The Top 20 Albums of May | 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. Most of this month was spent with my nose in cheap paperback copies of the Mabinogion, The Tain and the Book of Taliesin, countless hours of pecking away at a Priest playthrough of Pillars of Eternity (2015) so that I can finally play its sequel, and wrestling my way through various acrylic painting attempts wherein I am prone to lose concern for what day and time it is… What you’ll find here is the soundtrack to these events, give or take the occasional hit of ‘Beat the Bastards‘ or nearby. — May wasn’t the best month for heavy music releases so far this year yet each week brought something notable to the table, some of these choices are off the wall and others predictable on my part. June will have its usual early summer death metal boon but I’ve pared back a bit, planning about ~30 full-length reviews coming up. Thank you for reading.

II. 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:Darkness of God
RECORD LABEL(S):Lavadome Productions

Though we don’t necessarily need to consider this release a “comeback” for a band which people didn’t know all that well beyond the elite death metal underground who’d followed them from 2008-2015 or so, we can consider ‘Darkness of God‘ a stab at something transcendent of expectations and imitation, an artist’s appreciation for the highest level craft making their own uniquely stated brand of death metal which still bears the skeleton of very classic influences. The atmosphere is unearthly cold, pushing ashen storms of machine-precise rhythm to a highest standard of performance while yet conveying long-form liquid phrase, stoic and/or tragedian throngs of prose which land with some devastating result within each listen. Anyhow, I could go on forever about this record and cannot recommend it enough. The final choice for #1 this month came down to which record I’d logged the most compulsive listening hours with, consider #2 just as essential though.

TITLE:Crepuscular Dirge For the Blessed Ones
RECORD LABEL(S):Profound Lore Records

A refreshingly brutal otherworldly death metal machine presenting countless crowded yet memorable moments, this third full-length from Cosmic Putrefaction has a brilliant light behind its eyes, a certain bravado which hammers away at its purposeful barrage of gorgeous detailing with a vitalizing tunnel vision I’ve greatly appreciated all month long. Beyond that point I have been absolutely impressed by what Italian musician G.G. has been able to put together these last several years with a high standard of quality upheld and a creative streak still on an impressive incline. Was a toss up between #1 and #2 this month, both inspiring works and with the same drummer even.

TITLE:Death and the Twilight Hours
RECORD LABEL(S):20 Buck Spin

Arriving just a few weeks after an likewise long-awaited return from Negative Plane we’ve been inundated with the ghostly whims of gloomiest maestro for what seems like months on end. This second full-length from these brilliant fellowes, whom feature in several other goddamned elite death and black metal projects, is the sort of album to blast at the middle of the night while writing your manifesto, a soundtrack to the racing and running thoughts of inspiration pouring forth. The vision for ‘Death and the Twilight Hours‘ is clear, elaborately drawn and cleanly stated in a beauteous way, reading like a dance of death ’til exhaustion as these four longform pieces ring the horrid endtyme bell with substantive, energetic performances and imaginatively wrought guitar runs. There is a ridiculously gripping magick here that’ll only intensify with familiarity, an easy recommendation for anyone seeking black metal’s most entrancing qualities.

TITLE:Hadean Tides
RECORD LABEL(S):Everlasting Spew Records

This second full-length from Italian funeral death/doom metal band Assumption is among the very best death/doom metal albums of 2022 and should be considered a slight reprisal (and expansion) of their vision on ‘The Three Appearances‘ EP, still one of my personal favorite releases in the sub-genre. This record is more straight forward than ‘Absconditus‘ in terms of the running order which’d been split into larger pieces that married their psychedelic rock and experimental ambient side with bursts of Rippikoulu-esque death metal, this time around they’ve stuck with standard song lengths and put quite a lot of attention into making the tracklist sing in logical progression fit for a double LP format. Vocals are a bit more varied and guttural, guitar tones are off the charts brutal, and the drum production finds a bit more space and impact. Overall a completely pro release from a band whom we can still consider among the best in their niche.

TITLE:The Exuviae of Gods – Part I
RECORD LABEL(S):20 Buck Spin,
Osmose Productions

None would deign deny the throne to those who’d never stood from their miserable entrench, deep in thought and dreaming up — Ah, shit, cannot help but wax a bit while listening to any Mournful Congregation release as they’ve long been the funeral doom metal band that’ve been most consistently my speed alongside other obvious greats. For this latest EP, the first part of two, we find two new pieces which expand upon their post-2011 era heaviness and the spark provided within ‘The Incubus of Karma‘ (2018). The lead guitar work here is especially fine, frequently active and shaping every second with threads which captivate and compress the skull. Plenty more praise in the full review but the gist is that expectations were high and delivery even more ascendant. Another essential release for an essential discography.

TITLE:…From Dead Horizon to Dead Horizon
RECORD LABEL(S):Blood Harvest Records

It is too easy to live off the fumes of expectations when it comes to USDM’s ‘old school’ self-obsession this last decade or so, too much back-patting and not enough riffs from my point of view, the lot of it can get off my lawn with their participation trophies and their cell phones once I’m done yelling at this goddamned cloud… Eh, anyhow there is however a fat grip of bands around today clearly putting in the work to make each record count Indianapolis, Indiana-based death metal crew Obscene are by my suggestion certainly one of ’em. ‘…From Dead Horizon to Dead Horizon‘ is the sort of album you’re going to “get” when considering the performance aspect of their craft, the kind of gig you gotta go see live and get moving to their grind to appreciate the experience they are curating on album. Instead of just tweaking the numbers, hitting the RNG button on the riffs and giving you album two these guys aim for impact, memorable pieces in sensical order, which develop their style without overpaying their respects to the early 90’s ’til blue in the face. It makes for a rousing death metal record where the know-it-all reference picker in your brain can shut off and enjoy their roll.

TITLE:Rosa Mystica
RECORD LABEL(S):Temple of Mystery Records

This third full-length album from Québécois traditional occult heavy/doom metal quartet Cauchemar variously details a mystifying nightmare of faith, misfortune and mayhem as they continue to stick to their guns. ‘Rosa Mystica‘ is patently their own brand of occult magick folklore entirely befitting of the cold and classicist heavy metal they’ve been beguiling the underground with for the better part of fifteen years. Fans of early Paul Chain, Witchfinder General, Pagan Altar and the more devout sinister occult rock resurgence in the two decades previous should appreciate the raw analog sound and haunting register of this fine record.

TITLE:Night of the Desecration
RECORD LABEL(S):Iron Bonehead Productions

An second against-the-grain Hellenic black metal record from Necrolord (Naer Mataron) and fellow members of  Αχέροντας, ‘Night of the Desecration‘ takes us to both expected and unexpected places with its initially eclectic focus which finds a brilliantly honed-in modus within its second half. Challenging for the narrow, raw for the progressif, it’d read to me as an purposefully divergent and even somewhat sentimental record beyond the stunning showcase of guitar skill and melodic black metal rhythmic. This one certainly had a hill to climb on my part but I believe it exists in parity or higher preference than their previous record on most counts, improving certain aspects whilst carving away usual keyboard/synth aided atmosphere and focusing on something more anthemic and energetic, a morbid and imposing presence with a certain predatorial intelligence behind the eyes.

TITLE:Discarnate Ails
RECORD LABEL(S):Profound Lore Records

A particularly fine gatefold artwork from Elijah Tamu introduces us to this latest Haunter record in the best way possible, engaging the senses with an eerie and indescribable scene which we must stare at to make greater sense of forms, tensions, and motion. I can’t think of a recent record where I’d been crossing my fingers to the point of cracking hoping ‘Discarnate Ails‘ wouldn’t suck simply because I’d wanted that artwork on my shelf. Well it doesn’t suck, yet it is far from accessible beyond the dreamlike verve of its rhythms. A cryptic, ghostly form of blackened death metal herein hands the exploration of profundity to the listener within three unevenly spaced temporal surges of varying prog-metallic density, matching each with similarly dramatic impulse yet offering no performative, repetitive overstatement. In plainest terms, they’ve cut the excess of their previous album down to an all-impact format, a short album which roars through three songs which run the gamut of their broadly set interests in extreme metal, which includes some strong use of dissonant phrasing, psychedelic/avant-garde black metal climes, and even a bit of the weirder side of tech-death underpinning their more active guitar runs. A puzzle of gloriously ephemeral, intimate moments that you’ll want to listen to over and over again.

TITLE:Adyapeeth Maranasamhita
RECORD LABEL(S):Iron Bonehead Productions

Beyond their not at all humble beginnings as a band often mentioned in the vicinity of elite groups like TetragrammacideAdversarial and Pseudogod we get the debut full-length from this India-based bestial death metal group and it does not disappoint. — Within these bashed-out and no-nonsense six, six-minute pieces Aparthiva Raktadhara appear focused on a high level of execution above all else, aiming for the exciting point of obliterative precision that suggests a side of death metal closer to the early Morbid Angel and Order of Chaos spectrum of things in terms of sheer attack and compositions woven in maniacal ways and thrashed out at a high-end percussive rate, leaving a bestial/war-waging affect as its residue. The crux of my enjoying this record hinges on the vast leaps in terms of riffcraft and presentation they’ve made since their first EP, introducing a readable and very “real” recording sound which is not obscured of its brutal performances, making good use of a dry space for their violent riff-obsessed attacks.

TITLE:Existential Decadence
RECORD LABEL(S):Iron Lung Records

An earwax melter, a bass heavy, jog-paced and lung hurled slow burn from former members of Ossuarium. — The swinging n’ riffing feeling of Somatic Decay‘s movements and general riff style almost instantly reminded me of the Nick Sebock-drummed side of ‘Eroded Thoughts‘ (see: “Total Human Obsolescence”) but only just as much as it might invoke an old Abhorrence or Mythic tape, albeit with far more finesse applied to the moment-to-moment action. Guitarist/bassist Nate McCleary (Lowered, ex-Ossuarium) generally focuses on slower and fairly straightforward rhythms here, gnarling up into a Finndeath twist or a death/doom aside here and there but otherwise letting the bass ride loud and slightly distorted so that his frequent use of leads can do the atmospheric shaping and punctuate each song.

TITLE:Into the Machine Haus
RECORD LABEL(S):Cardinal Fuzz,
Centripetal Force

The intoxicating, candlelit garage psychedelic and occasionally sax-jammed condition of Canadian trio Slow Dawn‘s gig finds its amplified potency on this third full-length album, leaving behind much of the id-crumbling noise of their prior records for the sake of wandering less and steeping more heavily within their most esoteric nature. ‘Into the Machine Haus‘ bears a broken blacklight sort of glow, a solemn yet curious mindset speaking its eerie truth in a drugged and slurring language. It is the all roll anti-rock sidling of kosmiche musick, space rock and neo-psychedelia’s earliest vibrancy draped in the blank face of post-punk — a bustling beat driving a watery, searching sort of abandon that -moves- and continues rambling-on entirely sure of itself in an admirable if not brief mannerism-rich rouse. Eh, a succinct and easily enjoyed psychedelic rock record however you’d cut it. FFO: Spacemen 3, Nest Egg, High Rise.

TITLE:Goat Claw

Expect eye-blurring, ear-worming over the top acid grind-ing death n’ powerviolent mania from this New York-based trio of artists, a modern and lightning fast take on classic grindcore’s merger with horror, death, and heavier punk rushes which overwhelms and energizes. I continue to be blown away with each full listen, taking me back to the thrill of discovering records like ‘Soul of the Martyr’ and crazy shit like early Exit-13. The physical versions have a ton of care put into the artwork and presentation and definitely FFO: No/Más, Deathgrave, Escuela Grind.

RECORD LABEL(S):W.T.C. Productions

A less-often mentioned yet still notable duo from Sweden’s exodus back to the roots of the second wave in the early 2000’s Mortuus were one of many acts who’d found a uniquely wizened sound within their youthful reactivity, each leaving their station in Ofermod and Ondskapt before finding recognition in their first album ‘De Contemplanda Morte; De Reverencie Laboribus ac Adorationis‘, though for my taste they’d found an standout form on their second album (‘Grape of the Vine‘, 2014). Anyhow, ‘Diablerie‘ revives this poetic voice for a still very spiritually driven follow-up quite a few years later, the major change here is for the sake of more immersive pieces which extend nearby the ~10-12 minute mark and feature more patiently droning aspect, avoiding most of the oblique dissonant guitar techniques used on the previous album. An obsessive, entrancing listen and probably the most rewarding black metal record of the month.

RECORD LABEL(S):Neurot Recordings,
Supernatural Cat

As I more frequently become disinterested in my own ‘comfort zone’ I’ve tended to carry experientially unique records like Ufomammut‘s latest in mind moreso than the obviate choices. An album themed on “endless rebirth and the ability to start again after everything seems doomed” which is accompanied by an audio-visual experience (the packaging is cool, too) would end up being one of my most listened to records this month beyond writing a brief review of it a few weeks prior. “Northwestern Italian psychedelic metal trio Ufomammut have been a fixture in experimental psych-doom adjacent realms since the turn of the millennium, fostering an enduring seeker for new sounds, deeper audio-visual complexity” that is to say that this is a more freely built being that finds the band adapting quite well to change and without losing their ‘evil’ stoner doom metal buzz n’ groove.

TITLE:Kanawha Black
RECORD LABEL(S):Bindrune Recordings

Kanawha Black‘ is first and foremost a pleasure to listen to, a fine set of melodic black/folk metal songs that hold up well to all manner of repeat listening and shrewd scrutiny when it comes time to hash the details and figure the lasting impact of the greater work done. The value of scenic depiction cannot be understated here, wherein immersion and various personification manages great dramatism without resorting to any too-obvious or drawn-out signifier, making for a solemn yet inspired work that is easily and fondly remembered.

TITLE:The Art of Fatigue
RECORD LABEL(S):Venerate Industries

Athens, Greece-based sludged-out noise rock quartet have completely nailed it for my own taste with this third full-length album, a caustic yet still feeling it fusion of the angriest Am Rep gunk, early Helmet, and the anxious gnarl of Unsane that finds a way to be noxiously set without being obnoxious in tone per the best of the early 90’s noise rock ambivalence. Compressed and in infuriated reaction to pandemia, financial collapse and brimming with anti-capitalist fuming ‘The Art of Fatigue‘ certainly hits its goal of presenting the fed-up attitude of the classics yet manages an immediately relevant font of frustration for many folks. I’m admittedly most here for their sound, it just hits everything I like about metallic noise rock heaviness and big, weirding grooves and they’ve nailed the drum sound without plainly imitating the Albini-sized snare or percussive bass guitar tone most would expect from any nostalgia aimed at the sub-genre.

TITLE:Beyond the Strange Horizon
RECORD LABEL(S):Apollon Records

On their debut full-length Norwegian traditional doom metal/heavy rock trio Strange Horizon is for lovers, eh, well fanatics of the eldest and headiest dread-skulling thread running through post-industrial advent to today’s niche-strictured heavy metal obsolescence. That is to say that they’ve taken lessons learned and taste a plenty from last fifty plus years of existential heavy rock/doom metal music yet rightfully set their ideal somewhere around the late seventies for aesthetic (and render) with songwriting more directly influenced by the post-millennium boon of Finnish doom metal and still prevalent Scandinavian ‘retro’ heavy rock revisionist musings. This one held up really well and has been easy to return to beyond review.

TITLE:Disharmonium – Undreamable Abysses
RECORD LABEL(S):Debemur Morti

Although I am not of the crowd whom find Blut Aus Nord infallible they have been inarguably innovative and avant-garde in action from the start, not just in hindsight or by convenient labeling. This has yielded mixed results, an exhaustive discography wherein a complete thought might mean a trilogy of double LP releases or a single experimental release. This particular record feeds off the freeing scrawls of ‘Hallucinogen‘ (2019) while inverting the mood to something chthonic and anxietous, derailing the high of the previous record without losing its spacious renderings. Sound design is perhaps the element which saves the experience for my taste as the vocals are largely uninteresting, soaked with effects and buried within the din much of the time. But as with each of their releases I cannot walk away with a complaint consider how entertained I am within each visit, not their most essential release but a unique enough venture.

TITLE:The Lower Catacombs
RECORD LABEL(S):Nuclear Winter Records

Hellish, miserable and cavernous death metal with an understated groove. — Give me a mental hellscape that takes patience and bleeding-from-the-ears cunning to appreciate and I’m all over it, having raised an eyebrow at ‘The Lower Catacombs‘ upon preview but eventually coming back around to its haunting mid-paced death knoll a surprising number of times. Beyond this being the right sort of ugly, mean-assed death metal for our devolving era of mankind, I’d inordinately found myself appreciating the drumming on this album. Not only the style of drumming but the seemingly unedited or preened-over recordings that allow for a very “live” drum sound and set of performances that feel one of a kind. That, paired with memorable lead work, would end up being what’d drawn me back in for far too many listens over the course of several weeks, ultimately finding some great value in the torturous vortex they’d achieved.


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