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February 15, 2024

Top Five Albums of 2023

  1. When No Birds Sang – Full of Hell & Nothing: While the albums on this list are in no particular order, it feels appropriate to start the list with the album I consider the best of the year. Since their debut studio album in 2011, Pennsylvania grindcore/powerviolence crew Full of Hell have been extremely consistent with their output over the last twelve or so years. Towards the end of this year Full of Hell dropped their latest collaboration album, When No Birds Sang, with Pennsylvania shoegaze band Nothing. When No Birds Sang demonstrates a high level of musical maturity in the Full of Hell cannon, thanks in large part to Nothing’s contributions. The album ranges from Nothing’s dreamy shoegaze textures to Full of Hell’s signature noise-filled grind madness, sometimes in the same song. The use of melody is incredible too, a distant, cold melody almost evocative of black metal. When No Birds Sang is a truly singular album and one of the most unique albums to come out in a while.
  2. Dying of Everything – Obituary: 2023 was rather good to old school death metal. One of the defining bands of the early 90s Florida death metal scene, Obituary have been very consistent in their output since their 2003 reunion. The thing to be expected the most on Dying of Everything is Obituary’s signature groove. Obituary has long been fixated on pummeling riffs and rock-solid grooves to drive their music, Dying of Everything is essentially all the things that makes Obituary great. There’s something about old school style death metal with crystal-clear production that is just so incredibly satisfying to me, brutality in sonic glory. Dying of Everything is an all-around well formed and executed death metal album. 
  3.  Step Into the Light/Failure Will Follow – The Acacia Strain: This year we got not one but two albums at the same time from NY deathcore legends, The Acacia Strain. While similar in overall tone, the two albums bring different approaches. The first of the two, Step Into the Light, brings the expected, three-minute blasts of deathcore fury. Failure Will Follow takes almost the complete opposite approach, instead favoring doom and sludge with only three songs totalling over ten minutes each. For as much hate as deathcore gets, The Acacia Strain’s particular brand feels different. It doesn’t feel like the Myspace scene kid deathcore that most people associate the genre with. Both of these albums are unapologetic masterworks of brutality. 
  4. Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags – Hellripper: James McBain, the one-man helm of Scotland’s mighty Hellripper returned in 2023 with possibly his most musically mature album to date. Hellripper’s high octane blackened speed metal took a surprising turn with Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags. Of the now three studio albums Hellripper has put out, Warlocks Grim is certainly the most musically mature, expanding on the primitive speed metal of the last two albums. A lot of the more punk influences have been traded in for a thrash metal sound, with some songs being faster than on previous albums. Lyrically, the album deals a lot with Scottish folklore as well as your garden variety occult black metal themes. In a catalog full of speed and violence, Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags is possibly Hellripper’s most brutal album yet

 5. Ashes, Organs, Blood and Crypts – Autopsy: When Autopsy ended their seven year gap between albums in 2021 with Morbidity Triumphant, they proved that they were still capable of delivering their signature brand of old school death metal. Early Autopsy albums like Severed Survival and Mental Funeral were some of the defining albums of the early 90s, arguably the golden age of death metal. Autopsy certainly has their own sound, death metal with a penchant for slow, doom metal breaks (they were one of the founders of the sub genre known as death doom). Ashes, Organs, Blood and Crypts has everything we would expect from Autopsy, everything that made albums like Mental Funeral classics. That combined with a crisp but not too shiny production makes Ashes, Organs, Blood and Crypts a wholly brutal yet satisfying experience.

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Cash Vincent, Lion's Roar Staff

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