One of the joys of reviewing new releases is that you get to listen to all sorts of different styles and genres. Across the year I’ve made a note of albums that have impressed me, so when I started to compile my top ten list, I had thirty-seven albums to revisit and it was one hell of a tough decision to make.
It has been an incredible year for new music, and I’ve rediscovered my love of death metal, plus there’s been a resurgence in my favourite genre, thrash metal, to go alongside everything doom and stoner that I adore.
My list below represents where my head is right now, but more importantly, what I’ve thoroughly enjoyed listening to over the past twelve months. There will be some moans and groans, as there always is as I do it myself when I see others and think WTF is that doing in there, but I’ve really enjoyed compiling this list and can’t wait to do it all over again. I only hope that 2024 is equally as brilliant as 2023 has been for new releases.
10. 20 Watt Tombstone ‘The Chosen Few’
20 Watt Tombstone are such an underrated band who deserve to be more well known than they are. They have an abundance of killer guitar tones and head banging rhythms that fuse the sounds of ZZ Top and Kyuss, with that punk Black Flag attitude. I couldn’t name a favourite track as they are all as mesmerising as each other, but with heavy blues, slide guitars, crashing cymbals and pulsing beats throughout the album, they give the thrill of rock ‘n’ roll with a metal twist. Just listen to how brilliant Prophet Man and Bomb That Saved The Day are and then you’ll see just how phenomenal these two are and rejoice in their splendour.
9. Thunder Horse ‘After The Fall’
The Texan quartet Thunder Horse released their third album and it’s full of high-quality music that shows real depth to their lyrical and musical content. With their doom and psych sound clearly evident from the start, they explore a wide range of issues with real life experiences and angry moods in full flow, with New Normal being a song of exceptional quality. The pace doesn’t drop with Monolith being another amazing song with killer riffs, whilst Other Side shows a calmer, more reflective side to the band. The emotion spills over with Requiem as they explore a generation who has lost a few years due to the pandemic, and it makes it an album that we can all empathise with.
Label: Ripple Music
8. Tortured Demon ‘Rise Of The Lifeless’
The first of two thrash entries on my list, and if these young pups from Oldham keep producing songs of this quality, then they have a very bright future indeed. Tortured Demon seem to have re-ignited a genre with their fresh approach and the album is relentless. With brothers Jacob and Joe Parkinson leading the charge, they have some explosive songs with Rise Of The Lifeless and Global Threat which are just pure adrenaline filled power, and with Disfavour and Conflict Of Interest they are proving that the long-player is stacked with energy and passion. It’s a brilliant album and one that will get every old and new thrasher frothing at the mouth and nodding in approval.
7. Enforced ‘War Remains’
The second thrash album on my list is another one that is an aggressive, no frills record loaded with power and aggression from the word go with opening track Aggressive Menace setting the scene perfectly. There is simply no let up from Enforced with Hanged By My Hand being an absolute ball of fiery thrash goodness with the double bass being a thing of pleasure to listen to throughout. They do the thrash crossover style exceptionally well with songs like Avarice and Nation Of Fear and this is definitely one album to play as loud as possible to annoy your neighbours.
Label: Century Media
6. Urne ‘A Feast On Sorrow’
When you have Gojira’s Joe Duplantier dropping into your DM’s, you know you are doing something right, and Londoners Urne turned this to their advantage and released an album of jaw dropping quality. ‘Where do the memories go?’ wails vocalist Joe Nally on the opening track The Flood Came Rushing In and then they deliver a brutal assault on your senses. It’s an album full of personal reflection and pent-up emotion crushing your heart and soul that’s full of cathartic moments like A Stumble Of Words. The music is angry, aggressive, darker and all consuming, which showcases the band perfectly and will lead to a very bright future for Urne.
Label: Candlelight Records
5. Fire Down Below ‘Low Desert Surf Club’
From the opening moments of the wonderfully named Cocaine Hippo I just knew that this was going to be something special. Nine fuzzed out, sunbaked feel-good hits that typify everything that is great about stoner rock. With mesmeric vocals throughout from Jeroen Van Troyen added to the spaced-out trippy songs like Hear Comes The Flood and Hazy Snake as Fire Down Below show their diversity. With high speed bangers like California, these songs, with their exemplary basslines, are all about positive vibes and has been a pleasure to play since its release.
Label: Ripple Music
4. Green Lung ‘This Heathen Land’
An album of true quality takes you on a trip into their world of ‘70s rock, folklore and the occult. From the opening track The Forest Church, you can sense that this is no ordinary album as the dark lords are being summoned and with haunting keyboards and sweeping melodies, it really is a masterpiece. Green Lung have combined so many elements, with traditional doom being fused with atmospheric gothic synth on One for Sorrow and the slow, brooding, acoustic Song Of The Stones will catapult the band to some dizzy heights.
Label: Nuclear Blast
3. Coffin Mulch ‘Spectral Intercession’
For me, this was the standout death metal album of the year, and in a field that was extremely crowded, that’s some achievement. Coffin Mulch, a Scottish four-piece, have written a debut album of real depth and quality that will blow people’s minds. Infernal Mass and Into The Blood are an onslaught on your senses, with the remaining tracks feeling both erratic and somewhat ordered. They have riffs aplenty with a heavy bassline in tow, which makes songs that purposely take you out of your comfort zone. A real gem of an album.
2. Clouds Taste Satanic ‘Tales Of Demonic Possession’
Four songs spread over an hour and nineteen minutes, I mean, what’s not to love about that!! I was totally in awe as Clouds Taste Satanic’s Tales Of Demonic Possession just flows so sweetly and meanders along, with peaks and troughs that are pure gold. If you like instrumental music, then this is THE album to listen to, as the riffs are explosive and makes time go so quickly, yet I found myself being comforted and soothed at the same time. A true work of art that will stand the test of time and richly deserves its place in any top ten list.
Label: Majestic Mountain Records
1. Hellripper ‘Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags’
A genius of an album from James McBain, who is slowly but surely writing his own chapter of Scottish folklore. Here we have eight wonderfully crafted and scripted songs, exploring the darker side of Scottish history, and I was gobsmacked from the first listen at the speed, power and aggression of the music. Explosive songs such as The Nuckelavee and Goat Vomit Nightmare combined with the fastest song he’s ever written, The Cursed Carrion Crown, will make sure that this record takes Hellripper to new heights. The energy of these songs is mesmerising when seen live, and you can’t ask for much more than that. Deservedly the number one album of the year in my humble opinion.
Label: Peaceville Records
As I said earlier, thirty-seven releases whittled down to ten was a near impossible job, so here a few honourable mentions…
Obituary ‘Dying of Everything’
Neil Howell ‘The Wasteland’
Wallowing ‘Earth Reaper’
Tidal Wave ‘The Lord Knows’
Mutoid Man ‘Mutants’
Scribed by: Matthew Williams