2023 is coming to a close, with year-end lists set to be unleashed in December. It’s ending on a strong note, as you can see with our picks for November 2023’s best heavy metal albums.
1. Green Lung – This Heathen Land (Nuclear Blast)
Green Lung’s latest occult masterpiece, This Heathen Land, should’ve been released a week earlier, in time for All Hallow’s Eve. This ode to England’s pagan heritage brings the listener a uniquely British spin on witches, Satan, and ancient forest gods, delivered with both the utmost skill and sincerity, and a knowing wink. One almost expects the spoken word intro to conclude with, “O how they danced, the little people of Stonehenge.”
Green Lung expand on their equal parts doomy and groovy Sabbathian-swagger by embracing vintage swinging ‘60s keyboards on “Maxine (Witch Queen)” and recalling Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” on the acoustic stomp of “Songs of the Stones.” The crushing riffs and hooky melodicism of tracks like “The Ancient Ways” hew closer to the sound the band established on earlier releases, and taken as a whole, Green Lung have produced a strong contender for album of the year and our pick for November’s best album.
2. Panopticon – The Rime Of Memory (Bindrune)
Austin Lunn’s atmospheric black/folk project Panopticon has long been a critical darling, issuing albums that receive glowing reviews and landing on numerous year end lists. That won’t change with The Rime Of Memory, his tenth full-length studio album.
After an opening instrumental is the nearly 20 minute “Winter’s Ghost,” Panopticon’s longest song since “Patient” from 2011’s Social Disservices. After a peaceful, somber beginning, it abruptly shifts into intense black metal about halfway through, lasting a few minutes before easing back into mellowness and then briefly ratcheting up the extremity again prior to a peaceful ending. “Cedar Skeletons” and “Enduring The Snow Drought” take the opposite approach, beginning with brutality, while “An Autumn Storm” keeps up the aggression until the very end. This varied songwriting approach keeps lengthy songs (9 to 16 minutes) interesting and unpredictable. The Rime Of Memory is Panopticon’s longest album at 75 minutes, but that doesn’t dilute its impact at all.
3. TEMIC – Terror Management Theory (Season Of Mist)
The four players comprising TEMIC harken from such acts as Devin Townsend, Haken, Mike Portnoy, and Neal Morse. They have a strong pedigree and now on Terror Management Theory, the group’s debut, they get the chance to break out of the shadows and strut their stuff. They take full advantage of the opportunity.
Terror Management Theory epitomizes modern progressive metal. There’s plenty of virtuosity on display, especially from guitarist Eric Gillette, but there’s equal amounts of melody, emotion, and power on display. Fredrik Bergersen has a killer voice tailor-made for prog, and each song presented here is impeccably arranged and produced. This is a killer prog album.
4. Cruciamentum – Obsidian Refractions (Profound Lore)
Eight years is a long time in the death metal scene, and that’s exactly how long Cruciamentum have been without a new LP since 2015’s Charnel Passages. Their second full-length album Obsidian Refractions clearly remembers as this vile death metal crew references the former’s album title as its opening track. The lead song lumbers through death metal passages and soars through solos surrounded by drums that stop on a dime and announce the sudden changes that allow for this beast to swirl into a metallic maelstrom. Vocalist C.E. plumbs the depths of death searching for his violent voice, one that manifests evil with each new syllable formed.
The middle four tracks help Cruciamentum further entrench themselves into the sounds from beyond, making for big blasts from the battery, ethereal sounds from beyond and crushing riffs make for an all-encompassing experience for the listener. They never let you sit idle for too long, enveloping you in fear and recklessness. All of this culminates in the massive closer “Drowned,” which takes all of the previous elements and leaves nothing to the imagination over the course of 10 minutes. Obsidian Refractions is the oppressive sound of all that you know crashing around you, letting pure evil take hold. This is death metal for death metal’s sake.
5. Shylmagoghnar – Convergence (Napalm)
Shylmagoghnar have gone from a duo to a solo project on Convergence, with multi-instrumentalist Nimblkorg taking on lead vocals. A founding member of a band with inventive progressive death/black metal, their career has been about eschewing expectations for what this style of music can achieve. One of their signatures has been a prevalence of instrumental songs on each album, a feature that is pulled over to Convergence.
Four of the ten tracks are instrumental, an avenue that allows Nimblkorg to utilize synthwave, touching piano solos, and even prog metal rippers like the double-digit opener “I Hear The Mountain Weep.” The other songs with vocals maintain this adventurous spirit, from the folk-laden ballad “The Sea” to the rampaging “Strata.” Convergence is the third record in a row from Shylmagoghnar that delivers bold and daring metal.
6. Mortuary Drape – Black Mirror (Peaceville)
Almost nine years to the day since their excellent Spiritual Independence was released, Mortuary Drape unveil their sixth album Black Mirror. The Drape are well known for their contributions to Italian black metal, laced with evil and at times employing some of the best bass lines in the genre’s history. “The Secret Lost” and “Into The Oblivion” are some of the shorter songs on the album but they’re a great encapsulation of what the band does well, summon evil from beneath their cloaks and rip fantastic guitar work fairly making the assertion that they are the Mediterranean answer to Mercyful Fate.
By today’s genre standards, Mortuary Drape’s sound fits neatly into a traditional heavy metal structure, with black metal riffs and themes, solos and the aforementioned bass playing are just an added bonus. For fans of second wave black metal with a little bit of the first wave’s heavy metal structure, this album has it all for you. Black Mirror is the latest in a line of their releases that will leave you wondering why this band is Italy’s best kept secret. Open the tomb at your own risk!
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
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August 2023 Best Heavy Metal Albums
September 2023 Best Heavy Metal Albums
October 2023 Best Heavy Metal Albums