2023 beckons with a raft of releases from European acts, from Scandinavian pop to Italian rock’n’roll, Polish prog and a whole smorgasbord of European metal of every flavour.
Lukas Forchhammer is an artist who has long documented his own life in song, and he will be back with his band Lukas Graham with a new, deeply personal album, 4 (The Pink Album), later this month. The Danes arrived with a bang in 2016 with soulful autobiographical pop single 7 Years, which was a No 2 hit in the US and got two Grammy nominations.
Since Lukas Graham’s eponymous second album debuted at No 3 on the Billboard 200, becoming the highest-charting album by a Danish act ever in
the US, the new album, which includes reflections on loss, fatherhood and
recovering from addiction, will have a tough act to follow. But 2022 singles
Wish You Were Here, featuring US superstar Khalid, and All of it All, were evidence that the new LP will contain plenty of pop-baiting material.
The rest of Scandinavia will be bringing experimental electropop and pop punk to the table this year. Fever Ray, aka Karin Dreijer, late of electropop project The Knife, will release Radical Romantics in March. Her first two solo albums garnered critical acclaim and the two singles already released suggest plenty of art-pop weirdness to come. From Norway, Sløtface brought punk energy and downtempo rock ennui to 2022 in the shape of the singles Happy and Beta, and a new EP will arrive in February.
Looking south, Italian pop-rockers Måneskin’s first post-Eurovision LP, Rush! is hotly anticipated, but it is yet to be seen whether it will be worthy of all the hype. While the band showed they could make a good fist of the grimiest of rock when they covered The Stooges’ I Wanna Be Your Dog and their self-penned singles, I Wanna Be Your Slave and Mammamia were pleasingly dirty, May’s single, Supermodel, which had Swedish Svengali Max Martin and his sometime collaborator Rami Yacoub pitching in, was a disappointingly bland offering.
Yacoub co-wrote the follow-up single, the downbeat The Loneliest, and it was produced by the band’s manager, Italian X Factor musical director and Sony A&R man Fabrizio Ferraguzzo. Whether Rush! contains any genuine rock’n’roll inspiration or is simply a result of the industry sausage factory will soon be clear.
Polish proggers Riverside, meanwhile, have proved their worth in spades over the past 20 years and last year’s compelling singles I’m Done With You and Self-Aware from forthcoming eighth album ID.Entity suggest it will be an absorbing offering. Lyrically hard-hitting, the “war across the border” has been just one of 2022’s disasters preoccupying frontman Mariusz Duda and inspiring the album’s themes.
The feast of metal offerings the year promises will come from all over the
continent. Austrian label Napalm will make a trio of releases from the
Netherlands, Germany and Sweden. Having celebrated their 20th anniversary last year, Dutch symphonic metal band Delain will release Dark Waters in February and play London in April. The same month, highly theatrical German power metal band Powerwolf will release Interludium which, with characteristic understatement, will have an accompanying orchestral LP. Swedish metal band Katatonia’s 12th album Sky Void of Stars promises, oxymoronically, “a dynamic journey through vibrant darkness”.
There will be more Scandinavian metal from veteran Swedish melodic
death metallers In Flames, who extensively previewed new LP Foregone,
arriving in February, with two singles and two EPs last year. Frontman Anders Fridén has said it will be characterised by a “juxtaposition between melody and aggression” as well as a “Swedish folk vibe”. Fellow Swedes Avatar have already declared their ninth album Dance Devil Dance their British Steel (Judas Priest’s career-high album), and promise a “metal circus” when they play seven dates in the UK in February, while In Flames’ labelmates, Enslaved, the extreme metal band from rural western Norway, will release Heimdal – their 16th LP – the following month.
With new music also expected from veteran metal acts The 69 Eyes (Finland), Accept, Sodom and Doro (Germany), Europe and Grand Magus
(Sweden), King Diamond and Mercyful Fate (Denmark), Severe Torture and
Within Temptation (Netherlands), metal continues to prove itself a major
European cultural export, and across genres in 2023, Europe will continue to
show it is a musical powerhouse.
EUROPEAN MUSIC IN 2023 in five songs
Måneskin, The Loneliest
Set to feature on forthcoming LP Rush!, this single from October was something of a damp squib after the outrageously ballsy pair of singles from the Italian Eurovision winners I Wanna Be Your Slave and Mammamia.
Fever Ray, Carbon Dioxide
Coming across like a Swedish Kate Bush and with an eye for disturbing
pop visuals that outstrips Lady Gaga, Karin Dreijer teased forthcoming LP
Radical Romantics with this propulsive, intriguing track.
The Warsaw-based quartet have returned with this track from their forthcoming LP dealing with social media and pandemic-induced gloom.
Previously a trio, but now the solo project of vocalist Haley Shea, this compelling Norwegian pop-punk single will appear on an EP released
Moody metal from the Stockholm four piece of some 20 years standing. This
is the lead single from Sky Void of Stars, released later this month.