Top Ten Of 2023: Rob Walsh

2023 was admittedly a mostly difficult year for me. I got off to a great start but by the early summer my particular line of work experienced some serious hardships. That being said, I was able to enjoy some great live shows, music-writing time and much-needed visits with family and friends.

I am hoping to be able to share my own music within the coming years, so 2023 helped in that regard as far as inspiration. And it didn’t hurt that I had some great records to listen to…

Rob Walsh - 2023

10. Danava ‘Nothing But Nothing’

Danava 'Nothing But Nothing'

While Portland act Danava have always delivered a fun live show, I’ve often found that their records tend not to deliver the same amount of energy. But despite its title, Nothing But Nothing is something as it seamlessly blends their NWOBHM and prog rock influences into a very satisfying album. If you love a ripping twin guitar attack meant for revving an engine and a side of Hawkwind with your Thin Lizzy, this is the record for you.

Label: Tee Pee Records

9. Baroness ‘Stone’

Baroness 'Stone' Artwork

Southern prog/sludge metallers Baroness sound reborn on this, their sixth outing. Utilizing their own production skills and the same lineup for a second time around (a first for the band), John Baizley and his cohorts succeed in delivering an effort that feels comfortable and focused as it does energetic and ambitious. The various influences from punk, sludge, metal, folk and countless other elements do not fight each other and make for a rewarding listen. Baroness have been through quite a bit, and Stone shows that they maintain a musical foundation that is as solid as the record’s namesake.

Label: Abraxan Hymns

8. Church Of Misery ‘Born Under A Mad Sign’

Church Of Misery 'Born Under A Mad Sign' Artwork

Japan’s premier serial killer-obsessed doomsters have returned. Bassist Tatsu Mikami may be the band’s sole constant member, but he has always managed to surround himself with talented musicians to help him realize his vision of absurdly groovy psychedelic metal with deeply disturbing subject matter. Born Under A Mad Sign doesn’t deviate too wildly from Church Of Misery’s formula, and that’s quite alright. It throbs. It grooves. It stabs. It hides the body in the flower garden and then stalks off for more mayhem. Great stuff from the ever consummate Mikami-san.

Label: Rise Above Records

7. Hochen ‘Phantom Limb’

Hochen ‘Phantom Limb’ Artwork

Arizona-based one man musical act Hochen (Stuart Leiter) has been pretty prolific these past few years. Phantom Limb is perhaps his strongest musical outing since 2017’s excellent Simulation. Coming somewhere between the desert swagger of Queens of the Stone Age and the indie rock quirkiness of Beck – but ultimately delivering a sound of his own making – Leiter weaves a curious tapestry of unique rhythms, memorable lyrics and vibrant guitar riffing. Easily one of best individual projects in the realm of underground rock today.

Label: Independent

6. The Stone Eye ‘Fata Morgana’

The Stone Eye 'Fata Morgana'

Coming out of the City of Brotherly Love, I feel The Stone Eye are one of the more original acts in a genre that can, at times, be overloaded with soundalikes. Fata Morgana deftly combines grunge sensibilities with psychedelic and progressive daring, three-dimensional ambition and occasional doses of oddball humor. The musicianship is excellent (seriously…drummer Jeremiah Bertin is no joke) and the production and songwriting speak for themselves. Keep a stone eye on this act.

Label: Electric Talon Records

5. The Howling Eye ‘List Do Borykan’

The Howling Eye ‘List Do Borykan’ Artwork

Here we have another Eye, only this one is of the Howling variety. List Do Borykan is like a stoner take on the punk-jazz eclecticism of Saccharine Trust coupled with prog rock weirdness of early Genesis, but with a wholly unique contemporary delivery. I first listened to this Polish band under a moonlit drive across California’s central valley in the dead of night, and it quickly became one of my favorite records of the year. If you like a distinct quirky spontaneity with your stone rock, The Howling Eye’s List Do Borykan should make your list.

Label: Interstellar Smoke Records

4. The Golden Grass ‘Life Is Much Stranger’

The Golden Grass 'Life Is Much Stranger'

Along with London and Los Angeles, New York City was once a haven for quality hard rock. That tradition might have ebbed in recent times, but The Golden Grass are keeping the home fires burning. Life Is Much Stranger is everything you want in a bell-bottom-strutting bluesy rock record. Solid rhythm work, vibrant vocals and inspiring guitar parts manage to kick one’s enthusiasm into high gear in a difficult age. The grass is indeed golden and you owe it to yourself to enjoy a puff.

Label: Heavy Psych Sounds

3. DeWolff ‘Love, Death & In Between’

DeWolff ‘Love, Death & In Between’ Artwork

Yet another retro rock trio, this Dutch outfit injects a much-needed amount of soul and gospel into the mix. Featuring soaring choruses, punchy background singing and a raucous celebratory attitude, Love, Death & In Between is like that great lost record from Little Feat, The Allman Brothers or some even more obscure ‘70s act that finally manages to see the light of day. It’s a feel-good album and it’s keenly aware of itself.

Label: Mascot Records

2. Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs ‘Land Of Sleeper’

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs ‘Land Of Sleeper’ Artwork

I’ll admit it, I’m not crazy about their name (for efficiency’s sake, I’ll refer to them as Pigs x7), but this Newcastle Upon Tyne five piece have crafted an insanely great heavy rock record. While punk influences in stoner and doom are well known, I don’t think I’ve ever heard such a great melding of British punk rock with titanic riffing before. Pigs x7 play a wondrous brand of attitude-drenched brute rock and this album is sure to satisfy those who worship at the altar of Orange Amp frequency.

Label: Rocket Recordings

1. Sonic Moon ‘Return Without Any Memory’

Sonic Moon 'Return Without Any Memory'

My number one pick for the year of 2023 is the powerful offering from Danish band Sonic Moon. Why did this make my top slot? It weaves a rich tapestry of atmosphere that hinges on being both melancholic and hazily beautiful. It is heavy to be sure, but the band brings about a sense of restrained aggression that adds to the tension. The songwriting is memorable, and the vocals are especially strong. This fine opus luckily did not leave me without any memory, and I hope to enjoy more works of sonic art from this moon.

Label: Olde Magick Records

Honourable Mentions

Kind ‘Close Encounters’
Westing ‘Future’
Horrendous ‘Ontological Mysterium’
Tomoyuki Trio ‘Mars’
Blood Ceremony ‘The Old Ways Remain’

I trust that everyone will enjoy the holidays and I look forward to seeing what 2024 has in store for us.

Scribed by: Rob Walsh