The Top 20 Albums of June | 2021

THE TOP 20 ALBUMS OF THE MONTH is just that, a grip of twenty albums that’d resonated most powerfully throughout this month. If you’re new to the site, it’ll be about 75-100% metal albums. Choices are selected based on temporal immersion, personal connection, impressive style, point of view, and with great consideration for the lasting value of each album. All choices are ultimately personal and land without consideration for popular culture, hype or “relevance”. There are several albums that I will leave out of this list, but they’ll still be considered for end of the year list(s). Links to full reviews are provided when applicable. Do not think I’ve overlooked any promotional material, I am but one man and writing about music is a passion I afford as much time as is manageable. I am eternally grateful to have so much to choose from. Thank you.

I. Early Summer brings a wave of concrete-cracking heat to our corner of the world and I have no ode or offering to assuage Helios’ spirit-wilting fire column readied in time. We will sweat ’til dried, then crisp and burn under his thumb. So far it is neither a quick nor dignified death. This month we are all over the place trying to find the feel bad hit of the summer as we wander after the unattainable beast of the cosmos, challenge unwarranted authority, meander through haunted ruins, attain computer god status, plop into a mush of fucking guts, reach Tolkien levels of foaming heroic furor, explore the unknown shadows of ancient Greek philosophical foundation, worship her majesty the moon, and so forth… Everyone is reading from a different book and the variety is enriching to no end.

II. The first issue of Mystification has been delayed to mid-July for good reason(s). I’ve added an extra review feature, added several more interviews, and upgraded the general quality of the design so that it takes better advantage of a full color scheme. In the process the page count has gone from 50 to 80. Should be available for pre-order by July 16th. Otherwise Spirit Coffin Publishing has three releases slated for July release from: Parasitic Entity, Incinerate, and Mariner.

III. My next An Exhaustive Study project was slated to be Thrashing Behind the Iron Curtain 1981-1991 but I’ve gotten too busy. Instead we’ll spend the second half of July revising and completely re-writing my Wild Rags Records retrospective and discography review instead. Ever since the site editor re-vamp wiped all images to the left I’ve needed to fix up my old columns anyhow.

IV. June releases still in consideration (or process) for reviewDarkthrone, Beyond Man. These will receive full reviews this week.

V. Each day I meditate with all-consuming gratitude aimed toward the bands, labels and PR firms who choose to work with me — As well as the kind few readers who donate to the site intermittently. The goals and ethos of Grizzly Butts have not changed in 2021 but this year I will focus on long-form reviews, sub-genre features, more interviews, and generally keeping up to date with new releases. Thank you.

#1Album of the Month
TITLE:Lost on Void’s Horizon
RECORD LABEL(S):Edged Circle Productions

It seems every month brings an Album of the Year contender for my own taste and yes, this is absolutely one of those. The brilliant story of this Slovenian anomaly represents what I’d consider the absolute the right way for an extreme metal band to arrive upon their true selves via hard work, finding an agreeable ethic and approach the craft void of all trends or shortcuts taken on the way. Spanning several revisions and demo tapes, album length demos (as Teleport) that quickly became cult classics and finally this monumental full-length we see their long and fulfilling journey reach what’d been grasped for, chased, and aimed for all this time and we experience this via a mixture of avant-garde black metal influenced death metal what I’d suggest as list of some of my favorite bands: StarGazer, Morbus Chron, Ved Buens Ende, and of course their original foundation built upon a love for classic technical thrash metal and old school death metal. They are bound to flatten all whom they touch with their delirious and inventive configuration which I’ve nothing but endless praise for. I’ve conducted a recent interview with the band which will appear in the first issue of Mystification.

TITLE:The Powers That Be
RECORD LABEL(S):Cruz Del Sur Music

Yeah of fuckin’ course, the new Pharaoh album was going to be good simply because they are Pharaoh. Seriously, they’ve long been one of the best power metal bands out of the United States and especially if we’re talking post-1999. Their progressive metal, technical thrash metal, and classic heavy metal influences converge in an intensely special, evocative sensation on ‘The Powers That Be’ and… Not only because they’ve received their best production values to date, not only because they’ve written their catchiest and most complex material to date, not only because these songs are defiant, emotional and inspirational front to back but because all of these things are evident from the first listen. If I’m sitting down to a traditional heavy metal record I want serious conviction off the bat, over the top performances and serious elevation gained from the experience and I got that here. Pharaoh have once again delivered what I cannot seem to get anywhere else, I’ll be listening to this one for months and years on end.

TITLE:Omens From the Dead Realm
RECORD LABEL(S):Godz Ov War Productions,
Nuclear War Now! Productions

Florida’s Gnosis have undergone some moderate stylistic changes to match shifts in line-up over the years but this shouldn’t suggest their vision and greater chthonic texture has ever suffered for it. Instead, we see a steeper incline in focus with each release. With ‘Omens From the Dead Realm’ we witness Gnosis produce the exacting timbre, cadence, and atmosphere of Greek black metal as it was circa 1995 or so via their prior Acheron-esque sound now leaning into shades of Thou Art Lord and Varathron with some expert precision. If it were a mere tribute, yes, I would still love it and stab ‘Omens From the Dead Realm’ deeply in my skull but the fact that these three folks have worked hard to write -songs- that fit quite well into this age of wonder for second wave black metal sets it apart from a lot of bands that merely toy with influence. You’ll feel the devotion within these vine-strangled temples where their rituals take place, and likewise some of the heavy metal, doom and even progressive and gothic rock influenced motions of the old scene throughout the full listen. If you love this niche of black metal as much as I do, this is an essential meditation upon its best qualities.

TITLE:Mind of a New God
RECORD LABEL(S):Xtreem Music

Killing Addiction have long been viewed as unique oddity that’d arisen some distance from the original drop zone of Florida’s seminal classic death metal scene in the mid-to-late 80’s. I’d say the same thing for this band that I would for Hellwitch, the trouble with remembering this band so fondly for their debut album in the early 90’s is that it causes some nostalgic ignorance for much of their equally strong (or even better) material since then. ‘Mind of a New God’ is much better than I’ve seen folks giving it credit, an album that does death metal groove better than most and still bruises as an extension of the brutality of their earlier material. We could always see the full east coast United States and a bit of Europe in their sound back in the day so, it is a pleasure to see those traits still cultivated and strong after so many years.

TITLE:The Exterminating Angel
RECORD LABEL(S):Self-Released,
Rafchild Records

A trip you cannot return from! For the fourth time in three years Portland, Oregon’s all-seeing, all-feeling church-blazing doom metal trio Purification randomly grace us with another priest-flayer of righteously psychedelic, irreligious, epic doom metal proportioned experience and… again without boundaries. Previously a sort of punkish NWOBHM spirited doom metal band and now ever daring to peel a fresh layer with each release, the inspiration here is ridiculously palpable and powerful. I still hold by their vocalist (also of Troll) being one of the best around, not only for his distinctive cadence but a willingness to distort and fray this heady expressionism to true extremes. This album is arguably more substantially different from the two prior, expanding upon some of the longer and more contemplative aspects of ‘Dwell in the House of the Lord Forever’ with greater surrealistic churning of vocal and guitar effects. , and I believe they have a split with another favorite of mine, Cardinal’s Folly, in the works soon.

TITLE:Excretion of Mortality
RECORD LABEL(S):20 Buck Spin

Seattle-based death metal band Cerebral Rot are back for a second album and they’re noisier, catchier, heavier, and even more invested in developing their own rhythmic stride this time around. It’d be easy to look at this band’s gig and say, sure, they’re fitting in with the USDM crowd at present in terms of their greater visual language but I don’t see the actual music on hand as intentionally unsophisticated or conformist. We get darker hints of the first Cenotaph album, some of the groaning doomed motions of Cianide, and this sense that the composers are pushing towards something distinctly theirs by way of the crawling n’ spewing circa 1989 Finnish/British sewer-belching brutal finesse so many other bands get dead wrong for the sake of their mind palace being comparatively under-stocked. Otherwise this is the right way to do iteration in smart increments, allowing room to grow without backing into a too demanding corner just yet. Not the most memorable death metal record of the month but still top quality from a band that’d been solid out of the gate and improving with each release since.

TITLE:Return of the Sophist
RECORD LABEL(S):Hessian Firm

The challenge of writing a summary for such an elaborate conception and execution is that I won’t do this second Polemicist album justice in just a few sentences, it is the sort of record that evolves in mind as an acquired taste and certainly its own stoic-yet-lushly presented layers of mood and wonderment. ‘Return of the Sophist’ is fundamentally a melodic black metal record arisen from the high standards of the mid-1990’s and executed with emphasis on atmospheric gusts and regal, full-sentence demonstrations. The concept here posits the true, and mythic events that lead to the death of Socrates, the narrative brings a fanged kiss of dark intrigue within its timeline which is masterfully presented by the performers. Think of this album as a novella sized read, a true Greek tragedy writ to fill the gaps of infamous historic events; Those prone to visualize and explore the intellectual themes of the music they devour will find themselves gorged within its sharpened ~33 minute run.

TITLE:Svmma Cvm Nox Arcana
RECORD LABEL(S):Folter Records

A solo project arisen from one of the earliest true black metal acts in Cuba and now a duo based out of Galicia, Spain Narbeleth are the black metal sleeper hit of the month via this incredible fifth full-length. ‘Svmma Cvm Nox Arcana’ is a shining example of depth that you can miss if you do not hurl your psyche into black metal regularly or if you’re surface level skimming through music looking for certain familiar sounds. A first impression won’t do, though we can immediately call this a melodic black death metal album in terms of its strongest features and eloquent guitar work. Keywords Arckanum and Kvist are requisite, though these fellowes aren’t deaf to the inertia of Mgła and some modern musical dynamic. The mirror, the pool, the moon, and what it divines is nothing short of brilliant and evocative work here and they’ve won me over as a fan with this one.

TITLE:Untethered Abyss
RECORD LABEL(S):Willowtip Records

Resurfacing as a professional, seriously engaged and seamlessly rendered technical death metal band after a long period of training and restructuring, it makes sense to paint ‘Untethered Abyss’ as one of the best-landed punches of death metal in this style this year. What we experience here is an impressively complex and intentional state of movement within a perceived flow-state, think of Cathexis‘ pacing as that of a high speed 3D printer creating an artistic form without revealing the final shape until the last possible moment. This record should appeal most to folks who are very much in tune with post-revelation Gorguts, specifically the groove infusion of ‘From Wisdom to Hate’, which I’d compared to Sunless and a certain Sickening Horror record. Though my score wasn’t incredibly high it was a combination of a high bar for this type of death metal and noting that I still haven’t entirely grasped the larger purpose or statement of the record, these days immersion is everything for me.

RECORD LABEL(S):Werewolf Records

Warmoon Lord is the fellow from Old Sorcery making heroically stated and atmosphere rich black metal that is pure Scandinavian magick. It hits as hard as it does because he is a fantastic guitarist -and- keyboardist/synth whirler able to translate his compositional skills between many halls of heavy music. What we get here on ‘Battlespells’ is a clear transition from the rawest regalia-rich cackling of his debut and trade black and white juvenilia for beautifully illustrative melodic, atmospheric and ‘symphonic’ black metal marked by his gift for synth showers and battle-riffing. His ear is absolutely one for quality over quantity and the full listen benefits from a carefully filler free editing process.

TITLE:Eternal Hails……
RECORD LABEL(S):Peaceville Records

To be completely honest, some of my enthusiasm for this nineteenth Darkthrone album comes from the still-resonant high I’ve gotten off their recent 7LP boxed set ‘Shadows of Iconoclasm‘, which celebrates their death metal era. Otherwise we’ve got another heavy metal album done in their own style, this time around we are getting an even more idiosyncratic “epic black heavy metal” variation, just as it says on the back of the vinyl sleeve. Folks have been emphasizing the doom metal influences on this one but, maybe they’d missed the last one? One of their most dungeon-sourced recordings of the last decade, this one sounds truly ancient (see: Flames of Hell) and warrants a very loud listen. We get a few early Sepultura riffs, some Venom-esque bumbling, plenty of early Scandinavian ‘epic’ heavy/doom metal movement, and an absolutely solid heavy metal record from the two obscure metal loving songwriters. I don’t celebrate their releases because they are Darkthrone, but because they are always good.

RECORD LABEL(S):Antiq Records

These Russian fellowes from the unstoppably charging melodic death-hammer of Wombripper have changed suits for this event, ‘Eminence’ is a meditation upon fin de siècle philosophy and austerity via melodic black metal that is distinctly attuned to the more recent waves of works out of France and Quebec. Though we can trace the influential markers for this sound back to the early 90’s these guys intentionally invoke the same elite spiritus of bands like Véhémence, Sühnopfer and Aorlhac. What does this mean? Well, nothing until it sinks in that this is their own “brutal” take on the style, shouted and impassioned to a violent degree. There is a venomous quality here that I look for in all black metal releases and of course it helps that this record is all momentum and energetic attack. I can’t wait to see what they do on their next album.

RECORD LABEL(S):Neon Taste Records

Although I know next to nothing about Vancouver, British Colombia-based hardcore punk quintet Bootlicker I can say that this self-titled album has been a nasty infection since I’d discovered it. The notes mention UK82, SSD, and the vinyl includes a fat zine so, holy shit am I into it. Otherwise we’ve got catchy, brutal and provocative shit happening from every angle here and I’ve found ‘Bootlicker’ completely satisfying whenever I’m looking for a hit of hardcore punk with some goddamned songwriting.

TITLE:Beyond Man
RECORD LABEL(S):The Sinister Flame

This month I wouldn’t suggest paying too close attention to the order of this list beyond the first 5-10 or so, most of these decisions were made in hundred degree heat and a bout of spiteful anti-Christian delirium. I have not spent enough time with Beyond Man‘s self-titled debut to finalize a review but after roughly ten full listens I see beyond the hype of their associated bands (Mare, Dark Sonority, Saligia, One Tail One Head etc.) and have a decent grasp of their rhythmic, inward echoing black metal horror. This record feels alive, realistically achieved, skillfully bashed into pieces and stinking with the sweat of its not-so-orthodox movements. I’ll have a review up for it soon enough.

RECORD LABEL(S):Relapse Records

Red Fang were popular when I went back to college in the early 2010’s. I wore their shirts a lot, went to a bunch of shows, and ‘Whales & Leeches’ is probably one of the better records in… whatever style it is. Sludge rock/stoner metal, basically. ‘Arrows’ brings back the jogging and grimy sound of the bands earlier releases while pushing out a catchy, distraught record. ‘Only Ghosts’ felt like a forced hand, a daimonian grip pushing them to try and take things to a level of, I dunno, commercial progressivity that was actually pretty good but not very Red Fang in spirit. This one lands darker than their early stuff, not having as much fun joking around and kinda licking wounds at the same time.

TITLE:Ancient Spells

The main reason I’ve connected with Colombian black metal act Atrium‘s debut album ‘Ancient Spells’ is cursory, a reaction to its homebrewed sounds and 90’s nostalgic sound that stems from my listening to a lot of this type of music as of late. The atmospheric keyboard work is occasionally on the level of one of my favorite black metal records Gehenna‘s ‘First Spell’. Again, I’d love to go on a rant about how uncool this type of black metal was when I was an uncool teenager but, whatever, I’m glad more people are listening to nerdy, darkly atmospheric high-fantasy black metal. This is a fine example of it.

TITLE:Rip Tide
RECORD LABEL(S):Aesthetic Death

Suffer Yourself have evolved from a solo melodic death/doom metal project into a funeral death/doom beast over the course of several years and ‘Rip Tide’ is their best album to date for my own taste. Shades of early Evoken and Esoteric, when each were leaning heavier into some death metal influences, appear here within the main 21 minute piece “Spit in the Chasm” and I’m most excited about that piece; A memorable and twisted event, this song brings fairly simply riffs at a rate that suggests torment and complexity enough to warrant its inclusion on this month’s list. The other two pieces on the record didn’t land with as much interest on my end, and I don’t think this album will hold long term appeal for me but I was (and am) impressed by “Spit in the Chasm”.

RECORD LABEL(S):RidingEasy Records

Though they sport a stoney 90’s heavy rock buzz and a primo Thin Lizzy influenced dual guitar ride as a first impression, Deathchant have the sun-dried soul of classic Los Angeles punk n’ roll as a state of mind. Contemplative, dark around the edges but swinging-out loose shouldered and body-rocking grooves, you’ll get the same gritty feeling of Zig-Zags and early Fu Manchu within most pieces on ‘Waste’. For my own taste there is some serious magic within the strong thread of dual guitar runs throughout the full listen, and this despite the album having a sort of “samey” vibe throughout. I doubt I’ll whip up a full review for this one since I’d said most of whatever there was to say on my review of their first album. Grab it if you like stoner metal and Gypsyhawk‘s ride in equal amounts.

TITLE:A Monument to Silence
RECORD LABEL(S):Unique Leader Records

As I do my best to avoid becoming a cave troll who’d writhe in disgust at any bit of modern death metal that lands on my plate I’ve hit upon a pretty remarkable band here in picking up ‘A Monument to Silence’, the third and long in-development album from Philadelphia-based progressive/technical death metal project Alustrium. If you’ve got an ear firmly pressed against the likes of The Artisan Era and Unique Leader as often as I do this will sort of sate the need for each impulse, something outrageously packed with compositional complexity but still relenting to what I’d consider mildly hammering brutality as to keep the pieces gracefully strewn rather than nuclear smashed-out. This album in particular lands much closer to the quality of big label tech/prog-death a la Allegaeon, Rivers of Nihil and Black Crown Initiate once they’ve warmed up a bit. What does that mean to the ‘old school’ dunderheads like me out there? A serious contender from the Between the Buried and Me generation of progressive/technical death metal. Give it a chance to impress and immerse.

TITLE:The Mess
RECORD LABEL(S):CrazySane Records

Despite spending tons a lot of time listening to psychedelic rock olde and new I don’t get much of the really good stuff in terms of submissions these days. This release is the exception, and I was grateful to get to spend more time with it throughout the month. German act Yagow elevate the mind with their blend of kosmische rock, space rock, neo-psych, and floaty 70’s psych worship on this latest album. From a dark distance towards shimmering loftiness, this is an album of emergence and I’d say the ideal showcase for their strong songcraft.


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