The Top 20 Albums of July | 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. At the apex of Barad-dûr, the eye has shifted back upon the forests. — We’ve completed the fourth full year of and that means the requisite “here is what we did, here is what we’ll do nextpost is up with some big thanks to all who support the site. I started this site with a stupid name and no expectations back in 2017, the kindness of others has consistently humbled and inspired me. Thank you.

II. July releases still in consideration (or process) for reviewIntestinal Hex, Galvanizer, Arna, Netherbird. These will receive full reviews this week.

III. The first issue of Mystification zine has been released: I: “Primitive Futurity”. We did pretty good on pre-orders but still roughly halfway to our goal. This is a 70 page print zine which is more or less bound as a book and features full-color heavy paper inside. It is built to last forever and our first step towards expanding into print material via books and zines. Otherwise my label Spirit Coffin Publishing released Parasitic Entity‘s (U.K., tech-prog death) ‘The Self-Aggrandising Lie‘ on CD, our first compact disc release. Our cassette tape version of Incinerate‘s (Belgium, thrash metal) second album ‘Back to Reality‘ released the week after, probably the most deluxe tape from us to date with pad-printed design, tinted tape, and tons of extra panels for lyrics. Finally, our cassette version of Mariner‘s (Japan, prog death/thrash) debut EP ‘Devastating Synergy‘ starts shipping August 2nd.

IV. 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
RECORD LABEL(S):Rotted Life Records

Even if there was no Grizzly Butts, even if I’d not been following new releases like a hawk for the last twenty years, I’d still be drawn to Windsor, California-based quartet Laceration‘s debut full-length album ‘Demise’ because this is my jam, my shit, the exact sort of death metal that inspired me back in the early 90’s as a kid. That doesn’t mean their work solely represents a beacon of nostalgia but that it expresses as an truly exemplar addition to a grand tradition of death metal music which I am forever passionate about. Right, and riffs, this album has got a colosseum’s worth of thrashing battle-riffs, a giant bass guitar sound, and an earthquake behind the drum kit. Now more than ever I am considering not just what rules but whom/what music can I support without question, for July the immediate answer to both criteria was ‘Demise’.

TITLE:Forked Tongues
RECORD LABEL(S):Dark Descent Records

London’s Craven Idol were never ones to be written off but as a long time fan it’d always bothered me that I’d rarely seen reviews or coverage of their first couple of records that’d matched the depth of what they were all about, obviously their label saw the grand potential and high standards but it has taken an even more full-ranged and grand-scaled approach to connect with the right listeners. I’ve been on board since ‘Towards Eschaton’ (2013) and pushing them on friends as unique take on the black/death-thrashing paradigm via traditional heavy/speed metal influenced aspects we also see in all Destroyer 666 and Absu releases, maybe a reductive thought to some degree but an efficiency to get ’em through the saloon doors. The hope is that most extreme thrash fans could put this record on and be rendered incapable of denying that ‘Forked Tongues’ is a great work delivered with the unmistakable passion of heavy metal flowing like lava, culling that which -should- be terraformed violently. For my own taste this record pushes away the lingering fear that classic forms are more often being relegated to passé “content” as the industry cheapens itself with low-minded standards, a big record for me this month without a doubt.

TITLE:Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie
RECORD LABEL(S):Helter Skelter,
Regain Records

Though it was technically a demo tape released back in mid-February this year this two act conjuration from Echetleos (Caedes Cruenta, Kawir, ex-Disharmony) was too much of an event (as a late July vinyl release) to not feature here upon wider release. An obscure ritual devotional to arcane magick as much as it is to classic underground Greek black metal ‘Dogme Rituel de la Haute Magie’ is avant-garde occult black metal at its most active but also a refined form of esoteric neofolk music just the same — tangentially related to the unfading rituals of the past via Necromantia, Master’s Hammer and their ilk but also something more refined and, something else. I always avoid relenting that words cannot do a certain piece of music justice but this is a good example, perhaps just a personal example, of one that is better left to your own quiet experience with it. Of course loving Hellenic black metal is probably an important prerequisite, from my perspective this is a given.

TITLE:Congregation Pestilence
RECORD LABEL(S):Krucyator Productions

Although the eighth Drawn and Quartered full-length is the highest scoring record on the site this month, it didn’t have the longest lifespan beyond the review process and this was similar to my experience with their last several albums. Though I consider myself a ‘die hard’ fan who has bought every one of their records on CD (some on vinyl more recently) they sit in the same headspace as Immolation wherein I revisit their discography in fairly infrequent bulk sessions rather than daily since a good 2-3 record run in this style amounts to suffocating consistency. ‘Congregation Pestilence’ is probably the best production from the project in the last several years and there is no denying their upheld station as one of the best underground death metal bands from the pacific northwest, ever. It doesn’t dethrone my nostalgic connection with ‘Extermination Revelry’ from back in the day but it is one of the best death metal albums put out this year.

TITLE:The Exalted Chambers of Abhorrence
RECORD LABEL(S):Self-Released

Intestinal Hex is the latest project from prolific Toronto-based death metal musician Daniel Bonofiglio whom you should recognize from Fumes, Grotesque Mass, Internal Infestation, and Gutvoid all of which have cropped up since 2019. If you’re not locked into the strange crony death metal culture of Instagram you might not have heard of half of those projects but they’re all essentially above average and the fellow seems to have found a solid work ethic around creating records that are evocative of death metal niche, sharply performed/written but aren’t overthought to the point of tortured work. I am such a huge fan of Gutvoid and Internal Infestation that jumped on the chance to get this one after just one song, surprised that he’d gone straight to a full-length without PR, demos, singles, etc. Anyhow, this is the first record we’ve gotten from Bonofiglio where he has done everything + vocals and I have to say his kinda Gorefest meets Adramelech tone sits so fuckin’ well atop the grungy, slimy Demilich-esque crawl of ‘The Exalted Chambers of Abhorrence’, a blend of sludgy grooves and pure early 90’s tech-death circular post-‘Necroticism Descanting the Insalubrious’ grinds. You’d think a project formed in March and releasing a full-length in late July was going to be big dumb fun at the end of the hype high but, this one has held up remarkably well in regular rotation. Of course the spitting, gurgling, and mouth noises bug the shit outta me but the riffs shake me out of disgust within seconds. Cut some of the slow-hanging grooves, crank the speed and give me five more minutes of riffs and Finndeath nostalgists like me will be album of the year-ing this stuff. Physical editions are coming sooner or later from various labels.

TITLE:The Barren Form
RECORD LABEL(S):Willowtip Records

Making some meaningful connection between intended emotional conveyance and the physical/chemical reaction the brain has whilst entrenched in the hard-edged, chest-beating hammer of brutal, dissonant death metal is no small feat in the hands of Denver, Colorado fellowes Noctambulist, whom have a seemingly effortless time matching the existential nightmare of an anxiety-ridden mind to their second full-length ‘The Barren Form’. An impressive transformation which includes some light black metal influence, it would be fair to consider this a “modern” death metal album by all accounts but with any number of extra qualifiers applying to its cold, frantic atmosphere and brutal rhythms. This is definitely the sort of record I’m not convinced by in previews but sold on once I’ve sat with the full listen a few times, a taxing yet rewarding experience overall.

TITLE:Bursting Church
RECORD LABEL(S):Dying Victims Productions,
Stygian Black Hand

With consideration for the songs we’ve heard in nascent form on the previous demo, doubling the material to ~42 minutes on their debut full-length ends up working out so well because Stress Angel‘s dynamic was always solid to begin with. ‘Bursting Church’ inarguably pushes equal parts black-thrashing energy and traditional 80’s death metal horror, an ‘old school’ extreme metal record that swings its riff-balls around like a club. No complex lyrical message, no sprawling narrative concept (that I know of) to affirm nerds like me, just a ripping and classics-minded blasphemic extreme metal record meeting a high standard of detailed and sinister nonchalance. The core “thrill” of this record hasn’t faded and these guys continue to be a great time, it is the kind of record I’d like to grind in the dirt and gravel just so it looks as ancient and filthy as it sounds.

TITLE:Fate’s Hand [EP]
RECORD LABEL(S):Dying Victims Productions

Epic/traditional heavy metal from musicians best known for their high-brained resumes within extreme metal. Early 80’s songwriting evolved through a certain lineage of taste in timeless artists expresses as an inspired heavy metal EP with plenty of riffs and leads driving the action. You’ll recognize the folks involved by their craft before their faces and I mean that as a compliment. A fantastic EP which I make a proper over-the-top fool of myself describing in the review.

TITLE:Prying Sight of Imperception
Everlasting Spew Records

Much of what I’d had to say about the most recent record from fellow Finnish old school death metal/grindcore act Cadaveric Incubator I will repeat about Galvanizer though they are both distinct for their chosen focus and production values. Galvanizer emit the reek of the earliest innovations in Finnish death metal, a chasmic conception that shared hints of early Carcass via groove and guttural vocals but also a fully conscious grip of the heaviest pure death metal out of late 80’s Sweden. These guys focus more on death metal here this time around, keeping the intensity of their first album but dialing back the brutality to catch more of their songwriting, which I believe will appeal strongly to folks who love Undergang but generally prefer the eldest classics of Finndeath as well. The balance of all of these elements is off-kilter and gives Galvanizer their own rotten sound which feels more ‘organic’ in its hollow-bodied, soul-leaving-a-corpse sensation between battery. Still editing the review but definitely a fine release that will stick in my regular habits for at least a few months.

TITLE:Evil Reaping Death
RECORD LABEL(S):Memento Mori,
Unholy Prophecies,
Godz ov War Productions

Miami-based quartet Hexorcist incite a storm around their conjurer’s circle of fire in presentation of ‘Evil Reaping Death‘ a battery that celebrates tradition yet punishes they who would follow idols to ruin rather than defy them, siding with the true essence of the ancients for their own utterly blasphemic, bestial death-thrashing attack. This record should rightfully hold broad appeal between ‘old school’ extreme thrash junkies like me, the more rotten sects of black/thrash fandom, and folks who’ve some proper education in black/death metal advent. I mean, I mention Acheron, Necrovore and Mortem (Peru) in the review, you should probably buy this one.

TITLE:Stasis Cocoon
RECORD LABEL(S):Self-Released,
Tridroid Records

If we were to take stock of all of the things I’m an internet cheerleader for: Sci-fi themes, death metal, concept albums, riffs, hand-painted artwork, independent artists then this second full-length from Dallas, Texas-based progressive death metal project Sallow Moth has it all and even a bit more to give. Edge of Sanity, Appalling Spawn, and hints of Vader and Napalm Death creep into my figuring through this intense and expressive death metal record, which is appropriately brief but potent to say the least. I’d had more than enough to say about the record in my review so I won’t babble on here.

RECORD LABEL(S):Armageddon Label

Don’t bust into Umeå-minded but Stockholm-based hardcore punk quartet Exil‘s saloon expecting “weird for the sake of weird” originality, sloppy catharses, or a retro-pandering experience but a damned good hardcore punk record without a second of bullshit, not a single throwaway song or unfocused moment. The big draw here for folks in the know is a back to a not-too basic format for musicians you should recognize from DS-13 at the very least and maybe some name-drops for fans of Swedish grindcore (Axis of Despair, Livet som insats) and several other, mostly Umeå hardcore, bands otherwise. If nepotism doesn’t do it for you, at least consider these are folks who don’t take to their artform lightly and this record is a garage/rehearsal space jammed, hard work on display, and top to bottom group effort hammered out without any too easy-aped riff ideas. Easily one of the most inspired and relevant-to-my-interests hardcore punk records of the year thus far and probably the only time I’ve ever referenced Slapshot and Battalion of Saints in the same review.

TITLE:The Necronaut
RECORD LABEL(S):Electric Valley Records

San José, Costa Rica-based “necromantik” stoner doom metal trio Crypt Monarch introduce themselves as an honestly presented, raw and rugged real-time entity on their debut full-length ‘The Necronaut‘ a three act trip through this jammed-out and weathered stoner/doom metal artform whilst detailing a jilted king’s zombie reprisal and vengeance. The gist of their sound is early 90’s Sleep and the raw sort of Black Bow Records kind of sound, near the point of speaker explosion but without all of the bells and whistles that might imply otherwise. The vocals are distant and usually layered for dimensional effect, one vocalist at the pulpit with a distorted bass in hand and another a few feet back with a deeper bellow cutting through. If we zip over to ‘Jerusalem’ part three or so, that is basically the Crypt Monarch sound in terms of vocal placement, ritualistic presentation, and “hazy but real” design. An essential grab from July’s doom metal selection.

TITLE:Khalkedonian Death
Everlasting Spew Records

Formed between members of Sacrocurse, Burial Invocation, Hyperdontia, and Engulfed in 2012 but given a sort of side-project status fore years due to their commitment to other bands, Diabolizer have wasted no time in presenting their next level of brutality as it just now cycles into reality with ‘Khalkedonian Death‘, a bold statement of definition for their regional craft. If we can consider Diabolizer‘s initial goal has remained steadfast then we can praise ‘Khalkedonian Death’ as a success in terms of intending to be “more brutal” than their other projects and yet upholding those same high standards for sound design, complexity, and trendless ideation of violent underground death metal. Don’t overlook this one! Whether you love 90’s Sinister, Centurian or early Hate Eternal, there is a mind-flayer waiting to be unleashed here.

TITLE:Rites of Extermination
RECORD LABEL(S):Hell’s Headbangers Records

Finger-wringing leads atop slow-blasting bestial “evil” thrash metal bursts, Barcelona-congregated force Krossfyre strike with the oiliest miasma of ancient wartime extremism on this debut full-length. Comparisons to ‘Devil’s Force’ (or thereabouts) Nifelheim, Vomitor circa ‘The Escalation’ now also include a sort of Chilean touch of aggression that is as rabid as Slaughtbbath or Demonomancy on their yet underrated ‘Throne of Demonic Proselytism‘. We could scour the planet’s most inspired corners for all manner of likeness but this fine record offers its own fusion of brutality and memorable signature, drawn from a legacy of barbarism into thrilling form. It blasts, it thrashes, it roars gravel by the handful.

RECORD LABEL(S):Profound Lore Records

If we can bottle the essence of what Vouna have been working at on their first two albums it’d distill to atmospheric black metal influenced funeral doom metal, with this second record we’ve a shade darker vision of this expansive black/doom metal style with a much higher quality render. ‘Atropos’ doesn’t leave such a deep impression upon my mind for its riffs or greater structural climb-and-descend dynamic but for the emotive quality of sitting with the artist from Point A to Point B, a macrocosm of the greater form summed by the opening piece. Though it is sure to be a gem for folks deep in touch with Wolves in the Throne Room-related spheres, I believe it’d serve more extreme doom metal folk to take a deeper dive into the virtues of ‘Atropos’.

RECORD LABEL(S):Chaos Records

The first EP from these folks, whom include members of Ascended Dead, Ritual Necromancy and Bloodsoaked (Mexico), introduces the band as a fully realized entity sort of along the lines of The Chasm‘s wriggling heavy metal charge serving as a sort of basal tonality which immediately expands into what can rightfully compare with the buzzing lunges of prime Order From Chaos, thrashing and irreverent as 80’s extreme metal but sophisticated by a love for Scandinavian refinement which could be noted within early Necrophobic or even ‘Back to the North’-era Merciless — “Chains of Frost” really lets us have it all in this sense, darting into far north aneurysms of intricate revelation, but notably making a “song” of it with tunefully written riffs that aren’t just our usual chunking reference otherwise. Think of later Armoured Angel where there is no tunnel vision for a certain type of riff but a full oeuvre of guitar work on display here that is just brilliant whether they’re going groovin’ brute or needling out focused finesse.

TITLE:When The Ashes Devoured the Sun
RECORD LABEL(S):Melancholic Realm

What an awful sensation it is to be tasked with summarizing a funeral death/doom metal album, it is akin to running through a museum. ‘When the Ashes Devoured the Sun’ addresses the pros and cons of the previous Towards Atlantis Lights record by cutting the run time, giving strong hooks to keep the mind engaged and delivering medium-sized “separate but unified” experiences that tell a larger story of lost civilizations and forgotten wisdom. Cinematic, intimate, ‘epic’ and like all of the best funeral doom, a strong balance between emotional outpour and intelligently designed atmosphere.


Since the release date was set to August 6th for this release I have not yet completed my review of it, which comes next week. The gist of it is that this Swedish melodic black/death metal band continue to develop their own heavily atmospheric, ethereal “epic” version of this format reaching even greater highs than ‘Into the Vast Uncharted’ which had impressed me a great deal back in 2019. The most valuable point I think I have to offer is that there is always a reprise away from total darkness here, they do not dwell and fade away but give a strong “heavy metal” punch back, even if it does not always uplift in equal parts there is a sense that ‘Arete’ fights back and it makes for an album that has its own tension beyond sauntering from riff to riff. I’d likely have this a bit higher on the list if I had gathered my thoughts a couple weeks earlier. Review coming soon and with high marks.

TITLE:Irrlichter [EP]
RECORD LABEL(S):Sunhair Music,
Cardinal Fuzz,
Little Cloud Recordings

Every month I make a point to follow what psychedelia label Cardinal Fuzz puts out and primarily because many albums they’ve put out end up selling out incredibly fast, long before I can get a copy. So, I’d missed out on the the self-titled Acid Rooster record a while back since I think it was EU only via Sunhair. Ah well, that is all beside the point. I’ve been listening to so much psychedelic/space rock this year that I’ve got a good pulse on the better stuff coming out of Germany of late and no question that ‘Irrlichter’ is one of the most engaging instrumental/kraut jams I’ve come across. Nothing too showy, nothing all that involved, just a good solid trip from start to finish.

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