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February 5, 2024: Best of 2023 lists posted!

Come see which CDs of 2023 made the top 5 for Mike, Jez, and myself. Critique our choices and list your own top 5!


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The Best of 2023!

In addition to Mike and my top picks for 2023, you can also read the top 5 picks from site contributor Jez. Since we all have different tastes, it makes more sense to see different folks' opinions.

For each of us, the listing contains 3 parts:

  1. Top 5. Self-explanatory.
  2. Honorable Mentions. Very good releases for the year that either fell just short of the top 5, or had to be on the outside looking in due to the limit of 5.
  3. The Rest of the Field. There is nothing qualitative about this section; the releases may range from good to mediocre to complete and utter garbage. It only exists to show you what each of us considered in coming up with our Top 5 and Honorable Mentions. If an album isn't listed in our Top 5, Honorable Mentions, or Rest of the Field, it means we didn't get a chance to hear that album. We don't all listen to the same set of releases each year.

Contributing Reviewers:

Dan's Picks for the Best of 2023

The Also Rans

5th Season — ST
A Day in Venice — IV
A Life Divided — Down the Spiral of a Soul
ABREACT — Deceivers Are Coming
AOR — Bewitched in LA
Acid King — Beyond Vision
Alcatrazz — Take No Prisoners
Alchemy Fire — ST
Alice Cooper — Road
All My Shadows — Eerie Monsters
All for Metal — Legends
Alleycate — Private Vices, Public Pleasures
Allgema — Find the Way Out
Amh — Hurry up and Wait
Angel — Once Upon a Time
Angels in Vein — Long Time Coming
Angra — Cycles Of Pain
Ann Wilson & Tripsitter — Another Door
Annisokay — Abyss Pt I EP
Anthem — Crimson & Jet Black
Apotheus — Ergo Atlas
Arch Blade — Kill The Witch
Archetypes Collide — ST
Archon Angel — II
Arctic Rain — Unity
Arjen Lucassen's Supersonic Revolution — Golden Age of Music
Arrival of Autumn — Kingdom Undone
Art Nation — Inception
Ascension — Under the Veil of Madness
Ashrain — Requiem Reloaded
Asidie — Inside a Restless Mind
Asking Alexandria — Where Do We Go From Here
Atomic Agent — Secret Society
Atria — Ground Zero EP
Atrocity — Okkult III
August Burns Red — Death Below
Avaland — The Legend of the Storyteller
Avarice — ST
Avatar — Dance Devil Dance
Avenged Sevenfold — Life Is But A Dream
Axel Rudi Pell — The Ballads VI
Axenstar — Chapter VIII
B.O.W — Chasing Shadows
Babylon A.D. — Live Lightning
Babymetal — The Other One
Bad Bones — Hasta El Final!
Bad Sister — Out of the Business (re-issue)
Bad Wolves — Die About It
Bai Bang — Sha Na Na Na
Bangalore Choir -FLAC
Barnabas Sky — What Comes to Light
Baroness — STONE
Bazooka Troopaz — Bombs, Babes and Bazookas
Before The Dawn — Stormbringers
Big City — Sunwind Sails
Big Mouthers — New Now
Black & Damned — Servants Of The Devil
Black Star Riders Wrong Side Of Paradise (Special Edition)
Black Stone Cherry — Screamin' at the Sky
Blackbird Angels — Solsorte
Blackbriar — A Dark Euphony
Blak29 — The Waiting
Bleed From Within — Shrine (Deluxe Version)
Blind River — Bones for the Skeleton Thief
Blond Viper — Boom
Bloody Nightmare — Pillars of Chaos
Bombay Black — En Fuego!
Bonafide — Are You Listening
Bonfire — Dont Touch The Light (MMXXIII Version)
Bonfire — Fireworks (MMXXIII Version)
Bonfire — Point Blank (MMXXIII Version)
Booby Trap — The End of Time
Buckcherry — Vol. 10
Bunsen — Burner
Burning Witches — The Dark Tower
Bury Tomorrow — The Seventh Sun
Caedeous — Malum Supplicium
Calico Jack — Isla de la Muerte
Calm — Dysfunctional Assumptions EP
Capside — Ladyesis
Carbellion — Weapons of Choice
Cassidy Paris — New Sensation
Category VI — Firecry
Chamelion — Legends & Lores
Chelsea Grin — Suffer in Hell
Cherry St. — Twisted, Rude & Sticky Sweet
Circus of Rock — Lost Behind the Mask
Cobra Spell — 666
Cold Drop — ST
Comaniac — None for All
Contorsion — The Children of the Snake EP
Corey Taylor — CMF2
Craver — Torch of Wisdom
Craving — Call of the Sirens
Creye — III Weightless
Cross Country Driver — The New Truth
Crown Lands — Fearless
Crowne — Operation Phoenix
Cruzados — Land of the Endless Sun EP
Cry of Dawn — Anthropocene
Crypta — Shades of Sorrow
Czakan — Unreal
D'Ercole — Mass Formation
DGM — Life
Damanek — Making Shore (FLAC)
Damnations Hammer — Into the Silent Nebula
Danko Jones — Electric Sounds
Dark Embrace — Dark Heavy Metal
Dark Sarah — Attack of Orym
Dark Side, Bright Side — ST
David A — Lit
DeVicious — Code Red
Deacon Street Project — One + Two
Deadwolff — Heavy Rock N' Roll
Death Dealer Union — Initiation
Deathstars — Everything Destroys You
Def Leppard — Drastic Symphonies
Degenerator — The Abyssal Throne
Degreed — Public Address
Deimos Dawn — Anthem of the Lost
Demons Down — I Stand
Deorbit — Retrogradient
Destination Unknown — ST
DevilDriver — Dealing with Demons Vol. II
Devin Townsend — Empath Live In America
Diabolic Night — Beneath the Crimson Prophecy
Dieth — To Hell and Back
Dirty Audio Machine — Only Fury Remains EP
Dirty Honey — Can't Find The Brakes
Discreation — Iron Times
Distant — Heritage
dEMOTIONAL — Scandinavian Aftermath
Dokken — Heaven Comes Down
Domino Drive — Smoke and Mirrors
Doomsday Outlaw — Damaged Goods
Doro — Conqueress
Downfall of Gaia — Silhouettes of Disgust
Draconicon — Pestilence
Dragonheart — The Dragonheart Tales
Dreamyth — Aletheia
Dropkick Murphys — Okemah Rising
EUNOMIA — The Chronicles of Eunomia Part 2
Eclipse — Megalomanium
Edge of Forever — Ritual
Edge of Paradise — Hologram
Einar Solberg — 16
Ektomorf — Vivid Black
Electric Boys — Grand Explosivos
Electric Mob — 2 Make You Cry and Dance
Electus — Episode IV
Elegant Weapons — Horns for a Halo
Elm Street — The Great Tribulation
Elvenking — Reader of the Runes — Rapture
Embryo — A Vivid Shade on Misery
Emolecule — The Architect
Emotional Fire — 2023 Will You Be There EP
Empyre — Relentless
Endeavour — For The Time Being
Enforcer — Nostalgia
Enslaved — Heimdal
Entheos — Time Will Take Us All
Entropia — Total
Eric Sardinas — Midnight Junction
Escape the Fate — Out Of The Shadows
Everdawn — Venera
Evergrey — From Dark Discoveries to Heartless Portraits
Evile — The Unknown
Evolution Eden — Sonic Cinema
Extreme — SIX
Eyes — Congratulations
Falco — Einzelhaft (Deluxe Version)
Fall Out Boy — So Much (For) Stardust
Fall of Earth — From The Ashes
False Memories — Hybrid Ego System
Fatal Vision — Twice
Fate — V Remastered
Fifth Angel — When Angels Kill
Firewind — Still Raging
First Night — Deep Connection
First Signal — Face Your Fears
Flames of Fire — Our Blessed Hope
Floor Jansen — Paragon
Flor de Loto — Lines of Nasca
Flowerleaf — Dreamerie
Foo Fighters — But Here We Are
For The Fallen Dreams — ST
Fraise — The Fifth Sun Part II
Freakshow — So Shall It Be
Freakstorm — Angel in the Dark
Friction — ST
From Ashes to New — Blackout
From North — Raven Banner
Frostbite Orckings — The Orcish Eclipse
Frozen Crown — Call of the North
Frozen Land — Out of the Dark
GNP — Safety Zone
Gabrielle De Val — Kiss In A Dragon Night
Galundo Tenvulance — Lunar Eclipture
Ghost — Phantomime EP
Girish & The Chronicles — Back on Earth (2024 Rerecorded)
Girlschool — WTFortyfive
Gloryhammer — Return to the Kingdom of Fife
Godsmack — Lighting up the Sky
Godsnake — Eye for an Eye
Gorod — The Orb
Granada — Like War1001br/> Grand Design — Rawk
Graywolf — ST
Great Master — Montecristo
Greta Van Fleet — Starcatcher
Gunter Werno's Anima One — Symnphonic Concerto No. 1
H.e.a.t — Extra Force
HYLDR — Order of the Mist
Haken — Fauna (Deluxe Edition)
Haliphron — Prey
Hardy — The Mockingbird & The Crow
Hawkwind — The Future Never Waits
Heart Attack Genocide — Primal
Heart Line — Original Seeds EP
Heart Line — Rock N Roll Queen
Heartlay — Sovereign Sore
Heathen Foray — Oathbreaker
Heavens Edge — Get It Right
Heidevolk — Wederker
Heimdall — Hephaestus
Hell in the Club — FUBAR
Hellwitch — Annihilational Intercention
Heroes & Monsters — ST
High Spirits — Safe on the Other Side
Hinayana — Shatter And Fall
Hit the Ground Runnin — Control Yourself (reissue)
Hitten — While Passion Lasts
Hog Meets Frog — humANIMALization
Hollentor — Divergency
Holy Moses — Invisible Queen
Hongo Fuu — Live at Mora Books EP
Host — IX
Houston — Re-Launch III
Hurricane — Reconnected
Ice Age — Waves of Loss and Power
Ignescent — Fight in Me
Immortal — War Against All
Imperium — Never Surrender
In Flames — Foregone
In This Moment — GODMODE
Infected Rain — The Devil's Dozen
Infinite & Divine — Ascendancy
Infinite Spectrum — Cage
Insomnium — Anno
Intoxicated — Sadistic Nightmares
Invent Animate — Heavener
Iron Savior — Firestar
Issa — Lights of Japan
Ivy Gold — Broken Silence
Jag Panzer — The Hallowed
James Rivera's Metal Wave — New Wave Gone Metal
Janet Gardner & Justin James — No Strings
Jelusick — Follow The Blind Man
Jenni Sex — Healing Kiss
Jethro Tull — RokFlote
Joel Hoekstra's 13 — Crash Of Life
John Diva & the Rockets of Love — The Big Easy
John West — Days of Destiny
Johnny O'Neill — Live at the Southern Theater EP
Johnny the Boy — You
Jon of Mars — Songs From Nowhere
Jukebox Heroes — ST (Reissue)
KK's Priest — The Sinner Rides Again
KRASHKARMA — Falling To Pieces
Kamelot — The Awakening
Kardinal Sin — SALIGIA
Katatonia — Sky Void of Stars
Kent Hilli — Nothing Left to Lose
Kerrigan — Bloodmoon
Khymera — Hold Your Ground
Kikimora — For a Broken Dime
Kimbra — A Reckoning
King Kobra — We Are Warriors
Kings Crown — Closer to the Truth
Kings Never Die — All The Rats
Knife — Heaven Into Dust
Kontrust — Madworld
L.A. Project — Electric Life
LALU — The Fish Who Wanted to be King
Lancer — Tempest
Lankester Merrin — Dark Mother Rises
Last Temptation — Love Wins
Last in Line — Jericho
Later Sons — Rise Up
Laudanum — Blame Zeus
Laura Cox — Head Above Water
Lazy Bonez — Eye of the Sky
Leaflet — Something Beyond
Legion Of The Damned — The Poison Chalice
Lieder Distortion — The Age of Art
Linkin Park — Meteora 20th Anniversary Edition
Linman — Heaven Calls
Liv Kristine — River of Diamonds
Liverbox — The Great Spirit of Rock'n'Roll
Lokurah — Distorted Truth
Lord Volture — Live 'em Up!
Lordi — Screem Writers Guild
Lovebites — Judgement Day
Lucifer Star Machine — Satanic Age
Lunar — The Illusionist
Lynch Mob — Babylon
MPG — ST (Deluxe Edition)
MVI — In the Rain Shadow
Magnus Karlsson's Free Fall — Hunt the Flame
Magnus Rosen Band — It's Time To Rock The World Again
Maladie — For We Are the Plague
Mammoth WVH — Mammoth II
Manigance — The Shadows Ball
Marc Hudson — Starbound Stories
Marianas Rest — Auer
Martin Miller — Maze of My Mind
Martiria — Timeless
Massive Scar Era — Metal Goes Egyptian
McFly — Power to Play
Mecca — Everlasting
Medevil — Mirror In The Darkness
Memorias de un Despertar — Reclama Tu Libertad
Metal Church — Congregation of Annihilation
Metallica — 72 Seasons
Michael Thompson Band — The Love Goes On
Michael Voss — Rockers Rollin' (A Tribute to Rick Parfitt)
Midnite City — In At the Deep End
Miseria Ultima — In Colors of Void
Mitch Malloy — The Last Song
Motive Black — Auburn
Mustang — Beyond Raging Thunder
Mystery — Redemption
Mystic Prophecy — Hellriot
Nail Within — Sound of Demise
Nanowar of Steel — Dislike To False Metal
Narnia — Ghost Town
Natas Raw Project — Chapter One
Neal Morse — The Dreamer — Joseph Part One
Neal Schon — Journey Through Time (Live)
Necro Weasel — Obey Suffer & Die
Neolia — ST
Nervosa — Jailbreak
Neversin — Revamp
New Model Army — Sinfonia (Orchestral Version) (Live)
Night Demon — Outsider
Night Legion — Fight or Fall
Night Ranger — 40 Years and a Night
Nina & Ricky Wilde — Scala Hearts
Nira Nise — The Witch Unburned
Nita Strauss — The Call of the Void
Nitrate — Feel the Heat
Nomad — The Mountain
Nothing Sacred — Leviathan EP
Nuclear Power Trio — Wet Ass Plutonium
Ocean Districts — Phantom Islands
Oceanlord — Kingdom Cold
Odinfist — Remade In Steel
Omission — Disciples of Ravens Vengeance
On Thorns I Lay — ST
One Desire — Live With the Shadow Orchestra
Opera Multi Steel — Les Passions Tristes
Otep — The God Slayer
Otherwise — Gawdzillionaire
Outlanders — ST
Overkill — Scorched
Panzerchrist — Last Of A Kind
Paradise Lost — Icon 30
Paralelum — Bad Thoughts
Paramore — This Is Why
Parity Boot — Fast Forward
Passage — Oblique
Patriarchs In Black — My Veneration
Paul Gilbert — The Dio Album
Paul Lidel's Scream Therapy
Perfect View — Bushido
Periphery — V — Djent Is Not A Genre
Person To Person — The Complete Recordings
Peyton Parrish — Skalds of Metal
Phaeton — Between Two Worlds
Phantom Corporation — Fallout
Phantom Elite — Blue Blood
Phil Vincent — Divine Intervention
Pierce The Veil — The Jaws Of Life
pMad — Sword EP
Pop Evil — Skeletons
Powerwolf — Interludium (Deluxe Version)
Pride of Lions — Dream Higher
Primal Fear — Code Red
Prisoner — One + Two
Psychework — Spark of Hope
Psygnosis — Mercury EP
Puscifer — Existential Reckoning (Re-Wired)
Queens of the Stone Age — In Times New Roman
ROADWOLF — Midnight Lightning
RPWL — Crime Scene
Rage of Light — Opaque EP
Raider — Trial By Chaos
Raining Nails — Human Deeds
Raven — All Hell's Breaking Loose
Ray Alder — II
Razorbats — Hit Crazy
Rebecca Black — Let Her Burn
Rebel Kings — Enchantress
Red Cain — NŽE'BLISS
Redemption — I Am The Storm
Redlight King — In Our Blood
Resolve — Human
Restless Spirit — Afterimage
Revolution Saints — Eagle Flight
Rick Miller — Altered States
Rising Wings — Reach
Robben Ford — Night in the City
Robby Valentine — Embrace The Unknown
Robin McAuley — Alive
Robledo — Broken Soul
Rockett Love — Galactic Circus
Rockin' Engine — Altered By Evil
Ronnie Atkins — Trinity
Ronnie Romero — Raised on Heavy Radio
Ronnie Romero — Too Many Lies, Too Many Masters
Ross the Boss — Legacy of Blood, Fire & Steel
Rotten Sound — Apocalypse
Roxanne — Stereo Typical
Roxx Gang — The Voodoo You Love (Reissue)
Rozario — To the Gods We Swear
RuinThrone — The Unconscious Mind Of Arda
Russkaja — Turbo Polka Party
Sacred Dawn — Dismal Swamp album
Sacred Outcry — Towers of Gold
Saint Deamon — League of the Serpent
Saliva — Revelation
Samiam — Stowaway
Samuli Federley — Stormylized
Sarayasign — The Lion's Road
Savage Blood — Wheel of Time
Savage Grace — Sign of the Cross
Saxon — More Inspirations
Say It — One and Again
Schattenmann — D¡a de Muertos
ScreaMachine — Church of the Scream
Scream Maker — Land of Fire
Screamer — Kingmaker
Sculforge — Intergalactic Battle Tunes
Secret — Stop this World
Secret Sphere — Blackened Heartbeat
See You Next Tuesday — Distractions
Seven Ravens — After The Storm
Seven Spires — Live at Progpower USA XXI
Sevendust — Truth Killer
Seventh Crystal — Infinity EP
Seventh Crystal — Wonderland
Seventh Son — Edge of Insanity
Seventh Wonder — Become (Reissue)
Seventh Wonder — Mercy Falls (Reissue)
Seventh Wonder — The Great Escape (Reissue)
Seventh Wonder — Waiting in the Wings (Reissue)
Seventrain — Seventrain EP
Severed Angel — ST
Shakra — Invincible
Shylmagoghnar — Convergence
Siege Of Power — This is Tomorrow
Signum Regis — Chapter IV — The Reckoning
Silent Angel — Unyielding, Unrelenting
Silent Skies — Dormant
Silent Tiger — Twist of Fate
Silver Bullet — Shadowfall
Sinheresy — Event Horizon
Sins Of Shadows — Imperium
Sirenia — 1977
Skagarack — Heart and Soul
Skam — Intravenous (Remastered)
Skillet — Dominion Day of Destiny
Skinher — Heartstruck
Skinner — The Dark Design
Skull & Crossbones — Sungazer
Slowburn — Fire Starter
Slowburn — Firestarter
Smackbound — Hostage
Smoulder — Violent Creed of Vengeance
Solstice — Light Up EP
Sorcerer — Reign of the Reaper
Sovereign Council — World on Fire EP
Speed Limit — Cut a Long Story Short
Spillage — Phase Four
Spiritbox — The Fear of Fear EP
Stan Snow — Into the Great Beyond
Starbenders — Take Back The Night
Stardust — Kingdom of Illusion
Stargazer — Life Will Never Be The Same
Starmen — Starmenized
Starquake — At The Circus
Steel Bars — A Tribute to Michael Bolton
Steel Panther — On the Prowl
Steve Emm — Dangerous Goods
Steve Lukather — Bridges
Stonetrip — Run Free
Stormburst — III
Stormwarning — ST
Strangerland — Echoes from the Past
Subway to Sally — Himmelfahrt
Suicide Silence — Remember... You Must Die
Sunbeam Overdrive — Diama
Supremacy — Influence
Svartanatt — Last Days on Earth
Sweet And Lynch — Heart & Sacrifice
Sylosis — A Sign of Things to Come
T3nors — Naked Soul
TAZ — Shipwrecked, Vol 2
Tailgunner — Guns for Hire
Taliesin — Disciple
Tanith — Voyage
Tardigrade Inferno — Burn the Circus
Tarja — Dark Christmas
Temple Balls — Avalanche
Tempt — ST
Ten — Something Wicked This Way Comes
Tesla — Full Throttle Live
TesseracT — War Of Being
Texas Hippie Coalition — The Name Lives On
The 69 Eyes — Death of Darkness
The Answer — Sundowners
The Banishment — Machine and Bone
The Bouncing Souls — Ten Stories High
The Enigma Division — ST
The Flood — Hear Us Out
The Flower Kings — Look At You Now
The Hollywood Stars — Still Around EP
The Hu — Rumble of Thunder (Deluxe)
The Koo — ST
The Mighty Mister Shame — Through Hell
The Mystical Hot Chocolate Endeavors — A Clock Without a Craftsman
The Night Eternal — Fatale
The Rods — Live at Rose Hall
The Smashing Pumpkins — ATUM — Act I & II
The Winery Dogs — III
The Wise Man's Fear — Atlas Ruinica
Theory of a Deadman — Dinosaur
Third Eye — Vengeance Fulfilled
Thomas Carlsen's Transmission — A Brave Horizon
Thorium — Extraordinary Journeys
Thulcandra — Hail the Abyss
Thunder Horse — After the Fall
Tokyo — Seven
Tony Mitchell — Radio Heartbeat
Total Stranger — Mean Season
Tragedian — Master of Illusions
Tragedy — I Am Woman
Transworld Identity — Seven Worlds
Trench Dogs — Stockholmiana
Trevor Rabin — Rio
Twilight Force — At the Heart of Wintervale
Twisted Rose — Cherry Tales
Tygers Of Pan Tang — Bloodlines
Unblessed Divine — Portal to Darkness
Unchosen Ones — Sorrow Turns To Dust
Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats — Slaughter On First Avenue (Live)
Under Attack — Fury of the Thunder God
Unfelled — Pall of Endless Perdition
Universal Theory — Collapse
Ural — Psychoverse
V von Dogma I — The Kvlt of Glitch
Valentino Francavilla — Midnight Dreams
Vambo — II
Vandenberg — Sin
VantablackWarship — Last of the Hardmouthed Poets
Vega — Battlelines
Velvet Viper — Nothing Compares to Metal
Vendetta — Black as Coal
Vexed — Negative Energy
Victor Smolski — Guitar Force
Virgin Steele — The Passion of Dionysus
Visions Of Atlantis — A Pirate's Symphony
Visions of Atlantis — Pirates over Wacken
Vitalines — Wheels Within Wheels
Vypera — Race of Time
Wake Up Frankie — Thrashrockin Beats
Walk With Titans — Olympian Dystopia
Walk in Darkness — Leaves Rolling in Time
Wanted -Late Attraction
Wardress — Metal Till the End
Wasteland Clan — The End of Time
Weapon — New Clear Power
West Alley — A Night to Remember
Whalesong — Leaving a Dream
White Reaper — Asking for a Ride
Whythre — Impregnate My Hate
Wicked Maraya — Chapters
Wig Wam — Out of the Dark
Will the Thrill — Take It Sleazy
Winger — Seven
Wings Of Steel — Gates Of Twilight
Winterstorm — Everfrost
Witch Ripper — The Flight After the Fall EP
Withering Scorn — Prophets Of Demise
Within Temptation — Bleed Out
Wizard Tattoo — Fables of the Damned
Woe Unto Me — Along the Meandering Ordeals, Reshape the Pivot of Harmony
Wonders — Beyond The Mirage
Xandria — The Wonders Still Awaiting
Yesterday's Hero — Ways To Hate
Youthex — Star-Crossed
ZO2 — Begin Again
Zhiva — Into the Eye of the Storm

Honorable Mentions

Ad Infinitum — Chapter III — Downfall. Melissa Bonny and co. release a wonderful symphonic metal album, full of lush arrangements and production. I've always been a fan of her voice; she can belt, sing pop, and do harsh vocals, as well. Very versatile. Sounds somewhat similar to Amaranthe in places with respect to crunchiness. Extremely radio-friendly when it comes to choruses. Standout track: Eternal Rains

Air Raid — Fatal Encounter. Some good old-school melodic metal here. Reminds me of very early Dokken crossed with classic W.A.S.P. with a slightly heavier bent. Excellent vocals and guitar work throughout. Standout track: Thunderblood

All Time Low — Tell Me I'm Alive. Not typical HH fodder, but infectious pop-rock with excellent production. Quite a few ear-worms on the album, especially when it comes to the choruses. Standout track: Calm Down

Care of Night — Reconnected. Their third album is just what one would come to expect: extremely solid melodic rock with lush vocal harmonies. The only criticisms are that it starts to sound a bit samey after a while and it's a bit ballad-heavy of an album. Standout track: Wrong

Chris Manning — Reach The Sky. Modern hard rock that occasionally dips back into a classic '80s sound. Even though the band is a guitarist's project, I found myself being drawn to the vocals more than the guitar work, although some of the songs have a bit of a progressive edge that let the guitar shine through. Standout track: Freedom

Delain — Dark Waters. New vocalist, so who knew how it would sound, but IMO Diana Leah better fits the sound than the previous vocalist, Charlotte Wessels. I find the new album to also be much more listenable over repeated sessions than prior efforts. Moth to a Flame is just a superb radio-friendly example of the recent trend of pop vocals over metal instrumentation, a combination that I personally really like.

Elysion — Bring Out Your Dead. Crunchy melodic metal with female lead vox, think of Evanescence meets Lacuna Coil. A Greek band, this is their third album, but the first since 2014. Hopefully it's not such a long wait for the next one. Standout track: Crossing Over

House of Shakira — XIT. This one was unexpected. Their past few efforts left me feeling "meh", and it was a long time since they were at their peak in the late '90s and early 2000s. The vocal harmonies are on point and the overall vibe isn't quite as laid back as their recent material IMO. Standout track: Something in the Water

Hugo's Voyage — Inception. Dude... where ya been? This is the missing Journey album we've been looking for. Yes, it's a bit more ballad-heavy than probably most would want, but Hugo has always been on the lighter side of Journey's repertoire. If you've been jonesing for vintage Steve Perry-esque Journey, look no further. Standout track: Don't Wanna Live Without Your Love

Ignea — Dreams of Lands Unseen. This Ukranian band won't be everyone's cup of tea, but I can't stop listening to this album. Take some death metal, overlay it with etherial female vocals with some very contemporary jazz-based harmonies, and the sprinkle middle eastern instrumentation throughout. BTW, the female lead vocalist also does the harsh vocals. Standout tracks: Incurable Disease and Dunes (that's right, they get 2 tracks; this album was my #6 for the year).

Lansdowne — Medicine. This came out early in the year and stayed high in my rotation throughout the year. Modern radio-friendly hard rock ala Nickelback, Daughtry, etc. Nothing particularly innovative, but well executed and enjoyable. Standout track: Bury Me

Lord Of The Lost — Weapons Of Mass Seduction. Normally an entire album of covers wouldn't be my jam, let alone 2 discs worth, but I've really enjoyed their last several albums, and this continues into their take on musical standards. Standaout track: It's a Sin (Pet Shop Boys)

Mercenary — Soundtrack To The End Times. Crunchy classic heavy metal with a bit of a modern spin. While there are some harsh vocals sprinkled throughout, they never dominate the clean vocals and the harmonies on the choruses are solid. There are some interesting prog-esque instrumental riffs throughout, but at its core it's just good heavy metal. Standout track: Beyond the Waves

Orbit Culture — Descent. A discovery for me in 2023, that I know many won't like as it features harsh vocals, but the choruses and especially the instrumental musicianship and production are top notch. Late in the year they just announced making the transition from being independent to signing with Century Media Records, so their material should become more widespread. Pure headbanging bliss. The 6-minute+ From the Inside was my first exposure to the band and was my runner up for song of the year.

Pyramaze — Bloodlines. Hard to believe this is their seventh album. Epic symphonic prog metal with extremely enjoyable vocals and choruses, very polished. I much prefer their newer material after Matt Barlow left the band. Standout track: Broken Arrow

Rexoria — Imperial Dawn. The fusion of melodic metal and synth pop is one that really works for me. Throw in capable female lead vocals and I'm sold. The ABBA-esque keyboard hooks meld well with the underlying rock/metal and keeeps the toes a-tapping. This has been getting ear-time from me all year long. Standout track: Paradigm

Riverside — ID.Entity. Polish band with a very unusual style, part prog rock, part pop, with lots of electronica. The lead vocalist reminds me of Robin Gibb (Bee Gees) in places. If the album was a bit more consistent stylistically, it would have ended up in my top 5 for the year. The album was also released in a 5.1 channel blu-ray edition. Standout track: Friend or Foe?

The Dark Side of the Moon — Metamorphosis. Another Melissa Bonny-fronted project, with Hans Platz from Feuerschwanz. This is their first album. Melodic symphonic metal, once again with extremely accessible vocials and choruses. To be honest, I have a hard time telling this material apart from Ad Infinitum when they come up in the shuffle, but hey since I like them both, it's not a problem. Standout track: First Light

Thomas Lassar — From Now On. Excellent solor AOR from the keyboardist and lead vocalist of Sweden's Crystal Blue. The tracks range from lighter Westcoast AOR to hard rock, with the emphasis on vocals and harmonies. The strongest material are the ballads, IMO, with his vocal characteristics reminding me of Aaron Neville in places. Standout track: From Now On

Dan's Winners

5th Place

cover Beyond the Black — Beyond the Black (Nuclear Blast Records). This German band has been around since 2015 and this is their fifth album. Their earlier material is described as "symphonic metal", but this new album is IMO melodic hard rock; very little metal remains (presumably due to the almost complete personnel turnover)... but that isn't a bad thing. I find this album to be much more accessible and replayable than prior efforts. I hope that the live video below is an indication that a live Blu-Ray is coming at some point, as they appear to be a fun watch live. For fans of Delain, Within Temptation, and Halestorm.

4th Place

cover Cyhra — The Vertigo Trigger (Nuclear Blast Records). This is the third album from this Swedish melodic metal group... but is it really metal? As far as the instrumental foundtation yes, but overall I would categorize it more as hard rock, and melodic at that. Every now and then you'll get a crunchy guitar-bass-drums riff or fill that is metal in nature, but vocally and with the keyboard layers, this is not your grandfather's metal. That said, the hooks are infectious and the replayability is high.

3rd Place

cover The Defiants — Drive (Frontiers Records). This is the third album from The Defiants, and while I must admit that the first two didn't resonate with me for some reason, this one definitely did. Great Leppardesque gang choruses, top notch production, and an extremely polished sound. Paul Laine & Co. bring the Danger Danger influences in spades.

2nd Place

cover Streetlight — Ignition (Frontiers Records). Why do I feel like the Swedes have taken over the entire music scene across all genres? Quintessential AOR debut effort IMO, with hooks being off the chart. It has a very 1970s-80s vibe to it. In fact, the songs from this album would have been ALL over the radio airwaves back in the late 1970s or early 1980s. It's hard to say whether the rockers or the ballads are the band's stronger suit, as they execute both extremely well.

Dan's Pick for Heavy Harmonies 2023 CD of the Year

cover Dominum — Hey Living People (Napalm Records). What would happen if Robby Valentine, Kissin' Dynamite, and Powerwolf all came together to record The Rocky Horror Picture Show? Dominum, of course. This album dropped on December 28, and immediately made my top 5 list a shambles. I'm guessing that it flew under the radar for many people, coming out over the holidays... a poor choice of release date IMO. I had to give it a few weeks and see if the initial excitement would actually stand up over repeated listens and insertion in my rotation, as I didn't want to fall victim to the "newness" of the release. Well, my interest didn't wane and the more I listened to it, the more I admire it.

It's a horror-themed album, and some of the lyrical work in that vein is superb. The first track below We All Taste the Same is my number one song of the year, both lyrically and musically. Being on Napalm Records, one wouldn't expect it to be melodic rock rather than metal of some sort, but this is not the case. Napalm, along with AFM Records, Massacre Records, and even Nuclear Blast, are enfolding hard rock bands into ther traditionally "heavy metal" rosters, and this is a good thing IMO.

The gang choruses on many of the songs here remind me of vintage Crashdiet, while at the same time there are sprinkles of Queen and Robby Valentine throughout. The quirky You Better Shoot Yourself is absolutely stellar. Even the two cover songs on the album, Dead or Alive's You Spin Me Right Round and Midnight Oil's Beds Are Burning are very well executed and enjoyable.

Just a completely unexpected gem from start to finish. I can't wait to see what they do next!

Mike's Picks for the Best of 2023

The Also Rans

Alcatrazz — Take No Prisoners
American Bombshell — Knives Out
American Jetset — Love Kills
Art Nation — Inception
Ronnie Atkins — Trinity
Babylon A.D. — Live Lightning
Bangalore Choir — Center Mass
Barfly — No Place Like Home
The Bites — Squeeze
The Black Crowes — Shake Your Money Maker Live
Bombay Black — En Fuego!
Bush — Loaded The Greatest Hits 1994-2023
Candlebox — Live At The Neptune Theatre
Coney Hatch — Postcard From Germany
CoreLeoni — Alive
Creye — III Weightless
Crowne — Operation Phoenix
Czakan — Unreal
Dark Sky — Signs of the Time
The Darkness — Permission To Land... Again
The Dead Daisies — Best Of
Def Leppard — Drastic Symphonies
Dirty Honey — Can't Find The Brakes
Dreams — Dreams
Electric Boys — Grand Explosivos
Elegant Weapons — Horns For A Halo
First Signal — Face Your Fears
Gardner-James — No Strings
George Lynch and Jeff Pilson — Heavy Hitters II
Ghost — Phantomime
Girish and the Chronicles — Back on Earth
Glorious Bankrobbers — Back on the Road
Grand Design — Rawk
Erik Gronwall — Eriksplanations Vol. 1
Heavy Water — Dreams of Yesterday
Kent Hilli — Nothing Left To Lose
Hugo's Voyage — Inception
Jetboy — Crate Diggin'
Joel Hoekstra's 13 — Crash Of Life
Joined Forces — Anthology
KISS - Off the Soundboard — Poughkeepsie NY 1984
King Kobra — We Are Warriors
Koritni — Long Overdue
Oni Logan — The Cosmic Trust Sessions
George Lynch — Guitars At The End Of The World
Lynch Mob — Babylon
Mitch Malloy — The Last Song
Robin McAuley - Alive
Metal Church — Congregation Of Annihilation
Metallica — 72 Seasons
Misery — Risk It All
Night Ranger — 40 Years And A Night With CYO
Primal Fear — Code Red
Red Reign - Don't Look Back
Revolution Saints — Eagle Flight
Rockett Love — Galactic Circus
Roxanne — Stereo Typical
Paul Rodgers — Midnight Rose
Saliva — Revelation
Saxon — More Inspirations
Neal Schon — Journey Through Time
Seven Ravens — After the Storm
Skagarack — Heart and Soul
Soledriver — Return Me to Light
Rick Springfield — Springfield
St. Valentine — St. Valentine
Sweet and Lynch — Heart and Sacrifice
Andy Taylor — Man's A Wolf To Man
Temple Balls — Avalanche
Terje — Recalibrate
Tesla — Full Throttle Live
UDO — Touchdown
Whitesnake — Still Good to Be Bad
The Winery Dogs — III
Winger — Seven

Honorable Mentions

Black Stone Cherry — Screamin' at the Sky. Killer, hard rockin' affair from Kentucky's Black Stone Cherry. Their best since 2014's "Magic Mountain" in my opinion.

Blackbird Angels — Solsorte. Oh no, it's one of those dreaded Frontiers Projects! Not to fear though, as this one is actually quite good, and is streets ahead of the latest LA Guns release. "Shut Up (You Know I Love You)" and "Mine (All Mine)" provide an excellent one-two punch to open the disc!

Buckcherry — Vol. 10. Quite possibly the most consistent band of the last 25 years, 2023 was business as usual, with a disc full of dirty, sleazy hard rock from Buckcherry. One of my all time favorite bands!

Candlebox — The Long Goodbye. Reportedly "The Long Goodbye" will be the final Candlebox release, with leader Kevin Martin set to retire. If that is indeed the case, this is a more than fitting swan song with plenty of great tracks such as the opener "Punks", "Cellphone Jesus", and probably my fave "Elegante".

Alice Cooper — Road. I was not expecting this one to be this good! While Alice really doesn't put out bad albums, this one is easily his best since 2008's "Along Came a Spider". As the title suggests, the album focuses on his years spent out on the road, with plenty of the tongue in cheek lyrics that we love from Alice. Check this one out if you haven't already.

Duran Duran — Danse Macabre. DD's best album in MANY years, featuring the infectious title track, as well as the absolutely excellent "Black Moonlight". The re-works of previous tunes, along with some cool cover song choices all work well on this Halloween themed collection.

Gunshine — Checkmate. Kickass EP from Florida's Gunshine, with "90 Proof" and "Swing Away" standing out. Hopefully we get a new, full length release from these guys soon; LOVE what they're doing!

Heaven's Edge — Get It Right. It's been 30+ years since their excellent self titled debut, and to be honest, I wasn't expecting them to come anywhere close to recapturing that magic, but damn if they didn't come close! Solid disc from start to finish, with "Gone Gone Gone" being a standout. Check this one out pronto!

KK's Priest — The Sinner Rides Again. My favorite metal release of 2023, KK Downing, Tim Ripper Owens, and crew dish out a slab of excellent Judas Priest (obviously) style metal!

The L.A. Maybe — Shout Fire. A new singer, and a new sound veering into the southern rock realm at times, this EP will serve as The L.A. Maybe's last release, as they've now changed their name to Bourbon Sons, and have gone in a full on southern/country rock direction. With that said, this is a good little release, and well worth checking out.

Last In Line — Jericho. The most consistent of their 3 releases, I've found myself returning to this one quite a bit during the course of the year. "Ghost Town", "Do the Work", "Dark Days', and "House Party at the End of the World" are all faves, but the entire disc is quite enjoyable.

Steve Lukather — Bridges. "Not My Kind of People" and "When I See You Again" are two of my favorite songs of 2023, so I'll definitely recommend checking this one out.

Mammoth WVH — II. While 2021's self titled debut from Wolfgang was decent, he's really pulled it all together on this one. Check out "Another Celebration at the End of the World", "Miles Above Me", "Take a Bow", and "I'm Alright" to hear how much he's progressed in two short years. Excellent disc that I'm sure will rank highly on many 2023 "Best of" lists.

Matchbox Twenty — Where the Light Goes. While not in the same league as Rob's 2019 solo disc "Chip Tooth Smile", this one is still quite good, and those two singles, "Wild Dogs (Running in a Slow Dream)", and "Don't Get Me Wrong" are catchier than the cold I've had since right after Christmas!

Rick Springfield — Automatic. 20 songs, showcasing the POP side of Rick's writing, with none longer than 3:18, form "Automatic". Since I've thoroughly enjoyed Rick's prior three studio efforts, I was quite excited when this one released, and while I do like this one very much, it just doesn't measure up to those previous discs. Check out the title track, and "Works For Me" if you wanna hear what this one is all about.

Starmen — Starmenized. While I've enjoyed all their previous work, this one is probably the Starmen's most consistent release from start to finish. Check out "Liar", the power ballad "I'd Die For You", and the excellent "Black Moon Rising" to hear the Kiss style rockers that Starmen are serving up this time around.

The Struts — Pretty Vicious. The Struts return with another platter full of catchy tunes, with "Too Good at Raising Hell", "Hands on Me", and "Rockstar" being my personal faves. If you've enjoyed any of their previous output, this one should be right up your alley as well.

Vandenberg — Sin. While their 2020 comeback release "2020" featuring Ronnie Romero on vocals was a decent effort, "Sin" seems to have captured a reinvigorated Adrian Vandenberg, along with vocalist extraordinaire Mats Leven. "Sin" features 9 tracks of 80s Whitesnake flavored tunes, with the title track featuring riffs that will take you straight back to the days of "Still of the Night".

Wig Wam — Out Of The Dark. This one is a nice return to form for Wig Wam after 2012's lackluster "Wall Street", and the underwhelming 2021 comeback "Never Say Die". The title track, along with "Bad Luck Chuck", are personal faves.

The Defiants — Drive. Their most consistent release in my opinion; this one falls in line with Tempt and Nitrate as the best AOR/melodic rock releases of the year. "19 Summertime" is the big standout here.

Tempt — Tempt. Excellent effort from Tempt, coming in just behind Nitrate for 2023's best AOR release. Just all round great stuff from top to bottom with "Roses", "Living Dangerous", "Burn Me Down", and "Two Ways" being my faves! Extremely well done disc that you should check out immediately!

Nitrate — Feel The Heat. The first thing I noticed when I picked this one up, is that 4 members returned from the line-up that produced 2021's "Renegade", and the stability seems to have benefitted the band greatly, with "Feel the Heat" being the best AOR album of the year. The openers, "Feel the Heat" and "All the Right Moves" are melodic rock bliss, but the entire album delivers an amazing listening experience. This one just barely misses my top five; very well done!

Mike's Winners

5th Place

cover The Rolling Stones — Hackney Diamonds (Polydor Records). I've never been more than just a casual Stones fan, so I was stunned to find that "Hackney Diamonds" is really, REALLY good. From pop rockers "Angry", "Mess It Up", and "Whole Wide World", to the melancholy "Depending On You" and "Tell Me Straight", the punk inspired "Bite My Head Off", to the excellent mid tempo rocker "Driving Me Too Hard", there is truly something here for everyone. This one hit like a lightning bolt out of nowhere, and stayed in my CD player for weeks upon its arrival.I think the fact that the Stones three core members are all 76-80 years old makes what they've given us here even more impressive. If this turns out to be their last studio effort, then this is a more than fitting send off; well done gentlemen!

4th Place

cover Godsmack — Lighting Up the Sky (BMG Records). Originally upon release, band fontman Sully Erna declared that "Lighting Up the Sky" would be Godsmack's last album, which would be a damn shame, because in my opinion, this is their best release since their self titled debut back in 1998 (he has since said "never say never" regarding new Godsmack music). The band have been heading in a slightly more melodic direction with each release, and it's all come together here. From the excellent title track, to "Surrender", "Soul On Fire", and the great "Hell's Not Dead", this one is crammed full of melodic metal goodness. Hopefully we'll hear more from them, but if not, this is one helluva high note to go out on!

3rd Place

cover Ayron Jones — Chronicles Of The Kid (Big Machine Records). Wow. I enjoyed 2021's "Child of the State", but Ayron has REALLY cranked it up a notch on this one! The album opens with three scorching rockers back to back to back in "Strawman", "Blood in the Water", and "The Title", which are followed up by the beautiful ballad "Otherside". The rest of the album is extremely solid as well, with 4 more rockers and 2 ballads to round everything out. I've come back to this one again and again in 2023 (and now 2024), and to be honest, if two of my all time favorite bands hadn't released albums last year, this one would have probably taken the top spot. VERY well done Mister Jones; I look forward to your future output!

2nd Place

cover Extreme — Six (Ear Music). It's been 15 long years since Extreme's previous release, 2008's "Saudades de Rock", and they have returned with a vengeance! The album opens with "Rise", which features one of the most epic guitar solos I've heard in a long time! Nuno simply lights it up here, and shines throughout the entire album. Some other hard rockin' highlights are "Rebel", "Banshee", "The Mask", "Thicker Than Blood", and "Save Me". While the rockers are excellent, it's the acoustic based ballad "Other Side of the Rainbow" that steals the show here; in a word, beautiful. I certainly hope it's not another 15 years between Extreme albums, but in the meantime, I'm going to enjoy the absolutely excellent "Six".

Mike's Pick for Heavy Harmonies 2023 CD of the Year

cover Dokken — Heaven Comes Down (Silver Lining Music). I've been a Dokken fanboy since 1984's "Tooth & Nail", so you can imagine my excitement when a new album was announced! With that said, I tempered my expectations, as I didn't want to get TOO excited, and wind up disappointed, but I can honestly say, that has not been a problem with "Heaven Comes Down", as it has easily been my most played, and most enjoyed release of 2023. The three singles, "Fugitive", "Gypsy", and "Over the Mountain" are all solid rockers, but it's the 4 track run of "Is It Me or You?", "Just Like a Rose", the ballad "I'll Never Give Up", and "Saving Grace" which are the highlight of the album here; excellent stuff! "I Remember" , "Santa Fe", and "Forevermore" (the Japanese bonus track) are all good ballads, with only "Lost in You" not overly impressing me, but even then, it's not a terrible song by any means. Don sounds fine, singing within his limits, and as has been the case for over 20 years now, Jon Levin shines here, and is an absolute beast on guitar. Will this be the last new music we get from Dokken? I hope not, but if it is, it's a fitting send off, and I will enjoy it for many years to come. Thank you Don, Jon, Chris, and BJ for keepin' us Rokken with Dokken!

Contributor Picks

Jez's Picks for the Best of 2023

The Also Rans

30 Seconds To Mars — It's The End Of The World But It's a Beautiful Day
.38 Special — Live At Rockpalast 1981
A is A — The Complete Recordings
Bryan Adams — Live At The Royal Albert Hall
Alcatrazz — Take No Prisoners
All My Shadows — Eerie Monsters
AOR — Bewitched In L.A.
Arctic Rain — Unity
Arena — Lifian (Tour MMXXII)
Atlas — Built To Last
Bai Bang Sha Na Na Na
Bite The Bullet — Rocky Road
The Bites — Squeeze
Black Star Riders — Wrong Side Of Paradise
Blutengel — Un:Sterblich (Our Souls Will Never Die)
Blue Oyster Cult — 50th Anniversary Live In NYC
Terry Carolan — Inbalance
Color Theory — Underneath These Dying Stars
Cradle Of Filth — Trouble And Their Double Lives
Crossfade — Innocent Days
Cyan — Pictures From The Other Side
CWF (Champlin, Williams, Friestedt) — Carrie EP
Czakan — Unreal
Dark Sarah — Attack Of Orym
Def Leppard — Drastic Symphonies
Deathstars — Everything Destroys You
Demon's Down — I Stand
Dimmu Borgir — Inspirito Profanus
Dokken — Heaven Comes Down
Domino Drive — Smoke And Mirrors
Doro — Conqueress — Forever Strong and Proud
Dream Theater — Lost Not Forgotten Archives: Live At Madison Square Gardens
Dream Theater — Lost Not Forgotten Archives: The Making Of Falling Into Infinity
Dream Theater — Lost Not Forgotten Archives: The Making Of Scenes From a Memory
Dream Theater — Lost Not Forgotten Archives: When Dream And Day Unite Demos 1987-89
Edge Of Forever — Ritual
Extreme — Six
False Memories — Hybrid Ego System
First Night — Deep Connection
First Signal — Face Your Fears
The Flood — Hear Us Out
Foo Fighters — But Here We Are
*Frost — Island Live
Frozen Rain — One Mile From Heartsville
Girish & The Chronicles — Back On Earth
H.E.A.T — Extra Force
Heaven's Edge — Get It Right
Kent Hilli — Nothing Left To Lose
Joel Hoekstra's 13 — Crash Of Life
Houston — Relaunch III
Hurricane — Reconnected
Ignescent — Fight Me
IQ — Subterranea: Live At De Boerderij 2011
In This Moment — Godmode
Infinite & Divine — Ascendancy
Issa — City Of Lights
Jelusick — Follow The Blind Man
Jethro Tull — RokFlote
Kamelot — The Awakening
Magnus Karlsson's Free Fall — Hunt The Flame
Karnataka — Requiem For a Dream
King Kobra — We Are Warriors
Kings Crown — Closer To The Truth
Kiss — Off The Soundboard: Poughkeepsie NY Mid Hudson Arena 1984
Khymera — Hold Your Ground
Lalu — The Fish Who Wanted To Be King
Level — S/T
Lifesigns — Live In The Netherlands
Lynch Mob — Babylon
Mitch Malloy — The Last Song
Marillion — An Hour Before It's Dark:Live In Port Zelande 2023
Eric Martin Band — Sucker For a Pretty Face (Original Sessions)
Robin McAuley — Alive
Duff McKagan — Lighthouse
Mecca — Everlasting
Metallica — 72 Seasons
Midnite City — In At The Deep End
Motorhead — We Play Rock 'n Roll: Live At Montreux Jazz Festival '07
Neal Morse — The Dreamer: Joseph Part 1.
Night Ranger — 40 Years And a Night With The Contemporary Youth Orchestra
One Desire — Live With The Shadow Orchestra
Orbit Culture — Descent
Orion — The End Of Suffering
Outlanders — Outlanders
Steve Overland — S.I.X
Cassidy Paris — New Sensation
Phantom Elite — Blue Blood
Revolution Saints — Eagle Flight
Rexoria — Imperial Dawn
Rian — Wings
The Rolling Stones — Hackney Diamonds
Ronnie Romero — Too Many Lies, Too Many Masters
Sarayasign — The Lion's Road
Saxon — More Inspirations
Neal Schon — Journey Through Time
Shades Of Gray — Black And White
Shakra — Invincible
Skagarack — Heart And Soul
Sirenia — 1977
Smackbound — Hostage
Lee Small — The Last Man On Earth
SoleDriver — Return Me To Light
Station — And Time Goes On
Steel Panther — On The Prowl
Sweet and Lynch — Heart & Scrifice
T3nors — Naked Soul
Tarja — Rocking Heels ;Live At Metal Church
Ten — Something Wicked This Way Comes
Tin Man — Anthology
Transatlantic — The Final Flight: Live At L'Olympia
Transworld Identity — Seven Worlds
Tuple — Paradise Lost
Turkish Delight — Khalil Turk And Friends Vol. 2
Judie Tzuke — Jude The Unsinkable
Steve Vai — Vai/ Gash
Robby Valentine — The Queen EP. 3
Vandenberg — Sin
John West — Days Of Destiny
Wig Wam — Out Of The Dark
The Winery Dogs — III
Within Temptation — Live In Hell
Yes — Mirror To The Sky

Honorable Mentions

A Life Divided — Down The Spiral Of a Soul. 5th album celebrating the 20th anniversary of this excellent German band. A slight heavier approach this time round, but with no less quality.

Ad Infinitum — Chapter III: Downfall. As the title says, the 3rd album from this powerhouse band, led by the superb vocals of Melissa Bonny (check her out also on this year's excellent 'The Darkside Of The Moon' album).Tight songwriting, hooky choruses and one of the best symphonic metal albums of the year.

Angel — Once Upon a Time. The 2nd release from the revamped Angel lineup and as with the last album, a well crafted and highly enjoyable release. Frank Dimino still sounds great and Punky adds some nice guitar flourishes throughout. A little overlong maybe, but recommended for the 'old school' boys and girls out there.

Art Nation — Inception. Harder edged than previously, but with still much to recommend. Quality melodic hard rock from Sweden.

Atack — Nine Lives. The great debut of classic British hard rock, majorly influenced by Deep Purple, Rainbow et al. Beautifully produced and played by all involved and a top quality album throughout.

Ronnie Atkins — Trinity. His 3rd album in 3 years and much a continuation from the first 2. Maybe not quite as good as those, but still a very strong release.

Aviations — Luminaria. Modern progressive metal with its feet firmly in the math/ djent territory. Lots of crunching, heavy riffs, complex time signatures and melodic passages, masterfully performed it must be said.. A really great album.

Avkrvst — The Approbation. Another new progressive band from Scandinavia and a highly impressive debut album. Musically It's quite dark and challenging to listen to, but repeated plays pay off. For fans of Opeth, Porcupine Tree and Anathema

Beyond The Black — S/T. A band that has moved away a little from the 'symphonic metal of old into more melodic hard rock territory over their last couple of releases. A very good album and one that has hovered around the top 10 since its release at the beginning of the year..

Boys From Heaven — The Descendant. A short 30 minute, 8 song album with its feet firmly planted in the Toto/ Kenny Loggins, 80's rock/pop and yacht sound. This is extremely good, although I dare say it will have flown under many a radar, due to it being on a small label etc etc. Hopefully people will notice it, as it is of top quality.

Burning Witches — The Dark Tower. All girl heavy metal from Switzerland... what's not to like?. A good powerful sound, great songs and a good production job on here too.

Cairo — Nemesis. 2nd album from this talented UK band and a strong mix of prog, metal and a sprinkling of melodic rock. The ballads shine here with 'Glow', the emotive 'The Love' and the excellent 'Save The Earth' and Nemesis being the album highlights.

Care Of Night — Reconnected. I still prefer the debut 'Connected' album from 2015, but this is a strong, smooth melodic rock record with many highlights. .

Coney Hatch — Postcard From Germany. A great live album recorded back in 2018 showing a band still at the top of their game. All the fan favourites are present on the setlist, along with the added bonus of 2 new studio tracks, which are also great...

Alice Cooper — Road. Old school sounding Alice is the name of the game on this his 29th studio album and excellent stuff all round it is. It's one of his better albums in recent years and with the added bonus of the live at Hellfest 2022 DVD, this a must have package

Creye — III: Weightless. This has everything you'd expect from a release of this type..great songs, huge choruses, great production and some majorly good playing from all involved. Opening track 'Glorious' is exactly that and sets the standard of the songs that doesn't let up throughout its 40 odd minutes. By far the best AOR album of the year and a quite brilliant one it is.

Crowne — Operation Phoenix. Album 2 and pretty much a continuation from the promising debut album. No real surprises on here, but it is a good quality hard rock/ melodic metal album

Cry Of Dawn — Anthropocene. Tommy Denander and Goran Edman team up for the 2nd COD release. It's a well above average slice of Scandie AOR, with the typical Denander sound and Edman's excellent vocals

Cyhra — The Vertigo Trigger. Whilst not quite reaching the excellence of the previous 'No Halos In Hell' album, this offers up plenty of strong, hard hitting material throughout. Catchy, melodic metal with some great vocals from ex Amaranthe vocalist Jake E. Recommended.

The Dark Side Of The Moon — Metamorphosis. Another top quality sympho metal release featuring the brilliant Melissa Bonny, powering her way through some epic metal versions of various film soundtracks and movie themes. Brilliant stuff.

DBA (Downes Braide Association) — Celestial Songs. Light symphonic prog/pop featuring Asia/Yes/Buggles Geoff Downes and songwriter Chris Braide.Some very impressive arrangements on a fine set of songs make this an engaging listen from start to finish. .

The Defiants — Drive. Like its predecessors, this is great uptempo, energetic melodic rock from the ex D2 boys. Nothing remotely new going on here, but some great, hooky songs and a top production job.

Degreed — Public Address. One of the most consistent bands on the circuit return with another quality slice of modern melodic rock..

Delain — Dark Waters. A new lineup, a brand new vocalist and one of the best (if not THE best) album of their impressive career so far. Symphonic metal at its best

Destination Unknown — S/T. This is pretty much a vehicle for the super impressive vocals of Brad Henshaw and a very impressive slice of light AOR it is. A limited edition release on the AOR Boulevard label, which sold out fairly quickly, so if you see a copy, grab it without hesitation.

Earthside — Let The Truth Speak. Lavish, multi faceted prog metal from the highly talented US outfit. A massive production, superb playing and a fine ensemble of guests add to the depth of the whole album, making it one of the best of many great albums in the prog metal genre this year.

Eclipse — Megalomanium. Another year, another Eclipse album and another recommended album from me. Nothing that they haven't done before, but really solid nevertheless..

Eloy — Echoes From The Past. The 12th album release from the veteran German prog rockers and the final release in the 3 album 'rock opera' about Jeane d'Arc. It's trademark Eloy in sound and whilst it doesn't match up to their earlier/ mid period albums, this is still highly recommended.

Exploring Birdsong — Dancing In The Face Of Danger EP. Their 2nd EP and some really very sweet melodic prog. For a trio, they produce a lush, full sound, with a wonderful sense of melody throughout the 5 songs, with the gorgeous 'Pyre' being a fine example of their style. Fans of artists like Mostly Autumn, Kate Bush and Clannad should check this out pronto as it's really very good indeed.

Fish On Friday — 8MM. Another top quality light progressive release from this hugely talented Belgian band. Great production, songs and musicianship. For fans of David Gilmour, RPWL, Alan Parsons and Pink Floyd

The Flower Kings — Look At You Now. This is one of the best of the recent Flower Kings albums which highlights the bands 'Vintage' symphonic prog feel. 67 minutes of quality progressive music.

David Forbes — Tales Of The Past. Written and produced by Steve Newman, this is very much in the same vein as his solo work and features some great vocals as well. This maybe lacks the one real killer track, but overall a really solid album.

Peter Gabriel — i/o. A very long awaited (21 years to be precise) follow up to 2002's 'Up' and an album well worth the wait. This has all of PG' s trademarks from the more commercial tracks like the title track, 'Olive Tree' and the fabulous 'Panopticon', through to the more reflective pieces 'Playing For Time' and 'Love Can Heal'. The band featuring the ever present Tony Levin, Manu Katche and David Rhodes are quite superb throughout on this, one of his finest albums.

Ghost — Pantomime EP. Iron Maiden, Tina Turner, Genesis,The Stranglers and Television songs, all superbly re-done in the distinct Ghost style.

Girlschool — WTFortyfive? One of the longest running female rock bands return with one of the strongest albums of their career. A great bit of retro NWOBHM and good to see them back on top form

Gunship — Unicorn. Top quality atmospheric synthwave with the typical GUNSHIP vibe, so if you like your John Carpenter, Terminator, Robocop, Aliens movies with super catchy tracks this is the one to get. Great 80's retro synth.

Haken — Fauna. Diverse,modern prog with a highly technical edge, but with melody and some great complex songs. Not easily digestible in one play but repeated listens pay off..

Hugo's Voyage — Inception. Polished AOR and one of the better of its type this year. Good production on here and some great, albeit 'soft' tracks that will suit a more mellow vibe. Great to hear his voice again on this quality album.

Ignea — Dreams Of Lands Unseen. Powerful symphonic metal with a touch of electronica from this highly rated Ukrainian band. It's heavy, melodic, yet accessible and superbly done..

Floor Jansen — Paragon. The ex Nightwish vocalist returns with her debut solo album, which is a departure from her usual symphonic metal, to a more commercial pop rock approach, that will appeal to a much wider audience. A nice easy listen, but hugely enjoyable.

Karmanjakah — Ancient Skills EP. The follow up to the highly recommended 'A Book About Itself' debut album from 2021, and a 4 track EP. of quality modern prog/ djent, Technical, but beautifully melodic.

Katatonia — Sky Void Of Stars. A progressive, goth metal tour de force and one of the band's best albums to date. Dark, melancholic,heavy and melodic, yet ultimately rewarding and an album that gets better and better with repeated spins.

Kite Parade — Retro. The follow up to the promising 'A Way Home' album from 2022, sees multi instrumentalist Andy Edwards excel in producing an excellent set of memorable, well arranged and played light melodic prog.

KK's Priest — The Sinner Rides Again. The 2nd disc from KK and the boys and a great album of blazing heavy metal in its most furious form.

Lava — X. Some of Norway's top session musicians and their latest 10th album. Yacht/soft rock at its best. Available only as part of the excellent career spanning 1980-2023 box far.

Sophie Lloyd — Imposter Syndrome. An impressive debut album featuring a varied mix of vocalists (Lizzy Hale, Nathan James, Chris Robertson), some strong, modern hard rock tracks and Sophie's excellent playing.

Lordi — Screem Writers Guild. Over the course of 30 years and 18 studio albums, a band still at the very top of their game. This carries on the quality of those and then some, with some blistering guitars from new boy Kone and the trademark huge, hooky songs throughout.

Steve Lukather — Bridges. With the Toto name now seemingly retired, this is pretty much the closest we will get to a new record. As well as Steve Lukather, David Paich and Joseph Williams all feature on this excellent album, with my only complaint with its short 35 minute playing time. Quality is quality though and this has it in spades.

Mammoth WVH — Mammoth II. A Talented boy is our Wolfie. He writes, plays and produces the whole shebang and bloody good it is too. I can vouch for him live too, after seeing him support Def Leppard /Motley Crue earlier in the year. Eddie will be looking down smiling..

Martin Miller — Maze Of My Mind. This 2nd album is a great showcase for this talented guitarist's abilities and has been garnering rave reviews everywhere. The mix of a heavier Toto meets Dream Theater (which has been mentioned in a few places) is a fairly accurate one and over the course of its 5 tracks and 40 minutes, this disc rarely fails to impress.

Mayfire — Cloudscapes & Silhouettes. A late entry into the honours list from this mysterious Norwegian band. If you're into your modern melodic metal and progressive music in the vein of Evergrey and Borealis, then this impressive debut album should be at the top of your listening list.

ModX — Secrets. With most of the tracks seemingly being released separately, this has been a long time coming as a whole entity, but finally this year it arrived. It's a great album, choc full of great songs, very much in the Work Of Art, Lionville, Toto AOR style, so you know pretty much what to expect. There hasn't been many great AOR discs this year, but this is definitely one of them

Mono Inc. — Ravenblack. 12th studio album from this excellent German quartet. A shame this band isn't known much outside of their native Germany, as they offer up some top quality, melodic goth rock.

Mystery — Redemption. High quality neo prog from this talented Canadian band, adding to an already very consistent back catalogue.

Nighthawk — Prowler. Members of The Night Flight Orchestra, Soilwork and Captain Blackbeard produce an excellent late 70's 80's inspired hard rock album. If you like the first 2 NFO albums especially, then this should be right up your street.

Nitrate — Feel The Heat. One of the up and coming bands on the UK melodic rock circuit presently and their best album yet, due in no certain terms to them teaming up with the talented former Vega Martin Brothers. Some nice songs on here, although points deducted for a non to clever production, which lets the side down a bit.

Nothing But Thieves — Dead Club City. UK alt rockers return with their best album yet, mixing rock,pop,synth and ear worms galore. Great album

Oblivion Protocol — The Fall Of The Shires. Richard West's Threshold spin off band and a sequel to their 'Legends Of The Shires' epic, which whilst not as 'metal' as Threshold, is top quality prog rock as you would expect from all involved.

The Paradigm Shift — For You. A very promising debut album from this band from Dimapur, India, that mixes rock, pop and alternative to great effect.

Pattern-Seeking Animals — Spooky Action At a Distance. Prolific US proggers return with album 4 and shows the band getting better and better with subsequent releases.

Pendragon — North Star EP. An excellent mini album that carries on musically where the brilliant ''Love Over Fear' left us back in 2020. Top quality Neo-prog

Trevor Rabin — Rio. The first vocal solo album since 1989's excellent 'Can't Look Away' and an impressive, eclectic set of material, played, performed and produced by this highly impressive musician.

Redemption — I Am The Storm. Long epics, short songs, heavy guitars, masses of synths, guitar solo's galore, and emotive vocals from Evergrey's Tom S. Englund, this impressive album has pretty much everything you require from a modern day prog metal album.

Riverside — ID.Entity. Poland's exceptionally talented prog rock stalwarts 8th studio album is undeniably one of the best prog rock albums of the year. 'Friend Or Foe' kicks things off in all its 80's synth glory and turns into one of the best tracks of the year, with the rest of this varied album not far behind. It maybe lacks a little on the guitar front, but is prog rock done with style and substance.

Romeo's Daughter — Slipstream. One of melodic rock's most consistent acts and another really good album that sticks to their winning formula of classy pop/rock.

Sigur Ros — Atta. It's been a long time coming, but the new album is one full of emotive, anthemic, beautiful cinematic music. A perfect 'Headphone' album.

Silent Skies — Dormant. Musically far removed from their day jobs, vocalist Tom S. Englund (Evergrey, Redemption) and keyboardist Vikram Shankar (Lux Terminus, Redemption) return with their 3rd album of soothing, piano, synth and electronica based music. It's atmospheric, melancholic, yet uplifting in its delivery and beautifully done.

Soen — Memorial. A great mix of prog, metal and alternative on this the band's 6th album. An album getting great reviews and deservedly so.

Bruce Soord — Luminescence. A nice relaxed, laid back, more acoustic album from The Pineapple Thief' member.

Spiritbox — The Fear Of Fear EP. A great 6 track EP. that is heavy and melodic in all the right places and features one of the tracks of the year in 'Jaded' . A fantastic vocal from Courtney LaPlante and a top notch production top off this very fine mini album.

Rick Springfield — Automatic. This features Rick doing what he does best, writing and performing quality power pop songs, of which there are 20 of them here, crammed onto one very fine album..

Stardust — Kingdom Of Illusion. 2020's 'Highway To Heartbreak' was a very promising debut and this slightly improves on that effort. Good quality melodic rock, well written songs with some good, strong choruses. One of the better efforts in this genre this year.

Starmen — Starmenized. A band that seems to be missed on many end of year lists, which is a real shame, as they produce some really good music. If you like Kiss influenced 80's hard rock, then look no further than this sterling effort and their best yet.

Streetlight — Ignition. Highly polished trad. AOR with some super slick, super melodic tracks. 'Closer', 'Hit The Ground', 'Overjoyed', 'Malibu Pier' and the excellent ballad 'Words For Mending Hearts' are all a delight.

Subsignal — A Poetry Of Rain. Highly melodic and accessible prog from this very fine german band and a very highly recommended album from their impressive catalogue

Temple Balls — Avalanche. A band getting better and better with subsequent albums and a very good, energetic slice of melodic hard rock, with good, strong choruses and some powerful riffs. An album that slips alongside the likes of H.e.a.t, Crazy Lixx etc with ease.

TesseracT — War Of Being. Powerful 5th album from the UK Tech metallers. Heavy, melodic and dynamic djent at its best.

Temic — Terror Management Theory. An excellent, accomplished debut from this highly talented modern prog metal outfit. It's polished, melodic and technically great throughout.

Tempt — S/T. The sophomore Tempt album and a top quality one it is.The high end production on here brings out the best of a fine set of highly melodic, well written songs.

The Michael Thompson Band — The Love Goes On. Whilst not surpassing the levels of the brilliant 'How Long' album from 89', this is better than the last two MTB releases by a margin and one that should be fairly high on many AOR lists this year. Quality AOR with some great guitar work from Mr.T himself and good to have Moon Calhoun back on vocals too.

Tygers Of Pan Tang — Bloodlines. Classic metal and another album that ticks all the right boxes from this legendary British metal band

Uriah Heep — Chaos And Colour. Amazingly over 50 years into their career and still releasing strong albums with that unmistakable sound that is all their own. A fine record indeed.

Robby Valentine — Embrace The Unknown. The Dutch maestro returns with yet another album written, produced and performed solely by himself. All of the RV trademark sounds are here with the Queen, Muse and Beatles influences very much to the fore on a very fine album.

Vega — Battlelines. The 'New' Vega lineup without the Martin Brothers, but seemingly no worse off without them. Slightly tougher with less keys this time around, but the usual song quality is still very present.and it all generally sounds great. One of their strongest albums in a while..

Vitalines — Wheels Within Wheels. As with the Cry Of Dawn album mentioned above, this pretty much follows a similar path, although with Robbie LaBlanc on vocals. Comments are pretty interchangeable between the 2 releases, although this one has a bit more of a Toto vibe to it. Whilst there is absolutely nothing new here, I have always liked Tommy D's playing and writing, so there is enough here to recommend.

Voyager — Fearless In Love. An eclectic mix of prog, metal and electro synth pop that works so well and proves once and for all, that prog can be catchy and highly accessible. Brilliant stuff from the Aussie's on one of my most played albums of the year

VV (Ville Valo) — Neon Noir. The debut album from the HIM vocalist that didn't disappoint one iota..Stylistically it's not too far removed from his previous band work, so people missing those days should find much on here to enjoy.

Steven Wilson — The Harmony Codex. A more experimental sound this time, with more electronica than previous albums, but an album that offers up more and more with repeated spins and an excellent release in general.

Winger — Seven. A great, fresh and modern sounding Winger record on par with the previous 'Karma' and 'Better Days Comin' releases of the more recent era. Kip still sounds great and Reb Beach rips the solo's as per.. Great stuff.

Within Temptation — Bleed Out. A tougher sounding WT this time around with more crunching guitars and almost djenty rhythms in places. There is no less melody than previously and the big songs and choruses sung by the wonderful Sharon den Adel are all present and correct..WT don't do bad albums period and whilst this may be not their very best, it is still a very strong album to add to their already consistently great back catalogue.

Xandria — The Wonders Still Awaiting. A new era for the band, so with a completely new lineup and impressive new vocalist Ambre Vourvahis, they have definitely released one of their best albums to date. It's at the heavier end of the sympho rock spectrum than some, but is full of plenty of fine symphonic metal bravado to keep most fans of this style happy.

Jez's Winners

5th Place

cover Periphery — Periphery V: Djent Is Not a Genre (3DOT Recordings). A band really pushing the metal/djent boundaries here and at over 70 minutes, it's an epic journey, which takes the listener through highly complex, intense, crushing djenty riffs, more melodic passages , electronica and even a jazzy mid section at one stage. The brutal 'Wildfire' and 'Everything Is FIne' absolutely slay, whilst the prog metal epicness in 'Zagreus' and 'Dracul Gras' impress with their technical, flawless ability. There are many highly melodic moments too, with the gorgeous poppy synth of 'Silhouette' and the smooth grooves of 'Dying Star' being highlights, 'Wax Wings is just brilliant with its cinematic strings finale, whilst 'Atropos' really does show how far this band has evolved in its nearly 20 year career (check out the amazing AI video below too). A quite brilliant album that has stayed firmly in my top 5 since its release in March.

4th Place

cover Old Gods Of Asgard — Rebirth: Greatest Hits (Insomniac Records). When is a band not a real band? Well, this is a good example, as it is members of Poets Of The Fall with their 'alter ego' band who have written and recorded these songs for the various Remedy Entertainment computer games over the years, namely Alan Wake, Alan Wake 2 and Control. All the tracks, plus 2 new recordings have been compiled and here they are all together on one album. There is an eclectic mix of stuff on here from the typical POTF sounding tracks like 'The Poet And The Muse' and 'Angers Remorse', to the heavier, more guitar orientated songs like 'Dark Ocean Summoning', 'Children Of The Elder God'' and the epic 'Herald Of Darkness'. Winning track for me though is the mighty 'Balance Slays The Demon' which is an absolute monster track, with it's bouncing synths and killer guitar work, a major point that really must be highlighted on this album, as Olli Tukiainen's playing is simply astounding on some songs featured, a truly underrated player for sure.

3rd Place

cover Moon Safari — Himlabacken Vol. 2 (Blomljud Records). A very late entry into my top 5, but an album even after only 2 or 3 spins I knew would receive a very high placing.. Moon Safari have promised greatness over the course of their previous 4 albums, but with their new album they have after 10 years, finally reached their destination, BIG TIME. For a symphonic prog album this has everything, from almost 80's sounding pomp/ AOR of '198X (Heaven Hill)' (I would swear at times I was listening to Styx on this), the more commercial pop/rock of 'Emma, Come On;' and 'Blood Moon', through to the full on long progressive tracks like 'A Lifetime To Learn And Live' and 'Teen Angel meets The Apocalypse' .It's all so well written, played and arranged, especially the multi-layered harmonies which are it has to be said, glorious throughout and some of the best I have heard on a rock album. If you like prog, melodic rock, AOR...hell..just good music in general, give this album a go, as you may find yourself liking it...a whole lot.

2nd Place

cover Sleep Token — Take Me Back To Eden (Spinefarm Records). This genre bending London based band have, over the course of this year especially, become a big proposition and after listening to this, their 3rd album and final one of the trilogy, you can see completely what all the hype is about. The previous 'Sundowning' and 'This Place Will Become Your Tomb' albums were both very very good, but TMBTE takes them to a whole different level. Most immediately noticeable this time round is the even more eclectic and experimental styles, as well as it being much heavier in places too, the moody 'Chokehold' 'Vore' and 'The Summoning' being the heaviest tracks featured. The rest of the album flows through a range of emotions from the more piano-led 'Aqua Regia, stripped back 'DYWTYLM' and pop stylings of 'Granite'' and 'Are You Really OK? through to the excellent 'Ascensionism', the cinematic title track and 'Euclid', which builds into a magnificent, soaring climax to end the trilogy.. It's a quite superb album and by far one of the best I have heard this year or any year for that matter

Jez's Pick for Heavy Harmonies 2023 CD of the Year

cover Einar Solberg — 16 (Inside Out Music, Sony Music). The lead singer of prog metal giants Leprous, takes us on an emotive journey with this his debut solo album. It features some quite breathtaking moments throughout and whilst not straying too far away musically from his day job, '16' is far more experimental, cinematic and above all else ambitious. A whole host of guests accompany Solberg across every track. adding extra textures and flavours that give the whole feel of the album something extra special. Musically Solberg steals the show though with a wonderful, powerful vocal performance, demonstrating his wide range throughout to spectacular effect., 'Over the Top' for example builds from a soft piano and vocal to a magnificent, powerful chorus and is one of the best tracks on the album. 'Beautiful Life' with its dancing synths, is probably the most commercial track on offer, although 'Grotto' and 'Home' are also more accessible and upbeat. On the darker side,'Where all The Twigs Broke' goes from melancholic to cinematic, which adds to the whole drama, 'whilst 'The Glass Is Empty' ends the album in fine fashion with the most typical Leprous/progressive style track. '16' is a quite brilliant album, which showcases Einar's fantastic voice, his skill in songwriting, whilst also demonstrating his wise choice of artists who have also added to the album and made it what it is.

Existing comments about Best of 2023

From: Auslander Date: February 4, 2024 at 4:05
Just gotta say the also-rans list is now like a joke from Spaceballs. The list never ends! Some weird picks here for best albums of the year. Overlooking Temple Balls just proves how underrated they truly are. Also a lot of top albums are not even from any genre represented in HH. Weird to pick an album in the top 5 that doesn't even appear on the database cause it is not hard rock. But, what do I know I guess.

From: MetalllianStallion Date: February 5, 2024 at 10:31
Auslander, I've been down this road before bringing up similar questions of Dan's on the Ran. Years ago I asked if all the posted releases were actually listened to or just going through the motions of posting the releases for the year. For example, Bonfire re-releases from the 80's and other reissues I have seen should not even be mentioned. Then there's a matter of splitting genre hairs of what belong here on HH, vs, as there are many inconsistencies. For example Fifth Angel's When Angels Kill (2023) should be classified as metal, therefore being on BM, which it isn't. Some bands should cross over on HH/BM, but many don't. Fifth Angel's only release to my ears that is melodic metal is 'Time Will Tell' (1989). All of Armored Saint's releases should be on HH, but are only on BM. The list goes on. PETE, is missing this year for the site's year in review as we had similar taste. When you see Don Dokken - Glue Factory and The Rolling Stones, for top pics it's a rough year.

From: Doghouse Reilly Date: February 5, 2024 at 12:09
I get Dan's point that the Also-Rans are intended to show the size of the pool the winners are drawn from, and maybe to forestall people from going, "Man, this is bullshit, how could Dokken's latest turd be your number-one? Didn't you hear Alessandro Del Vecchio's new pick-up band? Joe Lynn Turner's still rules!" As a way of saying, "Yeah, I heard it, leave me alone." But I would wager that most of us don't need to see a list of every 2023 release ylistened to.

From: Doghouse Reilly Date: February 5, 2024 at 12:30
For myself, I feel like the amber is only hardening around the typical HH sounds, and so my own list skews toward the heavier side of things. 1. Katatonia: Sky Void Of Stars"; 2. Bombay Black: En Fudgo!; 3. Obituary: Dying Of Everything; 4. Extreme: Six; 5. Crypta: Shades Of Sorrow; 6. Overkill: Scorched; 7. L.A. Guns: Black Diamonds; 8. Spirit Adrift: Ghost At The Gallows; 9. Dirty Honey: Can't Find The Brakes; 10. Hellripper: Warlocks Grim And Withered Hags. Honorable mentions go to Clutch for the expanded version of 2022's Sunrise On Slaughter Beach, Paradise Lost's re-recorded version of Icon, and new releases by Cannibal Corpse, Incantation and Black Stone Cherry.

From: Doghouse Reilly Date: February 5, 2024 at 12:40
Correction: the Bombay Black album is En Fuego, of course. Also, at the risk of turning into my own Also-Rans, new stuff from Within Temptation, Enslaved, and for the proggers, Riverside and Leprous.

From: 123charpenay Date: February 5, 2024 at 18:35
in 2023, we have an ocean of mediocrity.nevertheless the quality (in small quantity) is top nine.1 SKAGARACK "heart and soul".2 NITRATE " feel the hit".3 GRAND DESIGN "rawk".4 KHYMERA "hold your ground".5 TRANSWORLS IDENTITY "seven worlds".6 STARDUST "kingdom of illusion".7 BLACK PAISLEY "human nature".8 TOMMY DECARLO "dancing in the moonlight".9 SHAKRA "invincible".best song of the year "fell the hit " from nitrate.

From: Doug Date: February 6, 2024 at 18:00
2023 was a lean year for me. My favorites are Metallica, "72 Seasons," Dirty Honey, "Can't Find The Brakes," and tie for first, Extreme, "SIX," and Mammoth WVH, "II." (WVH is the real deal, and Nuno, his skills are off the chart!) Worst album for me? Avenged Sevenfold, "Life Is But A Dream." On a personal note, and because reading some negativity, I want to commend the work of Dan, Mike and Jez with their lists. I have been a HH fan for over 20 years, and there is no site out there that has this much quality content, and knowledge shared about the music we love. A tip of the cap to you and thank you for all that you do.

From: 123charpenay Date: February 6, 2024 at 18:33
totally agree with doug.thumbs up and congratulations to the heavy harmonies s team!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

From: Auslander Date: February 8, 2024 at 7:54
Hey Doug, Charpie, Doghouse & Metallion you guys should all pop over to the forum. You can find me on there *same name and you can even see HH posting on occasion about his terrible taste in music

From: 123charpenay Date: February 8, 2024 at 17:28
hello auslander.i m agree with your first comment.ok the heavy harmonies s team make a super job,but.....all years their choice for their top five is very strange with bands who don t play melodic rock and several have not their place on s not a question of taste of course but a question of logic.i don t understand.where is the logic?

From: Auslander Date: February 9, 2024 at 6:11
Thought I'd better let you all know my top 5 of 2023. I ended up buying over 50 albums released in 2023. I only pick from albums I have bought. 5.Arctic Rain - Unity, 4.Creye - III, 3.The Defiants - Drive, 2.Grand Design - Rawk, 1.Temple Balls - Avalanche. Best Metal Album: Sleep Token - Take Me Back to Eden Best Prog Rock album: Voyager - Fearless in Love Best Mainstream Rock album: Foo Fighters - But Here We Are Best female fronted: Smackbound - Hostage

From: Auslander Date: February 9, 2024 at 6:24
Honourable Mentions: Angels in Vein, Bride, Crowne, Dirty Honey, Eclipse, Extreme, Greta Van Fleet, Heroes and Monsters, Hugo's Voyage, Jelusick, Mammoth WVH, Midnite City, Nitrate, Seventh Crystal, Soledriver, Sweet & Lynch, Tempt, The Winery Dogs, The Struts, Those Damn Crows, & Winger. All fine albums but just not making my top five for 2023 in HH genre.

From: Scandiman Date: February 10, 2024 at 22:39
Great work again guys! As always, I appreciate the time and effort you all put into your selections and comments there in. I rank over 500 albums each year (on another site) and it takes a considerable about of effort to get it right. Anyway, this ended up being my top ten for 2023: 1--> Crowne - Operation Phoenix 2--> Eclipse - Megalomanium 3--> Grand Design - RAWK 4--> Stardust - Kingdom of Illusion 5--> 7th Crystal - Wonderland 6--> Creye - III: Weightless 7--> Kent Hilli - Nothing Left To Lose 8--> The Defiants - Drive 9--> Within Temptation - Bleed Out 10--> Exxocet - Dagger Constellations

From: Auslander Date: February 10, 2024 at 23:32
Scandinavian you wouldn't happen to be the Huskerchief who makes the Best Of list on Rate Your Music every year?! I'm always spruiking your list on the forum every year. It is a great reference to me... is this you???

From: Scandiman Date: February 10, 2024 at 23:57
@Auslander - yes, that is my doing - kind of a sickness really. LOL

From: Auslander Date: February 11, 2024 at 13:35
Well Scandiman just let me say I love and appreciate your work. I seriously check it every month through each year.

From: SgtRock Date: February 13, 2024 at 17:00
I think its been a pretty poor year for Aor/Melodic Rock. Nitrate and Streetlight and peaked my interest as has Moon Safari right at the end of 2023. Biggest revelation for me has been Synthwave and i noticed Jez has Gunships "Unicorn" mentioned in the honorables. Great album Jez and one a I play regularly. So if you like the odd synth or two people might want to try other albums by bands like, Neon Capital, Pylot, Le Brock, and Fury Weekend to name but a few. Heres hoping 2024 is better but to be honest I think it won't, as Aor seems to be dying a death.

From: 123charpenay Date: February 21, 2024 at 18:46
i add cobra spell "666" at my top it a top ten.

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