The Top 20 Albums of April | 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. Lately I’ve spent my free time day-dreaming about various scenes involving my own corpse, the most inspired ones are set wherein I’ve drowned after falling from a high place. Vertebrae twisted in half, eyes blinded and burst by the impact, and my skull shattered into a constellation of broad points of impact by way of the smoothness of our lovely Pacific Northwest polished river rocks. I cannot always recall the fall, or where from, in the moment as my spectre (of no certain consequence) leaves the husk like a shaky hundred-dollar drone camera taking off yet I am thankful all of my limbs are in pretty good proportion on the pan-out, didn’t skip leg day. Anyhow, I’d said April would be a big month for my own tastes and the higher ratings overall should indicate that I was able to skim only the most prime gear from this month’s releases for coverage. May won’t be so wildly fraught with crowd-pleasing quality shit yet I’ve planned about ~38 full-length reviews coming up that’ll reflect slightly more variety outside of the black, death, and doom metal spectrum. ‘Til then, back to the riverbed. Thank you for reading.

II. Please note that my cassette release of NetherBone Relic‘ EP has been delayed to Friday, May 6th. The first ten or so pre-orders will include a free copy of their first album, also on cassette.

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:Earth Infernal
RECORD LABEL(S):Metal Blade Records

If you’ve followed what I’ve been up to since 2010 or so you’ll have already been able to predict that British heavy metal legends Satan‘s latest album would be an Album of the Month contender if it were even somewhat decent, yet it is only hanging out here at the top because it really is the most memorable set of songs I’ve heard all month. Whereas the previous album was highly dramatic, with broader melodic strokes and bigger-set pieces ‘Earth Infernal‘ pulls back into their tightly knit signature style just a bit more, making bold songs with plenty of speed and fire applied to their tuneful classic heavy rock influenced craft. This is the sort of heavy metal record I’d grown up with and as such, it speaks to me a bit more than the generational imitations that’ve come since, frankly because these guys write -songs-, pieces which are crafted to be memorable and made impressive by their distinct, one-of-a-kind performances. They’ve made this one count and I’ve found it immensely inspiring.

TITLE:Void of Unending Depths
RECORD LABEL(S):Memento Mori

Chilean death metal quartet Inanna are an ‘old’ underground favorite whom I’d spent a good number of years touting to friends beyond their second album circa 2012. I’d not at all expected their return after member’s other project Coffin Curse kinda killed everything else riff-oriented on the planet a couple years back but, hey, we’re here and they’ve returned wisened and more capable than ever. ‘Void of Unending Depths‘ hits much harder, growls deeper, and incorporates their ‘evolved’ old school death metal nature in a variety of insightful ways. As much as they resemble the peak of death metal’s original purpose in the early 90’s in spirit their work here is of course cognizant of the fine work done since, though their major influences aren’t going to be incredibly obviate. If I’ve referenced early Immolation, The Chasm, and Mithras in a single review you should probably just get the damned thing outright, eh?

RECORD LABEL(S):Aesthetic Death,
Gurgling Gore

Out of a vortex in the sky this French atmospheric black/death doomed sect arrived as a supernatural omen to start, a violent act whirling dissonant and imposing shadows ’til their debut finally landed upon us, an admixture of extreme atmospheric doom and dissonant blackened death that’d knocked me out of my skeletal bindings. With their second album they’ve merged with the Earth and in doing so changed the very atmosphere of their surroundings, a lush and green realm of emotionally guided long-form expressionism amongst pillars of decaying, well-girded concrete. We are within the overgrowth of the ruins of mankind’s struggle against the ego here and, well, it is a beautiful thing to behold. It’ll be easy to forget what an huge step-up ‘I’ was upon hearing what a leap upon the spectral stairway and a swing upon the silver cord ‘II’ is, an imaginative and truly immersive work which feels entirely ‘modern’ yet not in a self-conscious noveau sort of way.

TITLE:Unveil in the Abyss
RECORD LABEL(S):Xtreem Music

A staple of Finnish death metal’s underground caverns for countless years, Desecresy is a testament to what one person is capable of (in terms of genuine death metal music) when putting in the time and work — without taking easy shortcuts or pandering to the idiocy of populist bullshit. You’ll find an elite handful of classic bands to compare the approach of ‘Unveil in the Abyss‘ to but you won’t find many artists today capable of such an idiosyncratic signature as that of Tommi Grönqvist, including the homebrewed and honest rendering of his post-‘Stoic Death‘ releases and the various points of modulation found within his guitar arrangements. Well, hell yeah, I’ve been a fan since the first demo but either way ‘Unveil in the Abyss‘ is honestly one of his best works to date, including those infernally hailed Slugathor records in the 2000’s. Essential death metal.

TITLE:Sepulkral Dedikation
RECORD LABEL(S):Norma Evangelium Diaboli

Swedish black metal band Lifvsleda have cut deeper into the old ways with this second full-length, enhancing their own musical/melodic voice in selective cull of the spiritual essence of black metal from its most vital early 90’s station well into viable pursuit today. That is to say that ‘Sepulkral Dedikation‘ is a statement of mastery of old within new skin rather than blind venturing into the future. The perfect balance of the right spiritus enacted without a surface-level nostalgia for the past. It is the right blend of atmosphere, attack, melodicism, and stoicism that the best sort of black metal bears, needless to say they’ve gotten this one right for my own taste. Inspiring on a level much higher than most black metal I’ve heard this year.

TITLE:The Sorrow of Soul Through Flesh
RECORD LABEL(S):Unspeakable Axe Records

On this absurdly fine-tuned first set Suppression are meeting the high standards of ‘old school’ technical death metal right out the gates, invoking a time where innovative instrumentation was ascending within just a few small elite sects yet no compromise was to be had between equal forces of violence and progressive metal-level virtuosic instrumentation, a force previously limited to late 80’s tech-thrash mutations. They’ve grasped the exact spirit of 1992-level craft by way of groups like Sadus and Atheist, both of whom had chosen to remain violently aggressive versus the more beauteous and contemplative touches found on nearby records from the communion of Death and Cynic around that same time. This means ‘The Sorrow of Soul Through Flesh‘ sits shoulder-to-shoulder with the inventive mastery of Sadus‘ ‘A Vision of Misery‘ in spirit but raises the bar of aggression to a similar level of Monstrosity‘s under-appreciated debut ‘Imperial Doom‘ wherein technique is a major part of their riff-obsessed attack but the brutality of pure death metal is always informing movement.

TITLE:Succumb to Rot
RECORD LABEL(S):Dark Descent Records

Though I’d always included Corpsessed in the sort of elite wave of Finnish death metal in the late 2000’s/early 2010’s, I was definitely an “their earlier stuff was better” asshole until ‘Succumb to Rot‘ finally found the right angle to slap it out of me, over and over again. This third full-length from these folks is, from my own point of view, the record they’ve been aiming to achieve for the last decade, a truly monstrous full-spectral representation of classicist and atmospherically rife death metal forms. The artwork, the sound design, the succinct and well-set running order, their intensely stated stylistic point of view, those abyss echoing leads and the trepanning harass of their riffcraft — Corpsessed have slabbed-out an undeniably top-tier death metal album here, a righteously representative full package.

TITLE:The Word of His Law
RECORD LABEL(S):20 Buck Spin

Occult themed blackened death metal of the intensely thrashed, arcane variety is rarely such an easy ‘in’, I’m still blown away at what a goddamned entrance ‘The Word of His Law‘ made this month in debut of Egregore‘s intent. Such an fastidious and inspired burst of sinister energy deserves to be heralded as the reveal of this record’s running order still excites and boggles the mind on each and every listen. If anything I’ll probably raise the rating over the course of time, or at the end of the year, since the review cycle was fairly short and the density of ideas here continues to sink in. References to StarGazer in a review should be a hint that I’m already a big fan and hey, the hunch that members of Auroch/Mitochondrion were involved turned out to be true, so, of course my skull is bursting with dead-eyed dreams of future works. Records like this made this month the hardest to rank in years.

TITLE:Abomination of the Flames
RECORD LABEL(S):Lavadome Productions

Abomination of the Flames‘ is definitely my kind of death metal record, one that’d had me staring off into space and drooling at an attack delivered with such spectacle and daemonic intent behind its bludgeoning that it feels like an entirely new, wisened beast. I’d been stunned by the evolution of the band from the first listen and found the overall package here well worth sitting with for hours on end, both for its excessive force-pushing rhythms and technical feats but also just for the sake of enjoying the pyroclastic pure death metal atmosphere it exudes. FFO: Mithras, Centurian, Dead Congregation.

TITLE:The Day Bastard Leaders Die
RECORD LABEL(S):Cruz Del Sur Music

Perhaps because they’ve well-honed their style by way of the tuneful single-driven vibe of earliest NWOBHM and begun to incorporate more dual guitar leads and late 70’s Judas Priest-worthy rhythms, this third full-length from Cyprus-borne traditional heavy metal crew Mirror has less of the bluesy heavy rock swinging of their past releases. ‘The Day Bastard Leaders Die‘ is angrier, now squarely set nearby the best of the early 80’s in tone and attack. Whereas you’ll find endless mention of “proto-metal” acts in reference to prior works this one is a direct product of those influences, landing a sort of early Manilla Road gallop (see: “Souls of Megiddo”) and sort of early power metal stomp within its most anthemic moments. Though the tone has changed dramatically they’re still clearly pulling from the most classic 70’s heavy metal pool, as evidenced by the clenched fist of songs like “Stand Fight Victory”. My favorite record of theirs yet.

RECORD LABEL(S):20 Buck Spin

An dark opalescent, nearly seventeen minute progressive death metal epic from Roman atmo-cinematic death metal abstractionists Bedsore and a fourteen minute classicist death/doom metal haul from Tokyo-bound quartet Mortal Incarnation make for an absolute storm of cosmos tormented, over the top death-magick envisioned on this brilliancy of a split LP wherein two of my favorite bands of the last few years illustrate a righteously set pair of alien realms. “Shapes From Beyond The Veil Of Stars And Space” should initially contradict everything you know about Bedsore‘s innately atmospheric approach with sparing brutality on their well-lauded debut ‘Hypnagogic Hallucinations‘, now presenting a symphony of psychedelic death that is absolutely unsparing in its movements. The 70’s prog-rock keyboards and 90’s death metal hits of their sound each sing vibrantly within urgent pacing, making for a still-distant ruckus that is pleasantly amorphous in its waves of heaviness and fleetingly soft progressive metal-isms. “In The Perpetual Torment Of Recurrence” finds Mortal Incarnation still very much working in expansion of the traditions set by ‘Transcendence of the Peripheral‘ featuring a proper modern lineage of ‘old school’ funereal death/doom metal in hand with their focus upon Finndeath-gnarled riffing and stardust whipping atmospheric sprawl intact. Their obsession with classic death metal riffing and the downward-pooling dark essence created in droning (but still kicking hard) reap makes for a captivating flood of dread-inducing wonder, a trailing thread of ominous acts which has me nipping at their heels for what comes next. The dreaming dead resolve of this piece is all the more a reminder of how much I’d been stoked on their first demo tape. Can’t help but be inspired by each band when they’re putting out pieces this big and this good.

TITLE:Emeth Truth and Death
RECORD LABEL(S):Sun & Moon Records

Emeth Truth and Death‘ is a feast for traditional doom metal fandom in times of great riffless famine and dry-bones songcraft, reaching for the bristling shoulder of the listener with a skeletal hand cold enough to shock them back into the graces of doom’s best traits and with an ideally strong personae-driven, morbid-minded presentation. It is a fine conjure of guitar interest and vocal directive which speaks to and expands Black Oath‘s signature just enough that it feels entirely well-rounded, repeatable for its distinct moodiness and a few inventive touches that spark interest throughout.

RECORD LABEL(S):Nordvis Produktion

A great success of an uniquely atmospheric black/folk metal record from a band already well-regarded for their ingenious approach to an otherwise well-worn traditional artform, ‘Fäghring‘ is conceptually vital as a piece of Bhleg‘s entity as a whole which speaks to their past, present and future sounds having a place in an admirably holistic ‘bigger picture’ presentation. Beyond it being one of if not their finest work to date it is also, bluntly put, a fine and beauteous black metal record. It listens quite well on repeat despite the extended dramatism of its final third and held up well to my tendency to overplay and exhaust records of their spiritual worth.

TITLE:The Hyperborean
RECORD LABEL(S):Cruz del Sur Music

Chicago, Illinois-based epic heavy metal quintet Fer De Lance set us as one of the crew manning the antagonist Mariner‘s journey to a realm beyond the breath of Boreas‘ reach on their beautifully realized debut full-length album. ‘The Hyperborean‘ is a tale fit for the theatres and mosaics of ancient Delos, a different sort of epic heavy metal album against the grain which yet bears the exact right keep it true spirit of traditional heavy metal in mind. Expect Quorthon-sized ambition and Atlantean Kodex‘ power-metallic gusts meets Solstice levels of narrative.

RECORD LABEL(S):Profound Lore Records

Vanum have impressed with a work which finds greater precision, a certain personalized definition of their vision for the sake of effect and invoking a concept which now amounts more than a simple combination of ideas and ideals. ‘Legend’ is less a cool take on a certain shade of black metal and instead a fully considered production which should hit most listeners as a subtle wave which resonates more over time, a gathering storm of sorts. Precedence without replication impresses herein, in the sense that anyone who’d enjoyed ‘Ageless Fire‘ will acknowledge relational traits in terms of arrangement and already developed pacing/concept but find a stately re-attunement of Vanum‘s presentation via heavy metal throughout. It’ll be the album to ultimately catch the ear of a broader audience whom appreciate unbowed and more spiritedly vigilant side of black metal, or, at least on my part it is the first release from the band to leave me feeling like it’d left a dent or made a grand impression that’d been redeeming for quite a few listens.

TITLE:Psychic Contortions
RECORD LABEL(S):I, Voidhanger Records

Minneapolis, Minnesota-based black metal duo Feral Light have taken a bit of a ride in finding various selves and dying many deaths that span four albums now, a sort of glomeration of many interests that are quickly served into an innately carved black metallic format. As such you’ll find blackened crust rhythms, progressive sludge movement, and avant-garde black metal timbre of various make informing this latest record. Much like Haunter‘s latest album there is some use of guitar effects on ‘Psychic Contortions‘ which seem directly influenced by the most recent Suffering Hour full-length but this is a brief yet decidedly ear-catching moment which speaks to their larger imbibe of many, many things. Though I am still in the process of finalizing the review I’d found the ride here balanced the abrasive, the beauteous, and the ornately dissonant in an compelling way that’d kept me coming back at least as often as their prior two records. I appreciate any band who can so consistently shift gears to best suit their vision.

TITLE:Transcendental Violence
RECORD LABEL(S):Boris Records

Projected in cosmos-wide angle and through appropriately theatric striking of classicist black metal pulse this latest depiction of warring celestial bodies from Atlanta, Georgia-based quartet Vimur presents worthy study and elaboration upon the most eccentric heavy metal driven feats of the late second wave. ‘Transcendental Violence‘ is yet inescapably bound to a yearslong, easy-stepping development of their own melodic black metal voice, a feat by way of folks whom remain intently focused on their own tunneling forth, mystified to such a degree that the brutality of experience threatens to wilt its own blazon display with too-driven a pace. It is a record first defined by energetic thrust and second by its impatient yet satisfyingly consonant and ornate melodic statements, leaving an immediately hyper-thrilling spike in mind which sustains primarily for the sake of their increasingly capable riffcraft

TITLE:A Monument in Darkness
RECORD LABEL(S):Iron Bonehead Productions

A cold, uncaring slab of granite-hard death noise direct from the overgrown, smoking crypts of Concepción, Chile takes its final chisel strike in creation of ‘A Monument in Darkness‘, a corrupted and bleakest-souled vision of classic death metal bludgeon forms meandering unto nihilistic skull-pitting assault. The horrifying nihil of Concilivm yet comes from an old, dead place as the duo are only just dawning upon their ideation of a death long romanticized by the sophisticated realm of peak semi-melodic death metal forms — an ancient left-handed path which manifests black-burnt, raw in ideology and attack. An unsettling, uncannily morbid intelligence honors the artform herein, straying from the populism of modern ‘old school’-minded death metal’s referential treatments and moshable refrains for the sake of a truly miserable yet blood-painterly depiction of the morose, bestial aspect of death metal.

RECORD LABEL(S):Sailor Records

Austin, Texas stoner metal/psychedelic rock quartet (trio for the recording) Greenbeard have greatly benefitted from the nearly four year process of making this well-anticipated third album, which takes itself a bit more serious than ‘Lödarödböl‘ (2017) in cutting right to the quick and getting a lot off their chests up front. Taking their time whether they’d like to or not, and opening up the floor to the full band’s songwriting ideas amidst several guest spots, these folks have done something very right with ‘Variant‘ in marrying the spirit of blues-driven 70’s heavy psych grooves and anthemic 90’s stoner/desert rock push unto what is incontestably their best record to date.

RECORD LABEL(S):Skin Graft Records

A fantastically refractive juxtaposition rather than a droll pairing, on a split LP? Magickal things happen herein as the bleak future-is-now sightedness of no wave/noise-rocking Londoner singularity USA Nails is seated next to the richly sneering gaunt of coast-to-coast collective Psychic Graveyard and bruh, they’re getting along really, really well. Psychic Graveyard‘ll be a noggin nuke for anyone still prone to hug up on their old Arab on Radar records due to the very distinct voice of Eric Paul. Their work as a collective features a (comparatively) less organische mode of deployment, confrontational and beat machine-readied with plenty of coy tongue-biting, psychedelic swimming and such as they continue to plumb beyond the bleaker side of their last two LPs. I cannot tell if they’re having more fun here, or if they’re getting dangerously unhinged while I’m sitting there smiling like an idiot. USA Nails are kind of a given grab on my part, one of my favorite bands around today in general and far more extreme/impactful than most of the heavy shit I listen to. Their pieces here build on the manic, bleakest ride of ‘Character Stop‘ via its kinetic movement and slyly riddled run-on statements. I’m basically in nobody’s noise rock-adjacent loop anymore so, when I do get hit with a big-huge skull-rattler like this I am completely blown away.


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