Top 11 Albums of 2023
Dec 10, 2023
Well, that time has come and I am, once again, writng about the music I've been listening to throughout the year. Not a lot happened that interested me music-wise, but alas, new music was listened to. Without furthering the ado, in no special order here is my list.
Updated on Jan 5, 2024, added an album that slipped under my radar and NEEDED to be here!
Opus - Nospūn
2024 Edit: This album was released 100% independently in May 2023, and I was only able to listen to it over the last few days, much after I published this list. Normally I wouldn't feel the need for addendums but in this case, this wasn't just a good album that slipped by, this could easily be the best album of the year.
Super fresh Prog Metal, even though it feels familiar as it is heavily rooted in the technical prog that we all know and love (Dream Theater, Haken, etc..), it feels like a breathe of fresh air, like people taking these influences and making them their own. It's hard to think about a debut album in the last decade that has felt this fresh, not to mention sound so good production-wise.
I'm sad that I slept on this for so long, but I'm also super happy that I have finally found it. If these guys have a good band chemistry and know how to deal with the unforgiving music industry, they will be the next big deal in prog, for sure!
The Magic of Sin - Arabs in Aspic
This album came out of nowhere for me, but it made an impression. Released in the later half of of the year, this album is quite an interesting listen, somewhat reminiscing of King Crimson, with a touch of Gentle Giant. The long jams, the cryptic lyrics, the virtuosity, the time signatures, they're all there, aside from a fair amount of catchy melodies and groove.
Wet Ass Plutonium - Nuclear Power Trio
These guys do not disappoint, another entry that could be considered a jam band, but this one does it the heavy way. Lots of heavy synth sounds, catchy unison lines, hilarious song titles (depending on who you ask, I guess!) and tons of 80's flare. Definitely an acquired taste for some, but damn enjoyable and fun!
Terror Management Theory - Temic
I was looking forward to this album for quite a while, and I was not disappointed when it finally came out. When former Haken keyboard player, Diego Tejeida, decided to leave the band to pursue his own musical journey, I became surious, as his style was one of the things that attracted me the most about his previous band. Then he paired up with Eric Gillette, of The Neal Morse Band fame and my interest peaked.
This album has a massive diversity of sounds, from your quintessential Prog Metal, to electronic, to some roots, and it still manages to sound cohesive and memorable. Definitely looking forward to more Temic in the future.
16 - Einar Solberg
Einar Solberg is better known for his incredible work as the lead vocalist in the band Leprous, and 16 showcases his ease to create some of the most fluid and interesting melodies shocasing his skills and range.
16 is a mixture of hard rock and electronic music, matched with Solberg's voice creating a very unique atmosphere that is incredibly well balanced dynamically speaking.
Tempus Veritas - Black Orchid Empire
Much like some of the other entries here, Black Orchid Empire released an intriguing album, with both heavy syncopated breakdowns and super smooth melodic passages, erie intro cinluded, dissonance mixed with catchy choruses. There seems to be a trend in the music I've been into these days.
Fauna - Haken
I must admit that I was skeptical about this one here. Haken's last few albums haven't been all that to my liking, but I still think that their first four records are some of the best music ever recorded (Aquarius, Visions, The Mountain, and Affinity are all masterpieces!).
Fauna has some of the heaviest breakdowns, but the diversity on this album is real, some times feeling like the old school 70's prog but played through Soldanos and Dual Rectifiers.
Memorial - Soen
As is the trend of the last few albums on this list, this is both heavy and melodic. Incredible vocal work by Joel Ekelöf, ridiculously precise guitar playing, and tons of groove. This album follows on the footsteps of previous efforts like Lotus and Imperial.
O Monolith - Squid
Got time signatures? Squid certainly does. This is a surreal masterpiece, hitting all sorts of intensity and dynamics. Dramatic vocals, over the top orchestration and top notch storytelling. This album was on repeat for quite some time.
The Harmony Codex - Steven Wilson
Point of contention here. I was indifferent with The Future Bites to the point that I did not even remember that it existed, but I have followed Wilson's career being a fan of a lot of his work, including behind the console as well as with Porcupine Tree, Blackfield, No-Man, etc.
The Harmony Codex was released on a "listening tour" where the album would be played in some of the best rooms around the world, dim lights and no words to interrupt the flow; and even though this seems pedantic and pretentious, it is also extremely gratifying. Musically, this album is perfectly adequate and fitting, but sonically is where this album won me over. I was able to play this on my spatial audio setup at home, and the experience is quite impressive. Definitely recommended for anyone that has the option to do so.
ID.Entity - Riverside
Riverside has always been a favourite of mine, for almost the same reasons as many of the bands on this list, and this album was a noteworthy entry. I had this on repeat for a few days and a track or two still occasionally feature on my "shuffle days" where I play random tunes instead of full albums (those days don't come often though).
There it is, I'm hoping to listen to more music in the next year, and hopefully write more individual reviews when I feel that they're deserved!
Thank you for reading, be well.