After getting spoiled in 2022 with a swath of new magnificent albums, I found myself needing to put more thought into what pieces marked the highlights of 2023 in metal. That said, there were still some extremely powerful pieces released, most of which I’ve already had the pleasure of reviewing in more detail. In order (with my favorite last), my top 5 are as follows.
- “Ýdalir” by Skálmöld
Skálmöld was a new discovery for me this year, and I particularly enjoyed reviewing their latest album. The album is inspired by is inspired by Icelandic folklore and Norse mythology, with the name – “Ýdalir” – taken from the Poetic Edda, a book of Norse poetry. The thing I love about “Ýdalir” is the depth of nuance and meaning that’s baked into it: While you can certainly enjoy the surface level aesthetic and sound of it, digging deeper you can find as much lore to explore as you like. For example, the song structure and form of the album itself resembles Norse alliterative verse, and each track contains a narrative featuring characters from the Poetic Edda.
- “1977” by Sirenia
I was surprised by how much I loved Sirenia’s “1977,” with its eclectic mix of novel synthwave tropes intermingled with the classic gothic symphonic style that the band is known for. Highlights include the Tanika Tikaram cover, “Twist in My Sobriety,” and “Nomadic,” where I can definitely hear some Sabaton influence.
- “Downfall” by Ad Infinitum
Ad Infinitum is a recent swiss symphonic metal band recently produced a killer album called “Downfall” whose sound can be described as “Sirenia meets Amaranthe” – and I mean that in the best possible way. The shocking, yet still musically coherent modulations are unparalleled – especially in my favourite track, “From the Ashes.” With its soaring melodies driven by a rich, groovy instrumental texture, many tracks from “Downfall” will stay on my daily playlists for awhile.
- “Necromanteum” by Carnifex
I’ve already sung the praises of Necromanteum back when it was released, and two months later it’s still just as fresh. This album is jam packed with rich colour and heavy deathcore riffs, all driven by the classic Carnifex tornado of emotion – emotion particularly potent in Crowned in Everblack, a tribute to the recently passed Trevor Strnad. It’s some of Carnifex’s most symphonic work yet, as well as some of their most blackened on the blackened deathcore spectrum.
- “The Poetic Edda” by Synestia
While I wouldn’t call myself a Norse poetry enthusiast, the same piece of Nordic literature makes a second appearance on my yearlist via upcoming symphonic death metal band Synestia. Synestia’s debut album actually made it onto my 2022 yearlist, and they’re back again this year with an EP called “The Poetic Edda”. While the whole EP has yet to be released, the two songs that are already out (The Poetic Edda, and I, Devourer) deserve about 10x the attention they’ve received and are more than enough to put “The Poetic Edda” on my yearlist. The Poetic Edda was produced in collaboration with Disembodied Tyrant and Ben Deurr from Shadow of Intent, the latter of which I can definitely hear inspiration from across all of Synestia’s work. Much like Synestia’s 2022 album, “Scarlet Moon,” the two tracks on “The Poetic Edda” are highly technical and rich in both symphonic texture as well as filthy gutturals. But the production on these works is sharper and the contrast between symphony and death metal more striking – I, Devourer in particular, is a shockingly beautiful piece of metal, where every note seems to meaningfully contribute to its message. We anticipate two more songs on this EP, called Death Empress and Winter, and I can’t wait to hear them in 2024.