Metal of the Month: July’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. 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.


July was the right time to slow down, catch a few shows and pick through all of the things I’d missed in the previous six months so that I felt up to date and ready to make some “Things You Missed in 2019” lists when the end of the year hits. Just because it was ‘slow’ in terms of releases doesn’t mean we didn’t get a butt-load of great music along the way and in fact, some of the best stuff all year came out this past month. I am so thankful to receive such a wide range of promos every week and this month was again strongly 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 also includes 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 five more entries (Magnus, Fatal, Terror, Captor, and Slaughter), 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 Funeral Nation, Morbid Saint, Insanity (United States), and Poison (Germany) in August. As of the first week of July I now live in the suburbs and this means the pressures of living in Seattle have melted off of me, I feel less depression and have been able to spend more time in nature; No doubt you will notice soon enough that my writing style and perspective will shift along with this change of scenery. I want independence from everything, and this includes ending my Patreon campaign and ceasing all crowd-funding efforts. I’ll do what I want, when I want and how I want to without ever answering to the expectations of others. Look forward to a boost of activity in August and September along with some of my own more ambitious ideas coming to fruition.

July releases still in consideration for review: Havens, Sadistic Drive, Sepsis, Hex, Detach the Islands, Arkhaaik, Ecliptic Vision, Bleach Everything, Spiker, The Nighter Eternal, Temptress, Demiurgon, Burial Party, The Mezmerist (Reissue), Sigil, Torture Ascendency, Plague of Carcoasa, Dogbane, Vomit Angel, Boatman’s Toll, Botis, Children of the Sun, VHS, Lavinia, Jesusegg, Morbus Grave, Sculpted Horror, Effigy, Rotten Hate, Vagrant, Consummation and a few more. Most all of these bands current releases will still be reviewed post-July in some form in the coming weeks. Drafts of the following July releases are in-process: Daxma, Nunslaughter, Possessor, Elder. 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 constantly in a state of gratitude when I consider the multitudes of great bands, record labels, PR companies, readers and donors supporting the continuation of this site. If you are a regular follower of the site, 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 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 Tomb Mold
Title [Type] Planetary Clairvoyance [Full-length]
 Rating [5.0/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW

Although Tomb Mold have many earned luxuries (great tours, solid label priority, great PR & representation, and two well-praised full-lengths under their belts) it would have been easier to churn out an impersonal ‘sick riffs, brah’ sort of album. Instead they’ve reached a new peak of craft and artistry while taking full stock of the village it took to raise them to this point. The major personal takeaway I’d received from my time spent with the rhythms and dark prose of ‘Planetary Clairvoyance’ was essentially “this too shall pass, change is infinite” and well, surely your take could be less esoteric but ultimately the intentions of this record align with my own Buddhist studies from the mentorships I’d taken part of in my late 20’s and early 30’s. How much one goes through, endures, only makes the light after that much more stunning. There is of course much more to the themes and ideas within but my take is heavily influenced with conversations with guitarist and co-songwriter Derrick Vella, who was kind enough to allow me to publish an interview pieced together from private conversations. I’ve been so inspired by those conversations because they apply so heavily to my own life, which I won’t detail here for the sake of keeping this mini-review relevant to the music. Suffice to say that I begin a new chapter of my own just as Tomb Mold reveal their new fleshy, glowing alien skin on this second album. In my review I compare it to peak (see: ‘Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious’) Carcass, Adramelech, Suffocation, and Gorguts where ’95 brutal death and ’91 Finnish death metal caress one another. I love the new (but not -too- new) and more sophisticated direction the band has taken. Will it overtake heavy favorites like Krypts and Epitaphe in the long run? See you in five months when I decide, and see the full review for more thoughts on the actual music.


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Artist Desecresy
Title [Type] Towards Nebulae [Full-length]
 Rating [4.5/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW!

It wasn’t until Helsinki, Finland based death metal project Desecresy‘s second album, ‘The Doom Skeptron’ (2012) where I understood where they were coming from and this was partially due to the difficulty I’d had finding the final Slugathor album which was generally rare at the time I’d sought after it. Here we find the result of both ‘caverncore’, death/doom metal, and classic Finnish death metal all worming their way through the Earth and making Swiss cheese of the ground we walk upon. What? Well, the foundation of Desecresy was shaken when their vocalist left to focus on Serpent Ascending, leaving Tommi Grönqvist to perform every aspect of his songwriting himself. ‘The Mortal Horizon’ (2017) was a brutal lo-fi shakedown that didn’t necessarily match the majesty of ‘Stoic Death’ (2015) but ‘Towards Nebulae’ entirely lives up to the promise of previous undertakings. It isn’t a massive point of growth beyond previous releases outside of improved vocal, lead guitar, and production skills but these improvements add up to one of the finest Desecresy releases to date. I love to be in the midst of their records, they are suffocating and entrancing.


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Artist Impure
Title [Type] Satan’s Eclipse [Full-length]
 Rating [4.5/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW!

There are few upcoming personalities on the Archgoat spectrum of black/death (some might say war metal) style that pull so confidently from classic black metal as Impure does on this death metal engorged debut. The major entry point for ‘Satan’s Eclipse’ for me was my admiration for Spite‘s debut from last year and his involvement, then seeing several of my favorite artists (Hulten, Keller, Torp, Palm) contributing to the success of this record alongside overseer Fred Estby whose taste I fully trust considering the projects he’s realized beyond Dismember. But nepotism and guest involvement will never be enough to fully win me over, it was the spacious Bathory-esque fever dream of it all that had my head swimming in the old school black metal heave Impure presents themselves with. The death metal side of the band is harder to pin down, somewhere between modern atmospheric-psychedelia infused death and classic primitive meandering. All things I love and all well-blended to the point of delirium. I connected with this album and that is all that matters, I felt it and loved following its dark verve through over and over. The full review touches upon these things with great specificity. I’ve had a few folks comment that the score seems high — I do not, at all, care about agreeing with anyone on matters of taste especially casually perusing scuds.


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Artist Restless Spirit
Title [Type] Lord of the New Depression [Full-length]
 Rating [4.25/5.0] A full REVIEW is coming soon!

Now witness this creature! A somewhat late entry to my inbox and yet one of the most addictive pieces of North American traditional doom metal I’ve heard since that beautiful Pale Divine record last year. This New York based band began as Witchtripper in 2015, then they were known as Doom Metal Pope for a couple of years before landing on this name for this their debut full-length, ‘Lord of the New Depression’. Second hand information so, don’t quote me on that. They’ve got the stoner doom pipes of early Pale Divine, the emotional resonance of Pallbearer (or, the second Spirit Adrift) and a sound that is at once aggressive, stoney, depressed, and atmospherically huge. That is just about all I should gush on about before I finalize the full review, the gist is that I loved it and you should give it a chance if you’re a doom metal fan.


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

Strange early 90’s noise rock gloom group goes psychedelic noise rock in 2016, takes a few years to write ‘Immaculada High’ and drops it on Relapse Records of all places. I loved this album and I felt it is a nice compliment to the Sofy Major record from earlier in the year thanks to a great deal of variation and a very distinct style. The sleepy, sleazy, outer-spaced out and dark grooves of ‘2 Ynfynyty’ were a too-stoned revelation when Cherubs‘d landed upon it. That whole fuzz-rubbed psych angle was somewhat unexpected as ‘Heroin Man’ and their recently reissued (and cleaned-up) compilation ‘Short of Popular’ are often likened to Unsane for the depressive bass-hungry grind they led with. Unexpected, sure, but well-loved on my end and among the finer releases of that particular year. Hell, if ‘Immaculada High’ was just more of the same I’d still sign up for it but, hey Cherubs have gone bigger, spacier, spicier, even groovier this fourth time around. A greater focus on variety (pacing, sound, structure) and some wildly (fucked up but) catchy songwriting has kept the whole thing a vital presence on my own constantly stuffed playlist for the last month.


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

Had you missed their previous output you’ll only need about ten minutes with ‘Abhorrent Veneration’ to figure the bones of Carnal Tomb‘s classic death metal influenced creed. The prowling hulk of ‘Mental Funeral’-era Autopsy and the punched-out depth of Grave‘s ‘You’ll Never See’ are the most basic stylistic informants but deeper strains of early death/doom metal and Scandinavian excess mature on the palate with repeated listening. Their attack is not unlike pre-’94 Unleashed in that there is almost always an aggressive, bounding riff at the heart of each song that only ever rests for dramatic effect. ‘Rotten Remains’ had experimented with melodic ideas (“Funeral” was their “Dreaming in Red”) prior but ‘Abhorrent Veneration’ pushes almost in the other direction where the ‘catchy’ element of their work comes from subtler lead guitar focus and some ‘classic’ Swedish death metal moments (see: “Cryptic Nebula”); This sets Carnal Tomb in a more standard feeling space, not as weird as Cryptic Brood and not as melodic as Obscure Infinity but somehow totally appropriate on the same bill as each. A good number of ‘new old school’ death metal albums lead with a seductive ‘classic’ sound but fall flat when it comes time to write memorable songs and I’d say about eighty percent of the time Carnal Tomb boast some kind of memorable aspect to break through the crunch of it all.


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Artist Holocausto
Title [Type] Diário de Guerra [Full-length]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] Click/Tap HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Setting aside the bands history, their influential early days and the rush of hearing them return to their original sound for the time being I’d say it is important to just spit it out: Yep, this is exactly what you’d want it to be in that they’ve recreated their hardcore punk (Ratos de Porão and Olho Seco) influenced 80’s death/thrash sound without being too blunt or purposefully primitive in their rhythms. If anything they’re more thrashing mad as they reach witching metal levels of intensity and quickly eclipse any previous release, the strange experimental metal-punk of ‘De Volta ao Front’ (2005) included. The raw belching-n’-blasting ‘freak out of ‘Diário de Guerra’ isn’t just an extension of their old ways but a viable ‘show ’em how its done’ moment for such an ancient band. It’s not all a skinless tribute to the old ways though, as Side B takes some of that fucked up hardcore-meets-Venom style they’d been messing with since the first reunion as a trio and incorporates it into this throwback sound, it works particularly well on the title track and “Pelotão da Morte”. The majority of the record is just pure nuclear ’87 Brazilian extreme thrash.


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Artist Shades of Deep Water
Title [Type] Death’s Threshold [Full-length]
 Rating [3.75/5.0] Click/Tap HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Detailed yet sparse enough to satiate the well indoctrinated, ‘Death’s Threshold’ is even more of a dirge than thought possible whilst now standing in not-so-recent glow of the previous record ‘Waterways’ (2013); There rests an album that’d culminate the hardest work of J.H. in creating a traditional feeling between the experimentation of three demos and an EP between 2006 and 2012, by then the funeral death/doom metal underground surely knew Shades of Deep Water but it was the leap between ‘Constant Pressure’ (2012) EP and that debut full-length that’d connect most sincerely at the time. But that is all that ‘Waterways’ was, a nicely melodic dry run that introduced the capable sound design and melodic strengths of J.H.‘s vision without yet transcending active peers at the time. Instinct might have you pointing towards Shape of Despair or Funeral at first glance but the death metal aspects of ‘Death’s Threshold’ aren’t so pronounced and there are no real flourishes by way of keyboard as the album focuses on an almost dark metal-esque lead style for interest. The effect is closer to Ea, ‘Lead and Aether’-era Skepticism, or a more melodic/faster paced band like Helllight. For lack of easy comparisons Shades of Deep Water excel amidst any project I’ve named simply for their compelling use of lead guitars as the main narrative and emotive device on this fairly succinct (~40 minutes) melodic funeral doom record..


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

A somewhat experimental hardcore punk record from these formerly strict adherents to the d-beat lifestyle ‘Drøm’ is life in pictures, a surreal vision of a hardcore reality meant to be intimate and shocking at once. Halshug have taken cues from post-punk, death rock, and classic hardcore/d-beat for an album that often reminds me of Bl’ast, Born Against, and a sort of noise punk affect that isn’t entirely solidified enough to nail down. They haven’t broken the hardcore punk mold but at least warped and re-grooved it into an exciting spin.


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Artist Andavald
Title [Type] Undir Skyggðarhaldi [Full-length]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] Click/Tap HERE to read the full REVIEW!

The doomed and sometimes discordant surges of early Carpe Noctem, transitional works from Chaos Moon, and the glacially cruel fixation of Lurker of Chalice only begin to describe the actual tone of ‘Undir Skyggðarhaldi’ which is never propulsive but always emanating some ruinous mid-paced blackness, some measure of downward spiraling sanity. There is certain poetic value to the full listen but, you’ll have noticed by now that for all of the shadowy language I can throw at it — the face-value assertion that these are somewhat shapeless ‘in the moment’ pieces is true enough. It all bleeds together into a mush of ringing guitars, seemingly four channels all fighting for space and creating tension in their delayed polyrhythmic blanketing. The experience grows to become unnerving, grating, and pure torpor until A.F.‘s (Draugsól) vocals push these swells along out to sea. The experience isn’t altogether corporeal but a ringing in the ears and a siphoning of mental energy that amounts to a personal dissolution and all that I’d suggest is that it isn’t a ‘riff’ album or one of specific moments that define the mass of its movement. Instead,’Undir Skyggðarhaldi’ reads as a haunting aimed squarely through the ears of the listener, a catharsis of possession and a loss of control that becomes suffocating pain upon the moment of captivity.


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Artist Celestial Grave
Title [Type] Secular Flesh [Full-length]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW!

Atmospheric black metal is most effective as a big picture experience and what I mean by that is that it must create a meaningful greater arc to remain in the mind. No matter how gorgeous or stylized the moment-to-moment actions of the band are there is no impact felt without a greater recognizable structure to said atmosphere and this is where so many of the more poe-faced atmoblack acts falter despite capturing mood and scene relevant sounds quite well. An inspired outlier, Celestial Grave‘s ability to craft a satisfying arc from relatively simple progressions spanning each of these 6-10 minute songs is admirable but to be sure the triumphant attitude of “Gasping from Lips of Night” is a major piece of the whole achieving acceptable variety. What began to trouble me within each bout of obsessive listening streak (four or five full rotations) was that I began to see the initially impressive closing track as a missed opportunity for a grand finale rather than a wholly dramatic and listless send-off. The building progressing and intensity of its first approximate four minutes is a subtle and gorgeously complex set of shifting pieces but, the finale of the song felt too generously padded with fanfare. A small gripe for an album that is satisfying even without closer examination thanks to its successful ‘bigger picture’ compositions..


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Artist Falls of Rauros
Title [Type] Patterns in Mythology [Full-length]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW!

Whether they’d intended to capture the blustering brine of coastal Maine mid-Fall or simply wrote what came naturally to their long-running musical relationship the fellows in Falls of Rauros not only lead with gusting cinematic overtures of post-black metal dynamism but they carry that thread while ‘riffing’ up the methodologies that defined the somber, single-minded ‘Vigilance Perennial’. In this sense I’d immediately felt that this was what they’d intended to do with ‘Believe in No Coming Shore’ (2014) but didn’t have the insight, budget, or a relationship with a producer/engineer that could elevate this type of post-rock/gaze influence to the level of dramatic tension it calls for. Colin Marston is a key instrument in the successes of ‘Patterns in Mythology’ beyond the compositions themselves as his dynamic and pristine render (production, mix and master) enhances every aspect of the release. It is easily one of the finest sounding post-black metal records in recent memory and the general vibe of the pieces within are well represented by the crashing waves on the cover art..


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Artist Enforced
Title [Type] At The Walls [Full-length]
 Rating [3.75/5.0] Click/Tap HERE to read the full REVIEW!

At this point it becomes important to promise you the reader one thing: I’m only going to type the words “Power Trip” like two more times and we’ll move on because it is the damned easiest comparison to make because of the production sound and the very clearly Cro-Mags, Sepultura and Slayer influences throughout ‘At The Walls’. If you went as apeshit for those last two Power Trip albums like I did you’re no doubt going to rub up hard on everything Enforced do. Think along the lines of ‘Nightmare Logic’, Plague Years, Vio-lence, and when they’re ramping up the speed (rarely, though) you might hear a hint of Foreseen here and there. Beyond those obvious sonic cues within the album the real truth is that this thing is rotten with killer Slayer vibes, which reach high hell on “Retaliation”, a song that’ll have you feeling deathly close to the opening moments of “Seasons in the Abyss” once you’ve sat with the record a bit. Otherwise the entirety of ‘At The Walls’ oozes with Cro-Mags metallic hardcore energy and Power Trip‘s pulverizing crossover thrash clarity. The sound is simple to understand and though it isn’t an original conception, Enforced are pure conviction always stacked with riffs..


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Artist Nightfucker
Title [Type] Nightfucker [Full-length]
 Rating [3.75/5.0] Click/Tap HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Four roughly eight to ten minute slow-motion, lets say Winter-paced, songs hiss and gnarl their way forward on this debut that is arguably all about the bass guitar tone in terms of narrative voice. The rasp-and-roar vocal approach from Adam Sorry (Celestial Bloodshed, Deathwinds) couldn’t be more satisfying in terms of believable suffering, though his register is cold and unerring as an extreme metal vocal would be when compared to any of the 90’s classics I’d previously mentioned. Though the songwriting within is not as drone focused or extensive as Moss were, there is a sort of similar ‘tunelessness’ that defines the ‘Nightfucker’ listening experience. A dry as bones march forward is warmed by the downtuned-to-Hell co-mingling of oversaturated bass and guitar distortion where only feedback and vocal cadence allow a break from the slow-paced doom metal riffing that is more or less constant throughout the album’s ~37 minute length. It is oppressive by design, a screaming mass of doom metal with blackened sludge’s hiss up front and probably nothing too far out of the ordinary for most dedicated sludge fandom. Where I’d argue this is well above average is really for the sake of professional quality, quality layout design, veneration of classic sludge metal, and the easily repeatable mood that Nightfucker create. There is misery and satiating heaviness up front but never that ‘too far, too long’ amateurish excess that clogs the message of most modern extreme sludge metal.


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Artist False
Title [Type] Portent [Full-length]
 Rating [3.75/5.0] Click/Tap HERE to read the full REVIEW!

It’d be easy to see this as a modern black metal record with a pretty picture on the front and little substance within yet once you’re a couple of spins into it most folks will see this as a major point of growth in terms of intimacy, ambition and increasingly distinct personality for False. Can and will they do bigger things? Sure, no doubt this is a hard fought piece accompanied by personal hardships but there is always the potential for greater breakthroughs for the artist who’d suffer past or present. Most of my own personal interest and connection with ‘Portent’ came from the first two pieces which make up more than half of the full experience but I can still give high recommendation for this well above average atmospheric/melodic black metal album and its inspirationally ethereal use of keyboards.


Honorable mentions [Click/Tap to Read Reviews]

Did I miss your favorite metal/rock/whatever album released in July? 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 donors for their support and contributions! This is a dream for a lifelong fan and collector like me.

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