2023 continues to show it is a strong year for metal with another month of quality releases. Here are our picks for August 2023’s best heavy metal albums.
1. Urne – A Feast On Sorrow (Candlelight)
For some bands, it takes a few songs to become absorbed in an album, while others never get there. For Urne’s A Feast On Sorrow, it only takes under a minute to become infatuated with their second album. That’s when the opener “The Flood Came Rushing In” becomes a thrashy treat, though the record moves between that, sludge, and, in special circumstances, black/death to maximize unpredictability.
Their debut album Serpent & Spirit got the attention of Gojira’s Joe Duplantier, who came onboard to produce A Feast On Sorrow. It’s apparent what he sees in this band to be this hands-on, as their metamorphosis is shown on two 11-minute opuses, “A Stumble Of Words” and “The Long Goodbye/Where Do The Memories Go?” The two mark the current songwriting pinnacle of their career, with the latter having an outstanding ending section with Celtic ties. Urne have put out a must-listen metal album of 2023 in A Feast On Sorrow. It’s our pick for August’s best album.
2. Godthrymm – Distortions (Profound Lore)
Returning for their sophomore album Distortions are Godthrymm, complete with two former members of My Dying Bride and Solstice. The approach here is far less gothic and much more epic. Opening with an 11 minute monster in “As Titans” is a gutsy move, one that helps establish the band’s foothold on your emotions and ears for the next hour. With emotions running high next to the sheer grandiosity of the track, this is more than enough to garner the praise that this album rightfully deserves.
Godthrymm can also cut down their concept on a track like “Devils,” giving you more of what you expect from an early Paradise Lost and Candlemass with a lot of darker themes overall. With “Obsess and Regress” there are touches of the ethereal from Catherine Glencross’ vocals juxtaposed against those of her husband Hamish, who has an early ‘90s doom flair about his own vocal style. Distortions is an incredibly dense and well thought out album with twists and turns throughout. For fans of epic doom with gothic flair from some well-versed musicians you can’t do it any better.
3. Incantation – Unholy Deification (Relapse)
Death metal pioneers Incantation have been a stalwart of the genre for over three decades. Vocalist/guitarist John McEntee is the lone remaining original member, with drummer Kyle Severn first joining back in 1994. Unholy Deification is the band’s thirteenth studio album in what has been a very prolific period for them. Since 2012 they have issued five studio albums, a couple of splits, a live album and several compilations.
Unholy Deification is classic Incantation with punishing death metal, a bit of melody and McEntee’s gruff vocals. They shift tempos, slowing things down on “Concordat (The Pact) I” and keeping the pedal to the metal on most of “Chalice (Vessel Consaguineous) VIII.” The songs are razor sharp and focused, only once going over the five minute mark. That is with the closer “Circle (Eye Of Ascension) VII” that has a slow, doomy vibe before picking up the pace about halfway through and then slowing down again. There’s a reason Incantation have been successful for so long. That’s evident on this album, with top notch songwriting and musicianship.
4. Blut Aus Nord – Disharmonium – Nahab (Debemur Morti)
A little over a year after they released Disharmonium – Undreamable Abysses, avant-garde black veterans Blut Aus Nord are issuing the second installment of of the cycle, Disharmonium – Nahab.
Like previous releases, Disharmonium – Nahab is an immersive listen, sometimes unsettling and chaotic, other times more melodic and relatively accessible. The songs are slightly shorter than Undreamable Abysses, mostly in the five minute range with three brief instrumental opuses that add atmosphere and provide a reprieve from the extremity. The songs are dynamic with a lot of depth and a variety of harsh vocal styles from Vindsval that are usually deep in the mix. Blut Aus Nord expertly craft a mesmerizing musical journey with Disharmonium – Nahab that grabs the listener from the opening notes and remains completely engaging for the entire album.
5. Skálmöld – Ýdalir (Napalm)
Icelandic Viking/folk metal veterans Skálmöld had been releasing an album every two years since their 2010 debut Baldur. This time around, there was a five year span between Sorgir and their latest opus Ýdalir.
The lyrics are based on Icelandic sagas and Norse mythology, and the music has a lot of variety. The centerpiece of the title track is a lengthy guitar solo, along with a combination of harsh and melodic vocals. “Urður” is pretty intense all the way through, while “Verðandi” has a bombastic beginning before mellowing out. They close with the 11 minute epic “Ullur,” which unfolds deliberately and shifts intensities and vocal styles. Ýdalir is intriguing blend of heavy death metal and melodic folk metal, making for an engaging listening experience.
6. Dragonheart – The Dragonheart’s Tale (Rockshots)
It took eight years since the release of their 2015 album The Battle Sanctuary for Brazilian power metal legends Dragonheart to cook up this spectacle. The Dragonheart’s Tale, which features the return of original vocalist Eduardo Marques who rejoined the band in 2019 after a 17 year absence, feels like a power metal fantasy story that unfolds with each song. It feels like a group of bards in a tavern singing tails of ancient battles and mythical stories.
With a runtime coming in at just under an hour, it’s impressive that they’ve managed to fit a three act musical in that short of time. “DragoNHeart’s Tale” does what any opening musical number does best, its bombastic energy hooks you in for a wild ride. “Barbarian Armada” and “Plague Maker” are just samples on how each song keeps the narrative intriguing. Rounding out this ballad with “Early Days” shows Dragonheart’s skill for keeping a cohesive narrative in all their work. The Dragonheart’s Tale is a definite testament to twenty-six years of experience.
Other 2023 Best Monthly Album Lists
January 2023 Best Heavy Metal Albums
February 2023 Best Heavy Metal Albums
March 2023 Best Heavy Metal Albums
April 2023 Best Heavy Metal Albums
May 2023 Best Heavy Metal Albums
June 2023 Best Heavy Metal Albums
July 2023 Best Heavy Metal Albums