March was a fantastic month for new music, with several worthy albums that would have made the list in many other months having to be left off. Here are our picks for March 2023’s best new metal albums.
1. Ne Obliviscaris – Exul (Season of Mist)
Ne Obliviscaris are one of the truest symbols and the definition of an extreme metal band. Six years after the acclaimed album Urn, they have once again created a gigantic theatrical stage to direct their musical show with the utmost epicness and passion.
Every moment and every second of Exul is surrounded by carefully-designed songwriting, tremendous emotions and sensational power. Violin-driven songs create dramatic and thought-provoking moments, and the complexity of melodies with the silky operatic voice of Tim Charles and the roar of Xenoyr’s growls, combining melodic/progressive death metal with melancholic yet overwhelming death doom metal. This combination touches a new frontier that the band has not approached in such an impressive way in previous albums. Exul is an extraordinary achievement, a glorious renaissance in creating emotion out of chaos. It’s our pick for March’s best album.
2. Sermon – Of Golden Verse (Prosthetic)
Sermon stormed critics’ charts back in 2019, when the band’s debut Birth Of The Marvellous was our top pick of the year. Now finally the band is back with Of Golden Verse. Featuring a similar lineup as their debut (James Stewart on drums, and Him on guitars/keys/vocals, but now with Lawrence Jenner pitching in on bass), the band has had four years to concoct an appropriate follow-up.
Of Golden Verse will quickly be recognizable to fans of Sermon. The style and vocal melodies remain the same, but this time around there is a more primal feel to the songs. Perhaps these numbers come from a slightly angrier place, but Of Golden Verse is certainly slightly darker and more aggressive than Birth Of The Marvellous. Despite (or because of) that, Sermon have again crafted a masterpiece; 49 minutes of visceral, taut, climactic metal.
Hailing from Canada’s west coast, Mirrors is Trailight’s sixth release. Mastermind Omer Cordell didn’t catch our attention until last year’s Chasing Daylight release, but we’re sure glad we know of his project now. Mirrors continues on in the same manner as Chasing Daylight, but Cordell’s game has been upped here.
Not really a one-man act here, Cordell has guests (not the least of which is Devin Townsend) assisting on everything but bass and vocals. From a songwriting, arrangement, and production perspective, he’s knocked it out of the park on this release, with eight killer songs that are each as stunning as the previous. Give Of Golden Verse a listen; it will definitely be on a lot of year-end lists.
4. Mork – Dypet (Peaceville)
Mork’s Thomas Eriksen will stop at nothing to bring his one-man show to our eardrums, and on his sixth offering Dypet you get more of what you want from true Norwegian black metal. The cold riffs on opener “Indre Demoner” convey that elusive feeling of dread that is often missing from more modern black metal, eventually giving way to a tremolo picked section that is wonderfully crafted, weaving a tapestry of tundra in its wake.
“Et Kall Fra Dypet” is more of a gruff turn for Mork about midway through the album, also the longest song at over seven and a half minutes, making for a mini-epic with varying levels of attack levied onto the listener. The album also features a guest appearance by fellow Norwegian Hjelvik on “Hoye Murer,” providing a more grandiose and Viking-like atmosphere, much like his own band. Mork deliver a solid black metal entry with Dypet, one that continues to solidify their place in the underground as champions of the second wave and one of the best bands in black metal today.
5. Dawn Ray’d – To Know The Light (Prosthetic)
To Know The Light is the sound of a band in transition, as Dawn Ray’d redefine not only their own black metal, but what the genre can be as a whole. It takes supreme confidence as a group to do a two-and-a-half minute a cappella song like “Requital” and pull it off as well as they do. From the optimistic tone of “Freedom In Retrograde” to the booming organ of closer “Go As Free Companions,” there’s a willingness to not just regurgitate past successes and pass them off as new.
Dawn Ray’d haven’t lost their identity as anti-fascist compatriots though, and the seething messages of “The Battle Of Sudden Flame” and “Inferno” will alleviate any fears they have left their anger behind. They continue to be purveyors of violin-driven black metal with folk-laden melodies, with more of the latter on display on To Know The Light. Three albums in, Dawn Ray’d have styled themselves as innovators who aren’t content with staying stagnant.
6. Kamelot – The Awakening (Napalm)
The long-running American symphonic metal band Kamelot took more time than usual between albums. There was a five year gap between The Shadow Theory and their latest opus, The Awakening. It’s the first studio album for drummer Alex Landenburg (Mekong Delta, ex-Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody), who joined the band in 2019.
The arrangements on The Awakening showcase the catchy hooks and melodies with symphonic elements that augment the songs without overwhelming them. There are bombastic power metal numbers like “Eventide” alongside quieter songs such as the folk influenced “Midsummer’s Eve.” Kamelot keep things streamlined, with most tracks in the four minute range. The dramatic “Opus Of The Night (Ghost Requiem)” is the record’s longest at just shy of six minutes. The album features guest appearances as well, most notably Ad Infinitum’s Melissa Bonny on the vocally varied “New Babylon” that in addition to Tommy Karevik’s singing also has harsh vocals. Kamelot made The Awakening worth the wait, an eclectic album packed with memorable songs.