best metal albums january 2023

MetalMatters: The Best Metal Albums of January 2023

In January’s best metal albums, Katatonia return with their beautiful gloom, Ahab travel into the doom/death abyss, and Oozing Wound carve out their furious identity.

Oozing Wound – We Cater to Cowards (Thrill Jockey)

Oozing Wound - We Cater to Cowards

Originally mislabeled as a re-thrash or even crossover band—as evidenced by the tongue-in-cheek title of their debut Retrash—Oozing Wound have since demonstrated that the musical space they exist in is purely their own and not even remotely derivative. The music of the Chicago trio has been rooted in thrash, yes, but it appears like a futuristic, simultaneously restless, and static vision of the genre rather than a rehash of things past. Their fifth and potentially final LP We Cater to Cowards comes to remind everyone of how stylistically loose they can really be while remaining unequivocally Oozing Wound.

Compared to the frantic pace and mood that dominated their previous releases—akin to being stuck in a furiously vibrating alien force field from The X-Files—this new album is decidedly slower, channeling that same old sense of existential anxiety through scuzzy grunge, sludge, and sustained riffs of an almost textural quality rather than cyclical, savage attacks. Listening to We Cater is at times a disconcerting experience, as piercing as the rampant bass rolls, discordant bass noise, caterwauling guitars, and anguished vocals that haunt its tracks. Awesome. Awful. Irresistible. – Antonio Poscic

Phal:Angst – Whiteout (Noise Appeal/Rough Trade)

Phal-Angst - Whiteout

Embedded in the Austrian underground scene, Phal:Angst have been quietly experimenting in the intersection of industrial, electronica, and post-rock. Their newest offering, Whiteout, sees them calm down part of their aggressive nature in favor of an atmospheric approach. The emotive post-rock structures and solitary piano of the title track establish as much. Phal: Angst fully submerge in this cinematic essence, combining the ceremonial progression with precise drumming and whispering vocals.

The electronic and industrial aspect further exploits this ambient leaning. “Severance” combines post-rock motifs with an industrial backbone. The same strategy is deployed to provide the pensive mentality in “Least Said, Soonest Mended”. Urban beats combine with ethereal guitar playing to create a transcendental experience, as is the case with “What a Time to Be Alive”, while more old-school electronica a la Font 242 creeps in with “What Rests Mute in Bright Corners”. The more aggressive connotations boost the delivery, with “Unhinged” calling on the more cataclysmic aspect of Mogwai, and a touch of Neurosis. Finally, the re-interpretations of tracks by Lustmord and Jarboe shine a different light on an already very well-done work. – Spyros Stasis

Riverside – ID.Entity (InsideOut Music)

Riverside - ID Entity

Riverside’s previous full-length, 2018’s Wasteland, was released in the aftermath of a period of grief that followed guitarist Piotr Grudziński’s death in 2016. Unsurprisingly, it was an emotionally heavy release, whose musical choices deviated from the norm of the Polish progressive rock band and towards cinematic, grandiose pop rock led by the guiding voice of Mariusz Duda. As a result, Wasteland felt closer in spirit to Duda’s other band, Lunatic Soul, than previous Riverside records.

In this sense, ID.Entity is not only a return to form and to progressive metal of the crunchy, intricate, yet decidedly djent-free variety, but one of their best works to date. While a high-level, haphazardly ambiguous concept about our current technological and social zeitgeist is set as the driving force behind the album, the music does not feel encumbered by it. On the contrary, across the seven songs, Riverside craft a superb sound from just the right amount of hefty riffs, organ-like synth flourishes, insidious melodies, and occasional grooves. Although there’s a moment or two in which they sound like Dream Theater from their glory days, Riverside have managed to thrive in a niche that is equally rocking and emotional, but all their own. – Antonio Poscic

Thy Darkened Shade – Liber Lvcifer II: Mahapralaya (WTC)

Thy Darkened Shade - Liber Lvcifer II

The sophomore record from Thy Darkened Shade, Liber Lvcifer I: Khem Sedjet, is a work of holistic, ambitious black metal clocking just under 80 minutes. So, there is no wonder why it took the Athenian duo nine years to return with its successor. Liber Lvcifer II: Mahapralaya continues this tradition of aspiration, calling upon the multifaceted essence of the genre. The devilish touches and discordant lead work that slithers into dark corridors are perfectly showcased with “Luciftias” and “Sathanasatis”. They act as the pathway towards the processional, be it through “Into Eerie Catacombs” or the exhaustive passages of “Typhonian Temple”. A the same time, the reverse ecclesiastical spirit resumes its dominance as chants appear in both the opening and closing tracks.

Still, what is inescapable here is the structuring from Thy Darkened Shade. The chaotic nature is undeniable, arriving in a feverish onslaught with “Sacrosanct Pyre”. It takes a labyrinthine appearance, with the duo alters between narrow roads, to then open up these great spaces. The technical aptitude of Dodheimsgard fuels the claustrophobia of “Acausal Current of Thanatos” to then give way to the Emperor-inspired explosion of “Noxious Witchery of the Titans” and the Bathory-fueled epic that is “Qelippot Epiphany”. It is not easy to live up to one’s ambition, but Liber Lvcifer II: Mahapralaya succeeds in this task. – Spyros Stasis

Tribunal – The Weight of Remembrance (20 Buck Spin)

Tribunal - The Weight of Remembrance

Tribunal are a new act from Vancouver, Canada set to conjure the spirit of the late 1980s and early 1990s doom/death scene with their debut record The Weight of Remembrance. “Initiation” sets its basis on the Black Sabbath-ian tradition, while the slight gothy tinges bring in an otherworldly spirit. It is a combination of the classic doom sound, something that carries the principles set forth by Tony Iommi, yet the tilt towards the Peaceville Three is obvious.

The romanticized quality of doom/death creeps in, and the towering presence of “Apathy’s Keep” and “Of Creeping Moss and Crumbled Stone” set the scenery. The cello beautifully weaves this mournful quality together, bringing to mind the experiments of My Dying Bride. Similarly, the melodic yet melancholic lead work prevails, giving the finishing, tragic twist to this process. Within this well-known style, Tribunal do a great work of balancing things out. The sorrowful lead work is just one aspect of this.

The brutal death metal essence rises to the surface, as the death growls echo through the vast spaces. The black metal shrieks add a sinister touch, and the clean vocals are simply towering. Especially when put through this magnificent reverb, resulting in the fantastic “No Answer”. The Weight of Remembrance is a rich record, drawing upon the great strengths of pioneers of the scene. So, while Tribunal don’t yet possess a distinct identity, they perfectly pay homage to the doom/death of old. I am confident the former will also come along in time. – Spyros Stasis

Twilight Force – At the Heart of Wintervale (Nuclear Blast)

Twilight Force - At the Heart of Wintervale

I was in my early teens when I first heard Rhapsody’s 1998 genre-establishing Symphony of Enchanted Lands, but I still vividly remember the elation and carefree joy that the record brought me. While I would go on to hear a myriad of other symphonic power metal albums—a genre whose subjective effects eclipse its objective values—none ever captured that initial exhilaration and sense of discovery. Until Twilight Force’s At the Heart of Wintervale, that is.

Put simply, the Swedish quintet play an unapologetically over-the-top, jubilant, and energetic take on symphonic metal with such gusto that you can’t help but feel that child-like wonder again. Of course, their music is accompanied by tales of fantastic adventures and epic quests, but it’s the unfiltered power overflowing from their playing and singing that makes it magical and irresistible, sure to bring down any shield of ironic distance. – Antonio Poscic

Uranium – An Exacting Punishment (Sentient Ruin)

Uranium - An Exacting Punishment

The release of Wormboiler, Uranium’s debut record in the midst of the Covid pandemic was so timely. The industrialized, dark ambient-infused black metal of the one-man project depicted an even darker state of reality, and the return with An Exacting Punishment carries down the same weight and grimness. The hybrid state, somewhere between black metal and industrial is perfectly encapsulated with the opener “Trinity.” Eerie leads surround the mechanical progression, the groove forcing these disparate elements together and increasing the darkened edge.

There is a rich tradition from which Uranium draws inspiration. The burning visions of Godflesh’s Streetcleaner echo through the structures of An Exacting Punishment. The lineage of Cold Meat Industry similarly shines through the obsidian essence of “Prison of Flesh” and “Gnawing at Their Bones”, while a slight neo-classical attribute makes an apt appearance to enhance the process. Yet, the most devastating form is assumed when the descent into the doom abyss is undertaken.

The title track paints this post-apocalyptic world in uninviting colors, with the heavy riffs crashing down and the minimal pace becoming excruciating. Combine this with the chthonian dark ambient element and the industrial implementation, and you get the pure malice of “No Light”. As the pace drops to glacial levels and the drone/doom essence rises to the surface, Uranium’s vision is made whole. – Spyros Stasis