Metal of the Month: May’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.


May was another mountain of a month for underground heavy music regardless of what niche you might prefer as there was not dominant sub-genre presence this time around beyond the last two weeks seeing a huge influx of black metal. I am so thankful to receive such a wide range of promos every week and this month was exceptionally eclectic. Before we dig into the list let me plug a few features: Make sure check out the (every) Friday news column SYNCHRONY which will also include a Grizzly Butts site ‘week in review’, upcoming releases, and new releases you might’ve missed. This month the ongoing Thrash ‘Til Death feature saw four more entries (Disciples of Power, Revenant, Epidemic and Assorted Heap), 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 Protected Illusion, Merciless, Agressor, and Stigma in June. Things will continue at a similar pace in June though I will have some commitments that’ll slow down a few features/reviews here and there. As I’d said before, May was incredible, though I could have used a few more thrash metal releases to pick from. Doom, heavy psych and death metal fans should be really happy with the upcoming major releases of the June, though.

May releases still in consideration for review: Atala, Suspiral, Sinners Bleed, Concilivm, Calyx, Handful of Hate, Calamity, Body Harvest, Foul, Black Mold, Vortex of End, Verwoed, AHRM, Widower, Goregang, The Myrrors, Swamp Witch, Sxuperion, Tir, Big | Brave, Doomstress, Bewitcher, Sins of the Damned, The Shrine, Draghkar, Throats, Verwustung, Mavradoxa, Deitus, Black Seal, Maniac Abductor, Starless Domain, Vale of Pnath, Adrenaline, Diamond Head, Evil Angel, Deorc Absis, and a few more. Most all of these bands current releases will still be reviewed post-May in some form in the coming weeks. Drafts of the following May releases are in-process: Fulci, Malum, Earth, Domgard, Destroyer of Light, American Sharks, Dreamtime, Hexenbrett. I’ve additionally received many requests direct from bands 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 Lord Vicar
Title [Type] The Black Powder [Full-length]
 Rating [5.0/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW

It’d seem as if this incredible post-Reverend Bizarre outfit were holding something back on their previous release; Maybe it was too much great weed and an intense exploration of progressive rock music or maybe it was just a new recording situation after a bit of time apart in other projects but, it felt like Lord Vicar disappeared into the clouds after the underrated ‘Signs of Osiris’. Just as I’d long considered this doom metal band’s debut ‘Fear No Pain’ a 5 star modern doom record so do I now suggest that ‘The Black Powder’ is at the same high level of emotional resonance and heaviness. The production is enormous, the songs are unabashedly long, and they’ve not lost any of that punkish edge they kick around on the shorter pieces in between. Since I’ve been doing much longer reviews lately, the details are there and the gist is that this is a fantastic doom metal album from one of my favorite bands.


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Artist Krypts
Title [Type] Cadaver Circulation [Full-length]
 Rating [5.0/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW!

Krypts have long been one of the quieter phenomena within the Finnish death metal scene that’d find perfect balance of classic existentialist Finndeath horror and the catchy stoned gloom of Hooded Menace. They weren’t a far cry from the early days Purtenance and Convulse in terms of sound early on but their style was closer to Slugathor initially, maybe a bit less brutal. They’d really taken things up to a next level with their second full-length and I’d say ‘Cadaver Circulation’ is an equally big step forward in terms of songwriting and general fidelity. It is exactly the sort of death/doom metal album I want in 2019 and every part of the style, sound, riffs, and even packaging makes this third Krypts album a modern classic in my eyes. Again, this is one of my favorite bands reaching a peak in their discography and for my own taste something worthy of cherishing.


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Artist Deathspell Omega
Title [Type] The Furnaces of Palingenesia [Full-length]
 Rating [4.75/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW!

There was such anxiety and confusion surrounding the announcement of ‘The Furnaces of Palingenesia’ and it all looked so pathetic from my point of view. Not to be a dick about it but, there is a tiny horde of self-conscious music fans that have such worthlessly speculative presence in most online ‘metal’ communities [in terms of gossip and content policing]. None of it has anything to do with Deathspell Omega, an entity that have made almost no public statement since 2004. This seventh album is a new peak in those fifteen years since, where this avant-progressive black metal entity have become the most compelling and adept creators within the loosening confines of the sub-genre. ‘The Furnaces of Palingenesia’ is a fearsome and maddeningly dense listen that is truly imposing for its perceived density. Again, I’ve written a 2000 word review for it so the details are there. I consider this a high achievement and a bold, timely examination of civilization, religion and human agency.


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Artist Ares Kingdom
Title [Type] By the Light of Their Destruction [Full-length]
 Rating [4.5/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW

Ares Kingdom‘s fourth album is probably the most underrated release of the month considering the legacy of this band and their previous work in Order From Chaos. So many folks, myself included, see these guys as legends who’d never really faltered since the mid-80’s and ‘By the Light of Their Destruction’ is a bad-ass showcase for how strong they’re still going. Explosive death/thrash is in order but there is something bestial, ruinous in the strike of the drums that is almost blackened compared to previous Ares Kingdom works and this comes from Keller‘s reexamination of post-Order From Chaos works (unfinished Vulpecula stuff, I believe) and well, some of this sounds a bit like the first Ares Kingdom album too. It has that savage signature 80’s death metal sound and impressively literate lyrics. I was grateful to have them in hand and felt the value of this record continuing to increase as I dug through its themes. This is easily the most ‘heavy metal’ set of riffs I’ve heard in months.


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Artist Pulver
Title [Type] Kings Under the Sand [Full-length]
Rating [4.5/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW

German heavy metal act Pulver whip out a debut that’d conjure the spirit and the soul of the early NWOBHM movement from start to finish. Tank-esque vocals atop Budgie-meets-Iron Maiden songwriting make for an unforgettable listen that has just enough of a bite and swagger to stay strong throughout the full spin. ‘Kings Under the Sand’ is catchy but not trite and doesn’t waste time with ‘retro’ metal posturing to the point where it all sounds incredible natural as it expresses. As much as the authenticity of their sound and the ‘rough around the edges’ kick of it all is impressive what kept me coming back was the songwriting and specifically the guitar work. Plenty more to say in the full review but the gist is that manages to be compelling and comfortable to return to over and over again.


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Artist Spirit Adrift
Title [Type] Divided By Darkness [Full-length]
 Rating [4.5/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW

This third full-length from Arizona heavy/doom metal band Spirit Adrift went in one ear and out the other the first time I listened to it. It sounded cocksure and less vulnerable at first glance, almost as if ‘Curse of Conception’ was too bare-naked for songwriter Nate Garrett and this’d pull back to focus on technique. It turns out he’d just focused more on a different set of influences in conjuring this follow-up, which is just as valuable as the last but in a different style. ‘Divided by Darkness’ has nods to 80’s hard rock/heavy metal as much as it begins to resemble the more dramatic flair of late 90’s sludge at times. It isn’t so much a doom metal record but a modern and very present heavy metal record that uses lead guitars as an important focal point in its narrative. Lots more to say about this one in the full review.


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Artist Misþyrming
Title [Type] Alglyemi [Full-length]
 Rating [4.5/5.0] REVIEW coming soon!

Since this and Deathspell Omega‘s records went to press about two days before release I’ve seen a fair amount of impatience in regard to them not yet receiving reviews. To be clear I will not review an album without a minimum of ten listens and the final draft for any review is typically a full month when considering listening, analysis, writing, and re-drafting when necessary. A lot of albums are set to post automatically and are finished up to one week in advance. | So, while I was able to give DsO plenty of focus beyond release ‘Alglyemi’ deserves just as much attention, not only because every record is due a fair shake but because this second full-length from Misþyrming is very good. This is more of a melodic black metal album for lack of a better description and it is almost unrecognizable next to their debut ‘Söngvar elds og óreiðu’ way back in 2015. We’d seen some of this shift coming with the ‘Hof’ EP but ‘Alglyemi’ is still pretty dramatic. The rating is tentative as I’ve found myself losing the personality of the band during listening sessions and some deeper focus is required.


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

Charleston, South Carolina noise rock’n punk n’ post-hardcore band Florida Man do a beautiful job making unbalanced rock music a zen-like experience. I am always damned excited to come across modern noise rock/post-hardcore hybrids that aren’t just cheesing off of bands like Unsane and I’d count Florida Man as the sort of band that is from a similar wheelhouse but they’ve got their own noise-punk/post-hardcore eclecticism going on that makes ‘Tropical Depression’ an absolute trip. There is a physical aspect to the type of noise rock produced here, as if it was performed through acrobatics and this is especially true on “Holy Roller” and “Weeded”, two songs that had a huge part in selling me on the full listen. I’m still just as excited for this album as I was when I wrote the review at the end of last month.


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Artist Thronehammer
Title [Type] Usurper of the Oaken Throne [Full-length]
 Rating [4.25/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW

The pace and sound that Thronehammer achieve is easy enough to communicate through a small number of specific comparisons but the vibe, the emotional perspective of it isn’t as singular as any group. It is a two headed hydra: The doom metal head lands upon the shoulders of post-‘In the Rectory of the Bizarre Reverend’ European doom metal that is as dramatically ‘epic’ as Cross Vault, as musically expressive as Fall of the Idols‘ ‘Solemn Verses’, and ambitiously roughened as the venerable Cardinal’s Folly. The sludge metal head has the growling death-like chunk of Unearthly Trance and the stoned dramatics of whatever generation of ‘Dopethrone’-worshiping sludge/stoner bands we’re in the midst of today. The collective brain wrangling these influences isn’t lost in space or stuffed into a hole of depression, though, and ‘Usurper of the Oaken Throne’ is very much an epic heavy/doom metal album in pace and feeling going as far as the wailing dramatics of Scald and then pulling back towards a Reagers-era Saint Vitus growl. I’d been tempted to describe Thronehammer‘s debut as a sort of meeting of worlds, a best of both worlds that didn’t leave anything important out but there is more to its appeal and moment-to-moment gratification than genre tropes and stylized movements; There is an oozing, over the top ‘classic’ personality in display here that creates value far beyond the expectations of a debut from a fairly unknown band..


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Artist Funeral Storm
Title [Type] Arcane Mysteries [Full-length]
 Rating [4.25/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read my REVIEW!

As soon as I saw that Stefan Necroabyssious (VarathronKatavasia) lent his vocals to this project spearheaded by members of Karkinos and Disharmony I practically fell out of my chair clicking wildly on the screen downloading it. No doubt I’m a ridiculous and ultra die-hard Varathron fan but I was still a bit taken aback upon firing up ‘Arcane Mysteries’ up for the first time and finding Funeral Storm had essentially written an effective throwback to those first two Varathron full-lengths, ‘Walpurgisnacht’ in particular. Beyond the fairly obvious bouts of ‘Walpurgisnacht’ worship the general niche entertained within is of the more mid-paced ‘epic’ Greek black metal style that bands like Caedes Cruenta (‘Σκιές Δαιμόνων’ especially), Agatus, and Cult of Eibon all exemplify though there are some riffs that’d fit right into the Macabre Omen or ’93-’96 era Rotting Christ realms. That is about as deep as the experience goes, and it rules.


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Artist Zig-Zags
Title [Type] They’ll Never Take Us Alive [Full-length]
 Rating [4.25/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW!

One of the more exciting metalpunk bands out of the states that kicks up a helluva lot of garage-stinkin’ dust and 80’s speed metal flack. All I could think about when I was listening to ‘They’ll Never Take Us Alive’ was that moment when I first listened to ‘Kill ’em All’ on full volume, buying that ‘Full Metal Jack-Off’ tape from D.O.A. and Jello Biafra and by the end of the spin I had Wipers on the brain and some Exodus demos to listen to and shit, these guys are probably better than all of that nostalgia if you’re able to get over it. I felt like this was a good follow-up to that last Jody Seabody & the Whirls record from 2018 in terms of garage punk, speed metal and some early crossover spirit. The recording is chunky and sounds like a busted tape playing in a busted van in a busted neighborhood and you’re only there because your friends mom kicked you all out of the garage for smoking weed and listening to Slayer. Excuse my ridiculous enthusiasm for it if you will but, I’d highly recommend it.


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Artist USA Nails
Title [Type] Life Cinema [Full-length]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] Review coming soon!

The fourth full-length from this London based noise rock/post-punk/post-hardcore quartet might look a bit glossy and snazzed up this time around but it is not less raucous and ‘a bit nuts’ as ‘Shame Spiral’ (2017) was. I hadn’t really heard of the band until that last album so it’s been a pleasure to listen through their full discography and really get into ‘Life Cinema’ thus far. Taking some time to draft it out and really ‘get’ the feeling of the record down, but I think the title is fairly resonant to start. Around a third of the records I buy anymore are noise rock these last three years, so labels shouldn’t hesitate to send noise rock/post-hardcore/hardcore punk variants my way.


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

Entrapment is dead! After developing his solo project into one of the heaviest early Swedish death metal styled bands around for years this Netherlands based fellow called it quits, pre-announcing all of this before the release and final shows. It is a shame in some respects because Entrapment are going out on what is unarguably their highest note! ‘Imminent Violent Death’ has that Nihilist crunch, the Repugnant raw-fucking abandon and Pyre‘s modernized vision for the Swedish death sound that doesn’t rely on silly overblown pedal worship. If you loved Swedish death metal prior to 1993, give this a shot!


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

Think of Helheim as the Norwegian version of a bastard child between Sólstafir and Primordial that has been around as long, or longer than both. Their rasping 90’s styled viking black metal days are long behind them, ‘Rignir’ serves as the third post-rock/post-metal viking spiritual that is entirely their own sound. I was equally inspired by the return of Kampfar this month, and I would recommend their ‘Ofidians Manifest’ just as much. Meditative, proud, and inspirationally original music from a band that deserves so much more praise for their history and their presence.


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Artist Dreamtime
Title [Type] Tidal Mind [Full-length]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] Review coming soon! [CLICK/TAP for Bandcamp link]

I had some trouble choosing between this and including Kaliedobolt or Lo-Pan‘s albums, which are probably a lot more catchy but a bit vapid in direct comparison (however unfair that might be!). Dreamtime are a Brisbane, Australia based psychedelic rock band that take heavy influence from kosmiche music, garage psych, and I dunno… They just have that -something- extra that makes ‘Tidal Mind’ so interesting as a listening experience. Will have more thoughts on it when/if I review it.


Honorable mentions [Click/Tap to Read Reviews]

Did I miss your favorite metal/rock/whatever album released in May? 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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