Metal of the Month: January’s 15 Finest Releases (2019)

METAL OF THE MONTH is a monthly feature that examines just that, a grip of twenty of the most essential heavy metal (and sometimes non-metal) related releases from each month in the year 2019. I’ve chosen these entirely based on my opinions, meaning I’m primarily taking into account the hours of immersion, personal connection and the lasting value of each album before moving on to other things. There are several albums that I will have to leave out of this list, but they’ll all still be considered for end of the year lists. This monthly feature will largely focus on records I’d either reviewed or spent the most time with, as well as a few releases where the review is still in the draft stage. The feature will update with links as later reviews roll in. Do not think I’ve overlooked any promotional material, I am but one man and I’ll get to all of the promos I’ve received throughout the year. I am eternally grateful to have so much to choose from. Thank you.

Here’s hoping I didn’t stumble too hard through December and that flood of lists, features, interviews and a sluggish start for 2019. I know that ‘Best of 2018’ list was huge and ridiculous but, if you’re looking for brief assed flavor text you fell into the wrong snakepit, dummy. I’ve aged in the meantime, moved on from my old day job, and now financial struggles are clipping some of the momentum off the back of 2018 a bit. As I said in some of my more recent Patreon posts, I’m working on ways to fund the site and put up a Threadless store recently [ ] if it seems overpriced at the moment I’d set the cost so that I would make $5 per $20 item, Threadless does everything and takes that cut because they print everything to order. No scary ass investment for me but the caveat is that it costs more to the buyer. This isn’t meant as an advertisement or plug for them and I mean to clarify what I get, what they get, and why they aren’t like $10. Otherwise no great big changes in January other than the new Thrash ‘Til Death feature getting its first five entries (Turbo, No Return, Transmetal, Mortification, and Protector), if you’re interested in bands that morphed into death metal groups as the early 90’s wave peaked towards 1993 check those out. It more or less allows me to review partial or full discographies for great bands each week. I have so much more that I want to work on, such as a quarterly print zine side-project and paying freelance writers for interviews and such. Things will continue at a moderate pace for now as I try to focus on the releases that really do feel special. Here’s a glimpse of stuff I’m still planning on reviewing that released in January, this month’s to-do list is not particularly daunting and the Ten From the Tomb feature helps in reducing the stress that a backlog provides. If you thought this month was bunk, I can understand your point of view but February will indisputably impressive!

January releases still in consideration for review: (The True) Veiled, Toxik Attack, Archangel A.D., Ravenous Death, Cloudburst, Tytus, Plague Years, Malamorte, Hecate Enthroned, Perverticon, Helevorn, Orthostat, Ulvdalir, Iterum Nata, Ornatorpet, Delice, Humanity Delete, Gravered, Infernarium, No Louis, Godsleep, Inferitvm, Split/Cross, Nex and a few more. Most all of these band’s current releases will still be reviewed post-January in some form in the coming weeks. I’ve also received a ton of 2018 releases and those will almost all be included in Ten From the Tomb features with the exception of Sol, Embra, Hesperian Death Horse, Negativa, Entropia, and Dødsferd records I’ve slacked on. No guarantees, all things are considered.

I am very grateful to have tons of great bands, record labels, PR companies, readers and Patrons supporting the continuation of this site. If you are a regular follower of the site and/or potential advertiser (or content contributor) please note that I’ve updated the FAQ/Contact Me section of the site to reflect opportunities for writers, graphic artists, advertisers, and independent/unsigned bands. Grizzly Butts won’t expand beyond its current state (site design, staff) without interest from contributors and I cannot pay contributors without advertisers. So, please consider the options I’ve detailed there. The goals and ethos of the site have not changed, it will remain independent and the aim is sustainable expansion (which Patreon alone cannot solely support). The type of advertising I’ve detailed won’t be intrusive, a maximum of three pinned articles at the top of the homepage. If you are purely a reader none of this will affect your access or ability to engage in any of the content of the site. Thank you all!


Artist Nuclear Tomb
Title [Type] Succumbing [EP]
 Rating [4.5/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW

Baltimore, Maryland raucous progressive death/thrashers Nuclear Tomb‘s sound takes me back to the years I spent scouring the Earth for technical thrash metal’s history. What kept me going then was the odd gem that’d yank me from the exhaustion of database sleuthing and pull me back into inspired metal fandom. A new band that’d been percolating their approach for a few years, the pitch for Nuclear Tomb‘s sound is thoughtful, distant, grotesque and its span weaves between the appeal of a group like Teleport or Droid and then will wheel into a spiral of madness you’d hear in a modern atmospheric death metal record then spring off of whatever cloud they’d puffed up and hit upon structures that could pass on either old Megadeth or new Revocation‘s doorstep. Every time I listen to this band I end up gushing a bit too much, they just nail a feeling that hits many my interests between tech-thrashing, esoteric death rhythms and a punkish, roaring attitude.


Artist Veiled
Title [Type] In Blinding Presence [Full-length]
 Rating [4.5/5.0] REVIEW coming soon!

‘In Blinding Presence’ was in the corner of my mind from the moment I first glanced over its preliminary press release. Pooling from the ceiling as a noir-psychedelic mass and sporting the (The True) Veiled full moniker, I had no sense of what post-Ved Buens Ende style of coldly clangorous early Slægt-esque berating I’d witness for the month after. I am spellbound, hexed, and in rapturous mental union with Veiled‘s debut. The production could be aiming for lo-fi garage psych as much as it does for early Burzum and the style of this record is unbound, crawling, a pure black echo of unlight. This record and the coming Werian album have completely taken over my mind these last two months and though I’ve yet to find the words for the full review, this is one of my highest recommends for January 2019.


Artist Mortal Scepter
Title [Type] Where Light Suffocates [Full-length]
 Rating [4.25/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW

French thrashers Mortal Scepter snarl and riff their way through what is easily one of the best death/thrash records I’ve heard in a long while. ‘Where Light Suffocates’ emanates from a dark chasm raking the walls to the tune of ’88 style black/death/thrash ambiguity where Massacra reigned most violent and Sepultura was still good. The vocals should indicate the dark world of ‘Pleasure to Kill’ and the riffs cruise beyond ’86 Destruction‘s intensity towards the ultimate death of Merciless and Agressor. ‘Old school’ death/thrash fans and general 80’s extreme metal heads should be able to get into this record. A fantastic album for lovers of extreme thrash.


Artist Barshasketh
Title [Type] Barshasketh [Full-length]
Rating [4.25/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW

The fourth full-length from black metal project Barshasketh begins to reach a level of fluidity that equals the quality of Mgła and Svartidauði through similar means. In fact I’d place this album at a very secure middle point between those two approaches. This self-titled record does feel like a first step into some new higher level, that sonically reaches the higher realm of post-Deathspell Omega dissonance but with a sense of melody that belongs aside recent Sargeist rituals. I’m sure not all would immediately agree as this does appear as yet another mixture of semi-melodic black metal and modern ‘avant-garde’ black metal guitar techniques but it will take less than 15 minutes with ‘Barshasketh’ to see greater depth. In fact I spent most of the month burying myself in not only the production value of this record but the subtle resolve of every grand melody, it feels like ‘Far Away From the Sun’ with the balk of two decades of sophistication informing its dynamic. Another record that I cannot help but pour sincere hyperbole upon every time it plays, it’ll be on my best 50 of the year depending how frisky 2019 gets.


Artist ILS
Title [Type] Pain Don’t Hurt [EP]
 Rating [4.25/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW

Another sonically thick gorge in my mind since December. This thing, this first EP from Portland, Oregon noise rock heavies Ils sure as hell doesn’t feel like a debut. Every centimeter of its girth itches with experiential confidence, conceptual sound, and songwriting that had me just staring at the goddamn wall when it hit. Every song is a stone bullet through another soft part of my brain and I don’t think I’ve been that fucking jazzed, like a dog eating shit, since maybe when Red Fang released ‘Whales and Leeches’. I mean it feels that raw how heavy, hard and out-there memorable ‘Pain Don’t Hurt’ is.


Artist Deathchant
Title [Type] Deathchant [Full-length]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW

Dark as the heaviest occult doom from the past, the soaring blues-ridden electric psychedelia of Los, Angeles heavy psych band Deathchant is an inescapable gravitational void. A cosmic drag upon the world hugs every tingling brain cell in my mind each time it plays. There is surely some analog here with the darker trip of the late 70’s and mid-80’s heavy psychedelic rock compressed by the Sabbath jam of the 90’s and fed glorious layers of post-‘Dopethrone’ heft today. Lush, noisily ringing grime coats old Hendrixian wails as echoing stoned soul huffs sorrow that’d pop the crypt keepers other eye back in. In the review I namedrop Sasquatch, Orange Goblin, Windhand and Sir Lord Baltimore though I’m not sure if I’d communicated the value of the bluesy guitar work within. An exemplar stoner rock take on classic heavy psych.


Artist Musmahhu
Title [Type] Reign of the Odious [Full-length]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW

There are few things more otherworldly than the half-melted atmospherics of a pure death metal album from a true black metal perspective and I believe that is what characterizes Musmahhu‘s righteously atmospheric sound. Though the drumming does invoke an almost programmed rigidity it expresses underneath the atmospheric layers of ‘Reign of the Odious’ in resemblance of the pre-millennium black/death entry points for Behemoth. Musmahhu‘s sound is as grand-blasting as Sulphur Aeon, as thickly atmospheric as Mithras‘ most adventurous releases but, still rooted in the distinct compositions of Swartadauþuz, a prolific Swedish black metal musician with many projects that’d interest anyone drawn to obscure black metal as much as this type of Polish/Swedish influenced blackened death metal record.


Artist Defacement
Title [Type] Deviant [Full-length]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Utrecht, Netherlands blackened death metal project Defacement dropped onto Bandcamp in early January with little fanfare. I’d found it midway through the month and was impressed enough to put it into a Ten From the Tomb feature that week. Similar to my thoughts on Umbra‘s 2018 full-length this highly stylized form of blackened atmospheric death metal begins to feel as surreal as Disembowelment as it becomes more familiar. People have begun to describe it as post-death metal and sure, it was bound to happen. Nothing is new, we are all post-human and the true apocalypse is coming too slow to notice. Of course Portal factors into the actual death metal riffing here, which is pointedly rhythmic and not overtly technical. Fans of the obscuration of the caverncore production style should appreciate this as much as atmospheric black metal fandom. Put on “Mutilated” and you’ll at least get the appeal in less than four minutes.


Artist Dødsfall
Title [Type] Døden Skal Ikke Vente [Full-length]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW

The high-functioning output of black metal musician Ishtar was unknown to me prior to this fifth full-length and in familiarizing myself with the history of Dødsfall, and several of his doom and death metal oriented projects throughout the last decade or two, I was impressed that he’d been able to build doubly upon his songwriting on the first highlight in the bands discography ‘Djevelens Evangelie’ (2013). Sharply defined production and varied melodic treatment distinguish the nearly dark metal influenced pure Scandinavian modernity of ‘Døden Skal Ikke Vente’; A good analog for production quality and compositional ambition would be Taake‘s ‘Noregs Vaapen’ informed by the epic thrashing structures of post-millennium Immortal. It is such a satisfying listen even if just for the ease and quality of the rhythm guitar work. If you’re one of the freaks who holds ‘Damned in Black’ in as high regard as ‘At the Heart of Winter’, this record is texturally satisfying in the same way and with a slightly better drum sound.


Artist Sofy Major
Title [Type] Total Dump [Full-length]
 Rating [4.25/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW

From the get-go I was a little smacked-on by this fourth Sofy Major kick as it rolls in like a Torche record then proceeds to create waves of sludge rock a la Big Business (see: ‘Battlefields Forever’) with a punchiness capable of flitting between Red Fang‘s clever stoner-grunginess and Whores.‘ more recent violence. They’re not the first band that’ve tasked themselves with connecting the dots between post-hardcore rhythms, late 80’s/early 90’s noise rock’s grunge-adjacent Big Muff‘d wilderness, and modern sludge fidelity but Sofy Major do it better than most..


Artist Horrisonous
Title [Type] A Culinary Cacophony [Full-length]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW

Australian death/doom metal that features Golgothan Remains‘ drummer and no doubt there is a twinge of ‘Fulfill the Curse’ style riffing to be found here but, more apt comparisons might find Horrisonous shoulder-to-shoulder with bands like Innsmouth, ‘Angel of the Sixth Order’ era Armoured Angel (see: “A Tale of Matriphagy”) and Torchure‘s long-forgotten ‘Beyond the Veil’. The deep register of the guitars on ‘A Culinary Cacophony’ offer a modern edged sound but the performance dynamics reek only of the oldest schools of death that’d marry with passages of doom before it’d be labeled as any such hybrid. Entrenched in filth but not raw or lacking in modern fidelity Horrisonous offer a great balance of serious, sinister epics and kitschy retro death metal shock value while placing the guitar movements as the main driver of pace and progression.


Artist Mo’ynoq
Title [Type] Dreaming in a Dead Language [Full-length]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW

Familiar as the pieces of Mo’ynoq‘s whole may seem to those inducted into the greater pool of modernist black metal, the structure and arc of ‘Dreaming in a Dead Language’ is easier to follow and toil within thanks to their use of somewhat standard post-rock pastiche as transition for the ranting nature of post-hardcore which is translated through the ringing dissonance of atmospheric black metal. I’m providing a disservice in suggesting soft, flaccid bones for such a grand album but this is what separates this work from the harder edged melodicism of a band like Barshasketh, or the meandering occult gush of Svartidauði. Not exactly for the ‘true’ in terms of the old ways but, a black metal band with slight progressive leanings that create a unique and fairly memorable listen.


Artist Tytus
Title [Type] Rain After Drought [Full-length]
 Rating [3.75/5.0] Listen on Bandcamp!

Fighter Records output comes with the highest recommendation for fans of traditional heavy metal output and particularly folks interested in Spanish power/heavy metal projects. Tytus are Italian, though, and their hard rock influenced heavy/speed metal sound fits well on the roster. If you’re a Slough Feg or Dawnbringer fan and want just the very slightest of prog influence in the more ‘hard rock’ melodic leanings ‘Rain After Drought’ is recommended. The lyrics are often far darker than you’d expect from an album that evokes the more galloping side of 80’s heavy metal and I appreciated “The Storm That Kill Us All” in particular.


Artist Ulvdalir
Title [Type] .​.​.​of Death Eternal [Full-length]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] Listen on Bandcamp!

True Ingrian Black Metal Death alumni Ulvdalir hail from Saint Petersburg and  though this record appears unassuming in its relative darkness, absolutely do not underestimate the power of this album as a grower. By the time “Swords of Belial” is casting your soul down into its rightful hell the Inquisition-esque bliss of the guitar work on ‘…Of Death Eternal’ should have you sold on Ulvdalir. Occult obscurae in its expressive orthodoxy, the coldly sinister presence of Ulvdalir can range from Nightbringer-esque grandiosity as well has enchanting ‘old school’ melodic death metal and that range really impressed me the more time I spent with the bands fourth album, and first full-length since 2011. If you remember Khashm‘s ‘Asmodeus Rising’ a couple of years back I can guarantee you’ll enjoy this one as well.


Artist Vile Apparition
Title [Type] Depravity Ordained [Full-length]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW

They say all roads to brutality flow from Suffocation‘s now-drying slug trail but, in terms of Vile Apparition‘s sound, contributions from Cryptopsy, early Deeds of Flesh, and Pyrexia appear equally (if not more) important. Without fully speaking to the stylistic aspects of performance, the production here is meticulous in its invocation of NYDM spawned brutality with the exception of what I’d call a post-millennium snare hit. ‘Depravity Ordained’ is mixed (by Dan Lowndes at Resonance Sound Studio) in a such a way that it its comparatively under-emphasized bass frequencies appear more in line with a group like Gorelust circa 1995 rather than any post-Deeds of Flesh brutal death band; It lands somewhere between ‘Path of the Weakening’ and ‘Blasphemy Made Flesh’ both sonically and stylistically, though I’d also point to sections that are reminiscent of early Malignancy with the dynamic range of Exmortem.

Honorable mentions [Click/Tap to Read Reviews]

Did I miss your favorite metal/rock/whatever album released in January? Tell me about it, I know I missed a lot! This list is representative of my opinions and personal favorites taking into consideration influence, innovation, replay value, arrangement, cover art, production style, nostalgia, quality of experience etc. 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 lifelong fan and collector like me.

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