The summer is heating up, and so are the new releases. Here are our picks for July 2023’s best heavy metal albums.
1. Blackbraid – Blackbraid II (Self)
One-man black metal band Blackbraid is the project of Sgah’gahsowáh, who is of Native American descent and continues to bring that lore to the band’s second album Blackbraid II. It’s a sprawling experience that leads the listener to grandiose soundscapes that are matched by the extreme shifts in the band’s sound throughout the album. Tales of wolves, moons, and spirits go a long way to introduce listeners to the historical and metaphysical experience of indigenous Americans.
Blackbraid II, with the excellent stories to be told, atmosphere nearly without equal, is perhaps one of the single most important American black metal albums since Panopticon’s Kentucky. Sgah’gahsowáh has outdone himself and is forging a new path forward for black metal in 2023, one that will likely continue to set him apart from his contemporaries and become one of the biggest new faces in the genre for years to come.
2. Outer Heaven – Infinite Psychic Depths (Relapse)
Infinite Psychic Depths featuring more of Outer Heaven‘s universe, spanning extraterrestrial death metal which picks up right where Realms Of Eternal Decay left off five years ago. “Soul Remnants” is a marvel with so many intricacies flying around at warp speed. It can be easy to miss each volley the band is launching at you; this is death metal played with technical aplomb and purpose.
“Drained of Life” fires out of the gate with chugging riffs that spiral out of control, only leveling out to help vocalist Austin Haines conjure up more interstellar insanity while you travel the cosmos. It should come as no surprise that Outer Heaven test the boundaries of human perception and that comes across with each sweeping section of stellar strikes on the fretboard. Fans of Nucleus, middle era Pestilence and Blood Incantation needn’t look any further than Outer Heaven for their next level of Infinite Psychic Depth, one of the best death metal albums of 2023.
3. Fen – Monuments To Absence (Lupus Lounge)
On recent albums, the UK atmospheric black metal band Fen have explored a lot of post black elements. On their seventh album Monuments To Absence, their first in four years, they return to the more aggressive style of their early work.
The lyrics on the album have to do with anger, hopelessness and despair, which is also reflected in the music. That’s evident from opener “Scouring Ignorance,” and tracks like “To Silence And Abyss We Reach.” Fen still incorporate a lot of atmospherics, and continue to inject post metal parts into their songwriting, just not as often as albums like The Dead Light. That results in a very well-rounded album, and with many songs in the 9 minute range (the shortest track is 6 and a half minutes), there are plenty of ebbs and flows and stylistic shifts. The combination of intensity and complexity makes Monuments To Absence a really engaging listen.
4. The Gorge – Mechanical Fiction (Pelagic)
What happens when you ask a group of jazz musicians to form an extreme prog metal band? You might think you get a ton of wankery and self-indulgence, but The Gorge avoid that on Mechanical Fiction, the St. Louis-based band’s third album. The quartet intentionally avoids going overboard in the complexity department, aiming instead to create complex but digestible extreme prog, and they succeed.
There’s as much groove and riffage as there is chaos and intricacy across Mechanical Fiction. The heavy, coarse vocals add emotional depth to the tracks, and while this reviewer always likes to have some vocal variety on extreme metal compositions, this is a minor quibble here. With hints of King Crimson, Gojira, and maybe even Intronaut or Meshuggah, The Gorge have crafted an extremely captivating prog metal album.
5. Izrod – Sarejevski Odisej (Signal Rex)
Over the past decade, and a little more, Bosnia and Herzegovina has been one of the black metal hotspots in the Balkans and southeast Europe. From Sarajevo, Izrod are also part of this region’s colossal black metal wave. Their debut album, Sarajevski Odisej, is a grand spectacle of the decadence and collapse of a world that is sinking day by day into depression and degenerate darkness.
Sarajevski Odisej, which translates to “Odysseus of Sarajevo,” not only narrates the fatigues and sufferings of the war left on the body of the capital, but also portrays global decadence, absurdity, and the reflections of distressed human who clings to every rope for survival. It’s a dark, wrathful and nihilistic musical odyssey that pours the two worlds of Polish and Swedish black metal into one goblet and produces a poisonous potion. Sarajevski Odisej is one of the thought-provoking and finest black metal albums of the year.
6. Cadaver – The Age Of The Offended (Nuclear Blast)
It has been a challenging few years for Norwegian death metal veterans Cadaver. In addition to dealing with the pandemic, frontman Anders Odden fought and won a battle with cancer. For their latest album The Age Of The Offended, Odden and drummer Dirk Verberuren (Megadeth, Soilwork) were joined by guitarist Ronni Le Tekro (TNT). He was only supposed to play on the TNT cover “Deadly Metal,” but ended up doing the entire album. Bassist Eilert Solstad, who also played on Cadaver’s 1992 album …in Pains, guests on “Scum Of The Earth.”
The album title refers to how many in Odden’s generation feel about today’s social media era. There’s plenty of the band’s trademark old-school death metal, exemplified by tracks like “Dissolving Chaos” and “Death Revealed.” There are a few curveballs, like bringing in the same trombone player who played the intro for 1993’s Hallucinating Anxiety to also play in the intro for this album. Verbeuren is one of the best drummers in the business, and that’s evident throughout The Age Of The Offended. Odden and Le Tekro’s guitar work is also top-notch. This is only their sixth album in a 30 plus year career, but Cadaver make each one count, and that’s the case with the excellent The Age Of The Offended.
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