The Kerrang! staff’s top albums of 2023

You’ve seen the Kerrang! top 50. Now check out what the staff were individually listening to this year…

The Kerrang! staff’s top albums of 2023
Kerrang! staff

As ever, 2023 saw hundreds of albums going out into the world. While we managed to whittle that down to a top 50 list that snapshotted the past 12 months in music and represented where things are, there were also so many contenders that were all, honourably, number 51.

Kerrang! is made up of a team, all of whom love and have widely varying opinions on our music. Being a broad church where Meet Me @ The Altar have a seat just as Dying Fetus do, individually our staff have very different end-of-year lists. Therefore, here they are. Here’s what we’ve all been listening to, falling in love with, and having our lives enormously enriched by this year, one staffer at a time…

Luke Morton, Editor

10. Pest Control – Don’t Test The Pest
9. Pupil Slicer – Blossom
8. ZULU – A New Tomorrow
7. 100 gecs – 10,000 gecs
6. Drain – Living Proof
5. Foo Fighters – But Here We Are
4. Creeper – Sanguivore
3. Green Lung – This Heathen Land
2. Enter Shikari – A Kiss For The Whole World
1. Militarie Gun – Life Under The Gun

To be honest, it’s actually quite difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is I love so much about Militarie Gun’s debut album. It could be frontman Ian Shelton’s infectious lyricism, the Britpop-inflected hooks, the lung-busting choruses, or simply the fact it’s less than half-an-hour long so you can blast through it twice on the way to work every day (seriously, it completely destroyed my Spotify Wrapped). There’s so much to enjoy about Life Under The Gun, especially for someone like myself who gorges on everything even vaguely hardcore-related coming out of the States right now. If you’re in a bad mood, it’ll pick you up, if you’re in a great mood it’ll keep you riding that wave. But deep down it’s about the shared human experience and that craving for genuine human connection; something hammered home to me after finally seeing the band live earlier this month, and being a part of the unashamed joy coursing through the sold-out Dome in London. Tracks like Very High and My Friends Are Having A Hard Time are emblematic of a band already striving for more – be that a bigger sound or bigger stages – and we could look easily find ourselves back on this record in 10 years’ time as the start of something very special indeed.

Emily Carter, Deputy Editor

10. Creeper – Sanguivore
9. Meet Me @ The Altar – Past // Present // Future
7. 100 gecs – 10,000 gecs
6. Paramore – This Is Why
5. blink-182 – ONE MORE TIME…
4. Foo Fighters – But Here We Are
3. Fall Out Boy – So Much (For) Stardust
2. The Gaslight Anthem – History Books
1. Avenged Sevenfold – Life Is But A Dream…

The first few times I listened to Life Is But A Dream…, there were multiple moments that full-on made me laugh out loud. And, weirdly, I mean that as a compliment. From thrash to techno to prog to, uh, Sesame Street, it’s a fantastically all-over-the-place musical rollercoaster… and that’s just referring to second single We Love You alone. I’ve long appreciated Avenged Sevenfold’s blissfully liberated approach, but for genuinely massive festival headliners to release an album quite as out-there as this? They sure are a brave bunch. For plenty of fans those risks didn’t pay off, of course, but for me the likes of Game Over, Cosmic and the triple-whammy of G, (O)rdinary and (D)eath are all-time greats, and I’d love to see them in their setlists for years to come. Whether LIBAD… made you want to roll your eyes, switch it off or – like me – laugh in disbelief, I don’t think you can deny that metal is all the better for having Avenged Sevenfold here, doing whatever the hell they want.

Nick Ruskell, Senior Commissioning Editor

10. Code Orange – The Above
9. Baroness – Stone
8. Enslaved – Heimdal
7. GEL – Only Constant
6. Naut – Hunt
5. Maggot Heart – Hunger
4. Ahab – The Coral Tombs
3. Green Lung – This Heathen Land
2. Pupil Slicer – Blossom
1. Svalbard – The Weight Of The Mask

I've said enough times how great I think Svalbard are. I expected a lot from their fourth album. What I didn't expect was the depths – both artistic and emotional – that it contains. Even after Serena Cherry played me a couple of early tracks, I couldn't have imagined how the geography of the record would appear. It's a triumph of a band who not only know what they do so well it's instinctual now, but also of absolute bravery in the openness in its subject matter. That the music oscillates so perfectly between beauty and rage, and ties so perfectly to Serena's incredibly personal and revealing lyrics, only underscores their brilliance.

Steve Beebee, Writer

10. Saint Agnes – Bloodsuckers
9. Creeper – Sanguivore
8. Beyond The Black – Beyond The Black
7. Within Temptation – Bleed Out
6. In This Moment – Godmode
5. Myrkur – Spine
4. Sleep Token – Take Me Back To Eden
3. Ville Valo – Neon Noir
2. Green Lung – This Heathen Land
1. Foo Fighters – But Here We Are

It was always going to be emotional. How could it not have been? Dave Grohl, owner of one of our world’s brightest songwriting minds, reacted with grace, aplomb and dazzling tune-craft on the first Foo Fighters release since the loss of drummer Taylor Hawkins, and Dave’s beloved mother, Virginia. It is, of course, an exceptional album – not wallowing in misery, remembering to celebrate life even though tragedy inevitably walks with it. ‘Pictures of us sharing songs and cigarettes / This is how I’ll always picture you,’ Dave sings on Under You, remembering best friend Taylor. Elsewhere, the title-track, the beautifully developed Hearing Voices and Nothing At All are classic Foos, but even these pale in comparison with the astonishing multi-part The Teacher. If you’ve lost a parent, or are scared of doing so, the latter is a hard listen, but is as affecting as music gets. The way life strikes the ball at you with topspin, makes you adapt to things you barely thought possible – it’s something the Foos evince perfectly on this comeback. And, here we are.

Aliya Chaudhry, Writer

10. Hot Milk – A CALL TO THE VOID
9. Meet Me @ The Altar – Past // Present // Future
8. RedHook – Postcard From A Living Hell
7. Dream Nails – Doom Loop
6. Fall Out Boy – So Much (For) Stardust
5. Paramore – This Is Why
4. 100 gecs – 10,000 gecs
3. Holding Absence – The Noble Art Of Self Destruction
1. Creeper – Sanguivore

Vampires! A severed head! A nine-minute opening track! Creeper's third record – an ’80s classic rock-inspired concept album about vampires – is as fantastical, elaborate and bombastic as it sounds. Sanguivore shows the horror-punk band going farther in every direction, whether it’s the thrilling darkwave of Black Heaven, the fiery punk of Sacred Blasphemy or the dance sensibilities of Lovers Led Astray and Cry To Heaven – and plenty of impressive, full-blown solos from guitarist Ian Miles. One of the best things about the album is its sense of humour. (On Teenage Sacrifice, vocalist Will Gould poses the philosophical quandary, 'Can you live without your life?') But it’s ultimately Creeper’s ability to be simultaneously absolutely sincere, and at their silliest, that makes the album as ridiculously catchy, dangerously fun and wholly enthralling as it is.

George Garner, Writer

10. Empire State Bastard – Rivers Of Heresy
9. PVRIS – Evergreen
8. Metallica – 72 Seasons
7. Urne – A Feast On Sorrow
6. Creeper – Sanguivore
5. Paramore – This Is Why
4. Will Haven – VII
3. Crosses – Goodnight, God Bless, I Love U, Delete.
2. Brad – In The Moment That You’re Born
1. Foo Fighters – But Here We Are

The tricky thing when you review an album before its release is that your thoughts can often change quite drastically afterwards. Sometimes you like it more in the following weeks of living with it. Sometimes a bit less. Sometimes you get it completely wrong and only realise your fuck-up down the line. To err is human, pals. But Foo Fighters’ But Here We Are has been a rarity for me – a record that has, in the most captivating way, not changed one bit in my estimation. It was overpowering on the first listen, overpowering when I reviewed it for K! and, months on, is still overpowering. To have simply recorded a solitary song after what they’ve been through would have been a remarkable feat in and of itself. Instead, they delivered something that is lyrically breathtaking, musically explorative and very much in contention to be considered their finest hour. More than a mere record, it is a glorious feat of survival.

James Hickie, Writer

10. Drain – Living Proof
9. Sleep Token – Take Me Back To Eden
8. TesseracT – War Of Being
7. Empire State Bastard – Rivers Of Heresy
6. Queens Of The Stone Age – In Times New Roman…
5. Green Lung – This Heathen Land
4. Foo Fighters – But Here We Are
3. Baroness – Stone
2. Creeper – Sanguivore
1. NOTHING & Full Of Hell – When No Birds Sang

Devastating is a word lightly thrown around in the context of heavy music. Sometimes it’s applied to a particularly abrasive riff, while others it’s used to encapsulate the bleakness of the subject matter being explored. But ask yourself: how many times has a record truly devastated you? When did you last listen to an enmeshing of beauty and brutality that echoes the turbulence of your own mind, while articulating in music your greatest fears and biggest questions? It's been a while, right? Well, that’s what When No Birds Sang, the astonishing collaboration between shoegazers NOTHING and grindcore outfit Full Of Hell does. There is, it should be noted, a conceptual starting point to this record, which we won’t spoil here, but a deep dive online will likely reveal. Whether you look this up or choose to go into the record blind, you’re in for a revelatory experience.

James Hingle, Writer

10. TesseracT – War Of Being
9. Svalbard – The Weight Of The Mask
8. Empire State Bastard – Rivers Of Heresy
7. Baroness – Stone
6. blink-182 – ONE MORE TIME…
5. Urne – A Feast On Sorrow
4. Code Orange – The Above
3. END – The Sin Of Human Frailty
2. Paramore – This Is Why
1. Foo Fighters – But Here We Are

2023 feels like it has been a vintage year for heavy music; new bands shining brightly with bold new soundscapes, established bands returning to form and an explosion of interesting thought-provoking music. For Foo Fighters, and for Dave Grohl, it was about navigating through the loss of best friend and drummer Taylor Hawkins, as well as his beloved mother Virginia. Through what can only be unimaginable suffering, Dave and co. came together to create a masterpiece of epic proportions. Out of the trauma, came a band almost being reborn to pay homage to those they have lost. From the anthemic Taylor tribute in Under You to the 10-minute adventure of The Teacher, this album became the most poignant piece of music for me this year.

Sam Law, Writer

10. Jesus Piece – ...So Unknown
9. Code Orange – The Above
8. 100 gecs – 10,000 gecs
7. The Menzingers – Some Of It Was True
6. The Armed – Perfect Saviors
5. Urne – A Feast On Sorrow
4. Baroness – Stone
3. Green Lung – This Heathen Land
2. Hellripper – Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags
1. Creeper – Sanguivore

When Creeper re-emerged at Slam Dunk 2023, suited in black leather, slathered in gore and with re-named frontman William von Gould chucking around his own severed head, you just knew that album three was going to be bloody brilliant. Because, as awesome as the Southampton crew have always been, this is the campy, coffin-creaking, carnivorous Creeper we’ve been waiting to meet for the best part of a decade. Dialling back the sensitivity while ramping up the sex and violence, they presented a gloriously maximalist vampiric vision, from Welder Wings’ gothic-surrealist artwork to nocturnal new personas for each of the band and a live show overseen by their very own familiar Darcia that routinely ended with goblets of haemoglobin and the Blood Rave theme from Blade blaring from the PAs. Such theatrical distractions would be hollow without absolute bangers to back them up, of course. But in their blend of Sisters Of Mercy’s shadowy swagger and Jim Steinman’s gleefully overblown rock operatics, every track goes for the jugular. Starting with – literally – heart-wrenching opener Further Than Forever and ravenously retro lead single Cry To Heaven and not letting up through The (murder) Ballad Of Spook & Mercy, whip-cracking, climactic highlight Lovers Led Astray and deliciously melodramatic closer More Than Death, ghoulish grins are guaranteed from start to finish. An album for the ages. Fucking fangtastic.

Alistair Lawrence, Writer

10. As Friends Rust – Any Joy
9. Death Pill – Death Pill
8. Easy Beach – Easy Beach
7. Buggin – Concrete Cowboys
6. Open City – Hands In The Honey Jar
5. Single Mothers – Roy
4. GEL – Only Constant
3. Initiate – Cerebral Circus
2. The Menzingers – Some Of It Was True
1. Hot Mulligan – Why Would I Watch

Just when it looked like the pandemic might have hindered Michigan quartet Hot Mulligan’s promise and ascent, they regrouped to record a third album so essential that it lured in large numbers of anxious emo kids and world-weary pop-punks alike. Their headline show at London’s O2 Forum Kentish Town in September felt like a sneak peek at a blisteringly bright future: 80 minutes of sing-alongs largely drawn from the best of what Why Would I Watch has to offer. Oh, and it also gave frontman Nathan ‘Tades’ Sanville the opportunity to share with K! one of the most unlikely get-fit-for-touring regimes ever committed to tape. Slamming coffee liqueurs then jogging around a trailer park, anyone?

John Longbottom, Writer

10. Fucked Up – One Day
9. Rancid – Tomorrow Never Comes
8. Teenage Wrist – Still Love
7. Paramore – This Is Why
6. Metallica – 72 Seasons
5. Baroness – Stone
4. Night Verses – Every Sound Has A Color In The Valley Of The Night: Part 1
3. Enter Shikari – A Kiss For The Whole World
2. The Menzingers – Some Of It Was True
1. Iggy Pop – Every Loser

Don't get me wrong, I love all the bands on this list. But if any of this lot are still putting out records as good as Iggy Pop's Every Loser when they're 75 years old, I'll eat my damn hat. And you can hold me to that. The man cannot and will not be stopped. In fact, when neuroscientists conducted a study of Iggy's brain, they found that he'd rewired the part of the brain you and I use to put a T-shirt on… and repurposed it into a power plant dedicated to writing avant-garde, punk rock bangers until the end of time. That's bullshit, but hey. This record's killer. Age is a number. Punk rock's a lifestyle. Iggy is lord.

James MacKinnon, Writer

10. Reverend Kristin Michael Hayter – SAVED!
9. Year Of The Knife – No Love Lost
8. Svalbard – The Weight Of The Mask
7. Baroness – Stone
6. Green Lung – This Heathen Land
5. Filth Is Eternal – Find Out
4. ZULU – A New Tomorrow
3. Creeper – Sanguivore
2. Iggy Pop – Every Loser
1. The Gaslight Anthem – History Books

Like the return of an old friend, The Gaslight Anthem’s first album in almost a decade found that some things may have changed – new sounds, new stories to tell – but the driving spirit stays the same. Trading verses with Springsteen on the rousing title-track may seem obvious and overdue, but it feels a lifetime of experience ahead of The ’59 Sound. From the crunching stomp of Spider Bites and Autumn’s swagger down memory lane, to the hushed waltz of Empires, History Books is littered with moments that stick under the skin and remind you that the journey matters more than the destination. But good friends and trusty chords will see you through.

Mischa Pearlman, Writer

10. Sydney Sprague – Somebody In Hell Loves You
9. The Dirty Nil – Free Rein To Passions
7. Dream Nails – Doom Loop
6. Samiam – Stowaway
5. Crime In Stereo – House + Trance
4. THE XCERTS – Learning How To Live And Let Go
3. Taking Back Sunday – 152
2. Plasma Canvas – Dusk
1. Codefendants – This Is Crimewave

Every year, I hate this. Every year, I curse myself for not being organised enough to make this process easier. Every year, I know there are great albums that I haven’t heard, or ones that I’ve forgotten when these lists come around. Every year, I pledge to do better the next year. Every year, I fail. That said, this year, I’ve known my favourite album since before 2023 began. I was lucky enough to hear Codefendants’ This Is Crimewave way before it was announced, and truth be told, it was probably my album of 2022, except it wasn’t out yet. It’s one of the most original, inspiring and powerful records I’ve ever heard in my life – the insanely good twin lyrical skills of Get Dead’s Sam King and Ceschi Ramos combining to paint an incredibly powerful warts-and-all portrait of the underbelly of the U.S. Drawing on their experiences behind bars, the pair’s songs incisively reveal just how much damage the capitalist system has done to America and those suffering most in society as a result. At the same time, there’s a whole lot of (broken) heart underpinning these songs, whether it’s addressing the break-up of a relationship, the death of a parent, police brutality, the drug war, the devastating and fatal effects of the fentanyl epidemic. Each song sounds so different but they flow perfectly together. There are also a bunch of great guest vocalists, including The D.O.C.’s first recorded verse in 19 years. And it was all financed and facilitated by Fat Mike, who plays bass throughout. Not just a brilliant record, but an insanely important one. Put it on and you’ll find it hard to take off. There’s a good fentanyl metaphor to be made there, but that might be a little too crass. Then again, you know Fat Mike would make it.

Jake Richardson, Writer

10. Taking Back Sunday – 152
9. Silent Planet – SUPERBLOOM
8. Sleep Token – Take Me Back To Eden
7. Fall Out Boy – So Much (For) Stardust
6. Paramore – This Is Why
5. Creeper – Sanguivore
4. blink-182 – ONE MORE TIME…
3. Beartooth – The Surface
2. Trophy Eyes – Suicide And Sunshine
1. Holding Absence – The Noble Art Of Self Destruction

The Noble Art Of Self Destruction is the culmination of eight years of graft by one of UK rock’s most creatively bold and hardest working bands. The closing chapter of the first phase of Holding Absence’s career, the third album from the Cardiff post-hardcore/emo four-piece sets the stage for them to take their band wherever they see fit. Channeling the daring spirit of emo legends My Chemical Romance but with a sound very much their own, The Noble Art Of Self Destruction sees Holding Absence present some of 2023’s most emotionally affecting music, with dreamy ballad Honey Moon and gargantuan closing epic The Angel In The Marble two notable highlights. It’s a special album by a special band, and a must-hear for lovers of emotionally charged rock.

Rachel Roberts, Writer

10. Metallica – 72 Seasons
9. Poppy – Zig
8. PVRIS – Evergreen
7. Måneskin – RUSH!
6. Skindred – Smile
5. Movements – RUCKUS!
4. You Me At Six – Truth Decay
3. Foo Fighters – But Here We Are
2. Empire State Bastard – Rivers Of Hersey
1. Paramore – This Is Why

When Paramore announced they were back in the studio, masses of OG fans prayed that they were cooking up something gritty. Although This Is Why’s predecessor – 2017’s After Laughter – was a spectacular body of work, there’s no denying that it took a large leap away from the signature Paramore soundscapes. The years that followed it saw the world turn metaphorically inside out, so naturally we were all hungry for something a little more obnoxiously angry. And the trio delivered it, but with class. This Is Why carries across themes of political anxiety (The News), personal anxiety (the title-track), and acceptance of our own chaos (C’est Comme Ça). It felt like an allowance for us to collectively spew out our frustrations, as if we could all gather in a group hug and say, “What a mess, huh?”

Dan Slessor, Writer

10. In Flames – Foregone
9. End – The Sin Of Human Frailty
8. Unearth – The Wretched; The Ruinous
7. Jesus Piece – …So Unknown
6. Suicide Silence – Remember… You Will Die
5. VV – Neon Noir
4. Cannibal Corpse – Chaos Horrific
3. Empire State Bastard – Rivers Of Heresy
2. Cattle Decapitation – Terrasite
1. Dying Fetus – Make Them Beg For Death

There was just no record as violent as Make Them Beg For Death dropped in 2023, its title perfectly summing up the content. Having been at the death metal thing for more than 30 years, Dying Fetus truly have improved with age, growing ever more ruthless, blending elements of hardcore seamlessly into their sound for maximum devastation. With their ninth full-length they cut the fat completely, creating something that is relentlessly brutal without losing its impact at any point, unleashing storms of blastbeats, endless volleys of double kick, and fat grooves to choke on. It might not be the most original release of the year but it’s the most riveting, and anyone who likes getting the crap kicked out of their ears needs it in their lives.

Mark Sutherland, Writer

10. Royal Blood – Back To The Water Below
9. Hot Milk – A CALL TO THE VOID
8. Fall Out Boy – So Much (For) Stardust
7. blink-182 – ONE MORE TIME…
6. Rancid – Tomorrow Never Comes
5. You Me At Six – Truth Decay
4. Skating Polly – Chaos County Line
3. Paramore – This Is Why
2. Hundred Reasons – Glorious Sunset
1. Ash – Race The Night

Thirty years in, most bands are happy to put their creative feet up and indulge in some easy nostalgia. Not Ash. They attack their eighth studio album with the same visceral teenage verve that they brought to the scene when they blasted out of Northern Ireland in the 1990s. As well as being Ash’s rockiest record since 2004’s scorching Meltdown, Race The Night is stacked with bangers, from the super-charged title-track to Like A God, a song so awesome it had to be split in two to avoid breaking European Union riff quota regulations. The end result is an irresistible album that sounds as fresh as any new band, yet deserves to sit proudly alongside Ash classics such as 1977 and Free All Angels. God bless these ’90s kids.

Olly Thomas, Writer

10. KEN Mode – VOID
9. Mudhoney – Plastic Eternity
8. END – The Sin Of Human Frailty
7. Mutoid Man – Mutants
6. GEL – Only Constant
5. Pest Control – Don’t Test The Pest
4. The Hives – The Death Of Randy Fitzsimmons
3. Dealing With Damage – Use The Daylight
2. Godflesh – Purge
1. Dawn Ray’d – To Know The Light

A bittersweet one, this. Folding folk instrumentation and anarchist politics into their fiery furnace, Dawn Ray’d were arguably the most distinctively British black metal band ever. Their protest songs tapped into a long history dating back to at least the Peasant’s Revolt, through Diggers, Chartists, Tolpuddle Martyrs and striking miners – exactly the sort of revolutionary spirit our wretched government has attempted to suppress. Musically, To Know The Light could appeal to devotees of avant-folk outfit Lankum as much as acolytes of blazing blackened mayhem. By late summer they were playing ArcTanGent and sharing bills with the likes of noise rockers Chat Pile and alt-drone supremos BIG|BRAVE. Then, in mid-September, they announced their demise, effective immediately, with a statement claiming that the band was “no longer the right vessel… creatively or politically”. They did, at least, end on the finest record of their career. Let’s hope there’s more to come, in some other form, from Fabian, Matthew and Simon – and from all those whose imaginations have been set alight by the white heat of this excellent album.

Emma Wilkes, Writer

10. Trophy Eyes – Suicide And Sunshine
8. Dying Wish – Symptoms Of Survival
7. Foo Fighters – But Here We Are
6. Code Orange – The Above
5. Sleep Token – Take Me Back To Eden
4. Holding Absence – The Noble Art Of Self Destruction
3. Creeper – Sanguivore
2. Pupil Slicer – Blossom
1. Svalbard – The Weight Of The Mask

There’s not a lot of great things about Britain right now, but this odd little island has been such enormously fertile ground for metal lately that the early 2020s might be looked at with hindsight as a new golden age for it. If there is a shred of justice in the world, we’ll be looking back at this time and talking about Svalbard, especially after the stunning body of work that is The Weight Of The Mask. While Serena Cherry’s never been one for watering down her emotions, on Svalbard’s fourth outing, her words somehow cut further into the bone than ever, illustrating the reality of depression in unfiltered, agonisingly real terms (the apex being where she declares 'I am too depressed to show you how depressed I really am'.). At the same time, sonically they managed to sound more beautiful than ever, conjuring a dreamy, glacial atmosphere but not one without a feeling of savagery. At times, it felt like a thick mist through which Serena is squinting to see glimmers of hope and, occasionally, she finds them. In every way, it was one of 2023’s most unmissable releases.

Ian Winwood, Writer

10. Overkill – Scorched
9. The Dead Milkmen – Quaker City Quiet Pills
8. Public Image Ltd. – End Of World
7. The Hold Steady – The Price Of Progress
6. Rancid – Tomorrow Never Comes
5. Creeper – Sanguivore
4. Fucked Up – One Day
3. The Gaslight Anthem – History Books
2. Enter Shikari – A Kiss For The Whole World
1. Avenged Sevenfold – Life Is But A Dream…

Life Is But A Dream… is the best metal album of the century thus far. Or should that be metal-adjacent? Because with a remit that covers lounge music, Frank Zappa-tinged jazz-rock, dance beats, punk rock, speed metal, instrumental piano pieces and God knows what else, on their eighth studio album Avenged Sevenfold have dispensed with staying in a lane in favour of owning the whole road. Fearlessly conceived and expertly executed, this genuine masterpiece, this offspring of imagination and talent, is nothing less than the true sound of liberty.

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