At the halfway point of 2023, it has been a good year for metal so far. Here are our picks for June 2023’s best heavy metal albums.
1. Royal Thunder – Rebuilding The Mountain (Spinefarm)
Calling it quits after 2017’s excellent Wick, Royal Thunder reconnected with original drummer Evan Diprima in 2020 and forged on as a three piece. Rebuilding The Mountain picks up right where they left off, combining the grinding tempos of doom metal with psychedelic, swirling, Soundgarden-esque guitars and singer/bassist Mlny Parsonz’ soulful, spine-chilling vocal delivery.
The most overlooked vocalist in modern rock, not “underrated,” because no one who’s heard her Janis Joplin-meets-Chris Cornell belting will ever discount it, Parsonz positively soars on lead single “The Knife.” She exorcizes her demons through the larynx-shredding vocal delivery on “The King” or the plaintive melancholy of “Live To Live.” Royal Thunder take a more focused and concise songwriting approach (only two songs break the five minute mark, and most are under four), creating their most cathartic yet accessible release to date, and a must-listen. It’s our pick for June’s best album.
2. Scar Symmetry – The Singularity Phase II – Xenotaph (Nuclear Blast)
Nine years on from their previous full-length, Swedish melodic death metallers Scar Symmetry unleash The Singularity Phase II – Xenotaph. A sequel to the well-received first installment of the planned trilogy, it’s probably their heaviest LP yet, but doesn’t forgo accessibility.
Scar Symmetry do incorporate the well-worn tropes of the style, but execute these elements more convincingly than most. The ’80s-influenced “Reichsfall,” “Overworld” and “Soulscanner” boast hooks the size of the Chrysler Building, while dazzling guitar solos fly off the fingers, and the dual growl/clean vocal attack possesses real chemistry. Well-placed orchestrations and acoustic flourishes add a cinematic quality, and they’ve infused a proggier, darker outlook overall, as evidenced from the blistering one-two blast of “Chrononautilus” and “Scorched Quadrant” through to atmospheric closer “Xenotaph” and its dramatic, haunting guest choir. Making melodic death metal feel fresh can be a tricky task in 2023, but Scar Symmetry manage it with a record that’s engaging, yet unpredictable at times.
3. Church Of Misery – Born Under A Mad Sign (Rise Above)
Long running Japanese doom metal outfit Church Of Misery have drawn up a slew of new serial killers to ravage your mind to. Born Under A Mad Sign is their seventh album and the first in seven years. Their sludgy doom metal juxtaposed with tomes of terrorism is truly one of the most unique elements in doom metal, one that they have never really shied away from.
New vocalist Kazuhiro Asaeda fits extremely well within the mix, adding a bit of his own crazed flavor to this already well-oiled machine with session guitarist Yukito Okazaki making the most of his time in the spotlight, giving the rest of the band the proper foundation with which to operate. Born Under A Mad Sign is no exception to the rules by which Church Of Misery abide: great riffs, crushing cruelty and immense atmosphere. If you are a fan of sludgy doom metal, then this record is an absolute must for genre stalwarts.
4. Pupil Slicer – Blossom (Prosthetic)
Pupil Slicer take the grindy mathcore of their earlier work and loads it with melodic experimentation on their second album, Blossom. Gone are the 90-second sprints, the unhinged noise, the perpetual state of madness they seemed to be trapped in. In its place is a group with no fear, one that will incorporate singing and mellow passages that acts as a world builder involving alien signals and sci-fi exploration.
They do this without completely disavowing their origins, as the viciousness of “Momentary Actuality” and “No Temple” can attest to. The farthest they get away from that is in the album’s glorious final two tracks, “Dim Morning Light” and the title track. Blossom is the apex of their maturation, a transformation into a new form that takes from the past without ignoring what’s ahead.
5. Pyramaze – Bloodlines (AFM)
Danish/American act Pyramaze never fail to impress. Their bombastic blend of progressive power metal is always infectious, catchy, and not too over the top. Bloodlines is the band’s seventh album and fourth with the current lineup which includes outstanding vocalist Terje Harøy. Produced by guitarist Jacob Hansen (a renowned producer in his own right), Bloodlines is punchy and bombastic, just as we hope and expect.
All ten songs strike memorable chords with the listener, from heavy riffs to moody keyboards to uplifting choruses. Not that Pyramaze need assistance, but they get some here from members of Unleash The Archers, Amaranthe, and Ad Infinitum. Put it all together and we’ve got a stellar power-prog album that will be sure to get fists pumping everywhere.
6. Death Ray Vision – No Mercy From Electric Eyes (Metal Blade)
The Massachusetts band Death Ray Vision, whose lineup includes Killswitch Engage’s Mike D’Antonio, have been around since 2010. Their third full-length No Mercy From Electric Eyes comes five years after Negative Mental Attitude and is the debut for new vocalist Keith Bennett (PanzerBastard, Casket Rats).
He’s a great addition, with an aggressive and passionate delivery. His lyrics are also more political than past DRV efforts. The band covers a lot of different styles, from the shoutalong vocals on the punk influenced “From The Rafters” to the metallic groove of “Broken Hands Of God” to the blazing hardcore of the less than one minute track “Premature Evisceration.” The songs on No Mercy From Electric Eyes are razor sharp with not an ounce of filler and a lot of memorable moments.