BEST METAL The Best Metal on Bandcamp, October 2023 By Brad Sanders · October 31, 2023

October’s best metal on Bandcamp includes bone-crunching metallic hardcore, a split release from a pair of rising stars, classic black metal inspired by Slovakian folklore, and much more. 

Year of the Knife
No Love Lost

It’s hard not to process Year of the Knife’s No Love Lost through the lens of their hellish summer. In June, their van crashed into an 18-wheeler in Utah, leaving the entire band with debilitating injuries. Vocalist Madi Watkins had it worst, ultimately spending months in intensive treatment in Salt Lake City before returning home to Delaware. No Love Lost was recorded before the accident, and even though they had no knowledge of the hardships to come, Year of the Knife sound defiant and resilient. (Cruelly but fittingly, their tough-as-nails metallic hardcore is precisely the kind of music you’d listen to if you needed motivation to drag yourself to physical rehab day after day.) The Dust to Dust EP signaled that the new, Watkins-fronted version of the band would be a force to reckon with, and her first full-length behind the microphone confirms what a vicious beast they’ve become. She sounds downright terrifying as she rips through the album’s parade of throat-shredding vocal patterns, venom dripping from her every word. Behind her, the band bring even more death metal menace into their stomping hardcore, nodding to peers like Sanguisugabogg and Creeping Death. There’s even a bit of Pig Destroyer’s jagged grindcore here, an effect intensified by the cover art by Terrifyer illustrator Cris Crude. It might be a while before Year of the Knife get back on a stage, but until then, No Love Lost thrums with the live-wire energy that’s made them one of the best bands in hardcore.

Dream Unending & Worm

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD), Cassette

It almost makes too much sense. Dream Unending and Worm—both duos, both signed to 20 Buck Spin, both renowned for their emotionally wrenching, achingly atmospheric takes on extreme metal—are now split partners. Starpath features two supersized slabs of Dream Unending’s Peaceville-meets-4AD “dream-doom” alongside three serpentine shred showcases from Worm. Both bands’ contributions solidify them as ascended masters, standing at the vanguard of melodic metal in the 21st century. The cover, a rare painting by pen-and-ink specialist Mark Riddick, depicts a featureless celestial being staring into the eyes of a cloaked, skeletal figure. Both are represented in shades of midnight blue and rich purple, and while the former figure ostensibly stands in for Dream Unending and the latter for Worm, the music on Starpath suggests that their roles might be interchangeable. The beauty, the terror, the virtuosic guitar work, the rich veins of melody, the soul-stirring sense of transcendence—all can be found in any of these songs. Dream Unending and Worm were made for each other. It’s a blessing that Starpath has brought them into conversation.

Vertumnus Caesar

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)

Across four exhilarating full-lengths, Bratislava’s Malokarpatan have infused their first-wave black metal worship with heady draughts of ’70s hard rock, classic prog, and Slovakian folk music. A lot of the joy of following them has been hearing how they ricochet between passages of occultic ritual magick and fist-pumping, anthemic heavy metal. On Vertumnus Caesar, the band’s first LP in three years, they lean more into their dark and evil side—a possible consequence of guitarist Adam Sičák’s ongoing stint with the more explicitly black metal Stangarigel. Malokarpatan haven’t forgotten how to rock out, but they spend more of Vertumnus Caesar’s runtime working up an unnerving atmosphere, filling the canvas with traditional folk instrumentation and vintage synths. At its best, the album sounds like throwing an illicit party at an abandoned chapel in the woods just for the devil to show up and crash it. Pass the old boy a lager. 

Vampiric Coffin
The Last Drop

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If you’re going to do the whole vampiric raw black metal thing in 2023, you might as well really go for it. Vampiric Coffin is the one-man project of the Mississippi-based musician Count Jeffery the Vampire, and Count Jeffery writes songs about one thing and one thing only. As the man behind hits like “Curse of the Vampire,” “Vampiric Bloodlust,” “Vampire of the Countryside,” and my personal favorite, “Giant Fucking Bat,” Count Jeffery knows his pet subject well. His new EP, The Last Drop, opens with a haunted-house organ fanfare straight out of Hammer Films before dropping into a thrash-y black metal riff that levels everything in sight. That interplay between the self-consciously spooky and the bracingly heavy defines The Last Drop. Vampiric Coffin is a stylistic descendant (and labelmate) of Old Nick, the flagship black metal project of lo-fi prankster Abysmal Specter. The Last Drop contains some of the best music in that style outside of the discography of Old Nick himself. 

The Dark Path to the Light 

Since debuting in 2016, Wolvennest have been defined by their preternatural command of atmosphere. They’re adept at long, swirling suites that combine dark psychedelia, ritualistic black metal, hypnotic doom, and moody dark ambient. On their surprise-released third LP, The Dark Path to the Light, the Brussels band cut their usual album runtime in half. It turns out they’re just as effective working in (relative) miniature; The Dark Path’s 41 minutes are as luxuriously atmospheric as anything Wolvennest has done. Even the neo-folk-tinged intro track, “Lost Civilizations,” manages to build a rich world in its three minutes and change. Shazzula, one of several vocalists on the album, has never sounded more like a true frontwoman. On most of these songs, her stoic, insistent voice bores a hole straight through the listener’s heart while the rest of the band work themselves into a wild-eyed trance behind her. (One shining exception is the stellar “The Timeless All and Nothing,” led by Misþyrming frontman Dagur Gíslason.) The Dark Path to the Light marks another triumph for this truly singular band.

Time Immortal Wept

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
✓ following
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
✓ following
Merch for this release:
Compact Disc (CD), Vinyl LP

The dungeon walls of Pittsburgh have been rattled once again by the sound of epic heavy metal. The bards in Legendry have emerged from a four-year slumber to deliver their latest elixir of goblin-slaying, double-neck-guitar-wielding heavy metal thunder. Theirs is an ancient vintage, first distilled by Cirith Ungol and Manilla Road in the heady days of the early ’80s, and on Time Immortal Wept, they nearly perfect it. Whether with stomping, mid-paced rockers like “Sigil Strider,” moodier tracks like “The Prophecy,” or the nearly 12-minute-long title track, Legendry pay homage to the gods of old, never marring their vision with modern touches but reveling in their primordial spirit. Time Immortal Wept is as pure as old-school heavy metal comes.

Further In Evil

Merch for this release:
Compact Disc (CD), Vinyl LP

There’s a thrilling wildness to Further in Evil, the debut album by Italian one-woman band Marthe. If it wasn’t already known that Marzia Silvani played everything on the record, thus necessitating overdubs, I’d say it sounded like it was recorded live in one take. Silvani comes from an anarcho-punk background, and even though the sounds on Further in Evil are slightly more baroque than what you’d find on a Crass record, her raw, urgent style of playing puts it in the same world. Musically, Silvani draws not only from punk but from early black metal, classic doom, and the rough-and-tumble bacchanalia of Motörhead and Venom. The closest point of reference to what she’s doing might be the similarly omnivorous latter-day work of Darkthrone. At the very least, the epic opening track “I Ride Alone” and the vamping “Victimized” would get Fenriz’s blood pumping.

Body Void
Atrocity Machine

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD), T-Shirt/Shirt, Cassette

Body Void are heavy. That’s the most important thing to know going into Atrocity Machine, the Vermont band’s fourth full-length. The sludge-drenched guitars, stomach-turning basslines, punishing drums, strangled vocals, and near-constant squalls of industrial noise conspire to make Atrocity Machine quite possibly the heaviest album of the year. That’s before even considering frontperson Willow Ryan’s lyrics, which excoriate the American police state and the commodification of suffering with acerbic, pitch-black satire. It isn’t always easy to listen to—but it’s not supposed to be.

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