Some heavy hitters along with more up-and-coming bands make up our list of April 2023’s best albums.
1. Danava – Nothing But Nothing (Tee Pee)
Portland hard rockers Danava released three well-received albums between 2006 and 2011, then went silent, save for a single released in 2016. A dozen years after Hemisphere Of Shadows, they make their triumphant return with Nothing But Nothing.
They roar out of the gate with the opening title track, an uptempo song with great riffs and guitar harmonies. They have a retro approach, utilizing elements from both ’70s hard rock and ’80s NWOBHM, and sprinkling in stoner and prog. That range of styles and their musical prowess is on display on the instrumental “Season Of Vengeance.” Danava generally keep the pace fast throughout Nothing But Nothing, but ease back into moderate grooves on songs like the Maidenesque “Enchanted Villain.” Nothing But Nothing is a welcome comeback, and will appeal to a wide range of heavy music fans, from classic rock to stoner to hard rock/traditional metal. It’s our pick for April’s best album.
2. Fires In The Distance – Air Not Meant For Us (Prosthetic)
Air Not Meant For Us is a richer take on Fires In The Distance’s melodic death/doom metal, thanks to live orchestration being brought in. Violas, violins and cellos elevate the mournful spirit the band situates themselves in on these six songs. The synths and piano remain essential, whether used as background enhancement or a gateway into a passionate instrumental section. Much like their debut album Echoes From Deep November, they dabble in extremity without sacrificing harmony.
Though they never fall outright into an unruly situation with their death metal, the guitars transform from monstrous riffs to soulful solos on the regular, and there’s enough going on in these songs to support their well-paced lengths. Air Not Meant For Us is a step up, thanks to the organic-sounding orchestration and denser songwriting.
3. Metallica – 72 Seasons (Blackened)
The title of Metallica’s twelfth album relates to the first 18 years of life when childhood experiences shape peoples’ futures. James Hetfield contends that much of our adult experience is a reenactment or reaction to those childhood experiences.
The mood and pace of 72 Seasons is darker and more deliberate than their last album, but there is still plenty of diversity. Waiting several years between recent albums allows Metallica to painstakingly construct songs, extracting riffs and parts they’ve written over a long period of time and building them into a cohesive and interesting whole. The album shows their continued evolution, a band comfortable embracing their past while not living there, still moving forward and able to sound modern and relevant.
4. VoidCeremony – Threads Of Unknowing (20 Buck Spin)
Channeling sounds from beyond, VoidCeremony return with their cosmic death/black metal on Threads Of Unknowing, evoking the sounds of the cosmos through their riffs and otherworldly vocals. Speaking of traveling through galaxies, “Writhing in the Façade of Time” will send you spiraling beyond the astral plane with solos and an outro that act as portals to unexplored phenomena.
The bass playing is expert level on “Abyssic Knowledge Bequeathed,” wobbling its way into the depths of your mind making for an all-encompassing track from a band that clearly excels at getting the listener to do just that. Pay special attention to the closing suite “Forlorn Portrait: Ruins of an Ageless Slumber” as it is right up there for classic long plays of the style. Fans of Blood Incantation, Stargazer and Timeghoul will find themselves right at home with this interstellar and imaginative cosmic death metal, one of the best of the style since Hidden History Of The Human Race.
5. Tanith – Voyage (Metal Blade)
Voyage is thundering trio Tanith’s second album and first in nearly four years. It is the next chapter for co-vocalists Russ Tippins (Satan) and Cindy Maynard along with drummer Keith Robinson. They are a proto metal band steeped well within the nascent years of the genre in the early ‘70s. This is evidenced by the guitar tone on opener “Snow Tiger” as Tippins and Maynard trade verses before a guitar solo picks up the pace and the drums help to keep everything together.
“Olympus By Dawn” has massive riffs, some of which almost sound as though it could have been on Thin Lizzy’s Thunder and Lightning, balanced by the united voices of Tippins and Maynard; masterfully well done. Maynard’s beautiful vocals are at their peak on “Adrasteia” as they masterfully counter Tippins’ riffs which gallop along at a frantic pace. Tanith are a band all about the exact amount of each members’ contribution, and on Voyage everybody is on point making for an exceptionally well-crafted heavy rock record, one that is chock full of little things that make this record more spectacular every time through. Tanith are a retro revolution.
6. Blodtar – Det Förtegna Förflutna (Nordvis)
There was folk sensibility to the rawness of Blodtar’s black metal on their 2021 self-titled EP, with acoustic outros wistfully standing out through the low-fi buzz. Their debut album Det Förtegna Förflutna (which translates to “The secretive and quiet past”), boosts the production values to let the folksy inspiration come out even when they are at their most electric. The acoustics do return for a few song outros, and their presence on a dreary break within closer “En brynja av barr” is very effective.
Outside of the folk-inspired compositions is the same boundless negative zest the duo had on their EP. Most songs tend to mix up the mayhem with a surrealism that can be stretched into songs that go six or seven minutes, but they aren’t overloaded. Det Förtegna Förflutna confronts the secrets of the past and shows no mercy to them.