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

Here I present a grip of the most essential metal-related releases from the month of April in the year 2018. I’ve chosen them entirely based on my opinions, meaning I’m primarily taking into account the hours of immersion, personal connection 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 of this list for now, but will still be considered for end of the year lists, because I received hundreds of promos every month. So, for this list I’m just focusing on records I reviewed and spent the most time with and a few that are pending review that I still feel are important. To put things into perspective, even when I often review 4-5 albums per day, April alone I have a backlog of roughly 40 promos left to review and about 10-15 from each month of 2018 so far. This doesn’t even include the releases coming out in May, June or July yet. I’ll get to all of it, but it’ll take time and I am eternally grateful to have so much to choose from! Here’s a glimpse of stuff I’m still planning on reviewing that released in April.

April reviews still in progress: The Golden Grass, Fubar, Traced By Enemies, Tarasque, Scientist, Wykan, Tengil, Maiilmanloppu, Methedrine, Svederna, Sense of Fear, Ordeals/Daythorn split, Dagger Lust, Ljain, Voight Kampff, One Day in Fukushima, Totalselfhatred, Midas Fall, Chevalier, Hukutus, Postmortal, Peel, Axia, Rex Defunctis, Moloch, Autarcie, Kroda and several more re-issues/repackagings that are quite frankly low-priority unless limited release to begin with. Most or all of these band’s current releases will still be reviewed post-April. It was an incredible month/year for metal and I made a concerted effort to push through more reviews than usual. I’ve decided to entirely pass on reviewing anything scoring lower than 3.0/5.0 with some exceptions. This will not only lead to more engaging and positive writing from me, but won’t entirely exempt releases that might grow on me as the year progresses. The last thing I want to do is push through mediocre releases, burn out and start writing negative reviews. It does nothing for my existence to focus on the negative aspects of an artist’s work, there is too much art out there to waste time badgering off on some shit that sucks. If you want ‘angry’ reviews from frustrated boys scroll back to 2010 internets, nub.

Overall the month featured a fuck-ton of strong death metal releases from well established artists and this largely dominated my month. There are simply too many great death metal albums from April to give shout-outs to them all, so if you don’t see your favorite one either message me and let me know what I missed or check the Honorable Mention list at the end. Otherwise black metal, epic heavy metal, melodic hardcore, and a few obscure sludge, doom and psychedelic rock releases also popped up. Overall it was a solid mix of new energetic bands with a few ‘expected’ great returns from established bands. I’ve very grateful to have tons of great bands, record labels, PR companies, and Patrons supporting the continuation of this site and welcome any/all feedback and collaboration along the way. Enjoy!


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Artist Ghastly
Title [Type/Score] Death Velour [Full-length/5.0]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

The subtle and occult curiosity of Ghastly‘s debut full-length didn’t fully hint at the psychedelic Finnish death metal adventure of their second album. ‘Death Velour’ earns a highest possible score from me with a fully rounded listening experience that pulls influence from Morbus Chron but resembles death metal more completely and averts itself from the out-going progressive rock of that influence. Closer in style and scope to similarly conceptual and dynamic releases from Stench, Execration and Horrendous Ghastly pays close attention to their distinctly Finnish roots and in turn excites my own taste in both death metal and neo-prog/psychedelic death metal futurists. All of this coming from the talented folks who make up a third of prog-doom metal band Garden of Worm and you have my current (as of April) favorite recording of 2018.


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Artist Skeletal Remains
Title [Type/Score] Devouring Mortality [Full-length/4.5]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

After I put up my long-winded review of the third Skeletal Remains album I received an e-mail from a reader that didn’t understand the high praise and score for what is essentially the sort of album that could have come out in 1994. I thought about it for a while because I understand that if the actual reference of ’94 isn’t there for you that old school death metal could seem a trivial pursuit in 2018 but the fact remains that it didn’t come out in 1994 and it was crafted to a higher standard than anything released that year. Trust me, I’ve heard every single goddamn death metal record released to the public (and maybe a Ritual Sacrifice demo that wasn’t?) in 1994. All I did for about 8-9 years was collect death metal’s history and obsess over it and for this reason Skeletal Remains is exactly the sort of thing that should get a 4.5 from me. They’ve crossed wires between the greats as elements of Gorguts, Pestilence, Demolition Hammer and Obituary create an impossibly heavy and professionally produced death metal record that is one of few ultimate statements of old school death metal eeked out into the 2010’s.


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Artist Lecherous Nocturne
Title [Type/Score] Occultaclysmic [Full-length/4.25]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

If you’re not familiar with the first two Lecherous Nocturne albums from the late 00’s you might not have been as excited by ‘Occultaclysmic’ as I was in the band’s inherent ‘return to form’ that essentially brings the riffs first and foremost. The rapid fire riffing pulls from the magmatic US death metal epicenter initially curated by groups like Morbid Angel and Nile but Lecherous Nocturne have a certain ear for taking those ideas to their next logical extreme. Not far from Angelcorpse or Diabolic in terms of intensity but leagues beyond each in terms of technical execution and riff transitions. ‘Occultaclysmic’ is a brutal hammer of death metal that is innately intelligent in both composition and avoidance of trend or chaotic messiness inherent to most modern technical death metal bands. This is one of few death metal records from this year that has appreciated in it’s value to the point where I am eager to hear it again even when just looking at the cover art and thinking about it.


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Artist Gatekeeper
Title [Type/Score] East of Sun [Full-length/4.0]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

Another notch in Cruz Del Sur Music‘s immaculate track record for supporting incredible traditional heavy metal and doom bands, Gatekeeper strike hard at the iron that birthed them as they resemble epic heavy metal on a traditional Warlord/Solstice scale that leaps away from their Bathory and Atlantean Kodex-esque earlier sound. New vocalist Jean-Pierre Abboud (Funeral Circle, ex-Borrowed Time) is a standout beside the impeccable guitar work of Jeff Black and his range from Manowar to Omen and back again was hugely impressive to me. Quality epic heavy metal releases are few and far between for my taste as the old ways grow more distant with time but I really appreciated the nearly flawless treatment of the sub-genre on ‘East of Sun’.


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Artist Varathron
Title [Type/Score] Patriarchs of Evil [Full-length/4.25]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

Varathron have returned with a release that better resembles their history as a band compared to the relatively experimental 2014 album ‘Untrodden Corridors of Hades’. It feels very much like a spiritual successor to their 2009 album ‘Stygian Forces of Scorn’ with epic implementation of symphonic elements, riffs meant to conjure their early days, and some thrash influences enhancing their melodic black metal style. Though this album doesn’t outdo the incredible Kawir album of last year, it does at least conjure enough interest to be on par in terms of riffs and memorable tracks. I think this should bring in new fans who really haven’t paid attention to this band since 1998 or so. As a longtime fan I feel this record is one part re-emergence of their old sonic personality as well as a consciously ‘Varathron‘ sounding record with songs that can stand up to the rest of their repertoire in a live setting. This was a late April release and I didn’t buy it until the start of May, and as such this month’s list has 16 releases mentioned.


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

Assumption‘s ‘The Three Appearances’ is up there in my favorite death/doom recordings of all time and to get a full-length from the band without much hype was very exciting for me. Their love of funeral/death doom classics and the aim of an extreme doom release with psychedelia intertwined reaches more for outer-space in my imagination rather than drug-induced visions. Their love of Disembowelment, Ceremonium and Evoken are exactly in line with my tastes, so if you’re not a death/doom fanatic like I am I’d understand not getting why ‘Absconditus’ is an exciting release. It didn’t necessarily need to live up to ‘The Three Appearances’ and it’s more intense death metal style and instead ‘Absconditus’ is about one third dedicated to atmospherics and funeral doom pacing so pure death/doom heads who get impatient might get antsy between riffs but I think Assumption‘s sound is top tier for the year.


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Artist Satanic Surfers
Title [Type/Score] Back From Hell [Full-length/4.25]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

Gotta pimp at least one punk or hardcore release every month and this one was very easy because Satanic Surfers have been on my radar since I was a teenager. ‘Back From Hell’ is unexpectedly good, their sharpest and most earnest release to date that is more aggressively introspective and reflective than it is sappy or saccharine as was typical back in the mid-90’s melodic hardcore scene they grew from. I think I said in my review that this is on par with Descendents‘ most recent ‘comeback’ album and after another month of listening ‘Back From Hell’ is actually just a bit better as their old school Bad Religion influences and thoughtful/ironic lyrics reek of honesty and directness that feels as grown up as most of their old fans are. I really connected with this record and as much as I love melodic hardcore and hardcore punk those connections are few and far between. Hell, I wish I received more punk and hardcore releases but I understand the throwback hardcore scenes are differently visible and insular compared to metal in many cases.


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Artist Altar of Perversion
Title [Type/Score] Intra Naos [Full-length/4.0]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

Personal setbacks, apathy, and the greater learning process that comes with a do-it-yourself ideology delayed the follow up to underground legends Altar of Perversion‘s immeasurably hypnotic debut ‘From Dead Temples (Towards the Ast’ral Path)’. As a result this period of pain and limbo lead to a personal creative enlightenment for headmaster Calus. ‘Intra Naos’ is highly conceptual in it’s inconsolable vision and not only does it build upon their entire discography it expands those conceptions into a difficult two hour span of extreme black metal wizardry. If you decide to grasp this massive undertaking betixt your thighs and juice it for it’s worth you’ll, probably, find the experience redeeming. I found it’s demanding nature to be exactly the mind erasure I needed and even still after 10-12 full listens I feel there is more to glean from it’s rhythms. It is actually hard to not be inspired by this release if not only for it’s monumental length and constantly churning, never resting, pacing. For all of my strange description of it it is inherently rooted in raw black metal’s early history but expanded enough to feel appropriate for this era of sound.


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Artist Pharaoh Overlord
Title [Type/Score] Zero [Full-length/4.25]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

Finnish experimental rock/metal collective Circle have never been comfortable with limits and their offshoot Pharaoh Overlord began as a stoner metal/psychedelic rock jam band that jumped between some clanging noise rock, krautrock, and synth rock moments before they landed on ‘Zero’ which elevates old ideas into a greater combination of those things. Featuring  Antti Boman of Demilich on vocals and guitar as well as Hans-Joachim Irmler of Faust on organ/keyboards/synth. If you’re already familiar with Pharaoh Overlord much of the tracklist won’t be a surprise and instead the two guest musicians are the center of attention as Boman‘s belched vocals and Irmler‘s synth lines elevate Pharaoh Overlord‘s sound far beyond anything the band did previous. It might be a hard sell but it is an excitingly alien experience that is highly recommended to fans of experimental rock, psychedelic rock, and krautrock as well considering Irmler‘s talents helped define the genre to begin with. If you don’t like Boman‘s vocals you’re fuckin’ boring.


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Artist Speedclaw
Title [Type/Score] Beast in the Mist [EP/4.0]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

I dunno if it was the crazy 80’s music video or the energetic heavy/speed metal sound but I was hooked on Speedclaw from the get-go. These NWOBHM loving speed metal maniacs from Croatia improve with each release and I’d say ‘Beast in the Mist’ is their best movement yet with an energetic style close to early Overkill, Exciter, and Raven. The instrumentation is always sub-thrash and focuses on the pre-1985 speed metal sound that grew from NWOBHM and as a result the performances aren’t necessarily incendiary like early thrash was but they capture the same energy of early releases from Metallica and Overkill well. I’m a sucker for this type of stuff as I love transitional records where heavy metal bands bought into speed metal. My excitement around this record has cooled down slightly, as happens with any EP release, but I am no less excited to hear what they do next.


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Artist Vomitor
Title [Type/Score] Pestilent Death [Full-length/4.0]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

Vomitor are an Australian black/death/thrash band that cropped up a few years later than some of the bigger black/thrash names of the mid-to-late 90’s but they were no less orthodox than their Australian compatriots. For my taste their discography is relatively hit or miss with their last few records being middling-misses but this latest record brings plenty of classic thrash influences and moves away from the more obscured lo-fi production of the past. The riffs are back in Vomitor‘s sound and their new sound reminds me of bands like Witchtrap and Cruel Force while paying similar tribute to German thrash/speed metal kings. It might not be the most memorable release of the month but the more time I spent listening to it the more I appreciate it’s treatment of black/death metal with respect to old school thrash metal riffing.


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Artist Black Salvation
Title [Type/Score] Uncertainty is Bliss [Full-length/4.0]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW!

Dark psychedelic rock with proto-metal and stoner rock moments barely begins to expound Black Salvation’s departure from their stoner metal roots as they spent a drummer-less hiatus conjuring a 70’s hard rock revival that feels immediately modern and transcendent of it’s influences. Much like Grave Pleasures expanded upon the post-punk metric so does Black Salvation offer a well-conceived take on the more accessible side of the modern state of retro-informed psychedelic rock. It doesn’t feel contrived or over worked like most retro psych projects typically do thanks to a spontaneous recording schedule. If heavy psych isn’t your thing because it is too ‘soft’ then I doubt you’ll be heavily on board with this but I think Germans are doing it best and Black Salvation got picked up by a bigger label for good reason.


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Artist Adzalaan
Title [Type/Score] Into Vermilion Mirrors [Full-length/4.0]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

I’m a huge fan of what Vrasubatlat have conjured across several projects and their collective is hugely inspiring as each project attacks a different aspect of black metal art with an intelligent fervor. Besides his fantastic bass/vocal work with Ash Borer, R. (Rory Flay) is incredibly capable of impressive guitar work and nowhere is this more evident than his intricate and well-written guitar passes on Adzalaan‘s debut full-length ‘Into Vermilion Mirrors’. There is an orthodoxy here that rings of both Demoncy and Nightbringer‘s middle-era work as well as some of the more spacious Predatory Light compositions that hits the right balance of technicality and classic black metal spirituality. Though I recommend all Vrasubatlat rituals this is perhaps my favorite so far.


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Artist Aura Noir
Title [Type/Score] Aura Noire [Full-length/3.75]
Click Here to read my REVIEW

Aura Noir was one of those bands I discovered a long, long time ago and never felt were very special until I’d dug around through every corner of black/thrash and saw the importance of their early inception. Yet I really didn’t appreciate their own history until I explored it all in preparation for reviewing their sixth album since 1996 ‘Aura Noire’. It’s style takes a similar approach as Whipstriker did on ‘Merciless Artillery’ and incorporates early Voivod guitar work and NWOBHM influences into a finely tuned and impressive guitar driven album. As in 1996 Aura Noir might be surrounded by a thickening crowd of black/thrash brothers but their compositions and guitar work stand above the rest just slightly enough to be one of the most memorable. The ‘Celtic Frost-meets-Venom‘ riffs are still there, it is Aura Noir after all but none of it would be worth returning to without the Voivod-esque guitar work they’re firing up now.


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Artist Inisans
Title [Type/Score] Transition [Full-length/3.5]
CLICK HERE to read my REVIEW

Though Inisans‘ debut full-length might appear middle-of-the-pack to begin with it’s Mortem (Peru) like sound and thrashing death metal execution is very distinct for a Swedish band and reminds me of recent records from Obscure Burial, Verminous, and Sadism. The common thread here is all more or less a love of ‘Altars of Madness’ era Morbid Angel but translated through Swedish death metal instrumentation a la Repugnant or Iniquity. I guess one of the reasons I have trouble writing about a record like this is that conveying their sound without a reference is difficult. If I could just say blazing Satanic death/thrash with a howling storm of vocals atop blasting aggressive drum patterns we’d be in good shape. Definitely worthwhile for the old school death metal fan.


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Artist Grave Upheaval
Title [Type/Score] [Untitled] [Full-length/3.5]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW!

Grave Upheaval were initially a noisome death metal band that used lo-fi production techniques to create a cavernous sound off the backs of relevant projects Impetuous Ritual and Portal. They are the undisputed kings of caverncore but since Temple Nightside got a huge clean-up on production so has Grave Upheaval and the music is much better for it. What is revealed from behind the murk is gasping death/doom metal that is occasionally capable of tangential riffing closer to Disembowelment and Eternal Darkness rather than early Portal. I personally love atmospheric death metal whether it is recorded in a basement with one mic or professionally in studio but it has to have riffs and with this release the band have found the riffs needed to drive the experience through it’s full length. I particularly love the vocal performances as they range from chants, howls and faraway growls. I could easily swap this one with Cardiac Arrest, Angerot, Shrine of the Serpent, or Deiquisitor so don’t skip out on those if you love death metal too.


Honorable mentions [Click to Read Reviews]

Did I miss your favorite metal/rock album released in April? 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! Again I want to thank the bands, labels, hardworking PR folks, and my Patreon Patrons for their support and contributions! This is a dream for a longtime fan and collector like me.

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