Colin’s top 10 for BRUTALISM 2023

So here we have another year gone by, and it is has been a strange one. Let alone that has gone to part time and wheras we used to get 5 plus pages of reviews from 5 plus writers, this year we barely got 3 pages worth of reviews with only a few of us still grinding at it. But, we write on to support the underground! The other thing about 2023 that surprised me is it was a very big year for Death Metal. Sure some of the other genres had some winners, but this year just was chock full of highlight releases from well renown bands like Cannibal Corpse, Cryptopsy, Dying Fetus, Incantation, Suffocation and also relatively unknown ones like Walking Corpse. There were also some disappointments like the supposed return to Black Metal from Xasthur that I was so stoked for, but just didn’t really get wowed by the three disc opus that was presented (thankfully I’ll always have “To Violate the Oblivious” for THAT feeling). Of course I’m still in limbo waiting for the next Leviathan or Vital Remains album, but maybe 2024 will fnally give it. My fellow writers also had some highlights I followed as new discoveries that didn’t quite make my top 10 for me but deserve mentioning as well such as Vincente’s review of Internal Organs External and Max James’ review of Bonecarver. As always guys thanks for sharing your interests and giving me another reason to get glaring looks from loved ones for buying yet another record I probably don’t need! I always make one of my new years resolutions to cut back, but well… you know how that turns out.

Anyway without much further introduction here is my top 10 for this year that is basically at a close. A lot of Death, a little Black, and maybe a touch of Symphonic (in no particular order)

Dying Fetus- Make Them Beg For Death
Dying Fetus is one of those bands that has never stepped out of their comfort zone. Record after record has been a solid ear stomping assault of groove laden Death Metal mixed with Grindcore and “Make Them Beg…” is another living proof of why these guys should never change. It has the fury of “Reign Supreme” with tracks like ‘Feast of Ashes’ and the catchy head bangers of “Killing on Adrenaline” with ‘Raised in Victory, Razed in Defeat.’ Solid tapping drumming that is technical and chunky riffs with guttural vocals that can’t be ignored shows how furious Death Metal can be when done right without needing a fluff of symphonics or samples to add in filler. Definitely worth listening to for those who just want some catchy Death Metal with the appeal of Thrash but not touching the genre.

Blackbraid- Blackbraid II
I had the pleasure of meeting these guys on the Decibel Magazine Tour for 2023 after hearing their first album, and their latest is just as good if not better. A Black Metal gem with wonderful artwork and lyrics that support Sgah'gahsowáh’s Native American heritage the music on “II” is epic, grand, and fulfilling. Yes there is the typical Black Metal tropes with the vocal style and guitar work, but Blackbraid incorporate other fresh ideas such as bone flute work on a track such as ‘Moss Covered Bones on the Altar of the Moon.’ The album is a bit to swallow due to its length and depth, but for those who want more of a feel for the older Satyricon with a new approach and somewhat cleaner production will find this easy to listen to. For those who want a more ferocious approach with catchy melodies that embody a Folk Black Metal atmosphere check out ‘The Spirit Returns.’ And don’t get a classic cover of Bathory’s ‘A Fine Day to Die’ to pay tribute to Black Metal’s heroes. Definitely a ferocious and melodic take on the genre that embodies the spirit of 90s but doesn’t use the same tricks over and over.

Extermination Dismemberment- Dehumanization Protocol
Slow but crushing Slam Death from Belarus I only found out about them through following one of my favorite labels, Unique Leader Records. Not quite the average Slam/ Brutal Death records, “Dehumanization Protocol” takes a sci fi smash at religion with sick artwork, grunts and squeal vocals that would make Devourment proud, and just a mid to slow groove pace track after track filled with symphonics and samples to beef it up. While not as minimalistic as some of the other bands out there, the lush additions don’t feel like too much filler such as crying babies on ‘Plague in the Guise of Flesh’ along with backing choirs and screaming priests as chaos descends upon them. But the highlight of this album goes to ‘Corpsepit’ which is the ultimate 2 step mosher with Industrial/ Dance elements and really throws a curveball at the purists. This one might be a little overdone, but for all its worth I keep coming back to it for one of my favorite Brutal Slam records for 2023.

Ov Sulfur- The Burden ov Faith
Yes, the whole ‘ov’ thing is probably laughable at this point (back when Behemoth started doing it, it was cool), but ever since I heard these guys’ EP in 2021, I was excited to see what the first full length would bring. “The Burden ov Faith” is a solid mix of Deathcore and Black Metal, but this time the band weighed in more on the symphonics and guests to create a sound that is grandiose and yet furious. Vocalist Ricky Hoover is diverse with his bellows and also his cleans which add a Metalcore depth to the music such as on ‘Stained in Rot.’ The band was also not shy about including a slew of guests, some which had less impact such as Alex Terrible on ‘Befouler’ simply because it is hard to distinguish his vocals from Hoover’s, and some that fit just right in such as Lindsay Schoolcraft on the title track layering her cleans with Hoover’s. Expect a very cinematic, grand approach with this album that may seem a bit overplayed like a Dimmu Borgir record, but the Deathcore elements are thick, impactful, and match right up there with the Black Metal/ Symphonic Metal parts. A great release that again is full of surprises and a worthy ride to marvel at.   

Cannibal Corpse- Chaos Horrific
It’s Cannibal Corpse… what else needs to be said? Like Dying Fetus they are one of the greats in the Death Metal genre without really any bad records. “Chaos Horrific” plays out exactly like one would expect: great vocals from Corpsegrinder with a great mix of fast, mid, and slow tracks for a diverse but very direct release. From the single ‘Blood Blind’ which is a whirlwind of guitar work from Erik Rutan who just seems to keep injecting his Hate Eternal influence to beef up C.C.’s sound to the slow grind piece of ‘Drain You Empty’ there isn’t a single bad track here. Just standard Brutal Death Metal that has been going strong since the 90s. Their best since “A Skeletal Domain!”

The Dark Side of the Moon- Metamorphosis
While this is as far from our typical fare, I had to include something that wasn’t the usual Black, Death, or Thrash approach we usually review. The Dark Side of the Moon is a bit of a cover project really from Melissa Bonny from Ad Infinitum with a vocal approach similar to more recent Arch Enemy with a heavier focus on the cleans and guitarist Hans Platz of Feuerschwanz the music here is not really anything new but a great re-interpretation of its sound. The focus as usual is Bonny’s voice which has its lovely cleans on ‘If I Had a Heart’ or the darker, more Melodeath approach on the folkish ‘Jenny of Oldstones.’ The big highlight is the mashup of Harry Potter meets MacBeth with ‘Double Trouble/ Lumos!’ for just a very symphonic ride. Everything on this album is crisp, lush, and just a Fantasy Metal nerd’s dream with guitar solos galore that would make Dethklok’s Swisgarr Skwigelf (or Brendon Small in the real world) jealous. It’s just a very cinematic album that doesn’t disappoint.