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We at Teeth of the Divine don’t want to just steamroll over 2023 like it never happened, because when you go back and really think about all the wild shit that went down, it certainly deserves some recognition – from our nation’s capital providing the most insane reality TV possible (we can’t wait for the George Santos/Lauren Boebert spinoff) to a handful of millionaires deciding to visit the Titanic in a glorified oil drum with unsurprisingly disastrous results, there was no shortage of explosive (er, implosive?) moments to reflect on.

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2023 was a great year for Metal. Many bands released their Eps into an unsuspecting world, and in some ways, it was the year of the EP and split EP to boot. However, the year was also punctuated with some heavy hitters releasing spell-binding records, genre-defining and torch-carrying anthems were sung in 2023 which helped to further the fact that Heavy Metal as a comprehensive whole will continue to remain a driving musical force. Therefore, I present for you, constant reader, my list of notable bands that ruled (and a couple that didn’t but that’s ok too) … Anyway, this introduction has gone on way longer than it should. Here’s the list.

Albums of the year, and the top five:

This is so hard because I have two records that I blew my mind this year and I can’t seem to make a solid, definite decision on which one, but I must and so my solid, this is it moment goes to…

  1. (Album of the Year) VHS Quest for the Mighty Riff (Wiseblood).

I had been anticipating this one ever since last years Deep Gashes and Long Lashes took me on a Giallo laced horror trip. Quest for the Mighty Riff delivers in spades because holy fucking shit, tracks like “Illias and his Mighty Bow”, “the Beastmaster” and the ball busting single “Cleave ‘Em and Leave ‘Em”. Of course, if I didn’t mention the cover of Bryan Adam’s “Everything I do (I Do it for You)” I would deserve to be doused in gasoline and set on fire. If you haven’t gotten it, if you’re one of those people that says, “you know, I’ve always meant to check them out and never did”, which admittedly I’ve been guilty of so I can’t talk too much shit. This is my choice and I’m sticking to it.

  1. Gama BombBats (Prosthetic Records)

This was another one that I was incredibly excited about. There are albums that I don’t even listen to their singles on social media because I want to experience the song organically and within the context of the record. That applied here, and I was not disappointed at all! Blistering tracks like “Rusted Gold”, “Egyptron featuring the Egyptian Lover” and the saxophone power solo gem “Bats in your Hair”. This is a runner up in many ways since this AND VHS both blew my ass through the wall.

  1. EnslavedHeimdal (Nuclear Blast)

This was a big one for me, out of the 90s Norwegian Black Metal, Enslaved made their mark on the more Viking style of the sub-genre and ran berserk with it, if I may be so bold. “Behind the Mirror”, “Heimdal” and the violent lulling of “The Eternal Sea” are just three fires on the mountains to guide you through this gorgeous album.

  1. ShiningShining (Napalm Records)

I had dabbled in the grit and grime of self-loathing with other prominent DSBM bands but was anxious to get my grubby hands on this one.

“Allt för döden”, “Avsändare okänd” and “Den permanenta sömnen kallar” and “Fidelis ad Mortem” make for a whirlwind of emotions, with saxophones and mournful wails punctuated with raw riffs and heart pounding drums.

  1. MardukMemento Mori (Century Media)

The fifteenth album from the Swedish Black Metal titans brought a big smile to my face, because not only did it capture the feeling of a band still moving forward, but not afraid to dip back into the times that made them. “Blood of the Funeral”, “Shovel Beats Scepter” and “As We Are” are just three, but the overall brutality of the album is what made me add it to the top five.

The Top of the Iceberg:

  1. ArkonaKob (Napalm Records)

I’ve loved Arkona since Возрождение in 2004. Their use of traditional instruments and their Black Metal blood combined to create an atmosphere I had never experienced before. Here now in 2023 and Kob’ only cements its stature in the Pagan Folk Black Metal genre. Tracks like the massive “Ydi”, “Razryvaya plot’ ot bezyskhodnosti bytiya” and of course the title track formed the heart of this masterwork.

  1. DegraveVolume (HPGD Productions)

This album surprised the fuck out of me! It’s a Midwestern beating that doesn’t stop until your eardrums are crushed. “Sanguinated Sacrifice”, “Raised on Hate and Hooch” and the punishing “Banshee” are three reasons this album deserves attention.

  1. XothExogalactic (Dawnbreed Records)

There were a few albums that twisted my psyche into tiny threads like this one, sporting technical thorns that penetrate with surgical precision. “Reptilian Bloodsport”, “Sporecraft Zero”, “the Parasitic Orchestra” and the godly “Saga of the Blade” make this a powerful ride through the darkest parts of the human body politic.

  1. SarcoptesPrayers to Oblivion (Transcending Obscurity Records)

I had always held that Bolt Thrower was the pinnacle of war-related Death Metal. That was followed by Hail of Bullets and now Sarcoptes have joined that list of exceptional Death Metal war. “Trenches”, “Spanish Flu”, “Tet” and the gruesome story of “Massacre at My Lai” were highlights that made me love Prayers to Oblivion.

  1. HeimlandForfedrenes taarer (Edged Circle Productions)

True Norwegian Black Metal made up a huge part of my listening material and Heimland was a solid rock in that maelstrom. Released five days before my birthday when I turned fifty, Forfedrenes Taarer was a Blackened blast of ice-cold fury that helped me through the worst Summer ever. “Ved doedens vugge”, “Iskald raatten jord” and the title track made snow pour from my speakers and drop the temperature to -31 degrees.

The Mid-Iceberg:

11. MalokarpatanVertumnus Caesar (Invictus Productions/ The Anja Offensive)

So, at some point I have mentioned that going into a review is often like a blind date, with Vertumnus Caesar that was the case, but this album was a definite third base because it’s a sultry, evil motherfucker that I fell in love with immediately. “Kočár postupuje temnomodrými dálavami na juhozápad”, “Panstvo salamandrov jest v kavernách zeme” a blistering instrumental, and the awesome title track are the pop out into the front of my brain tracks; but the entire album is a trip down a dark path that you should really follow.

12. Maze of SothothExtirpated Light (Everlasting Spew Records)

This album made me an instant fan, 2023 carried on the cavernous Technical Death Metal that made 2022 a bat guano covered mutant creature that wiped out everything in it’s frothing path. “Blood Tribute”, “The Revocation Dogma” and “Sanctae Inqvisitionis” crushed the beginning of Spring in a gargantuan way that deserves attention.

  1. Happy DaysEn enfer, j’ai régné (Talheim Records)

Happy Days live in the more Neo-Classical spectrum of unlight than say, Shining. They were one of those, “I’ve heard of them…” sort of deals and so when I saw this, I grabbed it and wrapped myself in a blanket of sorrow for its 57:28-minute runtime. “Hollow”, “Ne me quitte pas (Don’t Go)” and the fantastic title track gripped and ripped at my heart strings with their emotional deliveries.

  1. ExmortusNecrophony (Nuclear Blast Records)

Let me just say that I fucking love Exmortus. I saw them live back in the pre- plague days and they blew my ass away, so I was excited to hear Necrophony and my ears were rewarded with a plate full of Technical Death Metal goodness. “Oathbreaker”, “Mind of Metal” and the haunting “Children of the Night” PLUS the title track… holy fucking shit! This is a definite need to hear!

  1. VarmiaProlog/Nie nas widzę (M-Theory Audio)

I considered myself incredibly lucky to have gotten to review both utterly massive slabs of Black Folk Metal. “Oddal”, “Gorzkie fale” and “3” provided the Prolog and Nie nas widzę was the boiling guts of the beast; “Sva”, “Kad saule Div” and “Dies Tremor” were attention grabbers. Even though this came out during the hottest part of the Summer from Hell, it brought a feeling of the snow-covered mountains and provided a satisfying cool down.

The Underwater Tip of the Iceberg:

  1. Den SaakaldtePesten Som Tar Over (Agonia Records)
  2. EndstilleDetoNation (Ván Records)
  3. PanzerchristLast of a Kind (Emanzipation Productions)
  4. TeitanIn Oculus Abyss (Onism Productions/Void Wanderer Productions)
  5. EkromUten n​å​digst formildelse (Edged Circle Productions)
  6. EternityMundicide (Soulseller)
  7. Torture Rack Primeval Onslaught (Parasitic Records)
  8. KoutaKaarnaköydet (Unsigned/independent)
  9. Death ReichDisharmony (Non Servium Records)
  10. MinenwerferFeuerwalz (Osmose Productions)
  11. Suicide CircleBukkake of Souls (Osmose Productions)
  12. Empires of EuphratesEchoes of Ancient Past (HPGD Productions)
  13. Funeral WindsStigmata Mali (Osmose Productions)
  14. VarathronThe Crimson Temple (Agonia Records)
  15. Leper Colony Leper Colony (Transcending Obscurity)

The Very Bottom of the Iceberg:

  1. Mortuary DrapeBlack Mirror (Peaceville Records) Mystic CircleErzdämon (Fireflash Records)
  2. Dead and Dripping Blackened Cerebral Rifts (Transcending Obscurity Records)

The EPs of 2023 that Kicked My Ass

  1. Satanic Tea Co.- A Celestial Beating (Self Release)

This little bastard kicked my ass all over the place. Brutal riffs, blasting drums that just wouldn’t quit. A tiny masterpiece!

  1. Lipoma, Fluids and TrocarDissertations (HPGD Productions)

Three brutal as an incestuous horde, tracks of differing assaults. This motherfucking beast showcased these purveyors of ear ripping savagery.

  1. To DescendMindless Birth (HPGD Productions)

A one-way ticket to the nastiness of the human psyche, I’m looking forward to more from these fuckers.

  1. CrushumanThere Was Blood Everywhere/ A Schizophrenics Nightmare (HPGD Productions)

If you are familiar with Snipers of Babel (which you should be), then you know that Mike Bossier is a very busy guy. This time it’s with Crushuman, two singles that need checking out: “There Was Blood Everywhere” and “A Schizophrenics Nightmare”. Both are extremely heavy and will knock the teeth out of your head.

  1. Morgue SupplierDead in Spirit/ A Life Extinguished (Transcending Obscurity Records)

Last Year Paul Gillis and co. released the crushing Inevitability album and I really liked it, so it’s no surprise that I liked these two singles from their hopeful 2024 release. So, do yourself a favor and check these out, it’ll make your heart happy.

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