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top 10 2023 12 notdarkOver the course of the year I selectively listened to releases of previously known and unknown bands and artists that were not related to the Dark Scene choosing at random. This list contains the most interesting releases for me. Some albums overlap with the dark scene, but are not fully part of it. This list will include 15 albums and 5 non-album releases. There are no clear criteria by which I chose releases to listen to. I knew some bands before I got carried away by the dark scene, some I liked by the name of the project or album, some were attracted by the language of the lyrics or the country, some found the cover interesting, some beautifully described their music in the press-release and something was recommended by friends and some of them don’t even know that they did so. This is not a top, but just a list of interesting releases, so there cannot be any places or positions here. Just in alphabetical order.

A Life Divided - ‘Down the Spiral of a Soul’ (Alternative Metal, Nu Metal | Germany, AFM Records)

The German project A LIFE DIVIDED has always played guitar music on the border of Synth Rock and Alternative music. The project was formed in the early 2000s and includes currently former musicians from such projects as Gothic Metal LACRIMAS PROFUNDERE, NDH project EISBRECHER and Gothic Metal SCHÖNGEIST. In the new work of A LIFE DIVIDED, the Synth-Rock sound finally moved to the background, although the electronic component remained. The Germans presented their seventh full-length album ‘Down the Spiral of a Soul’ made in the genre of alternative metal with elements of nu metal and variations of core- genres. The new album turned out to be a hitty, high-quality and easy to listen to. Facebook:

Ava Max - ‘Diamonds & Dancefloors’ (Pop | USA, Atlantic)

American singer of Albanian origin Amanda Koçi was born in 1994 and has already released her debut album in 2020. On her second album AVA MAX presented high-quality, but quite standard Pop music without trendy hip-hop with strong professional vocals. A good representative of Pop culture. The album uses some light disco elements, something that MILEY CYRUS and other Albanian-American DUA LIPA have periodically popped up on the modern pop music scene. A good light album with hits and pleasant compositions. Facebook:

Cyan Kicks - ‘I Never Said 4ever’ (Alternative Metal, Pop-Rock | Finland, Ranka Kustannus)

The Finnish project CYAN KICKS was formed in 2016 and has already made some noise on the Alternative music scene with a cover version of ‘Rockabye’. Finnish music lies in the area of Alternative Rock using Pop-Rock and various electronic features. Beautiful vocals with English-language lyrics complete the picture and the hit quality and catchiness of the compositions make their material worthy of attention. Another good album from CYAN KICKS. Facebook:

Death Pill - ‘Death Pill’ (Hardcore Punk | Ukraine, New Heavy Sounds)

Thrashy in every sense the DEATH PILLS project was formed in Ukraine in the mid-1990s and in 2023 they released their debut album ‘Death Pills’. He band consists of girls and the Hardcore bent ensures there is a bitchiness to the music, which is always interesting. The result is a very aggressive and tough mixture of Hardcore Punk with occasional use of Thrash Metal with screaming and clean vocals. Fast angry compositions with obscene language sound great. Good job and great debut. Facebook:

Fragile Animals - ‘Slow Motion Burial’ (Shoegaze, Dream Pop | Australia, Hobbledehoy)

The Australian project FRAGILE ANIMALS is a typical representative of the indie scene from the part of Shoegaze and Dream Pop. FRAGILE ANIMALS formed in the mid-10s, released many singles and an EP and in 2023 their debut full-length work entitled ‘Slow Motion Burial’ is out. The album uses Shoegaze and Dream Pop in perfect proportion. Airy Dream Pop compositions with added Shoegaze surround sound with guitar parts and the beautiful female vocals inherent in this genre produce a melancholic indie atmosphere. Great work from the Australians and very easy to listen to. It will be interesting to follow the project creations in a future. Facebook:

Girlschool - ‘WTFortyfive?’ (Heavy Metal, Hard Rock | UK, Silver Lining Music)

GIRLSCHOOL is a project from England, which was formed in 1975 as a cover band PAINTED LADY, but in 1978 changed its name and concept, switching to songs of its own composition. GIRLSCHOOL is considered one of the first Heavy Metal bands with an all-female line-up and has more than ten full-length albums and worldwide recognition. The new work is called ‘WTFortyfive?’ and done in the standard Heavy Metal style with Hard Rock elements and female vocals. Perky compositions with hard guitar riffs will appeal to fans of hard and heavy music and may well be or have already been included in rotation on well-known music channels. The British women have not lost the desire to create music, the skills of creating quality songs and their teenage enthusiasm from the 70s and 80s. Good solid album. Facebook:

Leper Colony - ‘Leper Colony’ (Death Metal | Germany/Sweden, Transcending Obscurity Records)

The band LEPER COLONY is a collaboration of two musicians from famous Death Metal bands, so this German-Swedish creation can well be called a super group, as is popular to call in the Metal and Rock scenes. The German Mark Grewe is known for his work in the ancient band MORGOTH and the Swede Rogga Johansson is the frontman of the not so ancient, but also old and famous PAGANIZER. They got together to create old-school Death Metal similar in sound to OBITUARY, GRAVE, DISMEMBER and other giants of the scene. Nowadays there are enough projects in that direction, but not everyone is able to create compositions in a manner, that they do not develop into a guitar mess with a chaotic growling. LEPER COLONY did it perfectly. Good material, moderately melodic, moderately aggressive. Classic high-quality old school, which even contains references to the legendary band DEATH. Facebook:

Lesbian Bed Death - ‘Midnight Lust’ (Hard Rock | UK, Self-Released)

The English group LESBIAN BED DEATH was formed in 2004 and as of 2023 has seven full-length albums in its discography, the last of which is called ‘Midnight Lust’ and was released in 2023. The project positions itself as “Gothic Punk meets Hard Rock”, but in fact the British play hard rock with female vocals and a visual gothic appearance, so there is actually no Gothic component in the music. However, Hard Rock sounds quite good, cheerful and cool. Facebook:

Nino De Angelo - ‘Von Ewigkeit zu Ewigkeit’ (Alternative Rock, Gothic Metal, Dark Rock | Germany, Sony Music)

German singer and actor Domenico Gerhard Gorgoglione has been performing under the pseudonym NINO DE ANGELO (not to be confused with the Italian singer NINO D'ANGELO) since 1982 and is known for his work with DIETER BOHLEN and MODERN TALKING, his performance at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1989, his collaboration with the Eurodance project MR. PRESIDENT and many other activities, hits in English, German and Italian and performances on the German stages for over 40 years. In 2023 the German musician and his team changed the vector of the sound of his solo work into the guitar direction. Nino’s new album is called ‘Von Ewigkeit zu Ewigkeit’ and sounds in a combination of Alternative Rock with a touch of Gothic Metal and Dark Rock. Perfectly balanced melodies harmoniously combined with vocals, lyricism, keyboard parts and, of course, Nino’s wonderful vocals make this album one of the best I’ve heard in 2023. Just a perfectly crafted piece of music. Yes, it’s closer to Pop culture, a commercial product, but everything was done so professionally and close to ideal that the album will be in the player for a long time. The album also contains a collaboration with the singer SOTIRIA and in 2024 Nino’s single with JOACHIM WITT was released, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we soon see Nino performing a new album at gothic festivals in Germany. A very powerful album, with which the German surprised at least me. Facebook: no FACEBOOK or INSTAGRAM pages

Obituary - ‘Dying of Everything’ (Death Metal | USA, Relapse Records)

American Death Metal band OBITUARY, which has been producing music since 1985, have become genre icons and have not lost their strength in the metal scene over the years. There is no point in presenting it, because everyone knows this name. The new album ‘Dying of Everything’ became the 11th in the discography. This is old school Death Metal, although for OBITUARY the word “old school” can be omitted, performed according to all the canons of the style with powerful guitar riffs and classic Death Metal growling. Everything is done predictably, but efficiently and professionally. Somewhere it may seem like self-repetition, self-copying, but if you copy like that, then I agree to listen to it. Facebook:

Skeptical Minds - ‘Khárôn’ (Doom Metal, Gothic Metal, Electronic | Belgium, FYB Records)

The Belgian group SKEPTICAL MINDS was formed in 2002 in Brussels and has four full-length albums in its discography. The new work, the fifth in a row, was released in 2023 and is called ‘Khárôn’. The project created in the beginning and continues to create Doom Metal with elements of Gothic Metal and slight use of electronic components. Karolina’s airy female vocals, sometimes viscous compositions, sometimes rhythmic Gothic-Metal sound and electronic inserts combined well and are simply absorbed. The music of the project can be compared with other doom and Gothic Metal projects from the 90s and 2000s, but the Belgians have created self-sufficient material by which they can be recognized, perhaps not from the first notes, but after the whole album. Facebook:

Slayyyter - ’Starfucker’ (Pop, House | USA, Fader Label)

American artist Catherine Grace Garner stands behind the pseudonym SLAYYYTER. The project itself received a name and appeared on the Pop music map in 2018. The American began her musical career online, publishing her compositions. Catherine is a singer and composer, so SLAYYYTER’s music was written by her with the participation of other producers and composers. The project’s debut full-length album was released in 2021 and the second work was released in 2023. The music of the project is a combination of pop and house diluted with elements of techno. Good material, hit and danceable, may well become, if not yet, discotheque hits. Catherine’s vocals are also excellent and in some places similar to GWEN STEFANI. A good representative of Pop culture and a great album. Facebook:

The Dead Krazukies - ‘From the Underworld’ (Punk Rock | France, Kicking Records)

The French band THE DEAD KRAZUKIES was formed in 2010 and in 2016 the band’s debut full-length work was out. The French’s third album was released in 2023 and is called ‘From the Underworld’. THE DEAD KRAZUKIES create Punk Rock with female vocals, partly aggressive, partly melodic, partly Pop-oriented with old school influences and occasional use of Hardcore elements. Good interesting material from the French with hits and catchy songs. Facebook:

Ursular - ‘Preta’ (Doom Metal, Stoner Rock | Germany, OMN Label Services)

The project URSULAR was formed in Germany in the mid-10s and has one live album released in 2021 published on its own. The debut full-length work of the band from Berlin was released in 2023. On the album ‘Preta’ the Germans presented four long compositions performed in a combination of viscous monotonous Doom Metal with female vocals and elements of Stoner Rock. A distinctive feature of the project is the use of a saxophone in the music, which gives interesting features. A very atmospheric work that will not appeal to everyone and will primarily be of interest to fans of stoner music rather than to fans of the Doom Metal scene. In any case, the album turned out to be nice and worthy of attention. Facebook:

Within Temptation - ‘Bleed Out’ (Symphonic Metal | The Netherlands, Force Music Recordings)

The Dutch Symphonic Metal project WITHIN TEMPTATION needs no introduction. For more than 25 years the project has been creating Symphonic Metal with the recognizable beautiful vocals of Sharon Den Adel, so new works by the Dutch are always done with high quality and professionalism and each album has at least one hit song. The new album ‘Bleed Out’ is made in the classic WITHIN TEMPTATION style from their early works combined with modern additions. This symbiosis of different periods of the Dutch’s creativity turned out to be fresh both for the discography of the project itself and for the Metal scene in general. On the album you can hear standard Symphonic Metal, notes of Alternative and Gothic Metal and the use of trendy genres of Experimental Metal and Metalcore. Conceptually, the compositions are dedicated to problems and recent events in the world including issues of bullying, social problems, the death of Mahsa Amini and subsequent events in Iran and, of course, the struggle of Ukrainians stopping the Russian aggression. Good material with hits and, as always, great vocals from Sharon. This album can be called one of the best in the project’s discography. Facebook:

Alen Skanner - ‘Intruder (EP)’ (Techno, New Beat, EDM | Spain, Self-Released)

Spanish musician ALEN SKANNER began releasing the first recordings under this name in 2022. His work is currently limited to several EPs and has not yet reached a full-length album. ‘Intruder’ is the composer’s latest work at the moment. The EP features four instrumental compositions in a combination of Techno and New Beat. An excellent rhythmic pattern with a melody reminds the beloved and popular title track from the 1995 movie Mortal Kombat created by the Belgian project THE IMMORTALS. And doesn’t just remind, but sounds like a continuation. Excellent material that can fit perfectly into both dark underground dancefloors and mainstream discotheques. Facebook:

Ember Sea - ‘Kaleidoscope (EP)’ (Gothic Metal, Hard Rock | Germany, Self-Released)

German Gothic Metal project EMBER SEA was formed in 2009. The line-up included former members of the Power Metal band HUMAN FORTRESS and other musicians. In 2013 the first full-length work of the Germans was released. In total EMBER SEA’s discography counts three full-length albums. In 2023 the musicians released an EP ‘Kaleidoscope’ based on the single of the same name. The album features the title track, its radio version and two new originals. Good rhythmic gothic metal with female vocals and hard rock elements. Nice material that predetermines an interesting full-length work. Facebook:

LeBrock - ‘Gone (EP)’ (Pop-Rock, Pop Wave | UK, FiXT)

The British band LEBROCK formed in 2019 and with their first album released in 2021 made a splash on the scene of Synth Wave and 80s music. The British create cool Pop-Rock with electronic genres from the Retro Wave scene inspired and conveying the atmosphere of the 80s. Excellent music that will return all music lovers of that time to the atmosphere of the romantic era of American comedy-adventure movies. Good project material that you want to listen to nonstop. The question is whether the young generation of wide audience understands this material... Facebook:

Metalite - ’Blazing Skies (EP)’ (Heavy Metal, Symphonic Metal, Synth Wave | Sweden, AFM Records)

The Swedish band METALITE was formed in 2015 in Stockholm and in 2017 they released their first debut work. After their debut the band found a home on the famous German Metal label AFM Records, where their full-length albums are released till now. The EP "Blazing Skies" precedes the release of the fourth full-length album scheduled for 2024. Musically the Swedes play an explosive mixture of Heavy Metal with a symphonic component and electronic splashes of Synth Wave. The structure of the music has something in common with the Finns BEAST IN BLACK. The groups are different in terms of the general atmosphere and melodic pattern, but the idea is essentially the same. Female vocals, lively rhythmic compositions with guitar riffs and a light dose of electronics made listeners waiting for a cool new album. Facebook:

Taylor Acorn - ’Certified Depressant (EP)’ (Pop-Punk, Pop-Rock | USA, Self-Released)

The first recordings of singer and composer TAYLOR ACORN appeared in 2016. As of 2023 Taylor had many singles and one EP. The second release is called ‘Certified Depressant’ and consists of eight tracks with a total sound of 24 minutes, so I considered this creation also an EP, although the artist herself may consider it and a full-length album. Good rhythmic Pop-Punk with Alternative Rock and cool vocals of the American Punk diva turn my attention to Taylor and now it will be interesting to follow the work of the American. For now, the girl publishes releases on her own, but this is unlikely to always be the case. Good material for fans of AVRIL LAVIGNE's early work with a more Rock component. Facebook:

Well, that’s it finally. For the end I am attaching a file with a list of all releases in all genres that attracted my attention in 2023: TOP2023.xlsx

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