The Top 20 Albums of February | 2022

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. Your door to the future slams shut! A chill settles over the land, our river threatens to flood and hey, the latest wave of ye olde Cold War is officially arisen. A perpetually grey mood has me scrambling to find doom-toned music lately only to find everything but doom most of February, yet a few outliers and some expected old favorites fattened up the experience nonetheless: A righteous month for my own taste. I have already started drafting long-form reviews for March with a list about 30 titles long + about 30 more short reviews planned at a glance. I will likely spend all of March playing Elden Ring and Elex II.

II. Mystification Zine ‘Issue II: Altered Visions’ is in the works for a Spring 2022 release, more on that sooner or later. Hoping to have a deal/news on a new release soon, also. If you’d like to support my efforts for regular print magazine issues and releasing new records, buy something from the store/label:

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 2022 but I will be somewhat less regularly active due to career and personal responsibilities intensifying. Thank you.

#1Album of the Month
TITLE:Acts of God
RECORD LABEL(S):Nuclear Blast

Being a fan of a band for over twenty years and attempting objective examination of their material is a sword of many edges, but I would not be kind or lenient if this record sucked. It doesn’t suck. What do I personally want from my favorite death metal band in 2022? A huge album and a huge tour, looks like we’ve gotten both this year and that is really all that I can ask as a fan. In terms of criticizing ‘Acts of God‘… The length was a plus in the long run, fifteen relatively short songs feels all the more oppressive and spreads the double LP into an experience. It’d have been fine to clip it down a bit and focus on more memorable songs, otherwise. I’d loved that it continued the path opened by ‘Atonement‘ in reaching for slightly more organic production but I’d like to see what a different mix/master could do for the band the next time around.

TITLE:Svartr Sól

Musician Seiðr (Serpent OmegaDark Prod Studios) enchants and inspires by way of six hymnal Norse paganistic black metal pieces in tribute to Sól with this fourth album from his band Seid. The Stockholm-based fellowes find their strongest resolve to date herein, embracing newfound echoing resonance the size of celestial body as key momentum behind tightened, primally impactful works beyond expectation. ‘Svartr Sól’ may be one in a line of several leaps of insight stirred between releases for the artist yet it is inarguably the most dramatic landing we’ve gotten from them thus far. Above all else this was the most memorable and perhaps unexpected bout of greatness this month and probably my most listened to album next to #1.

TITLE:Take Up My Bones
RECORD LABEL(S):Prophecy Productions

A transfixing, emotional journey which illustrates itself in appropriately medieval sepia-toned doom, this solo project from Mark Deeks of Winterfylleth hasn’t left my mind beyond the first listen. Self-described as “Northumbrian monastic doom metal” the gorgeously rendered upward-angled and chamber resonant sound that Arð presents on ‘Take Up My Bones‘ is first and foremost a wholly professional recording. Without extending too far beyond the focused rapturous hymnal crawl of its mid-to-slow paced rhythms ‘Take Up My Bones‘ is stunningly cohesive, neatly presented and able to earn quick fealty from me via fine art direction and an affecting full listen unperturbed by amateurish or half-formed ideals. In terms of their sound, a chorale-driven event which smacks of unique style right out of the box, this’ll be a record with few suggested contemporaries here in 2022.

TITLE:Ascent From the Mundane
RECORD LABEL(S):Unique Leader Records

An old favorite returns with an incredible evolution in hand, and an impressive cerebral journey in mind. ‘Ascent From the Mundane‘ manifests in glorious confluence with its proposed theme, an inherently conflicted beast which manages to become well-rounded by way of realizing its own measures of darkest chaotic angularity, solar-beaming eerie, and the self-examination resultant of full expression of each. It is not only the finest work to date from an massively underrated two decade strong death metal project’s keen ideation but an experience which palpably steels the mind when engaged for both its finer minutiae and grooviest, broadest strokes. I’d say an death metal AOTY contender depending how it holds up over time.

RECORD LABEL(S):Self-Released

This New York based blackened grind solo artist’s debut full-length should perk the ear of folks attuned to early Ulcerate, Wake, and Noctambulist though he has his own cold, bleak angle set upon said ringing dissonant guitar techniques and admirably brutal application of blasts which builds intense momentum throughout the albums ~33 length. I don’t stumble across many records like this these days, especially not an independent fellow capable of such quality. Anyhow, I’ve found it captivating as all hell and I’m sure they’ll be signed quick based off this record.

TITLE:The Sanctity of Death
RECORD LABEL(S):Shadow Records

This Malmö, Sweden-borne black metal trio continue their decisive tirade through sharpest Scandinavian black metal classicism while making sure to trample any too-cloying nostalgic representation along the way. This second full-length finds the entity angling less harshly toward a certain destructive type of austerity, achieving a no-less callous bridge burning spell set to burst the old, over-worshipped skulls of the past with fresh blackened fire. The logical step up beyond their debut with intensifying technique and a more stylized production, memorable songs which’ve stuck with me more than most else I’d heard this month.

TITLE:A Nocturnal Crossing
RECORD LABEL(S):Svart Records

Toulouse, France-based quintet Deathbell‘s second full-length album arrives in the form of staggered ooze-and-stalk psychedelia, a satisfyingly waltzed occult rock stomp that’d serve revelation beyond their buttoned up and scene-ready debut, an essential leap into the deep end of gloriously layered doom-rock abysm wherein ‘A Nocturnal Crossing‘ generates its own warming, deeply burnt resonance. The listening experience is the best sort of ‘grower’, a slowly cast boon of entrancement that’ll tilt heads aback in ecstasy when left on repeat for hours at a time.

TITLE:Killers Like Us
RECORD LABEL(S):Profound Lore Records

This third album from Italy/United States-based noise rock quartet Buñuel has stuck with me for all of the right reasons this month as ‘Killers Like Us‘ insists upon delivering its own sound, their own way. It helps to be a fan of Oxbow and to appreciate the fine performances of Eugene Robinson but I’m tempted to suggest this might be the perfect gateway to his realm, and beyond that point we’ve got a fully modern, inventive and varietal experience here given to its stirringly bleak vision and voice. We aren’t looking back in time following this thread, we’re -in- it and fully present for its altered-stated mania. Don’t hesitate to grab their first two records if this one hits with you, they’ve been remarkably consistent.

TITLE:Dawn of the Serpent
RECORD LABEL(S):High Roller Records

Houston, Texas-based quintet Night Cobra‘s debut full-length ‘Dawn of the Serpent‘ is an anthemic Gibson-esque future dystopian tech-noir tear, a thread of cyber-fantastic kitsch heavy personae made real by the existential tone of its narrative delivery. You won’t need an overly nostalgic movement in mind nor any sort of too-elite niche to enjoy these fellowes work, though, just some certain love for 80’s heavy metal anthems with bit of rebellious oxidization around the edges. Underrated stuff, I’ll say.

TITLE:Michael Dose
RECORD LABEL(S):Reptilian Records

My experience reviewing noise rock/post-hardcore revivalists over the years has been steady in terms of it being a gig dominated by normative people (who aren’t all that weird or interesting) making music for weird people they don’t understand. That isn’t a criticism of Prayer Group, an excellent noise rock band out of Richmond, Virginia but instead a note on the boring, commercialized and not at all punk rock “scene” that noise rock can be at times. I go for the bands who can play, catch an expressive sound, can write a memorable song, and those who’ve got some emotional gutsiness to wretch out — That’d be what I found within ‘Michael Dose‘. Anyhow, the vinyl showed up damaged, so I haven’t even touched it, but I enjoyed my time with the album during the review.

TITLE:Vomitous Manifestations
RECORD LABEL(S):Caligari Records

Formed in the middle of 2020 and featuring folks from the wildly underappreciated Obscure Burial, similarly-minded Sickness, and bestial black-thrashers Sadochrist (formerly Sadokist), you can head into the realm of Extinguished rightfully assuming it’ll be a spat of sinister and perfectly rotten elitist death noise. While their approach is the zombie blood smeared semi truck with a full tank of gas-sized roar you’d expect ‘Vomitous Manifestations‘ is, at least to my ears, a specific cut towards the ‘Severed Survival‘ influenced ex-thrasher days of Finnish death metal around ’89-’92. In terms of modern bands in this realm, think of early Tomb MoldMorbificAnthropophagous and any else who similarly thrashes, grooves, and dooms with the force of crusty old death metal demolition.

TITLE:Striving Toward Oblivion
RECORD LABEL(S):Transcending Obscurity Records

This German melodic black metal band make an admirable leap in quality here on their full-length debut, a thrashing yet distinctly Scandinavian edged sound with freshened melodic voicing amidst an increasingly atmospheric vision achieving a level of presence and quality you’ll find with bands like WormwoodNetherbird and Thron today. While we are in fact gifted an album as professional and modern as implied in company with those other groups, ‘Striving Toward Oblivion‘ finds Vorga straying just a bit closer to the heart of what’d made melodic black metal an inspirational advent in the early-to-mid 90’s rather than further away and this’d resulted in several of these songs achieving ear-worm status on my part.  

TITLE:Sacrificial Chants
RECORD LABEL(S):Invictus Productions

Stockholm, Sweden-borne black-thrashing death maulers Beastiality have returned after several years and a full re-staff of the band beyond 2017’s incredible ‘Worshippers of Unearthly Perversions‘. Founder and sole original member Heinrich (ex-Morbid Insulter) continues to anchor the project with his knack for the most classic forms of black/thrash riffcraft delivered with death/thrash intensity, fans of the band’s first album will immediately recognize his work. The major difference here is probably a general lean from black/speed influenced tempo mapping towards something that wheels between the austere Australian realm of black/thrash and the Nifelheim and Sarcófago levels of extremist aggression. A bit thornier and raw, but still the sound the band are known for. I am a huge fan of these riffs and this band in general, hoping a full-length of this same caliber is on the way sooner or later.

TITLE:Ascending Into Perdition
RECORD LABEL(S):Terratur Possessions

Cold supremacy from Omega (Fides Inversa, Blut Aus Nord) and Wraath (One Tail, One Head, Behexen). A brilliantly inverted envisioning of the pure black metal experience, this debut full-length from Italian-Norwegian black metal duo Darvaza catches the ear and hooks in mind for the sake of its properly overstated reception of damnation, a rapturous reaction in catalyst of the eternal dark upon man and inevitable cessation of light. ‘Ascending Into Perdition‘ does not mock but cajoles the false unto their natural state of sycophantic torment, dooming the skull from ear-to-ear with pleasure.

TITLE:Morbid Extinction
RECORD LABEL(S):Pulverised Records

Chasm-echoed bestial black/death styled roars and commanding d-beaten kicks go a long way towards making this second EP release from Jakarta, Indonesia-based quartet Masakre a memorable set of five lightning fast stabs to the corpse of ‘old school’ death-punk. ‘Morbid Extinction‘ is a primal shout across the short distance enjoyed by what imminent doom awaits us within the toxic hellscape of the future, barked and strangled-out in short wallops — A feat wherein these menacing fellowes capitalize upon the sort of attack that’d been most key to the extreme metal colosseum at underground advent. Here a brutal exaggeration of early 80’s crust punk finds its horrifying extreme within death metal classicism, a foaming harmony of forms that still manages a personalized touch in their hands despite the long and inspired history of this sub-genre hybridization before ’em.

TITLE:The Eldorado Spell
RECORD LABEL(S):Apollon Records

Cohesion is the bigger-picture accomplishment to be witnessed here on ‘The Eldorado Spell‘, wherein the myriad ideas and high enthusiasm of Bergen-based heavy rock quartet Kryptograf successfully gel unto redeeming umbrella of sugar-skulled style and memorable songs. What was once a keen jam of desert-rocked 90’s fuzz and 70’s proto-doomed kicks now finds a singular, darkest heart to pull from. Morbid prose and ‘retro’-heavy psych timbre informs their doubly tuneful psychedelic doom/rock sound as they move from time-stamped references toward timelessly appealing unholy psychedelia. Check it out if you like (early) Witchcraft and Dunbarrow.

TITLE:Heresy of the Highest Order
RECORD LABEL(S):Unique Leader Records

Definitely got unfollowed by a few people on social media after posting this review, but hey, jeez there is no reason to be so prude about reptilian world leaders drinking menstrual blood. A closer look at Northern California-based trio Embryonic Devourment‘s fourth full-length album quickly reveals itself as yet another damned solid technical brutal death metal release under their belt. At the elemental core of its brains-out, stem cell chuggin’ fracas ‘Heresy of the Highest Order‘ is the sort of tightly performed thrill-a-second rip they’ve been hocking since the early 2000’s, a fourth and finest chance to reveal the (literally) scaly underbelly of the ruling class. 

TITLE:Electric Warfare
RECORD LABEL(S):Hell’s Headbangers Records

As was the case with all of this Norwegian thrash metal duo’s previous efforts thus far ‘Electric Warfare‘ is one meaningful half-step forward and two steps back in time, not-so pure ‘evil’ thrash metal sounds heavily influenced by Teutonic thrash metal spheres of the early 80’s, traditional heavy metal and the original spirit of black metal. Their longest runtime to date and cleanest recording yet, this one is decidedly tuned for folks obsessed with the hard-edged rhythm guitar finesse of classic thrash metal mania, no less blackened but now sounding exactly as big as they should thanks to an extra bit of thunder in their render.

RECORD LABEL(S):Blood Harvest Records,
Rotted Life Records

Riffs. There is nothing like stumbling into the true seventh circle conjured by a pure, truly violent death metal band putting in the work to hit the actual sound and standards of the better remembered acts of the early 90’s. That’d be what sets Los Angeles, California borne quartet Insineratehymn apart from a lot of the pack, though they’re hitting the auld ’89-’93 standard in the finest of traditions on their second full-length album, ‘Disembodied‘, the goal isn’t nu-style points but instead making evil ‘hair over the eyes’ and harder-than-thou headbanging riff obsessed stuff that is impossible to mistake for trend-hopping or fuckery.

TITLE:Piercing Through the Frozen Eternity
RECORD LABEL(S):Self-Released

As you’ll have guessed with a quick glance at the cover art Moonlight Sorcery are a black metal band of the nostalgic, heroic and mid-to-late 90’s attuned affect. The Finnish trio achieve this debut EP with a very strong aesthetic and an incredibly inspired shredding form of melodic black metal that features frost-blasted keyboards and Sognametal-esque guitar heroics. The shredding here aims for the “epic” rather than the masturbatory, flinging each run upwards within the storm of cold reverb and scowling vocals. For a nowadays Finnish black metal band this might seem a bit normal on paper but in motion ‘Piercing Through the Frozen Eternity‘ develops its own melodic voice which leans far more heavy metal than expected at times (see: “Wolven Hour”) and this sets their goals astray from the norm. I’ve found this record entirely addictive, I appreciate the detail available to the keyboard work and how it often shapes the organic nature of the recording, a dynamic that certainly justifies mastering from Henri Sorvali of Trollhouse Audio/Moonsorrow, incredibly appropriate for this band’s sound. They’ve got “it”, and as of writing this it seems others agree as they’ve signed to Avantgarde Music, congrats to them.

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