TOP ALBUMS OV 2023 W/ GAGE, AARON, AND JOAQUIN STICK!
Ah, 2023—another trip ’round the Sacred Son for this toilet infernal. You know what happens now: LISTMANIA 2K23 DAY 1, my dumplings. Comb your doll hairs, whack some digits off your wish-list, and become learnéd in the year’s best LPs with Gage, Aaron, and Joaquin Stick!
3TEETH and I go way back; I initially found out about them when they opened for Tool on tour in 2016 and I immediately fell in love with their style. Their first album titled 3teeth wasn’t necessarily out of the ordinary for a debut record; however, it had a sense of depravity and nihilistic tendencies that I can only compare to something like The Downward Spiral. I could tell they had some serious potential. With every record they continued to develop their industrial style, with much better production, better writing, and of course, better musicianship.
I think this all came to a head with their 4th album they dropped this year titled EndEx. Massive production, Dummy T H I C C guitar tones (courtesy of Mick Gordon on several tracks), and some of the nastiest electronics I’ve heard on an industrial record. Thematically this record leans heavily into the hyper-consumerist, capital-driven hellscape that our world is currently en route to becoming, and the nihilistic worldview that comes along with it. It’s well written, a blast to listen to, and each track feels like a small glimpse into a bleak future accompanied by a Doom Eternal style soundtrack.
Nightmarer – Deformity Adrift
Total Dissonance Worship | Review
Relentlessly complex and enormously dense, Deformity Adrift is a ride that I was not prepared to take the first time I listened to it. 9 tracks totaling 31 minutes of run-time, all packed with meticulously crafted songwriting, this record demands multiple listening sessions to completely appreciate. 31 minutes may sound short but considering that 6 months later I’m still hearing things in songs I’ve never noticed before, I think of it as being much longer than it actually is. Deformity Adrift is one of the most unique records I’ve heard in the death metal genre, I highly recommend giving it a listen (or 5).
Note – Nightmarer has also released a re-recorded version and it sounds completely different, increasing the replay ability of this record even more!
Alright core-kids, it’s your turn at the podium. In Fear is a young band—their first release was back in 2019 and the amount of stylistic growth they’ve gone through since then is nothing short of staggering. All is. All Shall Be may be a debut record, but hot damn it doesn’t sound like one. At first, I figured they’d just be another Sleep Token hot guy with a hot voice merging trendy music with metal acts that have been blowing up recently (not that there’s anything wrong with that, just not my favorite and this is my list), but they’re something different. That to me makes them worth paying attention to.
All is. All Shall Be is a melancholic journey through the human psyche relishing the violence, pain, loneliness, and failure that befalls the modern life experience. Filled with djenty guitars, heavily reverbed drums, and immaculate vocals, this record is a joy to listen to despite its less than joyous themes.
Oh baby, is it time to drag some knuckles and bang some heads or is it just me? I’m sure you readers are familiar with CD by now, so I’ll skip the formalities on this one. Terrasite further develops the sound they explored with Death Atlas but it also amps up the energy. Thematically and stylistically the two records are very similar, however, I don’t think that formula is stale yet since nobody else is doing it like they do. Impossibly fast blast beats, constant breakdowns, and ridiculous vocals including the ever-iconic scream-clean vocal thing that Travis does. If you loved their last record and want more content of the same style, Terrasite fits the bill perfectly.
Yes, I know this record isn’t completely out as I write this (releases Dec. 7th), but as an industrial fanatic I already know this record will land squarely in my top 10 based on the singles alone. While not necessarily a metal band, there’s a special place in my heart for HEALTH. With Nine Inch Nails on indefinite Hiatus, 3TEETH and HEALTH are there to fill that void. Stylistically genre-bending as usual, they’ve cooked up a new record yet again, but this time with a bit more of a metal twinge than usual with their solo projects. Thematically the record is very LGBTQ-coded with songs like “ASHAMED”, and “UNLOVED”—if you’re also a member of that community like I am, you’re sure to relate to the writing on this project. Even if you aren’t, their beats are still catchy as ever, and this time around there’s even more distorted guitars.
Chelsea Grin is about as much of a veteran as one can be in the deathcore genre. I think many of their earlier releases were unquestionably mid, however, since the addition of Tom Barber as their new vocalist, the band has been totally revitalized. The first half of this double LP Suffer in Hell was released last year, and the band has been completely transformed. I cannot overstate how much more energized both halves of this double LP feel compared to their previous projects. The drums are faster and more precise, the guitars are tighter and have a better tone, and the vocals are truly world class, some of the best I’ve ever heard from any band. Thematically this record and its older sibling are nothing special, but the musicianship alone makes them ones that I just keep coming back to. Chelsea Grin is back, and hopefully this time, they’re here to stay.
Let’s face it, Code Orange practically just released a butt-rock album, that style we loved them for is dead… Pack it up everyone…
But not really—Jesus Piece just does it now and arguably does it better. That’s a tall order for a band that had only previously released a mostly unremarkable album and an EP, but I think they did it. I wouldn’t say it’s a copycat record, but it does have a lot in common with the first two Code Orange records with a personal twist that revitalizes that formula. The drums lay down a heavy groove keeping everything tightly on track, sludgy guitars are layered on top frantically jumping across the fretboard and hitting harmonics, and the vocals hit with the weight of a 10 ton semi-truck rolling down the interstate. It’s a low and slow bruiser of a record relentlessly steamrolling whoever dares to listen.
A b s o l u t e groove monster. A Sign of Things to Come is a triumphant return for Sylosis. For those unfamiliar, this band was founded and is still fronted by Josh Middleton who is known by many for his time in Architects. Unlike Architects, Sylosis has more in common with groove metal than metalcore and that really shows itself with this record. Classic 4-on-the-floor beats with wild double-tracked guitars layered on top, everything about this record just feels huge and loud. Not bad loud like Death Magnetic, but the kind of loud that just makes you hit the stank face and start stomping. I wouldn’t say this record is anything we haven’t heard before, but they do it with such polish that its effectiveness is hard to deny. A Sign of Things to Come provides a highly engaging and energetic listening experience that kept me moving for the entire duration.
This record may be a debut, but looking at the band roster casts away any fear of the band’s potential inexperience. The Grotesque is a highly ambitious project, described by the band as “Combining elements of doom metal, jazz, industrial, blues, and prog. Imagine if Celtic Frost got into a car crash with A Perfect Circle, Nine Inch Nails, and Type O Negative while listening to Pink Floyd on the radio”. Made up mostly of ex-Exodus and Type O Negative members, they have been doing what they do for a very long time, and it shows. Stylistically this record is all over the place, like a grab bag of genres that somehow all mesh together perfectly into a cohesive unit. This one makes my list with the sheer scope of it alone, but as a bonus, the music kicks ass.
This record fucks. WARGASM comes from the UK, made up by a couple of crazy bastards obsessed with making party metal rage anthems (think Limp Bizkit and Andrew W.K vibes-wise) and this record is a great example. It feels like something that would have been played alongside Get Low in the NFS Underground soundtrack back in ’03, constant energy with insane manic vocals and the perfect mix of electronics. Thematically this record depicts some kind of kinky murder orgy with miniguns, knives, blood, copious amounts of substances, and doomed sexual encounters; sounds like a party to me. That carries through the entire record to the last, very uncharacteristic track “Sombre Goodbye”. This is promptly interrupted halfway through with very characteristic screaming.
2023 was the year I started writing for Toilet ov Hell, and while my output began slow as I found my footing—and voice—as a contributor, it’s been a massive boon to both my writing and my music listening experience. Starting with Toilet ov Hell midway through the year, I probably don’t have as comprehensive a list—especially metal-wise—as a lot of other writers for the site. That being said, I hope some of you discover some class records from this year through my list.
Anti-God Hand – Blight Year
American Dreams Records | Review
An album that’s unique in how it merges traditional cosmic black metal sounds in a record that’s ultimately grounded, intimate and emotive, Blight Year was one of the biggest surprises of the year for me.
While black metal typically evokes Scandanavian-flavoured coldness, Will Ballantyne drew inspiration from his experiences of working in the British Columbian bush during the sweltering 2021 summer heat wave. Ballantyne recalls “A town I sometimes worked in burned to the ground.” Emerging from the situation financially and personally effected, the blistering sounds of the record have an explicit political and philosophical grounding. Here, the sound of black metal is shaped by the sounds of corrupt industry, of human folly, and man’s failed transcendence. A cathartic and essential metal record for modern times.
Memorrhage – S/T
Big Money Cybergrind | Review
More than a reified love-letter to the past, the self-titled Memorrhage debut is instead a very modern record that links nu-metal to cybergrind, drum and bass, hyperpop and beyond.
For as hateful and chaotic sounding as it is, frontman Garry Brents manages to deftly bring together the melodic sensibilities teased by his work in Cara Neir and Gonemage to create one of the most effortless, cohesive albums of the year. By looking to the past, Garry Brents makes a record for the the future.
Continuing from their 2020 debut, SPARKLE DIVISION further iterates on their blend of glitchy, guitar-driven jazz paired with frenetic electronic beats. Courtesy of famed tape destructor William Basinski and longtime collaborator Preston Wendel, FOXY manages to evoke the sense of total annihilationism and loss of self present in Basinski’s best records. Catchy, mental, and tinged with melancholy.
That God Fahim/Oh No – Beserko
2023 was an incredibly busy year for Tha God Fahim, even by his profilic standards. Though Notorious Dump Legends: Volume 2—his record with longterm collaborator Mach-Hommy—was the breakout record from his material this year, it’s his new collaboration with Oh No on Beserko that really stole my attention.
“Cobbler” is the biggest highlight, sporting one of the best instrumentals of the year alongside a deadly feature from Your Old Droog. Its pacing and delivery is haunting in a way not a lot of hip hop was this year: minimal boom bap appearing transient next to modern production, like an album caught between times.
Electric, transformative ghettotech and footwork, easily the catchiest record of the year. If Nondi_’s Flood City Trax was an album approaching transcendence, DÉTWAT is 12 tracks of scorchingly-rendered human minutiae.
Tightly syncopated beats paired with microscopic lyrical portraiture—just fucking packed to the gills with vocal loops and heavy breathing that turn into sexual mantras, nocturnal ruminations. Nothing was a bigger earworm this year than opening track “Nu Munni”. Undeniable record.
Divide And Dissolve – Systemic
Invada Records | Review
A refinement of Divide And Dissolve’s half-decade of intense, liberatory doom metal paired with brass instrumentation. More urgent sounding than their earlier material, Systemic feels more essential by the day.
An incredibly dynamic record, its use of enveloping saxophone bookending movements of relatively thinly-produced riffing give the record an uneasy, restless atmosphere. For what is nominally a doom record, Systemic feels like an urgent record for 2023.
Perhaps THE breakout release of the underground in 2023, Knocknarea is a record that for all its laudation as a high-concept, inventive record, evokes to me the spirit of folk music rather than any of their Windmill contemporaries they receive comparison to.
There’s a familiarity in the music; not in its composition, really, but how it portrays this atmosphere of juxtaposed malaise and triumph, evoking a displaced style folk music for a non-specific proletariat. A record of immense brass instrumentation cutting through sparse soundscapes. One of the most enrapturing of the year.
6 years removed from Taipei-based producer Tsuzing’s debut full-length, Green Hat sees a return to his deconstruction of industrial techno, house and EBM, alongside some of the best sampling I’ve heard all year. Inspired primarily by “China’s complicated history of patriarchal heteronormativity”, its title relates to a Tang dynasty story of infidelity; Green Hat acts as an exploration of various political and social topics.
This is music driven by “aesthetic anxiety and thematic intensity” that seems to quiver and grunt with each insecure, skittish backbeat; the sounds of sharp breathing, machine-gun fire and disjointed breakbeats bleeding into one another. It articulates the sound of a record that feels truly alive.
Nondi_ – Flood City Trax
Planet Mu Records
Footwork that’s elegiac and serene; stop-start rhythms grounding melodies that lift you out of your seat. Chicago juke attempting to consort with the divine. An album that pairs industrial imagery and day-to-day living with something really transcendent. It’s that rare record that feels measured and composed while also feeling totally spontaneous.
Despite not loving Flood City Trax initially, few other records this year have had the scope it does. Even when its reach exceeds its grasp, even when it falters it does so admirably. One of my most spun records of the year.
I’ve heard Gentle Confrontation described semi-jokingly as an “emo IDM” record, but to me it exists in the same continuity as Dawada’s nocturnal R&B or the more recent, ethereal work from Burial—an amalgamation of broad influences deftly woven into subtle, soulful, and densely-textured instrumentation.
A record influenced by Lorraine James’ experiences as a teenager, it’s an album that’s simultaneously full of upbeat, youthful energy and a subtle malaise. An album evoking that dourness born of stroppy posturing, an attitude of angst and insecurity, a self-aware middle-finger. My favourite record of the year.
I almost never give a preamble to my list, but I wanted to explain my brevity this year. I was dealing with a sick cat (he’s cool now) right as the deadline hit, so I had to rush a bit. Here are some stream-of-consciousness thoughts on a few favorites from the 329 releases I have listened to this year (so far).
Let’s get things started with some progressive blackened death. A little something for everyone. There are probably 10 Transcending Obscurity releases this year that would make my top 30, but this one stood out enough to be counted here. It has soaring melodies, cathartic climaxes, and neverending energy.
I can’t really say I was a big Ahab guy before this record, and I remember making fun of the first single I heard off this one, but I took a chance on it, and DAMN does that weirdness work in context. The bizarre, clean crooning over sparse instrumentals creates this grandiose space that feels like nothing I’ve heard before. Pair that with some beefy doom, and you’ve got something cooking.
By god, they did it again. Following 2019’s Mercy, I wasn’t really expecting them to be able to strike gold a second time, but they did. They conjure up this fuzzy/synthy doom packed full of emotion paired with simple but effective vocal melodies that hook me so well. Slow things can rarely keep my attention for too long, but Flesh have some mystical power over me.
Pupil Slicer – Blossom
Prosthetic | Bump ‘n Grind
Here starts the required post-hardcore block in my top 10 list. There’s always at least two. I’m a big sucker for mixed vocals (excluding good cop bad cop metalcore), so the first and last tracks on Blossom basically made the list on their own accord. Seriously, listen to the closer. It’s good that the rest of the album has that slick vitriol I need from this genre, with excellent guitar and drumming, especially on the slower post-rock interludes.
It seemed reasonable to think that the post-hardcore crossed with melodic gazy black guitar work would lack the ability to transform over time, but The Weight of the Mask feels fresh and inspired. Svalbard remains enraged by this stupid planet, which is plentifully apparent in their infectious aggression. The clean vocals come in like a salve at just the right times, and as always, the guitar work is unparalleled in the genre.
If you only listen to little samples of this one, it may come off as just some meat and potatoes modern death metal. There’s this subtle little progressiveness beneath the surface that I can’t quite pinpoint that makes this exceptional. NeO’s drummer might be helping a little, but I think it’s the magic they came across when they slowed things down a bit. That and the 17-minute epic closer is just breathtaking. I’ll take a whole album of that stuff, please.
Tomb Mold – The Enduring Spirit
20 Buck Spin | Interview
This one will be on a million lists, so I’ll let more competent people describe why it’s good. For me, Mold has always been one of those bands that I admired from a distance. If someone asked me for a top-of-the-line modern death album, I’d point them to the Tomb. However, that’s not really my bag. This album is weird, and I like weird! Nice job roping me in, fellas.
Every time Haken starts dropping singles for an album, I always think it’s going to be the one that FINALLY lets me drop my prog nerd beginnings and move on. I gave it a few spins anyway, and of course, I was hooked. So many silly earworms, great vocal hooks, and pure uniqueness. No one does it like them.
Lunar Chamber – Shambhallic Vibrations
20 Buck Spin | Review
This one came out of nowhere early this year and blew me away. There’s an incredible amount of variety jammed in this tight 30 minutes with unbelievable density, and yet so many parts are catchy and memorable. I absolutely cannot wait to see what they do next. This band has songwriting chemistry that feels like a powder keg.
High-intensity prog death with riffs that shift enigmatically and unusual vocal delivery? That’s my jam, baby. Like Parius last year, TWiQH had a vision with this one, and they communicated it perfectly. It flows so well, feels complete, and wastes no time at all. TBH I haven’t really dug into the lyrics all that much yet, but the concept seems rad also. It’s one of those things that either works for you and is perfect, or you’re just not on the same page at all.