Top 5 Metal (and Non-Metal) Albums of 2023 – Meadow Wyand of Fourth Dominion

Article by Meadow Wyand

2023 seems like it was rough for a lot of us, but I hope you’re doing better now. Here’s to the music that helped get us through. What were your favorite records of 2023? Lmk!


1. Svalbard – The Weight of the Mask (Blackgaze/Metalcore)

“There’s no poetry, no ambiguity – just direct, raw honesty… the blunt lyrics are equally as important as the music” are words from Svalbard’s band biography. While true, that the “raw honesty” of “the blunt lyrics” is critical to The Weight of the Mask’s success, I can’t help but feel the band are selling themselves short. This album is a heartwrenching and poignant masterwork of using music to carry the emotion of words. I think this statement is trying to speak to how frontwoman Serena Cherry’s lyrics don’t use fancy wordplay. However, if the Modernists like T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound showed us anything, it was that the flowery language of the Romanticists does not necessarily a good poet make. The album speaks to the idea of the persona, specifically our increasingly online “masks.” Considering Serena has a side project that is entirely based upon Skyrim, I’m going to assume she has at least a passing familiarity with Jungian psychology through the Persona games. The lyrics communicate its “weight” with empathy because of their approachability. Much like Adrienne Rich and Anne Sexton, Serena is able to relate themes of loss, heartbreak and trauma in a subversive and transgressive way. It toggles the ever-present interplay of personal and political, which characterized so much of the poetry associated with second wave feminism. She may not realize it, but Serena’s words on The Weight of the Mask actually mean something to us. If that doesn’t make her a poet, I don’t know what does. Favorite Track – “Be My Tomb.”

2. Tribunal – The Weight of Remembrance (Gothic Doom)

While thankfully not over-concerned with retro aesthetic, Tribunal’s The Weight of Remembrance does speak to the early synthesis of gothic doom and symphonic metal. Its most obvious point of reference is Tristania’s Widow’s Weeds. The album hits that sweet spot before the mood, ambience and emotion of the genre were subsumed into overblown productions and triggered drum sounds. As a result, it is perhaps its most compelling and persuasive entry since Tristania’s debut. There was a lot left unsaid, and Tribunal show where the genre’s trajectory should have gone as the century turned. I am more than happy for it to be realized and in my hands now. The comparison is not to say that Tribunal don’t offer anything new. Far from it. The guitar tone is exceptional and decidedly “rock and roll.” It has fuzz, warmth and a shitload of reverb, aka the perfect amount for metal. They draw more from classic doom like Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus than bands like Tristania ever did. The most exciting thing about Tribunal however, is their potential to fill the void left in my heart by SubRosa’s breakup, even moreso than The Otolith. They haven’t quite reached that level of greatness yet, but everything about The Weight of Remembrance suggests they will. Favorite Track – “A World Beyond Shadow.”

3. Dying Wish – Symptoms of Survival (Metalcore)

I didn’t grow up listening to metalcore. I have no soft spot for its heyday in the early aughts. Why then, do I find Dying Wish so damn compelling? Is it because I’m not an edgy teenager anymore? That certainly helps, but no. Dying Wish are special. This is immediately obvious from vocalist Emma Boster. Her screams have weight and her melodic voice is pure euphonic bliss. The album’s most successful sections are those where she’s singing over the heavy guitars. Sure, Dying Wish can turn a breakdown and a harmonic third riff just as well as any of the genre’s key bands, but those poppy mallcore sections are where they most excel. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Though it doesn’t fully embrace the intertextual weaving that makes my #1 pick top of the list, Symptoms of Survival’s honesty and vulnerability are delivered through a tangible point-of-view that elevate Dying Wish far above standard genre fare. The album’s brilliance forever a reminder of all the great stuff I missed out on in my formative, though regrettable, metal elitist youth. Favorite Track – “Torn From Your Silhouette.”

4. Horrendous – Ontological Mysterium (Progressive Death/Heavy Metal)

I had the privilege of living in one of Horrendous’ many home bases, the DC area, right as they were starting to get big. I saw them supporting Tribulation in 2016 and one thing was evident to me from that performance: though they ostensibly played progressive death metal, Horrendous were a shreddy heavy metal band at heart. Their affinity for Megadeth, Painkiller-era Priest and Mercyful Fate is most pronounced on Ontological Mysterium, and I think it’s awesome. This blend of old school metal and the tired, yet no less true comparison, of Human-era Death takes the band in new directions. It enables them to explore clean vocals, which have a Týr-ish folk metal quality to them. It’s surprising. That’s a good thing. Much like their heroes in Mercyful Fate, Horrendous are one of the rare metal bands who know how to smartly and effectively sequence a “riff salad.” I could totally understand why someone wouldn’t be willing to go this far with the band, but I am here for the “epic shred metal-death metal.” Favorite Track – “Chrysopoeia (The Archaeology of Dawn).”

5. Majesties – Vast Reaches Unclaimed (Melodic Death/Black Metal)

If Storm of the Light’s Bane meets The Jester Race sounds appealing to you, you’ll probably enjoy this album as much as I did. This is the shit that made me fall in love with metal. In fact, this sounds like a much better and more refined version of what my first band, Neotheist, was trying to do: the blend of aforementioned In Flames and Dissection, with occasional moments of Emperor and latter-day Death. While Majesties may not offer anything terribly new, their pastiche is at least super specific and masterfully executed. Despite the distortion, their riffs and melodies have a strange way of soothing the ear canals. They’ll make it so you never regret putting Vast Reaches Unclaimed on. Favorite Track – “Sidereal Spire.”


1. Lathe of Heaven – Bound By Naked Skies (Post-Punk)

When Lathe of Heaven’s Demo appeared in my YouTube feed last year, I was immediately drawn in by the band’s name. Ursula K. Le Guin is my favorite author and The Lathe of Heaven, my favorite of her science fiction works. The reference is notable because the aesthetic framework of progressive sci-fi on Bound by Naked Skies is one of its biggest strengths. As Le Guin and Octavia Butler (also referenced) pushed science fiction into more provocative and sophisticated territory, so too, do Lathe of Heaven with the post-punk revival. The songs on Bound by Naked Skies are super catchy and danceable as all hell. The mix of post-punk and new wave creates a dreary and wet cyberpunk landscape for the music to exist in. Imagine Killing Joke meets Brotherhood-era New Order in the future of Blade Runner. It’s cool. Favorite Track – “Ilusión de Luces (Cold’s Embrace).”

2. usedcvnt – ultraviolet (Breakcore)

As Tribunal offers the hope of filling our collective SubRosa void, usedcvnt does the same for Sewerslvt. This may sound silly, but breakcore changed my life when I first heard it. For the first time I felt there was a subgenre that was specifically trans. Like, an actual genre of music we can claim as “trans culture.” Whether that culture appeals to anybody besides us is a different story. usedcvnt delivers the best of what breakcore is capable of on ultraviolet: glitchy break beats, vocaloid J-Pop vocals, drenching atmosphere and most importantly, a developed understanding of melody. That last one is what separates the good breakcore artists from the mediocre. It was Sewerslvt’s strong suit. As evidenced by the super metal changing of “u” to “v,” and the purple hair of the album’s avatar, ultraviolet is Jvne worship. It doesn’t claim to be anything else and doesn’t need to be. While it may not be quite as good as the masterpieces the Slvtcrusher released towards the end of her career, it’s pretty damn close. Favorite Track – “yours forever.”

3. 100 gecs – 10,000 gecs (Hyperpop/Pop-Punk)

Ok, this is just a good album. Forget what you think you know about 100 gecs and listen to the songs. Sure, they are frenetic, annoying and make me feel old, but 10,000 gecs reveals that Laura Les and Dylan Brady are actually talented songwriters. Whether they want to be or not is another, very valid question. Their debut, 1000 gecs, was also a great album, but its hyperpop glitches were far more unhinged. This one sands down their harshest edges, which makes way for songs with more distinct identities. Much like the realization that Andrew W.K.’s absurdly optimistic party anthems were not in tongue-in-cheek, 10,000 gecs offers a similar revelation with regards to the hyperpop duo. 100 gecs are not some Warhol-esque cyber-postmodern parody. They’re just having fun. While some might find that disappointing, I couldn’t be happier about it. The album is addicting and for the first time, I feel like I actually have something to sing along to. Laura is the Queen of California, Anthony Kiedis can tell you why. Favorite Track – “mememe.”

4. Kim Petras – Feed The Beast (Pop)

That Kim Petras made music history for trans women this year is undeniable. Between her iconic Grammy win for “Unholy” and Sasha Colby’s Drag Race crown, it’s been a big year for trans artists in the public eye. Petras was, of course, subject to controversy for the crime of being a trans woman and existing. Even though probably not intended to, the album’s tone of righteous vindication is impossible not to read as a response to this. Regardless of its cultural status however, Feed the Beast is slutpop of the highest order. We haven’t had queer club anthems this universally appealing and fully realized since Lady Gaga’s Born This Way. The record’s unapologetic sexuality is ultimately, hella empowering. How could you not feel euphoric as a trans woman listening to “Coconuts?” Petras also released Problematique this year, a good album as well, but Feed the Beast’s seriousness and gravity esteem it as the superior record. This is not the sophisticated art pop of Sophie. It owes way more to Britney than it does to Kate Bush, but she’s doing it. She’s transcended being “the trans pop star” to just being “a pop star,” and I say, right f***ing on girl. Feed the Beast is proof that “everything she drops is a banger.” Favorite Track – “Revelations.”

5. The Frozen Autumn – The Shape of Things to Come (Darkwave)

While this may not be the best album of the year, it’s certainly the one I’ve listened to most. This is one of the most memorable albums in The Frozen Autumn’s sparse, yet consistent, discography. The Italian duo have been making ethereal and dancy darkwave since the nineties. As such, The Shape of Things to Come feels like masters showing apprentices how it’s done. The title is certainly meant to evoke some metatextual commentary on the genre, as was the case with Refused’s classic and similarly titled, The Shape of Punk to Come. Importantly, its production is modern and slick. It sounds like a record released in 2023, not a vintage throwback. Between the expansive dance sections and fantastic vocal performances, The Frozen Autumn show that they are not just on the same level as the post-punk revival bands, but actively surpassing them. Favorite Track – “Origami Clouds.”

Meadow Wyand is the vocalist and bassist of Rochester, NY Gothic Metal band Fourth Dominion. You can check them out at and on Instagram @fourthdominion. You can find more of her writing at and on Instagram @meadowkamagica.

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