1. Firkin – ‘Spice It Up’
Firkin released 22 out of 40 points. This is the first time ever we have a Celtic-Punk album as the Best Album of the year. Again one of the voting members was of the opinion it should be our Album of the Year.
Mark wrote: ““Stir It Up” is the name of the album, and it’s good. While demonstrative of their work, it’s not like the two absolute gems of the album: “For a Life” (which they also released as a single– and the bassline punches hard) and “Boys Are on the Loose”. These are the anthems, the kickass rock songs that stand by themselves. Firkin knew this, too, because the latter is the last song on the album.
Lastly, there are the oddities, and I say this in a loving sense. “Santiana” is a modern sea
shanty. It starts with some nautical sounds, of course, and borrows some melody from “Whup Jamboree” (another traditional song that Firkin previously covered). There are a host of famous pirate metal bands that could comfortably cover this, and it’d sound right at home. “Haiku” is the album’s only instrumental song, and it’s fantastic. It has eight-bar stretches that could, themselves, be a standalone Irish reel.”
Congratulations Firkin, you did a hell of a job here!
2. Primordial – ‘How it Ends’
It was close, Primordial was just one point short of the first place with 21 points. But this was an album which was the favourite of one of us for this year.
Chiara wrote: “In the 10 tracks that are in the full-length there are several that stand out, here are a few: “We Shall Not Serve” that is the most aggressive of the full-length; “Call to Cernunnos” the most “folkish” one; “Nothing New Under the Sun” the blackest track on the entire full-length, when Alan’s voice sounds like Abbath voice (in a good way); “All Against All”, the longest track on the full-length, which is drenched in a sinister air and driven by pounding rhythms, wielding a towering climax; “Death Holy Death”, which sounds more doom, with the lyrics that sounds like a prayer; “Victory Has 1000 Father, Defeat is an Orphan” which has a wonderful balance between the acoustic part and the electric one.”
3. Idaslet ‘Nu Skrider Dagen Under’
Well, well, well, our Debut Album of 2023 made it into the top 3 of the Best Album. That’s quite an effort. There were 20 points for this album.
Mark wrote: “Their sound is power metal with harsh but understandable Danish vocals supported and folk-ified by some lovely accordion work. Some tracks feature a second vocalist– usually clean– and the best tracks have a chorus. We’re doing another Norse-themed album with mention of Valhalla and Baldur, and another track named “Ragnarok”. As an English-speaker, I found my ears perking up at the few words I recognized. This is another great album that shouldn’t be stopped by a language barrier.”
“I had a lot of fun listening to this album. It’s bouncy and lively, folky, fun, and heartfelt. 2023’s been a great year for albums, and Idaslet’s debut doesn’t disappoint.”
4. Heidevolk – ‘Wederkeer’
Just outside the top 3 is Heidevolk. They gained 18 points from 3 members. In fact there’s no album in this years’ list which gained votes from all four voting members.
Matthew said the following about this album: ” The title track, “Wederkeer” (translated to The Return) is epic folk metal at its best. It starts out slow with string accompaniment, dual vocals, and an overall dreamy feel to it; I wish the song was longer. The other songs on this 12 song release follow the same energetic approach with various complexities but also one is able to sing along to them as the chorus to each song is catchy as hell! Many of the tracks paint pictures of sitting around the campfire with nature as the backdrop to beautiful melodies soothing, heroic and overall magnificent. Heidevolk have conjured up some magic with this release, showing that sometimes taking time produces stellar efforts.”
5. Cruachan – ‘The Living and the Dead’
16 out of 40 Points for Cruachan brings them the 5th place in our list.
Jano wrote: “There was an extensive lead up to this album, and it must be said, this reviewer heard the singles after “The Hawthorn” and feared that Cruachan would completely abandon their Metal roots and rather go the balladeering route, but this album only shows that it is possible to incorporate novel Folk music traditions into Metal music in the modern day and to try new stuff without abandoning your roots. This album will most likely be divisive because some of these tracks are definitely something that needs multiple listens to appreciate. So after a few weeks the verdict might vary slightly, but even in the worst case, Cruachan has managed to work within familiar territory to produce something that reflects their developing artistic direction, while remaining rich and complicated enough to keep a listener coming back. The Living and the Dead is a release fans of Cruachan or just Folk Metal will not want to miss as it delivers a singularly interesting take on Folk Music implemented in Metal that can be an introduction to other forms of music like Neo-folk or even just ordinary folk music.”
6. Trold – ‘Der Var Engang’
And we go on with the strange things. Trold was passed on the Best Debut Album list by Trollwald, but in this list they took revenge and ended up at the 6th place with 14 points.
Mark’s words on this album: “the songs contain tales involving gods and giants, forests and seas, and even lacking an understanding, it all sounds magical. It’s all lively and bouncy, and I want to drink and dance with this band; there’s just so much energy.
Trold really knows how to craft these songs. The last track is an instrumental just to brandish their command of instrumentation and melody. It’s got all the lively bombast of the rest of the album, but carries some minor key sadness, reminding us that all adventures have to end.
Wrapping up, this is a strong album, especially for Trold’s debut. It’s aimed squarely at us, the folk metal community, and I genuinely appreciate it. Varied, bouncy, amazing– this is a portent of more great things to come.”
7. Ūkanose – ‘Šiaurum Vėjum’
With Ūkanose we finally have an album on our hands where our team was more united. Only one point above Arkona with 12 points, but they received them from all but one voter.
It was again Chiara who wrote: “The flute appears as a fundamental instrument in this album, the voices are always in clean and always well alternated and balanced on the record. The other instruments are always well calibrated and never sound out of place, making the record perfect from every point of view.
In conclusion this album is in full rule one of the best produced by the Lithuanian band, which prove to be able to always churn out masterpieces, with a sound that presents a very high level from the point of view of both composition and performance.”
8. Arkona – ‘Kob’
And yes, the list stays weird. At the 8th place again an album which was the best album of the year according to one of our teammembers. But nonetheless the album got stuck here with 11 points.
Chiara wrote ” Thanks to the disturbing whispers and murmuring the album is perceived more like the journey in hell that it is this masterpiece.”Kob”, although well rooted in the pagan metal to which Arkona have accustomed us, offers the listener a good overview of the descent of humanity into hell that is building in this world, capturing the listener with new musical proposals and offers a darker view of the modern situation of humanity giving life to what is one of the best albums of the band.”
9. SatanaKozel – ‘Karelia’
As said, it’s a strange list this year. Just above the three albums which were the runner-ups for one teammember we find the favourite album of one too. The maximum of 10 points by one, but no points from the other voters.
Roberto wrote: “The first half of the album contains longer songs and features some fast drums tending to black metal in more than just one fragment. Despite this the band has stated to not be a black metal band, so if you can’t bear BM influences don’t be scared about this work, as there’s just too much folk to be missed these days! Songs like Doroga (The Way) and Lesoruby (Woodcutters) are a mixture of powerful guitar and harsh vocal parts with equally fast accordion, while 5th track Pomer (Died) the more folky parts make space for a slow intro and more reflective parts throughout the song.
Eventually the album closes with an 8-minute long track where the bands takes the foot off the acceleration and brings a slow and epic conclusion to this excellent work. There’s no particular flaw I would point out: this band has been active for almost 20 years and certainly knows the right recipe for memorable albums. And regardless of what type of folk metal you like, you’ll definitely want to check this out!”
10th – 12th place. Why 12, well this is why. The points were scattered this year. At the lower end of our Top 10 we find three album with 9 points. But what’s more interesting, three of the four voting members thought about one of these albums it should be their runner-up of this list this year.
10.-12. Lumsk – ‘Fremmede Toner’
It was Chiara who wrote this about the album: “Musically speaking in full-length you can hear the different musical influences of the various genres that distinguish the music of Lumsk, making it a perfect mix between rock, metal, classic, folk and progressive rock. There are two songs that are well over 8 minutes long and are “Dagen er Endt” and “The Day Is Done”, in which, during the instrumental parts in some moments seems to feel some similarities with Dream Theater (in a positive sense). The lyrics, accompanied by the melody, instead convey a sense of tranquility and peace, which allows the listener to estrange and travel to other worlds. This is also the first full-length album where the Norwegian band sings songs with foreign lyrics, creating songs such as “A Match”, “Abschied” and “The Day Is Done”.
Lumsk, in conclusion, with this full-lenght provided with their mix of Nordic folk, prog rock and metal musically continue the path traced since the beginning of their career in 2000 in Trondheim. This unique mix brings together rich textures and clever arrangements makes “Fremmede Tone” Lumsk’s most varied and intriguing work.”
10.-12. Trollwald – ‘Trollwald’
The runner up of our ‘Debut Album of 2023’ made it to the ‘Best of 2023’ list. Good start.
Roberto said the following: “One thing I’m appreciating about this new album is the major role the keyboard has this time, compared to the old EP. Not only it makes a pleasant background during the main lines (check the songs “Trol bajstruk” or “Spyniŭsia čas” just to make examples), but this time there’s also a couple of solos of piano, connecting the first part of the song to the rest. That’s the case of “Spyniŭsia čas” and “Miortvym nie balić”. I think keys and dudas give Trollwald a very personal sound we rarely find nowadays in the folk metal pot, making albums like this very hard to find nowadays.”
10.-12. Evilon – A Warrior’s Way
Mark wrote: “The album is consistent and solid: great melodies, riffs, and refrains with competent vocals and meaningful lyrics that sometimes fall into the parody realm with English translation (“Blood eagle death covered in tears of pain” made me smile). The mix is great, the riffs are great. Most of the songs are on YouTube with simple but awesome lyric videos. One could argue that the sound is pretty minimalist. There were parts that folk elements crept in (“Blot to the Skies” is a great example) and it was done so subtly that I didn’t notice on the first listen. It’s a true testament to the great writing and what good melodies can do for an album.”
It was not really easy this year. Four teammembers participated in this list, so a total of 40 points is the maximum this year.
Lots of album were highly appreciated by the one who wrote the initial review, but when making up this list, the opinions were very different. This ended up in a somehow strange list.
Nice album which didn’t make it to our Top 12: Skiltron, E-an-na, Fredlös, Sylvatica, Solarcycles, Flor de Loto, Diabol Boruta, Toter Fisch, Lombolo, Subway to Sally, Fortid, Odraedir and Orphaned Land. All highly rated in the reviews, so sure worth to listen to.