SBR Top 7 Darkest Albums of 2023

For the last three years, we produced a list of the top seven most extreme albums, but this category can confuse people and lead them to believe that Scream Blast Repeat only enjoy music that is unlistenable to ninety-nine percent of the planet. Fetishising something for being extreme has its drawbacks and its associations with elitism. In the world of metal, it can simply mean blast beats and screaming vocals. Yet there are other forms of emotional extremity, and we want to recognise these. So, this year we rename this award the Top 7 Darkest Albums of 2023.

It’s doubtful any of the artists will want to celebrate this accolade. Scoring albums on a scale of 1-10 for the darkness of a record makes no sense. Some of the albums higher up this list are not as good as those lower down. Remember: We’re identifying what we believe to be the darkest, most unsettling records.

These are the Scream Blast Repeat Top 7 darkest albums of 2023…

7. Throat – We Must Leave You

What we said at the time: “The message on album number four is, “Bring back lockdown. Bring back isolation…” Throat’s decision to scale back the guitars and focus the eerie elements of their music into abstract melodies deserves praise, but We Must Leave You is more impenetrable as a result. The timbres in the music blur like a watercolour spillage. Songs come and go like passengers walking through a busy department store as a shortcut to the carpark. They have no intention to buy anything, but the display shelves rouse their interest.”

Country: Finland

Genre: Noise Rock

Released: 27/10/2023

Label: Svart Records

Read the original SBR review here.

6. Vexed – Negative Energy

What we said at the time:Negative Energy is an apt description for the mood of this record. A dark blanket of grief clouds the music and will engulf you in its despairing embrace if you’re not careful… Megan Targett has a platform, and she uses it to challenge everything from nepotism in the showbiz world to the self-righteousness of religious intolerance. Surviving domestic abuse shaped the person she is today. Seeing her future crushed by childhood idealisms is hard for her to stomach. Anxiety and depression are two demons that follow her around.”

Country: England

Genre: Progressive deathcore

Released: 23/06/2023

Label: Napalm Records

Read the original SBR review here.

5. Raum Kingdom – Monarch

What we said at the time: “On first listen, Monarch is the face-smasher LP your heart demands and your brain does not even bother to reject. But Raum Kingdom reveal many subtleties and explore new dimensions when you’re ready to add them to your list as a contender for the most extreme album of the year… Monarch is the emotional turbulence that leaves you with shattered nerves and the feeling that you’ve just experienced an epiphany. It will not leave your playlist until the winter gloom lifts and the first signs of spring arrive.”

Country: Republic of Ireland

Genre: Sludge Metal

Released: 27/01/2023

Label: Argonauta Records

Read the original SBR review here.

4. Fuming Mouth – Last Day of Sun

What we said at the time: “Fuming Mouth, are thankful to be here. Vocalist and guitarist, Mark Whelan, received the diagnosis everyone fears in 2021, when doctors explained that he would need chemotherapy to battle the Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) spreading through his body. He got the all-clear this year, but the near-death experience scarred him for life… It’s clear that Last Day of Sun is not just another death metal album. How could it be in these circumstances? Listen to the imperfect voices harmonise over the clean guitar-pickings in ‘Leaving Euphoria’ like malnourished POWs praying for the mercy of a quick death. “I don’t want to be here anymore,” laments Whelan… Forty-five minutes of misery and pain should be hard to stomach, yet this album has a strange hold over your senses.”

Country: USA

Genre: Death Metal/Hardcore

Released: 03/11/2023

Label: Nuclear Blast

Read the original SBR review here.

3. Catafalque – Dybbuk

What we said at the time: “To call this sinister is an understatement. Kristin Hayter aka Lingua Ignota would enjoy this music. If hell exists, it probably sounds like this once you get used to the ubiquitous cries and whelps of agony. The gradual volume creep of the drums reminds you of the fustigating hand of the tormentors in Pauline Reage’s classic S&M novel, The Story of O. Have you ever wondered what it would feel like wandering around the ruins of a nuclear-obliterated city, wearing a gas mask, in search of human survivors? Clearly, the members of Catafalque have given it some thought”

Country: England

Genre: Industrial/Ambient/Drone

Released: 13/10/2023

Label: Aural Music / Code666

Read the original SBR review here.

2. Torpor – Abscission

What we said at the time: “There’s nothing cinematic here unless you consider a long camcorder suicide as entertainment, in which case this would be the ideal soundtrack. Torpor’s music captures the essence of a dismal existence, but it’s a dark existence that has the courage to contemplate mortality. It seems flippant to describe this as introspective. We all have moments of self-reflection. Abscission is the distressing recognition that death will claim us in the end… Vocal screams ache as if the person behind the gruelling outcries has a sword impaled through his lower vertebrae. It’s hideous in its menace, but it throbs with a real pathos.”

Country: England

Genre: Sludge Metal

Released: 15/09/2023

Label: Human Worth

Read the original SBR review here.

1. Rorcal – Silence

What we said at the time: “You could imagine Blut Aus Nord sounding like this if you asked them to use a pitch shifter effect on their guitars with the stomach-bleeding vocals of Cult of Luna. How do the guitarists produce an ethereal output with such a wall of sound burning through their amps? “All joy, all kindness / Are manifestations of a weak will to survive,” roars vocalist, Yonni Chapatte. This is what the black box recording of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 would sound like if the aviation authorities ever found it. The agonising screams and jarring distortion effects blend into one horrific pitch of human anguish.”

Country: Switzerland

Genre: Extreme metal

Released: 29/09/2023

Label: Hummus Records

Read the original SBR review here.

Honourable mentions

Aeffect – Theory of Mind (Label: Self-released)

Blodet – Death Mother (Label: Church Road Records)

Katatonia – Sky Void of Stars (Label: Napalm Records)

Morne – Engraved with Pain (Label: Metal Blade)

Rile – Pessimist (Label: Church Road Records)