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The Top 30 Album Covers of 2023

Another year, another continuation of the upwards trajectory being seen in music visuals.

top album covers of 2023, best album covers 2023.
Artwork by Visual Amnesia

Words by Luis (@HeaviestOfArt):


We've now hit that crucial time of year where the madness of a list compiled throughout the year must be refined, refined into a collective reflective of the very best that the musical arts have had to offer. Like any other year since our inception, we've come across a goldmine of efforts both profound and intriguing enough to catch a second or third glance from wandering eyes at the record store (or digital shelves). These are covers crafted with intention, with emotion, and with a heart not found through a usual business transaction that can be the commission process. These covers are the byproduct of an artist invested at best interpreting the lyricism and thought placed within their musical purpose. Endless conversations between their creators, sketch exchanges, revisions, mood board sharing, and tears shed led to works of art that exist and engage beyond the means in which they're consumed. The result is one comprehensive list narrowed down into a showcase of varying schools of thought, artistic practices, and genres.


Here are Heaviest of Art's Top 30 Album Covers of 2023:

 

30. Arrival of Autumn — Kingdom Undone (Artwork by Travis Smith)


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29. Frozen Soul — Glacial Domination (Artwork by James Bousema)


Frozen Soul's ice-laden pantheon grew to a new level via the lens of the always consistent James Bousema who brought to life a deadly fortress amidst a snowy landscape. Impaled corpses, blood dripping from the eyes of the personified cave entrance, and a thunderous storm looming over the scene are but a few of the many details present on the old school death metal standout, furthering the band's visual identity in blood-curling ways.

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28. Osiah — Kairos (Artwork by Shindy Design)


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27. Cunabula — The Weight of Sleep (Artwork by Nojus Petrauskas)


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26. Ahab — The Coral Tombs (Artwork by Sebastian Jerke)


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25. Arkona — Kob (Artwork by Rotten Fantom)


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24. Suicide Silence — Remember…You Must Die (Artwork by David Gough)


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23. Sunami — SUNAMI LP (Artwork by Kyrylo Lesnoy)


Ukrainian artist Kyrylo Lesnoy pulled no punches for Sunami's latest with a "give no fucks" illustration embodying the raw and uncompromising nature of the album it represents. Lesnoy's signature black and white artistry adds great flare to a confrontrational piece, standing at the forefront of this year's top hardcore releases and album covers in general.

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22. Austere — Corrosion of Hearts (Artwork by Vhan Artworks)


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21. Blackbraid — Blackbraid II (Artwork by Adrian Baxter)


Riddled with symmetrical precision and visual symbolism drawing from the black metal mastermind's lyricism, Blackbraid is an insightful picture painted with words. A green flame burns between two elk skulls amidst foliage and above a crescent moon, drawing intrigue through waypoints that narrate a strong byproduct between Adrian Baxter and Blackbraid.

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20. In Flames — Foregone (Artwork by Blake Armstrong)


Jesterhead lives again in the latest from In Flames, only this time, he towers over poor souls trapped as cyclical cogs in the machine while the sands of time wind down. Artist Blake Armstrong and frontman Anders Fridén expanded upon the partnership in our Behind the Cover series earlier this year, and further solidified why In Flames are among the best at delivering big in death metal audiovisuals.

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19. Necrofier — Burning Shadows in the Southern Night (Artwork by Burney)


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18. Midnight Odyssey — Biolume: Part 3 (Artwork by Elijah Tamu)


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17. Empire State Bastard — Rivers of Heresy (Artwork by Daniel P. Carter)


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16. The Abbey — Word of Sin (Artwork by Alex Reisfar)


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15. Memoriam — Rise To Power (Artwork by Dan Seagrave)


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14. Woe — Legacies of Frailty (Artwork by Stefan Todorovic/Khaos Diktator Design)


Stefan Todorovic, or more known under his Khaos Diktator Design moniker, is not a new face among these parts and with covers as heart wrenching as Legacies of Frailty, it's clear as to why the artist is sought after by many bands across the spectrum. Families are seen evacuating a town burning down in the background with children in their arms, being forced to immigrate elsewhere and leave behind a life accustomed to them. There are many parallels to draw here, many examples to relate to, and much to feel in this harrowing body of work.

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13. Decipher — Arcane Paths To Resurrection (Artwork by Artem Grigoryev)


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12. Smoulder — Violent Creed of Vengeance (Artwork by Michael Whelan)


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11. Wormhole — Almost Human (Artwork by Adam Burke)


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10. Harm’s Way — Common Suffering (Artwork by Corran Brownlee)


Is it a brain with raining men or a mushroom cloud? Whatever it is to you, it's a staggering feat that exists synchronously with this expansive new Harm's Way album despite being created for a distinct purpose. It's a call to arms that highlights the moving universality of the culminating release in ways that binds the struggles of a human experience. Licensing artworks and building a visual identity around them is not a common occurence, but it's a special one that speaks highly of the investment placed by a band looking to engage beyond a surface level. Common Suffering is just that — a staggering audiovisual that stands tall among the best records and best covers in a year full of strong choices. To learn more, visit our Behind the Cover column and gain insight from the band's own Chris Mills and Corran Brownlee.

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9. Darkthrone — Goatlord: Original (Artwork by Zbigniew M. Bielak)


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8. Entheos — Time Will Take Us All (Artwork by Eliran Kantor)


Time Will Take Us All traverses a tale of reflection and introspection through the confounding artistry of Eliran Kantor. The cover's surrealism is intentionally wide ranging and ambiguous with its prog, film, and Twin Peaks inspirations, allowing much in the realm of interpretation. A Behind the Cover column on the record expands upon the emotions and wonder to be found throughout its vivid atmosphere.

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7. Ulthar — Anthronomicon & Helionomicon (Artwork by Ian Miller)


With Ulthar spreading their cosmic death metal throughout two albums, Ian Miller had to meet the visual with a set of covers so insane in their intricacies. Miller's Lovecraftian mastery is evident in his creature selection and exquisite use of purple and grey tones throughout the sprawling scene — a fitting visual for the sountrack it illustrates. One could get lost in the tantalizing beauty, or horror, of it all and want to do it all over again while the band's flavorful aggression rips and roars in the background.


6. Tomb Mold — The Enduring Spirit (Artwork by Jesse Jacobi)


Tomb Mold and Jesse Jacobi is among the best ongoing partnerships in contemporary death metal. As back to back covers have shown, Jacobi and the band are strongly like-minded and know how to craft a compelling audiovisual influenced by a wealth of source material. Highlighted by our Behind the Cover column, The Enduring Spirit is a wondrous endeavor that came together at the last minute with no extensive timeline or wiggle room to count on and yet, it's arguably the band's greatest cover (yet). A stellar use of color accentuates the narrative that spreads across the wide gatefold illustration best experienced in its vinyl format. Like the music, Jacobi's cover makes great use of every inch of space afforded to him, resulting in one immersive experience unlike no other.

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5. END — The Sin of Human Frailty (Artwork by Alex Eckman-Lawn)


Just like its predecessor, The Sin of Human Frailty is a must-own record on vinyl for it stands as one of the best physical music packages out there at the moment. It's multi-layered defined with scene after scene within our protagonist's physical and emotional being being unpacked with a flip of the page and die cut layout. Simply put, it's what makes the mixed media art of Eckman-Lawn so special. Sticking to streaming is doing yourself a disservice to the ripping beast that END and Eckman-Lawn have conjured here.

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4. Dying Wish — Symptoms of Survival (Artwork by Paul Romano)


The sequential cycle of pain that is embodied within this harrowing piece of introspection and triumph is gorgeously done by a Paul Romano known to intentionally design for a physical experience. We explored it at lengths through our Behind the Cover column throughout the album's release cycle, and still the detail and storytelling qualities amaze us. It turns pain into power and blooms with an invigorating end representing a victory over personal demons. The cover is only the start and we invite you to take a plunge into this standout hardcore experience.

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3. Varathron — The Crimson Temple (Artwork by Paolo Girardi)


Much like Paul Romano's legendary work for Mastodon's Hushed & Grim (2021), Paolo Girardi crafts worlds within worlds on this truly astounding work of art that collages a variety of paintings built from the thematic elements of each song. Ten additional paintings, of which can be referenced in the front cover, were created for this hellenic black metal effort that complete a comprehensive audiovisual experience in a league of its own. We didn't need The Crimpson Temple to categorize Girardi among the best contemporary metal illustrators, but this further cements that claim.

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2. Dirty Black Summer — Gospel Of Your Sins (Artwork by Marald van Haasteren)


We know what you're thinking, "Where's Kvelertak? Where's 'Endling'? Though it's a magnificent cover in its own right, Gospel Of Your Sins showcases a different side to Marald's otherwise expansive talents. Every inch of this meticulously detailed effort is chock full of symbols, historical references and influence, emotion, and of course, a physical investment reflected in each person's facial expressions and body complexions. There exists a central figure with Biblical nods tying it all together, but it's easy to get lost in the sprawling beauty of it all. This is museum-grade. This is a testament to the power that exists within the art of music.

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  1. Bell Witch — Future's Shadow: The Clandestine Gate (Artwork by Jordi Diaz Alamà)


Apocalyptic yet optimistic, the introduction to the triptych of Future's Shadow is a grandiose entry into the Bell Witch pantheon that immerses glancing eyes entirely. With every passing visit, new details emerge amidst the lightning strikes, snowy mountaintops, and war-torn villages of this magnum opus in album artwork. Bell Witch already hold one of the most memorable album covers in contemporary metal via 2017's Mirror Reaper, and Future's Shadow continue that reign with the profound and vastly layered Future's Shadow.

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Congratulations to all for the magnificent works that introduced us to worlds beyond that of the music embodied within. Lose yourself to the arts, purchase and stream the records, and check out the artists responsible for the selections for their portfolios are as grand as the works shown here.


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