SBR Top 7 Black Metal Albums of 2023

Black metal is the most insular of the metal genres, yet it can also be one of the most extroverted. The dramatic tempos and ghoulish aesthetics continue to attract millions of new listeners to its creed each year. One area where the genre excels is in experimentation. Those days when Euronymous of Mayhem defined the rules for the genre no longer apply. If anything, the elitism associated with black metal has all but disappeared.

The movement’s spiritual home of Norway produced three notable albums this year from Immortal, Dødheimsgard and Mork. All have enough quality to merit praise. This year also saw the return of Marduk with their first album in five years, but 2023 might be remembered for black metal’s avant-garde awakening. Scream Blast Repeat will look towards the experimental edge of black metal in 2024 to retain our interest in what is now one of the steadiest genres in heavy music.

There’s an oversupply of black metal bands in the underground. Many of them are atavistic and uninspiring, and it’s impossible to keep up with them all. Nevertheless, these are the SBR top seven black metal albums of 2023…

7. Marduk – Memento Mori

What we said at the time: “How much of Memento Mori dwells at the verge of the speed of sound and how much of it looks towards experimentation is the ratio you need to consider when sitting through this album. Track four (‘Shovel Beats Sceptre’) pulls you away from the meatgrinder and into a mid-tempo malevolence built from the foundations of tolling bells and an ominous one-note synth loop. The vocals throb in a grotesque fantasy of human flesh devourment. Modern black metal would be much more enjoyable if it sounded like this”

Country: Sweden

Released: 01/09/2023

Label: Century Media

Read the original SBR review here.

6. Shining – Shining

What we said at the time: “As a scourge of metal elitists and a critic of the childish elements of black metal, Niklas Kvarforth sure wants his art to be taken seriously… Striking a balance between the red fury and the pristine white solitude – without finding a middle ground between the two – is one of the most notable aspects of the song arrangements on this record. ‘Fidelis ad Mortem’ makes you want to experience the solemn force of a clear moon underneath the shrubbery as you fantasise about what you’d like to do in your darkest of nocturnal contemplations with a knife in your pocket.”

Country: Sweden

Released: 15/09/2023

Label: Napalm Records

Read the original SBR review here.

5. Dawn Ray’d – To Know the Light

What we said at the time: “Dawn Ray’d are an unusual force in black metal with their sorrowful violins and anarchist outlook clashing with the dynamics of blast beats and cruel guitar tones… Perhaps the biggest risk on this album is the trio’s daring experimentation. Listen how they furnish you with A Capello voice arrangements on ‘Requital’ and serenade you with sorrowful violins and acoustic guitar pickings on ‘Cruel Optimisms’. The latter throbs under the pathos of an Ulsterman’s incendiary soliloquy and ends with a spectacular five-second blast of Napalm Death fury.”

Country: England

Released: 24/03/2023

Label: Prosthetic Records

Read the original SBR review here.

4. Henget – Beyond North Star

What we said at the time:Beyond North Star is a cornucopia of different musical influences, yet it never sounds disjointed. That’s because the core of the music takes it cue from blackened death metal, like a danse macabre version of Akercocke. Every tip-toeing waltz finds a countermeasure in the baseball bat swings of a violent protagonist… Great music can make you shiver and can test your threshold of fear. Henget play with their listeners like flies to wanton boys – they kill us for their sport.”

Country: Finland

Released: 19/05/2023

Label: Season of Mist

Read the original SBR review here.

3. Liturgy – 93696

What we said at the time: “Liturgy have always been transfixed by the idea of creating transcendental black metal through the incorporation of other genres, most notably progressive rock and electronica. On 93696 they make their most daring attempt to reach this objective via the power of angelic soprano harmonies and chaotic guitar melodies… The days when people dismissed Liturgy as trendy imposters will make no sense once you absorb 93696 and grow to understand its spectacular emotional pull.”

Country: USA

Released: 24/03/2023

Label: Thrill Jockey Records

Read the original SBR review here.

2. Dødheimsgard – Black Medium Current

What we said at the time: “One hour and nine minutes of genre-bending metal ought to challenge you. It might even exhaust you. But Dødheimsgard pull off the impossible and create an immersive experience for you to absorb as you would a panacea for a hangover. The vicious moments are as heavy as Emperor and as technical as Ne Obliviscaris… Those waiting for a Ved Buens Ende follow-up to their legendary 1995 debut can satisfy their cravings with Black Medium Current. Dødheimsgard show once again that avant-garde black metal is nothing without their input.”

Country: Norway

Released: 14/04/2023

Label: Peaceville Records

Read the original SBR review here.

1. Omega Infinity – The Anticurrent

What we said at the time: “People call Omega Infinity’s art “void metal”, and that might be the most accurate term to describe the destructive power of their music… You’ll hear the incorporeal death metal of Portal in this music. Australian industrialists, The Amenta, are another group that operate in a similar paradigm. Maybe Anaal Nathrakh as well. It seems trivial to reduce this unfolding audio apocalypse to comparative artists when the experience is so overwhelming. But the cerebral mind takes comfort in imposing order on chaos.”

Country: International

Released: 24/02/2023

Label: Season of Mist

Read the original SBR review here.

Honourable mentions

Bizarrekult – Den Tapte Krigen (Label: Season of Mist)

Deitus – Irreversible (Label: Candlelight Records)

Immortal – War Against All (Label: Nuclear Blast)

Mork – Dypet (Label: Peaceville Records)

Nixil – From the Wound Spilled Forth Fire (Label: Prosthetic Records)