Metal of the Month: February’s Finest 15 Releases (2018)

Here I present a grip of the most essential metal-related releases from the month of February in the year 2018. I’ve chosen them entirely based on my opinions, meaning I’m not taking into account the hours of immersion and enjoyment I got out of each album before moving on to other things. There are several albums that I will have to leave out because a lot of the releases I listened to most in February aren’t going to be released until March or April, and those will be on thier respective lists. So, for this list I’m just focusing on records released in February and I’ll add some mentions for albums that I’ve missed or gotten to post-January.

Of course it is February, so the sullen, icy tones of January have begin to recede as the goddess of springtime waits on the horizon bringing the promise of boners and sunshine to a different hemisphere. Traditionally larger labels would push lower priority bands in February because low sales drive larger releases from the schedule, allowing for lesser known bands who’d be overlooked otherwise. The danger in releasing something in February is that folks who follow music year-by-year or month-to-month tend to kick-start their interest in new releases closer to March, and may overlook February stuff until later. Though I would argue that time is on the side of art and it’s value could take months, or years, to flower in the minds of fickle goobs driven by their lemming habits. Enjoy!


Artist Ataraxy
Title [Type/Score] Where All Hope Fades [Full-length/4.0]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

This impressive old school death metal band from Spain have pushed beyond the limits of their Asphyx influenced death metal sound and into the atmospheric death metal throne previously only occupied by bands like Krypts. Not only is Ataraxy still highly capable of explosive old school death metal but they’ve found new and exciting depths within death/doom. The production and overall sound of this record is one for the books and it has quickly become a likely leader in my top ten best metal records of 2018. If you have not yet purchased this album you’re doing yourself a disservice as a fan of death/doom and death metal in general. Granted if you’re not a fan of the slower, atmospheric realm of death metal then the dread and horror of ‘Where All Hope Fades’ could simply be lost to your impatience. If you are in the death/doom mood this year, I am not sure this will be topped.


Artist King Witch
Title [Type/Score] Under The Mountain [Full-length/4.5]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

My expectations were fairly low when I first encountered ‘Under the Mountain’ because the cover art is very stoner rock at a glance and I’d not really been blown away by their previous band Firebrand Super Rock. As soon as “Beneath The Waves” riffs hit, I was addicted to this album. I “felt” it in such a massive wave of doom-induced body high and every listen revealed more adoration for my experience with ‘Under the Mountain’. I know I gush over a lot of doom stuff just being a huge fan of the style for so long but this one clicked with me immediately and continues to impress me without fail. Their treatment of epic Candlemass-like female vocals and an almost Pale Divine style approach to doom-related genre fusion is heavy metal that transcends, or at the very least outclasses, it’s peers. I feel like any fan of doom or epic heavy metal, old or new school, can sit down with this King Witch album and be impressed.


Artist Chaos Echœs
Title [Type/Score] Mouvement [Full-length/3.75]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

When I wrote the review for ‘Mouvement’ I wanted to convey my reaction to it with a stream-of-consciousness that reflected the chaos, conflict and engaging fashion of it’s composition. I think it came across somewhat negative and repetitive and in a way it was intended for the sake of conveying the feeling of listening to ‘Mouvement’. It is a challenging atmospheric death metal jam with a multitude of layered percussion and drone metal-esque finesse. It at once resembles an improvised instrumental death metal jam and three distinct movements of chaotic technical death metal, spiraling atmospherics, and a final act that builds and collapses in a beautiful way. There are no typical death metal vocals and no big part of the album is engaging vocally. So, it leaves me with a deep feeling of unrequited love as if a great muse would pose, dance, and perform but never speak or sing. I appreciate the piece for it’s experimental nature and almost defiance of expectation. Also, I’m just generally a huge fan of their ‘Transient’ album and their previous involvement in the band Bloody Sign.


Artist Solstice
Title [Type/Score] White Horse Hill [Full-length/4.0]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

The sullen doom of ‘Lamentations’ and their ‘Halycon’ EP make a slight return on the band’s third album. It has been twenty years since the last release ‘New Dark Age’ which fused in epic heavy metal in such a perfect way it has sat high in my top 10 doom metal albums of all time since it’s release. ‘White Horse Hill’ lives up to the band’s legacy and the new vocalist’s sound is a bit more folk/fantasy metal and he adds a robustness to the album’s tonal range. I’m endlessly surprised by how fitting he is considering I am not the biggest fan of is previous work in Arcane Sun. It’s a bit early to digest my thoughts just yet but I wanted to make sure Solstice had their rightful mention in February. I believe for my fellow US folks the physical copies won’t materialize until April or so on Dark Descent. Something to look forward to.


Artist Coffin Torture
Title [Type/Score] Dismal Planet [Full-length/3.25]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

If you’re a fan of the rasping, hatefully depressed sludge metal of Grief and Burning Witch yet you’d love for them to toss in some death/doom guitars a la Cianide then Coffin Torture is a great fit. The massive assault of layered sound on ‘Dismal Planet’ is at first novel and quickly becomes menacing as the band take influence from classic sludge and early High on Fire to create a burly, sinister riff driven record. Sludge can’t get much more extreme before being considered death/doom and the sound of Coffin Torture‘s debut really impressed me.


Artist Turnstile
Title [Type/Score] Time & Space [Full-length/3.5]
Listen on Spotify

Turnstile expands upon their catchy hardcore punk sound with a modernized sound unafraid to dip into alt-rock hooks and urban influences. The core of their sound can be felt with equal parts later period Snapcase and a rousing take on the first Bad Brains album. Their punched-up take on hardcore is massively accessible and packed with memorable moments. It might feel like hardcore for millennials with ADHD at first but the nods to 80’s and 90’s hardcore are prominent enough to keep things really cranked for 25 of my favorite minutes of the month. I won’t do a review on the site just because I don’t have much more to say. But hey if you’re a fan of 80’s/90’s hardcore, Snapcase, Quicksand and melodic hardcore like I am, it might be worth trying.


Artist Sacred Leather
Title [Type/Score] Ultimate Force [Full-length/4.25]
REVIEW coming soon!

This just came out a few days ago and because I bought it, didn’t receive a promo, I’ll be a little bit late with the review. I love this band’s pure 80’s US metal sound is just incredible. They seem influenced by King Diamond/Mercyful Fate as much as they are by obscure metal groups like Tyrant and Hexx. It wouldn’t be completely fair to call them ‘retro’ they’re just playing a style of metal that has been around since the late 70’s. I’m very impressed by this record from the art design of the insert to the production sound, plus the songwriting is just insane as a fan of 80’s metal sensibilities. Will have more coherent thoughts on ‘Ultimate Force’ once I’ve finished the review.


Artist Rotheads
Title [Type/Score] Sewer Fiends [Full-length/4.0]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

Rothead’s full-length debut works hard to pull out riffs that make you go “Hmmm… oh cool.” much of their thrash influenced old school death metal sound resembles the off-kilter rarities of the mid-90’s from bands like Exoto, Incubator and Alchemist. The experimentation isn’t completely as wild as some of those bands but they create variation with some surprisingly good riff ideas. Though some of the excitement around this record wore off after more and more listens, it still retains a sort of sloppy, filthy charm that recalls mid-western US death metal of the 90’s in the best way. It also has a bit of Finnish death metal style to it, which always gets my goat grinding.


Artist Harakiri For The Sky
Title [Type/Score] Arson [Full-length/3.75]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

Upon first listen ‘Arson’ felt like one endless blur of pretty noise and the torment of Harakiri For The Sky didn’t reveal itself until I dug a bit deeper. The compositions are lengthy and strategically repetitive so that every blackgazing moment of this melodic black metal record tugs at the listener just as much as the longer compositions of early Forgotten Tomb did. Their almost ‘Brave Murder Day’-esque treatment of atmospheric black metal goes above and beyond the limits of patience just to the point of breaking. It is a brilliant album that shows the band growing into a serious project beyond the drum machined sterility of the previous album. Armed with a real drummer and more evocative songwriting and lyrical themes, it could likely be the height of this bands output.


Artist Genocide Pact
Title [Type/Score] Order of Torment [Full-length/3.25]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

Though a million bands have similarly used the powerful sound of Bolt Thrower and the death/doom roll of Cianide to great effect, none have ever sounded as bad ass and huge as Genocide Pact does on ‘Order of Torment’. If you thought Gatecreeper had taken over this style of death metal with ‘Sonoran Deprivation’ a couple years ago then you might be surprised as hell at just how massive this death metal album sounds. It is a slugger of an album with a lot of strong, almost grinding Incantation-ish moments that groove harder than most. But my issue is simple, I can’t honestly remember anything about this record beyond it’s incredible sound anytime I spend more than a week apart from it. This is true of many metal albums regardless of genre but I generally have the ability to pull out a favorite track, a ‘best riff’, or similar talking point without re-listening. So, this recommendation comes with the note that it is an ‘in the moment’ sort of album for me and not necessarily a death chugger for the ages.


Artist Unreal Overflows
Title [Type/Score] Latent [Full-length/3.5]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

Well, what do you think of Death‘s ‘Independent Thought Patterns’ and Cynic‘s ‘Focus’? Or how about those early Sadist albums before the keyboards got weird? Unreal Overflows is, more or less, a spiritual successor to Spanish band Absorbed and their long-lost in time album ‘Reverie’. They’ve perfected a mix of Schuldiner influenced progressive death metal that bands like Obscura have overcooked in the past. Unreal Overflows have given a healthy treatment of melodic death metal to prog-tech death metal instead of incessant brutality and the effect is brilliant. There are some djent sounding riffs but if you can warm up to stuff like Rivers of Nihil, you’ll escape unoffended by a couple of bonks.


Artist Suum
Title [Type/Score] Buried Into The Grave [Full-length/4.0]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

Suum is a relatively new Italian traditional doom metal group that take equal influence from Saint Vitus, Candlemass, and Finnish doom metal for their heavy doom sound. The lead guitars really give a lot of character to ‘Buried Into the Grave’ and go a long way to create interest across several listens. Though I found myself yearning for bigger riffs and more variation in the pacing, the vocalists massive performance really ended up selling me on this album. Their style goes between the gruff Reagers-like performances of Cardinal’s Folly and other post-Reverend Bizarre Finnish doom bands as well as the Messiah Marcolin era Candlemass-esque hails of Procession. No one particular part of the album stuck in my mind forever but I felt it was a great first effort from a promising independent doom metal band.


Artist Golgothan Remains
Title [Type/Score] Perverse Offerings to the Void [Full-length/4.0]
Click Here to read my REVIEW

Australian occult atmospheric death metal masters blend the harrowing doom-laiden depths of Incantation-like blasphemy with the curling smoke of ritualistic black metal Inquisition. The driving force behind their music aims for the dramatic, the epic and grandiose rhythms you’d expect from a decade old The Ruins of Beverast album. Though I am way late to the party with this album, I’m taking my time with my thoughts in a review because I don’t think it is fair that they get compared to Incantation so much, as there is a lot more to their sound. Recommended if you’re an enthusiastic fan of this serpentine form of blackened death metal.


Artist Necrophobic
Title [Type/Score] Mark of the Necrogram [Full-length/3.25]

I’m too much of a Necrophobic fan to let this one slip by without praise. Though the band’s post-Parland (RIP) era has never been as exciting as ‘The Nocturnal Silence’ and ‘Darkside’ their return to form was absolutely felt on 2006’s ‘Hrimthursum’ and the band have expanded upon that sound with increasingly occult releases until ‘Mark of the Necrogram’ which dives head first into the primal peak era of melodic black metal. They’ve incorporated the meloblack style (not Dimmu Borgir, think Dissection) with melodic death metal influences and some callbacks to their earliest works. It is a fantastic and memorable album that brings an air of extremity and melody not felt from the band for decades. It doesn’t quite resurrect the Slayer-ized black/death of their debut but it does remind longtime fans like me of why I’ve stuck with their shtick for so long.


Artist Empress
Title [Type/Score] Reminiscence [Full-length/4.0]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

Empress is a Vancouver, B.C. based sludge metal band that tastefully fuses some post-metal elements into Floor style sludge metal with hints of ‘Selfless’-era Godflesh and High on Fire for good measure. I appreciated this EP for the band’s ability to go fully aggro doom heavy as well as they can go soft and post-metal Isis fluffy. Not the most original set of ideas on paper but the EP itself is a fantastic full listen that takes you on a worthwhile ride.

Honorable mentions

Did I miss your favorite metal/rock album released in January? Tell me about it. This list is representative of my opinions and personal favorites taking into consideration influence, innovation, replay value, arrangement, cover art, production style, nostalgia, and quality of experience. There are hundreds more releases from the month and I might have overlooked something amazing, let me know. Don’t worry, no piece of music is ever too old to review!

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