Short Reviews | January 26th, 2022

SHORT REVIEWS Our first crack at a handful of February 2022 releases finds us still a-wandering aimlessly through a half-enthused Q1 release schedule. I’ve done my best to grab ahold of the most interesting stuff while presenting some decent variety. In terms of February releases not included here, I’ve reserved ~20-25 albums which I’ll take a closer look and listen at in upcoming long-form reviews. If you find something you dig in the lot of ’em, go tell the band on social media and support them with a purchase. The arts require your support and/or own contributions. If you’d like your music reviewed send promos to: grizzlybutts@hotmail.com


Info:
ARTIST:VINTERLAND
TITLE:Welcome to My Last Chapter [Reissue/Remaster]
LABEL(S):Black Lodge Records
RELEASE DATE:February 4th, 2022

Although this is not the first remastered reissue of Stockholm-adjacent melodic black metal mythic beasts Vinterland‘s sole full-length it does have the distinction of being remastered by the original engineer/mixer and co-keyboardist Dan Swanö, whom has proven the most adept hand in revising his old work thus far. ‘Welcome to My Last Chapter‘ was originally titled ‘Wings of Sorrow‘ upon its first issue on the infamous No Fashion record label and its style was, much like Mörk Gryning‘s debut, considered somewhat of an also-ran by the harshly competitive elite of the era as it’d expanded heavily upon the more popular works of Dawn and Dissection prior in some sense. I remember this attitude specifically because a zine had convinced me not to check this album out in the late 90’s, only to discover it digitally when out of print in the mid-2000’s. In fact ‘Welcome to My Last Chapter‘ can rest as one of the finest tombstones left by the label, alongside ‘Nifelheim‘ and ‘My Shadow…‘ as sophisticated works with their own appropriately cult appreciation.

In 2017 per my exploration of Melodic Black Metal authenticity with An Exhaustive Study (yes, I am working on revising it) I’d remarked “Vinterland featured a member of Maze of Torment, he played on their only melodic death metal release (the first album) and that record is equally satisfying if you like both styles.” And I mention that first because I want that record to receive this level of care, it deserves it and still rules. Then I’d suggested: “Vinterland is a sorrowful and sincere black metal album that doesn’t venture too far from the Sacramentum, Dissection, Dawn school of things but it absolutely belongs alongside those bands in terms of quality. ‘Welcome My Last Chapter’ is somewhat impenetrable at times because the melodies aren’t repetitive and tend to develop over longer tracks rather than verse/chorus/verse like similar bands.” and I believe this statement still holds fast, in fact there is a certain patiently suffering grace to this record that captures the serious faced romanticism of this era of distinctly Swedish melodic black metal better than many of those suggested acts, they’d just used less of the thrashing and exciting bits than their storied peers.

The remaster is well balanced, leaving some of the compression key to the force of this style and era of music but generally upping the resolution to the point that the precision of these performances are revealed. This’d already sounded great on the 2010 remaster but this time around we’re granted the ethereal presence of the keyboards more often, the space inhabited by the vocalist (see: first scream and spoken word on “Vinterskogen”), and yes even a few of the basslines feel like fresh revelations within this update. The drums still have some of their flatness but I’d argue the record would lose some of its spirit if “As I Behold the Dying Sun” didn’t have that electronic sounding snare cracking away in its last third. A finest and still important document, and an essential grab, if you’ve any proper taste in melodic black metal.

Rating: 10 out of 10.

https://vinterland.bandcamp.com/album/welcome-my-last-chapter-remastered


Info:
ARTIST:LUNAR BLOOD
TITLE:Twilight Insurgency
LABEL(S):Pulverised Records
RELEASE DATE:February 18th, 2022

New Jersey-based HM-2 crunching death, hardcore n’ grind quintet Lunar Blood present a logical reaction to divisive rhetoric-addled times with this palpably furious yet brief debut full-length. Clocking in at under a half hour ‘Twilight Insurgency’ doesn’t have a moment to spare… beyond a few silly movie samples… as they basically lay out a primed and skulled spectrum of hardcore punk-affected Swedish death metal eruption and neocrust influenced rhythm (see: “Gastrointestinal Industrial Complex”) in the space of its two opening pieces. By the time “Wrath March” hits we’ve gotten a mouthful of their extreme crust past in Woodland Tomb and this adds quite well to the spheres these guys have reached for in crafting a record that impresses by way of riff ideas and not pure stylistic indication. They’ve got songs woven into the blur of grinding riffs but the major goal seems to be flow over repetition. I’m all for it but I almost prefer their longer pocket-grinding pieces like “God of the Trainwreck” rather than the quick take bulldozer most of the album presents. I’d like to see what they could do with more of their blackened hardcore/war metal skills pushing into this sound, if only for the sake of additional pathways to variety. Otherwise ‘Twilight Insurgency‘ completely smokes as a debut album.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Info:
ARTIST:SEREMONIA
TITLE:Neonlusifer
LABEL(S):Svart Records
RELEASE DATE:February 4th, 2022

Finnish occult psychedelic rock mainstays Seremonia return energized by possession on this now somewhat long-awaited fifth full-length beyond 2016’s celebrated ‘Pahuuden Äänet‘. This collective effort between members of Garden of Worm, Death Hawks, and Steel Mammoth takes a decidedly garage fuzzed approach to retro-psych in terms of its sound design, implying a mid-70’s jammed-out feeling (see: “Raskasta vettä”) in alternation with zombified doom rock slithering and catchier garage punk spirited pieces. This allows lead vocalist Noora Federley room to present differently tonal performances while also making room for lush yet satisfyingly harried arrangements. ‘Neonlusifer‘ shows some arcane spirited maturity beyond some of the band’s previous blues rock-centric efforts without shirking the crucially dead-eyed soul of the project — I’m definitely here for it and have found the full listen absolutely inspired on repeat. Likely the most tuneful and inspired heavy psych rock record you’ll hear all month.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Info:
ARTIST:TYMO
TITLE:The Art of a Maniac
LABEL(S):Self-Released
RELEASE DATE:February 5th, 2022

The nuclear palette and finer details of this Bouzikov illustrated third full-length from Edmonton, Alberta thrash metal quartet offer the first of many signs that they’ve upped their presentation closer to an industry standard. That isn’t to say that Tymo‘s ‘Purge & Reset‘, which I’d chucked in the recycle bin quick back in 2017, wasn’t a decent record but that the Bay Area influenced attack of ‘The Art of a Maniac‘ is far, far better in every sense. Edging just a few minutes over a half hour and (mostly) sticking to classic thrash metal influenced riffs most of this album simply cranks out stock late 80’s/early 90’s rhythm work at a decent standard for speed and precision; Landing somewhere in the vicinity of early 90’s Testament, minus the technical leads, was generally enough to impress me for a grip of casual listens and it helped that they’ve managed complete avoidance of simplistic groove metal chugging. Decent thrash metal is rare enough in my inbox that I’m all for any band that can avoid falling on the cheese-sword of 2000’s revivalist pizza thrash and deliver a solid riff. I’d definitely appreciate a better-rounded 80’s heavy metal album experience from these guys and less of a pure focus on the riff, but as is I had a good time.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Info:
ARTIST:THORN
TITLE:Yawning Depths
LABEL(S):Chaos Records
RELEASE DATE:February 4th, 2022

Thorn is a solo death metal project from Brennen Westermeyer whom is best known for his time in chaotic hardcore band American Standards and brutal death/goregrind meme Fluids. Although his earlier releases are most often labeled as death/doom metal ‘Yawning Depths‘ focuses more on the hardcore-cum-‘old school’ death metal spectrum thanks to relatively linear song structures presented via bonking, gutter-tuned guitars. Though the first impression is somewhat promising thanks to a big-ass guitar tone and a somewhat brutal death informed sense of progression the actual skeleton of the song has more in common with the slower spectrum of deathcore than say, Desecresy or Krypts. The implication of doom is there but the riffs never actually go there and instead we’ve got angularly chunked hardcore dynamics hitting throughout each song. Layers of wandering leads begin to build a sense of signature as the ~25 minute record presses on but these rarely feature any sort of statement, confluence, or meaningful interaction with the riffing and this ends up becoming a wet blanket over the full listen as it loses directional nuance or, any major differentiation between pieces. “Unknown Body of Light” more or less lands the right punch but I definitely wasn’t feeling this one as much as that first EP.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Info:
ARTIST:HAMMR
TITLE:Eternal Possession
LABEL(S):Hell’s Headbangers Records
RELEASE DATE:February 11th, 2022

We haven’t gotten a ton of black/speed metalpunk in the years since Cleveland, Ohio-based solo act Hammr released their debut, ‘Unholy Destruction‘ back in 2018 and I suppose that is the main reason I still recall it so clearly in approach of this second release. Distorted vocals are the main flesh-grater here on this decidedly more raw and ringing recording, which dares closer to the edge of a rehearsal level fidelity than most would. Of course this works for my taste, especially when a band like this has a solid foundation in hardcore punk as is the case here. The only part of this sound design choice that dents my skull is the capture of the cymbals, which ring together in one mass for the entirety of ‘Eternal Possession‘; While inoffensive in this regard they’d eventually make it hard to sit through several repeat listens. As a pick up and rip kind of black/speed/punk gig this is a refreshing hit during a creative drought for the niche but I’d still reserve my recommendation for it to folks who’re most dedicated to the early-to-mid 80’s school of first wave black/speed and metal punk sound.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.
Info:
ARTIST:CORRUPTOR
TITLE:Descent Into Madness
LABEL(S):Godz ov War Productions
RELEASE DATE:February 11th, 2022

Although French death metal duo Corruptor formed in 2021 these guys are not at all new to the sort of classic death metal brutality you’ll find on their debut ‘Descent Into Madness‘. As far as I can tell these same folks make up the current line-up of Morgue, a brutal deathgrind band active since the late 90’s whom are best known for their ‘Artgore‘ record in 2001 on Ablated Records (Brodequin, Cock and Ball Torture etc.) and though this project only shares some moderate brutal death aspect to its composition you’ll quickly get the sense that these folks aren’t aiming for trendy shit. Much of ‘Descent Into Madness‘ vacillates between mystic slow-burning atmospheric death metal curses and sparing yet catastrophic brutal hits making for a strong stretch of brutal-yet-wandering dynamic movement across each song. The most dissonant yet groove-stricken pieces are the strongest here, specifically the inspired fanfare of “Darkest Light” and the crawl of “Not Enough to Harm” as it serves a shock of energy to the second half of the album. Otherwise you can expect entirely solid, straight forward death metal here which holds up well to repeated listening.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Info:
ARTIST:TUGT
TITLE:Ved Lysets Ophør
LABEL(S):Onism Productions,
Virkelighedsfjern
RELEASE DATE:February 11th, 2022

Tugt is long gestating spiral of atmospheric black nihil by way of Danish musician Skovgænger, whom you should know well from Ildskær and Í Myrkri, wherein the artist expands a decade old font of personal negative dwell unto a trio and a full-length album. Though I can’t confirm this with samples or the full release, a ~35 minute demo was apparently released back in 2013 or so and it seems the project was largely dormant for the sake of other ideas. Now joined by members of Saxtorph and Afsind to complete the vision in 2020 it’d seem that ‘Ved Lysets Ophør‘ is less a product of the artists tinkering and more of an slowly built emotional release, still entirely professional but aiming for a depressive form of black metal brood expressed through classically cold and patient aggression.

The first impression should be something naturally ‘Danish black metal’ in terms of the early 2010’s advent of the project and some of the perpetually raining down moodiness initially projected. This shouldn’t suggest wrist-slitting, attention seeking depravity on display so much as sombre, ghostly movement applied to slowly descending atmospheric black progressions. The effect intended is amplified isolation, oppressive negative thought in conveyance of a personal dark place which intensifies without any additional human lifeline and from my perspective the work doesn’t completely drown in open sorrow as often as it conveys the cold apathy of depressive avoidance. As with each of these musicians associated projects in recent years the performances and rendering avoid feigned primitivism or naiveté and instead presents a reasonably professional yet stylized black metal album with tepid, brackish atmospheric presence which wears its ghostly pale skin yet never in such a way that interrupts the channel between artist and listener. Fine work without any glaring missteps in the span of its ~hourlong immerse.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Info:
ARTIST:BLUDGEONED
TITLE:Summary Execution
LABEL(S):Vile Tapes
RELEASE DATE:February 10th, 2022

This first official EP from United States brutal death metal trio Bludgeoned was originally released independently via Bandcamp in late November of last year and now finds its way to physical release via Vile Tapes. From the Brodequin lookin’ cover to the Disgorge and Devourment-esque mayhem inside this is a pretty classic hit of USBDM circa 1998-2005 with some evolved (yet not deathcore’d) slam rhythms cut into the barbarism to keep the pacing fresh. Overall a fantastic showing and entirely tight performances which fans of no bullshit brutal death will appreciate. My only gripe with ‘Summary Execution‘ is that it doesn’t present any standout possibilities for the future beyond lifer brutal death noise, a fine enough proposition for my own taste but I’m interested to see where they’ll be able to stick out a bit more in the future. ~14 thrilling minutes of frightening dismemberment otherwise.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Info:
ARTIST:GOLGOTHAN
TITLE:Leech
LABEL(S):Lacerated Enemy Records
RELEASE DATE:February 4th, 2022

Louisiana-based brutal death metal quartet Golgothan have long caught folks’ attention with their occult garbed and goblin fronted aesthetic but they’d smartly not pulled the trigger on a full-length until their sound had a decade to ripen. Thought their heft is rooted in fairly straight forward technical/brutal death metal timbre and a fair dose of Cattle Decapitation-esque stylistic play there are blackened death and sludge influenced movements throughout the duration of ‘Leech‘ that provide just enough extra interest to keep me listening. None of the guitar work jumps out at me in any meaningful, memorable way but I did appreciate the willingness to turn on a dime between any number of forms, “Gravy Train” being a fine example of two ideals being blended in fine form. Definitely a band I’d love to see live to catch a vibe first and come back to the album with the imp ears fully perked before making a final verdict.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

Info:
ARTIST:ZEAL & ARDOR
TITLE:Zeal & Ardor
LABEL(S):MVKA
RELEASE DATE:February 11th, 2022

Swiss-American musician Manuel Gagneux has done a fine job of expanding various eras of African-American spiritual music into the world of modern heavy guitar music but it has always been difficult to describe exactly what this entails without it coming across like cheap meme. By way of an typically uneven merger of those two dimensions of popular music the well-rounded and sometimes boldly experimental artist edges toward a certain golden ratio of meaningful contrast, striking a focused chord somewhat less frequently with each release. Now, of course I would say that having far more interest in his ‘underground’ black metal influenced breakthrough debut ‘Devil is Fine‘ back in 2016, though it might’ve been superficial in its exploration of extreme metal you could tell those heavier experiments were studied with some developed and/or nostalgic taste in the darker, blurriest edges of extreme metal. From that point Zeal & Ardor expanded into a full band, cranked the fidelity on each release, and now better understand their audience in terms of live presentations and demographics as their merger of worlds becomes both more self-aware and world-aware. This self-titled third album presents a cold-souled corporate rock feeling first and foremost within glossy, boosted tones and staggered pastiche of style that it feels more indifferent than the previous two full-lengths.

In plainest possible terms this is Zeal & Ardor‘s step into an arena-sized and polished version of their skin, now better matching the size of the live experience while toying with modern alternative metal tonality rather than extreme metal. This might hold the attention of wayfarers looking for the implication of heavier music within very simple rhythms and distortion-garroted vocal effects (see: Marilyn Manson + “Run”) and especially if they’ve any passing interest in post-black metal’s more optimistic uplifting sects (see: “Emersion”) but throughout ‘Zeal & Ardor‘ it becomes clear the juxtaposition of non-subgenre specific heavy music elements is meant to be somewhat obvious in its separation of worlds rather than a merger, the experience seems to temper the ear in passing from one musical language to the next without finding any truly profound examples of harmonization. “Erase” comes close without finding a hook and I’d echo that same sentiment for each of the best pieces here wherein the stylistic concept only appears more superficial as the fidelity is cranked and the songcraft hardly appears intent on making a clear point of purpose. Maybe I need the context of a lyric sheet to grasp the highs and lows better but hey, with music this loud and accessible it is a bit of a let-down that I do.

There is a lack of intimacy within the heavy guitar music influenced spectrum explored throughout ‘Zeal & Ardor‘ and it generally detracts from the artists work otherwise, and of course with the caveat that cleanly commercial alt-metal chunking won’t ever be my thing even within a somewhat progressive/avant-metal format. Still, if you are heavily into the sound of modern alternative metal its direct placement beside, and in direct fusion with, gospel and rhythm & blues should be wildly entertaining within this album. Is the conceptual fusion profound enough at this point to be considered original? I’m not even sure if fusion is the major goal, but, probably. I’ve found it more interesting as a keen experiment rather than good music and the full listen hit diminishing returns after just a handful of spins. Bold ideas overall but the “soul” of heavy music is missing from this alchemy.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

Info:
ARTIST:BACKSLIDER
TITLE:Psychic Rot
LABEL(S):To Live a Lie Records
RELEASE DATE:February 11th, 2022

Though you’ll likely have seen Backslider described as everything from Entombed-core to sludgecore in your periphery they’re really wearing their best skin when chunking out various combinations of extreme metal influenced powerviolence and slow-jammed sludge metallic hardcore punk. Much of what ‘Psychic Rot‘ presents is natural evolution beyond the Relapse-boosted half decade of grindcore and sludge adjacent experimentation beyond the late 90’s by way of creeping atmosludge tension, big dirty bass guitar tone and a righteously severe sense of hardcore punk urgency whenever said tension breaks. The Developing Nations engineer/mix and PlotkinWorks master find an ideal balance between spacious warehouse-sized resonance and the compressed force necessary for low-end heaving and powerviolent bursts. Backslider definitely swing harder on ‘Psychic Rot‘ than on their debut and the upward echoing riser-boosted drum sound here particularly helps. For my taste the vocals could’ve used a little bit more pop in the center of the mix for the sake of a more directive presence but that is probably just the 90’s part of my brain expecting the barker to cut through rather than gel with. Though I didn’t necessarily hear anything new here these guys still manage a strong sense of self and a shit-ton of energy pent up into this record, highly recommended stuff.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Info:
ARTIST:VEONITY
TITLE:Elements of Power
LABEL(S):Scarlet Records
RELEASE DATE:February 18th, 2022

By way of time weakened will and thirst for varietal textures I am officially up for some, eh, power metal this year and though I am most often drawn to the more substantive spectrum of late 90’s/early 2000’s offshoots most of what Vänersborg, Sweden-based quartet Veonity soldier on within this fifth full-length album meets those standards for energetic performance and melodicism. Skimming through their earlier works there is the sense that the original intent of the band was in fact the speed metallic melody intense post-‘Keeper…‘ era German power metal crossed with the maximal Swedish side of things. Since at least 2018 or so it seems they’ve incorporated mild ‘symphonic’ voicing in moderate increments leading to Freedom Call comparisons on my end, for lack of any more appropriate insight and this is a pretty reasonable result if you’re looking for an easy to pick up galloping high fantasy power metal album without any silly ballads or EDM breaks cheesing their shit too far out of bounds. Good fun and some appreciable uplift to be had.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Info:
ARTIST:DEVOURED ELYSIUM
TITLE:Void Grave
LABEL(S):Gore House Productions
RELEASE DATE:February 18th, 2022

Turkish slamming brutal death metal/deathcore quartet Devoured Elysium have returned with a similarly succinct second full-length album once again notable for its eerie and oppressive atmospheric values. The more technical aspect of their riffing tends to lead to the most interesting pieces most of which are fairly short and direct, the prime example being preview track “Green Screen Failure”. The full listen dunks hard, I mean any fan of brutal death will appreciate the bass-heavy chunk of ‘Void Grave‘, but it doesn’t necessarily hold fast in memory or provide more than a quick thrill of a spin. Though I’ve no real gripe with the band’s sound, style or production values it was just kinda in one ear and out the other beyond the first couple of spins.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.
Info:
ARTIST:INERTH
TITLE:Void
LABEL(S):Abstract Emotions
RELEASE DATE:February 22nd, 2022

After twenty years spent in deathgrind act Looking For An Answer four out of five of these Madrid-based folks dissolved their former entity, found a new guitarist and began cracking away at a sound that could be loosely compared to the liminal space between Godflesh‘s ‘Pure‘ and ‘Selfless‘ albums in the early 90’s. Though this ideal is beset within a mid-90’s popular death metal tonality much of what ‘Void‘ cranks out lands as a groove metal inspired half step between death metallic industrial and the experimental post-crust punk adjacency likewise explored on records like NeurosisSouls at Zero‘ and I suppose Fudge Tunnel‘s ‘Creep Diets‘, a merger of many worlds unto syncopated groove focused and sludged-out mechanical movements. The vibe is there and their sound occasionally pushes beyond the heavy nostalgia of it all into a uniquely dissociative state but the songwriting focuses too intently on spaced-out grooves and a certain ominous atmosphere; Inerth‘s strength arguably lies in their harder charging pieces such as opener “Resilience In” and Side B‘s “Visions of Truth” both of which attempt something akin to a more traditional post-thrash modulated heavy rock song structure. The right balance of force and alienated post-apocalyptic dissociation (see: “Paranoiac Critical Suicide”) is there I’d just been left longing for some sharper hooks. A fine full listen, sharp production values, and plenty of easygoing mid-paced grooves.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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