The Top 20 Albums of September | 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. A return to 只管打坐, four days of food poisoning, an unforgettable fever dream, the pleasant-enough entirety of Ghost of Tsushima, two new Spirit Coffin Publishing releases (Journey Into Darkness, Swelling Repulsion) and a used copy of The Genetics of Political Behavior: How Evolutionary Psychology Explains Ideology by Michael Ryan highlight my own experience this September and most of this attained completely oblivious to the outside world. We can only assume the forests are still burning, human beings continue to torment one another, and there is little meaning to be extracted from a minute-to-minute update of any purposeless clashing towards a deserved, self-imposed apocalypse. September wasn’t an amazing month for music no matter where I looked, but you may find a few here that may or may not entertain.

II. In full preview of the ~150 new releases slated for the month of October which have been submitted for review I’ve chosen roughly 38 contenders for full review — Much as I’d like to do even more, and even though I’ll likely manage less, this will be the general goal. Variety is becoming even more important to me as we approach the end of the year and the impending months of burnout, so, expect a few outliers to bleed into view for the sake of not falling into a tuneless, flash-obsessed “metal” bubble.

III. 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):Svart Records

The seventh full-length album from this original Finnish funeral doom metal band is the only record from this month that I’d connected with on every level, earning it not only a “Highest recommendation” for my own taste but landing it as the Album of the Month. Though their legacy is a compelling story and I certainly have collected a few favorites in their discography this isn’t a case of nepotism. ‘Companion’ gripped me primarily for its songcraft, each piece landing as its own memorable statement while also strongly featuring their greatest strength in composition — The interplay between a slow-to-mid paced death/doom metal rhythms and dramatic keyboard/organ work which leads the experience. Though it took around 4-5 listens to begin to sink in, being a bit blunt and unusual even for Skepticism at times, I’ve found this album brilliant to return to and relive.

TITLE:The Broken Seal
RECORD LABEL(S):Dark Descent Records,
Norma Evangelium Diaboli

It has been nothing short of inspiring to witness this fantastic London-based death metal trio return more energized, brutal, and bristling than ever with this third full-length album. They’d apparently blazed right from the impressive ‘Sacrament’ EP (2019) into the process of creating ‘The Broken Seal’ and found the exact right path forward in the process. Beyond the spectacle of elaborate riffcraft, creative structural compression/decompression, and an attack that is always set to ten there is yet the underlying drive of early post-Iron Curtain death metal within these pieces. Carbonized and destructive music apropos for our mounting endtymes.

TITLE:Pierres brûlées
RECORD LABEL(S):Les Acteurs de L’Ombre

It will be difficult to see this immense and moving melodic black metal record as anything less than a glorious new chapter for Aorlhac. Though they are already accomplished and well-respected, these Occitan fellowes had notably returned with a breakthrough record, ‘L’esprit des vents’, in 2018 and it seems the lofty ideas they’d always aimed for could now be realized on an even more impressive scale. ‘Pierres brûlées’ is nothing short of a revelation as a result, an inspirational hour that pulls the ear in with lyrics that are (mostly) taken from poet, translator, and literary critic Camille Gandilhon who is best remembered for patriotic work with a unique voice, demanding an engaged and thoughtful reader. Aorlhac certainly focus on their own brand of melodic triumph, but they do quite a lot to change things up along the way, even including a few bursts of punkish heavy metal here and there. I’ll have a review up for it sooner or later, but the gist of it is that I’ve found this album remarkable.

TITLE:Putrid Tomb [EP]
RECORD LABEL(S):Desert Wastelands Productions

The way I see it you either haven’t heard of Putrid Tomb yet or didn’t remember them killing it like this on ‘Consuming the Deceased’ (2019) because it was an average demo coming from a then seventeen year-old Kian Abulhosn who has since rethought the project beyond mid-paced death/doom influenced bops and up toward something closer to ‘Human Waste’-era Suffocation. I pre-ordered this CD around two riffs into the opening song as it’d given me flashbacks to Deeds of Flesh‘s ‘Gradually Melted’ even if the pacing and sound is closer to something like ‘Ritual of Infinity’ with a bit of slower, doomed-out leans… and I’m not just saying that because of the fantastic Brad Moore cover art. Also, on Bandcamp: “Putrid Tomb defies the common trend. Here are no caveman riffs.” Yep, I’m too fuckin’ on board with that seriously. Here’s hoping this isn’t a fluke and dude has more of this technical but ‘old school’-brutal energy in mind because I’m obsessed with it.

TITLE:Decatexis // Perpetuo Altar
RECORD LABEL(S):Lavadome Productions

It’ll be a challenge to describe this inventive, imposing and altogether sickening record without a severe amount of qualifiers applied but I’d suggest a mix of avant-garde post-‘Obscura’ death metal, chaotic hardcore infused deathgrind, and a generally dissonant sludged-over affect keeping the overall vibe of Tumba de Carne‘s work primal yet expressive in a dystopian sense. This debut from these Buenos Aires-based fellowes is an experience of sentimental chaos, an anxietous shift between two tonal points with plenty of impressive grey area created, finding brilliant connections between modern evolutions of classic forms and ultimately landing upon something surreal and “futuristic” for the sake of how dark it is. Can’t wait to see where this band goes in the future.

TITLE:When Sanity Becomes Insanity
RECORD LABEL(S):Burning Coffin Records

Late 80’s styled death metal from young Santiago-area folks who are thrash-obsessed, this debut full-length from Suffering Sights is absolutely inspired. ‘When Sanity Becomes Insanity’ naturally sets off my radar for South American style thrash metal violence but more clearly embodies all of the best traits of late 80’s USDM and I guess moreso by proxy represents the best remembered beginnings of extreme metal in Chile and Brazil. Any record that has me thinking Death Strike, Gammacide, ‘Schizophrenia’ and ‘Leprosy’ within the space of 2-3 songs is a winner and this one backs it up with straight-forward death/thrash music that is most often memorable.


Short version: Their best release yet. Flying all heathen banners high for the sake of symbolizing enduring defiance on this third full-length album, the modern-handed yet old-souled black metal obscurae of Nijmegen, Netherlands-based duo Iskandr aims for their most ambitiously composed and defining work to date. Though ‘Vergezicht‘ is laced with countless finer details, such as sound recordings from parks and historic villages within Gelderland, and sporting greater implementation of acoustic/non-traditional instrumentation the whole of its emboldened ~64 minute experience stains the mind first with big and billowing folken statements, allowing for deep intimacy within concerted analytical listens and endearingly grand strokes of movement when approached as purely pleasurable and inspirational listening. Within these six meticulously crafted longform pieces we are presented with the work of a spiritual defender, a wall of blissful resilience under deep-black rainclouds rather than the usual glinting edge of a prideful warrior in sunlight and as such, the experience is beyond immersive, absorbent if nothing else.

TITLE:The Divine Punishment
RECORD LABEL(S):Nuclear War Now! Productions

Lumped into several categories but beneath them all and oozing out, the mind-curdling distort of Antediluvian yet incants the painful mania of disgusted release via their long-awaited third full-length album ‘The Divine Punishment‘. You will feel no pleasure, experience no sense of belonging or tradition and all of it will amount to a bubbling pit of scum and human flesh in ear but that should rightfully be the core appeal of this band of deviants, there is great value in knowing and perhaps even reveling in the art of discomfort.

TITLE:Outer Reaches [EP]
RECORD LABEL(S):Dawnbreed Records,
Caligari Records

Another excellent release from this Bay Area ‘old school’ death metal band. They’ve stepped things up beyond ‘Remains…’ in terms of songwriting for this EP and it has made all the difference. Great overall production values, solid bass guitar tone, plenty of long instrumental sections, this thing feels like a full album as is. Tons of worthwhile riffs, as expected. It isn’t up on Bandcamp for whatever reason, but if you like ’89-’92 death metal out of the US and Netherlands, this is your jam.

TITLE:Feast at the Forbidden Tree
RECORD LABEL(S):Redefining Darkness Records

Boston thrash metal trio Black Mass give the impression they’ve put everything they’ve got, in terms of energy and ideas, into this third full-length. More early 80’s speed metal riffs, more Discharge riffs, more reviewers comparing them to Venom (I guess?) and even more inspired energy in the capture of these performances make for a memorable listen. It all reads far less 2000’s thrash and a bit more 80’s metal inspired to some degree, though I’m sure Toxic Holocaust fans will still completely dig it. I don’t know if it’ll last very long on my own personal rotation but I had a great time with this record.

TITLE:Rotting Ceremony
RECORD LABEL(S):Xtreem Music

This third full-length album from Spanish death/doom metal band Famishgod is surprisingly good, to the point that I’d began to wonder why I’d overlooked or skimmed past their two prior albums. As it turns out, they’ve steadily improved with each release and this one is just particularly well crafted. Dave Rotten‘s vocals are insane on this album, deep and guttural in a way that is absolutely perfect for the distortion fried sound of the album. In terms of what sector of death/doom they inhabit here think along the lines of Krypts, Desecresy, and Inverloch where the pace is deliberately atmospheric but not without some shocks of speed to reinforce melodic ideas. I didn’t get a copy of this until a couple weeks after release so, I may or may not review it.

RECORD LABEL(S):Seance Records

Australian black metal act Pestilential Shadows have clearly thrived within this current configuration these last ten years, reaching a new peak in terms of signature melodic guitar-driven performances and impressively scaled pieces with ‘Revenant’. It arrives far more slickly produced than the previous album but this only serves to enhance the experience, an album that expresses more than dry hatred or the usual triumphal bombast instead using classicist painterly strokes to illustrate the slow haunt of Death upon us all. Ah well, it is a great album anyhow.

TITLE:Museum on the Horizon
RECORD LABEL(S):Profound Lore Records

Though we have a sublime salad of worldwide perspectives on post-punk to pick from this September there is no denying Brooklyn, New York-based trio Population 1280 are the major sensory experience to glom onto this month. Dubbing themselves “electronic punk” yet dipping several well manicured toes into a blend of industrial, no wave, and post-punk beyond the fairly sparse but well-received ‘Way Station’ (2019), they’ve kicked into this one with striding, decidedly nostalgic industrial/electro-rock tones. After shrugging off a hint of late 80’s Wax Trax! industrial cringe tonality and side-stepping all remnants of their past Swans-esque severity we find the group leaning in favor of danceable industrial. I suppose this takes me closer to early 90’s Vancouver B.C. EDM/industrial rock crossover personally but Pop. 1280 do ultimately remain in the realm of post-punk via the vocalist’s acumen and far less minimal landscape to bop around within. Whatever, eh, sub-genre aside this album reminds me of discovering groups like Front Line Assembly and Head of David ages ago, and even if I don’t have the “right” references in mind the record is a great time.

TITLE:Abhorrent Fervor
RECORD LABEL(S):Osmose Productions

In terms of truly extreme black metal this impressive French black metal band certainly stood out when their third album ‘Ardens Fvror’ released in 2019 but I’d not personally made time to circle back around to their full discography. Having corrected that recently and listened to this follow-up countless times this month I would say this is their best work to date or at least very closely on par with ‘Ardens Fvror’ but doing quite a bit more with their sound. Vortex of End have taken a leap beyond the sort of Arkhon Infaustus inspired blackened death noise of their earlier releases without losing the nuclear freakery around the edges, now much more concerned with melodic highs and sprawling vistas which are all delivered with pummeling force.

TITLE:Crepitation of Phlegethon
RECORD LABEL(S):Everlasting Spew Records

A rawest, brutally thumped-out slurry of United States underground death metal idealism sums the filthier-than-thou signature developing between this merger of three prolific underground extreme metal musicians who comprise Occulsed. The feat to tout here isn’t how sparklingly well the trio gel into an ultra-pro supergroup but instead that the collective nausea achieved, a maniacal mess made throughout ‘Crepitation of Phlegethon‘ which clashes in such a spectacular way that it bears repeating. It isn’t a memorable or ‘easy’ listen, and you’re going to get the spins, but chasing the slime trail of this beast’s severed tentacle down into the pits will ultimately achieve this intended level of “filth”. This record hits me somewhere along the lines of Blaspherian, Morpheus Descends, and Plague Bearer.

RECORD LABEL(S):Gilead Media,
Stygian Black Hand

The suggested theme and setting of Mehenet‘s debut full-length convinced me to give ’em a try but I honestly didn’t expect them to deliver in terms of the music, having not been all that impressed by prior releases. ‘Ng’ambu’ delivers the grit and sound of New Orleans with just a few field recordings around the edges for the sake of time and place before delving into a uniquely USBM take on raw black metal, infused with symbolism and incantation in direct reference to Quimbanda, an evolved branch of an Afro-Brazilian belief system. In a way this focus reads much like a lot of occult black metal does to the general public, the subject matter is certainly well written about but you’ll likely be best served going to a public library to find any real information beyond the useless shit on offer on the internet. So, the suggestion on my part is that there are layers to the experience if you’ve any interest and this is likewise true for the music itself as a sort of punkish-yet-sophisticated act with elaborate but not too demanding song structures. Their approach is refreshingly creative and from my own experience sounds like nothing else out right now.

RECORD LABEL(S):Self-Released,
Monolith Records

Portuguese metalpunk quartet Nagasaki Sunrise are a band after my own heart between their anthemic yet brutish heavy metal vocals, hard-kicked d-beaten aggression, and generally melodic songwriting. If you love albums like English Dogs ‘Where Legend Began’ but can’t think of another album even kinda similar, you’ll appreciate this far more raw and war-obssessed vision. I’ve listened to this album at least once a day since they’d sent it in and cannot recommend it enough. If it helps catch your interest, this is basically the current Midnight Priest line-up also.

TITLE:Torn Arteries
RECORD LABEL(S):Nuclear Blast

I’ve never made an effort to fight off nostalgic releases beyond keeping in touch with the classics on a regular basis, constantly cycling through (or hitting the rabbit hole hard) in terms of all manner of influential artists. Carcass are the sort of band that always thrilled me for the sake of how different each release was, when I was younger it read to me as an evolutionary event for extreme metal and nowadays it speaks to how drastically -everyone- changes as they navigate their spirited teen years through their 30’s as a public artist. Anyhow, I dunno where I was going with that but this album sounds like ‘Heartwork’ and I like that album.

TITLE:Homo [7″ EP]
RECORD LABEL(S):Static Shock Records

All they’re asking for is a bit more personal space, eh? It has been six years since we’ve heard from Dublin, Ireland-based hardcore punk act Strong Boys but their approach to classic early-to-mid 80’s hardcore punk is largely untouched on this quick set of four songs. High impact stuff just as it should be and delivered with a decidedly modern, direct voice in terms of lyrics.

TITLE:Submission and Slavery
RECORD LABEL(S):Black Gangrene

Although I find the aesthetics of trendy US raw black metal dry and the guitarists generally uninteresting, the prolific and seemingly random evolution of Olympia, Washington-based musician M. within his main project Lamp of Murmuur has begun to produce an uneasy yet compelling flow on this second full-length album. This isn’t the first raw black metal record to heavily incorporate death rock/darkwave but honestly the bar is set so damned low for gothic rock/post-punk these days this guy actually manages to hit a few above-average moments here which outshine the fairly plain black metal work otherwise. The integration of these elements are what makes this half hour album worthwhile nonetheless, “Dominatrix’s Call” being the first deep lean into it. Sometimes it works and other times it reads as pure camp (the solo at the end of “Deformed Erotic Visage”) but the only real misstep here is the tragically bad Christian Death cover at the end. Anyhow, didn’t intend to end this list with two weird-ass bondage albums but this album was far more memorable than a lot of technically “better” records out this month.

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