Best of 2023: Rob Jensen

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1. Lacey Sturm – Kenotic Metanoia: This November Lacey Sturm released her first album in nearly 8 years. To say it was worth the wait is an understatement. If it’s going to take 8 years to release a new album, this is the caliber release you want to shoot for. Lacey sounds as good as ever and has dropped an exceptional album here. It easily outshines her previous release, Life Screams, and is, in my opinion, her best work to date, including her material with Flyleaf. This is an album not to be missed and is more than deserving of the top spot for 2023.

 

2. Blink 182 – One More Time: Although Lacey Sturm’s new album took the top spot on my list, it was a tough decision as to whether it would be Lacey or Blink. The new Blink album (their first since the return of Tom Delonge) was excellent. One More Time seems to take all of the sounds Blink has had over the years and combines them perfectly. Regardless of which Era of Blink is your favorite, there’s something here for everyone and this release everything I’d hoped it would be.

 

3. Foo Fighters – But Here We Are: The new Foo Fighters album is the first since the untimely passing of drummer Taylor Hawkins. Dave Grohl did the drums on this one and the album is just classic Foo. But Here We Are is very well written and the lyrics are often heartwrenching as a strong portion are written regarding the loss the band is dealing with. The new Foo is bittersweet in this regard, but is an extremely solid release that sits very well with the best of the bands library.

 

4. Holyname – Holyname: Tommy Green of Sleeping Giant dropped a heavy worship album under the moniker “Holyname” earlier this year. The self-titled album is a perfect example of how worship transcends musical preference as it is seldom found in this genre, yet is so clearly present here. The release boasts guest appearances by other vocalists such as Ryan Clark of Demon Hunter, Brian “Head” Welch of Love and Death, Brook Reeves of Impending Doom, and more. Holyname is an outstanding release and I can’t wait to hear more in the future.

 

5. Clint Lowery – Ghostwriter: Clint is perhaps my favorite musician overall. He writes the most captivating music filled with unique and beatiful chord progressions and perfectly complimentary vocal melodies. His newest release, Ghostwriter, is no exception and he only builds on an already impressive library.

 

6. Sevendust – Truth Killer: Sevendust is easily on the short list of my favorite bands overall. Their newest release, Truth Killer, shows that this band still has it and shows no signs of slowing down. Their signature brand of hard rock, infused with heavy, hard rock riffs mixed with infectious melodies made this one a must on this list.

 

7. NF – Hope: I don’t listen to much hip hop, but NF is one artist in the genre I just love. His skill on the mic, hard hitting, real lyrics, and killer beats will always keep me coming back. Hope is a great release and continues to show just how talented of a guy he is. He continues to build on his previous work while not being afraid to branch out and add some new elements to his music. Regardless of your preferred genres, I feel like everyone would enjoy what NF has to offer.

 

8. Girlfriends – Over My Dead Body: Girlfriends is a band I feel hasn’t gotten nearly the recognition they deserve. With two full lengths under their belts already, this ep continues pretty much in the same vein of pop punk they’ve been doing all along (and they do it really well!). If you’ve never given these guys a listen before, now is great time to start.

 

9. Magdalene Rose – The Prelude: Since the disbanding of GFM there was an eager anticipation of a release from Magdalene Rose. As expected, her sound has changed a little, but in a very welcome way…it’s even heavier. Having been a fan of GFM since Identity Crisis, it’s been really something to see the growth and progression of their sound, but I have to say, on Maggie’s release her screams have hit a completely new level. The music is notably heavier, her screams are better than ever, and the ep boasts a guest spot from Underoath’s own Spencer Chamberlain. Dare to compare Maggie’s and Spencer’s screams on “Bad Residential”. Pretty crazy! If you’ve been a fan of her work in the past, I can guarantee you’re going to LOVE this.

 

10. Corey Taylor – CMF2: The frontman from Slipknot released his sophomore solo album, CMF2, earlier this year. His first solo release, CMFT, was good, but not really what many were hoping for. More on the acoustic, mellow side of things, it disappointed those hoping for a heavier release. And where it DID go a little heavy, it was more of a joke than anything else. Not the case on CMF2. The new album from Corey Taylor fixed all that and beautifully meshes together the heavier sound we’ve come to know and love from Corey with a great melodic sound. For fans of his work in Slipknot and Stone Sour, I think there’s a lot to love here.

 

11. Wolves At The Gate – Lost I’m Translation: Earlier this year Wolves At The Gate dropped an album full of covers. Admittedly, I don’t know all of them, but I was familiar with maybe a little over half of them and they did a really great job putting their flavor on them. Definitely a fun listen.

 

12. Spiritwalker – Heretic: Spiritwalker just seemed to pop up on my radar out of nowhere this year. The release is the effort of Brandon Marlowe who really knocked this out of the park. The album often reminds me of bands such as Underoath, Confide, Wage War, and others like that. An especially impressive debut, I personally can’t wait to see what’s next.

 

 

13. Sam Hauge – Out Of Isolation: Another artist that seemed to pop up out of nowhere this year is Sam Hauge. His release, Out Of Isolation, checked every box for fans of pop punk and added a bit of aggression to it here and there. Many in the Christian punk scene raved over release and I’m sure, like me, they’re also eager to hear more.

 

14. RED – Rated R: The first release in 3 years, Rated R picks up right where the band left off on Declaration, brandishing their style of hard rock that fans of the band have come to know and love. While they doesn’t necessarily break any new ground, the band doesn’t really need to. When you do something and do it well, it’s often a good idea to keep going on that direction and this album is a strong testament to that.

 

15. World Gone Cold – World Gone Cold: In October of 2022 Rockfest Records announced supergroup, World Gone Cold. Boasting members from bands such as Demon Hunter, P.O.D., Disciple, The Letter Black, Attack Attack/Inhale Exhale, fans eagerly anticipated the release of the band’s first, self-titled ep. The album, a hard rock offering, dropped in March and was well received by listeners everywhere. It covers what you’re likely to think of when think “hard rock”, but also touches on some heavier elements from time to time as well. If you haven’t given it a listen yet, get to it!

 

16. War Of Ages – Dominion: Dominion by War of Ages is an album that doesn’t really deliver much in the way of surprises, but succinctly delivers the music that fans of that band have come to know and love over the years. Hard hitting riffs coupled with face melting solos, lyrics with real substance, soul shattering screams, and melodic singing make up the band’s 10th release, which is not to be missed.

 

17. Staind – Confessions of The Fallen: From their mainstream debut release, Dysfunction, I was hooked on Staind. Their heavy guitars, screams, and melodic vocals drew me in and made me a fan. 6 albums, a new drummer, and close to 10 year hiatus later, the band is back with a new release, Confessions Of The Fallen. The new album harkens back to the bands earlier days, bringing back the heavy, melodic sound that fans fell in love with almost 25 years ago. Staind’s Confessions Of The Fallen was an easy addition to make to this year-end list.

 

18. Rancid – Tomorrow Never Comes: I can truthfully say that when it comes to Rancid, there hasn’t been a single album that’s disappointed, and Tomorrow Never Comes is no exception. I think, at this point, it’s safe to call the band legendary (although they’d likely shun that moniker) and it’s amazing that they are still dropping albums with the aggression, intensity, and catching like we hear on this one. Punk rock owes these guys an insurmountable debt and Tomorrow Never Comes continues to show exactly why that is.

 

19. Crosses – Goodnight. God bless. I love you. Delete.: Chino Moreno may be best known for fronting the Deftones, but over the years he’s had a few other projects that have also garnered a lot of support and success and Crosses with Far guitarist Shaun Lopez is one of them. Vastly different in style from Deftones, this electronic/rock project is far more mellow and melodic, yet is very catchy. If you like some of the more ethereal sounding Deftones tracks, this could be a good fit for you as well.

 

20. Skillet – Dominion: Skillet has had some really great albums over the years, but they’ve also begun to implement more and more electronic elements, mellower tracks, and have really upped the production on a lot of what they do, and it hasn’t always paid off, especially among fans of some of their earlier material, like Alien Youth and Collide. Dominion has some ups and some downs, but overall merits mention. Every so often a song from the release will come on a shuffled playlist, and I’ll think, “Hey, this is pretty good!” and think to myself that maybe I need to revisit it.

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order)

Zahna – Stronger Than Death
Earth Groans – Tongue Tied
Project 86 – OMNI, Part 1
Disciple- Skeleton Psalms
Anberlin – Convinced
Impending Doom – Last Days

2024 Most Anticipated (in no particular order)

311
Amber Pacific
Clint Lowery
Green Day
Korn
No Lost Cause
P.O.D.
Project 86
Scott Stapp
Search the City
Spoken

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