Best Heavy Metal Band of 2023


Image of the stage in blue lights for Metallica at Ford Field in Detroit.

Metallica at Ford Field in Detroit – Author: Anne Erickson, Photo: Anne Erickson

Here’s Audio Ink Radio’s winner for the best heavy metal band of 2023

The year is winding down, and that means it’s time to start looking at some of the best music releases of the year. We’ll be dishing out our top albums and songs of the year soon, but first, I want to spotlight one metal band that stands alone as the best heavy metal band of 2023.

Before I get to No. 1, let’s look back at some other champion metal bands of the year. Overkill was a big one. The thrash metal pioneers released their 20th studio album, “Scorched,” in April. They’ve been releasing music since 1985, so at this point, they’re statesmen of the genre. “Scorched” was a real treat, filled with brutal-sounding riffing and, excuse the pun, but scorching melodies.

Speaking in an interview earlier this year, Overkill frontman Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth discussed the rise of thrash metal and how the musical climate was so different then verses today. “I always thought the unique thing about (thrash) was that it was happening simultaneously around the world when there was nothing like social media. When it was actually tape trading,” he said. “If you knew a guy in Germany or San Francisco, you might have been in contact by the phone, but the way you really got your point across with your music was trading demos. It wasn’t just instantaneous information. There was no instantaneous information. The amazing part is that it developed simultaneously in different places.”

Another metal champion in 2023 was TesseracT, who released their latest album, “War of Being,” and came to the States for the first time since the pandemic. Finally, Avenged Sevenfold was also a standout. Those guys who went out on a major North American tour with their new, eclectic album, “Life Is But a Dream…”

I know there are plenty of Metallica haters out there, especially in underground metal. They sold out with “The Black Album,” right? I don’t buy that. Metallica is Audio Ink Radio’s No. 1 metal band of 2023, because they are still kings of the genre. What other metal band can book a tour consisting of not one, but two nights playing in every city that tour reaches, and still sell out stadiums and arenas around the world? I know there are plenty of other metal bands that are able to fill stadiums and arenas, including Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Ozzy Osbourne. But, two nights, in 70,000-plus stadiums? That’s all Metallica.

Metallica’s M72 world tour brought a completely different setlist to each night in those cities, as well as different support lineups. Those openers rotated between Pantera, Mammoth WVH, Greta Van Fleet, Five Finger Death Punch, Volbeat and Ice Nine Kills. I attended the tour’s Detroit stops on both Nov. 10 and Nov. 12. This was my fourth time seeing Metallica live, and by far, this was the best. The band seemed newly rejuvenated and energized, and they sounded tight and dramatic. They also filled the huge space – which was the 70,000-seat Ford Field, where the Detroit Lions play – with so much sound and presence that it almost felt like an intimate performance. The tour’s new in-the-round stage was especially helpful, as it brought the popular Metallica Snake Pit to the center of the stadium.

Another reason we’re naming Metallica the No. 1 best heavy metal band of 2023 is because of their stellar new album, “72 Seasons.” The album, which marked their 11th, took the band back to their early, thrash days, with a very heavy and less melodic sound. Tracks such as “Lux Æterna,” “Shadows Follow” and “Crown of Barbed Wire” almost play like pre-“Black Album” Metallica, with raging, sharp riffing and lightning-fast tempos.

There you have it. Audio Ink Radio’s No. 1 metal band of 2023 is the mighty Metallica. I hope you have the chance to see their M72 tour, if you haven’t yet. I truly think you’ll enjoy it, in all its metal glory. Read the story of how Metallica formed here. Also, find 10 of the best heavy metal riffs here.

Anne Erickson
Posted by Anne Erickson | Features, Metal, Music

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