with love for all things oldschool in terms of metal, with wild and catchy guitar riffs, powerful solos, high pitch vocals and wall breaking drums, which are pumped up with an extra dose of steroids that make everything go crazier. Their previous EP Headed Towards Destruction was already a fine piece of work, but this album surpasses it in every way possible. Every song is a heavy speed metal attack that goes right in your face and basically says "Death to all who oppose". Fans of oldschool heavy and speed metal should not miss this one, because this album will get your adrenaline going.
Panopticon - The Rime Of Memory
This is good - it's fuckin' Panopticon, if you're a modern black metal fan and haven't heard Kentucky, you're seriously missing the boat. Their style and approach is great, worth familiarizing yourself with if you're a known Agalloch worshiper the way I am.
However, I do feel Austin Lunn's prolific nature gets in the way of creating truly memorable albums nowadays. It doesn't feel like it's been very long since their previous album, and even though I was fairly high on that one, it didn't make its way into my regular rotation and it's hard to even recall what the songs sounded like at this point. Am I just over-saturated with music with all the promos I get? It's hard to tell, but typically if music does something that stands out or catches my attention, I'll come back to it.
These past couple of releases have just kinda felt…there. Fine to listen to while they're playing, but nothing in them grabs you by the scruff of the neck and demands you hear them again. Also, over an hour and 15 minutes? Austin, my brother in Christ, Trim the fat - I promise you'll be able to cut out a repetition or two and the songs will be better for it. I was surprised this was so high on Decibel's Top 40 - it's solid but has no one at that magazine heard Panopticon before or something? It feels like more of a "legacy award" that it does a decision made based solely on the quality of this album alone. Anyways, enough of my ranting, this is still a good album and worth a listen for fans of the style (Agalloch, Wolves in the Throne Room, Falls of Rauros etc).
Mêlée Des Aurores - Aube Cannibale
QCBM is alive and well, and by the sounds of this album, beginning to expand its horizons and move into harrowing, dissonant directions. This is more Phobocosm and Portal than it is Forteresse - a winding stairway that continues to lead downward into nightmare after nightmare. I'll admit I wasn't expecting this kind of sonic assault going in, but color me impressed and intrigued. It's rare that black metal can evoke a real sense of danger and give you the sense that the people behind the music are fundamentally disturbed individuals the way this does.
Aube Cannibale feels more in the spirit of 90s black metal than bands who try to recreate those albums note for note, if that makes sense…the attitude is there more than anything. To put it another way, this is like the Abruptum of the QCBM scene - harsh, discordant, as much about creating a work of art as it is about giving a big "fuck you, I dare you to sit through this" to the listener.
Délétère - Songes D'une Nuit Souillée
If the new Melee des Aurores was too scary for you, this is a more predictable slice of music from the genre. Not to say it's any less effective. Délétère have always been one of the more underrated bands from this scene. They don't reinvent the well, but they execute well. In reality, it's the quality of the second and third-stringers like these folks that drives the subgenre's success and notoriety.
Sombre Héritage - Inter Duo Mundi
Jesus, not one, not two, but THREE QCBM albums all released on the same day? This is too much to keep up with.
Sombre Héritage is the most melodic and accessible of the three, so if you're looking for a gateway in the genre or just some no-bullshit hard hitting black metal riffs, this will fulfill either urge.
Plague Rider - Intensities
Tense and chaotic tech death that brings to mind Atheist and Pestilence for older influences, mixed with a bit of modern mathcore a la KEN Mode and Psyopus. The influences I mentioned don't even really sound like this - Plague Rider is their own thing, an easy "get into it" for all the avant-garde/dissoheads out there, and even if you're not normally into that, this is one of those albums that is an interesting listen no matter what your "home base" genre is, as album released on Transcending Obscurity typically are.
Morne - Engraved With Pain
Metal Blade Records
I saw Morne live (Quebec Deathfest, 2019) and I still think about that set to this day. Morne is like Neurosis in that they don't play a ton of notes and don't clutter their songs up with a bunch of stuff - but what remains is incredibly powerful, purposeful music. Live, I was taken aback with how songs so simple could grow into something so powerful. The drummer wasn't doing anything super complex, the vocalist doesn't have the most piercing and inhuman tone you've ever heard, the guitarist are not household names/shredding virtuosos - but despite all this, everyone knows their place, each musician works in sync to deliver the powerful atmosphere, and over the years Morne has slowly developed into a sound all their own - one that mixes crust punk, post-rock and doom in a way no other group I've heard has. You wonder why a soft-spoken, simple band such as this has gotten to work with a bunch of cool labels over the years (Profound Lore, Armageddon Label, and now Metal Blade) but then you hear one song and all doubts immediately leave your mind. No one sounds like Morne.
The new album is more polished, with smoother songwriting and buildups in addition to a more rounded, professional production job (as one would expect with the transition to the big label). Fortunately, Metal Blade knows better than to tinker with the sound of such an idiosyncratic band, so you can tell this is the same group. I find this doesn't have the same immediate grab as Asylum and To the Night Unknown did for me, but as is the case with anything this band puts out, the potential to grow on you is massive.
Because of the slow-burn, grower nature of this band, it's too early to properly rate this album right now, hence why it is relegated to honorable mentions. However, don't be surprised if I'm revisiting this next year and retroactively calling it one of the best albums of 2023 (that's basically what happened with Etemen Aenka by Dvne in '21).
Morbid Sacrifice – Ceremonial Blood Worship
Godz Ov War Productions
Italian Death/Black Metal band Morbid Sacrifice has returned after 2 years with their second full-length album Ceremonial Blood Worship, which from the very get-go proved that it is a major step forward from their previous album Communion Of The Unholy. The band has improved their songwriting to make it feel more menacing and threatening at the same time, while still relying heavily on the standard war metal approach to the music. It also includes a cover of Sodom's "Conjuration" as the fifth track on this album, which in my opinion is very well executed in its own way without straying far off from the original. If you are searching for anything blasphemous and unholy, give this album a go and do not hesitate to shout "ÖUGH!" when feeling like it.
Aeternus - Philosopher
I don't think anything this long-running group does will usurp their first two albums - but to be fair, those are minor classics in Norwegian black metal. I didn't actually realize that Aeternus has quietly been plugging away - they've never split up or gone on hold, steadily releasing six more albums between 2000 and now (this is their seventh in that timeframe). I always thought they were one of those oldschool bands that never got the proper attention when they were active only to be dug up by the internet 10-15 years later.
Anyhow, they clearly haven't missed a beat if the sound of Philosopher is anything to go by. They've still got their core sound of heavy, groovy black metal riffing with a solid low-end and a hair of death metal influence. They are true to tradition without being obvious about it, but not using said genre conventions as a crutch in lieu of writing good songs. Get your monthly dose of Norwegian black metal from some of the OGs!
Lvctvs - Sobredósis De Pensamiento Fúnebre
As I mentioned many times before, I am not a fan of depressive black metal at all, I just couldn't find anything about it that really fits my taste. But there have been exceptions where I do kind of like what I am hearing, and one of them is the Venezuelan band Lvctvs, which had already released one album this year, that being the second full-length La Réproba Mazmorra De Mi Ser, however I will be focusing on the third album Sobredósis De Pensamiento Fúnebre which has a strong narrative focusing on the moments before embracing death. The simple but atmospheric musical output is nicely built up with the philosophy behind the concept of the album, which succeeds at giving the songwriting a richer feeling that saves it from other DSBM bands which are very one-dimensional and uninspiring. If you are a DSBM fan by any chance, I suggest that you give this one a try and see what you will experience.
Suffocation - Hymns From The Apocrypha
Ricky Myers is great and a worthy replacement for the legendary Frank Mullen, and the new album is a bit more streamlined and easy to follow, in the trend of their more recent releases - but this is still has that devastating gut punch we've all come to know and love from Suffocation. Full review by Michael here.
Left Cross - Upon Desecrated Altars
Upon Desecrated Altars is the second album from Richmond, Virginia quintet Left Cross, and unsurprisingly for a release on the ever-dependable Profound Lore, it is a high-quality slab of sickness. Featuring S.B. from Antichrist Siege Machine, Left Cross offer a similarly unhinged and bestial mode of delivery, but with the black metal elements of that band eliminated in favour of pure death metal savagery. Imagine Revenge or Conqueror playing slightly doomy, cavernous death metal in Stockholm, and you won't be too far away from the overwhelming torrent of pure filth that Left Cross fling in the listener's direction. This is not to say that the album is in any way murky – despite favouring a low-end attack, the production is sharp and clear, and this accentuates the impact of each and every chromatic tremolo riff, snaking its reptilian way through a barrage of double-bass, and snapping snare. It's difficult to pick highlights from an album that derives its power from the relentlessness of its forward motion, rather than its variety, but 'Pyramid Of Conquered Skulls' is as good as its title, and 'Celestial Wound' also closes out the album in fine fashion, with a brief mid-tempo section providing sweet respite before the final blitzkrieg concludes a monstrous album. Upon Desecrated Altars is the aural equivalent of being repeatedly assaulted by a blow that you see coming, but are nonetheless powerless to evade.
Warcrab - The Howling Silence
It's like High on Fire listened to a bunch of Bolt Thrower and decided they wanted to be a death metal band now. The Howling Science is groovy and bluesy, but with a really heavy, ominous edge that gets you clutching the invisible snowglobes during holiday season. This is music written by, and for, guys with footlong beards - just look at this band photo.
NecroticGoreBeast - Repugnant
Hits a nice little sweet spot between slam and tech-death that should satisfy any brutality fiends out there. They're from Quebec and the production job is from a guy that has worked with Analepsy and Organectomy. If those two sentences didn't give you a good idea of what this sounds like already, you're probably not the target audience for this.
Kvelgeyst - Blut, Mich Und Thranen
This Swiss group is quietly one of the coolest newer black metal bands emerging onto the scene. I got the promo for their previous full length, Alkahest, when it came out, but it got buried because I downloaded a bunch of other albums at the same time. I forgot about it until months later when it randomly started playing in the background on shuffle, and it kept hitting me with riffs that piqued my curiosity and got me dialed in. One of those "who the hell is this, this is sick, why am I not familiar with it" moments if you know what I mean.
I like the approach they have to black metal -they have a certain playful obscurity to them a la Dutch weirdos Laster (who have a great album of their own out this year) mixed with the stripped-down, pukish delivery of Peste Noire. They're understated in their eccentricities, never forcing you to pay attention but always drawing you back in with interesting melodic approaches and intelligent song construction. Eisenwald's a sure bet for some solid black metal no matter what, but this got more time in my rotation than any of their other releases this year.
METALBITE'S TOP 10 ALBUMS OF THE MONTH
10: Convocation - No Dawn For The Caligious Night
If you're going to check out a newer funeral doom band, your odds for success are much higher if the band is from Finland. That region has this knack for dragging you into a cavernous pit of despair as an ominous dark cloud swirls and forms above you. Convocation has touches of the wistful, delicate melancholy of Skepticism mixed with the crushing weight of Tyranny and Catacombs. Like all good funeral doom, they never fully reveal what they're about right away, but give you a slow drip of choral ambience, somber violins, deep, resonant growls, and a guitar tone that sounds like a cubic mile of lead slowly approaching your field of vision like some sort of massive alien spacecraft. Make sure you listen to this with enough time to it sink in - you won't get the full effect with a single song, but throw No Dawn For The Calignious Night on for at least 20 minutes and you'll find yourself wondering why you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders. In a good way.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.2/10
9: Diabolic Night - Beneath The Crimson Prophecy
High Roller Records
After a suitably portentous intro, Diabolic Night's follow-up to 2019's Beyond The Realm explodes into life with 'Tales Of Past & Mystery', and rarely lets up across eight tracks of high-class black-thrash. There is something wonderfully wild and ragged about the Germans' sound, which variously recalls Darkthrone, Spectral Wound, and Midnight, albeit with just a hint of classic metal creeping into the baroque phrasing of the short and sweet guitar leads. Like much of the best of this dark corner of the metal universe, Diabolic Night's music doesn't waste too much time worrying about how it should be categorised – some of the tracks are fairly straightforward thrash ('Vicious Assault'), while others display a more old-school black metal approach ('The Sacred Scriptures'), and although the feel differs a little from track to track, the album as a whole evokes that glorious period of the early-to-mid 1980s, when black, thrash, and death metal were more closely interlinked than perhaps they are today. Indeed, the brilliant 'Voyage To Fortune' even has the audacity to incorporate a section of near-Helloween speed metal, as if to remind the listener of the full heritage of Teutonic heaviness, and it's to their credit that it doesn't sound even slightly out of place. Beneath The Crimson Prophecy probably has a slightly limited appeal – it's not terribly progressive, and it's certainly not cutting edge, but for a certain breed of headbanger, it is a nostalgic treat not to be missed.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.3/10
8: Night Crowned - Tales
Noble Demon Records
This is an "inverted supergroup" of sorts - members have ties to more established bands like Nightrage, The Unguided and Dark Funeral, but they're connected more as live fill-ins as opposed to core members who have substantial songwriting input. Night Crowned seems to be the project where drummer Janne Jeloma and guitarist/keyboardist Henric Liljesand put the majority of their ideas and creative energy - their "main band", so to speak.
I give this introduction because it helps to give context for why this band immediately grabs your attention - one riff in and you can tell they've been around the block. You can also instantly hear why the drummer got tapped for Dark Funeral. He's got serious chops but always makes his beats catchy enough to give it that "stadium black metal" vibe. The immediacy and catchiness of their riffing quickly becomes apparent - this is like the black metal version of Wretched Fate. Tales does not experiment or change anything about the Swedish meloblack formula and it's a better album for it. It thrives on hitting that sweet spot of fast sugary tremolo riffs with enough bite to prevent cheesiness and enough flair to stick in your head. They know what they're good at and play to their strengths, and it's one of my favorite black metal releases this year primarily because they know better than to try stuff they're not good at.
Night Crowned is relatively under the radar, but it's about time they start getting mentioned among the forerunners of melodic black metal because they're right up there with the best of their contemporaries.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.4/10
7: Dyssebeia - Garden Of Stillborn Idols
This is honestly what I wanted the new Stortregn album to sound like. I thought there were some similarities in sound, and sure enough, Dyssebeia actually has the same drummer and bassist. Compared to the mind melting blitz of Finitude, though, Garden Of Stillborn Idols is a more restrained, even atmospheric affair - much closer to Insomnium than Inferi, but the more sparse moments help to bridge the gaps and make the more technical moments stand out.
It sometimes feels like "melodeath influence" is a huge faux pas for bands nowadays - the only way you'll get critical acclaim is if you rigidly adhere to the 90s style influences (example: that new Majesties album). This album is a great example of how to properly use modern melodeath in your guitarwork without it feeling stale or predictable. Songs like 'Retriubtion' and 'Sacrificed On The Threshold' have great push and pull, heaps of gorgeous melody and enough intricacy in the more uptempo moments that let you know these fellas could play way more complicated music if they want to - they just choose to write to serve the song more than to showcase their chops. And oh man am I ever happy they took that route. This rules.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.4/10
6: Green Lung - This Heathen Land
On the back of a sensational live show, good enough to transform this cynical, agnostic listener into a true believer almost instantly, Green Lung's third album This Heathen Land might just mark the point at which the band will cease to be an underground phenomenon spoken of in hushed tones, and flourish into their seemingly inevitable future status of credible mainstream band, with main stage festival appearances and high profile support slots within their grasp. Their doom-laden take on classic metal, which positions them somewhere within a triangle that points simultaneously at Black Sabbath, Rainbow and Ghost, is not particularly ground-breaking or cutting edge, but there will always be a seat at the table for great songs, executed brilliantly, and This Heathen Land has songs in spades. Seemingly recognising the uniqueness and perfect timing of their opportunity, Green Lung have also delivered a beautifully realised and coherent quasi-concept album, which leans into a theme which sees the band telling mystical tales of olde, occult Albion. A musty, pastoral, 'Wicker Man' horror atmosphere pervades every track, and it suits them, lending a timeless sheen to a sound which is less obviously retro than it could so easily be. This is most satisfyingly apparent on the brilliant 'One For Sorrow', the centrepiece of the album, musically closer to mid-period Ozzy Osbourne than the more Sabbathian sound that typifies much of the record, and the dragging tempo and soaring leads bring a stately majesty, enhanced by one of the numerous unforgettable choruses that litter a memorable album. This Heathen Land feels like a true statement release from a band who know that their time is now, and do not want to waste a second.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.7/10
5: Mephorash - Krystl-Ah
Boy was this album a pleasant surprise or what. Swedish black metal band Mephorash has put out another great album that is both epic and cinematic with its complex songwriting that conveys so much atmosphere and emotions from one song to another. The band continues to incorporate a lot of esoteric and occult elements in their music but with a bigger emphasis on storytelling through music, which is where this album stands out. You can hear that they put so much blood and sweat with all they got and the result of their effort is a worthy successor to their previous album Shem Ha Mephorash that was already quite successful back in 2020. It is still debatable whether this album is better than Shem Ha Mephorash or not, but it is without a doubt a great continuation of that album which still shines on its own.
MetalBite's Rating: 9/10
4: Vastum - Inward To Gethesmane
20 Buck Spin
Compared to Orificial Purge, which was the band's most polished and delicate album, Inward To Gethesmane is a grimier, more focused affair, hellbent on creating a sickly and menacing atmosphere. It's got our boy Michael raving - this is the most inspired and fresh the band has sounded in years. Full review here.
MetalBite's Rating: 9/10
3: Destructor - Blood, Bone And Fire
Shadow Kingdom Records
US thrash/heavy metal veterans Destructor return with their badass wall-breaking fifth album Blood, Bone, And Fire, which in all its might and glory basically oozes with blood, bone and fire. The riffs and the songs in general still sound as fresh and strong as if the band is still young and wild as they were back in 1985 when they released their cult debut Maximum Destruction. I was expecting that this album would sound heavy, but I did not expect it to sound so heavy to the point where it literally turned into maximum destruction (pun intended). So many older heavy and thrash metal bands simply fail to create anything inspiring, but Destructor is a very notable exception that deserves both endless praise and support from oldschool fans. I strongly believe that my teenage thrasher from many years ago would have definitely banged his head against the wall to this album and probably left a big hole in the bedroom as a testament to my craze and excitement.
MetalBite's Rating: 9/10
2: Xoth - Exogalactic
Perhaps the most whimsical record I've gotten familiar with this year. It's just so…bouncy? It's really funny listening to this right after a crushing emotional experience a la None or Godspeed You! Black Emperor. It sounds like the riffs are yelling "wheeeeee this is so fun!!!".
That being said, when it comes to the quality of the songs on Exogalactic there is nothing here to laugh at. The band draws from various tenets of metal including modern death, thrash, melodeath, black metal, power metal, 80s speed metal - the base elements and how they mix them is similar to Slugdge. They then add a colorful, cosmic touch that sounds like Rings of Saturn if they were primarily influenced by Voivod instead of deathcore. It's a cartoony depiction of space, for sure - this is not the suffocating despondency of Darkspace or even the somber, delicate introspection of Midnight Odyssey - but it works incredibly well with Xoth's boisterous energy and natural sense of humor.
I missed the boat on their previous release, but Exogalactic convinced me to give it a listen, and sure enough it's really good too. I'd say the newer release is a bit more refined and simultaneously more adventurous, but Interdimensional Invocations is absolutely worth your time as well and I'm a bit mad I missed out until now.
I knew there was a band from the 90s that had almost identical themes and a very similar approach to style blending, and for a while it was eluding me - but it hit me like a ton of bricks while I was writing this. Xoth is, without any doubt, the spiritual successor to Bal-Sagoth. Both bands end their name with the same three letters (which I also just realized) and that only cements this Seattle group in my head as the offspring of the English sci-fi storytellers. Anyways, Bal-Sagoth is fucking dope and very few bands sound like them, so this is only further insistence you check Exogalactic out.
Also, Bal-Sagoth was put on hold in 2013 and Xoth formed in 2014…just saying…
MetalBite's Rating: 9/10
1: Valdrin - Throne Of The Lunar Soul
I had two words to say about this album when I heard it: HOLY SHIT! I did not expect to stumble upon something so beautiful that is on the same level of greatness as Moonlight Sorcery's Horned Lord of the Thorned Castle from two months ago. This work is coming from a US melodic black metal band Valdrin whose music is heavily influenced by classic Swedish melodic black metal bands from the 90s and it shows. Their fourth full-length album Throne Of The Lunar Soul is an epic fantastic tale covered in gold, shining in all its glory with melodic black metal majesty. There is so much progression and complexity throughout every song with strong emphasis on storytelling through music, which was wonderfully executed. Despite its 1 hour and 13 minute long run, this album keeps your attention going and the adrenaline flowing, pulling off a risky move that only few bands ever succeed at doing. If the cover art itself does not convince you that you should definitely give this album a try, then I don't know what will, because it is truly a modern-day masterwork for fans of Dissection, Sacramentum, Unanimated, Dawn and Vinterland.
MetalBite's Rating: 9.2/10
Thanks a ton for using MetalBite as your source for what's what in extreme metal. We can't even begin to tell you how much we appreciate it.
If you're still hungry for more music, view all the previous AOTM lists from 2023 below:
|Rites Of Regress