2023: the year nu-metal came back. It’s been a huge year for the genre, and as it comes to a close, we asked our writers to share one release they loved from 2023. Everyone is bringing their own unique taste, experience with heavy music, and local scene, and in a genre with this much variety, that’s exactly what we want to highlight. Here are our picks for 2023’s top albums, from bands both old and new, that are pushing the nu-metal agenda.
100 Gecs— 10,000 Gecs
Dave Eggers once described Spike Jonze’s music video directorial style as “commitment to concept” — a sincere hyperfixation on the absurd, sweet, surreal, gimmicky, and extreme. When you pressed play on a golden-era Spike Jonze video, you’d stumble into a hidden world where earnestness and unpredictability unfailingly escalated into transcendence. With 10,000 gecs, one of the most anticipated sophomore albums of the 2020s, Dylan Brady and Laura Les committed to the fucking concept, whittling down rumored hundreds of demos over four years into 10 hidden worlds, bursting with ecstatic possibility (ska-punk ribbits at a basement kickback) and terrible beauty (chanting “one million dollars” over towering glaciers of sidechain compression). Equal parts nü metal and Neil Cicierga, silhouetted by a shambling industry on algorithmic autopilot, 10,000 gecs is a shotgun blast to the skull, expertly overcoming our disintegrating attention spans, the poison we need, the medicine we deserve, our warped reflection in the mirror as it explodes into shards. We close out 2023 in an alternate dimension where oil tankers of ink have been spilled on our gruesome twosome, 10,000 gecs is reliably infecting year-end lists across the globe, and one of the only bands pushing music forward will probably call their next album 100,000 gecs. What I’m trying to say is Spike Jonze should pitch a video for Frog on the Floor. Ribbit.
For Fans Of: SOPHIE, PC Music, Max Martin, Death Grips, ‘90s Radio Disney, Ryan Trecartin, Conner O’Malley, My Chemical Romance
Blind Equation — Death Awaits
In remembering all the great nu metal and adjacent releases of 2023, one would be remiss to ignore one of cybergrind’s hottest acts, Blind Equation, and their Prosthetic Records debut, Death Awaits. I’ve reviewed it here, and I stand by what I said; it’s amazing throughout. Despite its lack of guitars and departure from traditional nu-metal conventions, the meshing of genres, earnest delivery, and high-energy shows are reminiscent of the experimental, angst-filled scene that produced the misfit genre we know and love. It’s the ethos of nu-metal, reimagined with a new palette of influences. “You Betrayed The Ones You Love,” “Speedrunning Life,” “Killing Me” and “Suffering in Silence” all mix deep emotional frustration with blistering beats and unconventional musicianship that makes the trio’s journey all the more exciting to watch.
The Callous Daoboys — God Smiles Upon the Callous Daoboys
2023 was a banner year for Atlanta sextet The Callous Daoboys. Between some of the biggest tours of their career to date (including supporting Protest The Hero), they dropped the hotly anticipated EP God Smiles Upon The Callous Daoboys. Not content to rest on their laurels, the band expanded their sound even further than 2022's Celebrity Therapist had from their debut. The mathcore hallmarks are there of course, but where the Daoboys set themselves apart is with their fearless incorporation of melodies and keen pop sensibilities. GSUTCB sees these tendencies taking the driver's seat, in particular on lead single “Waco Jesus” (which wouldn't have been out of place on any Linkin Park album). With a European tour supporting Tesseract and two sold-out shows with a reunited The Dillinger Escape Plan already on the calendar, don't be surprised if we hear a LOT more about this band in 2024 and beyond.
Chat Pile, Nerver — Brother in Christ
Chat Pile followed up their acclaimed debut album God’s Country by teaming up with Kansas City noise rockers Nerver on split EP Brothers In Christ. Oftentimes the novelty of a split EP can overshadow its quality, but Chat Pile and Nerver’s dual effort easily stands as one of my top 2023 releases, let alone EPs. With each band contributing just two songs to each side, the project is brief but powerful. Each track is arguably some of the best work either group has released to date, laden with riffs, noise, and all of the scuzz that we’ve come to know and love from this emerging scene. If you’re familiar with Chat Pile, their contributions to the EP will surely sate your hunger for new material while we eagerly await LP2. And if you’re new to Nerver, their two tracks provide an excellent introduction to their catalog.
Cheem — Guilty Pleasure (Deluxe Edition)
“pop/pop punk/rap rock/emo(?)” is how Cheem vocalist Sam Nazz pitched their band to me way, way back in August of 2022. Though the genre mishmash felt like hedge betting when I first saw it I quickly realized they were right. Cheem’s Guilty Pleasure is a confident fusion of the last couple of decades of eager alternative music. Aggressively catchy (every song here has done a tour of duty being stuck in my head), sneaky clever, bereft of filler. So it was my album of the year 2022 and, thanks to an instantly definitive deluxe edition released in July, it’s my album of the year 2023 too with the overwhelming “Migraine” and hit-single-ready “EOE” rounding off an already spectacular record not to mention a ballistic “Snag” remix by the similarly promising hyper-nu DJ Re:Code. Guilty Pleasure suggests a band just getting started, a launch pad not a ceiling. Guilty Pleasure (Deluxe Edition) confirms higher heights are coming soon.
Gideon — MORE POWER. MORE PAIN.
Gideon may have cut their teeth as a Christian metalcore band, but since leaving their faith and redefining their sound on their own terms they’ve gone heavier, more aggressive, more towards nu-metal. MORE POWER. MORE PAIN. is an album that delivers all the devastation promised in its name and is my pick for best nu-metal/metalcore album of the year. Exhibiting themes of self-discovery, perseverance, and reinvention, (with a stinging thread of clips from Hank Williams Jr. interviews sampled throughout the album) It’s mental jet fuel as you’re at the gym, but the lyrics are the long-term motivation that keeps you going back over and over until you’ve built yourself into something better.
Megan Thee Stallion, Spiritbox — “Cobra”
In the golden days of nu-metal, it wasn’t unusual to see heavy bands collaborating with the biggest names in the rap scene, sometimes through song (Linkin Park and Jay-Z, System of a Down and Wu-Tang, Korn and Nas, just to name a few) sometimes just in cameos (Limp Bizkit’s “Break Stuff” video has three: Dr. Dre, Eminem and Snoop Dogg). However, as time passed, nu-metal fell out of favor, and genre identities became more narrow, we stopped seeing it happen as often despite many rappers expressing an interest in metal and a love for the genre. Megan Thee Stallion and Spiritbox’s remix of “Cobra” isn’t just a collaboration done right – with Spiritbox adding their signature sound and new verses into the track – it also feels like a door opening to a new version of metal and hip hop solidarity. An embrace of shared influences, collaborating beyond the pigeonholes of genre. It makes me excited about what the future could hold.
Memorrhage — Memorrhage
Garry Brents, the multi-instrumentalist behind Memorrharge, taught me how to like Slipknot. In general, my taste has gravitated to the more melodic, pop-influenced end of nu-metal, never feeling like I had an entry point into heavier acts. Memorrharge is decidedly not that. And yet, Garry’s earnest love for all corners of the genre gave me a foot in the door to appreciate not just this album but also to look back on music I’d never connected with in a new light. Coming from a death metal background, the album is blasting, almost industrial, with heavily distorted vocals -although he does flex some big choruses on the back half - all wrapped up in a dystopian sci-fi concept. Ask Garry what his influences are, and he'll list a whole catalog of them, but Memorrharge never sounds derivative, it sounds well-informed. The product of an artist reveling in his ability to immerse himself in music and synthesize it into his own vision.
Sevendust — Truth Killer
Sevendust has not slowed down in three decades together as a band, and their skill at songwriting, production, and infectious energy, honed by experience and dynamic live performances, is on full display in their 2023 release, Truth Killer. Sevendust showcase their signature sound of heavy, low-tuned guitars, ripping solos, and dynamic ebb and flow both within tracks and across the whole album, alongside Lajon Witherspoon’s powerful melodic vocals. Morgan Rose’s harsher screams punctuate the record and elevate the emotion of the more gut-punching, rhythmic breakdown moments while still complimenting Witherspoon’s soulful, emotional melodies soaring over the top of the instrumentation. While long-time fans will still recognize the musical core of the band within this release, the more prevalent electronic elements add an ethereal complexity to the emotions within the more atmospheric parts of the record. Coming on the heels of well-received records All I See Is War and Blood & Stone, Sevendust continues to set the bar high with Truth Killer.
UnityTX — Ferality
Dallas-based hardcore outfit UnityTX’s debut full-length Ferality firmly delivers on the sky-high expectations set by 2019’s Madboy EP, delivering us one of the strongest releases of 2023. Vocalist Jay Webster puts on a stunning performance throughout, bouncing from cool and collected cleans to fast-paced rap verses to room-quaking roars. Sonically, the album explores lots of new territory for the band, veering into goth club industrial swagger with “DIAMOND DIEZ,” and subdued lyricism over high-tempo drum beats reminiscent of Linkin Park on “PICTURE THIS.” When they return to a more familiar nu-tinged trap metal formula on tracks like “ROC SH!T,” it sounds downright triumphant, ending with Webster emphatically reminding us “I know my worth.” Ferality is a monster of a release from a band with a lot to say, and a perfect introduction to one of nu-core’s rising stars.
Zulu— A New Tomorrow
Following a pair of EPs in 2019 and 2020, Zulu’s full-length debut A New Tomorrow was one of 2023’s most anticipated albums. Layered between crushing riffs and ruthless breakdowns are elements of jazz, soul, funk, reggae, and hip-hop. The result is something that transcends its roots in hardcore and powerviolence; an album that is both confrontational and conversational. While there is a strong undercurrent of rage throughout, what sets this album apart is how it tempers that anger and pain with equal emphasis on the joys and triumphs of the Black experience.
For Fans Of: Soul Glo, Bad Brains, Terminal Nation, Mongrel