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. “Too much, time on my hands.” about sums it up, since I’d found myself with over fifty releases to consider for the best of September heavy music releases and had to debate each one far more than I’d had to for the previous three months. Quality is abounding as the post-touring season hits in full with the late year glut of releases revealing some of the year’s best. Not burning out just yet but at one point this month I’d lost about five hours of writing put into one review (an average album, anyhow) and it’d maybe suggested I was putting too much time and thought in places where it doesn’t count for anyone, even the artist in many cases. I’ll ease up a bit for the next three months. Outside of the fine nowadays extreme metal releases, which threaten to choke out everything else released this month for my taste, I’ve basically been listening to little more than late 70’s Styx (‘Pieces of Eight‘ b/w ‘Grand Illusion‘ especially) for their harmonies, a recommendation from a friend after a long discussion about my ongoing obsession with 70’s Yes. A few books and video games otherwise, nothing worth mentioning.
II. There are roughly ~35 full-length releases I’ll be reviewing in October, which should prove to be an eventful if not largely unsurprising month of decent releases. Shorter, less thoughtful reviews will be in order for the rest of the year. The trade-off between quantity and quality is for the sake of my own sanity and ideally not hitting a point of burnout and disinterest for the third year in a row.
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.
|#1||Album of the Month|
|TITLE:||Durance of Lightless Horizons|
|RECORD LABEL(S):||Blood Harvest Records|
This well underhyped Canadian death metal quartet have managed to outdo expectations by a certain magnitude with this impressive debut, which touches upon several of my favorite things: Death/doom metal, progressive death metal, atmosphere in death metal, and Finnish death metal. Every minute of these ~53 amounts to something which gratifies and mystifies the patient ear. It seems that Gutvoid are always headed to some manner of conclusion or transition to the next event all while rarely building up the expected occlusions of chugging aggression, this is either a beast designed for its habitat or a habitat designed for the varietal proclivities of the beast. That is to say that this album counts in a way that many don’t, leaving just enough to the imagination in terms of lyrical concepts that the listener may very well run with it ’til personal meaning per the imbiber. ‘Durance of Lightless Horizons‘ doesn’t at all appear to be an alchemical experiment, nor a quick gig to push out a halfway-there stylistic idea so much as it serves a point worked towards carefully, selectively for a number of years.
|TITLE:||In Darkness At Last|
|RECORD LABEL(S):||Nuclear War Now! Productions|
On this fifth and latest full-length album from Kansas City, Missouri-based thrashing black/death metal trio Ares Kingdom, too-rare spikes of truly violent extreme metal mastery are seemingly built to rile and incite, all of it with a few decades of precedence bracing it’s unthinkable aggression. ‘In Darkness at Last‘ accomplishes many things within its forty minute run, feats of distempered authenticity, literate mastery and keenest insight yet the most profound achievement which still rings accumulated in mind is their timeless wielding of memorable extreme metal songwriting, unforgettable songs delivered with personality explosive enough to leave a mark.
|RECORD LABEL(S):||The Sinister Flame|
Spanish death metal quartet Orthodoxy hypnotize as they become a true diabolic force, feeding forth a second wave of pulverization which mystifies a mind and body in heightened capability of profound destruction and widened eyes to see beyond delusion. ‘Ater Ignis‘ is the fiery blood pact of death worship set to mesmerizing song, a purest and potent philter for those seeking a truly poisoned state of death metal intoxication. Er, you’ll find shades of early occult death a la ‘Dawn of Possession‘, ‘Covenant‘ and ‘Onward to Golgotha‘ and groups influenced by them such as Necros Christos, Krypts and Cruciamentum in the general sway and riffcraft of this band but they are emitting hypnosis, death magick, and nothing close to caverncore or whatever. A great listen counts for a lot here as they deal a solid upgrade to their debut full-length.
|RECORD LABEL(S):||Unspeakable Axe Records|
Italian classicist progressive death/thrash metal quartet Miscreance appear as mid-evolution operatives, a nigh historically accurate recreation of the logical pathway from elite mid-to-late 80’s thrash metal supremacy unto progressive death metal nascence. In the process of personalizing tics of performance they absorb the emergent, abruptly stabbed-at nature of the greats and merely curve and blur the lineage, admirably contributing to but not misunderstanding the physical, spiritual significance of this rarely mastered artform. Though I’ve got a shelf or two full of records in this style ‘Convergence‘ had no trouble making its case within just one listen and continues to preach its spectacularly authentic and entertaining classicist prog-death rub dozens of spins later.
|RECORD LABEL(S):||Osmose Productions|
Sorrowful delve within these irrepressibly turbid, churning eutrophic bodies promises to enrich and enrobe as French black metal quartet Caïnan Dawn ease to express a most earnest, spiritual course on their fourth full-length album. ‘Lagu‘ charms before it stuns, tugs at the reigns of yearning and grief well before it lands a punch, if at all, yet it will serve as beacon and catharses for the willfully entranced ears it manages to catch. Though it will appear as a distraught soul in descent and offer little of the punishing dementia of orthodoxy expected these admirably bold fellowes have not meandered into complacency, the absolute depth of experience here will reveal itself within subtlety and patiently meted revelation. Though I am still a bit lost whenever navigating the lush yet distraught pooling of Caïnan Dawn‘s paradigm shifting fourth full-length it is a natural symptom of a work meant to evoke first, to lead with atmosphere and seal the act with finely detailed experience. ‘Lagu‘ is choicely immersive in the sense that it leaves me riddled with the sensation that I should keep wandering down its corridors, pushed along by their flowing movements and downtrodden, intimate register after some unknowable flotsam ahead.
|RECORD LABEL(S):||Profound Lore Records|
‘Philosophical Collapse‘ isn’t the sort of record that needs to be intellectualized so much as it is felt, emotion guides it and the medium inspires it, so while it is certainly a record precisely intended to elaborate and update the best traits of early 90’s death/doom metal it never feels too deeply referential or conversely anywhere near as plodding and destructive as Innumerable Forms‘ previous record. “Feeling man’s death/doom”? Well, they’ve still got riffs and the ‘old school’ tag hasn’t been side-stepped for populist nonsense by any means. When considering the lasting value of the experience ‘Philosophical Collapse‘ serves, I’d say there are more intricacies to absorb overall, the tempo map generally gets an upgrade by proxy, and the art direction helps achieve the right feeling overall. It is an inspiring work well set within the bounds of the best death/doom metal records of the year and one easily recommended to folks who appreciate both ancient and ‘new old school’ traditions of extreme doom metal.
|TITLE:||Bit Meseri-The Incantation|
|RECORD LABEL(S):||Listenable Records|
A fine example of every aspect of a production coming together with great meaning and admirable style in debut of an intense band plucked from deepest underground. Spectrum Mortis have succeed in entertaining with death metal well in service to their fantastical occult interests, though they fully go for this ancient spiritual theme with some admirable amount of study in mind, lending a darkly spiritual and mysteriously twisted bent upon what could otherwise read as historic interest given dramatism. It goes places, listens well on repeat, and mystifies with high production values and immersive scenes set… all while still feeding the ‘heavy metal mind’ riffs and memorable leads to sew together the experience in mind. An excellent debut, setting the bar for future insight and productions encouragingly high.
|RECORD LABEL(S):||Crypt of the Wizard Records|
This traditional doom metal/heavy rock group featuring current and former members of The Wizar’d finds its footing in the swinging gloom of ‘Day of Reckoning‘-era Pentagram once its motion is fully in swing but you won’t need references to recognize what they’re doing here. The riffs speak loud and clear for this intense Australian upshoot, kinda just appeared outta thin air to me and in rare form. Evil, mystic heavy metal at a menacing crawl with a heavy psychedelic soul to its ride. Fans of Trouble, Cathedral, and related band Tarot (Australia) should jump on it.
|TITLE:||Succumb to Chaos|
|RECORD LABEL(S):||Rotted Life Records|
In brief: “Best leads on a nowadays death metal record in a minute“. — No filler, no throwaways, no bullshit, no trendy nonsense — Vrenth make a very clear statement here that they ain’t up for playing stupid, that they’re absolutely capable of outclassing the general United States population of ‘old school’ influenced death metal acts in terms of personalized yet authentic craft and they’ve done so without any pomp or too obvious ego. Away from the world, in bunkers and darkness southern California-based ‘old school’ death metal quintet Vrenth persist in their imaginative strain of nihil and morbid philosophic obsession with this phenomenon of finitude and rot, now landing their latest grotesquely lucid observations for the sake of this second full-length album within just a few years. ‘Succumb to Chaos‘ appears to marvel at disintegration and celebrate the mayhem which feeds death alike as the wailing and riff-wielding crew extend their elite oeuvre unto an impossible standard of morose death metal craft.
|RECORD LABEL(S):||Dark Descent Records,|
Me Saco Un Ojo Records
Re-grieved to point of white-hot, fearsome angered sledge the lung-collapsing dirges of Denmark-based ‘old school’ death/doom metal trio Dead Void reach a point of exacting, physical-emotional drainage as they chop, burn and blast away at their debut full-length recording. ‘Volatile Forms‘ is the head first howl through the vellum-wrapped interiors of professional recording, an amplification of their intended style to an intimidating, mortifying level of aggression wherein cryptic horrors are revealed and the basement level crawl of their rehearsal revealed formative years left to fester. It is a skinning experience from a band whom appear well-tested and prepared, a flaying punishment which reeks of superior and defiant niche death metal taste.
|RECORD LABEL(S):||Indie Recordings|
The pure, undeniable corruption of the mind, absolute possession in blackest form. — Norwegian death machine Nordjevel have been inspired and admirably prolific since they’d added drummer Nils Fjellström (The Wretched End, In Battle) and guitarist Destructhor (Myrkskog, ex-Zyklon) to the fold circa 2018 and soon delivered their impressive second full-length ‘Necrogenesis‘ (2019) which I’d reviewed favorably at the time, at least with the concession that it was quite good but perhaps not as merciless, murderous as one might expect. As their interstitial singles/EPs between albums had indicated, they’ve done a much better job of taking the brutal hammer of Dark Funeral and Marduk at thier most punishing pace and making something bigger, meaner and thier own with it. In fact ‘Gnavhòl‘ manages to go completely over the top as they pulverize songs like “Within the Eyes”, reaching a truly impressive point of blackened brutal death-leaden kick as the song returns from its ear-catching dark refrain. It is rare that I am this impressed with the sheer chainsawing rhythms and technical aggression of a black metal record, making the listening experience an absolute joy to crank up and die beneath.
|RECORD LABEL(S):||The Sinister Flame|
The bitter tongues seeking salvation within the esoteric reaches of Finnish black metal duo Celestial Grave‘s second full-length LP lap up the scent of the necrotized, relish in the corpse’s persistent cyclic disintegration as they tribute with regret the passage yet marvel in the moldering spectacle of death. ‘Vitriolic Atonement‘ is hungered yet patient imbue of ceremonial etudes, an unhidden and outright melodic current of wracking dread occasionally masque’d by torrents of beauteous, sentimental reverence and ugliest chaotic intrusions. Their acts are impressive psychopomp for untended bodies, a much needed procession served with zero concern for an increasingly anti-spiritual, surrealistic reality today.
|RECORD LABEL(S):||Unspeakable Axe Records|
Algebra have managed an album which sticks in mind for a bit longer than past efforts, it is otherwise a natural succession and (again) feels like an experience carved from the same ever-wisened hands that’ve kept the band going for nearly fifteen years. They’ve got an apex ‘modern’ thrash metal approach crafted by a hand which is never deleterious of respectable ‘old school’ authenticity in intent and now manage some characteristic expansion of melodic device to further expand their reach, striking a bit of gold along the way. With this point of view in mind ‘Chiroptera‘ could serve as a righteous pivot into bigger-deal works or cement their station among the few doing thrash metal proper in this day and age.
|TITLE:||Ascension Beyond Kokytus|
|RECORD LABEL(S):||Cursed Monk,|
Definitely struggled through writing this review since I didn’t want to make it a matter of “very good sludge/death, go try it” but that is what it’d amounted to either way. — It makes sense to consider VoidOath more than an exceptional fashioning of several extreme subgenres, though what they are doing here is somewhat novel and entertaining up front for that reason; It shouldn’t take long before the average listener begins to appreciate the severity of their craft otherwise, admiring the various palettes they’ve used to build this heady extreme doom metal structure and the miserable extremity of their concoction as a whole. A roundabout way to say I admire the death metal lean of their sound immensely and the more it crops up within the finale the more I am egged on to keep listening, spin after spin.
|RECORD LABEL(S):||I, Voidhanger Records|
Expectations were basically nil walking into this debut full-length from Toronto, Ontario based death metal trio Hussar, who’d still been finding their own sound in the span of a few demo recordings since 2018. On ‘All-Consuming Hunger‘ they’re still a bit of a jumbled mind but perhaps as a point of character as their sound shifts away from death/doom to some degree and leans into somewhat memorable progressive death metal application, nothing too obsessive or involved but always finding a point of activity to entertain. In fact a few of these songs manage to be a bit catchy, which was not at all expected. Anyhow, more thoughts in the full review once it is ready.
Ego Depths is a ‘ritualistic’ doom metal project from Quebec-based musician Stigmatheist who’d moved from Ukraine to Canada at some point in his thus far five album run of what I’d consider spiritually adventurous funeral doom metal proper. Vedic themes and unique Eurasian instrumentation particularly stand out on this record alongside a sound which impresses for its Shape of Despair-esque drone and Skepticism adjacent vocals, eventually finding its melodic curvature in each song but generally releasing it just as soon as the apex arrives. The experimental nature of funeral doom is upheld here in a brilliant way. Not sure I’ve much to say about the record otherwise but I’ve been listening to it frequently throughout this month.
|TITLE:||Curse of the Forlorn|
|RECORD LABEL(S):||Transcending Obscurity Records|
Newcastle upon Tyne, England-based death metal quintet Live Burial have developed into well-focused craftsmen who’d task themselves with fashioning pure death metal up to the standards of pre-’93 acts with the action and proficiency of 80’s extreme metal influence pressing at their backs. Now edging into some slightly more atmospheric and doomed extremes on this third full-length, the classic death metal absolutist sect maintain their signature ex-thrasher borne aggression throughout ‘Curse of the Forlorn‘. This’ll rightfully serve as a next level of finesse from the band revealed, something a bit different but still very much traditional death metal, not only in terms of composition and performance but with regard to a bigger vision served in idealized form and personality rich render.
|TITLE:||Sex Sex Sex (Ceremonia Daemonis Antichristi)|
|RECORD LABEL(S):||Iron Bonehead Productions|
If it’d seem I’d breezed through my thoughts on ‘Sex Sex Sex (Ceremonia Daemonis Antichristi)‘ eh, relatively speaking, it would be because that is the effect I’d been left with after quite a few listens. This is the sort of record which reveals a ton of fine detail, endless caverns of personae to appreciate, and a brilliantly stylized sound yet it all floats through like a transient fog and reads a bit shorter than its respectable ~47 minute runtime. It might sound off-key to suggest that this Abhor album is an easy listen, an enjoyable thing that fundamentally entertains with its occult heavy metal inspired rhythms and dramatic keyboard work but it only speaks to the idea that this is a most classic act devoted to a vision which charms as much as it mystifies with its occult intent.
|ARTIST:||EPOCH OF UNLIGHT|
|TITLE:||At War With the Multiverse|
|RECORD LABEL(S):||Dark Horizon Records|
‘At War With the Multiverse‘ is the first album from the band since 2005 though it seems they’d been getting back into the swing of things and composing these pieces as far back as 2015 or so. For the die-hards who still remember these folks expect their signature focus on the pre-‘Clayman‘ era of melodic death metal, still aggressive and technically impressive in an ‘old school’ No Fashion appreciator kinda way but lacking the over the top late 90’s black metal rasps which put some folks off their first record. From my point of view this band has always been about the guitar work, all the way back to ’95, and in this sense ‘At War With the Multiverse‘ impresses for its full duration by way of complex, aggressive yet patiently resolved phrasing. Plenty of riffs, intense lyrical lore, and a certain classic melodic black/death performative flair makes for an entertaining, memorable full listen.
|RECORD LABEL(S):||Emanzipation Productions|
I definitely should have written a longform review for this brilliant record. — Hailing from Ljubljana, Slovenia death metal quartet Ensanguinate feature former/current members of well-known modern thrash metal groups Panikk and Eruption and as you might’ve guessed this high taste level indicates their proficiency in the ‘old school’ death metal trade. ‘Eldritch Anatomy‘ presents a fine and fully formed classicist death metal ideal which appears to pull from the primary drivers of romanticist and eldritch European death metal of the ’90-’93 era, expanding upon their Swedeath influenced demo ‘Entranced by Decay‘ (2020) with a sinister melodic edge, a tempered guitar tone and a knack for death metal songs which present tension and maniac aggression rather than blindered, phoned-in momentum.
- BONES – Sombre Opulence (2022) | REVIEW
- HAIL CONJURER – Earth Penetration (2022) | REVIEW
- ALTARS ABLAZE – Life Desecration (2022) | REVIEW
- DEFORMATORY – Harbinger (2022) | REVIEW
- MORTUOUS – Upon Desolation (2022) | REVIEW
- MEDIEVAL DEMON – Black Coven (2022) | REVIEW
- LABYRINTH OF STARS – Spectrum Xenomorph (2022) | REVIEW
- WYRMS – Sarkhral Lumænor – La lueur contre les fléaux (2022) | REVIEW
- MORBUS GRAVE – Lurking Into Absurdity (2022) | REVIEW
- LUNAR SPELLS – Demise of Heaven (2022) | REVIEW
- TOADEATER – Bexadde (2022) | REVIEW
- MOURIR – Disgrâce (2022) | REVIEW
- KEN MODE – Null (2022) | REVIEW
- WRITHING – Of Earth & Flesh (2022) | REVIEW
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