Steel

Steel Druhm’s Top Ten(ish) of 2023


Well, we made it to the end of another year full of surprises, disappointments, gains, and losses. 2023 saw us add a few new voices to the AMG staff and sadly, it will see a few longtime members of the family stepping back from the day-to-day operations and activities. The much beloved Madam X has moved on from managing our everflowing stream of promos and that grave responsibility will now be handled by yours Steely. Sadly, our main cat man Grymm will also be taking some personal time away from the deadlines and pressures of nonstop blogwork.

Through all the changes we’ve endured over the years, both good and bad, the AMG mission remains the same: to bring you the most honest, insightful, and entertaining reviews possible without bowing to label pressure or outside influences because we earn absolutely nothing for our efforts, We may be truly terrible capitalists, but we love metal as much as you do and we love to talk about it, so the site grinds on year after year. I hope it always does.

A warm, heartfelt thanks to the AMG staff for making this enterprise possible week in and week out. I may talk badly about you 24/7, but you’re mostly an okay lot when not being overrating, underperforming, no-taste slack masters. There’s your positive feedback for the year!

Now let’s all embrace the new year and what it may hold for us. Life is always an adventure and one best shared with people you care about who make you laugh and make you think. If you don’t have those people in your life, WE can be those people. Hop on board with us and into the future we go!

Anywho, here are the things that brought out my inner primate in 2023.


(ish) Blood Oath // Lost in an Eternal SilenceOne of the year’s best and most entertaining throwback death metal releases, Lost in an Eternal Silence targets the exact point where early death metal looked to the skies and dreamed of being something more complex. Blood Oath have the raw talent and crazy creativity to recapture the early days of death metal and to replicate that frantic jump from brutality to proggy insanity that the genre toyed with in the late 80s. The album is the perfect blend of nostalgia and insane ambition, melding the past with the present and what may be the future. One of the most inventive and zany death platters of the year.

#10. Tanith // Voyage – Formed by Satan axe-master Russ Tippins, Tanith exist in a space between classic NWoBHM and 70s hard tock with a sheen of folk covering the entire enterprise. On sophomore outing Voyage, they take this retro formula and mine it for every ounce of precious metal, crafting some killer little gems along the way. Songs like “Snow Tiger” and “Olympus by Dawn” have been replayed more times than I can count and there’s something magical and endearingly DIY and indie about this thing. It’s not especially heavy, but the hooks stick so deep, you won’t care much. This is the Charmer o’ the Year for sure.

#9. The Night Eternal // Fatale – I loved the sadly defunct act In Solitude dearly. Their mash-up of NWoBHM, occult metal, and Mercyful Fate was hard to resist and I wanted more, more, MOAR. When I first stumbled on The Night Eternal, it sounded to me as if In Solitude had possessed them, forcing them to pick up where they left off. I’m very okay with this and Fatale plays out like the new In Solitude platter I so desperately wanted. It’s the same sweet, hooky mix of classic Mercyful Fate-isms, chilly occult rock, Goth rock, and early 80s metal. This thing gets into your head deep and demands many replays, and if I had found it earlier, it would have moved up the rankings considerably. Get this and feel The Night’s iron grip.

#8. Oak // Disintegrate – Oak is the project of Gaerea lead guitarist/vocalist, Guilherme Henriques, and instead of creating another black metal act, Henriques steers Oak into the funeral doom universe and what better way to accomplish that than to make Disintegrate one 45-minute-long track? Yes, that makes for a daunting listen but the beauty of what Oak do is just how listenable their ultra-doom, very deathy sound ends up. Heavy as fook riffs intertwine with weepy melancholic trills and beautifully emotive solo work and the listener gets carried along on ephemeral waves. The ebb and flow of the 45 minutes is remarkable and it never feels bogged down or stuck in the mud. This is first-rate writing and execution and the slightly blackened edges add a great spice to the wood flavor. Bring in this wood.

#7. Rotpit // Let There Be Rot – In the time of old school death metal mania, Rotpit is the proudly unevolved monkey. Formed by members of Heads for the Dead, Wombbath, Just Before Dawn, and Revel in Flesh, Rotpit have the rancid pedigree and leverage it to make Let There Be Rot the most over-the-top fun, mindless, dumb, death platter of the year. Cuts like “Slimebreeder,” “Let There Be Rot,” and “Beastfeaster” are Grade A bloody meat with no expiration date, and you will use them as the soundtrack to everything you do in life. This idiotic collection of caveman deathage has been a constant companion to me since it dropped and I’m all the dumber for having its company.

#6. Serpent Corpse // Blood Sabbath – Picking the best old school death metal platter of the year was no easy feat in 2023. There was so much good and nasty stuff this year that at times it felt impossible to stay ahead of it and give everything a fair listen. At the end of the race though, it was Serpent Corpse that kept dragging me back for another beating more often than anyone else, though Rotpit came so close! Their toxic blend of Autopsy-core and the scuzziest of Swedeath HM-2 abuse is seasoned with very unexpected but effective doses of melodeath to create a near-perfect cacophony of chaos that feels old but also fresh and plenty evil. This thing slithers, slaps, and grinds in all the ways a deathhead wants and needs. Get it inside your skull.

#5. Prong // State of Emergency – My bingo card for 2023 did NOT include falling in love with a new Prong album and beating it into the ground for 3 months straight. As much as I loved those classic Prong platters in the late 80s and 90s, they went through a long period of uneven releases and in the past few decades I had only been impressed by 2012s Carved in Stone. That’s why State of Emergency hits so damn hard. It’s the best thing Prong’s done in forever and takes you back to the salad days when they were on the cusp of metal’s adventurous edge. This thing is chocked full of the best riffs and harmonies Tommy Victor’s dreamed up in a long time and every song grabs you and smacks you around with NYC attitude. It’s so good to hear these goons back in fighting shape!

#4. Saturnus // The Storm WithinSaturnus have always had a relaxed release schedule, with only 5 albums to show for some 30 years in the business. It took them almost 10 years to drop The Storm Within, but the end product was well worth the wait, ending up one of the most polished and captivating doom albums of the year. Recapturing their classic sound and famed ability to wring emotion from the listener, Saturnus does their doom thing with style and panache all across the album, blending crushing riffs, airy trilling, and mournful melodies to harsh your mellow completely. I’ve heard loose talk about this album being overrated or overhyped. Ignore that noise and tell the spewer to taste the floor! Experience the feelz storm within.

#3. Isole // AnesidoraThere weren’t a lot of classic doom releases that blew me away this year, by Isole have my number and once again they used it to knock me flat with their take on the classic Candlemass style on Anesidora. Keeping in line with what they did on 2019s Dystopia, Isole roared back with another mammoth slab of crunching doom leads, haunting vocals, and more weight than can normally found in Holdeneye‘s garage gym. “The Song of the Whales” is doom perfection, and “In Abundance” is a candidate for Song o’ the Year. There are traces of Fvneral Fvkk here that take the already high-quality material to the next level and the album plays so well from start to finish. These guys just get what great doom is all about.

#2. Vanishing Kids // Miracle of Death – No one does what Vanishing Kids do. Their strange witch’s brew of genres and styles is unique and enchanting. It captivated me on 2018s Heavy Dreamer and I was just as susceptible when Miracle of Death hit this year. It’s doom, it’s goth rock, it’s 70s acid rock all wrapped into one enigmatic, ethereal burrito and it’s just so damn haunting and bewitching. The combination of Nikki Drohomyreky’s enchanting vocals and Jason Hartman’s fuzzy, 70s-centric doom-rocking guitar work is tough to resist, and song after song sucks you into their strange dark world. Miracle of Death is the ultimate mood album and you can’t easily get away from it once the hooks set in. These cats are pure magic.

#1. Tribunal // The Weight of RemembranceThe little album that could, Tribunal was the ultimate lucky grab from the promo sump as 2022 gave way to 2023. Utterly unheralded, their Weight of Remembrance debut is a Gothic doom album with the inevitable nods to My Dying Bride, but it’s so much more than that. With heavy doses of classic Candlemass and moments that recall the grim haunts of Fvneral Fvkk, Weight of Remembrance does so many things exceptionally well, it’s hard to believe this is but their debut. Songs like “Initiation” use the classic “beauty and the beast” vocal approach so well, that you almost forget you’ve heard the same thing done a million times before, and “Of Creeping Moss and Crumbling Stone” looms large as one of the best doom songs of this or any other year. There’s nothing I would change or trim on Weight of Remembrance, and if anything, I wish it was a little longer. I don’t feel that way for many albums not named Reign in Blood, so you know this thing really got to me. Doom perfection.

 

Honorable Mentions

  • Overkill // Scorched – The beasts of The Garden State roar back into top form for a timeless dose of ugly thrash grooving.
  • By Fire and Sword // Glory – The weirdest, most hilarious novelty album I heard this year, taking organized religion to the cleaners with a smile. Hail Conduit!
  • Theocracy // Mosiac – The Lord works in mysterious ways and Theocracy works in epic US power ways. HUZZAH!
  • Wytch Hazel // IV: Sacrament – More Lordcore with huge hooks and Jethro Tull flair. Run to the light.
  • Vomitory // All Heads Are Gonna Roll – Ugly death metal doing what ugly death should do as it removes your head.
  • Disguised Malignance // Entering the Gateways – A shockingly brutal and entertaining death debut by a bunch of snot-nosed kids.
  • Dripping Decay // Festering GrotesqueriesIf Autopsy, Carcass and Exhumed had a love child, this would be it, and it is FUGLY!
  • Wormhole // Almost Human – I didn’t expect to care much for this thing, but its weird charms wormed right under my skin and made me a believer.
  • Autopsy // Ashes, Organs, Blood & Crypts – The kings of graveyard gore and the morgue floor return with another scuzz bucket full of gut slop and I’m here for it.
  • Sacred Outcry // Towers of Gold – This doesn’t quite resurrect the lost glory of Lost Horizon, but damn does it come close. Daniel Heiman is GOD.

 

Disappointment o’ the Year

Restless Spirit // AfterimageThis highly talented stoner sludge doom act from my backyard released an album that should be listed above in my Top Ten(ish) because the songs are there and they hit hard. What hits harder still is the absolute shit show of a production job that crushes the music into sonic pulp, making a great album barely listenable. Afterimage is the ultimate “what could have been” release and a total aural tragedy.

I could have added Metallica here, but why even bother at this point?

 

Song o’ the Year:

Vanishing Kids // “Spill the Dark” – There were a series of close competitors, but this piece of ethereal witchcraft stuck the deepest in my ape brain in 2023 and it’s still in there rattling around. This is such a beautifully grim, dark piece of music and it embodies everything I love about Vanishing Kids. This is the stuff!




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