The Top 20 Albums of October | 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. Daily 經行, indica distillate, the soundtrack to Soul Blazer, most of Tales of Arise, the release of Zetar‘s ‘Devouring Darkness‘, and a complete reading of Zbigniew Herbert’s The Collected Poems 1956-1998 highlight my own experience this October. Corporeal dissolution, existential rebirth, and a strong sense of place provided by psychic monoliths outside of the temporal continuum — Things eventually picked up in terms of new heavy music releases this month thanks to a handful of strong death and doom-adjacent records.

II. In full preview of the 150+ new releases slated for the month of November submitted for review I’ve chosen roughly 23 contenders for full review — This is due to the listening process taking a few detours, I will aim for about 30 full reviews this coming month. Many fantastic albums have pushed their release dates back to late November and early December due to vinyl pressing plant delays of up to 10-20 weeks, make sure you wishlist and pre-order with patience since it is a helpless situation for many labels, mine included. That said, my apologies for another plug, test pressings for Journey Into DarknessInfinite Universe Infinite Death‘ and ZetarDevouring Darkness‘ will be in hand on November 1st so, it is only a matter of time.

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
TITLE:Kopár hant​.​.​. az alvilág felé
RECORD LABEL(S):Me Saco Un Ojo Records,
Pulverized Records,
Desiccated Productions

Hungarian death/doom metal duo Rothadás are a perfect example of nowadays death/doom metal done exactly right. Thunderous production, eerie atmosphere, gigantic creeping doom metal riffs and consistent rolls into death metal tirade. ‘Kopár hant​.​.​. az alvilág felé’ is a tormented release full of cursed slow-building tension, the consistency of mood and patient slinging of riff ideas makes for an unforgettable release for my own taste. Fans of Krypts, Bloodsoaked Necrovoid, and Desecresy will find instant and lasting gratification herein. #2 was -very- close, the ultimate decider wasn’t a comparison but based on the number of compulsive spins over a similar span of time.

RECORD LABEL(S):20 Buck Spin

Worm‘s third full-length is inarguably the biggest record of the month in terms of the imagined “underground” and certainly for the right reasons, the fellow who serves as the face and the main composer of this group is a quick study of extreme metal forms and clearly puts a lot of time and effort into creation, networking and curation. ‘Foreverglade’ builds logically upon Worm‘s second album ‘Gloomlord’, taking inspiration from United States death/doom metal spanning from the late 80’s through (at least) the late 90’s for a funeral death/doom metal record in good taste which keeps these traditional forms in mind. Worm haven’t simply cranked out a standard funeral death/doom metal record, though, the pool of inspiration is thick but the artist’s ideation is ambitious and this means top of the line -everything-. Insane album art, insane production values, varietal moods/tonal choices, and uh tons of shredding too. Brilliant album, though I think this guy + crew will do even bigger things to differentiate and come into their own in the future.

TITLE:Black Harvest
RECORD LABEL(S):Svart Records

London-based quintet Green Lung sound a bit old, a bit new, and certainly have their occult rock/doom metal influenced brand of stoner rock-infused heavy metal figured out on this, their finest release to date. ‘Black Harvest’ is a substantial release of a whole lotta pent up everything, an arcane Sabbath-rocked groove and late 70’s heavy psych charisma taking their sound to arena/fest sized highs. The most “listenable” and easily repeated album I came across this month.

RECORD LABEL(S):Willowtip Records

High quality exploration of the dissonant spectrum of progressive/technical death metal comes fewer and farther between each year. A record like ‘Ylem’, which balances classic progressive death metal forms with the complete abstraction of technical death metal forms, stands out quite well amongst the usual monthly ruckus. Though their sound is rooted in the language of ‘Obscura’ their connective tissue is mindful of Ulcerate‘s fluid technique, and some of the spaced and shimmering guitar tones bring to mind equal parts Suffering Hour and Flourishing, I think it is fair to assume that ‘Ylem’ is an high point or a certain idealism realized for Sunless’ greater goals. Eh, either way it is a fantastic listen, challenging but not anxietous work which is even more brilliant when left on repeat for a few hours.

TITLE:The Black Mouth of Sepulchre
RECORD LABEL(S):Dark Descent Records,
Me Saco Un Ojo Records,
Desiccated Productions

The second full-length from Danish quartet Sulphurous compounds the greater impression that they aren’t a catchy or gimmick-driven death metal band. This is pure yet not plainly conformist death metal, violent in a traditional sense but capable of shocking old skulls with riff delivery at fast clip and highest standard. They’ve put in some serious work towards making ‘The Black Mouth of Sepulchre’ their most memorable statement to date with a strong balance of brutal riff-focused guitar work, an eerie sense of movement, and sinister melodicism throughout. I had high expectations for this one after their debut and no question this is even better for my own taste.

TITLE:Twilight of Dark Illumination
RECORD LABEL(S):Iron Pegasus Records

By “slowing down” a bit to focus on a higher standard of early extreme/heavy metal songcraft and performance Force of Darkness give us increasing substance over brutal flash and chaotic distraction. ‘Twilight of Dark Illumination’ is the work of a smarter metal-minded coalition — Satisfyingly extreme and appreciably classicist at once, feeding their obsidian adrenaline directly into impulses for both mayhem and austerity to a finest result. The full listen may prove itself a psychotic blur to start but once acclimated to the sheer mountain of riffs available the keen black/death/thrash-attuned ear will receive the repeated stabbing it deserves.

RECORD LABEL(S):Nordvis Produktion

Southwestern Swedish musician Oraklet (Sons of Crom) left an deep first impression upon my mind with this debut from his solo black/folk metal project Häxkapell. Though the inspiration for this project is incontestably rooted in various copacetic traditions of Swedish black metal we see the artist pulling from multiple disciplines and decades in impressive craft of ‘Eldhymner’ wherein the grace of black/folk metal butts up against the sleek brutality of melodic black metal traditions. The full listen recalls a certain age of pagan, folk and melodic black metal crossover when the medium wasn’t yet so splintered between aggressively detailed riff ideas/voicing and pursuing uniquely Nordic folk infused rhythms. The sensation of sky-parting loft unto beauteous expanse which characterizes the album is nonetheless fueled by chaos, the fiery exhaust of mayhemic acts, and this exact right balance of thoughtfully-stoked action by the hands of the artist is absolutely inspired. Don’t pick through this one, give it the full open-armed listen it deserves.

TITLE:Majestic Dissolve
RECORD LABEL(S):Memento Mori,
Rotted Life Records

San Diego’s death metal desert island finds a deep, brackish well of ‘old school’ attuned yet not so naïve classicism in this highly anticipated debut from Conjureth, a band featuring former members of Ghoulgotha and Father Befouled. Brutal pace and not all that melodic, it is the advanced riffcraft that drives this album home for my own taste as they hit the high standards of early 90’s thrashing death metal.

RECORD LABEL(S):RidingEasy Records

‘Silence/Motion’ reads as a bold and smartly reactive move for a band who’d already forged an impressive identity between two strong psychedelic doom rock records. This change of course enters a darker headspace with modern tonality/production, a doom-gazing sound which might initially scare off those who’d appreciated their earthen psychedelia previous. The patient and catharsis-seeking listener will be served a dark-to-light strata of moods as the full listen uplifts from a dark place.

TITLE:A Sigh From Below
RECORD LABEL(S):Iron Bonehead Productions

I’d been impressed from the first listen of ‘A Sigh From Below’ but not without some challenge, finding the flow of the album consistent but the full listen a bit of a fever dream achieved within a worming motion wherein no singular idea solidifies and the mood of the album itself hangs thick in the air. It wasn’t until I’d become more engaged and familiar with the guitar work itself that the bigger picture came into view as an abstraction of classic forms rather than worship. See also: Excoriate, Ensnared, Vorum. It is the sort of death metal record I could happily return to a hundred times and still find a new angle to approach from.

RECORD LABEL(S):Dark Essence Records

A remarkably successful culmination of identity for this nearly three decade strong viking/black metal band, ‘WoduridaR’ is an easy recommendation for folks who are new to Helheim‘s impressive discography. Fans of their last 3-4 albums will be at home here but this record is a bit more concise, memorable, and incorporates the revelation of ‘Rignir’ to great effect.

TITLE:Void Psalms
RECORD LABEL(S):Aesthetic Death,
Pestis Insaniae

Russian psychedelic and ritualistic doom/sludge metal trio Megalith Levitation have steadily honed in on their strengths (atmosphere, movement, aesthetic) without feeling any pressure for abrupt change and this has allowed them to live within their skin comfortably, shedding only what needs renewal. Everything about ‘Void Psalms’ appears patiently crafted, jammed and feeling-based yet nuclear in its actual tonality. Simple but effective, monolithic yet intimately state, there is a lot to pull from ‘Void Psalms’ if their wavelength happens to match your own.

TITLE:Where Voices Leave No Echo
RECORD LABEL(S):Sepulchral Voice Records

First thing everyone should be saying upon approach of this album: Man that cover art smokes. This debut from amorphously stated German black, death, and doomed extremists Horns of Domination is initially somewhat challenging but in the same way bands like Venenum and Kosmokrator are. Parsing the sub-genre tics of their craft isn’t as interesting as listening and enjoying eh, most folks will appreciate the strong variety of rhythmic mayhem they’ve stretched across ‘Where Voices Leave No Echo’ even if it isn’t the most memorable record out this month.

TITLE:Black Flame Dominion
RECORD LABEL(S):Iron Bonehead Productions

Cult of Eibon finally releases a full-length after several incredible EPs and 7″ records and no doubt ‘Black Flame Dominion’ is an unexpectedly deep slash all the way back to the demo days of early Athenian black metal. Raw, melodic, and entirely mesmerizing from start to finish this is one of an elite handful of Hellenic black metal records we’ve gotten this year and perhaps the most traditional of all.

TITLE:Spectral Creator
RECORD LABEL(S):Awakening Records

This debut full-length from Polish melodic black/death metal influenced death/thrash metal band Frightful was a complete surprise on my end. ‘Spectral Creator’ picks up on the connections between ‘Extreme Aggression’, ‘The Awakening’ and ‘The Somberlain’ via melodic death metal as it was developing prior to 1993’s breakthrough. It is a tough hybridization to describe but fans of classic death/thrash metal and pre-‘Terminal Spirit Disease’ melodic death will get it within a song or two.

RECORD LABEL(S):Self-Released

Grenoble, France-based trio Qoya gaze intently into the dark passages between worlds via their own perspective, a signature gait informed by equal parts low-altitude moods (post-punk) and high-altitude adaptability (post-doom metal) on this, their independently released debut full-length. ‘Yōkai‘ concerns itself with Japanese and Slavic folklore not for the sake of creating some imaginative distance from the listener and their dream yogic craft but, instead to depict and generate an atmospherically charged yet still universally readable sensation of purgatorial estrangement. There is a certain magick to this record even beyond the sharp aesthetic and sound design included, easily one of my most repeated listens of the month.

TITLE:Also sprach das chaos
RECORD LABEL(S):End All Life Productions

Abrasive, abrupt, challenging and unholy raw at just the right moments of collision if ‘Also sprach das Chaos’ were a live installation to be witnessed in full glory I’d certainly show up for it repeatedly. As an avant-garde black metal experience it’d posed a challenge in breaking away from the easily repeatable classicist forms of past Blackdeath albums. Though in my review I’d presented this record as an artistic accomplishment, a “curio” that appreciates with distance, I would say it has ultimately left a mark. The sort of challenge I am always up for when flicking through the more abominant sections of my shelves.

TITLE:Carnal Pollution
RECORD LABEL(S):Black Hole Productions

The first review of the month and still one of the most memorable, Japan by way of Ukraine gore-grinder Pharmacist has been on a rip n’ tear mission for the last two years releasing a ton of class material which improves with each iteration. ‘Carnal Pollution’ in particular enforces a slow lean into the melodic ‘Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious’ edge which tends to finds its way into this brand of stuff. If you like Pathologist, Exhumed, and Regurgitate as much as this guy this is the top of the heap at the moment.

TITLE:Precognition to Eradicate
RECORD LABEL(S):Tentacles Industries,
Coyote Records

Turkish death metal phenomenon Cenotaph have a reputation to uphold as one of the most extreme classicist brutal death metal bands on the planet and with ‘Precognition to Eradicate’ all efforts to recalibrate their craft have paid off with a ridiculous guttural nuke of a record. It took me a few listen to flip the ole brutal death metal switch in my brain and appreciate the stark, murderous tone of this record and its athletic, tuneless hulking quality but it ended up being one of my favorite records of theirs and a favorite this month at the very least.

TITLE:Negation of Delirium
RECORD LABEL(S):Iron Bonehead Productions

Pretty sure they’ve just killed Dracula in Symphony of the Night as ‘Negation of Delirium’ starts. We find this Canadian raw psychedelic black metal duo at a state of higher function five years beyond their impressive self-titled demo, having conjured from the ritual self a searing form of graveyard creeping and entheogen-steeped occult black metal that is far more directive and empowered than that description might suggest. Brash and skull scraping as black metal ought to be yet leagues more resonant than any contemporary considered, ‘Negation of Delirium’ is a work from a band with an impressive sense of self and signature. Since I’d premiered this album the week of release + did an interview I’d sort of slapped it in the “done” pile and took about a week before I went back and realized I should have reviewed it. Well, short version: ‘Negation of Delirium’ rules. I will write more about it before the end of the year.

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