January is in the books, and if the quality of the new music we heard is any indication then 2023 is gonna be a great time. Join the Noob Heavy staff as we recap some of our favorite jams from Act I of the new year.
In case you missed one, here are links to each of our articles for January releases:
Now on to our other faves!
Nothingness – Supraliminal
Death metal from Minnesota, US
About halfway through my first go with Supraliminal I tweeted that listening to it is like being chainsaw murdered, and I stand by that 100%. It’s an apt description but if anything it undersells the quality of what Nothingness has done here. This is monstrous and ugly death metal, dissonant as all hell, and yet the riffs are relentlessly catchy and groove hard. It’s a punishing listen but an addictive one, with brutality to spare, crushingly heavy production, and an unbelievably high number of off-kilter licks that somehow make you want to headbang even harder than the more straightforward ones. Compare them to Gorguts, Replicant, Ulcerate, whoever you want, but this is the kind of record that puts them squarely amongst the best new acts in the style, especially when it comes to dissonant death that appeals just as much to fans of caveman shit. Feels like we’ve had enough grade-A death metal in January to last a whole year, and if you ask me Supraliminal is the finest of the bunch.
Dryad – The Abyssal Plain
Crusty black metal from Iowa, US
This is an absolutely disgusting album to surprise out of nowhere this early in the year, especially for a debut record. Hailing from Iowa, Dryad channel that gnarly drudgery of the empty midwest to make some hateful fucking black metal, full of rage and dirt. Frontwoman Claw‘s barks are inhuman, carrying the potency of dark magic and evil trees. There’s even room for a beautifully spooky ambient interlude halfway through that lulls you into the hazy calm of a horror film like The Evil Dead. The production is stellar, giving full range and depth to the sonic assault of death metal groove and black metal evil. Clocking in at just over half an hour long, The Abyssal Plain never relents as it chases you through the woods and hunts you down for ritual sacrifice.
PsyOp – Permanent Underclass
Hardcore from Washington, D.C., US
What better way to start off 2023 than with a nasty little 10 minute EP from some good old fashioned hardcore punks? PsyOp are based in DC, and Permanent Underclass is their second release, following 2021’s Howl From the Void. This may seem like a lot of “straight to the point” information, and there is a very specific reason for that, it matches the music in this EP. These guys are straight up hardcore punks, and there is no fat or bullshit present on this release. It has something to say, and its going to fucking scream it into your face. If what is written about vocalist Daniel K. is true, they’re going to say it at expense to their own bodies too, with their politically charged shows incorporating glass, whips, paint, and even staple guns. The EP whips and then it’s gone, so lets support these folks and get a fucking full length sooner rather than later.
Underneath – Nothing Here is Held Sacred
Metallic hardcore from Pennsylvania, US
Pittsburgh trio Underneath have knocked it out the park with their debut EP here. Their sound might not be a huge divergence from a lot of the super punchy, death-tinged metallic hardcore that’s all over the place at the moment, but they are nailing all the essentials and they do have enough of their own thing going on to avoid disappearing beneath the tide of Knocked Loose knock-offs. The riffs go as hard as you like and the not so secret weapon is definitely vocalist Joey Phillips who often has that kind of deranged breathlessness the guy from 156/Silence does so well but with even more of a death metal fury which matches these elements of the band’s sound even better. A 22-minute runtime offers good bang for your buck for an EP, and the highlight is surely “Those That Cheweth Not the Cud” if you’re looking for a quick taster of whether or not this is something you should check out (you should).
Imperium Dekadenz – Into Sorrow Evermore
Atmospheric black metal from Germany
Released on the same day as the Katatonia album and by the same label, I felt as though these two acts were conspiring against me to break my heart and give me way more feelings than I was able to deal with on a Friday night. Like Katatonia, Imperium Dekadenz has a flawless discography, and though this one didn’t quite defeat my previous favorite (When We Are Forgotten) it sure as hell came close. Very similar to Katatonia‘s record, there was a frequent use of space imagery to convey meaningless in our massive universe and how heartbreak feeling like the end of the world is so insignificant in the grand scheme of things. “Aurora” in particular sent shivers down my spine as sorrow-filled, angsty vocals cried out atop the guitar riffs that wouldn’t sound out of place in the middle of heartbreaking sci-fi film’s scene, including pauses to breathe with melancholy piano and strings. Fear not, there’s plenty of headbanging black metal on this thing, with “Awakened Beyond Dreams” being particularly heavy, but there’s also moments to simply sit, self-reflect on your own life, and allow the music to guide you to a place where there is nothing but the stars to listen.
– Espi Kvlt
Anachronism – Meanders
Avant-garde technical death metal from Switzerland
Another round of kickass dissonant death? Don’t mind if I do! Meanders really is remarkable: crisp and tight in both songwriting and performances, recorded at home but sounding like a million bucks, and full to overflowing with a oddball riffs that run the gamut from spidery madness to shuddering earth-shaking chunk. Even now I can’t believe that they self-recorded; the production reminds me of Ad Nauseam’s Imperative Imperceptible Impulse, meaning it’s so clear and real that you feel like they’re playing in the room with you. The magic of Meanders, though, lies in the songwriting itself, because it’s extremely rare that a band can do this many strange things on one record and keep it together without the whole feeling more ambitious than cohesive, and yet here Anachronism is pulling it off deftly. Forget holding it together; every passage flows into the next organically with an unbelievably natural ease even when it seems impossible, like water in a stream slips around a boulder. You have to hear it to understand, so if you haven’t then fix that!
Twilight Force – At the Heart of Wintervale
Symphonic power metal from Sweden
Four albums in and Twilight Force have very much carved out their identity within the broader power metal scene. They love dragons, Rhapsody of Fire, and unironic embracement of silliness. This album is packed to the brim with all the tropes you’d expect: riffs galore, harmonic choruses, keyboards, spoken word sections, Twilight Force-universe-lore, killer leads, fast songs and emotive slow sections. It’s a power metal album, and it’s extremely earnest and made from a place of obvious passion. It’s a delight to listen to and just fly high on wings of scale.
A Rising Chapter – I N A N I M A T E
Deathcore from Germany
It’s no secret or surprise that your boy loves deathcore. Maybe that’s not a popular opinion, maybe it is. It’s genuinely hard to get a firm grasp on where people stand on the ol’ -cores but this particular boy fucking loves them and A Rising Chapter are absolutely on my list of bands to watch. I N A N I M A T E fucking rules and gives me all the blasts and intensity that I want in an album like this, adding to that the catchy riffs and even a fucking excellent violin intro to the second song. I’ve described albums like this as the “popcorn movies” of metal, and I stand by that but also reiterate that it is not a criticism. I appreciate the bombastic nature of deathcore and A Rising Chapter are absolutely bringing me all the tasty kernels that I want. Check it out.
Scalp – Black Tar
Deathgrind/powerviolence from California, US
Scalp have somehow come back even nastier than they were on their killer debut LP Domestic Extremity with eight tracks of razor-focused hatred. Wrestling with themes of trauma, addiction, loss, and religion, the West Coast five-piece have whipped up a sadistic concoction of blackened, deathy, sludgy grind with a mix that makes it feels like you’re trying to drink the viscous substance from which this record takes its name. It’s literally only 12 minutes long as well, which is even better as it makes it so easy to keep coming back for more, which you will definitely want to do.
Katatonia – Sky Void of Stars
Doom/depressive metal from Sweden
It’s always a surprise when a band releases an album and knocks your previous long-standing favorite out of its place, but that’s exactly what Katatonia has done here with Sky Void of Stars, finally bumping The Great Cold Distance from my #1 spot. I just recently saw them in concert, and hearing “In the White” live was incredible, but honestly, I’m pretty bummed I didn’t get to hear every single song on this album played live. It has some classic Katatonia sounds interlaced with some of the most heartbreaking tracks I’ve ever heard. “Drab Moon” is a spacey love song with sexy background synths and gorgeous lyrics like “you shake my blood like a raging sea”. But then “Impermanence” comes on, and no joke, it made me cry. Somber melodies play out as Jonas screams out “we can’t live forever” and “we’ll live to see the essence die”. Katatonia always makes me feel very deeply and moves me quite a bit, but this song left me reflecting my purpose in the universe and gave me an existential crisis, which is not something that happens with music as much as with sci-fi movies. Overall, this is a flawless effort from a band that has all bangers, zero letdowns. It’s incredible that they’re still able to top their 10/10s with an even stronger 10/10 album. The day they release a dud will be a sign of the end times.
– Espi Kvlt
Firienholt – White Frost and Elder Blood
Epic black metal/dungeon synth from the UK
Okay, fine, I’ll wrap this up with something other than death metal. Let’s hit the other end of the spectrum: epic black metal with dungeon synth influences, aka Summoning-core. Firienholt is a new band to me, despite this being their second LP and fifth release overall, but even without hearing their previous records I can tell they belong in the same breath as Caladan Brood and the legends Summoning, obviously stylistically but also in terms of quality. The vibes here are immaculate: icy tremolos and screams, stately synth, folky melodies both vocal and instrumental, and an overarching feeling of grand heroism and epic fantasy. There’s an extraordinary balance of musical elements on display and the writing is actually quite tight despite what the length of the tracks (four tracks across 45 minutes) might imply. As soon as it finished I found myself ready to give White Frost and Elder Blood another go, and subsequent listens have been just as rewarding. If you’re looking for something to scratch that Summoning itch then I highly recommend it.