The Best Albums of 2023
DECEMBER 20, 2023 - BY RAMON GONZALES
FALL OUT BOY / SO MUCH (FOR) STARDUST / FUELED BY RAMEN/ ELEKTRA
This album spoke to me from the first listen, it evoked a nostalgic familiarity but still felt new. I believe it needs more appreciation on a musical level. This album is written for people who still feel like emo teenagers but somehow now we are adults with adult responsibilities but those lost feelings still exist. As the audience have matured so have the band, as can be heard with the filmic score like moments which only add to the emotion of the tracks. This is going to be so good to see at Download festival 2024 in the UK. - Sophie K.
ENTER SHIKARI / A KISS FOR THE WHOLE WORLD / SO RECORDINGS
Enter Shikari are a band who have kept growing and challenging the meaning of rock while provoking thought and introspection. This commentary on the state of the world is explosive and thunderous while also being great gym music. Shikari have never just made music they create art. The band have never settled into comfortability, this album feels like the epitome of their journey and fills me with excitement for what they will deliver next! - Sophie K.
BAD RABBITS / GARDEN OF EDEN / COCO BVTTER RECORDS
Some bands get a wealth of appreciation which almost seems undeserved. Some bands get terribly underappreciated. Then, there is Bad Rabbits. This band are criminally underappreciated! Its R&B, its punk, its soulful and its funky as all hell. I wouldn't be surprised if in the future this is the band that loads of artists say influenced them. If you ever want to bring a friend over to the alternative side, this is where I would begin. The title track features Rou Reynolds from Enter Shikari and it flits between worlds of musical appreciation. My theory is that you have to be good in bed to appreciate this album, you have to be able to move. This album may not be the most well known because it is too smooth for metalheads and too heavy for R&B fans, but those that get it? Know that this is top tier. - Sophie K.
WOVEN INTO ASHES / VINTERSEA / M-THEORY AUDIO
Woven Into Ashes by Vintersea is a unique blend of styles and showcases the band's ability to create a distinctive atmosphere. The album is characterized by its contrasting themes of light and darkness, with moments of gloom interspersed with brighter, more uplifting passages. This dynamic is particularly evident in tracks like "Unveiling Light" and "Devil's Churn," which showcase a mix of heavy bass and haunting melodies.
The track "Crescent Eclipse" stands out for its Scandinavian Folk Metal vibe, Black Metal blast beats, and a blend of clean and aggressive vocals that create a powerful chorus. "At The Gloaming Void" is noted for its melancholic undertones and crushing finale, while "Parallel Duality" displays the band's Progressive Metal influences with its polyrhythmic ideas. - Cori Westbrook
THE BURDEN / TERMINAL / OPEN YOUR EARS RECORDS
The Burden makes things hurt emotionally with their unique incorporation of various styles into its post-hardcore and emo framework. The band skillfully blends dark, emotionally charged music with lyrics designed to provoke thought and engage listeners, focusing on themes of flaws and lost desires. The record serves as an open book to the band's heart and mind, ready for the audience's interpretation.
The album starts with "Stardust Oblivion," which immediately hits with intense screams and instrumental work, setting a fast and frantic pace. This track, along with others like "Vertigo Reverie" and "Sparkle Moment," stand out for their raw grit and emotional depth. The band successfully juxtaposes screaming with clean vocals, a contrast that, while not new, is executed with a freshness unique to The Burden's musical style. - Cori Westbrook
SIIICKBRAIN / MY MASOCHISTIC MIND / LOWLY RECORDS
My Masochistic Mind is a powerful debut album that seamlessly blends alternative, rock, metal, industrial, and electronic elements. It delves into raw themes of mental health, relationships, and death with unflinching honesty and a gritty lens.
Standout tracks like "Liar" and "14 Needles" showcase Siiickbrain's versatility, combining addictive metal riffs with introspective lyrics. "Liar" is a poignant ode to heartbreak, while "14 Needles'' delivers an exhilarating metal rave experience.
The closing track, "Emergency," is a bittersweet finale that brings the album's themes full circle. It starts with a stripped-down melody, building into a rich tapestry of guitar riffs and captivating percussion. This track, like the rest of the album, highlights Siiickbrain's ability to convey deep emotions and complex stories through her music, leaving a lasting impact on the listener. - Cori Westbrook
BLACKBRAID / BLACKBRAID II / SELF
Blackbraid II is another seamless integration of traditional Native American instrumentation with the ferocity and intensity of Scandinavian black metal, creating a sound that is both unique and deeply rooted in black metal traditions.
The album begins with the track "Autumnal Hearts Ablaze," which sets a solemn tone, followed by a powerful opening with "The Spirit Returns." Tracks like "The Wolf That Guides the Hunters Hand" and "Spells of Moon and Earth" showcase the project's ability to blend intense black metal elements with more tranquil, reflective moments, highlighted by the use of traditional flutes and acoustic guitars. "Moss Covered Bones on the Altar of the Moon," a standout track, is praised for its epic scope, blending captivating riffs, haunting vocals, and atmospheric flute melodies.
The album showcases the artistic range of Sgah’gahsowáh, the sole performer behind Blackbraid, with their intricate song structures and intense emotional depth. Blackbraid is setting a new standard for American black metal and one of the genre's most exciting acts. - Cori Westbrook
MESARTHIM / ARRIVAL / AVANTGARDE MUSIC
Arrival of Mesarthim is an atmospheric blend of black metal and electronic elements. It opens with a soft and soaring introduction in "Arrival, Pt.1", which quickly transitions into the saturated sound of black metal in "Arrival, Pt.2". The album is an otherworldly mix of dark riffs and cosmic elements, creating a unique and contrasting soundscape.It completely immerses you into a hypnotic and original atmosphere. The album's contrasting approach and use of electronic touches alongside heavy riffs create a spellbinding experience.
It is a mysteriously wonderful contribution to atmospheric black metal, emphasizing its cosmic-themed atmospheric soundscapes. The album takes listeners on a journey through the universe, reflecting the band's galactically ambitious release. - Cori Westbrook