It’s time, and this year we’re narrowing the list down to 20 (honorable mentions not included). A lot of returning characters from years past on this list but also some new faces. So sit back, throw on your blue light glasses, and read about all of the bands I think deserved a spot on this here list. Who will be number 1? How many bands in the top 10 are repeat bands from previous years? Let’s find out!
- Furia – Huta Luna
I wrote a review for this one too. It’s grown on me a bit since I wrote my review but it still doesn’t scratch the itch I wanted it to. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fucking banger album. Every track is on 10 and riffs and the drumming are fucking bananas. It’s a little more straight forward than I expected but it still rips.
Highlights: Swawola Niewola, Na Kon!, Idz!, Gore!
- Gruzja – Koniec Wakacji
Boy oh boy, at this point I’d hardly call Gruzja black metal anymore. I think their genre title should be something along the lines of “fuck you we do whatever we want”. Here we see Gruzja implement even more genre bending twists and turns than we’ve ever seen them do. Tracks like “Jerusalem shore” and “Wojna domowa” take a more traditional black metal approach while “Poczytaj mi tato” sounds slightly more like a Rammstein song than a Darkthrone song. “Salynka” is a blend of atmospheric post punk with psychedelic guitar leads decorating the background. I feel like at this point I should do a full review for their albums because I write way more than I want to in my blurb and I still feel like I’m barely scratching the surface. Great album full of interesting tracks with unexpected twists!
Highlights: Jerusalem shore, Od przedszkola do okopa, Poczytaj mi tato, Salynka, Do pokoju, Wojna domowa
- Suffocation – Hymns from the Apocrypha
Damn dude, this album has no business going this fucking hard. I was initially skeptical because it is the first album without Frank on vocals but holy shit, Suffocation fucking DELIVERS THE GODDAMN GOODS HERE! Every song on this album has the band firing on all cylinders. These songs are all brutal and groovy as hell. “Immortal Execration ” starts more mid tempo and has a really sick Morbid Angel chugging feel to it before just blasting back in. The tracks are all pretty memorable and I’m happy to see Suffocation put out quality material without their original vocalist. Super tough and I’m here to see what brutality comes next.
Highlights: Perpetual Deception, Dim Veil of Obscurity, Immortal Execration, Ignorant Deprivation
- Kvelgeyst – Blut, Milch, und Thranen
Menetekel has gotta be the busiest motherfucker in black metal right now. His laundry list of bands include Ungell, Ophanim, Wyrgher, and Ateiggar, to name a few. Kvelgeyst seems to fit naturally into that list, being a band that focuses on elements of Swiss folklore and general weird cottagecore vibes. Blut, Milch, und Thranen is a certified banger. The tracks on here are all dynamic, weaving between hard and heavy hitting black metal and cool folksy woodland style instrumentations. Definitely a great album for the year and one that any black metal fan should be into!
Highlights: Stufe I Von blitzartiger Wucht in Visionen getaucht, Stufe III Purpur besiegelter Schwur, Stufe VI Zum garstig Bettelvolk zurückgetrieben
- Prognan – Nasi zivoti vise ne postoje
I reviewed this one super early this year and its been in and out of my regular listens. It’s a really cool, super cinematic black metal WW1 concept album. Go check out my review…if you don’t get to check out the album cause it rips.
Highlights: 28061914, Neprijatelj Pred Vratima, Naši Životi Više Ne Postoje,Po Ovoj Zimi Nalazimo Smrt
- Tomb Mold – The Enduring Spirit
So the long march of intergalactic old school death metal soldiers on, into cosmic oblivion. Although Blood Incantation did release something this year, today we are talking about the Dark Souls dork Cosmonauts from the North, Tomb Mold! Ah Tomb Mold, the band that repopularized the four sided t-shirt have returned to earth with The Enduring Spirit and lemme tell you what, this album is, uhhh enduring…it rips. Every riff just has that “cosmic” death metal sound that I really can’t get enough of. It’s proggy and melodic and brutal and otherworldly. Really cool one, don’t listen to the haters. These guys are fucking.
Highlights: Angelic Fabrications, Will of Whispers, Servants of Possibility, The Enduring Spirit of Calamity
- Iskandr – Spiritus Sylvestris
Talk about an album coming out of left field. I won’t go into too much detail because I wrote a review for this one, but this album totally caught me off guard. If you expected the classic melodic and atmospheric black metal then this ain’t it. Spiritus Sylvestris is super melancholic and moody. It’s more akin to a 40 Watt Sun album than an Iskandr album. Really cool album, I highly recommend it.
Highlights: Knagend Zout, Waterwolf, Hof der Valken, Nachtvorst
- Wyrgher – Panspermic Warlords
As previously mentioned, Menetekel is the busiest motherfucker out there pumping out some seriously hot and weird black metal. Wyrgher’s Panspermic Warlords really stands out as a thematic outlier to the rest of his bands. No folklore, no Swiss stuff, English lyrics, crazy shit. This album is pretty interesting. At first glance you’d think it’s just a weird cosmic black metal album. Atmospheric and predictable. Well if that’s what you think then you’d be fucking WRONG. Yes, its atmospheric, but not in the traditional wells of reverb and delay and ultra saturated guitars. Panspermic Warlords is more aggressive than it is atmospheric, which in the world of cosmic black metal is pretty refreshing. All in all I really enjoyed this album. It’s really cool, has interesting songs and isn’t what you’d expect from either Menetekel or cosmic black metal.
Highlights: Destroyers of the Promethean Path, Solar Harvest, Supreme Leader of a Dying Star, Panspermic Warlords
- Thantifaxath – Hive Mind Narcosis
Oh boy, the boys are back baby! Are you ready for IMPENDING DREAD?! Cause that’s what you’re getting here. From the moment the album starts, the creeping malaise of misery and anxiety grips you and pulls you deep into the endless and all encompassing maw of misfortune…but seriously, opening track “Solar Witch” just grabs you and drags you down and doesn’t stop spiraling out. Through its weird timing and chord progression the track sets up what is about to be 40 minutes of sonic torment. I’ve always liked this band because they keep that weird dissonant DsO type of sound without being too weird and instead focusing on creating unnerving and nightmarish textures. All of the tracks continue to build and develop on these hellish and demented modes. “Hungry Ghosts” builds through ominous and seemingly out of time guitars and drums with otherworldly vocals overtop before kicking off. “Sub Lilith Tunnels” takes a different approach, showcasing the bands ambient prowess creating foreboding vocal textures before descending into more unhinged off the chain black metal.
This album’s unhinged. Listen to it.
Highlights: Solar Witch, Surgical Utopian Love, Burning Kingdom of Now, Sub Lilith Tunnels, Mind of the Sun
- Cryptopsy – As Gomorrah Burns
Talk about an out of fucking nowhere BANGER BOY! I fell off the Cryptopsy wagon a long time ago (never was on really) and I always ignored them. I don’t know how this album came upon me but I listened to this album so damn much when it came out. This thang FUCKS! Like seriously brutal. It has some of the craziest riffs, and it doesn’t ever get to be too much wankery or anything. I think what I like about As Gomorrah Burns is that it’s modern and classic sounding at the same time. It’s got some weird 2000’s deathcore influences here and there but I don’t really hate that, kind of makes it stand out from the rest of the legacy acts releasing albums this year. Give it a listen, its pretty fucking tough.
Highlights: Lascivious Undivine, Godless Deceiver, Flayed the Swine, Obeisant, Praise the Filth
- Sulphur Aeon – Seven Crowns and Seven Seals
Damn dude, talk about another random pick by yours truly. Lovecraftian black metal from Germany was not really on my bingo card for albums that would be this high on my list but damn dude, damn. What we’ve got here is a melodic and interesting Eldritch horror of an album. The guitar work all over this album is interesting and catchy. The intro riff to “The Yearning Abyss Devours Us All” is nearly a power metal riff before it snakes into a mid tempo Type O Negative lead underneath otherworldly clean chanting. Bottomline here is these tracks are all really catchy and cool. Definitely worth a few listens…or more. I also like the more spacey cosmic black metal so if that’s not your bag then idk what to tell you.
Highlights: Hammer of the Howling Void, Usurper of the Earth and Sea, The Yearning Abyss Devours Us All, Arcane Cambrian Sorcery, Seven Crowns and Sven Seals
- Marthe – Further In Evil
Wow oh wow, what a fucking album! Initially when I first heard this album I was pretty indifferent to it. I really like the sort of atmospheric heavy metal vibe of the music but Marzia’s vocals were just kind of whatever to me. Fast forward to now and I’ve got Marthe brain. The album’s opener, “I Ride Alone” is so fucking tough. Great riffs and sick lyrics AND Marzia’s vocals are so fucking sick. Throughout the album her vocals shift between midrange black metal rasps and clean vocals. I think the raspier vocals caught me off guard when I first heard this album but they definitely grew on me. Further in Evil has this really triumphant element to it without being cheesy or lame (looking at you trad heavy metal) which I also thought was a breath of fresh air. Bottomline here; don’t fucking sleep on Marthe dude.
Highlights: I Ride Alone, Further in Evil, Victimized, To Ruined Altars
- Kostnatění- Upal
FUCK! Holy shit they’ve done it again! After last year’s homage to Turkish folk music (not folk) Oheň hoří tam, kde padl and 2019’s dissonant and misanthropic Hrůza zvítězí I didn’t really know what to expect from Kostnatění next. Well fuck me cause Upal is the natural melding of these two albums. Disjointed and technical black metal riffs with elements of Anatolian folk melodies really give this album a dynamic and unique sound that only Kostnatění could craft. There’s also little nods to African folk music and industrial rock spiced throughout. This is a must listen for anyone who wants something off the beaten path that’s both intense and beautiful.
Highlights: Remen, Rukojmi empatie, Skryt se pred Bohem, Nevolost je vse, cim jsem, Slunce Svazano s krvacejici Zemi
- Dying Fetus – Make Them Beg for Death
Fuck you. No weak shit allowed here. This is hard cop beating bench pressing PR smashing neanderthal making beat down music and if you ain’t with it then fuck you too. I could end the review there, but I’ll give you, dear readers, a little more substance. Dying Fetus have been on an INSANE streak in recent years, delivering some of their best releases of their career in the last decade and Make Them Beg for Death is honestly their best. It’s shorter than their last release, which really benefits a band like this, whose technical prowess and unmitigated brutality could get to be a lot in long, unbroken sittings. Now this bad boy has everything you’ve come to expect from John and boys, hardcore spiced riffs, breakdowns, guggling guttural vocals, random pinch harmonics, synchronized bass and guitar sweeps and taps, and obviously the grooviest death metal in the game. Last time you fucked with them, now you’ll beg for death
Highlights: Enlighten Through Agony, Compulsion for Cruelty, Throw Them in a Van, When the Trend Ends, Raised in Victory Razed in Defeat, Subterfuge
- Totenmesse – Fiktionlust
Alright, this one I’ll keep short and sweet because I wrote a review for it. This album seriously fucks. It’s aggressive, chaotic, melancholic, moody and groovy. Demented vocals and angular and interesting riffs galore!
Highlights: The Great Simplifiers, Bastard, Incipit, Impact Resistance Ego, The Emperor, Confrontation Looks Like Hope, Fiktionlust
- Malokarpatan – Vertumnus Caesar
Wow the 80’s are alive and kicking in Slovakia apparently. It’s like between Vertumnus Caesar and Krupinské Ohne all Malokarpatan listened to was Iron Maiden and The Moody Blues cause this album is fucking nuts. From the mellotron heavy King Crimson- esque opener Na okraji priepaste otevíra sa hviezdny zámek” to the “Back in The Village” homage “Vovnútri chlácholivého útočišta kunstkamru” every track here has something really innovative to offer. “Panstvo salamandrov jest v kavernách zeme” begins with a beautiful synth passage that’s straight out of some 70’s sci fi soundtrack or better yet, an Emerson Lake and Palmer deep cut. The guitars are super lush and spacious on this album and the drums are tight and crisp. Really though, if I wanna sound like a lunatic, this album sounds green. Like deep Slovak forest in the first days of Spring green. Honestly, I’ve loved every album Malokarpatan has done and this might be their best one. It’s bright and upbeat, it’s luscious and mystical without losing that Slovak folk element that’s been present on all their releases.
Highlights: Kočár postupuje temnomodrými dálavami na juhozápad, Vovnútri chlácholivého útočišta kunstkamru, Panstvo salamandrov jest v kavernách zeme, Maharal A Golem, I hle, tak zachádza imperiálna hviezda
- Spirit Possession – Of the Sign…
The second I heard this album earlier this year I was damn floored! There’s not a single album this year that captures the ferocity of black metal like Of the Sign…. The opening track, “Orthodox Warfare” is as chaotic as it is catchy. Like goddamn, there ain’t much that can beat these motherfucking riffs. So disjointed and odd yet so goddamn groovy. The way that vocalist and guitarist Steve Peacock and drummer Ash Sungin are able to create something so aggressive yet so damn catchy and groovy is really something unique to them. The vocals are straight up Katharsis worship, distorted and heavily layered with reverb and delay. Nothing really get’s old here either. The main riff in “Hierarchical Skin” almost has an 80’s Judas Priest vibe to it before it descends into hammer-on and pull-off hell. The strongest track here though has to be the “closer”, “Enter the Golden Sign”. Nothing but the sickest sludgest funnest riffs I’ve heard in black metal in years. Maybe that’s it. Maybe this is a fun energetic black metal album that isn’t formulaic. Whatever it is it fucking B O P S!
Highlights: Orthodox Warfare, Inhale the Hovering Keys, Practitioners of Power, Hierarchical Skin, Enter the Golden Sign
- Sól án varma- Sól án varma
I would argue at this point three countries have been constantly putting out some of the best black metal as of the last ten years; Poland, Switzerland, and Iceland. As you’ve seen by many entries on this list, the Polish and Swiss black metal scene are always on my radar. Iceland, not so much. Well that’s because all the monolithic Icelandic bands, Wormlust, Svartidauði, and Misþyrming, all got together with basically every band in Iceland and made probably one of the hardest black metal albums of the decade. Sól án varma is as beautiful and atmospheric as it is menacing and oppressing. Tracks differ wildly, from more doomy and melodic tracks like “Afbrigði I” and “Afbrigði II” to unbridled black metal aggression like on “Afbrigði VII”. You can kind of hear the influence of each artist here too. “Afbrigði VII” has more of a Misþyrming feel where “Afbrigði XI” sounds like its cut from the most recent Svartidauði record. Honestly, “Afbrigði VII” is the goated song on the album. It’s super melodic and atmospheric while having some of the craziest riffs on the whole album. Glad to see Misþyrming has included in their live set recently cause its a fucking BOP! Also nice that every song is just Afbrigði (variation) and then the number because trying to remember the names of Misþyrming is fucking impossible. Fucking stellar album, don’t sleep on this shit!
Highlights: Afbrigði I, Afbrigði II, Afbrigði IV, Afbrigði VII, Afbrigði IX, Afbrigði XI
- Manbryne – Interregnum: O próbie wiary i jarzmie zwątpienia
Damn dude, this is seriously unreal. Manbryne is only two albums deep in their career and honestly both albums have been near perfect 10s. Interregnum… quite literally picks up where Heilsweg… left off. The songs here are menacing, monstrous, melodic epics. Tracks like “Piach i niepamięć” and “Grzechy ojców” deliver the same level of hard hitting black metal chock full of menacing and soaring riffs that they delivered on their previous album. The albums undisputed masterpiece is the closers, “Pierwszy kamień”. Similar to the opening track on Heilsweg… “Pierwszy kamień” most memorable part is the vocal delivery. Pawel’s vocals on this album are a masterclass in black metal vocals’ ferocious and haunting, melodic and evil. With only 2 albums under their belt, both of which have been in my top 10 in their respective years, I can’t overstate enough how insane this band is. Keep an eye on them and remember you heard it here first, this band is going to be a legendary act in a number of years. Who knows, maybe their next album will take the number one spot…
Highlights: Piach i niepamięć, Suma wszystkich strat, Grzechy ojców, Pierwszy kamień
- Dødheimsgard – Black Medium Current
Alright, the moment you’ve all been eagerly waiting for, the creme de la creme of 2023, the album of the year! Dodheimsgard has really been on some wild shit since their resurgence in 2015 with the release of A Umbra Omega. Black Medium Current takes that unhinged avant-garde black metal sound and refines and perfects it. In a year of me blathering on about “dynamic sound this” and “layering that” and radadada, Black Medium Current sits high above the rest. The album is super dynamic both compositionally and sonically. The opening track “Et smelter” sets a somber and atmospheric tone before crashing in with some old school drawn out tremolo chord progressions. Then we get some weird A Umbra Omega progressive avant-garde bullshit before it dips its toes into some mid-career Pink Floyd type shit. And if you thought the fun ended there, you’re fucking wrong dude. All of these songs jump all over the place from hard hitting 90s style black metal to proggy interludes and bridges to melodic clean vocals in the chorus’s to post rock and psychedelic rock and blah blah blah blah just endless cherry picking from the genre tree. And I mean EVERY GENRE! “It Does Not Follow” sounds like a groovy 80s synth pop song with these haunting off kilter ominous vocals over it. I can really go on and on and on about this album. About the majesty in tracks like “Halow” or the dissonance in “Det Tomme Kalde Mørke” or the haunting beauty in the albums closer, “Requiem Aeternum”. Go buy, go listen to it. Don’t listen to the haters, a year full of legacy bands releasing great music, Dødheimsgard reigns supreme.
Highlights: Fucking the whole album, in its entirety, front to back listens only. Buckle the fuck up.
So that’s that. I didn’t really expect Dødheimsgard to hold the number 1 spot the whole year but here we are. There were also a lot of albums that I really liked that I either felt deserved more listens or were still killer, but I didn’t enjoy them as much as I did these. That being said, I should do a re-review of 2023 half way through 2024 to see if I have any new additions to the top 25. Honorable mentions will be listed below, thank you to the folks at MPN for giving me the opportunity to continue writing for them and looking forward to another year with them! Click the titles below to hear the albums.
Lamp of Murmuur – Saturnian Bloodstorm