David E. Gehlke Best-of 2023

Sunday, 17th December 2023

The intrepid Matt Coe recently shared the factoid that this site has eclipsed 18,000 posts. Dead Rhetoric was launched ten years ago with Mr. Coe under the premise of delivering a healthy dose of insightful interviews and reviews to accommodate the metal scene’s ceaseless release schedule. We were joined a year later by Katarina McGinn, who subsequently took over the day-to-day of the site. Her output matched Mr. Coe’s — both routinely cranked out knowledgeable, detailed pieces that helped give Dead Rhetoric some footing. As the posts increased, so did our readership, for which there is immense gratitude. I am equally grateful for Matt and Katarina, who remain the foundation of this site. Most of all, they are good people. There is no topping that.

Anyway, another year is nearly in the books and metal continues to be generous with its offerings. With so much to digest, getting down to ten picks proved to be a challenge, but English shoe-gaze legends Slowdive got the nod with Everything is Alive. Behind them is the usual assortment of old favorites and newcomers. Onward to 2024!

1. Slowdive – Everything is Alive (Dead Oceans)
Relative to the metal scene, Slowdive’s 1990s output is of immense influence. Relative to 2023, they’re the undisputed masters of shoegaze.

2. Night in Gales – The Black Stream (Apostasy)
Even as the Gothenburg crowd starts to make inroads back to their glory days (see: The Halo Effect, In Flames), no one does pure melodic death metal better than Germany’s Night in Gales.

3. Katatonia – Sky Void of Stars (Napalm)
Frontman Jonas Renkse has quietly (as is his style) assumed the full songwriting load for Katatonia. Sky Void of Stars is a dense, multi-faceted (hand claps on “Opaline?” Sure!) that circles back, on occasion, to those immaculate mid-’00s forays.

4. Godthrymm – Distortions (Profound Lore)
The second full-length from this Hamish Glencross (ex-My Dying Bride) outfit, Distortions offers hulking, massive doom with a peppering of melancholy. Best closing song of the year: “Pictures Remain.”

5. Jord – Tundra (Hammerheart)
A relatively under-the-radar atmospheric black metal band from Sweden, Jord deftly works in shoegaze (some nice Alcest choices here) for seven songs of cinematic bliss.

6. Imperium Dekadenz – Into Sorrow Evermore (Napalm)
Perennially unsung German black metallers Imperium Dekadenz take their sweet time in releasing new material — Into Sorrow Evermore was their first in four years. But, when they did emerge, it’s a virtual guarantee to be a golden display of (to borrow a term) sorrowful black metal, namely “Memories…a Raging River.”

7. Marianas Rest – Auer (Napalm)
One of the better bands to step into the void created by Rapture and Slumber, Finland’s Marianas Rest deploy melodic death/doom’s usual tactics for a haunting, miserable foray on Auer.

8. Obituary – Dying of Everything (Relapse)
The look of pre-release giddiness was evident on the faces of Obituary when yours truly had the pleasure of hanging with them before one of their gigs on Amon Amarth’s 2022 U.S. tour. Those looks proved to be prophetic: Dying of Everything, from top to bottom, is perhaps Obituary’s best since 1997’s criminally overlooked Back from the Dead.

9. Fuming Mouth – Last Day of Sun (Nuclear Blast)
Inspired by vocalist/guitarist Mark Whelan’s bout with cancer, Massachusetts’ Fuming Mouth ripped off a total banger with Last Day of Sun, whipping up classic death metal tactics with bits and bobs of melody.

10. Ruïm – Black Royal Spiritism – I. O Sino da Igreja (Peaceville)
Quite the sight to see Rune Eriksen, otherwise known as Blasphemer, return to the sound of his era of Mayhem. It was defined by blinding technicality and overt riff maelstroms, something Eriksen faithfully recreated on Ruim’s debut, Black Royal Spiritism – I. O Sino da Igreja.

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