Best Metal Albums of November 2023

MetalMatters: The Best Metal Albums of November 2023

In best metal albums, Cruciamentum ignite the old-school death metal flame, Morne merge hardcore and post-metal, and Autarkh commit to industrial machinations.

Morne – Engraved With Pain (Metal Blade)

I still remember searching for Morne records ever since I saw their name on the cover of Darkthrone’s Circle the Wagons. That shoutout has aged very well through the years, as the act from Boston releases one great work after the other. Now, they return with their Metal Blade debut and their shortest full-length to date in Engraved With Pain. This condensed form has distilled all the information into a potent offering. The post-metal applications take their time in constructing the circular motifs through the immense groove of the title track. The slow construction arrives with epic underpinnings as the solid rhythm builds up to something monstrous.

The hardcore lineage and the doom weight hold strong. The first brings purpose and urgency, as the record’s hit in “Wretched Empire” would suggest. From the staggering groove to the malicious vocal delivery, it weaponizes the beatdowns and unleashes a bestial assault. On the other side, the descent into the doom abyss with “Fire and Dust” is something to behold. Morne dig towards this slithering, Sabbath-ian state, one that carries a tremendous amount of despair and anguish. Encapsulating everything through the stellar production of Kurt Ballou allows the post-metal flourishes to shine further, the intricacies of their off-kilter and otherworldly experimentations in “Memories Like Stones” becoming more elusive and harrowing. This is very much Morne at their finest. – Spyros Stasis

Nahasheol – Serpens Abyssi (Wolves of Hades/Argento)

The 2022 introduction to Nahasheol came in the form of their debut EP, Kaaosoth. With a raw and harsh production, mainman Daniel Souza unveiled his modern black metal vision. Now Souza follows with Nahasheol’s debut record, Serpens Abyssi, re-recording the tracks from Kaaosth to showcase their full potency better. It is immediately felt as “Arcanum Mortuus” kicks in with a sonic barrage. Parts like “The Awakening” and “Mambah Maa” feel cataclysmic, while “The Aetheric Void” lets in a blackened death metal essence as dissonant leads collide with the pummelling drum work.

While this relentless approach is fundamental to Nahasheol, Souza and company open up the work to further inclinations. They do not shy away from their melodic leanings, actually traveling to quite diverse territories to acquire these. Fragments of Mgla and Behemoth appear in the latter parts of “Arcanum Mortuus”. The electrifying lead work of Rotting Christ and its influence on the South American black metal scene shines in “Devan Thanatha”. This also tilts the endeavor to take atmospheric characteristics. Even though this is done in an understated way, as with the chants in the closing track, it still finds more prominent moments to shine, like halfway through “Bring of Divine Ecstasy”.

Still, it is the darker and stripped-down form that drives it home when Nahasheol retort to a traditional black metal space, unleashing the icy riffs of “Bring of Divine Ecstasy”. So, even though there is some struggle for originality, the debut record from Nahasheol is aptly executed and extremely enjoyable. – Spyros Stasis

Sea Mosquito – Igitur (Onism)

The mysterious entity from London showed signs of brilliance with their 2021 EP, Fire, Magic & Venom. Their unusual take on black metal has been able to pick attributes across the spectrum, from the orthodox roots to the avant-garde and experimental tendencies. Their debut record, Igitur, perfectly encapsulates this unique approach. The electronic components and industrial elements that establish the backbone of “Those Vanished Things” do not tamper with the eerieness of the track but rather enhance it.

Acidic guitars join in discordant recitals, while the infernal post-club ambiance of “Son of Man” delivers precise rhythmic strikes. Similarly, they open up unconventional ambient passages, be it through noise and electronica elements with “The Dagger of Abraham” or through more traditional means. The delicate passages of “Swallowed By The Night” and the beautiful acoustic guitar of “To Dream of Heaven” strike a traditional black metal chord.

Despite this broadening of their sound, the foundation for Sea Mosquito is still found in their black metal core. The avant-garde and technical scenes play a significant part, as the London act further adorn these with mathcore and noise rock elements. At times, there is Botch-ian energy, driven by way of Serpent Column in “The Dagger of Abraham”. Then there is a more frenzied approach, the distortion becoming overwhelming in the likes of “Destined For Rust” and “Clothed With the Sun”. But it is how Sea Mosquito pull the song structures to their limits, making this a very intense and thrilling journey. It is the same case when they descend into the Ved Buens Ende domain.

The recluse passages in “Filth. Disorder. Iniquity” carry much of that dissonance, while the excellent closer “Vexilla Regis” further plunges the listener into these feverish dreams. The overall result from Sea Mosquito is astonishing, and the flow and delivery of Igitur is exquisite. Given the promise that Fire, Magic & Venom, Sea Mosquito have delivered in full. And then some. – Spyros Stasis

SOL – Promethean Sessions (I, Voidhanger)

While Emil Sol Brahe’s one-person project SOL has been around for over a decade and a half, none of the works released under the moniker so far compare to the sprawling, otherworldly Promethean Sessions. With doom, death, and other variants of extreme metal behind him, Brahe’s artistic vision now seems to eclipse genres, manifesting in turn as martial dark ambient reminiscent of Current 93, Earth-evoking ethereal drones, heavier moments of progressive post-metal in the vein of Giant Squid or Green Carnation, and Swans-like brazen noise.

The instrumental arsenal at play—provided by Brahe’s network of collaborators—is just as unusual, with strings, woodwinds, brass, dulcimer, hurdy-gurdy, and lyre, among others, being carefully orchestrated around the firmer acoustic doom rhythmic center. To pick apart this music and analyze its songs individually seems almost sinful. Instead, it’s best to enjoy it by simply immersing in the music, letting its narratives carry you away. – Antonio Poscic

Tetragrammacide – Typho-Tantric Aphorisms From the Arachneophidian Qur’an CD/LP (Iron Bonehead)

Evolution is necessary; case in point Tetragrammacide’s sophomore Typho-Tantric Aphorisms. The band from India forged their pedigree through the black/death lineage, calling upon the blasphemy of Revenge and the grit of Teitanblood to craft works like Primal Incinerators of Moral Matrix. While still retaining the same ferocity and viciousness, they now package all this in a more pristine and controlled offering. It is still an attack on all senses, as the barrage comes through in “Spectral Hyaenas…” without any remorse. Guest drummer Davide Belli’s performance is stellar and inhuman in its precision. It is the driving force that allows the establishment of a martial death metal narrative, showcased in “Nuit Arches Over…” and dropping megaton bombs in “Intoxicated Bees…”

What is unexpected here is how all these dissonance and animosity are packaged. The primal self of “Mandelbrot Scarab…” alongside the dissonant black metal aspects of “Spectral Hyeaenas…” and the proto-death leanings of Possessed and early days’ Slayer. Instead of the usual chaotic production, Tetragrammacide have a pristine and detailed recording. It does not hide any of the elements, and more impressively, it does not tamper with the band’s brutality and savagery. In essence, Typho-Tantric Aphorisms… is a work of the darkest aspects of black/death but with a presentation usually found in the likes of Nile or Behemoth. It is a massive step forward for Tetragrammacide, and it can potentially propel them much higher. – Spyros Stasis

Vastum – Inward to Gethsemane (20 Buck Spin)

Since the release of their debut record, Carnal Law, through 20 Buck Spin, Vastum have excelled in their old-school death metal applications. This is not about to change as they put forth their fifth full-length in Inward to Gethsemane. The stench of early Autopsy prevails with the opener, “In Bed With Death”, as the mid-tempo groove crashes all. These early days US scene has always been the biggest influence for Vastum, and it shows in its slithering form with “Stillborn Eternity”. But still, there is a kinship at times to the other side of the Atlantic, as “Vomitous” channels some of the early Bolt Thrower works, and “Indwelling Archon” sees a more urgent and immediate perspective.

While, for the most part, Vastum are comfortable in this death metal heyday, contempt with channeling the discordance of early Slayer and the malice of Morbid Angel circa Altar of Madness, there are certain surprises. The atmosphere at times takes a more pivotal role, something seen through the use of samples throughout the record. It is something that Vastum build towards, reaching a pinnacle with closer “Corpus Fractum”. In what is the darkest moment of the record, the California act returns to a minimal state, taking their time to craft an immersive and grand experience. At times it feels like death/doom, and then suddenly it takes on a black metal eeriness before the clean vocals complete this mesmerizing scenery. It makes you wonder, while the traditional death metal is Vastum’s bread and butter, if moving towards that direction with more force would open up some interesting possibilities. – Spyros Stasis

Valdrin – Throne of the Lunar Soul (Blood Harvest)

Since their independent days and their debut, Beyond the Forest, Valdrin displayed an unbreakable connection to melodic black metal. Channeling the best that the Swedish scene has to offer, Valdrin amassed a strong discography and are now returning with their crown jewel in Throne of the Lunar Soul. Through its 73 minutes, Valdrin weave an epic tale of excellent songwriting and high technical aptitude. The guitars’ dizzying effect in “Vagrants in the Chamber of Night” and the brutal progression of “Two Carrion Talismans” showcase the latter. However, the true accomplishment of the record is not losing focus throughout its long duration.

To that end, Valdrin are meticulous about their choices and how everything fits in Throne of the Lunar Soul. The dreamy side of melodic black metal is pivotal, orchestrating the melodic applications of “Neverafter”. The lineage can be traced back to Iron Maiden’s pivotal approach, showcased brilliantly in “Paladins of Ausadjur”, while more traditional metallic notions are found in “Holy Matricide”. The more furious aspects still call on the likes of Dissection, Sacrament, and the mighty Dawn, as “Golden Walls of Ausadjur” and “The Hierophant” suggest. 

To further embellish this narrative, Valdrin masterfully fit atmospheric passages. The beautiful acoustic guitars of the opener craft a delicate, ambient space, while “Sojourner Wolf” sees a medieval-esque romanticism arise. To the same end, keyboard-driven parts open pathways, capable of crafting theatrical moments in “Seven Swords (In the Arsenal of Steel)” and a grand presence with the title track, especially when the clean chants appear. It is overall a very strange experience because so much of Valdrin’s sound is based on nostalgia. Yet, their deep love for the sound of that scene makes Throne of the Lunar Soul much more than a mere tribute to the melodic black metal of old. Instead, it can stand amongst some of the strongest records that made this scene what it is today. – Spyros Stasis

Warcrab – The Howling Silence (Transcending Obscurity)

The UK’s Warcrab make some utterly ugly music, and it’s beautiful. Most closely related to compatriots Bolt Thrower—which is still only a faint connection at best—they inject sludge elements and layers of filth into burrowing death metal fundamentals. Thanks to the cavernous, all-encompassing quality of the riffs and stoical marching of the rhythm section, each of the cuts on The Howling Silence feels gargantuan, as if standing on a vast plain populated only by hundreds of meters tall towers made of black onyx. There is plenty of variety across the songs, from the massive, hammering roll of “Orbital Graveyard” to the hints of post-metal crescendos and Crowbar-inspired sludge on “As the Mourners Turn Away”, but the sense of monumental scale remains undisturbed and commanding throughout. Impressive, thoroughly impressive. – Antonio Poscic

Xoth – Exogalactic (Dawnbreed)

Anyone who liked Xoth’s previous two LPs, 2016’s Invasion of the Tentacube and 2019’s Interdimensional Invocations, can safely skip the rest of this review and head straight to hitting play on Exogalactic. The Seattle quartet deliver once more what is perhaps their best album so far. Like its predecessors, this new record is filled with a highly technical amalgam of death and thrash metal, which is then filtered through a Cthulhu-with-spaceships sort of worldbuilding.

The result of this approach is eight mind-bending cuts, as likely to dazzle with their structural intricacies, bombastic grooves, and melodies as with cosmic drama worthy of an Ann Leckie-penned space opera. As for any piece of music in a genre associated with the term “technical”, it should go without saying that the playing by all four members of Xoth is stunning here, from Tyler Splurgis and Woody Adler’s spiraling, growling riffs to Jeremy Salvo and Ben Bennett’s contorting rhythmic lines. – Antonio Poscic