The Top 20 Albums of November | 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. Today marks the first day of snow here in the White River area, the leaves have either finally finished falling or they’ll do so by force, and we pacific north-westerners are draped in our customary flannel tartan of choice. — As the end of the year draws closer and publications release “best of” lists rounded out by their biggest advertisers and clickbait I’d just as well iterate that this website is entirely advertisement free, comes with zero monetization and no business relationship with the industry. Not a big deal point to make but I am a fan to a fault and my thoughts come with no clout-chasing, no “influencer” goals, no industry career ambition. You can valuate that however you see fit. This past month was packed with too many releases to cover per usual late year schedules, the best leftovers will end up on lists per my annual round-up of overlooked records that’ll arrive sooner rather than later.

II. There are roughly ~20 full-length releases I’ll be considering for full review in December, but that is a generous estimate. There are likely a few surprises and a few highly anticipated records coming soon (see: Misþyrming) but I will definitively cut off submissions for this year’s releases on December 19th — a Top 100 Albums of the Year list for 2022 will publish shortly after. Please check my social media accounts for announcements about upcoming end of the year “overlooked releases” lists concerning the following sub-genres: Death metal, thrash metal, black metal, heavy/doom metal, sludge/post-metal, noise rock. Lists for Funeral doom and psychedelic rock have been requested, but they are not guaranteed or planned just yet. The usual Top 10 Video Games of the Year post will fit in there somewhere alongside reviews for the latest God of War and Star Ocean games.

III. As of today, our latest (and probably last for ~six months) release via Spirit Coffin Publishing, Floating‘s ‘The Waves Have Teeth‘ is now officially released on both CD and cassette tape. Thanks to all who supported the album, especially Anubi Press for getting the word out.

IV. 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
ARTIST:DREAM UNENDING
TITLE:Song of Salvation
RECORD LABEL(S):20 Buck Spin
REVIEW:[CLICK HERE]

Dream Unending‘s uninterrupted flood of inspiration completes its first full cycle with this second album, written immediately following their debut. The duo’s second album very much represents the late seventies heavy psychedelic/prog-rock comedown as it dwells upon what comes next beyond the tail-end of spiritual awakening. Deep existential pangs project hope for the future in a more glorious, far less introverted, and glossiest-yet point of refinement. Yes, it is less of a death/doom metal album per the riff count but, you’ll survive.


#2
ARTIST:ENCYRCLE
TITLE:Deeper
RECORD LABEL(S):Self-Released
REVIEW:[CLICK HERE]

Exercising their right to die an honorable death beyond a slow and likely agonizing process of self-actualization, southern Danish ex-thrashing heavy metal quintet Encyrcle grant us an unexpected shift in style and an admirably passionate, ascetic pouring of the self on this much anticipated swansong. ‘Deeper‘ should be treated as a penultimate statement on introspection, the mind’s palace cracked open by force and gored of its cosmic dread if only for the sake of taking a long stare into the artist eye, the essence of intimate consciousness in bittersweet revelry. In practical terms it is a daring, plaintive yet tuneful fusion of theatric speed-shot heavy metal, dramatic post-punk thrilled dark rock and hints of their vestigial interest in extremes. A complete obsession of mine this month and a whole-hearted recommendation.


#3
ARTIST:JADE
TITLE:The Pacification of Death
RECORD LABEL(S):Pulverised Records
REVIEW:[CLICK HERE]

Sentiment with respect to infinite darkness and transcendental luminance trade-off as spinning spokes in this imposingly dramatic and full featured debut long-player from Germany/Spain-based atmospheric death/doom metal trio Jade who find themselves maturing, honing in admirable delivery upon the promise of their not-so distant beginnings. ‘The Pacification of Death‘ delivers a sublimation of arcane death/doom metal storm elevated to a nigh psychedelic level of atmospheric futurism, an impassioned experience guaranteed to perk the ears of the open-minded classist and the psilocybe’d avant-gardist alike. The score for this album has already risen as I consider my favorites of the year, if that says anything.


#4
ARTIST:MYTHOSPHERE
TITLE:Pathological
RECORD LABEL(S):Cruz Del Sur Music
REVIEW:[CLICK HERE]

Maryland-based heavy/doom metal quartet Mythosphere arrive duty-bound to reason on their debut full-length, kitted with checks-and-balances to weigh an insane world out of its panicked, greed n’ grief stricken survivalist mania. ‘Pathological‘ not only inhales deep of traditional purpose but exhales its own beauteous oaken timbre’d heavy psychedelic rock, ‘epic’ heavy metal, and tinge of progressive doom metal character which amplify beyond the sum of these traits unto an inspiringly realized and impassioned work which affirms, mourns and delights like nothing else.


#5
ARTIST:ENCRYPTMENT
TITLE:D​ö​dens F​ö​dsel
RECORD LABEL(S):Nuclear Winter Records
REVIEW:[CLICK HERE]

Still enjoying this one more with each spin. — Presenting iris-exploding nihility at the exact right density of ideation, their twisted limbs stabbing furiously through multiple portals in order to achieve an uncompromised signal Stockholm, Sweden-borne blackened death-crust band Encryptment achieve distinction in reaching for their own tastes and tendencies with prior restrictions stamped-out. Though their pupils are doubled in size in sight of the possibilities arriving, the aperture of this first full-length album is set much darker, a punishing rip far beyond now obsolete beginnings. The quartet’s long in development command of ‘Dödens Födsel‘ is in fact intimidating and dramatic to the point of conveying existential dread within a state of performative surety. Though their craft leans towards harrowing, downward-cast doomsaying this debut’ll be a great eye-pricking point of curious light for fans of death metal/hardcore punk in sophisticated abstraction, a brief yet charged brilliancy in mutation and a solid death metal spin otherwise.


#6
ARTIST:SPEGLAS
TITLE:Time, Futility & Death
RECORD LABEL(S):Pulverised Records
STREAM:[CLICK HERE]

Stockholm, Sweden-based progressive death metal trio Speglas appears as if evolved from idle hands, whittling away at idiosyncratic movements which are run-on, cleverly linked by intuition and a mind that is not easily sated by the beige strictures and umpteenth generation of stolen voicing available to death metal past and present. So, they continue to wander restlessly on this second mLP ‘Time, Futility & Death‘, a path which frames itself in gloomy introspective rock rambling phrases and gloriously knotted heavy metal riffs which’ll spark the philosophical core of death metal music but only occasionally generate it. A rare feat, a familiar sound, and a fleeting feeling to grasp at wildly as it slips through fingers and fades away.


#7
ARTIST:AURORA BOREALIS
TITLE:Prophecy is the Mold in Which History is Poured
RECORD LABEL(S):Hammerheart Records
REVIEW:[CLICK HERE]

Maryland-based thrashing blackened death metal trio Aurora Borealis are shapers of complete worlds in this sense, sensational histories willed by the vigor of the explorer’s mind as they cut apart the rivets that demand unified perception and hastily agreed-upon reality. Their eighth full-length album, ‘Prophecy is the Mold in Which History is Poured‘, is a champion feat among many under their belt in a long line of self-driven, self-reliant and distinctly United States-spawned extreme metal works which consider an additive yet personalized extreme metal language birthed from the continuum of thrash, black, and death metal. Wide-shot, precise-yet-brutal, and detailed as expected this latest full-length from the band find ’em thriving in a vast, ever-expanding terrarium of their own creation. — Not enough hype for this record, truly extreme brilliance.


#8
ARTIST:SÉPULCRE
TITLE:Cursed Ways of Sheol
RECORD LABEL(S):Invictus Productions
STREAM:[CLICK HERE]

Brittany, France-based death metal quartet Sépulcre offer their second darkest muse upon the cessation of life and the pulse of necromantic dread on this latest mLP, procuring lost souls in moldering vessels in order to divine the terrifying reality of nothingness. ‘Cursed Ways of Sheol‘ is a prime death metal statement in this sense, a riff-driven throat-kicker which reveals a bit more of their range than before, now brandishing death/doom metal eerie in hand as if sacrificial dagger. Equal parts morbid revelry and eye-gouging horror await the true ‘old school’ death metal fan. With folks from Venefixion, Deströyer 666, Scumslaught, ex-Skelethal you know you’re getting a proper riff album and this time with some huge doom riffs.


#9
ARTIST:DEVILPRIEST
TITLE:In Repugnant Adoration
RECORD LABEL(S):Odium Records
SHORT REVIEW:[CLICK HERE]

Transforming the perception of the iniquitous cult beyond antiquated primitivity, the refined contributions to bestial Satanic death metal craft with blackened purpose from the dagger-gripping fists of Silesian duo Devilpriest convince by way of merciless attrition but, not solely so. Their long awaited second full-length album, ‘In Repugnant Adoration‘, may be no less in service to the grand traditions of blasphemic death worship and vile riffcraft forged in the early nineties yet there is some reasonable argument made within their steady-handed craft that any merit earned arrives through the wiles of songcraft and finesse of performance, a feat of mastery within the bounds of the best tradition. Though I risk the thought becoming cliched in mind, it would be fair to say that this is a work well-worthy of four or five years spent in speculation, training and exacting execution.


#10
ARTIST:ORPHIQUE
TITLE:Consécration Cadavérique
RECORD LABEL(S):Sepulchral Productions
REVIEW:[CLICK HERE]

Lyre in hand, surrounded by beasts. — An intimate voice blooming into snarling choir as their melancholic diorama broadens in tragedian resonance, the great success of Montreal, Québec-borne atmospheric black metal project Orphique‘s first impression on this debut album should be obviate enough to the moderately trained attention span with an ear for mournful and at times intricate melodies. Deeply layered and thus inherently sophisticated compositional aptitudes should likewise perk the ears of those tangentially interested in modern progressive-lite musicianship, as the artist virtually glides through the moderately distant lux of ‘Consécration Cadavérique‘.


#11
ARTIST:STRYCHNOS
TITLE:A Mother’s Curse
RECORD LABEL(S):Dark Descent Records
REVIEW:[CLICK HERE]

With a bit of patience beyond the very first impression made ‘A Mother’s Curse‘ manages to provide an experience which resolves the issue of where atmospheric death metal, melodic black/death metal, and Romanticist/gothic horror might meet with some manner of gratifying riff involved. The result is surreal as it gathers steam in mind, turning makeshift gears and generating mood which is well-considered but never cloyingly performative beyond the idea in mind. If extreme metal must be profound in theme, dynamic by default, and grand in scope of presentation circa 2022 then Strychnos will likely surprise many as a stunningly rendered ghost in the fog, seemingly coming out of nowhere as a fully realized threat.


#12
ARTIST:KAMPFAR
TITLE:Til Klovers Takt
RECORD LABEL(S):Indie Recordings
REVIEW:[CLICK HERE]

We find eastern Norwegian pagan black metal quartet Kampfar reacting not only to seasonal emergence in rhythmic guidance through a year’s worth of songcraft but also a broader depiction of the “seasons” of a complete lifetime, collecting points of great inspiration from their nearly three decade history in pursuit of the best render, a most complete examined entity. ‘Til Klovers Takt‘ is not a compendium of past feats so much as the continuum wielded in hand, a potency which can only come from a consistently stoic yet left-field body of work enabled by ever-wizened minds. A ninth full-length should very well reek of wisdom’s mirror in this sense, shine some manner of balanced reflection back upon the diviner, else it should not exist. Expect a fevered, dreaming sort of experience full of intricate mid-paced rhythmic treatments and the bands signature flair for sprawling folk-cinematic ebb championed throughout.


#13
ARTIST:ELDER
TITLE:Innate Passage
RECORD LABEL(S):Armageddon Shop,
Stickman Records
STREAM:[CLICK HERE]

Modern progressive psychedelic rock band Elder have been on fire in terms of evolutionary events since roughly 2015 though it’d taken a literal move to the far more righteous heavy music market in Germany and the transitional release of ‘Omens‘ (2020) to fully break through. ‘Innate Passage’ is both a follow-up and follow through with what their fifth record had on the tip of its tongue, the joyful indulgence in darkness and light which has become their signature storytelling device. Still heavy but now operating on a mid-70’s level of compositional skill and longform arrange, we find the band mastering their vibe into novella-sized feature on this latest record. I’ve only just gotten this record on the 25th, since I did not receive a promotional copy, so it’ll be some time before I decide to review this one in depth.


#14
ARTIST:KAMRA
TITLE:Cerebral Alchemy
RECORD LABEL(S):Avantgarde Music
REVIEW:[CLICK HERE]

Birthed within a chamber yet pointedly thinking outside-the-box with every willful neuron Slovenian avant-garde black metal quintet Kamra create a world within a world on their debut full-length, a place of confinement for the outsider-in-truth to explore idiosyncratic realms untouched and unbothered by the desperation of the herd. ‘Cerebral Alchemy‘ is just as suggested en titre a journey intending to whirl within immense psyche as much as it is an occult séance to conjure the infinite wisdom and weirding of the dead.


#15
ARTIST:EMPTY
TITLE:Omnia Amet Lorem
RECORD LABEL(S):Drakkar Productions,
Negra Nit
STREAM:[CLICK HERE]

Spanish black metal band Empty have set spear and arrow upon the second wave of black metal in hopes of its mutation unto greater being since 1995, their results hit a point of notable grandeur circa 2018 or so per my own faculties as their fifth album, ‘Vacio‘, touched upon dissonant and depressive shades. Their work is non-literal in its influence, never wearing another’s skin and this’d been appreciable on that record. With their follow-up here the dissonance is sleekened in motion (if at all present) and the depressive, plaintive side of their register overtakes in a thrilling way. Impossibly dark stuff, I’ll have more to write about it in my review, which’ll publish this week.


#16
ARTIST:MORD’A’STIGMATA
TITLE:Like Ants and Snakes
RECORD LABEL(S):Pagan Records
STREAM:[CLICK HERE]

Captivating depressive rock from a band well-tested by the years in-between. Packed with worming malaise, distance, and quietude ‘Like Ants and Snakes‘ is brutally cold in its sauntering movements which are notably void of black metal but still work in mysteriously avant-garde ways. This record will instantly appeal to folks interested in what extremists can bring to desperately emotional ‘deathrock’/gothic rock music, and should appeal to folks who enjoy Rope Sect and such.


#17
ARTIST:HIBERNUS MORTIS
TITLE:The Monoliths of Cursed Slumber
RECORD LABEL(S):Blood Harvest Records
REVIEW:[CLICK HERE]

Straightforward, readable, and no less impressive for the steadiness with which it is presented Hibernus Mortis are a smarter and more evolved version of themselves today. Though I’d found a couple of undeniably great songs on here there wasn’t any one point where they’d broken character and blew my mind, or presented some eccentric insight into their craft beyond this very natural concoction yet this is no real foul in the world of pure death metal. The listening experience is undeniably above-average, full of solid riffs and capped off with excellent cover art. 


#18
ARTIST:CRITICAL EXTRAVASATION
TITLE:Order of Decadence
RECORD LABEL(S):Redefining Darkness Records
REVIEW:[CLICK HERE]

Hailing somewhere between earliest progressive death metal ideals and nearby late 80’s semi-technical thrash metal action this Russian-borne death/thrash metal trio follow up on their excellent 2019 mLP with a debut full-length showcasing their love for early Pestilence, Sadus, and Aspid. I’ll have more to write about this one in December but for now I’ll say that these guys are way underrated and I’ve nothing but pure respect for fans of true ‘old school’ thrash and death metal enough to play it proper while still managing their own personae.


#19
ARTIST:HEIDEN
TITLE:Andzjel
RECORD LABEL(S):Magick Disck Musick
SHORT REVIEW:[CLICK HERE]

Sentimental yet metamodernist progressive/jazz rock drifting helps to elevate this ninth full-length album from Czechia-borne and sometimes post-blackened act Heiden. ‘Andzjel‘ is a finest yet median between their roots bound pagan black metal ancestry back in the early 2000’s ’til todays sleek and forward-thinking evolution which reaches for a Sigh or Solefald-level of unique atmospheric and rhythmic station contained in avant-noir rock climes. It is a “vibe” to be sure yet one that is briefly held for just over a half hour, a short album but one that comes with plenty of depth of meaning to be found beyond its easy movement and pensive feeling.


#20
ARTIST:HARVEST GULGALTHA
TITLE:Ancient Woods
RECORD LABEL(S):Godz ov War Productions
STREAM:[CLICK HERE]

Harvest Gulgaltha build upon a foundation of classic United States death metal intrigue, developing the doomed and meandering push-and-grind bands like Incantation had posited at the pinnacle of the late 80’s whilst taking the atmospheric effect of this type of wheeling-out and stewing deep in excess and crafting cursed spells of blackened, dissolving nox which notably feature dual vocal performances and steadily crawling, semi-dissonant rhythms. Ringing chords, agonized shouts, a dark ravine of growls around every corner, and oft slow-kicked beats present an endless wandering in corridors of ominous tension, feats which are familiar in resonance but fairly unique in approach. There is truly sinister weight in these ritualistic yet riff-driven accosts, most of which find the odd, or, opportune moment to strike with brutal hits of speed and swerve into blackened harass, ringing out of these moments as if a recoiling mass of snakes.


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