best metal albums of june 2023

MetalMatters: The Best Metal Albums of June 2023

In best metal albums, Jag Panzer define the traditional US metal sound, Godflesh revisit a pivotal work, and Pupil Slicer become an exciting band to watch.

In the midst of the heatwave, we have a really good batch of heavy music to accommodate us. Feeling like you want to pump up the temperature even further? Thankfully Legion of the Damned have returned with a scorching work of modern-day thrash record. Need even more? The Elder Devil’s combination of grindcore and crust, or Pupil Slicer’s everything metallic hardcore adjacent sophomore record Blossom should do the trick. 

But maybe you are after something that will have the opposite effect. To cool you down through this summer. Well, fear not! Godflesh’s industrial return to the glory days of Pure combines the cold, detached post-metallic form with the electronica groove. Maybe you are after some traditionally rooted black metal, in which case Burial Hordes’ Ruins will hit the right spot. For anyone unsure, there’s always an experimental edge that can have either effect. A.M.E.N’s journey through the experimental and extreme music cosmos is such an offering, while Thantifaxath’s colorless sophomore also does not subscribe to any side. The point is, do what you need to do to survive the heat! Having some good music definitely helps, so dig in! – Spyros Stasis

A.M.E.N. – The Book of Lies – Liber I (I, Voidhanger)

Luciano Gaglio’s I, Voidhanger continues its search for the most out-there visions of extreme metal. Yet even in the company of other left-field artists and bands represented on the Italian label’s roster, Vittorio Sabelli’s A.M.E.N. stands apart. Led by the multi-instrumentalist’s gorgeous clarinet phrases and licks, The Book of Lies – Liber I is an avant-metal reading and nearly vaudevillian interpretation of Aleister Crowley’s eponymous book.

Throughout the 16 cuts, the occult material takes the form of blistering, frolicking black metal (“The Sabbath of the Goat”), klezmer and jazz-infused heaviness that sounds as if krautrock stalwarts Embryo played metal (“Dinosaur”), devilish cartoon chases (“The Smoking Dog”), and Zorn-ian, Naked City-adjacent grindcore (“Mulberry Tops”). Accompanied by Matteo Vitelli and Erba del Diavolo’s wicked vocal contributions, Sabelli weaves all these elements, ephemeral idiosyncrasies, and intricate details into a breathtaking, deeply atmospheric musical fabric and dynamic narrative. For fans of Mr. Bungle, Estradasphere, Secret Chiefs 3, and Alamaailman Vasarat, but also anyone wishing to hear a truly unique, amazing piece of music. – Antonio Poscic

Bastard Noise – Incineration Prayer / Self Righteous Suicide (Armaggedon Label)

Bastard Noise have been through multiple transformations, from the powerviolence origins to power electronics. Through periods of psychedelia and noise, the one constant factor is the sheer intensity of their sound. This is still true for their new release, with “Incineration Prayer” kicking things in the most brutal way imaginable. The devastating low end feels like rubble falling, while the high end is wrecked through piercing noises. It almost seems like there is no midrange in this bizarro, alter-world recital. Deranged vocals make this environment even more inhospitable as shrieks interchange with growls.

For the second offering, there is the four-part “Self Righteous Suicide”, once more kicking off in a storm of noise. This power electronics methodology is then imbued with a nice dose of dark ambient motifs. The atmospherics take over, giving this dystopian world a spine-tingling level of menace. Big soundscapes are conjured, and softly spoken growls pull down this offering to a whole other level of decadence before the final assault comes in to lay the track to rest in its pitch-black darkness. As is the case with all of Bastard Noise works, this is an excruciating ride. Yet, one that is definitely worth experiencing. – Spyros Stasis

Burial Hordes – Ruins (Transcending Obscurity)

The fifth full-length by Burial Hordes opens in medias res, with a staggering blow of brutality leading the way on “In the Midst of a Vast Solitude”. Grumbling riffs, jackhammering blast beats, and growls akin to a vomiting demon come together in a sequence that’s equally thrilling and harrowing. While the Athens, Greece-based quartet occasionally relent across the following seven cuts, sprinkling mid-tempo sections over their savage blackened death metal attacks (“A Wandering Stream of Wind”), Ruins retains its merciless, wicked edge throughout.

That holds true even as the album flows through the suffocating serpentines of “Insubstantial” and gets caught up in a nigh melodic whirlwind of riffs on “Perish”. While Burial Hordes’ output has always been praiseworthy in its consistency and vigor, Ruins easily eclipses any and all of their previous records. – Antonio Poscic

Elder Devil – Everything Worth Loving (Prosthetic)

Elder Devil came to prominence with their 2019 debut record, The Light Dimmed Eternal, seeing the act combining grind with crust and imbued with a strong metallic quality. It is no wonder that a label like Prosthetic took notice, and the San Fransisco-based band now returns with their sophomore record, Everything Worth Loving. Unsurprisingly, this is another relentless work of crushing, extreme music. Punk grooves and grind bursts interchange in “Endless Need” and “Burning Forest.” It imbues the work with this unforgiving perspective, a no-holds-barred approach in tracks like “Awash in Light” and the ruthless “After Flesh”.

Despite their punk ethos, Elder Devil possess several metallic treats. That was the case with The Light Dimmed Eternal, but here it is even more prominent. Death metal characteristics make some surprise appearances in the likes of “Awash in Light” and “What Do You See?” ripping apart the structures. Sludge motifs take over with their mid-tempo groove in “The Hounds at Night” or the more beaten down and downtrodden “My Body Is an Earthen Shrine”. There is also a slight blackened touch that rises through the eerie lead work of “New Grief” and the piercing guitars of the title track. All this is just fuel to Elder Devil’s fire. That fire is simply energy and intent. Because despite the intriguing songwriting and the exquisite production, it is all about the underlying feeling. On that, Elder Devil are nothing less than straight-up ruthless. – Spyros Stasis

Gawthrop – Deterioration (Sentient Ruin)

Brewed in the South Korean underground since 2018, Gawthrop subscribe to the nihilistic edge of sludge/doom, with a slight doom/death twist thrown in there for good measure. Being at an early stage in their career, Gawtrhop’s output has been collaborations and demos. Thankfully, Sentient Ruin now collects the band’s two demos into Deterioration, spreading the word on Gawthrop’s oppressive sound. It is a slow and tortuous endeavor, as “Exhaust” comes in its full guttural form. Crushing riffs and a glacial procession bring to mind some of the lo-fi dreams of dISEMBOWLMENT. The atmospherics add to this motif as “Blowtorch” is introduced, but from there on, it is only the sludge hell that remains.

The dirt and grit of acts like Noothgrush take over as if a monster has crawled out of a swamp in “Guru”. The faster pace and heavier groove overtake, unleashing some direct and punishing hooks in “Rabbit”. Yet, what really sticks is this despairing quality, derived straight from the dark mind of acts like Corrupted. The decadence and ruin presented in “Blowtorch” is astounding. The ominous sense in “Moth” is equally daunting, while the sheer weight of the guitars in “Odynometer” feels unthinkable. Deterioration is able to provide a detailed description of Gawthrop’s past. Let’s now see what the future holds for them. – Spyros Stasis

Geld – Currency // Castration (Relapse)

The output of Geld in their five-year-long existence has been nothing less than extraordinary. Their Iron Lung debut, Perfect Texture, was a fervent assault toward all. Despite their deep roots in the punk ethos, Geld pushed the envelope further. That became abundantly obvious with their fantastic sophomore, Beyond the Floor. Stretching further their hardcore sound, injecting noise and powerviolence, allowing metallic elements to flourish, the record had a perfect balance. Now, they return with their Relapse debut, Currency // Castration, and it looks like Geld have not missed a beat. 

The old-school lineage does come through. “Currency” establishes its New York scene groove, while “Clock Keeps Crawling” mutates the classic d-beat progression. Switches in pacing reveal the versatility of Geld, at times an unstoppable whirlwind, with “=Gas Equals Corruption” and then a mid-tempo stampede with “Hanging From a Tight Rope”. Still, the most impressive form arrives when Geld fully go on the offensive. The speed and brutality of “Chained to a Gate” are astonishing; the erratic essence of “Cut You Down”, and the complete chaos of “The Fix Is In” fully embrace this aggression.

Still, within that space, Geld continue to take bold steps. Ramping up the distortion to noise levels in “Secret Prison”, taking on post-punk notions for the bassline in “Fog of War”, and letting in industrial qualities for “Across a Broad Plain”. It is a tough thing to do. On the surface, Currency // Castration feels like an excellent hardcore release, yet the treasures that are hidden beneath are that much more rewarding. – Spyros Stasis

Godflesh – Purge (Avalanche)

Since their reformation back in 2009, it feels like Godflesh can do no wrong. A World Lit By Fire re-established the heavy, bleak essence of the industrial duo, and Post Self thrived through the ambient and noise aspects. Now Godflesh return with an addendum to their historic 1992 record, Pure. As per the band, the goal with Purge is to revisit and update the concepts of Pure. Given that Pure is an extraordinary record, way ahead of its time, an update does not seem necessary. However, a revisit is most welcome. 

There are two facts to Purge, similar to the way Pure is structured. On one hand, the strong and unyielding industrial component here morphs into an almost hip-hop vibe. The groove of opener “Nero” shows as much with its bounce, while the sample-laden approach of “Army of Non” further establishes that. With even more energy, “Permission” arrives with a jungle-esque approach before the clean vocals alter the scenery. This turn towards the otherworldly and psychedelic is the second pillar of Purge. In this manner, the urban themes of “Land Lord” contradict the alien quality of its guitar leads. Similarly, “Lazarus Leper” sees a more relaxed yet uneasy tone, standing opposite the tyrannical drum machine.

Still, Godflesh morph into a singular elusive self, taking on more post-metallic elements as the record advances. Both “The Father” and “Mythology of Self” reveal the deep influence the duo had on the 2000s post-metal scene, while the exploration of outer space with the ambient “You Are the Judge, the Jury, and the Executioner” opens up the pathway to the mid-period of this great act. So yes, revisiting Pure is definitely justified. – Spyros Stasis

Jag Panzer – The Hallowed (Atomic Fire)

The metal cred and importance of Colorado’s Jag Panzer cannot be overstated. Around since the early 1980s (originally known as Tyrant), they have been one of the flag bearers of US heavy and power metal. As anyone who follows this column regularly might have noticed, their influence is all-encompassing, felt both directly in the sound of bands like Judicator and indirectly in the aesthetics of countless heavy metal bands on both sides of the pond. Yet what’s truly astonishing is that Jag Panzer themselves have stayed fresh and relevant for so long, albeit with a few hiatuses in between.

Led by Harry Conklin’s instantly recognizable, confident voice, The Hallowed is Jag Panzer’s 12th LP, but one that feels as energetic and driven as if it were their first one. Having retained most of its 1980s lineup, there are more than a few spiritual and sonic connections between this latest release and legendary albums like Ample Destruction and The Fourth Judgement. Mark Briody’s riffs and John Tetley’s bass lines still sound like a chugging engine pushing the crunchy pieces forward while Conklin croons above them, pondering future dystopias.

At times, like on “Prey”, Jag Panzer settle in a twitchy groove, taking thrash metal hints from Anthrax and their start-stop structures. At others, they embrace Iron Maiden-esque melodies and the anthemic grandeur of heavy metal (“Ties That Bind”), gallop towards Pantera thrash-heavy hybrids (“Onward We Toil”), or reach straight for the jugular with razing attacks (“Dark Descent”). Taken together, the tracks form a varied but consistent and cohesive whole. – Antonio Poscic