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

METAL OF THE MONTH is a monthly feature that examines just that, a grip of fifteen 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 for those 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.


April was a mountain of a month for underground heavy music regardless of what niche you might prefer but I’d say this one was dominated by sludge’s rawest progressive-futurists. From extreme thrash to truly progressive sludge metal outings and a bong load of black and death metal, I am so thankful to receive such a wild range of promos every week and this month was a bruiser of high quality digs. Before we dig into the list let me plug a few things and do some housekeeping: Make sure check out the Friday news column SYNCHRONY (Click/Tap HERE) which will also include sections pertaining to a site-specific ‘week in review’, upcoming releases, and new releases you might’ve missed. I’ve detailed a few ambitions on PATREON: [Click HERE to read the Update!]. The ongoing Thrash ‘Til Death feature saw four more entries (Thanatos, Panic, Vader, Dead Head and Num Skull), so if you’re interested in heavy/thrash metal bands that morphed into death metal groups as the late 80’s/early 90’s wave peaked towards 1993 check those out every Tuesday! I’ll be covering Disciples of Power, Armoured Angel, Revenant, and Assorted Heap in May. Things will continue at a variable pace in May as I have some work commitments that’ll slow down a few features those first two weeks. As I’d said before, April was incredible, though I could have used a few more pure thrash metal (too many black thrash releases!) to pick from. Doom and death metal fans should be really happy with the major releases of the May, though! Here’s a glimpse of stuff I’m still planning on reviewing that released in April:

April releases still in consideration for review: Deus Mortem, Sleepwalker, Brown Acid: The Eighth Trip, Nighnacht, Bat, Vaura, Deathwomb, Totengott, Deiphago, Lost in Kiev, Embalmer, Hedonihil, Gods Forsaken, Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult, Totalitarian, Pagan Altar reissues, Omenfilth, Wounds, Haze Mage, Mephorash, High Priest, Krigere Wolf, Heavy Feather, Celophys, Archaic Decapitator, Chalice of Suffering, Arstidir Lifsins, Hypoxia, Ossuaire, Bloodlust, Sun o))),  and a few more. Most all of these bands current releases will still be reviewed post-April in some form in the coming weeks. Drafts of the following April releases are in-process: Filtheater, Druids, Sacrilegia, Altar of Oblivion, Fatal Curse, The Well, None, Chevalier, De Lirium’s Order. I’ve additionally received many requests direct from bands as well as a handful of 2018 releases and those will almost all be included in Ten From the Tomb features or full reviews. 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) with the goal of breaking even, not making profit. 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!


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Artist Waste of Space Orchestra
Title [Type] Syntheosis [Full-length]
 Rating [5.0/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW

The entirety of ritualistic psychedelic sludge metal band Dark Buddha Rising and psychedelic black metal masters Oranssi Pazuzu collide here on a far greater scale than imaginable. ‘Syntheosis’ is, as others have stated, a King Crimson-ian fusion of dark extreme metal, bounding atmospheric sludge metal, and space-rock opera. All of this comes with a darkly stoned crawling and bursting force that is not only art-metal but a viable record to just put on and enjoy as a sludge/psychedelic metal fan. I was not at all expecting to love this union as much as I did and sure, I had to temper down my expectations due to a true love of both bands involved but I’d expected a more stoney Atomikylä at best and got so much more. This is my highest recommendation for the month because it can reach so many people with appeal to established experimental black metal fans, atmospheric sludge metal and post-metal fans, and stoner/psychedelic metal fans.


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Artist Troll
Title [Type] Legend Master [Full-length]
 Rating [5.0/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW!

Troll‘s second full-length and their official debut on Shadow Kingdom Records is a progressive/heavy psych infused modern doom metal experience that never relies on any of those genre conventions to communicate its worth. Their reunion with vocalist Rainbo is so much more incredible than I had imagined, not only for his stunning and heartfelt bravado but for the general update given to their compositional skills. Just as Pallbearer reached a bit higher on their third full-length so does Troll elevate on ‘Legend Master’ and they’ve quickly become one of my personal favorite doom metal acts today. My review of the album was a little frazzled because I’d written it entirely while under the album’s spell, and as silly as that might sound I hope it conveyed the incredible vibe and feeling that the album communicated to me. This is my most listened release for the month by far.


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Artist Inculter
Title [Type] Fatal Visions [Full-length]
 Rating [5.0/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW

There is no shame on my end when I profess my love for the brutal side of thrash and the madness that bands like Inculter bring as they invoke a hundred riffs and a mutinous pace. ‘Fatal Visions’ connected with me instantly and the tom rolls resemblance to early Kreator and Sepultura gave me a quick body high every time they chimed in. Inculter are surely a vessel for enjoyment of the old ways and though many people hear them as a black/thrash band I feel that is a bit reductive with a misunderstanding of what ‘Fatal Visions’ actually sounds like. From my perspective it is what mid-to-late 80’s death metal was, a brutal take on thrash metal. Sure, there are hints of Obliteration‘s drum sound and maybe a hint of Aura Noir if you really stretch your ears but I personally hear an ambition devoted to the riff and to the heavier half of the 80’s. It helps that most of these guys are also in Sepulcher, this’ll likely be in the top 10 as ‘Panoptic Horror’ was. Inspiring and energizing stuff that reminds me why I ever loved extreme music in the first place.


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Artist Inter Arma
Title [Type] Sulphur English [Full-length]
Rating [4.75/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW

From its release I’d considered ‘Paradise Gallows’ one of the better sludge metal records I’d ever heard and to be fair that was because it felt like a progressive sludge metal band going death/doom metal. Here on ‘Sulphur English’ they’ve ran with the sound of the previous album but focused on a full psychedelic experience while incorporating more elements of blackened death metal. I’ve rated this album so high because I know it is the type of record that will only appreciate over time, all Inter Arma records have gained value over time in my hands and, unlike The Ruins of Beverast‘s last two records I felt the need to realize that great value upfront rather than being unsure for six months and amending my thoughts later. Stupid as that sounds, I did love it right away. They’re on another level and the quality of ‘Sulphur English’ is undeniable even if I do think it’ll alienate some of the less ‘extreme’ leaning sludge metal fandom.


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Artist Vitriol
Title [Type] Chrysalis [EP]
 Rating [4.5/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW

This EP is an experience that is far less standardized in motion than Vitriol‘s previous Alchemyst-esque demo, closer to the transitional heft of ‘Transient’ from Chaos Echœs in some respects but, still far less subtly dark ambient. There is a sense of improvisational process to the performances that places ‘Chrysalis’ along those same lines but the design of the two experiences within are so beautifully arranged they don’t necessarily smack of the improv of Oksennus. Vitrol are a psychedelic experimental death metal band who’re brutal as they are a trip and this EP has me dying to see what they’ll do next.


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Artist Lord Dying
Title [Type] Mysterium Tremendum [Full-length]
 Rating [4.5/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW

Portland, Oregon progressive sludge metal band Lord Dying took a huge flying leap into the unknown with this progressive rock influenced record and ‘Mysterium Tremendum’ is an enormous achievement because of that bold stride. Having a sibling of my own die in early March I think this album hit my inbox at just the right time with its cleaner/clearer approach to vocals and lyrics that dealt directly with death, mourning, and the dark trip necessary to explore thought in the face of death. It was far heavier than expected and a truly valuable experience that feels earnest even if not considering my own attachment to the themes (their guitarist had lost his sister prior to the writing for the album). Old fans of this band may not entirely recognize Lord Dying anymore and while it might seem like they’ve gone further towards the sound of a band like Intronaut with this record they’ve kept things appropriately aggressive to the point that it won’t feel like a creepily big leap beyond ‘Poisoned Altars’.


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

Slovakian blackened tech-death masters Ceremony of Silence arrive from the thin air of astral projection a thousand years beyond and into today with the wisdom of blackened death metal ancients in hand. The duo ooze with technical intelligence and ancient blackened wisdom that conjures ‘Oútis’ in the mind as a beautiful act of artful balance and glossy, deep-black mirrors of the self. I can sometimes tend towards a jaded perspective in terms of technical death metal as I often feel like I reached capacity for that style after Anata and Spawn of Possession had their say, with several exceptions but you get the idea. Yet, I strangely dove into Ceremony of Silence‘s debut immediately as their marriage of Ulcerate with (mid-period) Deathspell Omega is exactly along the right lines in terms of my own taste but, also very well done. Intricate, unexpected, gloriously brutal and yet so layered with atmospherics that it never feels labored, ‘Oútis’ is the exactly the sort of depth that I need in prog/tech death to be satisfied with beyond initial appearances.


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Artist Protector
Title [Type] Summon the Hordes [Full-length]
 Rating [4.25/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read my REVIEW!

German brutal thrashers Protector are mediocre to some and classic mastery to others and I very clearly lean towards the fact that they were not only classic, but a distinct force in the history of death/thrash metal. ‘Summon the Hordes’ continues the fantastic resurgence of the band since 2013 with their third album featuring Martin Missy at the helm with his Swedish compatriots behind him. Looking back on the history of the band I don’t think the line-up or the material was ever as consistent in the 80’s as it has been in the 2010’s. I would say this record is exactly on par with ‘Cursed and Coronated’ (2016) but with just a bit more death/thrash a la ‘Shedding the Skin’ (1991) and hey, that might be because of the production from Harris Johns, the man responsible for some of the biggest German thrash albums of the 80’s. As a Protector fan this album provides everything I want from the band at this point, a hard and fast brutal thrash album that leans into 80’s death metal style about half the time. The songs don’t all hit a hundred percent of the time and the album cover is ugly but I’m no less satisfied as a die-hard fan of the band.


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Artist Deathwomb
Title [Type] Moonless Night Sacraments [Full-length]
 Rating [4.25/5.0] REVIEW coming soon!

A raw black/death cult trio from the Canary Islands of Spain, the fact that Deathwomb features members of Necroven and Stormvold should clue you into the ultra-underground sound of their debut full-length. Consider a band like Moenen of Xezbeth and apply a coating of Beherit and Varathron-spiked poison upon that sword and double the pace. ‘Moonless Night Sacraments’ is such a pure and simple expression of black metal ethos that I am excited to put it on every chance I get. I’ll have more to say in my review but for now, I’d highly recommend just hitting play and letting Deathwomb whirl up the appropriate psychotic trance for your sacrificial end.


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Artist Altar of Oblivion
Title [Type] The Seven Spirits [Full-length]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] REVIEW coming soon!

Though I am still in the process of drafting this review and giving Danish epic heavy/doom metal band Altar of Oblivion the time and consideration they’re due, I can say that I love ‘The Seven Spirits’. They’ve gone a bit more rough and ready with the production and there is more of a later My Dying Bride vibe to their sound this time in addition to their usual modernization of olden Candlemass. Its been seven years since their last record but they haven’t dipped in quality and the new drummer and second guitarist really show up on this record. Will have more coherent thoughts to come when the review finishes.


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Artist Devoid of Thought
Title [Type] Cosmic Apoptosis [EP]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW

Devoid of Thought are a relatively new death metal band that formed after the dissolution of a Busto Arsizio, Italy area thrash metal band (Warstorm). Their first tape was a wild and rotten burst of thrashing death metal and ‘Cosmic Apoptosis’ achieves a more brutal storm of technical and filth-slamming death metal far beyond the capabilities of their previous work. They’re not quite full-length ready on this tape but they’re right there on the verge as they find powerful death metal riffs that are technical but not flamboyant along the way. Few folks will need more than a comparison to ‘Unholy Cult’ era Immolation  to check it out. Easily best death metal tape I’d heard in April.


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Artist Warchest
Title [Type] Sentenced Since Conception [Full-length]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW!

By updating their sound beyond their groove/melodic thrash metal style and diving head-first towards classic United States/South American death/thrash this Santiago, Chile band strikes gold from the first note of their third album. ‘Sentenced Since Conception’ is a righteous and ripping thrasher that fires at the speed of Morbid Saint, Num Skull, Invocator, and even jumps into a few Vio-lence riffs along the way. It is savage, high speed, full of wailing solos and each track is a deeper gut-punch of thrash metal power. I reviewed this demo quite early and didn’t have some of the important information; Didn’t know Arthur Rizk mastered it, nor that the great Adam Burke painted the album cover but those extras only make it all the more impressive and in good taste. I hear some influence from classic Death as well as Power Trip along the way, some technical moments here and there but mostly barnstorming ruinous and savage high-speed death/thrash metal. Incredible energy, great sound, ripping riffs, and goddamn it you need this if you’re a classic thrash or late 80’s death/thrash fan.


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Artist Gold
Title [Type] Why Aren’t You Laughing? [Full-length]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW!

Rotterdam, Netherlands based modern rock band Gold found their way out of a predictable blues rock rut by reaching towards the realm of post-metal and gothic rock on their third full-length and this fourth one finds them truly refining that into something particularly memorable and emotive. Even if you’re not expert or huge fan of this kind of music, as I am not, it should resonate with anyone who enjoys dark and listless heavy music. Alluring as it was there is a lot of bloat on the tracklist, otherwise I found myself listening to ‘Why Aren’t You Laughing?’ quite a bit as the month dragged on.


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Artist Suffering Hour
Title [Type] Dwell [EP]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] CLICK/TAP here for the full REVIEW!

I’d just as well put Sacrilegia here and there were several other technically ‘better’ releases I wanted to put into the last two spots on this list but this month I’d decided to only place albums that I found stood out the most regardless of where I eventually landed with them. ‘Dwell’ really hasn’t generated any hype despite the big deal critics had made about Suffering Hour‘s debut back in 2017. To be fair this makes sense as ‘In Passing Ascension’ was a challenging and dissonant black/death record that’d been done but was still an exciting listen regardless. The compositions aren’t amazing but there is a nice sort of blackened later The Chasm meets Inquisition effect happening within the EP’s length. My score would actually lower now that I’ve returned to this album further removed from it, but not by much.


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Artist Doombringer
Title [Type] Walpurgis Fires [Full-length]
 Rating [3.75/5.0] CLICK/TAP here for the full REVIEW!

As I looked over the long list of records I loved in April Doombringer‘s second full-length really stood out for its violent energy and old school black/death style that invokes Necromantia as much as it does the very related Culte Des Ghoules. File this one under albums with plenty of riffs and a ruinous sound but no majorly memorable moments. I would also feel alright swapping this with Vargrav, Istapp or Smoulder‘s records this month, each invokes a different sort of enjoyable nostalgia for a specific style and era of metal.


Honorable mentions [Click/Tap to Read Reviews]

Did I miss your favorite metal/rock/whatever album released in April? 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/design, 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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