May was another strong month for metal. Several excellent albums from bands such as Blindfolded And Left For Dead, Blood Ceremony, Enforcer, Herod, Immortal, Pronostic, Vintersea and others just missed the cut for our list of May 2023’s best heavy metal albums. Here are our picks for the month’s best:
1. Frozen Soul – Glacial Domination (Century Media)
Frozen Soul carved out their frosty funeral two years ago with the crushing Crypt Of Ice, an exceptional debut that garnered comparisons to Bolt Thrower among other bands.
For Glacial Domination, Trivium’s Matt Heafy produced, helping to push their sound beyond where it had been before. The band showcases some new sounds in the form of solos which were largely absent on their debut, adding a layer of depth to this concentrated attack. Glacial Domination is the sound of Frozen Soul going from good to great, adding those finishing touches on a sophomore record that sets them apart from other death metal bands. Their domination is just beginning. It’s our pick for May’s best album.
2. The Ocean – Holocene (Pelagic)
Progressive post-metal juggernauts The Ocean took a slight left turn in the closing track “Holocene,” off their fantastic 2020 album Phanerozoic II. It was a pensive song dominated by electronic flourishes, and it also happens to be the name of this album, which closes off the band’s paleontology-themed album arc which began way back in 2007. On this final outing, clean singing, electronic atmospheres, and haunting melodies envelop the listener.
For the most part this is quite a departure for The Ocean, but they do still bring the heaviness at times, particularly on the second half of the album. Listeners willing to allow the band to go beyond the heavy post-metal they are known for will be handsomely rewarded. Tracks such as the “Atlantic” – “Subboreal” pairing brilliantly bridge old and new sounds into truly stellar material, and the epic track “Unconformities,” with haunting vocals from Karin Park (Årabrot), is mesmerizing and, in the back half, furious. All told, this is another fantastic outing from one of post-metal’s best bands.
Wilderun fans, pay attention here. The Amensal Rise is Belgian prog-death outfit Omnerod’s third and most ambitious album. Clocking in at seventy minutes (that’s over just seven songs), The Amensal Rise is a daunting listen both in length and complexity, but boy is it rewarding. Each song on this album screams “epic,” and draws from modern and classic influences alike, resulting in an album at once familiar yet different and captivating.
Much like Wilderun, Omnerod specialize in richly layered, intricate compositions. Arrangements and instrumentation are spot-on. There’s not a weak spot to be found across the album, aside from the daunting song lengths. In this case, though, the songs all flow wonderfully, making The Amensal Rise a rare long album that begs to be enjoyed in its entirety. Put it all together and you’ve got a prog-death album that’s done exactly the way I love them.
4. Yakuza – Sutra (Svart)
It has been about a dozen years since the Chicago band Yakuza last released an album. Their brand of avant-garde, experimental, progressive, jazzy metal was always well-received but they hadn’t issued anything new since 2012’s Beyul. They make their long-awaited return with Sutra.
Yakuza have always had the ability to write songs that are complex and unique that also have groovy and catchy moments. “Alice” has doomy riffs that instantly embed into the listener’s cortex, while “Echoes From The Sky” is more avant-garde with a lot of twists and turns. “Embers” is a slow build, while “Burn Before Reading” is immediately intense before backing off and incorporating the band’s trademark saxophone. Creativity is in ample supply on Sutra, a welcome comeback from Yakuza, whose ability to create compelling and challenging songs is fully intact.
5. Metal Church – Congregation Of Annihilation (Rat Pak)
Throughout Metal Church’s extensive, on-again/off-again career, they have remained standard bearers for pure, uncompromising heavy metal, a trend which happily continues on their latest release, Congregation Of Annihilation.
New singer Marc Lopes, taking over after the untimely death of Mike Howe, stylistically skews closer to original Metal Church vocalist David Wayne’s piercing yelp, occasionally employing a screamy, metalcore edge and King Diamond-esque falsetto wailing. But founding guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof is the real hero, perhaps the most overlooked riff machine of his generation. Congregation… overflows with his unique style of syncopations and shifting dynamics that keeps the listener’s ear engaged.
6. Cattle Decapitation – Terrasite (Metal Blade)
Cattle Decapitation‘s Terrasite represents a renewed vigor, variety and the consistent intensity they are known for. Travis Ryan has continued to vary his vocal delivery over the years with shrieks and growls being most prominent, at times using cleans.
This album marks the next step for Cattle Decapitation, as they have continued to mature into a violet and veteran band with growth being their only option. Terrasite emerges from its chaotic chrysalis to wreak havoc on your eardrums and your ecosystem.