I remember back at the end of 2022 wondering how the year had come and gone so quickly, never even imagining that 2023 would go by in the blink of an eye. 2023 has seen so much incredible music drop into the world, alongside some insane live shows that will never, ever be forgotten.
For those who know, I run The Soundcheck as a side hobby alongside my other work in the musical realms. As a result, my output on this site isn't as regular as I would like, but you can guarantee I've been writing about, interviewing and inhaling music across the board for the last 12 months. And to celebrate the year that was 2023, I'll be running a few round ups over the next week and a bit of some of my personal favourites from throughout the year.
For today's edition, it's The Soundcheck's Fave 10 x Singles of 2023. It was insanely difficult to limit it to just 10, with SO many amazing tunes out and about. But strap in and let's revisit some of this year's incredible tracks!
xx Tiana Speter
Sunk Loto - The Gallows Wait
It's one thing to release a delicious barrel of sonic fury and metal flavours with a new single; it's entirely another thing to have a song released that is your first new material in two decades that goes quite as hard as The Gallows Wait did this year from Aussie icons Sunk Loto.
The sheer reality of Sunk emerging bigger and better than ever with their 2023 single is nothing short of astonishing. From the jaw-dropping vocal acrobatics of frontman Jason Brown to the razor sharp rhythms, burly basslines and a menacing breakdown for good measure, The Gallows Wait is one of the most exciting singles to release in recent Aussie music memory, 2023 or not.
Featuring the band's new guitarist Ro Stevenson providing some maniacal, taut riffage, The Gallows Wait proves with zero doubt that Sunk Loto are ready to take on the world once more. Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but the time passed has only strengthened the superhuman Sunk Loto strength, and this track is a must-listen for old school nu metal fans, modern metalcore aficianados and/or anyone who just wants a gleaming snarl in their listening repertoire. Here's to big things in 2024, Sunk-style.
Picking a favourite RedHook song in 2023 is extremely difficult given that the band put out their criminally likeable debut album Postcard From A Living Hell earlier this year, with a bunch of those tracks all worthy of making this list. But it's the band's glossy latest standalone single Tourist that took out the spot, largely due to the fact that it hammers home the RedHook secret recipe: rock music fused with intimacy, and guided by the inescapably charismatic Emmy Mack.
Detailing a toxic relationship and ultimate break up, Tourist is a hard-hitting slice of alt rock while also balancing tight ambience alongside dark anthemic choruses. Less bombastic than some of the band's earlier releases, Tourist still feels simultaneously mature and sharp, with Mack flexing her dazzling vocals alongside pure catharsis.
It's been a huge year for RedHook, with the group not only releasing their long-awaited debut album, but also touring alongside The Smashing Pumpkins, performing their biggest Australian headline tour to date, including a Live At The Wireless set with triple j, heading overseas to bust out an unforgettable set at Download in the UK, and the group also came swinging in at #10 on the ARIA Album Charts with Postcard From A Living Hell.
Alpha Wolf - Bring Back The Noise
The second this track hit my inbox, the excitement was intense. Nu metal scratching? Hyper-metal mania that wouldn't pass a steroid test at the Olympics? Gutteral goodness? Say no more, shut up and take my money.
Earlier this year I was stoked to have Alpha Wolf join me for an interview as part of Knotfest TV, with Lochie and Sabian lifting the lid on the moment they were tapped to appear on the inaugural lineup curated by Slipknot themselves - and it's safe to say since then, the band have only continued to explode to insane new heights, and clearly will continue to do so.
An in-your-face anthem that doesn't drip with noxious ego, Bring Back The Noise resoundingly begs to be heard in a live setting, and is just the beginning of some ridiculously exciting times ahead for the band. As the song itself says: "Bring back the noise, I wanna hear your neck break". Nuff said.
Empire State Bastard - Stutter
Was having members of Biffy Clyro teaming up with Dave Lombardo to make a sweltering metal album on your 2023 bingo card? If so, hand me all of your clairvoyance, but more importantly, can we all just soak in the might that is Empire State Bastard for a moment here?
Comprising Biffy's vocalist Simon Neil, Biffy live guitarist and Oceansize's very own Mike Vennart, the formidable stylings of Lombardo on the kit and bassist Naomi Macleod, Empire State Bastard set heavy tongues wagging this year courtesy of their debut album Rivers of Heresy - and a personal standout from that ballistic full length is none other than the single Stutter.
A twisted banger that kicks off with rollicking drums, Stutter flourishes with Neil's caustic vocals alongside truly blistering instrumentals, with black metal energy underpinning the pure sonic nihilism above. When a band is described as being "like you've been in a cage fight with Mike Tyrson" or amalgamating Slayer, Mike Patton and Siege, you'd better believe it's bound to be a good time. If you're a heavy fan and you slept on this release this year, rectify your error immediately and thank me later.
Thornhill - Viper Room
Another track that made me pause the world and focus only on the delights within came courtesty of Viper Room from Thornhill. A track that answers the question "what would it sound like if Queens of the Stone Age went clubbing with Muse?", Viper Room is devastatingly slick, infectious and beautifully crafted.
Upping the theatrical ante that the Melbourne group have been curating for years, Viper Room very clearly signposts the end of their Heroine era, taking a sultry and quixotic sonic turn that can't help but charm you (and incidentally get every one of your toes tapping).
Vocalist Jacob Charlton delivers a stadium-ready outing with the latest track, while the entire band gels cohesively around their new sonic pathway. As to where the quartet head to next, the future is anyone's guess. But for a band who relentlessly seek creative evolution and aesthetic direction, the safe bet is that we're in for some wild and wonderful new territory beyond Viper Room. For those of you out there who are consistently "horny for Thorny", this track will get your motors running.
Svalbard - Faking It
Dropping their brand new album The Weight Of The Mask earlier this year, British post-hardcore heroes Svalbard snagged global acclaim for their cohesion and meaningful subject matter, alongside the band's ferociously sharp execution. And with so many gems lying in wait on the album, it's genuinely difficult to pinpoint a standout from the nine tracks; but the pounding beauty of Faking It definitely leaps forward, purely for the way it unforgettably opens the broader album.
A track that details depression, social obligation and the mask worn by many suffering with their mental health, Faking It is thematically as powerful as the band's booming delivery, fusing a raw intensity with chaos, beauty and searingly powerful lyrics.
Lush and vulnerable, flexing post metal hues and the interwoven magnetic vocals of Serena Cherry and Liam Phelan, Faking It is not just an oscillating feat of heavy perfection; it also may be one of the most resonant takes on the realities of mental health that has graced the world in a very long time.
Spiritbox - Cellar Door
Instantly snagging my nostalgia with a Donnie Darko nod in its title, Cellar Door from Spiritbox also swung in marking one of the band's heaviest sonic adventures since their breakout single Holy Roller.
Another band to dazzle at Australia's first ever Knotfest earlier this year, Spiritbox simply can't miss. Dropping a brand new EP, The Fear Of Fear, last month, the group embrace plenty of dank and blistering flavours on Cellar Door, with dissonance truly the flavour of the day along with angular guitars, menacing synths and vocal savagery that all build into a polyrhythm breakdown worthy of annihilating mosh pits.
Acting as the opening track for the band's new EP, Cellar Door also stands out for its muddy and haunting outro that acts as a seamless segue into the next track on the EP: Jaded. A bona fide rager from the Canadian heavies, Cellar Door is the sonic smack in the face we all can get on board with, and a timely reminder of just how heavy Spiritbox can truly get.
Nothing But Thieves - Welcome To The DCC
If you can listen to Welcome To The DCC by Nothing But Thieves and not immediately want to storm onto a dancefloor, I won't call you a liar outright - but I will be dubious. A band who themselves stormed onto my radar via their self-titled 2015 album, Nothing But Thieves have exploded from tearing up intimate rooms to playing arenas across the globe - and their 2023 album Dead Club City shone with their lead single Welcome To The DCC, showering us all with 80s dance vibes and criminal levels of charisma.
Punchy, powerful and proving that the British five-piece can turn any genre that they touch into gold, Welcome To The DCC bursts with synths, funk swagger and bold modern flair alongside the group's trademark musical magic. Also boasting one of frontman Conor Mason's most potent vocal outings to date, it's little wonder that this track brought the house down on multiple occasions while the band were in Australia earlier this year.
Priming audiences for their concept-driven new album, Welcome To The DCC originally started life in a very different form, with guitarist Dom Craik revealing to The Soundcheck earlier this year while the band were down under that the original guitar riff evolved following creative feedback from Mason. With the end result being such a banger, it's proof that a band who can evolve together can truly weave something special - and this track is no exception.
Clowns - FORMALDEHYDE
I've had a soft spot for Clowns ever since I spied then live at 2018's Dead of Winter Festival in Brisbane, and when their single FORMALDEHYDE dropped, marking their first new music since 2021 - well, it's safe to say it was well received.
Unsurprisingly, the siren lure of high octane riffs, throwback thrash nods and unadulterated raw enegy was all it took to hook me into this brand new Clowns chapter, and the track ultimately led to the release of their brand new album Endless which dropped back in October. When reviewing the album for Hysteria Magazine, I summed the album up as "a never-ending sonic gobstopper of adrenaline-fuelled perfection" - and this single is definitely exhibit A of exactly what I'm on about.
It's endlessly exciting to see a band who can serve up enjoyable anarchy with an edge, and Clowns are a band who eternally play to the beat of their own drum without ever sacrificing their core, raw selves. If you like hardcore punk mixed up in a metal blender, stop what you're doing right now and immerse yourself in FORMALDEHYDE below.
Poppy - Spit
Lastly for today's list, it's a cover of the 1999 single Spit from nu-industrial chameleon Poppy that dropped earier this year. Originally performed by Canadian heavies Kittie, the explosive 2023 version amps up the ferocity of the original and ignites into a hyper-electronic nightmare.
With Poppy's insatiably maximalist style, Spit takes on a ballistic new form while also showcasing her increasingly sharpened metal claws. And with the original thematic essence retained, a scathing take down of the misogynistic local bands and punters that Kittie themselves faced as an all-female band, Poppy's version of Spit is equally energetic and enigmatic, while also bridging the gap between the burgeoning artist's I Disagree and Zig eras.
Describing her releases as "music that makes you want to rule the world", Spit embraces beautiful carnage and staggering intensity. It may not have the same reverence as the iconic "let's go girls" that kickstarts Shania Twain's Man! I Feel Like A Woman!, but the level of empowerment and agency gurgling throughout Spit is inescapable and will resonate with anyone who has had to prove themselves time and time again as a female or any outlier in the music industry.
BY TIANA SPETER