September was the strongest month of the year so far, with a ton of great releases. There were so many that a lot of worthy albums that normally would easily have made our monthly best of list had to be left out. That includes Cannibal Corpse, Cryptopsy, Dying Fetus, KEN Mode, Kvelertak, Soen and more. Here are our picks for September 2023’s best heavy metal albums.
1. Baroness – Stone (Abraxan Hymns)
Stone is Baroness‘ sixth album and their first to eschew the color palette titles of their past albums. It’s also their first with a complete lineup intact from a previous record. Baroness have done a masterful job of toeing the line between grandeur and modesty on Stone. Never do you feel that this album is full of fluff or itself, there is a mix of everything they have ever done with a sense of unity from within the band that was lacking in their earliest days.
Once again a well-oiled machine, Baroness are masters of their craft and Stone is just the next chapter for a band that refuses to be pigeonholed as anything other than themselves. A supremely simple, yet complex affair for the band, Stone forms the bedrock for the future of Baroness and rock music overall. It’s our pick for September’s best album.
2. Code Orange – The Above (Blue Grape)
Code Orange had a ton of momentum heading into 2020’s The Underneath, but it was released just as the pandemic began, limiting their ability to bring their potent live show to the fans. It garnered rave reviews, a Grammy nomination, and ended up on many best of 2020 lists, including ours.
Their fifth album The Above has their most accessible material to-date, but also plenty of inscrutable and esoteric moments. Opener “Never Far Apart” has a little bit of everything, from modern electronic sounds to melodic singing from Reba Meyers to intense hardcore and harsh vocals. You’ll find radio friendly songs like “Mirror” while heaviness and intensity prevail on tracks like “Theatre Of Cruelty” and “A Drone Opting Out Of The Hive.” Code Orange embrace industrial stylings on songs like “Splinter The Soul,” and “Take Shape,” which features Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan. The Above is an effective balance of styles, tempos and intensities with memorable songs and minimal filler.
3. Tomb Mold – The Enduring Spirit (20 Buck Spin)
Tomb Mold surprised the death metal populous, releasing their fourth album The Enduring Spirit with minimal notice. It seems that Tomb Mold have married the beauty of the guitarist Derrick Vella’s other band Dream Unending and added it to their sound which at its peak is purely gross and primordial yet becomes progressive and at times reaches beyond its own genre’s boundaries.
Tomb Mold have come out of nowhere to deliver their best record to date, something which puts it at the top of the list for death metal and metal as a whole in 2023. Albums like this are few and far between, and as such this career defining album’s legacy will live on for a long time. The Enduring Spirit is the sound of pure extreme sonic freedom; do not miss this record.
4. Primordial – How It Ends (Metal Blade)
It has been five years since Primordial‘s last studio album Exile Amongst The Ruins, but fans have had material to tide them over in the interim. There was an EP in 2022 and a live release earlier this year. How It Ends is the Irish band’s tenth studio album.
The band’s trademark blend of Celtic folk and black metal is intact, with an approach that’s more aggressive. The opening title track has a fairly reserved beginning, but a couple minutes in that aggressiveness kicks in with passionate vocals from A.A. Nemtheanga. The songs are mostly in the 6 to 8 minute range, leaving plenty of room for lengthy instrumental sections and shifts in tempo and intensity. The album flows really well, from the urgency of “We Shall Not Serve” to the Celtic influences of “Call To Cernunnos” to the doomy groove of “Death Holy Death.” Interesting arrangements, plenty of variety and thought-provoking lyrics make How It Ends another strong addition to Primordial’s impressive catalog.
5. Woe – Legacies Of Frailty (Vendetta)
For Woe’s fifth album, Legacies Of Frailty, founding member Chris Grigg decided to handle the majority of the instrumentation and vocals himself in a throwback to the group’s 2008 debut LP A Spell For The Death Of Man. That’s not the only connection between these releases, as the drums for this album were recorded by Joe Smiley, the same man who recorded and mixed their first record. This is almost a spiritual successor to that era, being as aggressive as the band was in those early days.
Grigg does throw in some new tricks, like creepy synth sounds, but the overall direction is primal at its core. He takes the “A Distant Epitaph” instrumental from 2017’s Hope Attrition and repurposes it as the seven-minute stampede “Distant Epitaphs.” Though Grigg goes at it alone for the most part, he does bring in current members to help out, with bassist Grzesiek Czapla on the production side and drummer Lev Weinstein playing on half of the album. Legacies Of Frailty is Woe both looking back and ahead in a headspace of tangible fury.
6. Uada – Crepuscule Natura (Eisenwald)
Uada became one of the most controversial U.S. black metal bands active in the scene from day one. After Ceremonial Castings disbanded in 2014, the band’s mastermind, Jake Superchi started Uada and they quickly rose to fame with their debut Devoid Of Light. Their fourth studio album, Crepuscule Natura, once again represents Uada’s tenacity and steadfastness in creating a remarkable work.
If Crepuscule Natura has nothing more than the previous three albums, it certainly has nothing less, and it can easily be placed next to their magnificence and splendor. Melodies rooted in NWOBHM strongly appear, and in the middle of the whipping blast of black metal, Uada expand the uproarious yet noble sound of the album. Blackened heavy metal now celebrates its presence in the sonic fabric of Uada. Therefore, in the end, what is revealed is that the album has new soundscapes that are independent of the band’s musical background in many moments; however, the reflection of Djinn surrounds Crepuscule Natura with power.
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
July 2023 Best Heavy Metal Albums
August 2023 Best Heavy Metal Albums