Best Hard Rock / Metal albums of 2023

Just curious what’s stood out to folks so far this year. I haven’t compiled formal rankings yet (and we still have a couple of months left), but the stuff I’ve really liked so far has been:

  • Sacred Outcry - Towers Of Gold (dark, epic power metal ft. Daniel Heiman of Lost Horizon)
  • George Lynch - Guitars At The End Of The World (instrumental)
  • Metallica - 72 Seasons (metal)
  • The Banishment - Machine And Bone (industrial, ft. George Lynch)
  • Blood Star - First Sighting (NWOTHM with husky female vocals)

I also liked Sweet & Lynch’s Heart & Sacrifice pretty well, though Michael Sweet goes over the top a bit too much on it. And George Lynch & Jeff Pilson’s Heavy Hitters II had some pretty cool music, but the singer was a bad fit for about 2/3 of the material, unfortunately.

Still hoping the third album from The End Machine will come out this year too, as the last one was great.

So far, Sacred Outcry’s Towers Of Gold is far and away my album of the year, and it will be pretty hard to beat, I think.

This will be a very short list because it seems that I hardly follow new music at all…

But AHAB’s fifth album “The Coral Tombs” was released in January and that is certainly the best new thing that I’ve run into this year. AHAB are a German funeral doom metal band that writes concept albums based on famous books whose story takes place at the sea; such as “Moby Dick” (obvious choice for their first album), Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket”, or in the case of the new album, Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Seas”.

Yes, “Nautikal Funeral Metal” is not for everyone, but I love it.

I tried Metallica’s “72 Seasons” with an open mind, but I still think they released their best work in the mid 90’s.

Wow! I did not expect other Ahab fans here. Welcome to the club!

I actually launched a fansite (with a sadly unused forum) for the band last year. Check it out if you’re interested at Still a work in progress!

As for my own thoughts on The Coral Tombs, I actually thought it was underwhelming. There are a lot of great moments on there but the production is the weakest they’ve ever had and I feel like some of the tracks are more by the numbers than, for comparison, The Boats of the Glen Carrig, which to me was a return to the greatness of The Call of the Wretched Sea but in a completely new way. TCT just hasn’t connected with me in the same way. It’s a solid album but it’s not at the heights I want to hear Ahab at.

Honestly I don’t really listen to much new music unless it’s by a band I actively care about. I did check out 72 Seasons and boy was that a drag.

I didn’t expect that either! Just like I didn’t expect blast beat 10 seconds into their new album.

“The Giant” is actually my favorite of all their albums.

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I felt it was a step down from Hardwired and recycled a lot of previously used parts, but it was a consistently enjoyable listen for me, which is way more than I could say for Reload or St. Anger, for sure.

Nice! Would love to discuss Ahab further, if you’re interested you can join my forum (; I’d like to get some activity going on there slowly but surely. Have a few thread ideas to start spinning.

In some ways I’ve actually started coming around to St. Anger. Reload is still mostly a bore though. I think the highlights of that album are better than 72 Seasons, though. I gotta give it another listen but I don’t really want to commit to another slog.

I’ve created a new thread for 2024 releases, but I still plan to post a year-end round-up for 2023 here once I’m done with my reviews.

I finally finished my detailed reviews of all the 2023 hard rock and metal releases that caught my interest.

The results:

(#5 and #6 weren’t actually tied, but they rounded off to the same decimal value.)

So much George Lynch stuff this year! I didn’t even pick up Lynch Mob’s Babylon because it didn’t do much for me when I sampled it, but there are still 4 other Lynch albums on my 2023 list. Crazy.

I didn’t buy quite as many albums this year as I did the past couple of years, and the overall quality of the albums I picked up was a bit lower than usual – but Sacred Outcry’s Towers Of Gold really knocked it out of the park for me, steadily climbing with each listen until it reached god-tier all-timer status. Just a stunning piece of work, and a must-listen for fans of epic traditional metal and power metal.

(Master review index >)