TOP 10 2023 / Gus Version

Written by on 2024-02-15

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The 10 best albums of 2023, according to Gus.

Here, at Real Rebel Radio, we only have one guiding principle: we only talk about the music we enjoy. For a long time, I asked myself why we have this policy, especially when I see how successful the ‘worst of’ lists are every single year. Why not do both? And I found a two-part answer: on one hand I don’t want to waste time with what I don’t like and, on the other hand, we receive enough records to ensure that I only need to push out the best of the best.

And since it took me way too long to do this ranking, given the high quality of records in 2023, I am incredibly late. So here is my top 10 records of 2023, without cheating, for once.




NEUROMANCER - Hardwired (album cover)

I love synthwave, primarily because this genre has a very ‘movie soundtrack’ feel to it. As soon as I got my ears on ‘Hardwired’, first record of Slovenian duo NEUROMANCER, I found myself in a dystopian neo-noir world with bright red neon lighting, driving on an endless highway. I imagined a whole lot of stories with dirty cops, corrupt corporations, car chases, cyberware trafficking… And it was pretty cool.

Especially because of the writing, which despite being a bit conventional for the style, manages to bring some interesting ideas and make them work (the theme for ‘Out Of The Dartk’, the earwormy rhythmic section of ‘The Howling’…). Thanks to great production and mixing, it is fairly easy to distinguish and separate the bass and rhythm sections on one hand from the melodies on the other. This leads to both parts sounding like they talk to each other back and forth, as if the two voices of the musicians were dialoguing through their respective parts.

An excellent first record, which, despite being only 35 minutes long, calls for replays every single time thanks to cold, groovy retro synths that will stay in your ears for weeks.

Favorite tracks: ‘The Howling’, ‘Mainframe Terror’, ‘Out Of The Dark’


"The Above"

CODE ORANGE - The Above (album cover)

Let’s be frank: the record will split the fanbase and I am fairly certain that CODE ORANGE does not give a fuck about it. You’ll either love it, or hate it and I have picked my side. Lead singer Jamie Morgan had declared his intention to do ‘something different’. And boy did he deliver. Through experimentation and pushing their musical boundaries, CODE ORANGE offers a musical trip that will leave the least courageous sidelined.

If the singles sound more ‘accessible’ it is only so you can be crushed by how heavy the other tracks are (‘The Mask Of Sanity’, ‘A Drone Opting Out Of The Hive’). It is the kind of record you can only enjoy after several spins, because its sharp turns and density make the whole experience difficult, yet enjoyable in the long run. As they continue to push their musical boundaries, to ensure they never repeat themselves, they keep devouring influences (NINE INCH NAILS, A PERFECT CIRCLE, SMASHING PUMPKINS…).

By doing so, CODE ORANGE maintain its status as one of the most interesting bands out there and I am already excited to see how these insane minds will evolve next!

Favorite Tracks: ‘Splinter The Soul’, ‘Snapshot’, ‘The Mask Of Sanity Slips’, ‘Mirror’

8 / S.U.P.


SUP - Octa (album cover)

Reviewing a record that mixes death, industrial, new wave and cold wave, while having the luxury of being a pretty fascinating science fiction concept album is already tough. However, when done by a band like S.U.P., which you love if you like things done right, it gets even trickier.

Because since I am a fan of theirs, it all just make sense. The malevolent coldness, the heavy and cutting rhythms, the sharp guitars, the mix between clean singing and growls, a signature of Ludovic Loez, the high level of writing and production… It is all part of the deal. Nevertheless, I must admit I was not expecting the earwormy melodies that will latch onto your reptile brain just like the machine describe in the concept (‘Not Icarus’, ‘Open Eyes’). Despite longer tracks, SUP never loses the plot and keeps using smart variations regularly in a way that locks in the listener without ever being boring (‘Pseudoposic Phantasm’, ‘The Light Of Eden’).

Forty-eight minutes that fly by and an eighth album, which reinforces the cult status of a band whose regularity and consistency commands respect.

Favorite Tracks: ‘Not Icarus’, ‘Hebdomath’, ‘Queen Quintessence’



ECLIPSE - Megalomanium (album cover)

So that noise you are hearing right now is just Shyanna laughing. At this stage, you should already know: ECLIPSE remains the best ’80s hard rock band out there. I do not know what more to say.

If you don’t clap your hands and tap your feet at the first notes of ‘The Hardest Part Is Losing You’ or if you don’t sing all the choruses at the top of your lungs on the first spin, you’re just dead inside. It’s deliciously retro (almost too much at some points, I see you ‘Anthem’) without being dated, modern without being flat, melodic without being cheesy… It’s a perfect demonstration of balance. The stellar production and mixing turn every single track into a stadium anthem (‘I Don’t Get It’ and its killer backing vocals). Four musicians who complement each other perfectly and manage to never repeat themselves while remaining consistent and always delivering.

ECLIPSE is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the best arena rock band of the past twenty years and it looks like they’re not about to stop. And you better believe I will answer each of their calls.

Favorite Tracks: ‘Hearts Collide’, ‘Children Of The Night’, ‘I Don’t Get It’


"The Noble Art Of Self-Destruction"

HOLDING ABSENCE - The Noble Art Of Self Destruction (album cover)

Damn, I didn’t see that one coming. While I appreciated the previous productions of HOLDING ABSENCE, I was surprised to see them reach that level on their third album, and in a very good way.

The lyrics are on point, incredibly relevant, self-aware and melancholic. The reference to the Japanese art of kintsugi, a way to repair broken ceramic and pottery using gold dust as a way to sublimate the imperfections, is not here to just sound cool, it is the actual theme of the record: how can we turn our imperfections and aches in art pieces? With the magnificent vocal parts of Lucas Woodland, it all has majestic and magnificent feels to it. The breaks, the choruses, the way th songs slowly rise… Everything is mastered and executed to perfection. Each band member shines through the album. The guitars are simple and bright, the bass just purrs for fifty minutes and I could listen to the isolated drum tracks with the same pleasure (Ashley Green is truly amazing).

Out of the entire post-hardcore scene that exploded over the last few years, HOLDING ABSENCE is the most promising band and stays head and shoulders above its competition. I cannot wait for what is coming next.

Favorite Tracks: ‘False Dawn’, ‘The Anger In The Marble’, ‘These New Dreams’


"Blood And Glitter"

LORD OF THE LOST - Blood And Glitter (album cover)

I know it technically came out in 2022, but since it was on December 30, it counts for 2023. Moreover, it would be a shame to miss that record due to its overall quality. Anything that mixes industrial metal, goth and glam rock in a successful fashion will speak to me and even after a year, I still feel the same enjoyment every time I listen to it.

I mean, when it comes to production, mixing and sound, LORD OF THE LOST has nothing more to prove and this record is proof of it. By making it sound so huge yet so clear from beginning to end, they make each influence stand out (I was not expecting ROXETTE as the main one though) as well as each melody rise above pounding drums. The obvious goal here was to have a party and they clearly succeeded. One hit comes after another, the goth make-up is replaced with aggressively red lipstick, the ’70s style tight leather clothes come out and we’re ready for the party. The little keyboard gimmicks will make you smile, you will shake your body and sing-along the infectious choruses that will make you want to equally share a festive moment as well as break everything around you.

A truly great record from the Germans, who suprises a bit at first but stays in your ears and will warm your little goth heart.

Favorite Tracks: ‘No Respect For Disrespect’, ‘Save Our Souls’, ‘Leaving Planet Earth’


"Take Me Back To Eden"

SLEEP TOKEN - Take Me Back To Eden (album cover)

So, like every single person with functioning ears, I am forced to put SLEEP TOKEN as one of my top records this year.

Listening to their third record is like climbing an emotional mountain. And just like all the high peaks, it is without mercy. You will yell, scream (‘Vore’), cry (‘Ascensionism’, ‘Euclid’), smile (‘Are You Really Ok’), go through every emotion on the human spectre, mostly due to the incredible voice of Vessel who just outshined most of the competition in one fell swoop. Sixty-three huge minutes, where styles get mixed with virtuosity and where the band walks on the frontiers of being all over the place without ever crossing them. I mean, do you know many bands of would dare to put an electro-pop song like ‘DYWTYLM’ alongside the doomy ‘The Summoning’ on the same album while making it overall coherent? Cause I don’t.

After a while, you just let the unpredictability carry you and learn to expect nothing but the next killer track. SLEEP TOKEN keeps going on its way as one of the most intriguing formation out there and given the level of talent, it is not going to stop any time soon.

Favorite Tracks: ‘Chokehold’, ‘Take Me Back To Eden’, ‘Ascensionism’


"Electric Sounds"

DANKO JONES - Electric Sounds (album cover)

A new DANKO JONES album, at this point, feels like a John Wick movie. You know more or less what you’re going to get: heavy guitars, thumping bass, pounding drums, short efficient catchy sons and Danko’s voice, with its particular tone that rounds it all up.

And what a surprise, that is exactly what we get here: this mix of hard rock with punk elements. Who could have predicted it… All jokes aside, this eleventh record is the confirmation that the Canadians have mastered their style and remain committed to delivering fun (‘Get High’, ‘She’s My Baby’) slightly saucy (‘Stiff Competition’, ‘Let’s Make Out’) music while staying ready to just bring the house down (‘Good Times’, ‘Shake Your City’). Short enough to leave us wanting more, long enough to not be frustrating and mixed to absolute precision, ‘Electric Sound’ is the work of a band who absolutely knows what it is and what role it has to play in rock’n’roll.

At this stage, you’re either on board or you just hate fun. You pick a side, because I already did.

Favorite Tracks: ‘What Goes Around’, ‘Shake Your City’, ‘Good Time’

2 / THE HIVES - "The Death Of Randy Fitzsimmons"

THE HIVES - The Death Of Randy Fitzsimmons (album cover)

Pelle Almqvist, lead singer of the legendary quintet said: “We left the throne for a decade, no one sat on it, and so here we are again.” And there is nothing more to add.

I mean, as soon as you learn that they found all the demo tapes and music sheets in the bodiless coffin of Randy Fitsimmons (the true mastermind of the band) then it becomes clear. THE HIVES sounds like THE HIVES because of their approach to 60s garage rock: one frontman taking the spotlight while supported by a formation as precise as a Swiss watch. Everything is tight, each track has the perfect length, every instrument is in place and shines when needed: the bass on ‘Countdown To Shutdown’, the drums on ‘Rigor Mortis Radio’, the guitars on ‘Bogus Operandi’…

And this is where producer Patrik Berger needs to be praised, while he is better known for his pop work, he manages to keep the traditional sound of the THE HIVES while modernizing it and changing it just enough so that it fits that new chapter of their story.

In the end, Howlin Pelle still said it best: “We’re sharks. […] You have no need for development if you’re a shark. You don’t evolve since nothing kills you.” The Randy is dead long live THE HIVES.

Favorite Tracks: ‘Countdown to Shutdown’, ‘What Did I Ever Do To You’, ‘The Bomb’, ‘Smoke & Mirrors’

N° 1


"Take Back THe Night"

STARBENDERS - Take Back The Night (album cover)

Being able to witness the whole evolution of a band, from its birth to its prime, is a rare experience and you must have a lot of luck to experience it. Because watching a band evolve is a straight line is rare in rock’n’roll. And when listening to ‘Take Back The Night’, third albums of American band STARBENDERS, I realize what an exhilarating feeling it is.

Its ranking speaks for itself but ‘Take Back The Night’ is a bomb. A perfectly homogenous mix of the last 40 years of rock’n’roll, from the psychedelic glam rock of the ’70s (‘Seven White Horses’) to the almost German style of industrial from the early 2000s (‘Sex’) with touches of punk, 80s hard rock (the excellent cover of ‘Poison’) and a pinch of grunge here and there… Exactly the kind of band that reminds you how not better the past was, because you could not mix all those things back then.

Every single track is a hit, every chorus need to be sung immediately (‘Cherry Wine’ for crying out loud). And most of all: beneath a surface of simplicity, the more you listen to it, the more the album reveals itself and will not leave you alone once the ritual is completed.

I could speak for hours about how much I love every single member of the band and what they bring to the music… With the formation of Kimi Shelter, Chris Tokaji, Aaron Lecesne and Emily Moon, STARBENDERS finished its mutation and seems to have found the chemistry needed to achieve its full potential, and our ears can only thank them for it.

Favorite Tracks: All of them.

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