The Top 20 Albums of August | 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. “It’s a grey world.” — The natural conclusion and/or reaction of nihility that comes with intelligence, self-empowerment through rational and confirmable knowledge gathered, acknowledgement of human self-destructive traits and acceptance of the primitive yet universal laws of death ’til decay highlight August’s thematic selections. It was a month full of existential dread on my part as I’d rawly felt my own dependence on music to inspire the extra push for study and practice on spiritual, intellectual, philosophical subjects which are frankly better provided elsewhere. “I am not intellectually stimulated” and pretentious as that might seem, which I don’t at all mind, what it means for this list is you’ll find me reaching for what I’d consider various bouts of listening avec plaisir which includes traditional or aesthetic craft and listening avec défi for what intellectualization is available within serious-faced metal acts. Even if it wasn’t the best month for releases in 2022 I’d very much enjoyed the moderate shoves between pomp, energetic crushing, and the odd boon of sincerity which these records breached.

II. September will be packed with releases that I am stoked for, there are already 40+ releases on my list for longform reviews for the coming month. I will be primarily focused on getting back up to speed so I can cover more releases, something closer to two reviews per day.

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:Evidence of Immortality
RECORD LABEL(S):Napalm Records

British sludge/doom metal band Conan are heard and treated as a known quantity at this point and though I don’t blame folks for seeing ’em that way I don’t think theirs is at all a case of diminishing returns nor have they been found treading in place on this latest record. Their intent is straightforward in many respects, easily read hypnosis in traditional dirge form, yet I’d emphasize their incremental shifts made towards colossal sound design and increasingly stylized approaches to the post-millennium psychedelic/stoner doom metal extremophile zeitgeist with this album (and of course the previous) as prime examples of why their work stands out. Anyhow, I’d enjoyed ‘Existential Void Guardian‘ and all of the new ideas it’d brought to the band’s sound and now they’ve folded in more of the essence of earlier works for an album that is distinctly theirs but exaggerative in a satisfying way. The number one choice for the month was admittedly chosen for the sake of pleasure listening, pure and bludgeoning heavy music with a memorable touch to each track.

TITLE:All Virtues Ablaze
RECORD LABEL(S):Willowtip Records

Through lunging steps taken along the soft grit of cold, waterlogged sand beaches we seek and discover desirous sloughing renewal alongside Victoria, British Colombia-based black metal trio Liminal Shroud, who’d divine their own dramatist renditions of the ‘self’ actualized by way of the phenomenological perspective on this second full-length, applying the phenomenon of the individual as a microcosm of the natural world. ‘All Virtues Ablaze‘ presents the persistence of natural cyclic forces as seen through eyes which’ve realized the push-and-pull, the greater torsion of human existence, is unending yet not necessarily a torturous experience. Consider it a nihilistic naturalist’s acceptance of their interconnectivity to the storm of the end, or simply consider it the second time these folks have proven their highly evolved take on post-black metal, the progressive side of post-metal influenced black metal, and some touching upon both prettier realms and heavier ones. Easily the most thoughtful and professional black metal release of the month for my taste, and simply a good listen otherwise.

TITLE:To Find Deliverance
RECORD LABEL(S):Awakening Records

Warsaw, Poland-based trio Species appear to have naturally gravitated to this realm of backwards-facing thrash metal contortionism as they’d developed. Their first moment of glowing neon abstraction, that which greets us in view of their debut full-length ‘To Find Deliverance‘, speaks directly to the conflict of existentialist desire for autonomy within the confines of a very controlled and challenging existence today yet it won’t too-directly indicate the genuine ‘old school’ thrash metal sensation of progressive metal they’ve inflicted upon the general public ’til you’ve jumped in. The various appealing aspects of classic thrash metal abstraction, underground specific riff-oriented enthusiasm, and certain brand of performative introspection all hail together for this inspired debut

TITLE:Nahanagan Stadial
RECORD LABEL(S):Invictus Productions

Presented as furious acts of the old gods by way of Gàidhlig war metal from quartet Coscradh this debut full-length intends to be as tyrannical and impossible to be predict as the natural apocalyptic disasters depicted. If we can consider successful artistic expression a matter of producing primally screamed keening in response to events which cleaved the Earth itself and doomed all in their wake then I’d have to hand it to these folks for their render of chasmic destruction on an impossible to imagine scale, temporal and physical. Anyone looking for an accessible or normative extreme metal exposure herein, maybe fuck off quick before you inevitably get flogged out by the big-swinging whip of their titanic madness. For all of its challenging madness I’d found this record was entirely memorable beyond its spectacular din.

RECORD LABEL(S):Hell’s Headbangers

Another fantastically mean and riotous killer from Italy’s bloodiest three-headed axe. Fiorentino heavy metal trio Barbarian are ahead of the curve by virtue of living in the past and honing, tempering unholy fire in timeless craft of terrifyingly strong metal regression which now proves impossible to bend, or break from its elite focus. Their fifth full-length album ‘Viperface‘ makes clear their leadership position not by thinking man’s virtue but by way of growling furor, bloodlusted shanties and swinging a double-headed axe proven more than capable of impossible carnage. If you love speed metal, 80’s power metal, 80’s black/speed metal, and heavy metal in general you’ll end up having a great time with this one.

TITLE:Spirit of Ecstasy
RECORD LABEL(S):Century Media

The virtue felt witnessing Imperial Triumphant morph from a relatively unnoticed chaotic black/death metal band (with bestial stage names they’d prefer you forgot, haha) to one of the more adored ‘extreme metal as art’ groups today is this sense that adaptation and relentless study might pay off outside of stuffy psuedo-intellectual realms, for various reasons. They’ve done a fine job of taking the difficult step into major label realms by appealing to folks who are stymied and amazed upon face valuation of their heady craft as well as striking a chord with musicians for their high aptitude abstraction, which is both accessible and mysterious in its showmanship. ‘Spirit of Ecstasy‘ is arguably their full-bodied immerse into the John Zorn applied science of avant-garde jazz within the realm of cinematic, disturbed yet glowing black metal abstraction. Well, in the sense that listening to this record reminds me of discovering fucked-up records like ‘Naked City‘ and feeling a real tinge of horror I couldn’t look away from. While I think I still enjoy listening to ‘Vile Luxury‘ most often the jagged, psychedelic warble of this band still entertains throughout the full spin.

TITLE:Haunted Mausoleum
RECORD LABEL(S):Caligari Records

Swarming with flies, stinking to high Hell, grinning like a maniac without legs to stand on ’til it all melts away by way of vermin and the elements we greet the world of delirious gore-spattered realism purported by Massachusetts-based death metal band Grotesqueries in a state of horrifying corporeal trauma amidst the initial stages of our decay, a state of readiness to rot and crumble beneath their suffocating works of frightening bodily horrors, cruelest criminality, and psychotic riffing mayhem. Their debut extended play release ‘Haunted Mausoleum‘ slaps, chops, wails and blasts through a fine fifteen minutes of groove, horror, and torture in introduction to their above-average approach to classic death metal rhythms.

TITLE:Through the Abysmal Gates of Subconscious
RECORD LABEL(S):Awakening Records

The sullen, depressive mayhem of Jalisco, Mexico-based death metal quartet Cathartic merely breaches the wrought iron window beyond, bearing witness to the doorway which existential nihilism allows on this debut full-length. ‘Through the Abysmal Gates of Subconscious‘ is yet a fine example of tradition, the apex statement of early 90’s Scandinavian death metal clangor and its youthful attempts at philosophical durative, rather than plain horror-hammered spectacle. Though the explosive use of overdrive/distortion (read: *honk honk* HM-2) won’t allow most listeners to dig beyond the usual Eldritch Swedish death metal normative pings of excitement there yet exists a welling-up of doom and depressive awe well worth exploring herein.

TITLE:Celestial Deconstruction
RECORD LABEL(S):Pulverised Records

About ~five minutes too long for an extreme hardcore obsessive’s attention span but the exact right length for the average death metal fan to buzz through, ‘Celestial Deconstruction‘ finds a righteous medium between classicist death metal, proper huge-thrashing riffs and the cleverly kicked-up rhythms of timeless hardcore punk’s uprising. Doldrey have made a fantastic showing on this debut record, a listening experience which mercifully cuts the line just as their barrage finds its peak level of muscled surge and ballistic heft, leaving a prime death metal/hardcore punk statement on the battlefield.

TITLE:Manic Despair
RECORD LABEL(S):Awakening Records

I’d definitely felt like Awakening Records hit us with an absolute wall of solid death and thrash metal records this month and ‘Manic Despair‘ is probably the release that’d left me most interested to see what the band might develop beyond this initial high point. Calgary, Alberta-based old school death metal trio Cultist have managed to balance applying torsion to the usual traditions of late 80’s developed and early 90’s extruded death metal while displaying some adept-level learning from the more serious deep cuts of the trade, now presenting skilled but not too fiddly songs that meet a high standard for energy and attack in service their own occasionally eccentric ideas. Think of it as pure old school death metal with thrashing, progressive, and oddly melodic sides explored.

RECORD LABEL(S):Peaceville Records

Inspired by the wilt of traditional autumnal poetry and its natural applications to one’s aging into the perceived second half of their lifespan, we find Death is always lurking nearby in the not-so peaceably stated effulgence of Tokyo, Japan-based progressive metal act Sigh, whom present their eclectic twelfth full-length album as stoic maturation yet in abstraction. ‘Shiki‘ is the type of surrealistic gathering of experiential and aggressive metallic forms we’ve come to expect in most regards yet it appears hung up, clinging onto sentimentality in unusual continuation of its predecessor. The full listen ends up reading as a half-striding step forth from an auteur who’d rather -feel- themselves into a place of surety than take another flying leap, at least for the time being. It is a more naked and personal record than I’d expected from the band, being sung in Japanese and dealing with the fear and acceptance of death, and as such it reads both sincere and mature.

RECORD LABEL(S):Avantgarde Music

When I’d suggested that this album is “slow, decidedly mean, simply achieved and miserably taxing. However you absorb it at a glance, the effect isn’t necessarily ‘deep’ and only catches the fray of the mind for the sake of the experience being intentionally sapped of all energetic value.” I didn’t realize I needed to explain that that is a good thing for an extreme doom metal release, and this review was taken as “negative” by some. I find this sort of inability to process anything but good feelings as valuable huge blind spot for so many heavy music fans concerning, because it means so much of the extreme metal register is unavailable to pure pleasure-seekers. Anyhow, Ferum aren’t going to blow your fucking mind here but rather lull it into a place of decay, scission, and sorrowful death/doom metal. Classic sounds, simple yet effective rhythms, and none of it should stand out beyond the desired effect.

TITLE:The Route of Haeresis

Steeped in the oily morass purported by an ancient school of instinctive, chaotic heretical thought the melodic black metal of south-eastern Finnish quintet Mimorium press on for the sake of their own idyll both within and beyond said strictures. Their third full-length release ‘The Route of Haeresis‘ intends a hyper-transgressive railing still readably relevant to the greater anti-cosmic thread of their craft while also reflecting the well above average level of performative and compositional talent in hand. The experience is at once precisely ‘genre music’ to the outsider and distinctively modeled outside of time for we knowing hordes, or, at the very least it is a polished and meaningfully set melodic black metal record crafted to a highly resonant standard.

TITLE:Els Nous Cants de la Sibil·la

Catalonian grinding death metal band Ósserp, portray the new songs of prophesied apocalypse with their own brand of thrilling severity on this third full-length. Viewing the mislead and morbid follies of humanity’s obsession with eternal life as an twisted self-fulfilling prophecy of doom easily seen upon the horizon today ‘Els Nous Cants De La Sibil·la‘ cannot seem to shake the sorrowful deterministic turn taken, the momentum of the end in sight, and the struggle to survive which impinges upon us all year-over-year. It ends up being the right sort of propellant thought to best serve their uniquely evolved form of deathgrind-adjacent metal unto increasing, admirable finesse.

TITLE:Early Moods
RECORD LABEL(S):RidingEasy Records

Elevator pitch? Early Iron Maiden influenced heavy/doom metal taking on the 80’s doom metal canon with especially thick nods to Candlemass, Trouble, and Black Sabbath. — ‘Early Moods‘ does everything a debut full-length should do as an introduction to a band, clearly communicating the modus, tastes and motivations of the artist alongside some ambitious and aspirational pieces which indicate a future worth elaborating upon. They’ve gotten it “right” enough this first time around that future interest will almost solely be dictated by songcraft and how they are able to develop this already excellent marriage of guts-heavy doom metal riffing with occasionally hummable, weary existentialist heavy rock. 

RECORD LABEL(S):Tartarus Records

Bong-Ra has been the stage name for Utrecht, Netherlands-based musician Jason Köhnen since roughly 1997 not long after he’d left his melodic death/doom turned stoner metal band Celestial Season and began working in the breakcore or ‘raggacore’ electronic fusion music scene, eventually also landing in the impressive The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble. I know his work best within the extreme metal space, being a huge fan of his band Bluuurgh… and that era of death metal, but I have come to greatly appreciate his permutations of both atmospheric and jazz fusion influenced works, of which we could align the two most recent full-lengths from this project. ‘Meditations‘ expands upon the successes of ‘Antediluvian‘ (2021) which is essentially what I’d consider a free-jazz influenced form of drum n’ bass achieved through an explosive drone/doom level of sonic enormity. This’d file under pleasure listening exclusively but there is some depth of intent and symbolism which enriches if pursued.

TITLE:Those Who Hunt at Night
RECORD LABEL(S):Shadow Kingdom Records

The case for heavy metal as a time capsule for performance and personae. — Louisville, Kentucky-based heavy metal quintet Savage Master are all show, and they certainly do put on a show from every angle imaginable, but their records somehow escape the feeling of that same old rock n’ roll bullshit despite sounding wisened and no fucks given ancient. Their fourth full-length ‘Those Who Hunt at Night‘ clarifies exactly that these folks are showing up for the song, the sort of shout-along piece which is both earworm and physically inspiring audio-visual experience at a jogging and stomping pace. I’d found myself happily noting the additional push for greatness here when they could’ve simply iterated upon the undeniable high point of their previous record.

TITLE:The Cursed Who Perform the Larvagod Rites
RECORD LABEL(S):Blues Funeral Recordings

Lysekil, Sweden-based group Mammoth Volume put out three somewhat forgotten classic progressive rock influenced stoner rock records in the early 2000’s, notable for their involved rhythms and adventurous buzzing between a strong variety of sounds per record. By the third album, the criminally underrated step outside the norm ‘A Single Book of Songs by‘ (2001) it’d certainly felt like they weren’t interested in playing the music industry game and seeing the sub-genre fad through as a point of personality. They’d dropped the band by 2008, having released their output beyond 2003 free online. Anyhow, this record isn’t a revival of the old sound but a window into what the two main songwriters are all about today which is very much a progressive, stoney and often memorable style of heavy rock. The eclectic voice of the band is here in droves, in weirding tunnels, and ends up being a brilliantly uneven waltz through eccentric and finely detailed works. I’d suggest returning to their third album as well, since it never got its dues in the slightest.

TITLE:Blood Drinker
RECORD LABEL(S):Self-Released

Though the album cover looks like someone painted over a screenshot of a Mortal Kombat II fight wherein Mileena does her infamous fatality, the production values are skint, and few people in the black/death realm will have taken this record too seriously after New York death metal duo’s Scumbag‘s kinda goofin’ slam EP from last year this ‘Blood Drinker‘ record sells itself well by virtue of its mixture of nails-hard death metal horror and progressive, blackened pushes. I dunno if vampyric black metal is just -that- much of a bad trend that it needs to get the brutal/deathcore treatment but I’d enjoyed the way these guys felt their way through the thought and showed a bit of insight in the process. There is a rad post-hardcore edged brutal/progressive death metal idea in there somewhere if they can class up their aesthetic and cut away from the trend salad of it all.

TITLE:Hema Ignis Necros
RECORD LABEL(S):Iron Bonehead Records

Ritualization continues down their steadfast path of incendiary, ominous brutality as they lean into the (early) Incantation-esque side of their sound on a couple of these somewhat longer ~7-10 minute pieces. Otherwise of course fans of Angelcorpse and Centurian will once again feel at home within the precision surge of their riffcraft, especially as “The Crown of Moloch” presents the central cataclysm on the full listen. The big deal this time around is perhaps the addition of vocalist/bassist Daethorn whom is best known for his feature in Merrimack, his style fits incredibly well for both death and black metal applications and adds quite a bit to the more atmospheric side of this bands otherwise brutal aggression.


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