Short Reviews | January 12th, 2023

SHORT REVIEWS Our third edition of Short Reviews for 2023 releases finds us jumping back to catch a handful of things I’d missed earlier in the month, most of them above average. I’ve done my best to showcase the most interesting works that I come across while still presenting some decent variety here but choices boil down to what sticks, what inspires or what is worth writing about. These are more easygoing than longform reviews, so relax and think for yourself — If you find something you dig go tell the band on social media and support them with a purchase! If you’d like your music reviewed, read the FAQ and send promos to: grizzlybutts@hotmail.com


ARTIST:OBITUARY
TITLE:Dying of Everything
LABEL(S):Relapse Records
RELEASE DATE:January 13th, 2023

Eleven albums deep within an entity that can trace itself back to the earliest horizon of death metal Floridian quintet Obituary are surprisingly still intact and holding fast onto their signature: Big-assed menacing grooves you can shake your ragged old ass to. They’ve basically stuck with what they know and love to do since returning in 2003 and the results have been fairly solid since. The way I see ‘Dying of Everything‘ as a longtime fan is basically a crowd-pleaser, jam sessions that’ve aimed for the right arena-worthy chugs that’ll still translate to something moshable in a pub-sized setting. These folks have long been all about movement, rhythms for the physical participant and that’d been the main reason records like ‘Xecutioner’s Return‘ and ‘Inked in Blood‘ missed me in the past, there wasn’t that inherent mean-assed moshable ride to their gear which we otherwise find on this new record. The ‘World Demise‘ era of the band was a defining moment per my own death metal fandom, it was the biggest sounding and yet most accessible death metal record I’d heard circa 1994 so, I’d appreciated that about half of the songs here come close to that overblown nuclear hiss and industrial metal shocked movement of that album. If I have one complaint here it is that Tardy‘s vocals aren’t hitting as loud, layered or as often as I’d like since he is still one of the best (and most imitated) registers in death metal. Either way these folks still do it better than the rest and put on a great live show, I’ll happily take this over every single tuneless dork-assed death metal/hardcore fusion I’ve heard in the last two decades.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

ARTIST:BIS·NTE
TITLE:Broken
LABEL(S):Xtreem Music
RELEASE DATE:January 12th, 2023

Spanish psychedelic/stoner doom metal duo Bis•nte return with a second full-length which reprises their extreme metal tinged approach to surreal, often synth/keyboard lead style of somber doom metal. This time around the production is a bit more clear, up front in its feature of María J. Lladó‘s (Golgotha) voice and features consistent use of organ tones for the keyboard, lending a sort of Cathedral-esque touch to certain moments while the pacing here is decidedly slow and dire. The only thing that’d caught my ear in a bad way was some fizzling audio peaking during louder organ grinding, which I’m not sure was intentional. While I appreciate the cadence of the vocals I’d found them too much of a focus on the first half of the album ’til the riffs kinda kick in a bit harder in the last third of the record, “The Evil Inside”, “Venom in the Blood” and “Can You Save Me” being the overall biggest highlights for my own taste. It ends up being a unique and memorable record though definitely something for the eclectic doom metal head.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

ARTIST:SONS OF CULT
TITLE:Back to the Beginning
LABEL(S):Fighter Records
RELEASE DATE:January 5th, 2023

Though he’d kept Golgotha going for some years prior we find Spanish musician Vicente Payá, who you’ll know best for his work in Unbounded Terror if you’re a death metal nerd like me, involved in a truckload of new projects (Bis•nte, Decrapted, et al.) since 2019 or so. This latest one to emerge steps into the realm of traditional heavy metal/hard rock. Sons of Cult probably shouldn’t be tagged as a contribution to the “new wave of traditional heavy metal” trend, I don’t think they’re aiming for anything more than touching upon traditions and speaking their truth. Tuneful, mid-paced heavy metal songs relay their reality, muse upon the affirming value of music, and touch upon a number of personal subjects all of which might be hard to make out to start since they’re somewhat mumbled by the vocalist. They’ve too many things to say and probably could have simplified some of the lyrics for effect since we often lose the impact of the chorus. They style here sort of jumps between easier paced late 70’s biker kicks to that later 80’s kind of hair metal/alt-rock period and sometimes it works but they’re not exactly Manowar or Whitesnake in terms of performance and the Michael Schenker Group cover at the end (“Desert Song”) emphasizes this. Though it sounds like they’re writing from the right place it all needed a bit more fire behind the eyes, to strike a bit harder.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

ARTIST:RIGOR SARDONICOUS
TITLE:Praeparet Bellum
LABEL(S):Memento Mori
RELEASE DATE:January 23rd, 2023

Over the last decade or so I’ve described Long Island-based duo Rigor Sardonicous as “the Mortician of death/doom metal” and whenever that didn’t land I suppose we could consider them a beast of absolutely minimal conceit which yet serves a disturbing, confrontational type of cold and frighteningly atmospheric death/doom metal. It is a sound grounded by a monstrous drum machine, deeply pitch-shifted vocals, and various tweaking of the resonant interplay between heavily distorted guitars and woefully downtuned bass tones. The entirely consistent result thus far has long been in line with the early traditions of funeral doom metal if we can excise the tragedian “gothic” aspect of many early acts. These folks have comparatively always focused on cold, hateful depictions of death by way of an unreal sound. Their work is worthy of disclaimer as an acquired taste, one I’d specifically recommend to lo-fi/raw death metal freaks and funeral doom fandom who appreciate the unpolished and demo-level side of underground death metal. I’d personally first tuned into the band for their fifth album (‘Vallis Ex Umbra De Mortuus, 2008) and eventually included ‘Ego Diligio Vos‘ (2012) among my best of the year since their slight shift away from the vocal effects made it a more repeatable listen. Over a decade later they’ve got another album on the books and ‘Preparet Bellum‘ doesn’t stray from their signature sound.

There is a ‘vintage’ extreme metal ugliness to Rigor Sardonicous‘ discography which lends a certain underground authenticity to the listening experience beyond the usual bedroom extreme doom metal wrack today wherein the slow-motion dread summoned by their rigid and cold riffcraft goes a long way towards making it all captivating and notable enough. For the unindoctrinated, it’ll be one of those unique underground gem groups where you might have to just hit play and embrace the morbid clobbering the band produces without analysis, trusting the process of pain and enlightenment. Compared to previous records ‘Praeparet Bellum‘ generally sustains the expected funereal pace and anti-sound design but provides some of their slowest, most miserable pieces beyond their first few records, sticking with simple enough arrangements which are laser focused on generating diabolic dread-inducing marches. They’ve done a fine job of picking the first preview track in “Voluntatem Dei”, one of the longer songs near the end of the record, which provides a prime example of the droning atmosphere unique to the duo’s work. I’d found myself stuck on this piece and “Unholy Sonnet 10” for the sheer extremism of those ~18 or so minutes combined. You’ll find everything I like about this band and this album within that most dire portion of the album. I’m still hung up on favoring ‘Ego Diligio Vos‘ for the time being but this one continues to grow on me with each listen. Again, an acquired taste for idiosyncratic ‘old school’ death and extreme doom metal purists exclusively.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

ARTIST:ESOCTRILIHUM
TITLE:Funeral
LABEL(S):Self-Released
RELEASE DATE:January 2nd, 2023

Though I definitely feel like French avant-garde black/death metal project Esoctrilihum‘s output has yielded diminishing returns beyond 2021 in each release’s case this tends to be for a different reason. Though the insistence on loads of digital reverb make for yet another earwax draining headache of a double LP this isn’t a major complaint this time around due to plenty of texturally interesting synth/keyboard accoutrement keeping things manic and anxietous as his ideas shapeshift. The nauseated whorl of it all is still an interesting enough spectacle. The only scorn I’d heap upon ’em this time around comes by way of vocal experimentation wherein the rasp of the harsher black metal vocals are vomited without cadence, or any real interest to the song at hand in many cases, and the gothic metal influenced clean vocals offer similarly tuneless moaning. This is an artist who paints known shades of various sub-genre into abstract, disconnected pathways which purposefully do not meet in harmony and at this point that sort of experimentation no longer yields savant results or thrilling chaos. Clean vocals next to croaked and echoing loud black metal vocals begin to verge on sub-genre parody roulette or, at worst, remain unrelated to the moment in many cases. As the record weaves in between its core 5-6 modes of transit the array of juxtaposition available becomes a blur, particularly in the midst of the conclusion of “Thürldaesu” leading into “Pact” and all of it lapses out of depth and focus for my taste. It is rare that I find such challenging, ambitious and noisome extreme metal unpalatable but with such a prolific set of work releasing at a clip, which hasn’t landed with me beyond ‘Dy’th…‘, this one has me resolving to drop off.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

ARTIST:URANIUM
TITLE:An Exacting Punishment
LABEL(S):Sentient Ruin
RELEASE DATE:January 27th, 2023

Distortion blown and slow-worming electric guitar layers wriggle beneath the skin of this extreme “black/death industrial” record from musician A.A. who chose the name Uranium for this project for the sake of embodying a sound which is meant to act as irradiation upon human flesh, a deleterious and harsh noise fed attack. Guitars aren’t the only weapon used in their fight against humanity, in fact their use on opener “Trinity” begins to distract from the matter at hand with how loosely the guitar work aligns with the otherwise dark industrial framework of the song. As the album gets over its initial chaotic hump we find some more extreme percussive hits on the far more representative “Prison of Flesh” and some flirting with unsteady bursts of pace on the title track soon after. These are exciting, gritty monotonal pieces which scrape and shatter at the senses as they kick around though I’d found a couple of pieces felt like they’d occupied space rather than created it, chiefly “Gnawing at Bones” as it’d felt comparatively lax when considering the impact of “No Light” and its more daring spit of mechanical sound collages and power electronics inspired boosts. Though I’m not likely to pick this record up when seeking pleasure listening it’d definitely stood out as something beyond the usual extreme industrial stuff.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

ARTIST:LOVE GANG
TITLE:Meanstreak
LABEL(S):Heavy Psych Sounds
RELEASE DATE:January 27th, 2023

Denver, Colorado-based heavy psychedelic/blues rock quartet Love Gang return with a second full-length album after their self-released debut ‘Dead Man’s Game‘ caused a stir back in 2019. They’ve leaned into the Hammond-tappin’, blues driven rock push popular in the late 60’s and early 70’s which to me hits with a little extra MC5 beyond the expected Blue Cheer and nearby comparisons. Their gig is somewhat less about referencing the old stuff and more about creating a certain feeling, a sensation of another time where charisma and energy fueled performances on instinct. While some may find the opening riff to the title track way too cheek to bother with I’d nonetheless found these folks brought the hustling boogie rock song type front and center throughout, keeping it light and quick on the run through. There are some substantial pushers on ‘Meanstreak‘ otherwise with the dramatic peak of “Blinded by Fear”, the jive of “Bad News” and the in-a-nutshell rise of opener “Deathride” primarily holding up to repeat listens; Though these folks don’t endeavor to pull anything deeply personalized or original out of themselves on this second album and they’re not about to mess with a good thing it is still a great time to be had beyond the usual ‘retro’ study heavy rock and roll if you’re willing to pick through its boisterous, if not sometimes predictable jam.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

ARTIST:DIE OBERHERREN
TITLE:Die By My Hand
LABEL(S):Svart Records
RELEASE DATE:January 27th, 2023

Die Oberherren is a Swedish rock quintet heavily influenced by the popular gothic rock of the 80’s who’ve not yet named names in terms of their line-up. At the very least the group includes the vocalist from The Coffinshakers per his very distinct register and main songwriter Joakim Knutsson of long-standing heavy psych/doom group Rise and Shine. ‘Die by my Hand‘ hits their mark in the sense that their music is dark, somewhat severe ghoul rock camp which has a grinning still darker side to its lyrics. The tendency here is to rise to anthem or hit a crucial chorus and ride through each ~four minute song, managing some manner of tuneful rise without ever truly swapping out their palette or pushing beyond the tightly rounded-off classic popular rock song structure which girds the listening experience. The lack of variety and brevity was frustrating to start as the band presents a set of eight mid-paced grooves that’d (eventually) benefit from repeat listens. Die Oberherren‘s tendency to break into chorale and group-sung verses often deigns to take their default Siouxsie and the Banshees-esque cadence toward an outsized Ghost-esque headspace, relying on occasionally wordy choruses which’d generally land when some distinction was brough in to enhance the mood, such as the melody synth/piano layers bring to “By the End of the Shore”. If mention of certain Billy Idol records and The Cult in their moment of gothic persuasion doesn’t make your skin crawl you’ll likely get what this debut is all about, though I’d felt like the record didn’t quite strike at the radio sized infectiousness you’d need to match up with the big personality of that type of sound. A ‘not entirely there yet not that far off’ kinda record from my point of view, it’ll get its hooks in with a few proper singles but the full spin doesn’t nail it front to back.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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