The Top 20 Albums of June | 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, the tendency is heavy and/or surreal music. Choices are selected based on temporal immersion, personal connection, impressive style, point of view, aesthetics and with consideration for the lasting value of each selection. All choices are ultimately personal and come without consideration for populism, nepotism, cronyism or perceived “relevance”. Any records left off this list will yet be considered for end of the year lists. I am just one man, writing about music is a passion I afford as much time as is manageable and I am eternally grateful to have so much to choose from. Thank you.

I. When I started back in July of 2017 I’d been recently divorced, changing careers, binging From Software games, starting a new relationship, and had just moved to downtown Seattle after several years in Los Angeles. It’d been the right time to break away from the (music) writing I’d been casually developing in a strange music collector community since 2011 and do something aimed at a not-so dispassionate audience. Today, by virtue of having taken several increasingly bold steps towards a life more independently lived, I’ve stepped out of that transitional cave of reflection and settled into the suburban floodplains south of the city surrounded by quietly inspiring nature, lacking for absolutely nothing. With the amnesia of the ‘self’ that’d pestered me now fully lifted, the eye opens along with the door forward as the continuous shaping of the spiritual ideal commences. The vacuous, eternal tunnel forth appears unending in terms of this website, building dharmic emptiness in a consistent enough way that it bears worthy void to dream within as the wheel of excruciation turns on. I welcome whatever change and/or decay follows.

II. June brought considerable depth to this year in terms of new releases, another several slots filled by fantastic death metal records and some brilliant outliers otherwise. I’ve put some thought into when to start various features back up again now that I’m taking a break from larger personal projects for the rest of the year. Expect some News/new releases banter to return, An Exhaustive Study will finally re-emerge for the sake of speed/thrash metal, and I’ve rethought the format for the weekly ten item short review I used to do and it seems viable in practice. Otherwise: July looks to be brimming with variety as I plan and draft ~28 longform reviews for the coming month with about 5-10 spaces left open for the unknown and the left behind. Thank you for reading.

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:Adumbration of the Veiled Logos
RECORD LABEL(S):Norma Evangelium Diaboli

As my search for music that was more substantial in its greater experience than mere pastime and thumb-twiddling began to grow desperate mid-June, the sudden announcement of this second full-length album from New Zealand-borne quartet Verberis served as a comet from smoldering skies, a sensorial feast allowing earshot of one of the years absolute best releases. Maestro and guitarist D.A. has clearly worked hard in envisioning a record which is larger than life in terms of not only its sounds but ambitiously served ideas. When such a great work insists upon being tight-lipped, anonymous and honestly a bit undersold (and yes, I understand why) it leaves me sputtering, bursting with the need to vomit out praise ’til the rafters are filled because I know from experience how this technically brilliant, expressive, impossibly darkened and tastefully dissonant wrack of reaching aloft will sit on my shelf and glow with the need to spin. The depth available here is inspiring and the choice of Magnus Lindberg for the final touches on the render ensure the sonic values here are not only unique but world class, the value of ideas given truly fine treatment. It frenzies my mind to no end.

TITLE:The Last Mirror
RECORD LABEL(S):Dark Descent Records,
Me Saco Un Ojo

The void left by the cessation of life calls forth its fill in ghasts, nox spirits, and various daimon as they are summoned by our mourning en masse, their only point of entrance is the prismatic portal caught between an obsidian mirror and the window of the human eye. Northeastern Spanish death metal quartet Ataraxy are wide-eyed in reception of these spirited lesions unto the morbid past, peering with great wonder into the mirror’s abyss in search of meaning on ‘The Last Mirror‘ ’til their visions of the end became clear enough to report. On this third full-length album from these Aragonese fellowes they extend deeper into the death-calloused winds of mournful doom, spiriting all that they have learned into gloriously funereal landscapes which seem to stretch and soldier on forever in depiction of the end. Consider the progression of this band inclusive of both ‘old school’ death metal traditions and atmospheric death/doom metal excitation, something akin to Asphyx if they’d been influenced by Evoken. This may very well be their best album to date, too.

TITLE:Ritual of the Warpath
RECORD LABEL(S):Dying Victims Productions

Character built from action, interruption, adaptation and the will to go on attacking day after day most often manifests the most prime, steeled result from any decent or halfway serious band. By way of various global circumstance, plenty of road-testing and rehearse Tasmanian extreme metalpunk trio Ironhawk have had us waiting seeming ages for their inevitable debut record to give rise to their new reality and, hey, this one is an even bigger move than expected. ‘Ritual of the Warpath‘ is the hardcore punk’s rhythmic mind expanded within a suit of fantastic metal armor, a growling and constantly kicking rush from a band who’ve by chance or sheer determination landed a record well worthy of the metalmorphosed mid-80’s mohawk’d hardcore punk classics it resembles. Think of an album like ‘Beat the Bastards‘ if it were delivered with a shade of Motörhead and English Dogs and you’re almost there, just make the vocals ten times meaner than you’d expect.

TITLE:Effigies of Obsolescence
RECORD LABEL(S):Dark Descent Records,
Me Saco Un Ojo

In terms of pure yet not blandly derivative ‘old school’ death metal circa 2022 you can’t do much better than Killtown clamberers Chaotian and their debut full-length ‘Effigies of Obsolescence‘. The major challenge for the band in creation of this debut full-length seems to have been finding their own path (or, voice) within this well-trodden realm of filthy, basement level death metal while still keeping the production values at a proper standard. The answer seems to have been taking additional nods from Finnish death metal and ‘Here in After‘-era Immolation but, stretched and mangled for the sake of developing Chaotian‘s normative-with-a-twist grooves, which range from simple moshable Florida death metal scuzz n’ sway and Dead Congregation‘s brutality to somewhat technical machine-gunned cleverness; Think of Golem‘s ‘Dreamweaver‘ if the drummer was extra high on ‘Nespithe‘, some NYDM (see: Side B) and the guitarists liked a bit of the dumb, chunky hardcorish stuff coming out of the states these days. You get the idea anyhow.

TITLE:Equinox Vigil
RECORD LABEL(S):Gilead Media

There is a distinctly North American vision beyond the impetus of early 90’s European melodic black/death metal advent to behold within ‘Equinox Vigil‘, an album which reads as a decidedly modern yet classics cognizant singularity in the melodic metal headspace of today. I say this for the sake of appreciating the craftsmanship on hand here where we find music which appears custom honed to suit the need for an earnestly emotional voice, one that is connected to inspiration rather than gothic dread-prose of the past. When reduced to elemental movements we find these songs are built from both classicist heavy and extreme metal modus, be it early 80’s British heavy metal, 90’s power metal, or Scandinavian melodic metal at the turn of the millennium yet the result inevitably bears a lawful good alignment rather than Scandinavian melodic black/death metal’s typical chaotic evil and in this sense we get a very wisened, adult version of this sub-genre niche that allows itself to be intelligent and emotional beyond self-piteous odes and generalized darkness — no plastic cornball pop metal nonsense breaks through. It ends up being enough of a kill your idols moment to continue resonating with me.

TITLE:Where Light Would Not Dare
RECORD LABEL(S):Self-Released

Gothenburg, Sweden-based sepulchral heavy metal band Zatyr were hard to really pin down on their debut EP a while back, I knew I liked it but wasn’t sure what to call it. The sort of 70’s metal side of Omen, the raw and kicking roll of early Running Wild, and some venomous Mercyful Fate-esque guitar work surely set their ideal somewhere nearby the early-to-mid 80’s evil heavy metal crew but as we find here on their debut LP they’d had a bit of NWOBHM pub-spirited life in ’em alongside a dose more Motörhead in their blood than expected. The Satanic mister Hyde version of early Tank, eh? Don’t know if I’ll end up reviewing it at this point but it is one of the better heavy metal debuts out this year thus far.

TITLE:Violence Beyond All Reason
RECORD LABEL(S):Unspeakable Axe Records

Canadian thrash metal band Besieged a combination of realistic, no-bullshit attitudes and a slow, deliberate process of achieving the exact classicist desired result ensures they’ve something serious and signature to offer on this second full-length album which releases a full twelve years beyond their last. Because of this gap in the action ‘Violence Beyond All Reason‘ has the potential to spark two-fold inception for listeners depending on their fandom, the first being a trip back to the start of the last decade if you’d been a fan of their rapid, brutal thrash metal style, and the second being a trip back to the late 80’s extreme thrash metal boon as death metal’s peaking early popularity found its ferality developing in tandem with then-fading thrash metal domination of the underground heavy metal headspace. FFO: Sepultura, Dekapitator, Num Skull.

TITLE:Persecution of the Living
RECORD LABEL(S):Invictus Productions

With ‘Persecution of the Living‘ Grave Infestation have innately arrived upon the exact right way to present the primitive horror of classic death metal without dumbing it down with nostalgia-drunk feigned naiveté or nowadays hardcore gimmickry, it isn’t a mask for modern consumption but their own ghoulish face dripping of putrid flesh and coughing up a mush of pure and primal death metal grime. It is the sort of death metal record you walk away from wanting more, ready for the next one already, and appreciating just how well they’ve served the most promising moments of their demo era. FFO: early Bolt Thrower, Slaughter, Anthropophagous.

TITLE:Hyperborean Folklore
RECORD LABEL(S):I, Voidhanger Records

Helsinki, Finland-based progressive, epic, extreme and heavy metal project Serpent Ascending trace the point of personal origin back to the ethereal and imaginative realm of ancient folklore for the sake of a ‘best’ self here on their second full-length album. A dark underground ‘epic’ of ethereal extreme metal progressivity aiming to capture the magic air of tall and impossible tales, ‘Hyperborean Folklore‘ is a graceful and almost eerily earnest trampling of past-set expectations as it unfolds into a glorious, sweeping set of four outsized movements. Aeturnus, Bathory and even a slight shade of progressive death metal come to mind, though this is essentially a progressive/epic heavy metal album at heart.

TITLE:I Am The Skel Messiah
RECORD LABEL(S):Invictus Productions,
Stygian Black Hand

Deviant black metal disturbers Horns & Hooves are finally ready to squelch out a real heater, a forty minute psychosis wherein they’ve pushed the heavy metal -danger zone- back into the hands of the dregs of bullshit society. ‘I Am the Skel Messiah‘ reminds us of the Sodom and the Gomorrah in our feral hearts with its depraved sex obsession, drug-addled grindset and blackened schizo-thrashing maniac fuming as they push their primal extreme metal idealism to an outrageous and proudly ugly, unbound future hellscape. FFO: Bestial Mockery, N.M.E., Cemetery Lust.

TITLE:The Masquerade
RECORD LABEL(S):The Artisan Era

Progressive/technical death metal with a brain and a soul enough to write notable, musical pieces worth remembering. Whereas ‘Underneath a Melting Sky‘ was all about bombast, expansive and psychedelic coloration of grand forms their follow-up as an even more tightly knit trio ‘Clockwork‘ (2019) and its treatise on absurdism made for a decidedly introverted, deeply intricate study of rhythmic interplay and had more-or-less founded the distinct atmospheric voice of the band in its kaleidoscopic wilderness. The “tunnel vision” of creation witnessed on that album turned out to be thematic in a sense and turns out to be less of a detractor than I’d found it to be in review of the record. So, where to go with it next? ‘The Masquerade‘ answers said tunnel vision, appreciates the aforementioned bombast and fuses them into a most dynamic third curl of their triskelion, a feat I’d recommend as their best release to date in terms of the listening experience and greater capture of their many-faceted and unique style of progressive tech-death.

TITLE:Artificial Brain
RECORD LABEL(S):Profound Lore Records

In the case of the well-anticipated third full-length from New York-based progressive and technical death metal quintet Artificial Brain limits are pushed, expressivity is on high and a glowing work of miserably machined and flesh-toned bleakness rears itself as an imposing peak of their conceptual heft. In this sense ‘Artificial Brain‘ is rightfully self-titled, a representative third work which exhausts the thread and defines their loftily ambitious actions thus far. Although I didn’t quite warm to it as quickly as some of my close friends had, I did find it to be an an adventurous, largely imaginative obscuration of death metal form and function.

RECORD LABEL(S):The Ghost is Clear Records,
Knife Hit Records

Kansas City, Missouri-based noise rock trio Nerver might be familiar if you have an particularly sparking eidetic memory as I’d covered ’em back in 2019 on a “20 Underground Noise Rock Albums You Missed in 2019” feature, suggesting they could drop a bit of the post-hardcore gap and crank the bass chunder a bit. Well, ‘Cash‘ ups the post-hardcore shattered riffing and goes heavier via an Audiosiege boosted gig making all the difference for my own taste, the bass guitar rub is stinkin’ growling in the ugliest way here. This record sounds mean in the best sort of way, a distraught end-of-the-rope kind of feeling I’ve found myself fixated on as their mashed out and mathed-up grooves have hit me for weeks on end here. I should probably start writing noise rock reviews again if we’re going to start getting big, ugly zit poppers like this again.

TITLE:Cold are the Graves
RECORD LABEL(S):Nine Records

In reinforcing their dedication to the true spirit of heavy metal as they see it Kraków, Poland-based epic heavy/doom metal quartet Monasterium take their most dire, dead serious tone in deliverance of narrative beset by sanctimonious martyr, sword n’ medieval sorcery and a general muse upon mortality for their third and finest album. By way of concentric, hymnal drawl the masses-fleecing spirit of ‘Cold are the Graves‘ provides frequent reminder that death and enlightenment are one and the same, making loud and clear the point that life is ephemeral and the clock is running out no matter our purpose, or lack thereof. FFO: Candlemass, Solitude Aeturnus, Scald.

RECORD LABEL(S):Agonia Records,
Nuclear Blast

From all angles, and in spite of the economic and societal compression of today, we are served darkest pit of nihil from which technical brutal death metal quartet Origin spring forth on this their eighth full-length album. ‘Chaosmos‘ is blazing reminder of they who’d amplified the extremity of brutal tech-death at its most crucially formed apex and have long served to master it with their most steadily wisened hand. One of the better releases from their post-‘Antithesis‘ era of stabilization.

RECORD LABEL(S):Werewolf Records

Returning for their eighth album and first in nine years Großbettlingen, Germany-borne (and I believe now Finland-based) epic/pagan black metal duo Morrigan have weathered the overcast skies and dead-eyed masses of today with admirable strength upheld as they reappear out of thinnest air with what could be considered a great work in ‘Anwynn‘. Shining the light of the otherworld in the eyes of we falsest loathers by compare with no complacency or torpor in their craft, this auld legendry force return wisened and inspired perhaps more than ever with this fine if not entirely niche craft mastered in the old tradition. It is a refreshing thing to behold, having Morrigan back in ambitious and inspired form here for another album and it is even better than their now long distant previous release. Absolutely stick around for Side B/the second half on this one.

TITLE:Muse of the Damned
RECORD LABEL(S):Osmose Productions

St. Petersburg, Russia-borne black metal trio Veter Daemonaz have spent over a decade honing their own clearest windowpane into the world of elite black metal in leading up to this debut full-length release. Built upon traditions of tragedian expression deeply ingrained within classic Slavic black metal style ‘Muse of the Damned‘ manages something readably regional yet avoidant of typified trappings by distinct enough channels dug by their own will. Though a cursory ride through first impressions may not yield something “new” outside of tradition we are yet graced with an experience brimming with cold, pensive melodic character of its own when afforded an attentive listener — the righteous calling card of a group who’d put in their dues, needled over a greater vision before finally landing their grand entrance.

TITLE:Yo, No Soy Yo

Ornamentos del Miedo is a solo atmospheric doom metal band from Spanish musician Angel whom is best known as a guitarist for Mass Burial and a key member of Graveyard of Souls. The mood here taps into the crestfallen ethereal soul of the artist, which manages majestic strokes in depiction of sorrowful climes, a painful thing in its greater journey through the self and as the title implies. This is overall a natural progression of their previous two records, a ~70 minute dissolution with some adjacency to melodic death/doom and funeral doom. The keyboard work here is a strong focus in creating the atmosphere of the record but the loosely knotted rhythm guitar runs “make” the experience. An emotional and immersive record I’d definitely recommend to anyone who enjoys atmosphere and existential dramatism in doom metal. 

TITLE:Hate Über Alles
RECORD LABEL(S):Nuclear Blast

There are a few small decisions that detract from the overall tone of this umpteenth full-length from Germany’s most revered thrash metal band though most of ’em are just small vocal gilding which serve no real emotion or interest (“Pride Comes Before the Fall”, “Midnight Sun”) but these are buried on Side B of an album that’ll likely sell longtime fandom for the band well before the cracks in their armor begin to show. ‘Hate Über Alles‘ has been suggested as Kreator‘s quasi epic heavy metal strand, largely in process on their last two albums which’d grown tired of chuggy groove and well-trodden melodic death metal influences yet the result is surprisingly kinda evocative of Running Wild on a few songs, right down to the endlessly cycling choruses and triumphal traditional heavy metal (by way of speed metal) approach. Well, of course this comes with a loud and forceful grittiness expected in modern popular metal but nothing offensively bricked-up or ‘groove metal’ leaning from my point of view. From my point of view this is the first above average release from the band since 2005’s energized ‘Enemy of God‘, and as such I’ve spent a fair amount of time whipping through it this month.

TITLE:Equations for the Useless
RECORD LABEL(S):Heavy Psych Sounds Records

Recorded live and honest circa 2020 after their country took the awful brunt of the global pandemic in a very public, tragic way this third full-length from the northwestern Italian psychedelic stoner rock/doom troupe Oreyeon showcases their craft honing its most inspired expansion into progressive rock-sized pieces, rumbling towers of yearning song which retain their connective musical quality. It is the sort of intuitive modern stoner rock music which transcends its niche by virtue of selling a real performance quite easily. Once it hit me I’d found myself going back to this record repeatedly, not only for its thunder but the groaning sense of dread and the depiction of a depressed soul that it builds before great washes of wonder begin to creep in as the full listen progresses.


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