best metal albums of august 2023

MetalMatters: The Best Metal Albums of August 2023

The best metal albums feature Crypta’s return with thrash intentions, Blut Aus Nord’s Lovecraftian aspirations, and the end of Urfaust’s psychedelic run.

Nott – Hiraeth (Silent Pendulum)

Nott’s sound is quite difficult to pin down. Their debut record, The Wretched Souls, was a strange amalgamation of scenes and sounds. Death metal brutality, certain blackened, eerie ideas, all wrapped around a complex metalcore structure. It was intriguing, to say the least, and this is the foundation they build on with their sophomore record, Hiraeth. To this day, the protagonist is the technical ability of Tyler Campbell and Julia Geaman. “Torn” kicks things off by invoking the extreme experiments of Messhugah. Rhythmic contortions and constant uncertainty roam, while “Stasis” and “Rand” see Nott bring in a slight black metal twist, reminiscent of the great Ulcerate.

But, Nott still explore further. The death metal element is extremely prominent, showing in the brutality in tracks like “Stare” and the storm of blastbeats that awaits in the title track. Further dropping down the pace, Nott move into a strange, doom/death-informed landscape. The second part of “Torn” brings to mind the infernal edge of Incantation, but Nott do not stop there. The hellish atmospherics that accompany this procession allow for a deeper dive. Here, Nott evoke everything from the standard desolate melodies of “Null” to a full noise chaos in “Writhe.” It is something that even sees them come across a drone dimension, an unexpected turn that perfectly encapsulates all the volatility of Hiraeth. – Spyros Stasis

Orphalis – As the Ashes Settles (Transcending Obscurity)

While not as utterly insane as this month’s other tech death metal album on Transcending Obscurity—Dead and Dripping’s amazing Blackened Cerebral RiftsAs the Ashes Settle by Orphalis is still noteworthy as it brings some prime cut brutal death metal to the table. The Dortmund quintet eschew the usual trappings of the genre, including any hint of overreliance on grooves, by introducing progressive metal tropes and serpentine sections that sound purposeful and with a destination in mind. Of course, there’s a fair amount of slamming explosions and technical flourish here, but these elements are tempered by counterweights of bending, twisting riffs, the occasional d-beat drive, and curious detours such as the straight-up synthwave cut “Moon Supremacy”, whose theme is ultimately rendered into supreme brutality by “From Shadows Arisen”. – Antonio Poscic

Pavor Nocturnus – Ecatombe (Cyclic Law)

Eugenio Mazza has been tapping into the darker side of electronic music through his project Pavor Nocturnus and his latest release, Ecatombe, Mazza draws from the strangest nightmares to create an immersive, menacing work. “Maleficio” begins the transition to this bleak space, a slow-moving ceremony that builds up tension. It is a minimalistic touch, evoking aspects of drone music in “Abissio” and continuing to build a sense of unease. Ethereal passages are explored, in the likes of “La Mattanza”, but it is bleakness that defines Ecatombe.

To enhance this oppressive background, Mazza injects further elements. The scenery explodes with noise additions in “La Vergogna” and “Supplica”, while some musique concrete inspirations in vocal samples and metallic recordings adorn the soundscapes. In the midst of it all, Mazza stretches the mystique of his work with percussive elements. At times these appear with a tribal flavor, which contradicts the more blatantly synthetic approach. It combines the humane with the mechanical, the biological with the industrial, reaching for full animalistic and primal explosions in the title track. It is a fitting ending to the spiritual journey of Ecatombe. – Spyros Stasis

Spirit Adrift – Ghost at the Gallows (Century Media)

At this point, Nate Garrett has fully committed and zoned into creating exquisite classic heavy metal. Leaving behind the early doom days, Spirit Adrift have accumulated an impressive discography, not just dedicated to paying homage but to also advancing traditional metal. The latest entry with Ghost at the Gallows sees them again excel at this. The past echoes through the corridors of this work, the beautiful melodic lines of “Give Her to the River” and the ferocious dual guitars of “I Shall Return” relish the genius of Thin Lizzy. On the other hand, the intense lyricism and direct melodies reminisce the early days of Dio, something that also comes across through the strong balladry of tracks like “These Two Hands”.

While a lot of the basis of this work is founded in the classic side of heavy metal, the speed and agility of Accept or the sharpness of Diamond Head, Garrett still opens up to modern interpretations. The more thrashy and groove aspect of “Hanged Man’s Revenge” and “Death Won’t Stop Me” bring to mind Kayser circa Frame the World… Hang It on the Wall. At the same time, the deep emotive quality combines with a Southern perspective, adding some of the doom/stoner path, and awakening the heavy rock period of Corrosion of Conformity. It is an intriguing combination that Garrett brings together, giving more depth and character to an incredibly catchy and meticulously constructed record. – Spyros Stasis

Urfaust – Untergang (Van Records)

This is the end. After 20 years Urfaust call it a day, and they leave behind one last testament in Untergang. An apt name for their final release, as the Dutch duo having traversed the landscapes of extreme and ambient music perform their final descent. From the early days, when raw energy defined Urfaust, where dark ambient was such a fitting counterpart have now given way to something truly otherworldly. 

Despite the hefty distortion and sparse moments of exuberant energy, Untergang is a hypnotic procession through the vastness of the cosmos. The faster pace of tracks like “Verninchtung” explore the energetic aspects of kraut rock, yet it is the slower moments where Urfaust excel. The glacial pace of “Höllenkosmos” creates a desperate progression, with the effects and sound design increasing the intensity. There is also a sorrowful quality that Urfaust toy with, the ceremony that ensues with “Reliquienstaub”, as the mesmerizing guitar drones shape the space. Do not get it wrong, the infernal aspect is still centric.

Walls of distortion combine with synth pads and grand vocal performances remain veiled behind the impressive sonic barrage. In one final, defiant act, Urfaust invoke the epic black metal edge in “Leree” and “Abgrund” and merge this with a psychedelic twist to signal the end. Urfaust’s inner demon, very fittingly depicted in the album’s artwork, has been exhausted. After having produced all the fiery malice they were capable of they give one last, glorious attempt and let the last embers fly away into the night sky. Alas, Untergang becomes the fitting end to an exquisite body of work that will be revisited endless times. – Spyros Stasis

Werewolves – My Enemies Look and Sound Like Me (Prosthetic)

Another year and another banger by Melbourne death metal outfit Werewolves. Still as cheeky and sardonic as ever, My Enemies Look and Sound Like Me is nonetheless a more varied and slightly toned down affair compared to the blazing anger that characterized 2022’s From the Cave to the Grave. The album opens with a barrage of technical death metal in a style reminiscent of Polish death metal – think mid-career Behemoth or Vader – only to then start burning effigies of other extreme metal subgenres.

The spirit of “Bring to Me the Kill” slithers around black metal territories, complete with nigh melodic swirling tremolos, while its flesh sinks deeper and deeper into the abyss, weighed down by brutal death metal growls and shrieking screams. Meanwhile, “Destroyer Of Worlds” takes atmospheric black metal’s despair and spices it up with threads of pure doom, and “I Hate Therefore I Am” turns into a perfect sonic expression of violence.

“A system to perpetuate my rage,” screams Sam Bean, against an incendiary concoction of brain cell-consuming riffs – courtesy of his Antichrist Imperium and the Berzerker colleague Matt Wilcock – and boiling drum assaults, which sound as if David Haley forgot he was drumming for Werewolves and not Psycroptic. The cut ends with Sylvester Stallone’s legendary one-liner from the 1986 action flick Cobra that perfectly encapsulates the album and Werewolves in general. “Did you use unnecessary deadly force? I used everything I had.” – Antonio Poscic