Territory’s Edge – The Best New Metal and Hardcore of January 2023, featuring Enterprise Earth, Katatonia, and more

There’s a good chance you’ve already heard Sleep Token this year – given that the mysterious masked band released four singles in January.   One of those songs, “The Summoning”, has gained plenty of traction, even reaching #1 on Spotify’s USA Viral 50, and #5 on the global version of the chart.  The band hit over a million monthly Spotify listeners during January as well.  The anonymous group’s rise in popularity can be attributed to plenty of social media buzz, well-timed single releases, and securing opening slots on major tours with Architects and Northlane.  Love them or hate them, Sleep Token’s success is an example of how relatively new (they formed in 2016) rock and metal bands can still catapult from obscurity to popularity this day and age.  Read further for several examples of quality recently released heavy music and a list of releases you should check out as well.



Oak Pantheon – The Absence

This Minnesota band is presumably named after an Agalloch lyric – “Here I gaze at a pantheon of oak, a citadel of steel” – from a song off The Mantle titled “In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion”.   Musically, Oak Pantheon’s blend of folk, black metal, and progressive rock elements is reminiscent of Agalloch as well, while maintaining its own identity.   The Absence is the band’s third full-length album, and their first new music since a 2018 split EP with the similarly progressive-minded black metal band Amiensus (who you should also check out).

This project is self-released by the band and includes a lot of variety and memorable hooks within its eight songs.  The opening track “Becoming None” begins with a two-and-a-half-minute folky instrumental (perhaps a nod to Agalloch’s “A Celebration for the Death of Man”) before progressing into a mid-tempo melodic black metal song.  “Decisions” is the heaviest track, and “Beating Heart” is the softest, though the entire album offers plenty in the way of dynamics.   More than simply following in the footsteps of an influential American black metal band, Oak Pantheon is carving a niche in the underground with no label backing or major attention.


Katatonia – Sky Void of Stars

Over the years, Katatonia has moved away from their death/doom metal roots into a more accessible progressive alternative metal style.  Sky Void of Stars marks the twelfth album from this revered, long-running Swedish band.  The ravens that appear on the cover artwork designed by Roberto Bordin are a signature, recurring artistic theme for Katatonia. (Dead End Kings, The Fall of Hearts, Proscenium and recent B-sides project Mnemosynean have all used raven imagery.)  In total, four singles were released: “Atrium”, “Austerity”, “Birds”, “Opaline”, all strong examples of Katatonia’s current melancholy, melodic hard rock style.   While “Absconder” is listed as a bonus track, it flows perfectly with the album and is one of the strongest cuts on Sky Void of Stars.  The band is currently on a European tour with Icelandic post-metal band Solstafir and shoegaze project SOM.


Ashen Horde – Antimony

Originally a solo project of guitarist Trevor Portz, Ashen Horde’s lineup now includes four band members.  Notably, Stevie Boiser (frontman of technical death metal bands Inferi and Equipoise) writes the lyrics and does most of the vocals.  His snarling, raspy delivery counters Portz’s occasional, Alice in Chains-inspired clean vocals that appear throughout and provides a blackened death metal edge.  The title Antimony refers to the unsolved 1876 murder of Charles Bravo due to antimony poisoning, and the album is loosely organized around that concept.  The majority of the song titles like “The Consort”, “The Barrister” and “The Neophyte” refer to various suspects in the case.  The musicianship is excellent, and Ashen Horde’s technical/blackened death metal style continues to reveal additional nuances and details with each listen.


Cult of Luna – “The Flow Reversed”

This band from Umea, Sweden has made a name for themselves as one of the most acclaimed and essential bands in post-metal.   January 25 marked the tenth anniversary of one of their best albums, Vertikal.  This conceptual record was influenced by the 1927 impressionist film Metropolis.  Highlights include the lengthy, dynamic “Vicarious Redemption”, and the stripped-down post rock closer “Passing Through”.  Guitars were played using only downstrokes to make Vertikal sound like the internal machinations of the dystopian, industrial city depicted in the film.  The dark, brooding “The Flow Reversed” was originally a limited-edition CD bonus track.  It is newly available for streaming and download, along with two demos and the accompanying EP Vertikal II.


Enterprise Earth – “Death Magick”/”This World Without Us”

Since Travis Worland became the new vocalist for Enterprise Earth, the Spokane-based deathcore band has released three songs with him, each one notably six to seven minutes long.  Worland made his debut on the song “Psalm of Agony” earlier in June 2022, and Enterprise Earth unveiled two more singles this January.   “Death Magick” ranks among the band’s heaviest and darkest songs to date,  while maintaining plenty of dynamics.  In contrast, “The World Without Us” takes a more progressive direction, starting with an ambient intro and subdued sung vocals, before progressing to a breakneck pace.

Guitarist Gabe Worland commented that the two tracks are meant to be heard together.  “When it comes to our music, we have always enjoyed being a multidimensional band and don’t like to limit ourselves to one sound,” he stated.  “With ‘The World Without Us’ being more melodic, uplifting yet energetic, and progressive compared to the sheer intensity and aggression found in ‘Death Magick”, we feel that together these two songs capture a broad range of what we offer musically.”


Unhallowed Earth – “Wharf”

Originally known as Sól, this Cascadian post-metal band is now Unhallowed Earth following lineup changes and a darker shift in sound.  While the clean post-rock instrumental passages that defined 2017 album Upheaval are still present, they’ve incorporated more death/black metal influences.  “Wharf” is the band’s first song to be released under the new moniker.  The sprawling, doom-influenced track is like an EP in itself, with several distinct sections and movements.  Throughout it all, there’s a sense of progression and cohesion across its 11:32 runtime.


January Release Tracker


Sleep Token – “Chokehold” (Jan 4, alternative metal)

Sleep Token – “The Summoning” (Jan 6, alternative metal)

Kruelty – “Burn the System” (Jan 9, grindcore/death doom metal)

One Step Closer – “Turn to Me” (Jan 10, hardcore)

Sanguisugabogg/Aaron Heard – “Face Ripped Off” (Jan 10, death metal)

Distant – “Argent Justice” (Jan 11, deathcore)

Dawn Ray’d – “Ancient Light” (Jan 12, symphonic black metal)

Periphery – “Zagreus” (Jan 12, progressive metal)

Periphery – “Wildfire” (Jan 12, progressive metal)

Dropout Kings – “Riot Music” (Jan 13, rapcore)

Graphic Nature – “Headstone” (Jan 13, nu metal/hardcore)

The Northern – “The Hourglass” (Jan 13, progressive metalcore)

Pop Evil/Ryan Kirby – “Dead Reckoning” (Jan 13, alternative metal)

Memoriam – “Total War” (Jan 13, death metal)

In Flames – “Meet Your Maker” (Jan 16, melodic death metal)

Full of Hell/Primitive Man – “Rubble Home” (Jan 17, blackened doom/sludge)

Softcult – “Dress” (Jan 17, shoegaze/grunge)

Breakdown of Sanity – “Collapse” (Jan 19, hardcore)

Sleep Token – “Granite” (Jan 19, alternative metal)

Downfall of Gaia – “Bodies as Concrete” (Jan 19, post metal/atmospheric black metal)

Foretoken – “Demon Queller” (Jan 19, symphonic metal/melodic death metal)

Judiciary – “Engulfed” (Jan 19, hardcore)

Metallica – “Screaming Suicide” (Jan 19, heavy metal)

Gideon – “More Power. More Pain” (Jan 20, metalcore)

Jesus Piece – “Gates of Horn” (Jan 20, hardcore)

Chelsea Grin – “Sing to the Grave” (Jan 20, deathcore)

To the Grave – “Cut Off the Head” (Jan 20, death metal/deathcore)

For the Fallen Dreams – “Last One Out” (Jan 20, alternative metal/metalcore)

Ov Sulfur – “Earthen” (Jan 20, deathcore)

Termina/Phil Bozeman/Josh Travis – “Parasocial” (Jan 20, progressive metal/metalcore)

Sleep Token – “Aqua Regia” (Jan 20, alternative metal)

Unearth – “The Wretched; The Ruinous” (Jan 24, metalcore)

Unhallowed Earth – “Wharf” (Jan 25, post metal)

Fires in the Distance – “Harbingers” (Jan 26, melodic death metal/progressive metal)

Papa Roach/Beartooth – “Cut the Line” (Jan 26, alternative metal)

Avatar/Lzzy Hale – “Violence No Matter What” (Jan 27, heavy metal)

Enforced – “Ultra-Violence” (Jan 27, crossover thrash)

Enterprise Earth – “The World Without Us” (Jan 27, deathcore/progressive metal)

Slay Squad – “X” (Jan 27, deathcore/rap metal)

Predatory Void – “(*struggling…)” (Jan 30, doom/post metal)



Obituary – Dying of Everything (Jan 13, death metal)

Defy the Curse – Horrors of Human Sacrifice (Jan 13, crust/death metal)

The Wise Man’s Fear – Atlas Ruinica (Jan 13, melodic metalcore)

For I Am King – Crown (Jan 20, metalcore/melodic death metal)

Katatonia – Sky Void of Stars (Jan 20, progressive metal)

Nothingness – Supraliminal (Jan 20, dissonant death metal)

Oak Pantheon – The Absence (Jan 20, progressive metal/folk metal)

Polterguise – Eurydice (Jan 20, post-hardcore)

Ashen Horde – Antimony (Jan 27, technical death metal)

Ablaze My Sorrow – The Loss of All Hope (Jan 27, melodic death metal)

Anachronism – Meanders (Jan 27, technical death metal)

Bizarrekult – Den Tapte Krigen (Jan 27, black metal)


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