Saturday, December 2, 2023

My 20 Favorite Black Metal Records of 2023


This really should be a top 40 or 50, as there were a ton of black metal records that I fucking loved this year. But now that I'm an official business office boi, I 100% do not have the time for all that, so ruthless editing is a must. And honorable mentions are the coward's way out, so there'll be none of that. You may notice, however, that my writeups are even shittier than normal. Regardless, these are the black metal albums that I spent the most time with this year, whether it was while pumping iron, laying in a meditative state with all the lights off, sitting in rush hour traffic, or grimly doing the dishes.

Black Shaman

Atmospheric hypnotism in slow motion from a one-man Czechian project. Paced like doom metal but the feel is 100% black. If I was still addicted to kratom, this would definitely be higher on the list.

Extinction Rituals

Riff-y/thrash-y in a way that clearly has something to do with crust (and maybe sludge metal) but only really leans into those elements in small bursts -- see the chug-y breakdown in "The Old Wind" or the mid-paced intro to "Beyond the Shadow of Death" for evidence.


Sounds like this guy was watching The Fellowship of the Ring, got to the part where they're on the pass through the Misty Mountains and Saruman is bellowing incantations and conjuring an ice storm to destroy them, and thought, "OK but what if, instead of a scene in a movie, this was a raw atmospheric black metal album?"


One of the hardest Google searches of 2023 (adding "black metal Norway" helps). For some reason I listen to this a lot when I'm doing pushups. Is there a shorthand for the kind of black metal that sounds like it's emanating from behind the crumbling walls of a haunted old castle? Can I just call it "OCBM" from now on?

Position | Momentum

More black metal with apparent roots in punk/hardcore, this time with a deeper sense of atmosphere, a more cohesive, cerebral aesthetic, and more mature songcraft. The tremolo-picking breakdown on "Frantumi In Itinere" through to the end of the song is one my favorite sections of music in recent memory. 

Wanderer of Fiery Planes

Raw black metal perfection. Sorrowful epics for nomadic ghosts. As I make this list, I'm noticing that literally every single album that comes up, I think, "Fuck, this should really be higher."


Looks like Vosbúð edged out Ildganger in the battle of the raw-atmospheric-black-metal-records-with-volcanoes-on-the-cover this year. I suppose it's fitting, as Vosbúð staked their claim by dubbing themselves "Volcanic Black Metal". Sounds like Paysage d'Hiver channeling the majestic aura of Twilight of the Gods-era Bathory. Manages the difficult task of keeping very long songs consistently dynamic and engaging without ever really taking the foot off the gas.

Profane Order
One Nightmare Unto Another

Stupefyingly heavy black/death destruction with stupidly heavy production. Gravity blasts, bonehead riffs, and levels of bestial, chaotic precision that we haven't heard since Anaal Nathraak went on Radio 1.

ὁ Μέɣας
κ​​​ή​​​ρ​​​υ​​​ξ π​​​ῦ​​​ρ

This one's a real oddity: a vicious raw black metal album about Alexander the Great with conspicuously layered folk instrumentation. There's a lot of what sounds like a mandolin and some kind of woodblock percussion, but it's all devoid of any sense of quirkiness or self-consciousness: it just adds to this anonymous project's sense of mystery.

All Stillborn Fires, Lick My Heart!

In which Kringa realize their full potential, taking liberally from death-doom, post-punk, and psychedelia, but remaining firmly grounded in grainy, occult BM. All Stillborn Fires definitely sounds like it was recorded live in-studio with minimal overdubs, which further enhances the sense that the whole album is some sort of ritual that we're privileged to be listening in on.

Om hundrede år

After liking but not loving Afsky for years, Om hundred år finally made me a believer. Patiently crafted, melodic DSBM played with passion and urgency.

Wells Valley

The queasy dissonance of Blut Aus Nord intertwined in the murk of Portal with the deliberate pacing and anxious groove of Cult of Luna. This year, I learned to love post-BM again, and Wells Valley led the charge.

Devils, Death and Dark Arts

Helleruin brings a lot to the table -- the odd folk-ish melody, some ethereal guitar layering that suggests an awareness of modernity, one instance of cowbell -- but ultimately, what you're looking at is epic, vicious, true black metal in absolute peak form.

Corrosion of Hearts

Depression has a way of feeding off of itself. It comes and goes over the years, but every time it returns in earnest, it feels that much heavier with the knowledge that it's never really been gone. Austere, who I had assumed was gone for good until recently, is one of the few bands capable of really embodying that weight.

The Sunken Seer

Utterly crushing down-tuned power chord riffs, hovering layers of high-frequency drone, one-two beats, hissing vocals, and ambient interludes worthy of one of NIN's Ghosts albums. A truly singular vision courtesy of a dude who runs a black metal memes IG.

Sól án varma
Sól án varma

One-and-done project from members of Misþyrming, Carpe Noctem, Árstíðir Lífsins, 0, Skáphe, and more. The vortex-like heaviness of Icelandic black metal filtered through later-Celtic Frost-esque psychedelic-death-doom. Iceland, man. Iceland.

Shores of Náströnd

In which Runespell takes on a full-time drummer and a keyboardist, catapults their sound into lusher, vaster realms, leans into their more mournful, melodic tendencies, and creates some of the greatest pagan black metal I've ever heard. The most excited I've gotten about Runespell since Unhallowed Blood Oath.


I've liked this band for years, but for me, Total is absolutely in a class all its own in the band's discography. It's somewhere between progressive and post-metal, but both labels feel misleading. The way the riffs seem to just repeat over and over until you notice that they're constantly melting and morphing into new and strange shapes, removing sections, taking on new layers, or otherwise distorting: I've just never heard anything quite like it. And it's all done so fluidly, it's honestly pretty mind-blowing. I'm also seemingly the only one who thinks so highly of Total, so proceed with caution.


One of the most effective takes on the dissonant French style I've ever heard. Malivore is a nightmare emerging from the void as if conjured by forces beyond all mortal understanding or control, bred only to consume light and negate life. On a somewhat related note, I ordered this LP last Saturday and about half an hour ago, the mail carrier literally frisbee-ed it up from the street -- our front door is up a flight of stairs -- and it hit the door so hard that both of my cats ran and hid. Thanks guy.

Hive Mind Narcosis

An absolute fucking masterpiece from start to finish, and I will happily die on that hill. Unflinchingly inventive avant-garde mastery. Queasy guitars vomit, convulse, and sculpt terrifying, amorphous structures. A faceless figure croaks acid-soaked prophecies of bottomless hunger and deathless horrors. Our world spins, slows to a crawl, chokes, and folds back in on itself. Parallel universes glow like embers then melt into nothing. Songs so dense and labyrinthine, I can't even conceive of how they were composed or recorded. Like, what the fuck is going on in "Solar Witch"? Are those guitars? How does it sound so utterly disjointed yet completely cohesive? Who are these mysterious Canadians, and how did they figure out how to bend time?


  1. Thanks, I always look forward to your end of year list. Hope the job is going well.

  2. Thank you. These are always so great. keep pumpin'

  3. Thx a lot for uncountable hours of sonic madness!
    Have a good one, cheers!

  4. Thanks, great music as always!

  5. Fuck yes. Thank you! I always find so many gems on your year end lists.

  6. I hope that's not your regular mail-carrier !
    Yuletide wishes!

    1. It's not, thankfully. I came running out cause I actually had thought a kid threw a rock at the house or something, and got a look at him as he went around the corner.
      And to yous!

  7. The winner for Most Anticipated Blog Post of the Year. Diving into the list now!

  8. check out the self titled ZORN album too, it's so good :)

  9. Nice list. Where is that first image from?

    1. Sorry, forgot to respond. It's from the movie Ju-On: The Curse. Great, surreal Japanese horror with some phenomenal visuals.

  10. Still waiting for Cookie Monster Sings Your Favorite Christmas Funeral Dirges. I haven't given up hope like the rest of the world.

  11. Grateful for the list, will explore them all. Angrenost and Thantifaxath are the only BM albums released in 2023 in regular rotation. Less is more.

  12. hi,
    thx 4 ur always amazing list!! I always enjoy ur blog for many years, from Tokyo, this is my first comment though...

    by the way, im sure it sounds stupid...but I want to ask one thing.

    actually now im on probation (of course for drug lol) and,
    next month finally I will go to berlin and iran and pakistan, to enjoy some hardcore shit.
    so I want to ask one thing...
    I wonder maybe if you know the good place or club in berlin to get some hardcore staff, I just wonder though.

    Today suddenly I want to listen Divine and Bright by Earth, and it reminds me of ur blog. im pretty sure sounds stupid though lol.

    anyway much luv from Tokyo!! I hope u enjoy a good time.