best metal of july 2023

MetalMatters: The Best Metal Albums of July 2023

In July’s best metal, Oxbow resume their experimental journey, Mutoid Man hammer their love for fun heavy metal, and Mizmor descend to despair’s dark depths.

In music, it is always interesting to see how the past informs the present. End Reign’s debut attempts to modernize the crossover scene of the 1980s, combing punk and thrash into one singular point of focus. Similarly, Mutoid Man hone their sound through the fun-loving, balls-to-the-wall attitude of heavy metal. Even in the extreme scene, this motif of bringing classic heavy metal tropes to the present prevails. The latest work from Deitus sees the NWOBHM style inform their melodic black metal. Heavy metal is not the only point of influence. This month Calligram continue to draw from the hardcore and crust scenes to inform their post-black metal, while 1476 furiously combine their Celtic punk and folk elements with a more traditional black metal dose.

On the other hand, there are acts that prefer to vail their connection to the past. Oxbow’s experimental rock journey continues with Love’s Holiday, while Odz Manouk continue to hammer their avant-garde black metal tropes. Similarly, Sutekh Hexen collaborate with the great Funerary Call for a dark descent into the abstract, while Fabio Frizzi crosses domains to bring the composer’s cut to Zombie. All that and much more, so dig in! – Spyros Stasis

1476 – In Exile (Prophecy)

Every once in a while, an album comes along that truly surprises me with its idiosyncratic marriage of styles and influences. In Exile by Massachusetts duo 1476 is one such record. Imagine if you took Celtic punk in the vein of Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly, draped it around a hard-hitting post-punk skeleton reminiscent of Killing Joke, and then sprinkled it with bits of Alcest-evoking black metal and droning folk of the Alison Cotton sort. Finally, you let an occult, uncanny soul inhabit this newly made flesh, and you’re close to understanding what Robb Kavjian and Neil DeRosa’s music sounds like on their latest record.

At times, such as on “Lapis Fire: Through the Mist”, the resulting concoction feels a bit like listening to the Pogues, the Clash, and Dawn Ray’d all at once. At others, as in the closing “Where Are You?”, Kavjian and DeRosa let down their guard and relinquish any semblance of metallic edge, allowing themselves to be carried along by poignant Irish balladry instead. There is beauty and pain, exaltation, and suffering in this final cut that, similar to the other songs, feels like a small part of some bigger, unknowable, and ghostly picture. – Antonio Poscic

Agriculture – Agriculture (The Flenser)

At this point, post-black metal is a very well-established subgenre, and that makes it more difficult for new acts to stand out. Los Angeles’ Agriculture are making one hell of an attempt to leave a dent with their debut full-length. Following the release of their 2022 EP, The Circle Chant, the act returns with a work of ecstatic intensity. In that way, their post-black metal follows the tradition of the early Liturgy works, flipping the nihilistic origins of the genre for a transcendental experience. The progression and distortion mash into a beautiful mess, creating a disorienting piece of majestic music in the final part of “The Glory of the Ocean”. The structure seemingly dissolves into erratic delirium, something that Agriculture have inherited from the post-hardcore and screamo scenes, in particular with the closing track “Relier” and the Envy-inspired “Look, Pt. 2″.

The further differentiations arrive in a few interesting injections. The Americana blues start to the record is a very nice touch, almost a Ry Cooder homage. That is then followed by the folk story-telling and acoustic guitar in “The Well.” Yet, what really stands out is the jazzy themes first introduced in “Look, Pt. 1” as the crazed saxophone creeps in. At first, it seems superficial, but then Agriculture go into a complete free jazz exploration in “Look, Pt.3″. Their full-throttle approach is astounding, and some intriguing ideas come in as the transitional part to the ending of the track sees a solitary kick drum leading the way. In many ways, this record feels split. On one hand, Agriculture have clear admiration for the post-black metal scene and its origins, but on the other, they are willing to try some pretty novel ideas. It is this duality that truly elevates their work, making this debut an excellent first step. – Spyros Stasis

Calligram – Position | Momentum (Prosthetic)

There is scarcely any music capable of feeling so alive, so visceral, and utterly urgent as crust and hardcore-infused black metal done right. Since 2020’s The Eye Is the First Circle, the London-orbiting quintet Calligram have established themselves as masters of the style. Their music accentuates the raw, cold emotions of black metal with d-beat energy and enshrouds hardcore’s unfettered but relentlessly positive, forward-looking aggression in layers of metallic atmosphere. Despite it being a more focused and a touch airier record in general compared to their previous works, Position | Momentum maintains Calligram’s aura of an inspired and vibrant group operating in the upper echelons of the genre along with the likes of Ancst and Oathbreaker. – Antonio Poscic

Deitus – Irreversible (Candlelight)

Deitus’ black metal always displayed a soft spot for the traditional heavy metal tropes. While the foundation of their debut, Acta Non Verba, embraces the melodic side of the Scandinavian black metal scene, it still displays a strong kinship to the 1980s classic metal style. Deitus’ sophomore, Via Dolorosa balanced these two sides even further, and now Irreversible comes along to complete this union. 

From the intro with “Incursion”, this love for the crisp, sharp heavy metal riffs comes to life. Much of this might point towards the melodic edge of the genre, bringing Deitus closer to acts like Dissection, but that is not necessarily the case. Sure, a lot of the lead work tilts towards the melodic Iron Maiden influence, as “A Scar for Serenity” suggests, but the majority of the music owes more to the NWOBHM scene and its more bitter quality.

This also allows Deitus to naturally fall within a hybrid state, allowing a track like “Straight For Your Throat” to transition between thrash and even doom metal. It even opens up the pathways towards an off-kilter take on the atmospheric, as is the case with the goth-infused “Voyeur”. So, if you are looking for something that has one foot in the black metal tradition while also paying tribute to old-school metal, you really cannot go wrong with Irreversible. – Spyros Stasis

Desekryptor – Vortex Oblivion (Blood Harvest)

The debut record for the death metal act from Indiana, and it sure is a nasty one. Desekryptor subscribe to the primal aspect of the genre, its relentless brutality and infernal quality. Vortex Oblivion immediately sets the scene, as the short noisy intro creates a dystopian setting. Fragments of the past make an appearance, as Desekryptor draws mainly from the US scene to stitch together this monster. The slower pace brings to mind Incantation, especially with the hellish motif in “Dagger In The Christ” and a slight touch of Obituary’s early days stampede with “Omen of Terror”. The awkward groove of Autopsy prevails in tracks like “Festering Ulceration”, while the slight melodic twists of the opening track draw from the other side of the Atlantic, mainly the early escapades of Bolt Thrower. 

This is a recipe that much of today’s death metal scene embraces. The proto-death metal influences, a slight blackened twist, and this absolutely erratic perspective bring to mind seminal works from Dead Congregation and Cruciamentum. The beatdown of “Abysmal Resurrection” is such an example, with Desekrytpor paying tribute to the past but providing the necessary modernizations to fit today’s scene. It is this mindset that makes Vortex Oblivion such an intense ride, and while Desekryptor are still in the process of finding their identity, they are definitely on the right path. – Spyros Stasis

End Reign – The Way of All Flesh Is Decay (Relapse)

Here’s the debut record from End Reign, a group founded by members of Misery Index, Integrity, Bloodlet, and Noisem, among more. The goal of these veterans here is to investigate the origin of metallic hardcore, driving back to the moment in time when punk and thrash crossed over. Indeed, that is the way that “Desolate Fog” is introduced, taking a page from the crust-infused works of Amebix, an energy that is infectious in tracks like “House of Thieves” and “Chaos Masked as Order” with its intense beatdown.

Yet, while hardcore ethos drives much of the progression, the metallic touch establishes itself in the lead work. The crisp riffs of “Divine Abyssmal End” carry much of the thrash scene as schizoid solos take over. Still, more melodic moments creep in, the moving quality of both “Giving Birth Tragedy” and “The Night Creeps Upon Me” standing out. At the same time, slowing down the tempo, End Reign indulge in an almost sludge form, with both “The Hunger” and “Serpent Messiah” standing out. All in all, The Way of All Flesh Is Decay lives up to its promise. It is a very well-played and enjoyable ride through nostalgic scenery. – Spyros Stasis