Picture of the band Sleep Token taken by Artemis Sere

Artemis Sere's Best Albums of 2023

This list is not genre or market specific. This list reflects the diversity of my interests. This list is not based on listening to any radio, podcasts, or influencer pundits. My appreciation for music is relatively broad, but you'll find a heavier edge to recent lists - reflective of the seasons of my life.

This list is my 13th attempt to catalog, track, and recommend the best music of the previous year.  If you're interested in what I've ranked in previous years, check out this page where all years are available.

Please spread the word and share this guidance with your network, and pay forward these suggestions of high quality, relatively underrated music and musicians. 

Check out my YouTube playlist featuring clips from every album, linked at the end of this list. 

And if you're feeling bold, drop a comment on this blog and let me know what you think. What's on your list of favorite albums for 2023?

I appreciate your interest in my Art and music opinion. Enjoy!

NOTE: I reserve the right to revise this list as necessary. I know I've probably missed some great albums in 2023, and will be sure to update this list to accommodate those next year - as I have done and will do with lists from previous years. Check back for updates!



Holy Wars Cult Classic

At 4 songs and clocking in around 10 minutes, their new EP is strong on composition and style, with impressive art and smart packaging, but short on substance. If they would've took the gas off the EP and pushed more songs into it, it would've been a Top 2024 release. Instead, it's an EP that shows their potential. I believe Kat Leon will be the next big thing in rock music, but I'm a bit disappointed that "Cult Classic" takes the focus off of the truly great album they released last year, "EAT IT UP, SPIT IT OUT". 


Old Gods of Asgard Rebirth

Another band discovered out of a video game ("Control"), Old Gods of Asgard are a campy metal offshoot of Poets of the Fall. This album is a collection of songs from video games and EPs that were previously not widely available. One of my favorite video game experiences of the last few years come from "Control" and specific area that features the song "Take Control" by Old Gods of Asgard. It would take way too much space to describe the experience; sufficed to say, I instantly fell in love with the game's brilliantly-hidden anthem when I played the game. They're now featured in the critically acclaimed "Alan Wake 2" (following up from their turn in "Alan Wake"), and becoming a household name because of their involvement. It's a fun collection of songs to rock out to, no doubt.


Missio I Am Sad EP & I Am High EP

These EPs are classic Missio - electronica fused with rap, dub, and other genres. "I Am Sad" EP is a journey through depressed sounds and tones, as sad as "pop rock synth pop" can be; "I Am High" EP sounds more what I have come to expect from Missio - a trippy synthetic experience which sounds like (and is) influenced by smoking marijuana.


Unearth The Wretched; the Ruinous

Admittedly, I haven't kept up with Unearth since their second studio album, 2004's "The Oncoming Storm". I reconnected with them on this, their 8th album, and was impressed by their consistent sound and power. But, if I have to compare them to other metalcore bands like Parkway Drive or Suicide Silence or Trivium or Bleed From Within, they don't differentiate well. That aside, this album is far from wretched.


Delerium Signs

Delerium is the ambient electronic music side project of Bill Leeb and Rhys Fulber, who are some of the godfathers of modern Industrial Music with their band Front Line Assembly. I will probably lose some kudos for admitting that I'm not a huge Front Line Assembly fan. But I am a huge Conjure One fan, which is also the side project of Rhys Fulber, and Delerium is rooted around the same dreamy concept that Conjure One brings to life. Delerium has been around since 1987 and this is their 16th release. It is a beautiful, atmospheric album that inspires me greatly.


Filter The Algorithm

I've been a fan of Filter since the "Hey Man, Nice Shot" days, and their last album, "Crazy Eyes", made it to #6 on my Best of 2016 list. This album may not rank as one of their best, but it's got solid heart and soul. Richard Patrick's sound is maturing with his age, yet he still manages to channel all that has been best with Filter over the years. There's definitely the signature edge to the album, but also great reminders that Filter just makes great electro rock music. A favorite line from song "Command Z": "I want to be high as fuck". I totally can relate to the vibe and message exuding from their algorithm.


Red Rated R

Red is my rare foray into Christian rock/metal. Preaching and positions aside, they make great music (and are amazing live). I've been a fan since their first radio success with "Breath Into Me" and even though my faith has diverged since then, I still think they make great music. "Surrogates" is one of the heaviest songs they've made in their decades-long history. It's addictive, infectious, and poignant: "Say what you will, anything for a kill". Every Red creation involves brilliant songwriting, and "Rated R" is filled with powerful, heartfelt rock tunes. They may not stand out as commercially as they once did, but they're still cranking out amazing, inspiring music with tight guitars and soaring vocals.


Within Temptation Bleed Out

 It is always a treasure to get new Within Temptation music. Sharon den Adel is one of my favorite vocalists in music right now, and seeing WT live at an intimate setting in 2022 was a true treat. "Bleed Out" has been called a "heavier" WT album, but I don't think it is much heavier than previous. If it's heavy anyplace, it's with the topics connected to the tunes. I applaud their stances against the war in Ukraine, and other injustices around the world. The song "Bleed Out" is signature Within Temptation and definitely ranks as one of their best (and the video is amazing). The art of the album is genius, and the production is tight. It is possible that this album will grow on me over the next year, and I'll adjust its ranking.


Solitaris Siwa

I discovered this band on the soundtrack to a favorite game that I played a couple of years ago, "Othercide". They are a metalcore band from Paris, France, with a vibe similar to both Gojira and Orbit Culture without the huge fanbase and exposure. They certainly deserve a wider appreciation, because this album is filled with brutal tracks that stand tall against any of the metal greats on this list.


Sevendust Truth Killer

 This album was in my Top 5 until recently. "Truth Killer" is one of Sevendust's most complete and powerful albums in their long history. I fell in love with this album quickly. The topics, the vocals, and the tones are perfectly Sevendust. "I Might Let the Devil Win" is a great reflection on whether or not we succumb to our lesser selves. "Everything" is one of my favorite tracks of 2023 and one of my favorites from Sevendust. The issue I have with the album is that it feels a bit too "preachy", with too many references to God and Religion. To me, all "truth" is subjective, so their intent to "kill" a certain kind of truth, or argue that a certain type of truth is currently under attack, is a mantra that is repeated too often by certain cults in this country. There is a lot of great music on "Truth Killer", but when I started to reflect on the lyrics, I didn't see myself reflected in the message. This would be a top 5 album on my list if the message in front of the music was different.


Grandson I Love You, I'm Trying

Grandson fell to Earth a bit with "I Love You, I'm Trying", though that's no slight to the rapper in any way. Seeing him live was one of my favorite experiences of 2023 and it drove me to give this album another try. This album is full of heart and positivity and honesty that I didn't fully connect with at first. He was my soundtrack to 2020 and 2021 and resonated with some of my darkest moments of the last 5 years. In truth, his angle on "I Love You, I'm Trying" is a breath of clear air. His close friendship and partnership with K. Flay has influenced my passion for him. On this album, he sounds a bit like an older school Eminem, and even though it doesn't have the hooks like "Death of an Optimist", it does paint a brighter picture of his persona and the messages he supports.


Health Rat Wars

Health is a fun band. From social presence to personality, they exude confidence, swagger, and sonic excellence. I'm relatively new to the Health catalog, having only discovered them last year. However, I became quickly addicted to their airy, dreamy industrial electrorock sound. You have to give them props - releasing two major albums in back-to-back years is a feat that few bands can achieve. On the flip side, I don't think this year's release is better than last year's, and can't rank them higher than last year's #8 spot with "Disco4: Part II". I personally enjoyed last year's album more, but I totally love what Health does on "Rat Wars". I've seen them classified as darkwave, synthmetal, and industrial metal. They're certainly the sum of all parts - one part NIN, one part Godflesh, one part emo, and lots of techno. If they're considered metal, then they should be a sound easy for anyone to swallow.


3Teeth EndEx

3Teeth is a very fun adventure into apocalyptic, hypnotic industrial metal. Sarcastic, futuristic, and brutally honest, "EndEx" is a seething soundscape featuring "DOOM" composer Mick Gordon and English horror rappers Ho99o9. They remind me of a "less metal" version of Fear Factory with a stronger opinion of what's shitty about our world. "EndEx" is filled with dark charisma and attitude, exuded perfectly on their cover of Tears for Fears "Everybody Wants to Rule the World".


Bassnectar The Golden Rule: Part 1: Unlocked

The dubstepper in me just won't die. No matter how much metal I listen to, I still find myself gravitating back to Bassnectar for inspiration and levity. If you've followed Bassnectar, you know that he's struggled with an image issue over the last few years; evidently, he's been accused of doing some shady things with women. If any of that is true, it is certainly regrettable and deplorable. However, I do my best to separate the art from the artist. Bassnectar returns to vibrant form on "The Golden Rule" with collaborators Rye Rye, Gnar Gnar, Azzem, Dorfex Bos, and Ashel Seasunz among others.


IAMX Fault Lines 1

I will always be a champion and supporter of IAMX's Avant Garde style, message, and sound. Hands down, he is the most artistic musician on this list. "Fault Lines" took some time to grow on me, but I have come to appreciate its sexuality, mystery, and honesty. There are new IAMX classics on the album, and I would've ranked it higher if it met the highs of "Metanoia" or "Alive in New Light". It makes me supremely curious where he'll go with "Part 2", and how that complements this oily, edgy, technofunky trip. "Oh mirror, give me back my time."


Orbit Culture Descent & The Forgotten (EP)

I was excited about the "Descent" album when I first heard Orbit Culture last year. The "Vultures of North" single was a powerful foreshadow of the "Descent" album, and I collected and consumed everything that I could find from Orbit Culture in a short period of time. I was convinced at the time that the "Descent" album would be my favorite album of 2023. Perhaps I gorged myself on Orbit Culture too much, too fast, because when I sat down and listened to this album, I was energized by some very powerful tunes. But I also feel that the album suffers from a bit of repetition and few of the songs truly stand out. That isn't a statement to diminish the album altogether, because the general sound of "Descent" crushes. It's more a statement of my tastes and the albums that I gravitate toward these days: death or heavy metal purists would probably rank these albums higher than albums that I have on my list that are sonically dynamic and adventurous. NOTE: "The Forgotten" EP hasn't been released as of this blog writing, and I look forward to listening to it. It will only add to the great atmosphere of "Descent".


Cyanotic The After Effect

If you've followed me for a while, you know I have a deep love and passion for the band Cyanotic, an industrial, angry robot industrial metal band from Chicago, IL. I know and respect their lead singer Sean Payne for his amazing talent, his ability to help coordinate major shows (Cold Waves music festival), and for being the main man behind a record label (Glitch Mode Music, Bit Riot Records). Earlier this year, Sean and his wife Anastasia were in a serious car accident in Minnesota, and she passed away from her injuries. Out of that extreme tragedy, this album was born. Songs like "Crash Override", "Are We Still Alive?", and "Anastasia Ascends" resound of Sean's agony and catharsis in sonic form. My one minor complaint is that I wish there was more content; given Cyanotic's catalog, the album feels a bit too quick at 8 songs - but at least this wasn't released as an EP with extras.


K. Flay MONO

I can't say enough good things about K.Flay and her new album. I thought highly enough of her last album that it made my Top 20; this one is stratospheric on my chart. I have become very addicted to it, mostly because of its raw emotion and show of awesome strength. Over the last few years, K.Flay lost hearing in her right ear, and the album is touching slice of her life, her struggles, and how she overcomes hearing challenges as a human, an artist, and a musician. It is personal, touching, and relatable, especially as someone who overcome his own health challenges and told the story (see "Obscurious X"). It is sarcastic, vulnerable, and touching. I've been a fan of K. Flay since I discovered her via Tom Morello's solo albums, and I'm so thankful that I did. Her personal power is inspiring and helps drive me these days.


Code Orange The Above

In a year without Sleep Token, "The Above" would be my #1 album of 2023. This is Code Orange's best, most mature, and most engaging album in their history. On their first album that I heard from them ("Forever"), there is a song entitled "dream2", which is an atmospheric, moody, mostly electronic trip featuring guitarist/bassist/vocalist Reba Meyers. "The Above" feels like a spiritual extension of that song in full album format. The vinyl album is a chaotic, compelling landscape of memories and snapshots featuring a meticulously-designed booklet. The album features Billy Corgan from Smashing Pumpkins, and after many spins of the album, I think the "The Above" has a very Pumpkins feel to it. "Underneath" was my #2 album of 2020, and this album is far superior to their previous work. Powerful progress to go from Underneath to Above in 2 albums, but Code Orange lands the artistic gymnastics well.


Picture of the band Sleep Token taken by Artemis Sere

Sleep Token Take Me Back to Eden

If you've followed my social accounts, you know how much I loved this album in 2023. Upon discovering them earlier in 2023 with the song "Granite", I fell instantly in love with their sound, style, and concept. They are a unique intersection of darkness and light, metal and electronic, clean singing and death metal screeches, mystery and royalty. I've been a fan of masked bands ever since High School with Crimson Glory, and their aesthetic is very familiar to me. This was my undisputed favorite album and live show of 2023, and I deeply treasure every song on this album (except one - I'll let you guess which one, if you know the album). You can find clips of their live show on my YouTube Channel, and in the Annual Best albums playlist below. I've featured my video capture below of their hit "Granite" from their show in September 2023. According to YouTube, the songs off this album were the tracks I listened to most in 2023 - and with good reason: their dynamic talent can cover many different genres in a single song, while marrying them together in a macabre and thrilling manner. I will be listening to this album on repeat for a very long time.

2023 Honorable Mentions

I had a long list of albums to choose from for my 2023 list. Here are ones that were considered, but not chosen for the top 20. They may make it there someday. 

Mojave Phone Booth - "Hollow the Numbers" (Re-release of 2022 album on new label)
Pendulum - "Anima" (EP)
Godflesh - "Purge"
Mammoth WVH - "Mammoth II"
Evile - "The Unknown"
In Flames - "Forgone"
Duran Duran - "Danse Macabre"
Better Than Ezra - "Contact High"
Cavalera Conspiracy - "Go Ahead and Die"

Artemis Sere's Twenty Best Albums of 2023 YouTube Playlist

Previous Annual Best Album Blogs

2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 
2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 
2018 | 2019 | 2020 | 2021 | 2022

ALERT: USPS Smishing Scam

Artemis Sere Alerts

As if my life isn't challenging enough right now during my job layoff, this week I was the victim of a "smishing" scam. These dastardly thieving acts always seem to hit me at the wrong time.

In 2021 on my first day of my new job, I was hit with a catalytic converter theft which took my vehicle out of commission for 6 months. In January 2022 in the dead of a winter night, I was hit again, knocking my vehicle into the yard again for 6 months while I waited for parts. You may have seen me interviewed on local Fox9 about my thefts.

The end result: an expensive metal shield to protect my converter and jacked up insurance rates for my area due to the thefts.

Evidently, the perpetrators may have been caught.

My hope is that this blog can protect you from the scam I fell for, and maybe give investigators some background for their hunt for this fraudster or fraudulent entity.

What is Smishing?

"Smishing uses fraudulent mobile text messages to trick people into downloading malware, sharing sensitive data, or paying cybercriminals money." (Source: IBM)

How did I fall for a Smishing Scam?

This has been a stressful week. Between searching for jobs, prepping for an interview, applying for opportunities, and worrying about my future, I've been somewhat distracted.

When the first smishing text came in on November 3rd, I was high and overtired. It hit me at just the right time, and I honestly thought the text that I received was legit. If you've followed my vinyl adventures over the last year, you know I've had a bumpy road.

On a few occasions, I've had to contact USPS or FED EX to get a package of mine "unstuck" from a sort floor because an address had "fallen off" or been damaged in the transmit from a global location. I've never been charged before, but I thought paying 30 cents to get a package "unstuck" was worth it. The branding on the message seemed legit. The messaging seemed reasonable.

With all of my training around phishing scams, I should've known there was some fishy stuff going on:

  1. The message was sent via text and was an image with no clickable links. There was a pretty link and a QR code for quick connection to a USPS form.

  2. The USPS form didn't detail which package was affected.

  3. Even with the package info missing, I thought thirty cents wouldn't hurt. But when I put in my card info, the form submission failed. I thought that was suspect, but didn't think any more about it. I gave up and moved on.

And didn't think about it again until my credit union contacted me yesterday about some possibly fraudulent charges.

Then I put the two together and realized I got pulled into a scam. I didn't expect that I would be a target for fraudsters. I expected that the fraudulent USPS form would need to be submitted for the fraud to happen.

But even with the failed submission, the fraudsters got the info they needed about my check card from the info I submitted on the screen.

What happened to me as a result of the scam?

A few days ago, the fraud began with a $350 Amtrak ride charged to my account. I didn't catch it because I don't traditionally check my account every day. And since I'm laid off and not spending money as often as I once did, there's been few reasons to be connected to my daily account movement.

So, the fraud began and didn't stop until it was caught yesterday afternoon. In that time, someone charged Uber, Uber Eats, Lyft, Door Dash, and a Tap Room in Florida for another $500 - $600 worth of charges. I think the bleeding has stopped, but some fraudster got a fun vacation off my dwindling resources.

How do I know for sure this action led to the smishing fraud?

My check card expired in October, and I was in the middle of transitioning my accounts to a new card (same number, different details, you know the drill). Very few "unknown" vendors had the new card details, and in fact, I was behind on transitioning my streaming services to new cards (and some had been shut down due to that). Thus, I hadn't actually used my new card many times since I activated it. The smishing scam was one of the first uses I had of the new card.

What does the USPS Postal Smishing Scam look like?

Here's a screenshot of the text that I received:

USPS Smishing Scam Image

I received the same text for 5 days from a number I didn't recognize.

USPS Smishing Scam Source Phone Numbers and Frequency

At the time I received the first one, I didn't consider that it could've been from an international source, and reacted too quickly. After I realized that it was a scam, I blocked every future transmission and deleted all messages. The messages eventually stopped, and two days later the Amtrak ticket was purchased.

What can you do to keep yourself protected from smishing?

  • Be extra vigilant of communications hitting your phone or email, especially ones that look like they have legit branding. I hadn't heard about this type of fraud until it happened to me, just like the catalytic converter theft ring. I wasn't aware that it was that prevalent, didn't know it was a thing.

  • Only submit your card information to trusted interfaces and websites. Lesson learned: you don't have to hit the submit button for a fraudster to get your info.

  • Report your experience to the USPS here.

Xoterica 41: The Equidistant

Picture of Artemis Sere's "Resolution"

“Obey the principles without being bound by them.” (Bruce Lee)

Recently, Israel declared war on Palestine for a brazen wave of bloodshed where hundreds of Israelis were brutally murdered. It has become a fiercely violent and bitter battle between two sides of a Biblical Holy War that is on the verge of creating a firestorm that sucks the world in. President Biden recently visited Israel in a show of support for Israel and their ground war in Gaza against Hamas. Protests from supporters of Palestine have erupted around the world, including from within the United States.

Friends, family, and lovely humans misdirected by ancient tomes are now caught in the crossfire. 260 innocent lives were slaughtered at a rave by callous men with a statement to make. Hamas says it was retaliation for Israel's actions; Israel blames Palestinian terrorists. There's no denying that there's violence happening on both sides and has for the better part of the last century. Hamas slaughtered Israelis and in retaliation, Israel is slaughtering Palestinians.

I'm summarizing and probably missing many details from both sides of the conflict, but the fact remains:

In god they trusted. In god's trust they die(d).

Pawns preening for an afterlife, prawns served cold to careless, callous whisperers.

I'm a Humanist and my heart aches for all involved or affected. But also, as an atheist, it's my job to remain impartial, to mediate from the center without prejudice or denomination. My job is to hold the center while the extremes scream for heads. Our politics have become overwhelmed by Factions that don't stand for a greater good, they stand for selfish designs and partial, inflexible positions directed by organized religion.

One for all, divided we stand. And equally fall.

America is no longer the land of the free. It is the land of the tithe. Pay to survive, in feudal fashion and distant, digital format. A specific evangelical and hypocritical religious culture has started to dominate America, sending progress and evolution backwards and pushing us further apart. Just yesterday I got into a verbal spat with an old friend about "evangelism" over Facebook. He claims that it's "the calling" of Jesus to spread faith, even when the recipient isn't interested.

Like a disease, faith needs hosts to spread, and with all religious tomes taken literally these days, evangelism is an endless infection of mythologies taken as truth. Religion never really could live in equilibrium with humanity; history has shown that over and over again with bloody crusades to push the literal word onto non-believers. It still happens to this day, only without the racks and whips and pikes and Iron Maidens.

I will always defend the liberal side of humanity (and stand against the evil that is Donald Trump), so I align with Democrats. In stating my alignment, I push myself further from the center and into partial territory.

But I really do try my best to keep position in the middle. I recognize that humans need their faith and comfort that there's any answer beyond them (even if many, at their core, live very hypocritical lives incongruent with the teachings of the tomes). Even now as tanks roll across Gaza and rockets and bullets kill innocents caught in the crossfire of the Holy War, "killing in the name of" is acceptable, and collateral damage is approved.

Is it even possible to stand strong in the center when bloodshed flies?

It seems impossible. My heart strings are pulled to the sufferers on both sides. I want blood to stop being the currency of conservative doctrines. I want peace to be achieved between warring parties. I want reason to return and the center to strengthen.

Unfortunately, ghosts and myths supply the center for our holy warriors, while simultaneously pushing each of us further apart. Either you agree with the atrocities as directed by a callous god, or you stand as the enemy. The myths were not captured and shared generation after generation like ancestral propaganda to kill or die for. They're meant to guide us, to connect us, and to develop us into better humans. They are wisdom characterized into deities and demigods, personified as monsters and angels.

Unless I'm missing something, the Bible's Ten Commandments explicitly direct followers not to kill. Literally. As with most passages of our holy books, the words have been turned over time, and murder allowances have been made by most religions that follow the Bible.

They created their own tomes where murder for specific reasons - such as war - is justified.

Leaving the Bible in a massive contradiction, especially when opposing religious forces claim the same holy ground as their own. I can't talk anyone out of their religion, but I can point out that the dusty tomes clearly say that we shouldn't kill each other. If you're of faith and you're killing in the name of, you're a hypocrite, observing a loophole that humanity created after the guidebook was reportedly built.

There's a piece of wisdom that says "stand for something or you'll fall for anything". In other words, "take a side or else". That's not the reason to follow a religion, though I think the quote is used to defend those who hold onto their faith, as if it's "belief or nothing", a binary belief scale where you do or you don't, you are or you aren't. With my stand I believe in science, not mythology built into an organizational body or government.

As of this writing, Israel and the Gaza strip are locked in a brutal battle. Innocents are being slaughtered by the thousands in attempt to "cleanse" the country from perceived threats. Countries are lining up on other side of the war depending on their political, religious, or financial allegiances to Israel or Palestine. All it will take is a simple spark to ignite a firestorm of world war. The world is turning into a binary reflection of its believers - either you're with us, or you're against us. There is no middle ground.

With this blog, I know I'll make some enemies of friends because I won't take a side in the holy war.

When it comes down to it, neither side has the right to murder, regardless of what interpretations have been made of dusty guidebooks. Revenge is also not justification for evil acts against fellow humans; while we disagree, we should do so with respect and patience - two words that seem to have little spiritual root in our creature in modern times.

I did study the Bible in college for a year. I once even considered myself agnostic or "searching". I won't consider myself an expert on religion by any means and have forgotten more about scripture than I once knew. But I recall a passage out of Matthew 5:5 that says "The meek shall inherit the Earth". The statement has a variety of interpretations, and changes based on the identity of the "meek". Taken literally, it offers that those who follow teachings from the book will inherit the world.

Unfortunately, the only meek people that stand to inherit anything are those that stay out of the fray. The best any of us that are not affiliated can do is step away from the fringes and find solace and protection in the middle, do our best to remain equidistant from the extremes that hold violent sway over our society.

I will always advocate for evolution and progress, for human-supported laws and principles of diversity. What I won't do is support a holy war that has been going on for over 2,000 years and has no reasonable resolution in sight.

Picture of Artemis Sere's
Artemis Sere SS-SG-00211 "Resolution"