Written by: The Administrator
Another year, another batch of outstanding EPs! I personally have a strong affinity for releases of the short, concise, and otherwise succinct persuasion, and so my weekly listening is often informed by what new EPs have dropped. The following includes those that made a significant impact and stuck around in my rotation.
This list--although perhaps a term such as "loose collection" or "heap" would be a better choice--has not been trimmed or edited to meet a specific quantity. I just kept adding stuff until I hit 23 entries, which felt like an appropriate number, and so here we are. Like last year's extravaganza, this list features a bunch of different genres but is not sorted by genre. My year is defined by eclectic listening habits, and while my albums lists will be divided into hip hop and metal for sake of reading convenience, no such editorial courtesy is reflected here. And lastly, this is utterly unranked. If something appears here, please know that it comes highly, highly recommended.
Without further ado, let's dive in!
Imperialist - Quantum (December 15th, Transcending Obscurity Records)Find it here!
I'm frequently of the mind that Imperialist is underrated--I absolutely loved their 2018 album Cipher and thought 2021's Zenith was a modern masterpiece, but rarely see them getting their flowers. In any case, Quantum captures the same magic while amping up the aggression: this EP features borderline thrash-esque driving urgency, expansive narrative scope, and engagingly sharp melodic songcraft. This EP might be easy to overlook due to a late-in-the-year release date, but let that be an excuse to sleep on sci-fi black metal excellence.
Scalpel- Century in the Boilpit (December 21st, 2022, Independent) Find it here!
Released December 21st of last year, this EP falls outside of 2023 by a slim margin, but unless we're offering a little flexibility these late-in-the-year projects are never gonna get a fair shot at year end list appearances. Anyways, this is such a fun ripper of an EP, as intensely chaotic and gleefully exuberant as death metal can reasonably get. Utilizing various grindy and techy elements to great success, Century In The Boilpit often feels delightfully overwhelming and never feels cliche. This is Scalpel's strongest release yet, and I'm really excited to hear more.
NewJeans - Get Up (July 21st, ADOR) Find it here!
As the only pop--and certainly the only K-pop--representatives on this list, NewJeans were quite effective at cutting through the noise and establishing themselves as stalwarts in my 2023 rotation. The NewJeans approach is refreshingly spontaneous yet relaxed, with the genre's more saccharine and plastic elements melting under a bright lively earnestness. NewJeans' knack for catchiness via simplicity is on full display on this EP, and the sheer vibrancy is a joy to behold. The first three tracks in particular are a must-listen for any 2023 pop playlist.
Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean - Consumed by the Vitriol of Life (December 1st, Independent) Find it here!
The unwieldy CttBotO released one of my favorite albums of the year, and then they turned around and released one of my favorite EPs of the year. How do they do it? By being the best in the business, evidently. If you enjoy the subaquatic and claustrophobic and relentlessly noisy deathdoomsludge of their prior work, this will undoubtably hit the spot. Listening to this EP is like unto slowly asphyxiating in a old-timey diving bell. If that doesn't float yer boat, I dunno what will.
Cronos Compulsion - Malicious Regression (May 12th, Caligari Records) Find it here!
As I said in my review of this crushing EP, sometimes we all just need our craniums caved in with a boulder the size of a small boulder. With this notably neolithic effort, Cronos Compulsion have concocted a high-quality listening experience that demonstrates serious muscular heft, yet provides enough variety to keep engagement high. There's admittedly a lot of great death metal out there, but it would be a shame for Cronos Compulsion to not get a little end-of-year recognition.
A Boogie Wit da Hoodie - B4 BOA (September 8th, Atlantic Records/Highbridge The Label) Find it here!
At a trim three tracks, B4 BOA represents a bit of a return to form for A Boogie Wit da Hoodie. Here, he hits the mark on his trademark brand of dangerously infectious melodic rap. His sly and seamless delivery shines, and he feels hungrier than he has in quite some time. "Booby Trap" in particular has one of the most earwormy hooks of the year--this song has been on solid replay since release, and reliably runs on a loop through my head all hours of the day and night. If Better off Alone is built on tracks of this caliber, we're in for a banger.
Dawn Richard - The Architect (October 18th, Merge Records) Find it here!
This is a bit of an oddity in this lineup, and after a multitude of listens, I'm still not quite sure how to classify this conceptual series of three experimental pop tracks. The first track, an electro-industrial epic, is an extensive setup for the glitchy, bouncy, and otherwise bubbly dance-oriented pop of "Bubblegum" and closer "Babe Ruth." This project is slick and wonderfully contagious--despite all the connotations of experimentalism, "Bubblegum" remains one of the most overtly fun and catchy pop songs I've heard this year.
Wolven Daughter - The Age of Sin (September 24th, Independent) Find it here!
If you're anything like me, you're excited for the forthcoming full-length from Wolven Daughter. This EP is perhaps the perfect appetizer--it is comprised of said album's first three tracks. This is raw black metal at its finest, and presents perhaps the most significant jump in songwriting prowess--while the harshly rough-edged aesthetic remains, a true sense of catchiness permeates. Every song herein feels wholly unique in the Wolven Daughter roster, and while all three are excellent, "The Taste of Vengeance" is my favorite track--the guitar work on the back half sounds so goddamn sick. Intense stuff, and a welcome indication of things to come.
Spinebreaker - Cavern of Inoculated Cognition (May 5th, Creator-Destructor Records) Find it here!
One goes into this EP expecting the promised spine breaking, but can we just acknowledge that Brad Moore's putrid yet oddly gorgeous cover art alone is worth the price of admission? In any case, this EP delivers the thick heft one craves from ye olde old school death metal tag, while simultaneously veering into punchy hardcore groove. The riffs kick all kinds of ass, and the reverb-laced vocals lend that enveloping cavernous mood. Good shit, 'nuff said.
redveil - playing w/ fire (April 24th, Independent) Find it here!
After 2022's Learn 2 Swim, it became apparent very quickly that redveil was gonna be a name to watch. This short project is exceptionally well arranged and produced, and redveil's laid-back and oddly melancholic delivery pairs nicely with his juvenile braggadocio. There's not a bad track on this thing, but "Black Enuff" feat. JPEGMAFIA is a real standout moment with an assertive chorus alongside jubilant and dramatic production. Another win for redveil.
Anna Pest / Argento - Catgirl in the House of Evil (...and Other Stories) (September 22nd, Independent) Find it here!
Another year, another EP featuring the talented Anna Pest! I love a split where one artist doesn't overshadow the other, and on Catgirl in the House of Evil (...and Other Stories), both Anna Pest and Argento deliver some of the most exciting and invigorating music that I've heard all year. While I went in assuming that Anna Pest's eclectic take on deathcore would carry the day, I was promptly impressed by Argento's sheer energy. Both artists unleash some wildly expressive shredding, and the overall experience feels deliberately fun in a way that so much brutal music simply is not. The fact that they feature on each other's sides lends even more credence to the collaborative nature. All told, this is a brilliant release, a genuine masterclass when it comes to putting together a split EP.
Haunter - Incantations through Dark Magick (November 11th, December 29th Fiadh Productions) Find it here!
I first heard (and subsequently became enamored with) Haunter due to Fiadh's release of the stellar Black Masses at Midnight back in February. Thus, my interest was intensely piqued for EP #2 when it rolled around a month ago. I'll never turn up my nose at some hard-rockin' blackened thrash with a grimy punk spirit and a healthy dose of gothic flair, and this crew has seemingly nailed the formula. Haunter are in excellent form here, resulting in a tight five tracks that more than deliver on the promise of their debut. Energetic, vicious, and sharp as hell. I crave more.
Insomnium - Songs Of The Dusk (November 3rd, Century Media) Find it here!
Look. This is an Insomnium EP where Insomnium are doing their typical Insomnium atmospheric melodeath thing. That, of course, is in no sense meant to be disparaging--this year's Anno 1696 was quite excellent, and as a continuation to that narrative, Songs Of The Dusk is bound to be similarly enjoyable. Insomnium are masters of balancing the serene with the heartwrenchingly gloomy, and a song like the title track only reinfroces that. Here, there's a slight lean into the folkier element, with keys playing a significant role in the tracklist's sense of ebb and flow. Songs Of The Dusk could easily have felt like a mere footnote to their Anno 1696 discography at large, but it stands on its own as an independent exemplar of the band's massive footprint.
Che - Crueger (October 31st, Independent) Find it here!
Che blends the maximalism of horrorcore and rage with the arguably more maximalist maximalism of Chicago drill, and if that doesn't sound appealing, there's nothing I can say that will convince you to give this a try. Built on the thick application of chaotic texture, and lounging uncomfortably between hazy distortion and glimmering shimmer, this is a project that pulls the listener in. If this is the next generation's iteration and interpolation of Chief Keef, I'm here to listen. Pretty damn impressive stuff for a 17 year old. I'm predicting that 2024 is gonna be a big year for this kid.
View From The Soyuz - Immaculate (February 10th, Dead Sky Recordings & DAZE) Find it here!
Shit, I wish all metalcore-adjacent bands went this blatantly hard. Immaculate is muscular yet agile and athletic. Kinetic and high-octane while maintaining a swole burliness. The hooks are meaty, and the application of bouncy breakdowns amidst the more melodeath moments results in songwriting that feels consistently engaging. This is perfect gym music, providing constant oomph without ever feeling knuckleheaded for the sake of sheer aggression. Don't let the 'core tag scare you away, this EP certifiably rips.
Summer Walker - Clear 2: Soft Life EP (May 19th, LVRN & Interscope Records) Find it here!
Summer Walker's emotive and sublime delivery is captivating. This EP, a continuation of the CLEAR series, is a potent illustration of her ability to issue self-confidence while basking alongside languid instrumentation. Her delivery is poignant and silky-smooth and notably laid back, giving the illusion of an ease and relaxation that borders on nonchalance. And while the focus is undeniably on Summer, at this point in time a J. Cole feature is a guaranteed 5-star experience--let there be no question regarding whether or not he delivers here. The intimate Childish Gambino feature is quite nice as well. As a whole, this EP is vocally stunning.
Dope Skum - Gutter South (April 21st, Independent) Find it here!
Any readers with an Immaculate memory may recall my fondness for Chattanooga's Dope Skum--I've reviewed both their debut EP and a single (the swampy "Folk Magic") from this here EP. As ye might intuit from their moniker, this is a bluesy and hazy and musty affair. While sitting comfortably in the rough-edged stoner metal space where fuzz and familiarity are king, Dope Skum shake it up here with a few less expected inclusions. Take the acoustic bluegrass sermon/interlude and the punkier than normal bombast on closer "The Cycle" as examples of their willingness to shake it up and keep things fresh. I'm really looking forward to a full-length.
ANTI RITUAL - Green Terrorism (May 5th, Indisciplinarian) Find it here!
ANTI RITUAL is a band that lives and dies by exceptionally violent brevity. To quote my review written upon the release of Green Terrorism: "If you like harsh music that drives home its point in gloriously bloody fashion while hastily leaves the scene of the crime, ANTI RITUAL have ye covered. Blistering violence is the name of the game, and Green Terrorism is urgent and relentless and pugilistic to a fine-tuned degree." Good shit, methinks.
Lunar Chamber - Shambhallic Vibrations (April 28th, 20 Buck Spin) Find it here!
I mean, what can I realistically say about Lunar Chamber's lush and vibrant Shambhallic Vibrations that hasn't already been said? This gorgeous EP is brutal and beautiful in near-equal measure. The musicianship is exciting and innovative. The riffs are pummeling yet expansive and progressively leaning, seeming to float rather than stomp. It is over far too quickly, which, given my famously awful attention span, says quite a bit in terms of engaging composition. Bottom line, this EP is everything I want from death metal. Another feather in 20 Buck Spin's already well-befeathered cap, and another top-tier entry in a year of exemplary death metal.
Iōhannēs - Vindicta Hominis (August 25th, Syrup Moose Records) Find it here!
If you've made it this far into the list, you may notice that my interests seldom veer towards black metal. This stellar EP is one of the year's exceptions--since release back in August, I have revisited these five tracks quite a few times, and find myself enjoying the project even more as time goes on. Vindicta Hominis features a strong narrative revenge-tale undercurrent running throughout, and the music itself manages a great deal of emotion, feeling deeply somber at times and strangely uplifting at others, despite a prerequisite blackened bite and menace. This is a very well-crafted EP, and my favorite release to date among Iōhannēs' stacked catalog.
Hyperdontia - Deranged (March 15th, Dark Descent Records/Me Saco Un Ojo/Desiccated Productions) Find it here!
Hyperdontia is wonderfully reliable when it comes to making death metal that goes hard as absolute fuck, and this EP is no exception. Savage and groovy riffage aside, the vocals are notably tough, and the bass deliciously muscular. The true definition of all killer and no filler, these four tracks demonstrate some of the best that old school brutal death metal has to offer in the modern era. An excellent appetizer before their inevitable banger of a full-length follow-up to Hideous Entity.
Conway the Machine / Jae Skeese - Pain Provided Profit (March 10th, Drum Work Music Group) Find it here!
Conway has dropped a frankly remarkable number of projects this year, and this split project with Jae Skeese has remained highly enjoyable all year long. Both Conway and Jae ride these beats with a cool and collected confidence, never feeling overbearing but also managing to assert a level of unhurried and unworried dominance. The beats are full and subtly complex, similarly confident yet nonchalant. The combined force of talent is admirable. While I know that this EP functionally served as a precursor to their respective solo projects, but I'd love a second volume from this dangerous duo.
Sublation - On The Advancement Of Decay (December 8th, Independent)Find it here!
If you A. are the type to make year end lists, and B. have made the critical error of locking everything in before giving On The Advancement Of Decay a listen, it brings me great pleasure to say that you probably fucked up. This brilliant EP sonically (d)evolves in real time, mutating from techdeath to atmospheric black metal over the course of the project, thereby allowing the listener to quite literally bear witness to the advancement of decay. Clever concept aside, these tracks all stand alone on their own merits--strong songwriting has not been sacrificed. A full review will be published after the completion of this list, so for the time being I'll keep it brief: I applaud Sublation for trying something innovative, and I applaud them for absolutely nailing the execution.
And that concludes this year's EP roundup! Thanks so much for hanging around. I hope you found something new.
To the artists: thank you for the music! To the readers: thank you for reading! If anything here strikes your fancy, please consider purchasing!
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that wakes us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry.