Metal’s in safe hands judging by the slew of fist-pumping future classics that fired up the Rushonrock stereo this year.
From grizzled veterans to hot new blood, the genre that refuses to die was celebrated by a dedicated band of denim and leather clad disciples.
But did your trad metal favourite land inside this year’s Rushonrock best trad metal albums of 2023?
10. Tygers Of Pan Tang – Bloodlines (Mighty Music)
The band’s biggest hit since their 80s heyday had fans and critics alike scrambling for riff-laden superlatives as Bloodlines echoed NWOBHM’s classic heartbeat.
Robb Weir and co. crafted a record rooted in the past and yet pointing to the future – Jack Meille’s steel-plated tone setting the standard for metal frontmen everywhere.
In My Blood and Taste Of Love topped the list of bullet proof new tunes. Pantastic! Simon Rushworth.
9. Sorcerer – Reign of the Reaper (Metal Blade)
Heard a more dramatic entrance to an album than Morning Star?
We very much doubt it.
Well certainly not this year.
Sorcerer have the grandeur of epic doom about them, but they’re also prepared to go for the jugular with rip roaring heavy metal: this album’s opener and Thy Kingdom Will Come are just two examples of their prowess.
Of course, the ace in Sorcerer’s pack is singer Anders Engberg – surely one of the most underrated vocalists in metal – but guitarists Kristian Niemann and Peter Hallgren shine brightly here too, sprinkling magic dust over bombastic rhythms, yet letting Engberg soar (which he frequently does).
The Swedes have gone from strength to strength since reigniting in 2010. And Reign of the Reaper is another big step on their journey. Rich Holmes.
8. Doro – Conqueress: Forever Strong And Proud (Nuclear Blast)
The original Metal Queen is enjoying an Indian Summer as she approaches the twilight of her career and Conqueress was a titanic tour de force from the Teutonic piledriver.
Steeped in trad metal tropes and yet never slipping into hackneyed cliché, a fast-paced and furious set never loosened its leather-gloved grip.
A compelling cover of the Judas Priest classic Living After Midnight – featuring Rob Halford – was probably the most metal thing we heard all year! SR.
7. Cirith Ungol – Dark Parade (Metal Blade)
The end may be drawing near for Cirith Ungol. Back in October, the Ventura veterans announced that they’d be bowing out of live shows by the end of 2024.
And that’s a crying shame, as Looking Glass and Distant Shadows, just two of Dark Parade’s highlights, are begging to be played through towering Marshall stacks for years to come.
Yep, the Californian quintet delivered another shining example of metal class in 2023.
Opener Velocity (S.E.P.) set the tone, all titanium riffs and Tim Baker rasp – and Cirith Ungol showed again that decades into their career, they’re as sharp as ever. RH.
6. Raven – All Hell’s Breaking Loose (Silver Lining Music)
We described this former Record Of The Week as a ‘bone-crunching blueprint’ for the new breed of NWOBHM-styled wannabes.
And the ageless Gallagher brothers proved the old dogs can still teach the new kids a few tricks as All Hell’s Breaking Loose unleashed a blitz of Geordie bangers.
The Far Side and Medieval – the latter was prime Raven – were high calibre highlights on an album that didn’t disappoint. SR.
Read the full review here.
5. Spirit Adrift – Ghost At The Gallows (Century Media)
On 2020’s Enlightened In Eternity that multi-instrumentalist Nate Garrett and drummer Marcus Bryant really got into their classic metal stride, and cast off some of the doomier trappings of their early work.
By the time Ghost At The Gallows came along this year, Spirit Adrift (below) were hitting back after personal tragedies and the darkness of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The US act’s fifth opus gave us titanic riff-fests like Death Won’t Stop Me and Give Her To The River.
And it screamed defiance over a soundtrack of heavy boogie, Bay Area chug, British steel and Southern sass. RH.
Check out the full review here.
4. Elegant Weapons – Horns For A Halo (Nuclear Blast)
Another blast of molten metal that made the cut as a Record Of The Week and Richie Faulkner’s muscular new band were predictably powerful.
Horns For A Halo was a beast of an album driven by the Priest six stringer’s dextrous fretwork and hard rock voice for hire Ronnie Romero.
Even the ‘Michael Buble metal’ pacing Ghost Of You was hauntingly on-point. All hail Horns For a Halo. SR.
Read the full review here.
3. Tanith – Voyage (Metal Blade)
Newcastle/New York act Tanith created quite a stir with 2019’s deliciously retro Another Time… and there was time for another monumental piece of proto-metal and 70s hard rock this year – wrapped up in tales of wizards and mystical lands.
Voyage was a trip you needed to take. RH.
2. Tailgunner – Guns For Hire (Fireflash Records)
Explosive album Guns For Hire announced Tailgunner as torch bearers for the New Wave Of British Trad Metal and the band’s incendiary live shows complemented a killer debut.
Rushonrock first caught Thomas Hewson’s crew at the fabulous Call Of The Wild Festival and we couldn’t wait for more of the same.
The band’s headline show in Newcastle earlier this year was a headbanging 2023 highlight. Skip to Shadows Of War or Futures Lost for a taste of the Maiden-loving, Helloween-styled Tailgunner at their bullish best. SR.
1. Wytch Hazel – IV: Sacrament (Bad Omen Records)
Sparkling with sublime choruses and glorious, Lizzyfied riffs Wytch Hazel’s fourth opus was nothing short of celestial.
The Lancastrian quartet had already turned heads thanks to 2020’s sensational III: Pentecost, but IV: Sacrament cemented their status as trad metal standard bearers… and was testimony to mainman Colin Hendra’s deft touch and subtle songcraft.
The stirring Digging Deeper crackled with emotion, Endless Battle surged with Arthurian power, and Future Is Gold, seemed born on the meadows of ancient Albion.
Hendra sings of a quest “ending in victory” – and that’s exactly what Wytch Hazel have achieved with IV: Sacrament. RH.
Check out the full review here.