The Top 20 Albums of March | 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. The war rages on as we continue to thaw, the depravity of human devolution reaching predictably feverish levels in preparation for the species’ primal season of maniacal conception and belly-forth gestation in a time where tired minds and unfit bodies now resign themselves to the inevitable umpteenth coming of plague. There’ll be no better soundtrack to the mushing of minds and softening of immune systems than this platter of twenty brilliant full-lengths from March, most of them finding admirable musical value in both classicist traditions and modern artistry. I’ve found this to be the first and most potently inspirational months for extreme metal releases this year and if that excites you to some degree, well, I’ve planned about ~38 full-length reviews in April that’ll reflect even stronger future stock for our crypt-bound timeline.

II. Mystification Zine Issue II: ‘Altered Visions’ is aiming for a late Spring 2022 release: Interviews are still in the works, slow going etc. but the general idea is a single run of 50 copies, ~50 pages, perfect bound, cover (front/back) by fine artist James Greer, and at least one guest article. This time around all print exclusive content, no reviews, more interviews, more art, same high quality print and sturdy binding, this issue will include an exclusive feature on melodic black metal from 1991-2001. If you’d like to support my efforts for regular print magazine issues and releasing new records, buy something from the store/label’s BigCartel. // I have also announced [TOMB-05] our cassette tape version of Croatian group Nether‘s ‘Bone Relic‘ EP, which showcases a heavier lean into death metal and sludge influences. It’ll release May 1st, you can pre-order here: // If you want a review copy, or just a digital copy, e-mail me:

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 as I age. Thank you.

#1Album of the Month
TITLE:Visions of a Dismal Fate
RECORD LABEL(S):Crypts of Eternity Productions

A monstrosity of heaving soil and scorched bones. — There exists a great distance between musicians who’d attempt a loose, mostly aesthetic classicist death metal sound and those who would naturally create an idealized vision of it from their own genuine taste. ‘Visions of a Dismal Fate‘ does not ask the listener to gauge its member’s authenticity but instead presents an undeniably substantive, destructive work with well-developed and personalized style in droves. A roundabout way to suggest Rotten Tomb‘s music speaks well enough for itself, I suppose. Delivering their curse without so much as a glance back over their shoulder, the eight doomed-over and chasm resonant pieces herein provide every indication that these fellowes live and breathe the real thing and there’ll be no denying the addictive nature of these ‘contact high’ achieved coffin fumes on my part.

TITLE:Fragments at the Edge of Sorrow
RECORD LABEL(S):Chaos Records

If madness can be perceived solely as a vision of Hell, or, the dead dreams of the most potent ancient ones, then we are graced with the finest spiritual awakening available to the insane in view of Concepción, Chile-based death metal band Mortify‘s second full-length album, wherein the mystère of the fringes of the mind furl and shake upwards menacingly in between transcendental planar drifting yearn. ‘Fragments at the Edge of Sorrow‘ is a leap unholy unto the quartet’s fullest-yet realization of their progressive death metal soul’d brutality, rooted in best of die-hard death metal traditions we can hope for nowadays — generating their own voice using the old, dead ways. I have to say that I kinda ridiculous love this album and still find myself listening to it every day or two beyond the process of review, it so perfectly taps into what I’ve long felt is the ‘peak’ of death metal circa 1993 where growing ‘progressive’ music level sophistication met with the simply stated rhythmic voice of 80’s death metal still intact. Absolutely bound for my Best of the Year list.

RECORD LABEL(S):The Sinister Flame

As we stumble into the finely curated fourth chapter of Finnish melodic black metal duo Aethyrick‘s naturalist Satanic litany, we discover a ‘Pilgrimage‘ brimming with purpose beyond the chilling events that’d made it all possible, a murder and an escape into the wild. Colored with reflective red coral and glowingly lush arcane atmospheric thrush, we find these fellowes now achieving a state of fluidic trance that is impenetrable for the sake of its uninterrupted rhythm yet quite easily enjoyed in a restful, folded state. Er, an peak form of atmospherically charged works from a band who’ve found distinction in melodic black metal acts that are kin to Ulver, Lunar Aurora, and perhaps Winterfylleth in reaching a sort of glowing resonance that yet has musical deftness, softness and bite to its craft.

TITLE:The Ailing Facade
RECORD LABEL(S):Profound Lore Records

There’ll be no reprieve from the incessant access to the chaotic thoughts and spiritual dissonances of the greater species which plagues the most starving minds of today within ‘The Ailing Facade‘, an experimental death metal album that instead persuades the listener to address the hopeless churn of modern humanism without a tick of escapist idealism. The New York-based quartet do however provide an incredible experience to ease the inevitably goring pangs of futility and subsequent wilting into purposelessness felt by way of lofty, post-punk whirled death-magick and deeply buried industrial scalded rhythms. The sleepless conscious mind, numbed by the unthinkable and malnourished for the sake of survival, ought plunge right into these ~51 minutes and embrace what inventive illustrations of dread are strongly lit inside as these fellowes offer wraith-like guidance toward acceptance of our collective chaotic absurdism. There is some energizing, ‘freeing’ yet unnatural bliss to behold within this sermon of self-actualized meaninglessness. If you missed the boat on their work in Flourishing don’t be a double-idiot and overlook Aeviterne.

TITLE:The Long Defeat
RECORD LABEL(S):Norma Evangelium Diaboli

The most obvious observation to make in light of ‘The Long Defeat‘ is that it won’t be what you’re expecting from Deathspell Omega, and it’ll take some time to sink in exactly what they’ve intended to do here, which is of course only limited to your own likely shifting interpretation of it. In conveyance of an original parable, a sort of surrealistic blasphemer’s self-actualization the French trio have managed a release which is thus far related yet entirely singular in their discography and it’ll be a shock to those expecting a raw-aggressive technical monstrosity. This transformation entirely suits them and the story told, a first part of several to come I assume. I personally found hints of second wave melodic black metal, some avant-black Ved Buens Ende (or Virus-esque) qualities in mind and plenty more details of avant-ambient sound design and ambiance to wade through despite the accessible sleekness of the whole experience. This would be higher on the list but I’ve not had enough time with the album to truly rank it among records I’d been listening to for months earlier.

TITLE:Fires of the Dying World
RECORD LABEL(S):Dark Descent Records

An excellent balance between bludgeoning death and the searing atmospheric burn of black metal and extreme doom metal. — Finnish death metal trio Desolate Shrine offer us a fifth pillar-and-altar along their treading of the endtyme, a journey taken from afar-glowing magisterial domains to the ever-swallowing throat of the absolute abysmal dark. At the end of times, well, beyond the end of days ‘Fires of the Dying World‘ is a massive, experiential death metal record that bears its own singularly monolithic feeling, a record which finds the visionary group shaping the formless spiriting of the past, re-carving and smoothing their established modus with the same detail rich insight and well improved fidelity affecting all related projects of late. This’ll be one of the ‘growers’ of the month’s releases which deserves quite a few listens for those keen to pour over the details of a visionary work and experience the pulse of the work in both memorable broad strokes and their finer minutiae.

TITLE:In the Lonely Light of Mourning
RECORD LABEL(S):Cruz Del Sur Music

It is worth asking why it should be so sad, affecting at least, to learn that one of your favorite standard-bearing artists has died and my own answer as to the personal nature of it is that the artist has instilled a piece of emotional information which is somehow enduringly vital to one’s consciousness, a basal element of fractal values. Well, whatever that means, it is certainly true of this former Trouble frontman’s work over the years, records which were absolutely integral for my exploration of heavy metal (alongside Manilla Road, R.I.P.) and perhaps one of just a few bands that’d had some serious emotional heft, a personal and ‘real’ aspect of said experience which followed Wagner in every project he’d touch. A fellow who was adamantly a ‘classic’ int he sense that he’d insisted his work not be stuck in the past, a goal that’d found finest repercussions over the last two decades with The Skull and Blackfinger, and this album was perhaps some of his most honest work to date. Bittersweet as a post-humous release naturally would be of course, but still inspiring for its content and not for the grief involved.

RECORD LABEL(S):Humo Internacional

Abysmos‘ is this underrated groups latest work with some great consideration for extreme metal’s atmospheric dissonance, applying it to a unique form of droning psychedelic doom metal for a sort of body-high and bristling cast into the abysm. Of course it’ll be a hard sell for folks looking for hook-filled populist fare but the droning doom of Sevilla, Spain-based psychedelic doom metal entity Pylar is nonetheless something entirely gratifying in its experiential weight, a feat which’ll best land upon those with sturdy attention spans and a lid or two in hand. I still find myself returning to this record even a full month after the review and that is a good sign that they’ve knicked me with the right stuff.

TITLE:Spewing Mephitic Putridity
RECORD LABEL(S):Me Saco Un Ojo Records,
Pulverised Records,
Extremely Rotten Productions

Spewing Mephitic Putridity‘ righteously benefits from how direct-to-brain its simple, polished stabbing motions are from start to finish as these guys serve a thousand maggoty slashes to the timelessly visceral appeal of underground death metal’s obsession with riff-directed moshable brutality. Consider Cryptworm‘s sound heavily influenced by the odd-angled technical riffing of Demilich‘s more primitive beginnings (and ‘Reek of Putrefaction‘ by association) with the brutality of formative groups like Rottrevore and Infester emerging somewhere in the back of their minds. It is a sound that fans of groups like UndergangCerebral Rot and Fleshrot will understand immediately without sounding like imitation or hanging-on thanks to their mixing it up and performing the -hell- out of this debut full-length with a tightness unheard of by today’s standards. Again, fantastic work from the drummer in particular.

RECORD LABEL(S):Svart Records

The surprise hit of the month for my own taste and a ‘grower’ that’d hit me profoundly when it finally did. — This second full-length from Padua, Italy-based quartet Messa conceptually does away with any reliance on clear-cut stylistic duality within their sound, a whittling away of too-sharp contrasts, and assumedly does so for the sake of intimacy and personae, that which is readable near and far within earshot of their sometimes-droning, increasingly fine harmonization; A sound which stretches seventies-enriched heavy rock handiwork unto moderne doom-lifted musical statement. Within the process of reaching this smoothest flowing point of refinement they’ve discovered, or rather curated, a ‘self’ bigger than prior sub-genrefication which now serves us the forest, the trees and even a strong shot of Mediterranean flavor and jazz-modal movement along the way. ‘Close‘ sets our vitals in the throes of affecting atmosphere, forcing the lungs to adjust beyond the post-stoney n’ droning shock of the past and instead thrive within this easier ride along the curves of its spiritually charged vistae.

RECORD LABEL(S):Osmose Productions

A slow killer via strong emotional wavelength. — In disillusioned stance appraised from the perception of the hermetic alchemist, Bâ’a‘s second full-length album presents itself as a stairway to an enlightened sort of pre-apocalyptic realization, a thought that is more practical than it’ll likely read at a glance. More drang than sturm, the essential conflict of these recordings is their well-buried emotional outbursts which occur in process of personal transformation. Whereas ‘Deus Qui Non Mentitur‘ included exploration of devastated atmosphere and a few pitches into the void of doomed atrophy for its biggest moments ‘Egrégore‘ arguably peaks within its long-form melodic development of motif, which tends to render most clearly within the more patient extended pieces on this six track, ~43 minute album.

TITLE:Key to a Vanishing Future
RECORD LABEL(S):Gilead Media

Infectious yet experimental, disaffected yet resonant to an confrontational degree ‘Key to a Vanishing Future‘ speaks loudly as a point of passionate renaissance for the Portland, Maine-based musicians involved as they achieve something aggressively new, a brilliantly engaging collaboration inarguably refreshed by a collective process of internalization and experimentation. Their efforts here should be considered one of, if not the most distinct and engagingly voiced records from the band thus far. Though it’ll read a bit like an typically accessible post-black/atmospheric black metal work at face value there is yet considerable depth available here well worth praising throughout the year and beyond.

TITLE:I Am the Void
RECORD LABEL(S):Helter Skelter/Regain Records

A very fine Swedish black metal album from a pioneering voice in Swedish melodic death metal released after several decades of dormancy should rightfully be a confusing prospect for most listeners landing within their demographic yet ‘I Am the Void‘ is a fantastic work which still speaks to the fellow’s spirit still being intact and still strongly capable of grand musical envision. — Huge and demanding as the experience is, there would end up being no better way to reintroduce Eucharist than an overstated, elaborate and overall memorable double album. It should be a point of celebration among fans, this notion that we aren’t getting a stumbling rehash of an old sound nor anything so philosophically outlandish by comparison on this unexpected return. It might take some personal adjustments to accept ‘I Am the Void‘ for what it is, a melodic black metal album served cold in heaping, poisonous portion.

TITLE:Devil, Stone & Man
RECORD LABEL(S):W.T.C. Productions

Nisterau, Germany-based Satanic black metal quintet Chaos Invocation‘s fourth full-length, speaks with a wholly rotten voice, the graveled and shrieking serpent-charmed psyche shocking sort of muse which presents a new lease upon their traumatic indoctrinations. ‘Devil, Stone & Man‘ pulses with the rabid heart-beating of rarified primeval black metal beast’s enlightenment, a sweetest stinking cloak of poisonous melodic nature veiling tormented rituals in glorious romanticized bluster, all the while touting acts of mayhem meant to champion and free the worthy. Well, put simply it is a memorably violent black metal record with exceptional guitar work throughout which I’d found gratifying in the same way bands like Ultra Silvam and One Tail, One Head are.

RECORD LABEL(S):Iron Bonehead Productions

The superior tradition of occult horror and heavy/extreme metal manifests itself in the wily, ranting occult mind palace of Brazilian black metal duo Necromante whom present their second full-length album now in even greater service to the only dangerous cult left in underground heavy metal. ‘XI‘ spooks and shatters the mind with its horror-toned possession, a crypt borne illness in tune with the best traditions of occult-obsessed black metal’s maniac brutality in mind. Moving away from an unpure ‘retro’ heavy metal headspace unto another, their style now evoked an long-gone early 90’s extension of blasting mid-paced Satanic horror metal a la MystifierDenial of God and Necromantia while still bearing the thrashing, erratic movements of the first couple Root albums and Mortuary Drape. I can’t praise that record enough, the production sound is wretchedly huge and the bass guitar tone is perfectly set.

TITLE:Vermillion Apparitions Frozen in Chimera Twilight
RECORD LABEL(S):Inferna Profundus Records

A restorative spell prepared by the dreaming skull of a grievous soul, a boon of nighttime magicks speared forth for the sake of the selfless and their endurances, this sophomore full-length from the mysterious solitude of black metal solo act Vampirska delivers its intent as if elaborate sutra, well hidden within the coda of a romanticist’s dramatic quill. ‘Vermillion Apparitions Frozen in Chimera Twilight‘ is neither as raw or pandering as it’d seem, a sudden sophistication of a project that’d appeared to have been dwelling in infancy for two years prior. Stylized for the present day as the experience is, there are extended melodic experiences available herein that’ll appeal to a broad range of folks attuned to the sentimental spectrum of this craft.

TITLE:Sturdy as an Oak
RECORD LABEL(S):Self-Released

Six tales of warriors, conquerors and debauchery outside of time await! Medieval fantasy stratagem by the hand of a feral axe-slinger, a bushrangers tormented legend, valiant defenders of the hall, battles fought and victims savaged — Ravished in unspeakable ways! A quick reference to the lyrics beset upon all by way of this second full-length from Portland, Oregon-based heavy metal quartet Mamorlis reads as the deep-set and well dug recesses of the fantasy fiction obssessed mind. ‘Sturdy as an Oak‘ pulls from worlds unknown to most (or, forgotten to time) in coloring the magickal traditional heavy metal rollick and thundering they’ve managed herein. It is a rousing journey highlighted by brilliant performances, lively movement and the sharp-eared restraint of a band fully awakened within their sophomore release. Fans of Slough Feg, Brocas Helm and Running Wild take note.

RECORD LABEL(S):Blood Harvest Records

From the late 90’s PC game box art lookin’ album cover to the organische-jammed ‘psychedelic’ death metal within every bit of ‘Soulgazer‘ feels entirely non-specific in reference outside of its rehearsal space developed feat. The listening experience is surely going to appeal to folks with ADHD a bit and I don’t mean that in an inconsiderate way, instead in the sense that the ideas are rapid fire and without a centrally unifying statement, they barrel through and some hits land while others whiff on past. That is to say that most of what this Denver, Colorado area trio do involves an unhindered flow state not typically applied to death metal old-and-new and it will read as both genius and amateurish within the ride, the only thing missing from this equation is the ability to feature an idea so that it shines both in a performative sense and in the memory of the listener. They’re onto something entirely special here which balances brutality, skronk, and sci-fi oddity and I believe if they stick to their guns Astral Tomb will manage something incredible as they mature as both performers and experience crafters. For this first full-length I’d say a redeeming start which might have some crossover appeal with fans of manic deathgrind and garage-bound psychedelic rock, too.

RECORD LABEL(S):Consouling Sounds

Entranced post-metallic psychedelic shamanic terror-scaping artists Sum of R have transformed from an instrumental irregularity unto a full-fledged band of outcasts in the space of just a couple of years. Swiss experimental artiste Reto Mäder was, after ~thirteen years of experimentation under this name, joined by Atomikylä and Dark Buddha Rising drummer Jukka Rämänen and vocals from Marko Neuman (ConvocationCandy Cane, et al.) for a Roadburn-indebted unlikely trio. Having chosen to record their ideas, which were developed for a festival performance which never happened, Sum of R‘d certainly found some notable chemistry within those sessions — A gloomiest, unnerving set of pieces seemingly tasked with dissolution and reemergence of the self. A bloodied event to start, ever creeping in its tension’d movement I’d found myself happily directed by the extremes on offer here

TITLE:Procreate Inverse
RECORD LABEL(S):Sentient Ruin

I don’t think a band like San Jose, California-based trio Black Fucking Cancer necessarily warrant a long-winded review for the sake of how unpretentious and directly threatening their approach to black metal is — A napalm whipping riff-obsessed bolt of black electricity, honorably compared to groups like Katharsis (see: their cover of “Krossfyre”), presents a worthy successor to their self-titled Osmose debut eight years ago. The grand spectacle of eruptive, expositional martial riffing they’ve managed here spans the entirety of this album in great chunks, crippling the senses without more than a few breaks. I figure most listeners will kind of either be in or out by the second song and I was convinced long before the full ~12 minutes of “Obscene Lusting Dagger” had played.


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