The Top 20 Albums of November | 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. Floods, storms, power outages, decimated wooden fences, a revisit of Darkest Dungeon, and a handful of great extreme metal records highlighted this November. Anyhow, I am burnt out on reviews and it is time to wrap up 2021 in terms of music. — In an effort to cut to the quick of the month’s releases I will overlook a few albums (Cynic, Plebian Grandstand, Stormkeep) because I am not on their promotional lists and won’t have enough time to consider them next month. From what I have heard they are all fine work.

II. In full preview of the 100+ new releases slated for the month of December submitted for review I’ve chosen roughly 15 contenders for full review. Any long in-process or unfinished reviews will be deleted on December 15th when a Top 20 of December will be posted. A Top 50 of 2021 list will be posted soon after, there will be no “Albums You Missed” lists this year. will feature a somewhat different approach in 2022 and the site will be renamed. Due to increasing responsibilities in my job/career I’ve decided to put planned issues of Mystification Zine and any new releases Spirit Coffin Publishing on hold during the duration of 2022. Vinyl versions of my two most recent releases, and one compact disc release, are still on the way. The label store will stay open, though.

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 and generally keeping up to date with new releases. Thank you.

#1Album of the Month
TITLE:Tide Turns Eternal
RECORD LABEL(S):20 Bucks Spin

‘Tide Turns Eternal’ is an experience beyond the usual doom metal catharsis wherein the performers’ theatrics convey a journey which may potentially ease existential dread rather than reinforce it. Dream Unending‘s debut offers itself up as a welcoming fog of war away from the frequent and insidious reveal of an era where mental chaos and pining idiocy reign supreme over unthinking masses. More importantly it is successfully emotional music and this might reach folks who aren’t necessarily attuned to the growling-deep extreme doom metal niche.

TITLE:Sumerian Promises
RECORD LABEL(S):Sepulchral Voice Records

The appeal of ‘Sumerian Promises’ is as simple as huge death/thrash riffs, memorable style and impeccably tight classicist songwriting. On this debut Sijjin show their knack for prime-era thrashing 80’s death metal at its most expert level of composition and performance, which was tracked live and clearly practiced to the point of mind-scarring mantra. This is unsurprisingly AOTY contender material for my own taste and has demanded its place in rotation for months on end.

TITLE:Gold Spire
RECORD LABEL(S):Chaos Records

This fine self-titled debut album from Swedish noir jazz infused progressive death metal quartet Gold Spire brings an unmistakable mood of their own design in elaborate, brooding reveal. The end of Usurpress was a tragedy from every angle except musically, wherein the glowing thread of prog-death they’d been working on found jazz-fusion rhythm and performance which are given exponential vision in this spiritual succession from members of that group alongside folks from Sarcasm and Obskyr. I am always a bit wary of suggesting an extreme metal album is original while I am still so close to its initial revelation but you’ll find nothing else like this (on this level) anywhere.

TITLE:Hideous Entity
RECORD LABEL(S):Dark Descent Records,
Me Saco Un Ojo Records,
Desiccated Productions

Between Diabolizer, Sulphurous, Phrenelith and Hyperdontia (among others) this has been an incredible year for pure death metal releases from Denmark and that sphere’s Turkish connection. ‘Hideous Entity’ might be the most memorable of the lot but it is difficult to compare and contrast such consistently high quality work. Beyond the meta appreciation of their professional associations Hyperdontia have changed since their first album but they haven’t lost the core firepower that’d made ‘Nexus of Teeth’ such a thrill to behold. The subterranean brutality of that debut now finds its refined and nigh technical attack which I’d liken to late 90’s death metal classics, a bit of ‘Diabolical Conquest’ now leading their drive via impressive guitarist/vocalist Mattis Friborg (Sulphurous, Taphos). If you need a solid riff album with plenty of variation and you’re prone to demand the high standards of mid-to-late 90’s death metal this is going to be the jam of the month.

TITLE:Winds of Wrath
RECORD LABEL(S):Terratur Possessions

Whoredom Rife present Norwegian black metal of the highest order here on their third full-length album, a spectacle of classicism and furor that is graced with their label’s knack for impeccable visual design. Largely performed by original Keep of Kalessin drummer V. Einride and vocalist K.R. (whom is best known for Bloodthorn), these 7-9 minute pieces are unsurprisingly extensive in terms of composition and performative flair. Though we hear a lot of bored European folks classifying their barely-edited bedroom projects in the name of 90’s black metal at its early peak these days, there is something to be said for a nowadays black metal album that transcends the silly fucking trendiness of the late second wave and instead fundamentally understands the extremist idealism of that era better than feigned nostalgia kiddos.

TITLE:Nerve Butcherer
RECORD LABEL(S):Sepulchral Voice Records

Definitely don’t want to hear another “picking up where Vorum left off” take on Concrete Winds after this second album so distinctly carves its own path forward. ‘Nerve Butcherer’ is chaos and mania to start, slashing through a solid four minutes of war-grinding blasted-out carnage before taking even half a breath. The raw hammer of the drums and the precision of the scrambling lead guitars have honed in on the righteous illusion of blazing motion that war metal creates and given it a sort of primitivist death-grinding level of complexity to build suspense with. It is an album that presents itself as pure adrenaline but the slower portions of the album (specifically “Dissolvent Baptism” and parts of “Flaying Internecine”) boast massive gains in character that translated to pure entertainment on my part. More thoughts on the full review when it is ready.

TITLE:After Winter Comes War
RECORD LABEL(S):Invictus Productions

100% exactly my shit. We have a winner for demo tape of the year with this project between current and former members of Condor, Obliteration, and Purple Hill Witch. Expect real-ass late 80’s death metal here, frantic and filth-flinging thrasher minded assaults fleshed out into album ready songs. Precision murder riffs abound alongside the right irreverent, barking mad attitude. Think of Nekromantheon and Inculter to start then slap that notion with a handful of early Florida/Texas death-thrashing slime. Found myself listening to this tape for hours on end and wouldn’t change a thing here, just give me three more songs and a “Riot of Violence” moment for a 10/10.

TITLE:Echoes of the Eternal Word
RECORD LABEL(S):Transcending Records

Though I have yet to complete the review of this fine progressive death metal album from a trio of Finnish fellowes who happen to be brothers, we can count it among the best progressive death metal releases of the year for its uniquely stated staccato rhythms and experimentally guided performances. Formed between Jarmo, Lauri and Harri (all Pikka folk) each of these guys has a strong resume in hand between Total Devastation, Demonic Death Judge, and key works in Omnium Gatherum; This doesn’t influence my impressions of ‘Echoes of the Eternal Word’ but it does explain why their debut arrives so neatly formed and with plenty of personality in hand. The larger conversation here evolves from a respect for the natural world to an insistence that we can still choose to be an integral part of it rather than the illness. For me this theme plus a mix of thrashing riffs and kicking rock beats won me over for how different it is, it arguably becomes more Finnish in character as it goes and I greatly appreciated this.

RECORD LABEL(S):Agonia Records

Most anything I’d write about this album will be fan testimonial and I’ve nothing new to say about their discography. The density of the material will obviously need more time to sink in, just as the previous two records did. I will say that ‘Abzu’ (2011) was quite a bit more succinct and cutting via the previous guitarist’s ear for editing, this is a barrage more to the effect of ‘Absu’ (2009) which lends itself to a longer, less performative listening session. The logic of this being the third in a trilogy of releases makes good enough sense but of course the other two have the benefit of a decade head start in mind. Will give this some regular rotation until the end of the year forces a more clear verdict.

TITLE:Don’t Spare the Wicked
RECORD LABEL(S):High Roller Records

Say what you will about the tired-ass persistence of generic NWOTHM entries the world over these days, I’ve generally stopped reviewing them, but this is one of those nowadays heavy/power metal albums that manages to pull it off with a proper ‘keep it true’ sound in mind. Their self-titled EP from a few years back was glued together via fine guitar performances but this debut full-length sets just as much spotlight on vocalist Chris Nunez, glossing over their amped up production values with prominent keyboards which serve to frame the album’s 80’s obsessed melodic timbre. The full album flows together in such a way that the stadium-sized Maiden references aren’t so overwhelming as you’d expect and though it is a superficial record some shredding here and there gives it strong replay value beyond big arena metal hooks.

TITLE:Empires Conquered and Dismantled
RECORD LABEL(S):I, Voidhanger Records

It is the manipulator’s hands which concern and confront the the righteous ideation of Athens, Greece-based solo ‘epic’ folken black metal act Mystras whom wields the toppling of ancient empires as a pike to slash and reveal the weakness of the oppressor in their many forms throughout history. ‘Empires Conquered and Dismantled‘ is yet itself a rapid follow-up to a heralded predecessor, an iteration that builds deeper expectations of conceptual narrative presentation while further developing stylistic forms.

TITLE:Dawn of Annihilation
RECORD LABEL(S):Carbonized Records

Elite death metal from, Oakland? In terms of maniac energy and instantly spectacular aggression no question that ‘Dawn of Annihilation’ will impress up front and continue to thrill in small doses. As a listening experience this thing whips past quickly at ~34 minutes but the density of the experience will demand a hundred more listens if blackened death metal is your gig. Much as I’d like to corner ‘Dawn of Annihilation’ as a puritanical death metal storm due to the technical proficiency of the guitar work and relative clarity of the rhythm section the blackened affect of Funeral Chant‘s sound does eventually come in clutch when the spectacle of the razor-cut riffs starts to wane.

RECORD LABEL(S):Nuclear Blast

I don’t really cover major label releases in depth too often, they certainly don’t value my reach, I’m terrible for giving up easily sourced quotes, and the site name is unmarketable. Anyhow, ‘Deceiver’ might be open to a broader audience but that doesn’t mean this Denver-based band have lost their sound entirely. Some of that “harmonized soloing epic doom with stoner and extreme metal influences” personality is still there but increasingly professional and ambitious with each recording. This’ll be a tough one for some folks as this formerly weird, interesting band becomes more anthemic and ballad-length song driven within attempts to meld their influences into something memorable. Though I connected with the album during the review process I’ve found diminishing returns over time.

TITLE:The Great Pandemonium
RECORD LABEL(S):Hell’s Headbangers Records

Hunters Moon is a project lead by J. Eradicator a former member of Denouncement Pyre and Nocturnal Graves during the 2000’s who is joined by vocalist Lust whom is the main component of Denouncement Pyre and guitarist in Nocturnal Graves. Of course it will be hard for fans of those bands to separate this entity from their other work but this is a somewhat different form of black metal, often mid-paced and deliberate in its aggression. A review will publish sooner or later.

TITLE:Until the Darkness Goes
RECORD LABEL(S):Cruz Del Sur Music

In my review I suggest ‘Until the Darkness Goes’ is the right kind of bummer, truth spoken to feelings of dread and hopelessness which fits the traditional doom metal album format beautifully. The experience is not infinitely repeatable for my own taste, I do have to be in the mood for it, but there is a strong voice to be heard and much left to be considered within its sigh heavy, slow-burning spin. The trade-off between losing some of their run-on quirks and longer pieces for the sake of tighter, more memorable songs is a good call.

TITLE:The Bleeding Veil

After quite a big release on Agonia back in 2019 with ‘Garden of Storms‘ (which I liked quite a bit) you might be surprised to even learn that Swedish progressive/melodic death metal band In Mourning have a new album quickly arriving on the horizon but this is because it is largely self-released and of course I am jumping the gun on my list a bit early this month. Not to worry, the line-up of the previous album still stands and they’ve done an incredible job following it up with an experience of equal or greater quality. I am particularly impressed with this one because it balances accessibility and heaviness so well, almost pushing away from the softer and more elaborate melodicism of ‘Garden of Storms’ in favor of kicking up a bit more dust here and there. If you’d felt a bit of comedown on that recent Bel’akor record last month after its first track, here the high of the opener is sustained with plenty of thunder along the way while still keeping a sentimental melodic focus throughout. Anyhow, more to say about it later.

TITLE:Fell Sorcery Abounds
RECORD LABEL(S):No Remorse Records

Philadelphia-based traditional heavy metal quartet Morgul Blade touch upon some black metal influences on the well-woven path through their Tolkien inspired debut full-length. Though ‘Fell Sorcery Abounds’ leads with a bit of a rasp in its throat we get a mix of chest-beating melodic clean chorales and Heidevolk-esque baritone harmonization when it comes time for an anthem. Scatterbrained as this might appear up front this record absolutely comes together as it plays for a somewhat freshened take on epic heavy metal. They’re not exactly Sacral Night nor are they Blazon Rite but fans of high fantasy heavy metal will find an inspired trek off the beaten path with this one. More thoughts when the review materializes.

RECORD LABEL(S):Nordvis Produktion

Though this Swedish melodic black metal duo are named for an Ljå song and are often comparable in phrasing/style to groups like Panphage their expressions are not intentionally derived from heavy music, as the band insists that the moods supplied by appreciation of certain visual artists and folk mysticism are what define their sound thus far. Well, this is a nice way to present their fantastic and resonant work on this self-titled debut EP but we can certainly find some familiarity in the warmth of their melodic focus. These folks already impress with their presentation and varietal phrasing on this ~16 minute set of songs, short but certainly sweet and with an incredibly textural guitar tone. I’d actually found myself reaching for this EP quite often because it reminded me somewhat of the first Swordmaster EP and that circa ’95 point of transition for this style but of course ‘Blodtår‘ are differently expressive with more elaborate melodic voicing. I will be first in line once they are ready with a full-length.

TITLE:Genocidal Rites
RECORD LABEL(S):Translation Loss Records

It may appear scant in terms of immersion from a sludge/doom metal obsessive perspective but quality over quantity means Churchburn‘s third album smartly demands to be re-examined, meditated with, and appreciated for its easily read yet ambitious statement. Consider this their most ‘death doom’ record to date.

TITLE:Funeral Cult of Personality
RECORD LABEL(S):Sun & Moon Records

‘Funeral Cult of Personality‘ is a slight return to their old ways and a mutation beyond this Italian doom metal band’s signature sound. Thee unindoctrinated will find a restless keyboard/organ-driven traditional doom metal album, subversive and secure in its necrodoom affect. I wasn’t sure if they were going to continue with the harsher vocals of the previous album and I’m more-or-less glad they didn’t.

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