We’ve had some great music so far in 2023, but March really took the cake. Bangers abounded, and so we’ve rounded up some of our favorites for you to peruse.
In case you missed one, here are quick links to each of our reviews for March releases:
Majesties – Vast Reaches Unclaimed
Transgressive – Extreme Transgression
Zulu – A New Tomorrow
Gorod – The Orb
Bastard Grave – Vortex of Disgust
Choir – Songs for a Tarnished World
Úlfúð – Of Existential Distortion
Ephedra – Valley of the Shepherd
Maze of Sothoth – Extirpated Light
Spectral Lore – 11 Days
TH Speedball – I’m Destined for Greatness but My Brain is on Fire
Dawn Ray’d – To Know the Light
Shores of Null – The Loss of Beauty
Allfather – A Violent Truth
Kommand – Death Age
Now on to those faves!
Carrion – Morbid Nailgun Necropsy
Death metal from Belgium
On the surface, you could be forgiven for thinking that with that cover art, and song titles like “Genetic Alteration”, that Carrion would be another band in a long line of Cannibal Corpse/brutal death metal “over-the-top violence as point” clone slop – but that would miss something incredible underneath. The violence and gore is there, but they remember to have fun with it and keep it entertaining in a narrative sense, more than for sensory shock through gross-out. Carrion‘s sound is much more European classic death metal, with a 90’s vibe that feels authentic and connected to the genre’s roots, and to me they perfectly nail a delivery of everything I love about Polish legends Vader, only younger and full of vigor, to the point that vocalist Sven even sounds like Peter Wiwczarek. This is a punishing and catchy record, with standout tracks like the aforementioned groovy “Genetic Alteration” and the riff-tastic “Cofagrigus” (a song I must assume was named after the Pokemon), and that combined makes this my favourite death metal album of the year so far.
Hellish Form – Deathless
Funeral doom from the US
Remains, the 2021 debut from this two-person project, was a devastating affair that stuck with me for a long while after that first listen was over. This new effort brings the raw emotion and crushing heaviness again, but what’s surprising is that Deathless also has so many moments that feel remarkably empowering and uplifting. The opening title track trudges forward with weariness but also with hope, as Willow Ryan (also of Body Void) uses their signature harrowing sludgey screams to deliver lines like “You kill and hurt / Because you can’t control / You can take my life / But I am Deathless”. The album makes tremendous use of synths, including some particularly glorious sunset-colored cascades in closer “Pink Tears”, and there are a plethora of moving melodic lines in those guitars. Those periodic throaty growls from Jacob Lee are just the icing on a tremendously rich and layered cake.
Håndgemeng – Ultraritual
Sludge metal/stoner rock from Norway
What do you get when you take four former punks and hardcore guys out of Oslo and start a stoner rock band? You get some of the heaviest, sludgiest riffs this side of the equator. These aren’t your fast surf rock style riffs or your heavy doom metal riffs; these are sludgecore riffs that that will take your trip to places you hadn’t thought possible. Håndgemeng are here to flip the stoner rock genre on its head by melding the smooth harmonies we all know and love with their hardcore influences. But please take my advice and put on some headgear before you press play, because this is one ride that doesn’t slow down once it starts.
Transgressive – Extreme Transgression
Thrash metal from the US
We’ve already got a full review up for this album, but I could not not highlight one of the genuinely best thrash records I’ve heard in years. Alicia Cordisco is phenomenal songwriter and musician, there is zero room for argument, having over a decade of experience crafting incredible music across a number of bands, it coalesces and delivers here. The riffs are gnarly, the songs are catchy, Alicia‘s vocals sound perfectly crunchy and tonally satisfying. And the rage is genuine, this is thrash metal that is properly angry and transgressive, full of vitriol and burning need to burn everything down to make it all better. Personal standout track goes to “We Protect Us”, not only for it’s ode to trans comradery, but the guest vox from Lux Edwards combined with the songwriting that sounds like Kalmah in the best way possible. I can’t say much more that our full review hasn’t said already, but this ode to thrash and trans life is one of the best you’ll hear.
Meg Myers – TZIA
Alternative rock/pop from California, US
I could not resist an opportunity to talk about one of my favorite musicians in the world. Even though she’s not really “metal,” it can be argued that she dabbles in the genre if you’ve ever heard her songs like “Go” where she gives a horrifying, black metal-esque scream. Ever since I heard “Desire” from her second LP, Sorry, I have been Meg Myers obsessed. Once again, she does not disappoint, with another dreamy album that covers both personal heartache and the death of the world around us. Not afraid to touch subjects like sexual assault with an amazing beat on songs like “HTIS,” Meg has once again managed to release an album full of songs that somehow manage to make me both extremely emotional and ready to dance. The most surprising thing on the album was actually her cover of “Numb.” When I saw the title I didn’t think it was THAT “Numb,” but it absolutely was. If you’re looking for an album that will touch you lyrically while also featuring fun instrumentation that you can sad dance to, this is the album for you.
– Espi Kvlt
Vitriolic Sage – 梦路
Black metal from China
At the beginning of the year I reviewed the stellar debut from one man Chinese black metal/mathcore band Hoplites. The mastermind behind that project, JL, also heads this one man band Vitriolic Sage. This is a disgustingly good record, drawing from a range of black metal influences, both classic and modern, blending melody, aggression, atmosphere, sonic violence, and genuine emotiveness, balancing everything around his superb sense of musical craftsmanship and stellar production skills. This record is not replete with -core influences like Hoplites is, yet still retains a sense of heaviness and appreciation for the bottom end that sometimes gets left out of black metal. Opener “梦祭” is the perfect beginning to the album, nine minutes of exploratory blackened vibes and unmatched hatred that comes across with full sonic fury. If you enjoyed that Hoplites record you owe it to yourself to give this a listen, it will devastate you.
The HIRS Collective – We’re Still Here
Grindcore/chaotic hardcore from Pennsylvania, US
The fact that The HIRS Collective “exist to fight for, defend, and celebrate the survival of trans, queer, poc, black, women and any and all other folks who have to constantly face violence, marginalization, and oppression” should be reason enough to champion them here at Noob Heavy, but the fact that they rip so fucking hard is just an added bonus. A bit like recent releases from Algiers and Zulu, although arguably even more so, and not at all on a sonic level, We’re Still Here is another truly collaborative effort that really captures the actual spirit of collaboration wherein no one guest or moment derails or detracts from the overall focus and thrust of the record. From the relentless mathgrind of “Waste Not Want Not” (feat. Soul Glo and Escuela Grind), to the predictably harrowing team-up with The Body and Lora Mathis on “You Are Not Alone”, to the trap-inflected “Judgement Night” (feat. Ghösh and Jessica Joy Mills), this album is violently unpredictable and constantly enrapturing and it makes for essential listening on multiple levels.
Xiu Xiu – Ignore Grief
Darkwave/drone/experimental/indie rock/industrial from California, US
How does one describe something that, by its very nature, defies description? This album is a smorgasbord of sounds and influences that—on their own—shouldn’t work together, yet here we are. Not so much the soundtrack to the most terrifying nightmare you’ve ever had but more like the score to that dream you keep having but of which you can never remember the details, forever fuzzy and in the back of your mind. Simultaneously haunting and engaging, one listen will not be enough. This is the kind of album that requires a deep dive, multiple listening sessions, and your deepest concentration to fully unlock its hidden treasures.
Allfather – A Violent Truth
Sludge/groove metal from the UK
I want to like sludge – in theory it should be something I’m very into, combining doom and hardcore, blending it up and pouring the resulting mass all over the stage. In practice, the specific ways sludge is combined don’t quite speak to me, but Allfather is different. It’s groovy and gnarly as fuck, heavy and perfectly nails the blend for me such that I really want to drown myself in the soup of decay that bubbles and gurgles on A Violent Truth. Allfather don’t meander aimlessly, they keep a steady foot on the pedal and pummel you down over the course of a scant 27 minutes that demands repeat listens. This is everything I’ve ever wanted out of a sludge LP, it’s vicious as hell and I can’t stop listening to this record, Kep’s full review absolutely nails it – this record is infectious.
Judiciary – Flesh + Blood
Metallic Hardcore from Texas, US
Even with so much quality in the scene at the moment, you don’t often hear a metallic hardcore record that feels quite as ‘big’ as Flesh + Blood. Essentially by going for something a bit more metal than their already killer 2019 debut full-length Surface Noise, Judiciary have delivered an absolute juggernaut here. Helped of course by the ineffable production of Arthur Rizk (Power Trip, Pest Control) and Will Putney (pretty much everyone else) on mixing and mastering, this album has such a crisp, muscular sound, with riffs that could make Gojira jealous and ripping leads and solos in just about every track. Still a hardcore band at heart though, the Texans stick to a tight 31-minute runtime, with an abundance of breakdowns and just a general urgency ensuring that this one will satisfy the ’core kids just as much as the metalheads. Basically, imagine if Nightmare Logic grooved way harder…
Necropanther – Betrayal
Death/thrash metal from the US
Thrash metal has broadly had a bit of a winding down in recent years as the explosion of new thrash bands balances out to whoever can keep up a sustained output – Necropanther demonstrate strongly that thrash is still alive and out to kill you. Betrayal is a killer record that brings a varied approach to the death/thrash formula by incorporating melodic death metal elements, which blend together to create a super heavy and engaging experience that careens wildly between 80s thrash (“One and Only”), Black Dahlia Murder worship (“Breathe Evil”), and modern death metal (“Out to the Sand”), and it’s all the better for its range.
Slain Thought – Acedia
If the last EP from Slain Thought, A Failed Exorcism, didn’t blow you away, this one will absolutely and completely warp your mind. The blend of doom, drone, industrial, noise, and post-metal comes together so organically that you’ll find yourself wondering why no one has ever combined these styles together before. “Tell Me Why the Flowers Died” sounds like the score to the most terrifying horror movie ever made. “25th Lucid Hour of Begging” is total SUNN O))) worship but somehow darker. And “Acedia (The Joyless Heart)” is just pure paranoid anguish. Jason has taken experimentation to a whole new level, creating three brilliant songs that drip with depth and texture.
Metasphæra – Metasphæra
Technical/progressive death metal from Germany
Metasphæra‘s debut album is a mind bogglingly grandiose epic that embodies the personal and the cinematic ends of the subgenre, capable of over the top compositional work, and expressive, and contemplative, elements alike. “Fall” opens the album with an almost orchestral soundtrack experience before diving headlong into the soaring “Exil.” There is a sense of cosmic scale to the albums height, truly ascending into the unreachable vast beyond. Composition and arrangement is all handled by Tom Heckmann, who cleanly maintains a specific vision and executes it masterfully. Metasphæra are top of their class instrumentalists built around this vision and it’s a rich listening experience that I constantly find something new in each time I revisit it. This is a project to keep an eye on.