30 best albums of 2023 | Revolver

30 best albums of 2023

Sleep Token, A7X, Better Lovers and more
sleep token 2023 live PROMO adamross williams, Adamross Williams
photograph by Adamross Williams

This year was packed with albums that challenge the very idea of what constitutes heavy music.

See: Sleep Token's singular pop-metal fusion and the Callous Daoboys' double-take mathcore madness; HEALTH's industrial-goth experiments and Scowl's hardcore/alt-rock juxtapositions; Avenged Sevenfold's pyschedelic exploration and Code Orange's uncanny world-blurring; Kim Dracula's... well, we don't even know what to call their music.

But alongside these genre-busting iconoclasts, 2023 also yielded a fresh crop of albums from true-blue traditionalists — thrash (Metallica), hardcore (Drain), death metal (Dying Fetus), metalcore (Dying Wish), etc. — that each reinvigorated time-honored sounds.

Altogether, heavy music's identity in 2023 was more pluralistic than ever. Below, are the 30 best albums (and EPs) of what will surely go down as a landmark year in headbanging history.

30. Ghost - Phantomime

Tobias Forge's occult-rock phenomenon has always excelled when it comes to reimagining other artists' songs, and their latest covers EP, the cleverly titled Phantomime, lived up to that legacy and added to it.

On the five-track mini-album, Papa and the Ghouls hail wide-ranging influences, putting their gleefully satanic spin on classic cuts by everyone from Iron Maiden and the Stranglers to Genesis and the late, great Tina Turner, who passed shortly after the EP's release. Ghost's reverent rendition of her "We Don't Need Another Hero" serves as a bittersweet, if unintended, epitaph.

29. Kim Dracula - A Gradual Decline in Morale

"Genre-defying" has become an overused buzzword in recent years, but Kim Dracula truly embodies that boundary-less spirit. On their head-spinning debut, the viral TikTok artist collects nearly every iteration of heavy music — from extreme metal to nu-metal to trap-metal — and chucks it in a blender with every type of non-metal music conceivable.

Case in point: The Cradle of Filth-ian intro slams into a Chili Peppers-indebted funk jam that ultimately folds into a metalcore breakdown, a Tech 9ne-inspired rap tantrum and a chorus that rivals Linkin Park — all in the first fucking song. The rest of the album? Somehow even more batshit.

28. Periphery - Periphery V: Djent Is Not a Genre

Even though they cheekily shy away from the reductive catch-all with this album's title, Periphery are one of the only djent pioneers who're still taking that concussive, down-tuned sound in unexpected directions.

On their first album since 2019's Periphery IV, the band shrewdly accentuate their poppiest tendencies ("Wildfire") without foregoing the gut-punching force ("Everything Is Fine!") and proggy experimentalism ("Atropos") that's made them one of modern metal's most dependably ambitious machines.

Maybe djent isn't a genre, but Periphery are one unto themselves.

27. In This Moment - GODMODE

Titling your latest album GODMODE is a statement, but In This Moment backed it up. Over the last two decades, the band — led by vocalist Maria Brink and multi-instrumentalist Chris Howorth — have evolved from angst-wracked melodic metalcore to pop-inflected, occult-themed industrial rock, and on Album No. 8, that current sound is bigger, crisper and more infectious than ever. Think Rammstein-sized bombast.

That would be thrilling enough, but Brink elevates the proceedings with her bewitching vocals, delivering gauzy Deftones-ian choruses ("Skyburner"), throat-shredding 26-second screams ("The Purge") and even a beguiling Björk cover ("Army of Me"). GODMODE indeed, and God is a woman.

26. In Flames - Foregone

Sweden's In Flames have become one of the biggest names in heavy music with a catchy, Korn-esque alt-metal approach honed since the early 2000s, but their roots lie in the Nineties' Gothenburg melodic death-metal scene, and so Foregone represents something of a homecoming.

Re-embracing their old-school extremity and even their formative folk-metal inclinations ("Foregone Pt. 2"), vocalist Anders Fridén and Co. sound more vital and invigorated here than they have in years.

25. Poppy - Zig

"When you zig I zag," Poppy taunts in the playful refrain of Zig's title track. She's not lying. In the 2020s alone, the genre-scrambler has breathlessly leap-frogged from Dada-esque pop-metal to scathing metalcore to wounded grunge.

Here, she zags once again into thrill-seeking dance-pop that opts for Lycra-snapping beats and menthol-breath hooks over headbanging snarls. The suavely throbbing "Knockoff," the friction-burning industrial-pop of "Hard" and "Church Outfit," the winking sensuality of "Motorbike" — Poppy's music hasn't sounded this unburdened by pain in a long time.

A zag always suits her well.

24. Baroness - Stone

Baroness have always been a hard band to pin down. Prog? Sludge? Psych-rock? Classic rock? John Baizley's band doesn't fit easily in any one box. The group's sixth album, Stone — their first not to be titled for a color or combo of colors — only makes them more difficult to categorize.

While songs like lead single "Last Word" boasts the progressive shreddery and ascendent Boston-ian vocal harmonies that Baroness have become best known for, Stone also finds them delving into the gnarly realms of Jesus Lizard-esque noise-rock with the leftfield "Beneath the Rose" and "Choir."

Don't know what to call this latest version of Baroness? Just call it good, challenging music.

23. Harm's Way - Common Suffering

Harm's Way have a uniquely tormented sound, and Common Suffering ranks among their darkest, densest releases yet. Resting somewhere between industrialized hardcore and dead-eyed groove-metal, the Chicago band churn out one bashing, life-sucking track after another.

From the pummeling force of "Cyanide" to the metallic clattering of "Terrorizer," James Pligge's blunt hollers seem to get colder and more brutally leadened as the album moves along. This is music that feels like a million pounds of dying earth is resting atop its shoulders.

22. Blackbraid - Blackbraid II

Last year, Blackbraid — the one-man Indigenous black-metal project of Adirondack musician Sgah'gahsowá — captured and recontextualized the black-metal zeitgeist with his crushingly beautiful debut, Blackbraid I. This year's offering, Blackbraid II, is even better.

The bucolic folk interludes remain an artful touch, but at double the length of its predecessor, there's simply way more scorching black metal here to get lost in.

Even so, the album never feels samey thanks to uplifting flourishes like the NWOBHM-inflected leads in "Twilight Hymn of Ancient Blood" and the doomy march that closes out the 13-minute "Moss Covered Bones on the Altar of the Moon."

21. Silent Planet - Superbloom

Exactly one year after they miraculously walked away from a devastating van crash, Silent Planet returned with their best, most definitive album yet. Metalcore bands have been tinkering with slick pop melodies and flashy electronics for well over a decade now, but rarely do they fuse so effortlessly as they do on Superbloom.

The throbbing "Antimatter," the skittering "Collider" and the bludgeoning "Anunnaki" are just three instances where Silent Planet excel at polished yet eye-poppingly heavy songwriting. It's a helluva good time.

20. Babymetal - The Other One

BABYMETAL — the teen kawaii-metal sensations who broke the internet with 2014's "Gimme Chocolate!!" — are all grown up. Not only are the band members now in their twenties, but BABYMETAL's music, too, has evolved and matured.

The Other One is the group's first concept album — as well as their first record with lyrics by singer Su-metal — and it tells its tale of the Metalverse by swapping some of the band's signature dance-y cheeriness for brooding prog passages ("Divine Attack") and djenty balladry ("Monochrome").

Think you know BABYMETAL? Think again.

19. Orbit Culture - Descent

For Descent, Orbit Culture aimed to make an album that brings the listener from "the highest mountain to the lowest abyss." By our estimation, they succeeded.

Within its runtime, the Swedish metallers journey from panoramic, Gojira-level epicness ("Black Mountain," From the Inside") to utterly bestial, blast-beaten heaviness ("Vultures of North," "Descent").

It's the rare case of a metal band expanding their sound into more accessible territory while still giving extreme-seeking fans exactly what they're searching for.

18. 3TEETH - EndEx

During the pandemic, 3TEETH hunkered down in the California desert, watched as the world burned and made a new album. Needless to say, the resulting EndEx is the industrial-metal insurgents' most apocalyptic offering yet, a nasty, hard-stomping exposé of our "Slum Planet," as one standout song puts it.

But EndEx is hardly one note. Mastermind Alexis Mincolla also took the opportunity in quarantine to open new doorways: "Drift" showcases a softer, more shoegazing side, while the closing cover of Tears for Fears' "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" is a wide-screen epic, both providing effective counterpoint to 3TEETH's overwhelming aggression.

17. Jesus Piece - ...So Alone

It's been five long years since Jesus Piece's 2018 breakthrough album Only Self, and hardcore has changed a lot since then. Here's one thing that's stayed the same: Jesus Piece are the reigning champs of knuckle-dragging mosh music.

On …So Unknown, the Philly band lean into all of their most extreme tendencies — back-breaking grooves, down-tuned riffage, Aaron Heard's guttural growls — without completely drowning their listeners in a deluge of chugga-chuggas.

Their songs are ferocious as ever, but crucially, they still leave room for your ears to breathe — and then they drag you back under.

16. Fuming Mouth - Last Day of Sun

There was no shortage of ripping death metal in 2023, but Fuming Mouth's Last Day of Sun cuts through the noise. The guitar and bass tones are dangerously caustic, making standout tracks like "Kill the Disease" and "R.I.P. (Rest in Piss)" sound heavier and nastier than what Fuming Mouth's peers can muster.

Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou's signature flame-thrower production accentuates all of its sharp edges, but songwriter Mark Whelan also finds space for eerie, doomy clean singing, granting Last Day of Sun a dynamic nuance that's equal parts brutal and brooding.

15. Callous Daoboys - God Smiles Upon the Callous Daoboys

Sure, God Smiles Upon the Callous Daoboys is only three songs. But the Atlanta mathcore juggernaut provide more to chew on with this trio of tracks than most bands could with a full album.

"Pushing the Pink Envelope" has Bungle-esque ADHD, jostling wildly from scabrous metalcore to easy listening to pop-punk. "Waco Jesus" is even weirder, juxtaposing rigid industrial-metal riffs with baroque belting and a tasty guitar lead.

The Callous Daoboys have always thrived in kookiness, but their chaos has never sounded this joyfully controlled.

14. Queens of the Stone Age - In Times New Roman...

It'd been 10 years since Queens of the Stone Age delivered their last knockout album (2013's …Like Clockwork), but In Times New Roman… closed that gap. Fueled by a tumultuous five years of personal turmoil, Josh Homme's latest creation is a fist-pumping romp that bridges the band's fuzz-rock origins with the swanky dance-rock they've become equally beloved for.

From the psychedelic flavor of "Carnavoyeur" and the bleary squall of "Paper Machete," to stony arena-rousers like "Emotion Sickness" and "Negative Space," In Times New Roman… is a welcome return to their unfussy form.

13. Dying Fetus - Make Them Beg for Death

Dying Fetus are experiencing a heightened reverence right now among young death-metal and hardcore bands who tap them as a crucial influence. Make Them Beg for Death is Dying Fetus' way of saying, "We see you, we hear you, we appreciate you — and we're still going to fucking crush you."

"Compulsion for Cruelty" and "Unbridled Fury" rank among the most obscenely brutal songs they've ever written. John Gallagher and Sean Beasley's vocal ping-ponging is still hellaciously overstimulating. And good god do they ever shred, slam and dun-dun-BAM like the best of them.

12. Dying Wish - Symptoms of Survival

Dying Wish were already one of the best metalcore bands going, but Symptoms of Survival might make them the best. The Portland band strike the perfect balance between nose-bloodying breakdown mania ("Starved," "Symptoms of Survival") and sing-your-heart-out catchiness ("Lost in the Fall," "Watch My Promise Die").

The production is crisp and punchy but not plastic-y. Emma Boster's vocal range is more powerful than ever. And best of all, the ass-beating clamor that made early Dying Wish songs like "Veil" is still intact. It's everything a sophomore album should be.

11. Code Orange - The Above

Code Orange could've made the heaviest hardcore album of 2023 if they wanted to. But why would they when they possess the wherewithal to make an album as staggeringly epic, poignant and crushing — both physically and emotionally — as The Above?

This 50-minute suite contains the best songwriting of their career, their heaviest mosh parts, their most vulnerable lyrics and their most extravagant arrangements (plus a Billy Corgan cameo). It's got everything that makes Code Orange one of the most consistently innovative and challenging bands in heavy music.

Clobbering? Catchy? Risky? Weird? Beautiful? All of The Above.

10. Scowl - Psychic Dance Routine

Scowl's 2021 debut, How Flowers Grow, was a 15-minute onslaught of slavering, old-school hardcore punk. It was viscerally entertaining, but the contrasts within Psychic Dance Routine make Album No. 2 an even more arresting body of work.

The Santa Cruz band jolt violently between face-mauling hardcore and confectionary alt-rock, and the extremes of each style are amplified to the nth degree. The heavier songs are Scowl's gnarliest yet, while the tuneful choruses of "Shot Down" and "Opening Night" will rattle around your noggin for weeks on end. It's one helluva dance routine.

9. Dethklok - Dethalbum IV

Don't count Dethklok out. After Adult Swim's 2015 cancelation of Metalocalypse, it looked like the biggest death-metal band ever might be dead and done. Think again. 2023 brought fans a new movie, a new soundtrack album and maybe best of all, a proper new Dethklok LP, the fictional group's first in 11 years.

Featuring the real-life metal mastery of vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and series co-creator Brendon Small and drummer extraordinaire Gene Hoglan (Death, Testament, etc.), Dethalbum IV delivers everything fans have been craving for: crushing riffs, epic solos, hilarious lyrics and, yes, another entry in the "Murmaider" saga.

In a word: Brutal.

8. HEALTH - Rat Wars

In the last 15 years, HEALTH have traversed grainy noise-rock, brutalist industrial, pounding metal and electronic outsider-pop. On the long-awaited Rat Wars, they find a way to make all their many moods coexist in harmony.

The apocalyptic club pulsations of "Hateful" rattle alongside the Godflesh-sampling attack of "Sicko"; the ethereal "Demigods" dissolves into vaporous swirls, while the music of "Ashamed" claps and shrieks beneath Jake Duzsik's pitched-up warbles. "Children of Sorrow" is somehow both decimating and alluringly tuneful.

HEALTH can do it all, and on Rat Wars, they do.

7. Drain - Living Proof

Drain's boogie-board-riot live shows have made them the must-see band in hardcore, but translating that level of energy onto an album is no easy feat. Their sophomore album is literal Living Proof that they were up to the task.

Songs like "Run Your Luck," "Evil Finds Light" and "Imposter" crack their sweet-spot between crossover thrash riffage and back-flip-off-the-stage inertia. Vocalist Sammy Ciaramitaro's charisma oozes from each shrieked lyric, and even the left-turns (the rap interlude, a cheery Descendents cover) are counterbalanced by clobbering mosh parts.

6. Better Lovers - God Made Me an Animal

Supergroups rarely live up to the hype, but Better Lovers do. The band — featuring ex-Dillinger Escape Plan frontman Greg Puciato and three former members of Every Time I Die, plus Fit For an Autopsy guitarist Will Putney — channeled all of their powers into their instant-classic debut EP, God Made Me an Animal, and yes, this shit is absolutely feral.

The urgent metalcore spasms of DEP and ETID are intact, and Puciato has never belted with as much confidence as he does on "30 Under 13." No wonder that for fans of the members' other bands and beyond, this Animal was love at first listen.

5. Spiritbox - The Fear of Fear

Spiritbox are at the point in their career where they're touring with rock-radio rulers Shinedown and collabing with Megan Thee Stallion. This is where many metal bands would opt to go soft, but not Spiritbox.

The Fear of Fear boasts some of the Canuck band's heaviest tracks yet, like the stomp-your-lights-out "Cellar Door" and the hellaciously hard "Angel Eyes." Elsewhere, cuts like the skittering, flickering "The Void" and the atmospheric, electronically-tinged "Jaded" point toward their ongoing evolution.

No, The Fear of Fear isn't a full album, but as far as temperature-check EPs go, this one reads: "Feverishly hot."

4. Avenged Sevenfold - Life Is but a Dream...

Avenged Sevenfold have never been ones to repeat themselves. With seven years to play, explore and experiment between their last album, The Stage, and their newest, M. Shadows and Co. reinvented themselves once again and then some.

An avant-metal existentialist meditation inspired by French philosopher Albert Camus, Life Is but a Dream… is a thrilling, delirious roller coaster ride that sometimes threatens to go off the rails, in the best way possible.

Yet, as bonkers as it is, the album magically comes together to form a cohesive 50-minute-plus piece, and the band's tried-and-true earworm sensibilities always cut through: Just try to get the hook of "Mattel" out of your head.

3. Crosses - Goodnight, God Bless, I Love U, Delete.

Since returning to consistent activity in late 2021, ††† (Crosses) have been on fire. Since then, the electronic-rock outfit helmed by Deftones' Chino Moreno and Far's Shaun Lopez, has gifted fans with two stellar EPs, a remix EP and a couple of a covers, but the best of the bunch is the duo's long-awaited second album, their first full-length in nearly a decade.

Gorgeous, moody and sexy AF, Goodnight, God Bless, I Love U, Delete. boasts some of Moreno's strongest singing to date, atop mesmerizing instrumentation that spans trip-hop, darkwave, post-rock and more. Oh yeah, and it features the greatest one-two punch of guest vocalists of 2023: Run the Jewel's El-P and motherfucking Robert Smith of the Cure.

Don't call it a comeback. Don't call it a side project. ††† (Crosses) have come into their own.

2. Metallica - 72 Seasons

We're just gonna say it: 72 Seasons is the best Metallica album since the "Black Album" (sorry, Load and Reload fans, but it's true). The Four Horsemen revisited their thrash roots on Death Magnetic and Hardwired…to Self-Destruct, but they truly feel home again in that sound on 72 Seasons.

There's slash-and-burn thrills ("Shadows Follow," "Too Far Gone"), arena-filling chant-alongs ("Lux Æterna," "If Darkness Had a Son"), groove-metal stomps ("Sleepwalk My Life Away," "Screaming Suicide") and their longest song to date, "Inamorata."

There're no inexplicable experiments (looking at you, St. Anger trash-can snare), forced radio crossovers or awkward attempts to meet the Gen-Z metal moment. Nope, 72 Seasons just sounds like Metallica at their Metallica-iest. What more could we really ask for?

1. Sleep Token - Take Me Back to Eden

The meteoric rise of Sleep Token — Revolver's Artist of the Year — from anonymous cult band to arena-packing alt-metal phenomenon might be 2023's most improbable success story in any genre. But Take Me Back to Eden, the masked band's trilogy-completing latest LP, fully justifies their long-overdue ascension.

The head-spinning, six-and-a-half-minute epic "The Summoning" is the viral hit — 82 million Spotify streams and counting — but the whole album dazzles and bewilders, brilliantly fusing R&B, EDM, djent and more with its startlingly singular fusion. Haters will say that every song sounds the same, but those haters clearly aren't paying attention — play "Vore" and "Aqua Regia" back-to-back, then try to make that claim.

As diverse and thrilling as the album is, Take Me Back to Eden's power is amplified by Sleep Token's anonymity and refusal to do interviews. The only way to know the band is through their art; to listen, watch, think and feel. No wonder so many have chosen to — as Sleep Token would put it — worship.

Order Revolver's new 76-page Sleep Token collector's issue, featuring rare photos, a deep dive into their trilogy, famous fan tributes, and more, at our shop.