Heavy metal is more than a genre of music. It’s a vast, vast world full of its own countless subgenres, thriving regions all around the world, and more bands than any individual person can keep track of, from still-active veterans to rising new bands with buzzed-about demos. We’re always looking for more new bands to listen to, so we again reached out to an array of metal lovers — including metal writers, show promoters, and members of bands like Hatebreed, Undeath, The Acacia Strain, Escuela Grind, Acephalix, Ripped to Shreds, Ulthar, Worm, Scarcity, Pupil Slicer and more — to ask them what metal bands they think people should be keeping an eye on. Each person picked one band and wrote a bit about each one, and the picks range from bands who are just starting out to some who have been around and are poised to have a big year in 2023 for one reason or another. We hope you have as much fun going through this list as we did putting the whole thing together.
Read on for the list in alphabetical order by band. What metal bands do you think people should keep an eye on this year?
With a name like “Bonginator” I think it’s pretty clear what to expect. The self-proclaimed “two-stepping, neon weed death” band from Eastern Massachusetts make music for those who are (or want to be) young, dumb and full of cum. They are hitting the ground running in 2023 with new singles and a fun live-show. These dudes jump off the wave of OSDM revival, pushing the envelope with a wider range of influences, and incorporating their Gen-Z humor into everything they do. Definitely expect to see them touring with us this year in the US and get one of their tapes from Barbaric Brutality!
BRAT are about as new as it gets, but they’re already making their mark — 2022 was their first full year as a band, and these fresh-faced NOLA natives smashed it. They’ve dubbed their genre of one “bimboviolence” or “bimbocore” — girl-powered grind with a fondness for bright-pink color palettes and an unabashed worship of Britney Spears. The juxtaposition somehow really works, making for a fun, rebellious clash of cultures. And of course, it doesn’t hurt that their songs, videos and live shows rip.
The UK metal/hardcore scene is absolutely thriving right now but one band that still seems to be lurking beneath the surface is Burner. With a phenomenal debut EP out and their album on the way in 2023, they stand poised to become another fan-favourite of the scene. With their own distinct twist to the chainsaw-fueled riffage, mind-melting time signature manipulation and obscene breakdowns that they pump out, expect to see them appearing on the bigger UK festival circuit soon.
One of the best black metal bands out these days. Black metal of old that can switch between old school blasts,straight Motorhead kicking you in the face and trippy droning heaviness that leaves you in a trance banging your head. Its raw energy makes you feel death clawing at your soul. Add some haunting chants to seal the deal for a band you need to experience. You can feel the energy they captured in these records and this is why they stand out. Live, they are a force to be reckoned with, soaked in blood and on the attack. Begin your downward descent!
Deinonychus (chosen by Phantom Slaughter of Worm)
Deinonychus’ miserable masterpiece The Weeping of a Thousand Years will be available on vinyl for the first time this year through Goatowarex. Gothic and Vampiric Black DOOM from 1996. “Within the bleak walls of this great castle, I shield my eyes and hide from the light.”
Dungeon Serpent (CAN): I’ve had the pleasure of working with the fine fellows in Dungeon Serpent on their first album, and what I’ve heard of their new material is equally smoking. They’ve also finally made their live debut in Vancouver and are also slated for an appearance at Metal Threat later this year! I think their brand of aggressive melodic death metal is a harbinger of a new wave, one that’s been helped along by other bands like Upon Stone, Aduanten, Darkness Everywhere, Majesties, and some other groups yet to appear. I’ve been doing my part trying to push it as well, reissuing albums from Intestine Baalism and Desultory. Just crossing my fingers that it doesn’t end with a resurgence of mallcore rather than tough riffs.
Funeral Chant are exactly what you want from a black/death hybrid. Fast as hell, unrelenting and disgusting as fuck. Dawn of Annihilation is appropriately named. Drunk on hate and high on destruction, Funeral Chant are chaos incarnate. The production on Dawn of Annihilation is flawless, a perfect mix of grit and clarity, an often overlooked aspect that can make or break a band of this nature. Within moments you are completely immersed within their realm and it is a terrifying place. If you’ve ever thought about smoking dust and slitting your wrists, they’ve got your soundtrack right here.
Seattle’s Great Falls were in the studio recording a new album last summer, and based on everything they’ve put out to date—but especially 2018’s A Sense of Rest—this is easily the top of my “watch this space oh my god oh my god oh my god” list. A Sense of Rest was one of the most emotionally intense albums I heard in 2018 / 2019, and it was effectively my introduction to the band. I knew of Great Falls because guitarist / vocalist Demian Johnston (ex-Kiss It Goodbye, Playing Enemy, also in Sutekh Hexen, and many, many more) is a gifted artist and printmaker. The cover for A Sense of Rest was drawn by one of my favorite comic artists and authors, Farel Dalrymple—that’s probably what got me to listen. The album doesn’t fit neatly into any boxes (there’s a definite Neurosis influence, but Great Falls is the type of genre soup that Metal Archives won’t list—there’s some noise rock, post-hardcore, post-metal) and I really appreciate bands who aren’t dogmatically about one specific genre or another. Great Falls focuses on making heavy, upsetting, beautiful music. Plus, they released A Sense of Rest in late December of 2018 and I appreciate the petulance of that gesture and the “fuck your year end list calendar” attitude of it all. It’s not like these guys aren’t keenly aware of what that release date means for their album promo—they’re underground music lifers, and Shane Mehling (the bassist) is a music writer over at Decibel, who published 2022’s top releases list in early November. So: there’s a chance that you missed A Sense of Rest. Go check it out while you’re waiting for their follow up. And while you’re perusing their back catalog, DEFINITELY dig through their splits and EPs. Their 2019 split with the Great Sabatini was in heavy rotation for me this year (a “great” split, you might say, featuring collaborative artwork from Demian and Great Sabatini’s Sean Arsenian, and guest vocals from Couch Slut’s Megan Osztrosits. The physical EP is also one of those things where someone clearly had fun with what vinyl can do as a format, I STRONGLY recommend picking it up).
Great Falls is releasing an EP with new music in the coming weeks to tide you over while the details of the full length—their first with new drummer Nick Park of Gaytheist, Hemingway, & more—are finalized. We all know what vinyl production timelines are currently like (and if you don’t, in a word: fucked) so while there’s no release date for the full length yet, I’m remaining optimistic that it’ll be coming in 2023. Someone, please, for the love of god, fly these fine fellas out to NYC so I can catch them live.
New Jersey has been producing killer bands at a consistent rate for years. Hath is one of them. Their album “All That Was Promised” turned a lot of heads in 2022 but I can see them hitting a death metal stride in 2023. Don’t miss their set at Milwaukee Metal Fest Memorial Day Weekend.
Mortuous is not a new band, by any means, but in my opinion they’ve been criminally overlooked in gaining the appropriate amount of recognition they deserve for the material they’ve created and the live shows they’ve demolished over the span of the last 13+ years. They were able spread their aural filth in person on two of their biggest tours yet last year, put out a new record which landed in the top ten of Decibel’s Top 40 albums of 2022 list, and they’ve also been confirmed to play Unearthed Morbidity in Copenhagen this summer. Seriously though, Upon Desolation is a crucial record for the band and was released on Carbonized Records, which is their drummer Chad Gailey’s label. Despite being a solid staple of the Bay Area death metal scene for over a decade prior to this release, they’ve only just begun to get some eyes and ears on them across the US and beyond. I can’t wait for them to gain more momentum and fans when they realize how genius the technicality and melancholy mixture of the writing intertwines with grueling and pummeling stamina. Definitely put them on your watch list and we’ll be seeing them rise to the top where they belong.
Paranoiac (chosen by David Castillo of Saint Vitus Bar, Primitive Weapons, Confines & more)
Last year this LA metal crew released a three song cassette called Morbid Psycho that caught my attention right away. Catchy and powerful Heavy Metal with no bullshit, featuring members of Dead Heat and Kommand. If you like Hell Awaits era Slayer and Arise-era Sepultura this one’s for you. I need more!
The first time I heard the title-track on Rabbit’s 2022 EP, Halo of Flies, I knew this band was something special. Since they hail from New York City, I was expecting a sound steeped in NYHC tradition, but instead what hit my ears was a blazing inferno of noisy metal, with just a teensy bit of hardcore nastiness. But not your typical, beatdown-influenced breed of metallic hardcore that’s been done to death in recent years. A harsher, more splintering form that channels the flaming-coal intensity of Japan’s hardcore pioneers, crossed with the mid-tempo thrash trots of Slayer and Arise-era Sepultura; the kind of palm-muted riffage that makes you want to two-step, swing fists and throw up your horns while stinkfacing — all at the same time.
If that sounds appealing, just wait until you see Rabbit live. I recently witnessed them set a small club ablaze. Turning their amps to deafening volumes, they slammed through their songs while frontman Andre dashed around the room like he was possessed, climbing on top of monitors, falling all over the floor, and babbling incoherently into the mic while the band played on and people moshed intently. It was the kind of performance that tingles in your bones for a few hours afterwards. It’s unclear if Rabbit will release any new music in 2023, but I’d be damned if they aren’t being pelted with hype by the time the clock strikes 2024.
These guys opened for us in Seattle on our headlining tour and really impressed me. Just great, grimy death metal with tons of palpable Incantation influence while still sounding fresh and exciting. They just put out a sick record called Repulsive Nature and I can’t wait to see them live again.
As a musician, you gotta love an unintended compliment. After the release of Replicant’s 2021 effort Malignant Reality, an internet commenter dismissed the NJ outfit as “Gorguts for morons” – as neat a summation for their sound as you’ll find, and now their unofficial tagline. Replicant’s willingness to lean gleefully into this diss reflects their musical attitude, which involves a lot more overt fun than the dour, unapproachable vibe projected by most dissonant death metal. Rather than the niche’s bog-standard rhythmic convulsions, a bouncy and belligerent sense of groove powers Replicant’s attack. It’s an expression of their Garden State heritage; the influence of gym-rat metal/hardcore syncretists like Burnt By The Sun and Dim Mak looms large. This approach provides optionality to the listener: you can pore over the band’s tricky chord voicings and pedal noise washes, OR you can feel the lizard-brain backbeat and just start smashing shit. Replicant is currently in the studio recording their third LP, which should drop near the end of 2023 via Transcending Obscurity Records. Respect New Jersey or prepare for combat!
Sentenced 2 Die (chose by BrooklynVegan editor Andrew Sacher)
Minneapolis old school-style, hardcore-indebted death metal band Sentenced 2 Die formed in 2021 with vocalist Dave Sikorski (who previously fronted Descent of Man and Brain Bleed) and members of While God Sleeps and Avarice, and their first show was that same year opening for Xibalba. It’s been all uphill from there; they released their debut EP No Reason To Live in 2022, then signed to Maggot Stomp and put out an even better three-song promo in preparation for their debut album, which is expected this year. They’ve got razor-sharp riffs, beastly growls, and they’re a blast to listen to. There’s been a lot of music like this lately, but even with just these two short releases, Sentenced 2 Die already feel like one of the most promising new bands around.
Tribal Gaze (chosen by producer & musician Taylor Young of Deadbody, Twitching Tongues, God’s Hate & more)
The 90’s Florida Death Metal itch is a tough one to scratch, as there will never be another Morbid Angel or Obituary. Tribal Gaze has taken an axe to that itch, nuked it, migrated it to Texas and stuck a flag in it. Twisty downtuned riffs, ultra hard vocals and absurdly in-the-pocket drumming create a monster mix that, even after working on their album “The Nine Choirs”, I keep coming back to almost a year later. Whatever this band does next will be a triumph, and this band will end up in the top echelon before you can say “OUGH”.
I try to find one new band every day. Say what you will about streaming services, but they are a very helpful tool for a person who is trying to find new music – and I would say they have a 90% success rate in finding new music I actually enjoy. I found Volatile Ways this exact way. I was just browsing the “for fans of” section of my preferred streaming platform, and was 7 or 8 levels deep when I came across this band from Australia. They only have like 9 songs recorded, but they hit like a truck. Constant rotation for me. Sometimes dumb people try to make “smart” music and it’s a disaster. Lately smart people have been making music some people would consider “caveman” or “dumdum” music (see Sanguisugabogg, etc). Volatile Ways is a perfect example of people who know exactly what they are doing. Songs about the world ending? video game references? Revenge? Music that makes you want to drive fast, pick up giant rocks, and fight your dad? It’s all here. You want music for the gym? Put volatile ways on your playlist. I can honestly say they are one of the main reasons I’m trying to go back to Australia – I would love nothing more than to play a show with them or at least sneak away from my own responsibility and watch them play live at a different venue. Like putting your bare feet in a nice warm beach sand and somehow getting eaten by a shark; listening to Volatile Ways is a warm comforting hell danger. Enjoy your “mosh retirement” while you can, if you ever catch this band live you won’t be able to help yourself.
BONUS: Just an hour before this post went live, Icelandic blackened death metallers Úlfúð announced that their debut LP will be out this year on Dark Descent (Spectral Voice, Malignant Altar, Blood Incantation, Horrendous & more). We’re excited about this record and that we landed an exclusive vinyl variant which you can pre-order now. Grab the vinyl, and hear the first single HERE.