2023 is off and running, and these are our picks for January 2023’s best heavy metal albums.
1. Katatonia – Sky Full Of Stars (Napalm)
Katatonia, who need no introduction to the metal populace, are back with their thirteenth album Sky Void Of Stars. They have played out their version of light and dark metal/post-rock since the late ‘90s when they changed from a death/doom unit to one more properly fueled by melody and Jonas Renske’s soft vocal approach.
It is easy to marvel just how fresh this band sounds 25 years after making a dramatic stylistic shift, but they just do it. Sky Void Of Stars is the sound of a band continuing to grow in their own unique way, making albums that sound like Katatonia and nobody else. 13 may be an unlucky number to some, but this newest release from Katatonia is one of the most well-rounded and best albums they have recorded.
2. Obituary – Dying Of Everything (Relapse)
Back for their first time in six years, Obituary are finally acknowledging their descent towards the grave with Dying Of Everything, their 10th album overall. “War” includes a slight section of acoustically picked riffs, adding an air of quiet not often attributed to these Florida legends. However it’s something fresh for a band that has spent the majority of its career rotting away in front of our eyes, much to our pleasure. The title track has all the speed that you would want from a death metal band such as this, feeling like it came from their most prominent and formative eras, showing that these old dogs have an excess of tread left on their tires.
This album has one of the last commissioned art pieces from Mariusz Lewandowski who sadly passed away in 2022 and was responsible for so many great album covers over his career. Entering their fifth decade of releasing albums, Obituary have nary missed a beat here, having crafted a great death metal record while remaining true to their lethal lineage. Dying Of Everything is death metal done right.
3. Tribunal – The Weight Of Remembrance (20 Buck Spin)
Canadian doom duo Tribunal’s debut The Weight Of Remembrance is prone to bring about feeling of gothic doom from years past. It features ethereal vocals from Soren Mourne, who also provides the album with the grace of somber cello sections in conjunction with Etienne Flinn, who brings about a sinister sound on vocals, providing an excellent dichotomy to Mourne’s beauty. Think My Dying Bride with two vocalists, staying the course with ample atmosphere.
The opening track “Initiation” feels like an appropriate title as it showcases the band’s immense and untapped talents for the masses that will gather at their aural altar. For fans looking to start their 2023 with the proper balance of elegance and darkness, look no further than this debut, for it feels like the first in a series of progressively heavy and somber music.
4. Ville Valo – Neon Noir (Spinefarm)
HIM had a long and successful run, both in Europe and North America. Their last album was 2013’s Tears On Tape, and they officially split in 2017. Frontman Ville Valo issued an EP in 2020, and his debut full-length solo album is Neon Noir.
The gothic elements Valo is known for are present on Neon Noir, but more in the pop/rock vein than metal. There are some heavy moments, but they pop up only periodically, such as on the doomy “Saturnine Saturnalia.” There are a lot of really catchy tracks such as “Run Away From The Sun” and the ’80s tinged “The Foreverlost.” Artists like Depeche Mode and The Cure are definite influences on Neon Noir, but it’s not a retro sounding album. Neon Noir is the sound of a more mature Valo, which you’d expect after a nearly ten year gap between releases, a welcome return that has his voice sounding better than ever.
5. Uriah Heep – Chaos & Colour (Silver Lining)
British hard rockers Uriah Heep have been around for more than 50 years, having formed back in 1969. They have had a lot of lineup changes over the years, with guitarist Mick Box the lone remaining original member. Vocalist Bernie Shaw and keyboardist Phil Lanzon have been in the band for nearly 30 years. Chaos & Colour is the band’s 25th studio album and first in five years.
Once again working with producer Jay Ruston (Anthrax, Amon Amarth), Uriah Heep continue the momentum from Living The Dream. Their brand of progressive hard rock sounds as fresh and vibrant as ever on songs like “Silver Sunlight” and the psychedelic “Age Of Changes.” The bands shifts smoothly from fairly straightforward tracks like “Hurricane” to more epic songs like “One Nation, One Sun” and album highlight “You’ll Never Be Alone.” Those that have been along for the ride for decades will enjoy Chaos & Colour, and a whole new generation of fans can appreciate the band, who show no signs of slowing down.
6. Riverside – ID.Entity (InsideOut)
Riverside are seasoned veterans, with ID.Entity being their eighth studio album. 2018’s Wasteland was a somewhat mournful release, as it followed the passing of guitarist Piotr Grudzinksi. This release sees Maciej Meller fully on board, and the band once again creating vital, energetic progressive rock.
ID.Entity features Riverside’s usual high quality of songwriting, with superb performances across the board. Mariusz Duda’s vocals are in fine form, but lyrically I fear they may be dating themselves here, as the songs get very topical. Will we want to hear about Instagram filters in five years? Time will tell.