Tales from the Jugular

Staff Year End Awards for 2023!
Our Annual Year End Edition of Metal that Hit Our Radar!

By: Maximum Metal Staff
Published: Friday, December 29, 2023
We've gathered up our thoughts on the hard rock/metal releases of 2023! Even if you really don't give a damn what any of our opinions are, there are so many releases put out in this age of do-it-yourself creation that you may see names you missed, older bands you forgot existed or unknowns to look up and sample. It's all about getting the word out and supporting the music!

Eric's 2023 Best of List
* - designates best album of the genre

Best of Power Metal
*Frozen Crown - Call of the North
Iron Savior - Firestar
Jag Panzer - The Hallowed
Burning Witches - The Dark Tower

Best of Traditional Heavy Metal
*Night Demon - Outsider
Cirith Ungol - Dark Parade
KK's Priest - The Sinner Rides Again
Primal Fear - Code Red
Enforcer - Nostalgia
Savage Grace - Sign of the Cross
Icarus Witch - No Devil Lived On

Best of Doom/Stoner
*Black Rainbows - Superskull
Spirit Adrift - Ghost at the Gallows
Witchskull - The Serpent Tide
Paradise Lost - Icon 30

Best of Death/Extreme
*Kataklysm - Goliath
Obituary - Dying of Everything
Orbit Culture - Nija
Grand Cadaver - Deities of Deathlike Sleep
War of Ages - Dominion

Best of Hard Rock
*Alice Cooper - Road
Dokken - Heaven Comes Down
Winger - Seven
Foo Fighters - But Here We Are
The 69 Eyes - Death of Darkness

Best of Thrash
*Overkill - Scorched
Gama Bomb - Bats
Metallica - 72 Seasons
Evile - The Unknown
Death Ray Vision - No Mercy from Electric Eyes

Ready for the Woodchipper
*Avenged Sevenfold - Life is But a Dream...
Godsmack - Lighting Up the Sky

Biggest Suprises of 2023
*KISS disbanding (they really did it!)
Marty Friedman performing with Megadeth
Mike Portnoy reuniting with Dream Theater

Notable Deaths
Steve Riley (L.A. Guns)
Tim Aymar (Pharaoh, Control Denied)
Michael Kupper (Running Wild)
Algy Ward (Tank)
Sebastian Marnio (Overkill, Anvil)

New to Me/Personal Discovery
Planet P Project
The Runaway Wild
Anders Manga

Most Anticipated Albums of 2024 Deceased, October 31, The Pretty Reckless, Overlorde, Death Angel, Bloody Hammers, Unleash the Archers, Shadows Fall, Anthrax, The Runaway Wild, Savage Master, and anything Jon Schaffer related.

E f'n C

This year was, for me, mainly about metal radio stations playing retro, traditional, and power metal.

Top Hard Rock/Metal Releases
Sacred Outcry - Towers Of Gold
Frozen Crown - Call of the North
Overkill - Scorched
In Flames - Foregone
Night Demon - Outsider
Helms Deep - Treacherous Ways
Metallica - 72 Seasons
Nita Strauss - The Call of the Void
Within Temptation - Bleed Out
Blood Star - First Sighting
Burning Witches - The Dark Tower
ScreaMachine - Church of the Scream
Moonlight Sorcery - Horned Lord of the Thorned Castle

Looking Forward To New Stuff From:
Bruce Dickinson
Unleash the Archers
Crimson Shadows

Discovered/Rediscovered Bands: Crystal Pistol, Cutthroat, Danava, Defender, Heir Apparent, Hell Fire, Hitten, Jelusick, Judicator, Metalite, Place Vendome, Riot V, Stormwarrior, Vicious Rumors, Virgin Steele, Veritates

2023 had a solid list of releases but sadly no new King Diamond. Spirit Adrift and Green Lung were my favorite releases of the year. Paradise Lost did a great new take on 'Icon' and Mercenary came back from the dead. Next year is already looking promising with expected releases from Death Angel, Dismember, Grand Magus, Heathen, Helstar, Mercyful Fate (where is the new King Diamond?!), and even Trouble.

Top Picks for 2023
Cirith Ungol - Dark Parade
Enforcer - Nostalgia
Green Lung - This Heathen Land
Haunt - Golden Arm
In Flames - Foregone
Mercenary - Soundtrack to the End of Times
Metal Church - Congregation of Annihilation
Night Demon - Outsider
Obituary - Dying of Everything
Overkill - Scorched
Paradise Lost - Icon 30
Sorcerer - Reign of the Reaper
Spirit Adrift - Ghost at the Gallows
Sylosis - A Sign of Things to Come

Live Albums:
Amorphis - Queen of Time (Live at Tavastia 2021)
Children of Bodom - A Chapter Called Children of Bodom (The Final Show in Helsinki Ice Hall 2019)
Kiss - Off the Soundboard: Poughkeepsie, New York, 1984

There are always a few releases I enjoy playing but dont make my top list and this year is no different. Check out the following honorable mentions.
Alice Cooper - Road
Icarus Witch - No Devil Lived On
KKs Priest - The Sinner Rides Again
Paul Gilbert - The Dio Album
Prong - State of Emergency

Top Metal Albums of 2023
Metallica - 72 Seasons
Marduk - Memento Mori
Sanguisugabogg - Homicidal Ecstasy
Sleep Token - Take Me Back To Eden
None - Inevitable
Cannibal Corpse - Chaos Horrific
Tesseract - War Of Being
Obituary - Dying Of Everything
Overkill - Scorched
Enslaved - Heimdal

Top Metal Albums of 2023
Demoncy - Diabolica Blasphemiae
Realize - Two Human Minutes
Sanguisugabogg - Homicidal Ecstasy
Ruim - Black Royal Spiritism
Asagraum - Veil of Death, Ruptured

Rock/Metal Albums of the Year 2023
1 Metallica - 72 Seasons
2 Atreyu - The Beautiful Dark Life
3 Foo Fighters - But Here We Are
4 Devin Townsend - Lightwork
5 Beartooth - The Surface
6 Annisokay - Abyss Pt1 EP
7 Bad Omens - The Death of Peace of Mind (2022)
8 Greta Van Fleet - Starcatcher
9 Godsmack - Lighting Up the Sky
10 The Struts - Pretty Vicious
11 Of Mice & Men - Tether
12 Mammoth WVH - Mammoth II
13 Avatar - Dance Devil Dance
14 Nita Strauss - The Call of the Void
15 Extreme - Six
16 Winger - Seven
17 Fit For A King - The Hell We Create
18 Def Leppard - Drastic Symphonies
19 The Word Alive - Hard Reset
20 Asking Alexandria - Where Do We Go From Here?
21 In Flames - Foregone
22 I Prevail - True Power (2022)
23 Crown Lands - Fearless
24 Within Temptation - Bleed Out
25 Rival Sons - Dark Fighter / Lightbringer
26 Scar Symmetry - The Singularity (Phase II - Xenotaph)
27 KK's Priest - The Sinner Rides Again
28 Architects - The Classic Symptoms of a Broken Heart
29 Disturbed - Divisive
30 In This Moment - Godmode
31 Avenged Sevenfold - Life Is But a Dream
32 Filter - The Algorithm

2023 was a big year for new hard rock and metal albums. I find it difficult to make time to listen to everything as much as I would like to (not to mention wanting to revisit favorite albums or artists from past years. Still, we are fortunate to have so much to entertain us!!

Metallica - there will always be those that say things like "They lost it after Master of Puppets". I am Not one of those people. 72 Seasons is a great album even if I am not grading on a curve that they are 40 years into their career. They have the riffs, the hooks and continue to improve their songwriting. In some ways I wanted something else to be my album of the year, but this album crushed it.

Best Live Show - Alter Bridge. Myles and company are at the top of their game and are one of my favorite bands.

Discovery - Bad Omens and Annisokay. I was barely aware of these two bands before 2023 and now they eat up a large amount of my rocking time! Very different bands and I may be late the the Bad Omens bandwagon, but they are doing some really good stuff.

Best New Artist - Nita Strauss. Ok, she is not new to the metal world as Alice Cooper's sidekick for many years. But she showed she is more than a top tier shredder with some excellent songwriting along with some great guest vocalists. Albums like this are usually throwaways but this solo album was one of the best of the year.

Surprise of the Year - Extreme and Winger. I realize these 80's/90's rockers have been pretty much left for dead in terms of being Current artists. But if you are a longtime fan of these bands, or can set aside what you think you know about them and simply listen to their respective albums, you will be very glad that you did. Amazing comebacks for both bands. And Nuno is still as good as they get.

Guilty Pleasure - P!nk - Trustfall. She continues to make great albums and puts on tours that entertain the masses. I enjoyed this album a great deal.

Non-Metal Album of the Year: Needtobreathe - Caves. Great band.

One Song for 2023 - According to Spotify the song I listened to the most this year is Falling in Reverse's cover of Papa Roach "Last Resort". Really good shit.

Wish for 2024: Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson get together and record some new music or tour for R50!!!

Best Metal Albums of 2023
As has often been the case in recent years, I've found myself struggling to keep up with all of the new music being released. This was also one of those years when I've found a lot of new releases that I consider good, but not amazing. And DAMN, were there some great albums that flew under the radar! (See my list for several examples, according to me.) As usual, the resulting list is in very rough, ever-shifting order of preference, which may have already changed by the time you read this.

Best Metal Albums:
1. Enslaved: Heimdall
2. Grandma's Ashes: This Too Shall Pass
3. Super Pink Moon: Inertia
4. Mammatus: Expanding Majesty
5. Mutoid Man: Mutants
6. Megafauna: Olympico
7. Djunah: Femina Furens
8. Diehumane: The Grotesque
9. Alkaloid: Numen
10. Hawxx: Earth, Spit, Blood and Bones
11. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard: PetroDragonic Apocalypse
12. Cruachan: The Living And The Dead
13. Crypta: Shades Of Sorrow
14. Friendship Commanders: Mass
15. Benthic Realm: Vessel
16. Raven: All Hell's Breaking Loose
17. Myrkur: Spine
18. Aniyo Kore: Rekorder
19. Cadu: Psychotic Parade
20. Anthem: Crimson And Jet Black

Noteworthy EP's:
The Under: Fathom
Ptolemea: Live At Rockhal
Heavy Hands: Scopic

Best Not-So-Metal Albums:
Steven Wilson: The Harmony Codex
Kate Gentile/ International Contemporary Ensemble: biomei.i
The Keening: Little Bird
Oxbow: Love's Holiday
Anne Bakker: Vox/Viola II (Livingroom Sessions)
Ellereve: Reminiscnce
Crayola Eyes: Gushing

Great Live Shows Seen:
Messa, Maggot Heart @ Space Ballroom, Hamden, CT
Brutus, Trixie Whitley @ Gramercy Theatre, New York, NY
Moths, Sea, Lesotho, North Star The Wanderer @ Bang Space, Medford, MA
Boris, Melvins @ Paradise Rock Club, Boston
Bask, Guhts, Rougarou @ O'Brien's Pub, Allston, MA
Djunah, Rid Of Me, Leopard Print Taser @ O'Brien's Pub, Allston, MA
*And while I missed the other bands on the bill (Chrome Over Brass and Mollusk) due to a prior commitment, mention must also be made of Friendship Commanders at O'Briens in Allston, MA.

New Talent To Watch: Grandma's Ashes, HealthyLiving, Snakemother, Owlbear, They Watch Us From The Moon, Blood Star, Olathia, Lespecial. (Note: The latter has been around for some time, but has not always been known as a go-to band for quality metal. Based on their new album, however, I feel that the time has come for metalheads to start paying attention to them.)

Deaths in 2023 (from Wikipedia):
January 1 - Sebastian Marino, former guitarist of Overkill and Anvil, died from a heart attack at the age of 57.
January 9 - Justin Bartlett, artist who created album cover art for Sunn O))), Trap Them, Cadaver, and Hooded Menace, died from stage 4 colorectal cancer at the age of 45.
January 18 - TJ de Blois, former drummer of A Life Once Lost, died from undisclosed reasons.
February 14 - Tim Aymar, vocalist of Pharaoh and former vocalist of Control Denied, died from undisclosed reasons at the age of 59.
February 16 - Michael "Majk Moti" Kupper, former guitarist of Running Wild, died from undisclosed reasons at the age of 65.
March 8 - Jim Durkin, guitarist of Dark Angel, died from undisclosed reasons at the age of 58.
March 8 - Josua Madsen, drummer of Artillery, died after being hit by a bus at the age of 45.
March 22 - Wayne Swinny, guitarist of Saliva, died from a brain hemorrhage at the age of 59.
April 7 - John Regan, former bassist of Frehley's Comet, died from undisclosed reasons at the age of 71.
April 23 - John Rae, former drummer of Wykked Wytch, died from alcoholism at the age of 51.
May 1 - Jordan Blake, vocalist of A Skylit Drive, died from undisclosed reasons.
May 17 - Algy Ward, vocalist of Tank, died from undisclosed reasons at the age of 63.
May 22 - Kirk Arrington, former drummer of Metal Church, died from an unspecified illness at the age of 61.
May 23 - Mark Adams, former bassist of Saint Vitus, died from Parkinson's disease at the age of 64.
June 19 - Ryan Siew, guitarist of Polaris, died from undisclosed reasons at the age of 26.
June 23 - Lee Rauch, former drummer of Megadeth and Dark Angel, died from undisclosed reasons at the age of 58.
June 25 - Erik Ferro, drummer of T.T. Quick, died from undisclosed reasons.
July 14 - Anthony Meo, former drummer of Biohazard, died from cancer.
July 26 - James Harvey IV, former bassist of Goatwhore, died from undisclosed reasons at the age of 35.
August 5 - Claudio Lopes, bassist of Dorsal Atlantica, died from a heart attack at the age of 59.
August 9 - Brad Thomson, former guitarist of The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza, died from undisclosed reasons.
August 24 - Bernie Marsden, former guitarist of Whitesnake, died from undisclosed reasons at the age of 72.
August 24 - Sakevi Yokoyama, vocalist of G.I.S.M., died from undisclosed reasons.
September 15 - Axel Blaha, drummer of Paradox, died from undisclosed reasons at the age of 59.
September 26 - Jon Kennedy, former bassist of Cradle of Filth and former vocalist of Hecate Enthroned, died from injuries sustained in a car crash at the age of 46.
October 24 - Steve Riley, drummer of Riley's L.A. Guns and former drummer of L.A. Guns, W.A.S.P., and Keel, died from pneumonia at the age of 67.
October 29 - Hiroshi "Heath" Morie, bassist of X Japan, died from colon cancer at the age of 55.
November 13 - Dave Corsile, former bassist of Thrown into Exile and former guitarist of downset., died from a heart attack.
November 17 - Charlie Dominici, former vocalist of Dream Theater, died from undisclosed reasons at the age of 72.
December 4 - Andreas Herz, former bassist of Kreator, died from undisclosed reasons.
December 10 - Cayle Sain, drummer of Twitching Tongues and Ghostemane, died from undisclosed reasons at the age of 31.
December 26 - Jarbas "Jaba" Alves, former bassist of Ratos de Porao, died from undisclosed reasons at the age of 60.

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