Metal of the Month: June’s Finest 15 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.

June was another mountain of a month for underground heavy music but it was probably most exciting for folks who love death and black metal variations. I always seem to prioritize black metal after I’ve picked through the best death metal but thankfully it all balanced out by the end of the month. I am so thankful to receive such a wide range of promos every week and this month was again thankfully eclectic even if I didn’t get to review even half of what I wanted to. 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 (Protected Illusion, Merciless, Agressor, and Stigma), 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 Captor, Terror (Ohio), Fatal, and Vengeance Rising in July. Things will continue at a slower pace in early July because I am moving from the city to the suburbs. As I’d said before, June was a lot to handle but I could have used a few more thrash metal releases to pick from! If you’re a huge death metal and traditional heavy metal fan then July is gonna be a lot of fun, I’ll probably use that month to catch up on black metal as well.

June releases still in consideration for review: Avavago, Allone, Snogg, Misanthropic Rage, Ancient Hostility, Humanart, Gravefields, Depressor, Silver Devil, Enablers, Mouth, Pacifist, Rainer Landfermann, Wretched of the Earth, Tristengrav, Undoer, Lifes, White Manna, Hawkeyes, Axioma, Thenighttimeproject, Stozhar, Yellow Eyes, Needless and a few more. Most all of these bands current releases will still be reviewed post-June in some form in the coming weeks. Drafts of the following June releases are in-process: . 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.

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Epiaphe - I cover

Artist Epitaphe
Title [Type] I [Full-length]
 Rating [4.75/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW

I think I was verbose enough in the full review in terms of illustrating a few key points. Epitaphe are an experimental funeral death/doom metal band from the French alps who are additionally influenced by black metal. Not only have they expanded beautifully upon their 2018 demo tracks, which I’d reviewed last year, but every aspect of their sound is improved and illuminated. They find streamlined passages between Dead Congregation, early Esoteric, and The Ruins of Beverast then make that result entirely their own. I don’t think I’ve heard a band nail this sort of sound since perhaps Krypts and in some ways ‘I’ is even more distinct than ‘Cadaver Circulation’ thanks to the blackened death metal influences. I am endlessly enthusiastic about this release, the artwork, the style, the songwriting, and the enormous atmosphere of it all. The full review goes on for a couple thousand words anyhow, go read that. It will be high on my end of the year list for sure.


Artist Superstition
Title [Type] The Anatomy of Unholy Transformation [Full-length]
 Rating [4.5/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW!

I could just type “Riffs.” to describe this album along with Infernal Conjuration and Sadistic Ritual and you’d basically get why I was flipping my shit in each review this month. Superstition do an incredible job living up to their ‘Surging Throng of Evil’s Might’ demo from 2018 with an album that strikes hard and remains a fever-pitched cyclone of ‘classic’ death metal violence throughout. The basis for this species of diabolism lies at the heart of mid-to-late 80’s death metal in the United States when drum triggers hadn’t yet infested the southern states. There so many took the work of Slayer, Insanity, Morbid Angel and lesser known innovators to another level of speed. Anyhow, I am just going to write another review for it if I keep going… Riffs! Think of Mortem (Peru), Sadistic Intent, Exmortis, and then give it a less traditional structure a la Temisto and you’ll know what to expect from Superstition in terms of general modus. The damned album just shreds with a maze-like abandon. If you like this, then definitely check out Infernal Conjuration who are similar in approach but different enough that both are essential.


Artist Infernal Conjuration
Title [Type] Infernale Metallum Mortis [Full-length]
 Rating [4.5/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW!

Thrashing mad as you might’ve found Superstition the truly fucking evil death of Infernal Conjuration is almost overwhelming by comparison. The production is wild on this album and it comes as no surprise that these guys have played in bands like Omision, Mortuary (Mexico), and Infinitum Obscure. There is that gnarly LA death metal scowl you’d expect from Sadistic Intent, Mortem (Peru) and Coffin Texts that has a lineage stemming from early Possessed, Morbid Angel and their ilk. I’m even more blown away each time I listen to this album and I would not be surprised if the score is higher when I start to make my ‘best of 2019’ list for the year. I think the spirit of old school death metal is the point here but they’ve modernized in some respects and the result is just as ‘progressive’ tinged as Superstition‘s album but the difference is that ‘Infernale Metallum Mortis’ is less stripped down in terms of production. I flip my shit every time I listen to this and it is definitely one of my highest recommendations of the year, I was surprised so many sites sat on it so long. The full review is even more gushing so go check that out for more enthusiasm and anti-Christian sentiment.


Artist Nucleus
Title [Type] Entity [Full-length]
 Rating [4.5/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW

Following Dark Descent and Unspeakable Axe pretty much from their inception has allowed me to follow the progression of most of their signings as a result and I’d say Nucleus is one of those bands appear driven to push their own limits with each release and make records that are far beyond average. For a technical/progressive death metal band they’re of the sci-fi ‘old school’ ilk or they have always had that Demilich-esque vibe minus the burping vocals. ‘Entity’ is challenging and almost feels randomly generated at first, to the point where I almost gave up on it. With some deeper listening I did eventually get their blurred, ragged vibe and the ‘order’ of their insane implementation was slightly more apparent. Even if you find it too challenging to get into, you might have to buy the vinyl just for the Adam Burke painting.


Artist Sadistic Ritual
Title [Type] Visionaire of Death [Full-length]
Rating [4.5/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW

Goddamn if Atlanta, Georgia brutal thrashers Sadistic Ritual don’t butcher and skin every pair of ears they touch on this meticulous display of classic late 80’s styled thrash metal from the mind of guitarist/vocalist Charlie Southern (Ectovoid, Vimur). This was essentially Southern‘s first project he’d formed as a teenager back in 2008 (though the details on Vimur‘s timeline are fuzzy, its their drummer’s vision) and I’d say none of their early releases really posed a serious threat to the community until the ‘Edge of the Knife’ (2015) EP. That Morbid Saint-esque vibe has exploded into a monstrosity. For this debut full-length the riffs never stop coming and they go full-bore, head-first Demolition Hammer, Sepultura (circa ’89-’91), Gammacide etc. brutal thrash with the help of guitarist/producer Alex Parra (Paladin, Gunpowder Grey) and oh man do they it right. An immaculate brutal thrash record that never goes full death metal but reads just as intense as any pre-’91 classic. I gush throughout the full review, absolutely loved this album and nothing has thrashed this hard so far in 2019 besides Inculter.


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

This New York by way of Italian roots heavy psyche/doom metal band has one very true aim that is without any self-conscious commercial attitude. ‘Astrological Warfare’ is the second full-length from Python and it again endeavors to create dark occult doom metal and psychedelia influenced by late 80’s Italian doom metal maestros like Paul Chain, The Mezmerist, The Black, Black Hole, and perhaps Zess. These were basically insane people, outsiders that’d been high since the 70’s who’d create their own lo-fi horror film inspired by the dark heavy metal of Black Sabbath and perhaps Pentagram too. Python creates this atmosphere, that same psychedelic satanic panicked horror of the occult and makes it their own this time around with performances that feel like sporadic rehearsals and analog tape experimentation. It all feels like a crude manifesto discovered years later, a full body plunge into madness and stoned ritualistic creation. I absolutely loved it, even the horrible secondary vocal shrieking on a few tracks became endearing.


Artist Purification
Title [Type] Destruction of the Wicked [Full-length]
 Rating [4.25/5.0] REVIEW coming soon!

Discovering ‘Destruction of the Wicked’ without expectations, unknowingly stumbling into their clutches and bearing witness to Purification isn’t something I’d like to preface. Nonetheless if you’re the type who’d find equal love in ‘modern’ traditional doom metal as well as the vital heavy/doom metal bands from the NWOBHM movement trust that you’ve landed upon a geyser of blasphemy, a pillar of culling salt, a nuclear happening that you must swallow whole and become.


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

Doubt I fully got my list of perceived influences and intentions right in examining Valaraukar‘s debut full-length but I surely enjoyed it. The best way to describe it for my own taste and references is early Celtic Frost attitude, post-1999 Immortal structures, and the cosmic spiritual attack of Inquisition. That is to say that it is black metal in marrow and a dangerous void in practice. I’d say some of the best riffs of June are on this record. The full review explains this well enough so I won’t prattle on about ‘Demonian Abyssal Visions’ but I did feel this record has been underappreciated thus far.


Artist Wormlust & Skáphe
Title [Type] Kosmískur Hryllingur [Collaboration]
 Rating [4.25/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW

Probably the most complex and confounding musical collapse either of these projects knew they were capable of ‘Kosmískur Hryllingur’ almost appears to pick up where Guðveiki left off and then Skáphe provides rocket fuel to take things to a dangerous and fucked up place. The album is named “cosmic horror” after all and they deliver just that. It all feels improvised, frantic, explosive, and almost as if it were meant to be as abrupt and jagged as possible. It took a long while to wrap my head around it but I never felt desensitized to the crazed vibe of this collaboration. I have such admiration for all of the projects connected to this collaboration and though it would be natural to see this as a diversion I saw it as almost an art piece, a performative illustration between the two forces that was less about demonstrative personality hawking and more about creating a mood that pushed limits. The full review elaborates on my thoughts a bit more.


Artist Nebula
Title [Type] Holy Shit [Full-length]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Truth be told this was a backup choice as I’d had a black metal album here that actually came out on March 31st but that doesn’t mean I’m any less interested in this latest record from Nebula. As far as I ever understood as a teenager when I bought ‘To the Center’ and ‘Charged’ was that they were ex-Fu Manchu members. I’ve not kept up, obviously, though I do still admire Fu Manchu‘s recent stuff quite a bit. Its been thirteen years since the last Nebula album and probably sixteen years since they put out a good one. ‘Holy Shit’ doesn’t rely on nostalgia or recreation of their old sound for purpose and instead they just kick in playing that heavy psych and doom-tinged stoner rock/metal hybrid they were always known for. I found this one a bit less serious than their last few, but hey it’s been ages. Not only are the lyrics kinda anti-religious but Matt Lynch of Snail produced the album and those two things add up to a good time. It all kinda goes over the top heavy metal with “Witching Hour” and the tracks building up to it are no less awesome. I probably won’t review it but absolutely spent half of June listening to this on the side.


Artist Barbarian
Title [Type] To No God Shall I Kneel [Full-length]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW!

The catchiest and most hard hitting release of June comes with a defensive advantage in the hands of this solid-as-fuck Italian trio. Barbarian have always been good and their love of Hellhammer and Running Wild shines more and more in their work with each release. This time around they’ve outdone themselves and produced a fuckin’ heavy metal record for the ages, a damn album worth remembering that pushes right up in your face and swats it with a spiked wrist band. I go apeshit for early Running Wild, well beyond ‘Under Jolly Roger’ stuff, too so to see Barbarian crushing Christian skulls and writing catchy heavy metal songs doing it… and with an early extreme metal edge, it really stuck with me. Hell, I’m fired up about it even a month after writing the review. Essential heavy metal for 2019.


Artist Power From Hell
Title [Type] Profound Evil Presence [Full-length]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW!

I couldn’t help but compare Power From Hell‘s successful transition towards first wave black/speed metal to the unsuccessful thing that Crucifyre tried with ‘Post Vulcanic Black’. Both are conjuring the old greats while doing something modern at once but ‘Profound Evil Presence’ is the real thing, a memorable and menacingly evil heavy metal record that is genuinely repeatable. It is a surprising turn from a group that was admittedly somewhat generic to begin with, sticking with the old lessons of Sodom, Onslaught, and Bathory without moving an inch away from that style. To think that all of this old school black metal would come from brutal death metal musicians is a surprise in and of itself, I suppose. Think along the lines of Spite, Funereal Presence, and later Arckanum and you’re in the right ballpark, the full review says a lot more.


Artist Kingdom
Title [Type] Rotting Carcass Arise Upon the Burial Mound [Full-length]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] REVIEW coming soon!

One of my most listened to releases of the month is actually a somewhat standard ‘old school’ influenced death metal album from Polish band Kingdom. They have a long history of very slightly blackening their sound and this has made their last four albums all pretty interesting. This type of band can be difficult to write about because the things they’re attempting are often very subtle, such as the Demilich-esque vocals they’ve used on certain tracks in the last three releases. Kingdom reminds me of bands like Denial, Undersave, and Sinister in that they’re brutal but not brutal, technical but not technical, and gnarly like The Chasm but never to the point of becoming tedious. A really solid example of modern death metal that doesn’t appear desperate to stand out but naturally do stand out with some closer listening. A full review will follow by the end of 6/29.


Artist Hirveä
Title [Type] Tuska ja pakokauhu [Full-length]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Hirveä is an experimental sludge/doom metal project from Finland that features the talented fellow K.K. who is best known for his work in experimental death metal project Oksennus. There are elements of drone, death and sludge amidst the slow motion churning of doom riffs and experimental vocal choices. There is that same sort of improvised feeling that K.K.’s other project is known for and the two roughly 20 minute songs included on ‘Tuska ja pakokauhu’ are different than the ones featured on the project’s two previous demos. At first I detested the vocal work and the abrasive sounds of Hirveä but this soon became one of the most distinct releases of the month. I think I will still do a full review for this so I won’t overstate myself here but this one is well worth the time invested. Also, the proceeds from digital purchase are donated to The Finnish Association for Nature Conservation.


Artist Kaleidoscope
Title [Type] After the Futures… [Full-length]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Kaleidoscope were once a beacon of noisy New York hardcore that was unconventional in approach but conventional in spirit and this sort of elevated throwback they were born from has built up to a great peak with ‘After the Futures…’, where they’ve become even more daring and yet sound classic 80’s hardcore as hell. I won’t do a full review for this album but it is among my favorite hardcore punk records of 2019. Here’s my back of the box quote: “Among the most cutting and exploratory of NYC’s new breed of hardcore punks, KALEIDOSCOPE’s ‘After the Futures’ heartily contends for punk record of the year, so far. Think… The F.U.‘s ‘Kill For Christ’ meets early Condominium.” Bits of everything from Subhumans UK, Black Flag, and Rudimentary Peni pop up too, or I might just be nuts. Either way, a great record.

Honorable mentions [Click/Tap to Read Reviews]

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