As I'm sure most of you know, we're huge music fans here at Bleak Boutique. We listen to a lot of music. It inspires our soaps, it keeps us awake on long drives to far-flung markets, and it generally permeates every part of our waking lives - cooking, cleaning, crafting, and working are all done with a musical accompaniment.
Keeping up with new releases is always difficult, but we'd like to present you with our favorite albums of 2023. These are just what we've found ourselves jamming the most on long nights wrapping soap or driving to markets.
Without further ado - and in no particular order - here are the Bleak Boutique Top 10 Albums for 2023:
HEALTH - Rat Wars
The latest offering from industrial band HEALTH has been gracing my playlists since the singles started trickling out months ago. With songs ranging from darkwave-inspired club cuts ("Unloved") to industrial metal right out of the 90s ("Crack Metal"), and even a collab with the legendary Godflesh ("Sicko"), this release covers a lot of ground, but every song is distinctly HEALTH. This has kept our heads bobbing for months now.
Troller - Drain
Gracing our road trip playlists since the spring, Drain has been the soundtrack to many a rainy drive to a distant locale and, once you've given them a listen, I think you will agree that there is no better soundtrack for that task. This is a band that is incredibly hard to describe, but if you can, picture an aetherial noise-rock darkwave group that oft treads into death rock territory, but never sounds like anyone other than themselves. I still feel like that description does Troller a disservice, so you are encouraged to check out the video below and decide for yourselves. You might just be glad that you did.
Suffocation - Hymns from the Apocrypha
The legendary NY death metal group Suffocation return with their first studio album since the departure of long-term vocalist Frank Mullen, and - despite some initial sadness about the end of the Frank era - I am positively stoked to see what the next age of Suffo holds. This release sounds fresh, rejuvenated, and ready to put to sleep any fears longtime fans may have had about the lineup change. Absolutely killer death metal album, and one we cannot recommend enough.
Afterbirth - In But Not Of
Afterbirth have been pushing the boundaries of progressive death metal since their inception, and In But Not Of continues that proud tradition with beauty, grace, and a boot to the face. If you like your guttural, rumbling, brick-shithouse-heavy death metal interspersed with spacey, stunning instrumental prog that leans heavy on the jazz influences, there is no better game in town than Afterbirth. The sonic palette they paint with would make Bob Ross blush. It's not for everyone, but those that appreciate a challenge will be incredibly rewarded. This one is a monster without comparison (and maybe, just maybe, studded with some happy little trees.)
Grave Pleasures - Plagueboys
Plagueboys is a post-punk album hailing back to the death rock days of yore, echoing influences from Depeche Mode, Echo & The Bunnymen, Joy Division, and Killing Joke, but somehow very distinctly its own animal. Hitting early with the ultra-catchy, ultra-danceable "Heart Like A Slaughterhouse", this album carries on with a head full of introspective, gothy steam through the haunting melody of "When The Shooting's Done" before landing on the absolute earworm "High On Annihilation", the song that continues to haunt my dreams. If you can make it to this point without periodically breaking into, "anniihilaationnn", you are a far stronger person than I. The video also rules, but don't take my word for it -- check out the link!
Cryptopsy - As Gomorrah Burns
As a card-carrying Technical Death Metal Dork, I have been worshipping at the altar of Cryptopsy for decades. As Gomorrah Burns continues the streak of outstanding new releases the band has been on since their eponymous 2012 album. The production is crisp; every single instrument (and drum fill, courtesy of the inimitable Flo Mounier) is audible and downright punchy. Fast, technical, and brutally intense, this one will rip your face off and staple it back on just slightly askew.
Woe - Legacies of Frailty
Woe has been a black metal favorite of ours for more than a decade, and Legacies of Frailty sees the band's founder return the project to a single-person effort for the first time since their 2007 debut. Leaner and more focused, Legacies is a dark, brutal, and urgent collection of modern black metal for the weary world of 2023. With the guitars and songcraft as tight as ever, the lyrics echo this level of focus. Centered on humankind's self-centered propensity and ruinous tendencies, and loudly conveying that we are doomed to repeat our own history, this is a bold release. Given the current political climate, it seems especially apt. Give this a whirl if you want an especially dense chunk of modern black metal songcraft that will make you dread tomorrow's headlines.
Tsjuder - Helvegr
It's not officially winter until a second-wave black metal band starts a fire in the grim, frostbitten woods of Norway. As utterly brutal as they are trve and kvlt, Helvegr is going to keep us warm at Bleak Boutique HQ on these cold winter nights. For the best listening experience: turn up the volume, hunch all up on yourself, scowl, and pretend you're holding two mystical orbs.
Autopsy - Ashes, Organs, Blood and Crypts
Autopsy blasts out their second new album in two years (!) with Ashes, Organs, Blood and Crypts, and the underlying message seems to be, "what if old-school death metal was not only competent, but leaned all the way in on itself and felt kinda... fun?" With the vocalist utterly chewing the scenery with his unique delivery, and the production leaning towards, "old school, but thick and audible", AOB&C just works as a showcase for the band's amazing songcraft within the genre confines of OSDM. Nearly every song has a classic head-banging moment that will stop you in your tracks and make you say to whoever's nearby, "Hang on, I love this part," before you bob your head along to the rest of the song and forget about whatever you were doing. If you know, you know.
Sanguisugabogg - Homicidal Ecstacy
Homicidal Ecstacy continues The 'Bogg Boys' meteoric rise to the upper echelons of slam death metal. Thunderously bassy, noisy, gutteral, and utterly unique, each song is a solid slab of modern songcraft with a focus on getting your head nodding along to the beat. So buy some dumbbells, do a pushup, bang your head, and crank this one to 11. You won't be sorry, but your subwoofers will never be the same.
While our musical taste might not be for everyone, these were the special albums that kept us sane while on the road or toiling away in our workshop. We hope you enjoyed this list, and we can't wait to see you all in 2024.