best metal albums of march 2023

MetalMatters: The Best Metal Albums of March 2023

In best metal albums, Enslaved continue their progressive black metal shift, Rotten Sound reclaim the grindcore throne, and Dawn Ray’d and Liturgy rebel.

Ne Obliviscaris – Exul (Season of Mist)

Like many other artists and bands, the pandemic period wreaked havoc on the life of Ne Obliviscaris. Yet listening to their fourth album Exul, you’d be hard-pressed to recognize any scars inflicted by those struggles. Aside from a subtly forlorn atmosphere and pervading sense of loss, the Melbourne group’s new material is some of their strongest yet as they once again redefine what extreme metal is and could be.

While there are other bands that combine progressive tendencies and neoclassical elements with the most brutal and aggressive variants of death and black metal—Fleshgod Apocalypse chief among them—none come close to the astute world-building and intricate yet direct songwriting of Ne Obliviscaris. From the affecting pathos and gusto embedded in guitar solos and pained growls to imposing djent grooves and the shimmering dance of violins and blast beats, Exul has no peers in today’s metal landscape. Infinitely technical but supremely sentimental, it’s another pinnacle in the career of a unique, enduring group. – Antonio Poscic

Rotten Sound – Apocalypse (Season of Mist)

Rotten Sound have been established as apex predators in the grindcore scene, and for good reason. Since the mid-1990s they have not missed a beat, their fierce, fast-paced, punk-induced grindcore and precise and purposeful songwriting setting a blueprint for future generations. The release of their eighth full-length, Apocalypse does not deviate, and neither does it disappoint. From the full-on explosion of “Pacify”, the anger and anguish are front and center. It is not verbose, and it is not pretty. It is simply an intense and harrowing ride offered in small but potent doses as “True and False” and “Nothingness” display. Blastbeats fly past, guitars wreak in anguish, and vocals cut through the skin, making moments like “Apocalypse” and “Science” feel like a force of nature.

Within this fold, Rotten Sound traverse in adjacent domains. The punk lineage rears its ugly head, enriching this stampede with its awkward grooves. The disfigured D-beet of “Suburban Bliss” and “Fight Back” introduce this notion, displaying a different animalistic presence. The schizoid and erratic lead work further drive this quality, as shown in “Newsflash”. The final nail is placed when the pace drops, Rotten Sound exploding in a sludge form, letting a doomed quality turn things towards darker and dirtier territories in “Sharing” and “Denialist”. A shattering record concludes, and Rotten Sound remain atop their throne. – Spyros Stasis

Skrying Mirror – Omnimalevolence (I, Voidhanger)

The latest project by prolific US-born, Finland-based musician Matron Thorn (Reuben Christopher Jordan) distills the myriad of extreme and avant-garde metal styles he explored and continues exploring through his other projects like Ævangelist into one of the most cogent and satisfying albums of his career. Joined by vocalist K. Yearout and drummer M. Garcia, Skrying Mirror’s full-length debut Omnimalevolence is Jordan’s vision of doom, death, and black metal nastiness shrouded in ragged industrial rust. Throughout the nine tracks, the trio steamroll through grimy grooves, pulsing atmo black metal sections, and sludge-adjacent crawls, only to ultimately lose their minds in moments of utter insanity and dissonance. Killer stuff. – Antonio Poscic

Spirit Possession – Of the Sign… (Profound Lore)

Spirit Possession’s self-titled debut album revels in the primal extreme metal form. Steve Peacock and Ashley Spungin unleashed a work of true fury by channeling the proto-black metal days with their thrash extensions. The influence of early Sodom and Bathory is proudly displayed in its most gruesome form. Three years later and the recipe remains the same with Of the Sign…, as the accelerating force of venomous thrash-informed guitar work leads the way. “Orthodox Weapons” immediately explode, a sense of primitive evil oozing through a frenetic recital.

While their debut record followed a pedal-to-the-metal approach, Spirit Possession have slightly evolved their perspective. The interludes aid greatly, adding a retro atmosphere to the proceedings. At the same time, the gearbox has been extended. Spirit Possession don’t serve only the frenetic, slamming down the tempo this time around and letting in the Celtic Frost attitude in moments like “Practicioners of Power”. Of the Sign… is an excellent continuation to an already established theme. The venomous leads are still dripping poison, their twisted form contorting reality, while the rhythmic stampedes add the necessary volatility. All in all, a record that thrives in the fundamentals. – Spyros Stasis

The Turin Horse – Unsavory Impurities (Reptillian)

Havoc, insanity, and mayhem. But also introspection and transcendence. The Turin Horse walk this fine line through a noise rock facade. Their debut full-length, Unsavory Impurities kicks off in the modern post-hardcore and noise rock domain. The awkwardness of “Sixty Million Blues” rampages through bizarre rhythms and exploding fuzz as the piercing guitars of “Necessary Pain Master” cut through the resulting debris. This free-form lineage carries the punk characteristics, an assault to all senses arriving with immediacy in “Blissed Out”. It’s brutal and unforgiving, yet it moves and alters its form in unpredictable manners. In a different form of aggression, they drop down the pace and reach for a sludge weight in “Regret Song” and “Tear of the Stitches”, embracing the devastating aspects of Today Is the Day’s vision.

Still, the Turn Horse opens up towards an experimental motif, a mindset carried down from the likes of Lightning Bolt’s mind-expanding disarray. The rhythmic structures see this kinship, forcing the chaos and brutality to a futuristic grind level with the ending of “Birds Sing in Death Song”. At the same time, there is an imbued cosmic perspective creeping into this dystopia. The mesh of noise rock, progressive rock, and punk undergo a krautrock transformation with “The Light That Failed”, a concoction that carries on with the deconstructed “Where the Seeds Can’t Take Root”. Finally, reaching a grand yet abstract unfolding with “Hybris” as the saxophone beautifully echoes through the vast spaces. For a debut record, the Turin Horse have produced a stellar result, and while they do really at times a bit more heavily on their influences, they have unearthed something very promising. – Spyros Stasis

Úlfúð – Of Existential Distortion (Dark Descent)

Another entry to the fantastic Icelandic extreme metal scene, Úlfúð combines their native black metal foundation with a relish for death metal. The cold and detached form of Úlfúð’s debut owes a lot to the second black metal wave. From the dissonant motifs to the melodic inclinations it is a pivotal force, something illustrated beautifully with “Where Strange Lights Dance”. Atmospherics take over, the ambiance becoming dim and that is where the death metal self rises. Its stampede is overwhelming, as moments like “Tears of Terra” and “Faceless” let on. Úlfúð take it further, their rhythmic contortions taking much from the progressive and technical death metal side, impressing in “Mickery Theatre”.

Where death metal provides the energy, the black metal self intensifies the emotion. Moments of gloom and sorrow are weaved together in “Gods Left Behind”. Even deeper runs the despair when the pace drops, with “Questions” and “An Elegy to a Paradise Out of Reach”. The icy lead work melts within a quasi-doom setting, creating this imposing form. The further enhancements with progressive and technical notions bring them closer to the likes of Zhrine, but Úlfúð still walk their own path. One that’s introduced near perfectly with such a record of modern extreme metal. – Spyros Stasis

Unpure – Prophecies Ablaze (Invictus/The Ajna Offensive)

Unpure’s inception dates back to the second black metal wave, with their releases up to Coldland featuring the traditionally grim sense of the scene. Yet, their outings in the 2000s and onwards found them reminiscing an earlier ethos. Taking on thrash and speed elements, they enriched their black metal core, releasing some excellent works with Trinity In Black and World Collapse. Now, almost two decades after World Collapse they return with the same energy in Prophecies Ablaze. The recipe is unaltered. The black metal essence still defines the foundations as “Megalithic Gateways” as its brittle pace suggests. The proto-black metal wickedness rises in moments like “The Witch of Upsala” and the title track as Unpure navigate through fast-paced onslaughts and doom-laden breakdowns. 

Their blackened form draws a lot from the works of Bathory, embracing the thrash element. The rabid start of “Small Crooked Bones” and the lighting fast pace of “Beyond the Nightmares” highlight this mode. Switching gears, they even manifest in a speed metal form, with “His Wrath and the Red Soil” bringing to mind the playful ruthlessness of Motorhead. It is something that carries even further back, a punk-ish quality rising in “Northern Sea Madness” and “Small Crooked Bones”. This final piece of the puzzle is the willingness of Unpure to take on more traditional metallic elements, the second half of the title track contorting the Iron Maiden lineage to fit within this blackened framework. A nostalgic take, but very well executed and delivered. – Spyros Stasis