Robert Adams / The Best Of Heavy Metal In 2023

It’s that time of year again. 2023 is hurtling towards its conclusion quicker than Megan Markle and Prince Harry can sign a multi-million dollar deal with Netflix. The big fella in Lapland has sent his fur-lined red suit to the dry cleaners to make sure it’s spick and span for his one day of work. Here is a selection of albums and gigs that kept the wheels of Bobby’s Rock Bus running smoothly in 2023. 


It’s not often you get an album of the year contender as early as February. But that’s exactly what The Winery Dogs gave us with their exceptional album III. There isn’t a bad track to be found on this album, and it’s still on my playlist in December. 

Avante Garde Swedish Groove Metallers Avatar released the finest album of their career with Dance Devil Dance. This album finally matched their gloriously insane stage show.

London progressive Metallers Haken also released a career highlight with Fauna, which saw them stretch their undoubted talents to produce an album that constantly delights the listener.

Leprous frontman Einar Solberg released his first solo album 16 in June, and that was a beautiful slice of introspective prog rock.

Extreme - Civic Hall, Wolverhampton - 1 December 2023
Extreme – Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – 1 December 2023. Photo: Jason Samuels/MetalTalk

Funk Metal veterans Extreme returned with a vengeance with their remarkable album Six, with guitar virtuoso Nuno Bettencourt blowing everyone away with a stunning guitar solo from the album’s first single, Rise.

Former Yes guitarist Trevor Rabin released his first vocal rock album in 34 years with Rio. Oh, how we’ve missed Mr Rabin’s talents in the rock world. Rio is another album without a duff track to be found. You can read my interview with Trevor Rabin here.

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2023 – Album Of The Year

This honour has been split between Sleep Token and Ren. There was nothing to split Sleep Token’s amazing Take Me Back To Eden album and Ren’s Sick Boi album. Both are at opposite ends of the musical spectrum, but each one hits home on a personal level as well as showing breathtaking musical chops. 

Sleep Token - O2 Academy, Birmingham - 17 January 2023
Sleep Token – O2 Academy, Birmingham – 17 January 2023. Photo: Andy Shaw/MetalTalk

At first glance, Sleep Token look all style over substance. The cloaks, the masks and the fact that no one really knows who they are. It’s a compelling package, to be sure. Delve deeper, though, and the surprises keep on coming. They somehow mix crushing heaviness with modern pop sensibilities, and it works really well. So well, in fact, that they’ve gone from touring medium-sized theatres in the UK to selling out the 12,000-capacity OVO Wembley Arena in less than a year.

Ren Gill - Sick Boi. Independent lyrical genius and social awareness, hitting #1 on the UK album chart.
Ren Gill – Sick Boi. Independent lyrical genius and social awareness, hitting #1 on the UK album chart.

Ren, on the other hand, is a completely different story altogether. He’s been plagued by major health issues – both physical and mental – but has achieved remarkable musical success on the strength of a social media and YouTube promotion campaign. 

As an independent artist, he achieved the almost impossible by securing a UK #1 album, beating pop renaissance man Rick Astley to the top spot. His deeply personal and socially aware lyrics combined with old school hip hop sensibilities made his Sick Boi album a must listen for hip hop and Metal fans together.


2023 got off to a flyer with Dirty Honey playing an absolute blinder at the tiny Craufurd Arms in Milton Keynes as part of their sold-out UK tour. This will definitely be the last time they’ll play gigs as small as this in the UK.

John Notto - Dirty Honey. Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk
John Notto – Dirty Honey. Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk

Then it was a trip to Shepherds Bush Empire to see The Winery Dogs, and as usual, they didn’t disappoint. Bonus was catching a wonderful support slot from Jared James Nichols.

It was back to The Craufurd Arms to see veteran Scottish punks The Skids, who proved that there’s certainly life left in these old dogs. I also got to catch up with Skids and Big Country guitarist Bruce Watson before the show. 

Lastly, I took a trip back to my homeland to catch Extreme with special guests, Living Colour, in Glasgow. Extreme was incredible, but Living Colour’s soundman needed shooting for a mix that was 95% guitar.

The Almighty - O2 Forum Kentish Town - 2 December 2023
The Almighty – O2 Forum Kentish Town – 2 December 2023. Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk

Special mention must also go to reformed Scottish rockers The Almighty for a trio of jaw dropping gigs. I’m looking forward to catching them in Cambridge next year.

So boys and girls, that was my musical highlights from 2023. 2024 looks VERY promising, with new albums due from Francis Dunnery’s It Bites, The Pineapple Thief and Caligula’s Horse, to name three.

My personal highlight from 2023, which far exceeded anything musical, was both of my daughters giving me new grandchildren. I was lucky enough to get a new grandson and my first granddaughter. 

On behalf of my MetalTalk family and myself, I thank you for your continued support and the fact we hit the magic number of over 1 million reads for the year to date around September. You lot are the reason we do this, so I thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart.

Have a rocking Christmas and a rolling New Year.

Sleeve Notes

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