The Top 20 Albums of February | 2023

THE TOP 20 ALBUMS OF THE MONTH should be self-explanatory, an ordered ranking of twenty albums that’d resonated most 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 still 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 grateful to have so much to choose from. Thank you.

I. Roughly ~25-30 full-length releases are in consideration for full review in March, with several already published or in-process right now. // In 2023 most written reviews will now also have an additional video component. Both edited and off-the-cuff videos will now be embedded or posted to the site regularly. If you enjoy these please consider following on YouTube.

II. Each day I meditate with all-consuming gratitude aimed toward the bands, labels and PR firms who choose to work with me — Not to mention the kind few readers who donate to the site intermittently. The goals and ethos of Grizzly Butts have not changed in 2023 but I will be looking for ways to more efficiently cover music worth talking about on a regular basis. Thank you.

#1Album of the Month
RECORD LABEL(S):Amor Fati Productions

“The animalistic darting of pure emotion, a charged energetic reactivity let loose into the wilderness of the netherworld leads the way as United States-based black metal duo Häxanu expand upon ideation with refinement and manage a near masterpiece in the process. ‘Totenpass‘ tasks the listener with staring into the porcelain face of Dionysian pessimism and finding purpose, accepting not only mortality but reveling in the dance beyond. In most practical terms it’ll serve as an emotional wellspring for those connected to rhythm guitar expressivity and indulgence, or, read as one of the finer modern interpretations of the spiritual prowess found within classic Scandinavian melodic black metal influenced guitar work.

More than a few consistently stirring and/or unforgettable moments help to make ‘Totenpass‘ a wholly redeeming black metal experience and a frankly surprisingly warmed and fully realized work considering the previous record felt like a stroke of magick in passing, a well-informed experiment. This is a very quick and early second point of mastery in the lifespan of Häxanu, an exponential step which’d stunned me in spite of high expectations. Personal or performative, thoughtful or purely felt, there is some uncommon spellcraft whirring within the realm they are conjuring here which grips multiple points of my brain…”


RECORD LABEL(S):20 Buck Spin

“Surrealism, cosmic horror, the supernatural landscapes of classic avant-garde death metal and the more technical fluidity of elite-thrashing black metal all coalesce to form the shared basal ingenuity which has served Ulthar their intense and unique shapeliness since forming in 2014. As is the case with any great idea the resolution and precision of its core concept have each steadily improved with iteration and revision as the trio of guitarist/co-vocalist Shelby Lermo (VastumHuman Corpse Abuse), bassist/vocalist Steve Peacock (MasterySpirit Possession) and drummer Justin Ennis (Vale, ex-Mutilation Rites) now represent a brilliant fused colossus of forms rather than a clash of coincidentally relevant idylls.

By offering just enough respite between these technically marvelous, knotted absorptions of black and death metal abstraction Ulthar present a welcoming challenge, a thinking man’s death metal record which reads as avant-garde to the classicist and curiously memorable beyond the expectations of the established fan. ‘Anthronomicon‘ is neither a clash of ideals nor a compromise in its stylized ‘structurally sound expressionist’ take on black/death concurrence and in this way it manages to stick in mind while also beguiling, engaging the senses in an intoxicating way when left to rouse on repeat.”


TITLE:The Calling Quiet
RECORD LABEL(S):Argonauta Records

“Despairing purpose, a fatalistic lament at the cusp of physical resignation, wriggles throughout the six part last-gasping dissent of Bradford, West Yorkshire-based doom metal quintet Wolves in Winter‘s debut full-length album, a sombre yet occasionally anthemic work sure to burst the ribcage of the unwitting populace as its earnest, emotionally charged weight quickly sinks in. ‘The Calling Quiet‘ communicates the burly existential response all generations of doom might recognize in its willing together of the dramatic, introspective lush-tones of modernity with the inspiring gait of traditional heavy/doom metal songcraft, landing an ‘epic’ yet earnest drift which demands it be remembered.

I’m not sure if I can suggest Wolves in Winter have served a grower so much as an album which made its case humbly, without any noxious hype driving exploration, allowing a few days (weeks at this point) and several listens ’til I’d sorted the bigger, more obvious moments and discovered the subtleties that tied it all together. Beyond the unforgettably anthemic and bounding affect of the songwriting being inherently catchy, there is some depth worth repeatedly exploring on ‘The Calling Quiet‘ and thus far this feels like one to stick rather than wither.”


TITLE:Nightmare Visions
RECORD LABEL(S):Mystiskaos/Amor Fati Productions

“The hands are inevitably burnt, the mind wracked with horrified dreams, yet the frustration available to the crumbling worlds of Detroit, Michigan-based musician Theophonos‘ handicraft in the abstract black metal realm now at least limits its borders to the individual mind. ‘Nightmare Visions‘ is above all else an acknowledgement that it is all in the ambitious artist’s head and, more importantly, it needed to spill out in human form this time.

Theophonos has managed something distinct enough in spiritual alternate-succession from a different lyrical perspective which reads as better representative of where the artist is now, rather than what they’d wanted another band (Serpent Column) to be during its limited lifespan. Anyhow, they basically say “eat that old corpse, I don’t care” within moments of the album firing up, so, the intent becomes clear enough from there as the greater tirade intensifies.” If all of that sounds far too abstract, well, you may not fully grasp such an abstract release, eh.


TITLE:Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags
RECORD LABEL(S):Peaceville Records

“Unreal evil, satanic masses, possession by demons and whatever supernatural diabolism still survives within the superstitious minds of men today have always been esoteric inspiration enough to provide the finishing touch upon Scottish black/speed metal act Hellripper‘s traditional approach to the craft, standing apart from the crowd as a legion of pretty good taste and sharp execution on it. On this impressive third full-length the rugged rural highlands which now surround the artist inspire a step beyond the usual tropes, now calling upon local tales and folk horrors for theme. This approach not only serves to energize the artist’s presentation but dictates a more expressive narrative style which dips out of daemonic speed metal just enough to avoid making the same album thrice.

Hellripper didn’t need to do anything quite this different to conjure a basal level of interest out of me, thrashing is enough, yet the result does ultimately speak for itself as a step beyond past works. This step outside of the usual black/speed metal feeling helps reinforce the strong argument made for the classic influences of the artist informing a high general standard of work reaching a point of mastery.”


RECORD LABEL(S):Crawling Chaos

For the second album in a row Hexer have hit my radar the day of release and impressed me with their dark, atmospheric and aggressive take on atmospheric blackened-death metal influenced sludge metal. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that these folks are also featured in Imha Tarikat and that their presentation and grotesque yet beauteous dirging sound continues to evolve quickly with each release. Though they result of their sound is a tautly wound form of atmospheric sludge their approach is not orthodox and should rightfully impress even moreso than the somewhat front-loaded and meandering ‘Realm of the Feathered Snake‘ before it. Though I won’t end up making the time to review this record in full it is yet one of my favorite sludge released releases of 2023.

RECORD LABEL(S):Willowtip Records

“Though the details go largely unstated blackened dissonant death metal trio Mithridatum assumedly formed in the last three years or so and for the sake of illustrating what we can distill down to the trauma of unwilling sentience, the desensitization which necessarily mounts upon human beings in response to their unlucky spawn into an age of overpopulation, competitive exploitation and encroaching environmental nullity. Their debut release, ‘Harrowing‘, fosters long-standing interest in organische dissonant death metal with pronounced influence from prominent black metal technicians to a point of exacting potency, setting just five mid-length pieces as deeply finessed study of surreal existential dread. Though this relatively short and baleful release speaks a familiar language the greater outcome manages an exemplar listening experience, a luxurious point of immersion which stops well short of drowning the listener in its mulling tides.

Harrowing‘ does admittedly feel tentative upon first impression, a brief but deeply plunged dip into ideas which soon reveal themselves as gorgeously fleshed. This small revelation works because the wind-up time for ingratiating moments is short and the record proves itself repeatable and immersive from the start. Though I couldn’t consider Mithridatum‘s debut as substantial, or, complete in a more traditional sense it does ultimately read as an ideal debut presentation which impresses without overstating the core action of its premise. In plainest terms, it is a cool record which had me ripping through full listens fairly often thanks to a few standout moments.”


TITLE:Everything Belongs to Death

“We find no blades or horned helms in the barrens of this defeated skeletal army but scores of divebombing leads and nauseating thrashed-at riffs still fill the air in the world of Osaka, Japan-based death metal duo Parasitario on this excellent, though admittedly still kinda green debut full-length album. ‘Everything Belongs to Death‘ doesn’t shy away from its influences but instead embraces the old dead art of classic death metal built from the thrashing apex of the late 80’s. They’ve gotten damned good at it over the years and this debut album comes at just the right time to capture the inspired rawness of their fandom, the ideal still fresh in mind and the riffs flowing front to back.

This’ll have to be the sort of death metal album that’d won me over for the illogical reason of it being entirely enjoyable as a full listen. A ~38 minute ‘old school’ influenced death metal album that pulls of a specific sound I love beyond basic nostalgia, I not only “get” what these folks are all about in channeling their best vision of classic death metal but it happens to be my favorite sort of thing.”


TITLE:Aphelic Ascent
RECORD LABEL(S):Drakkar Productions

“Viterbo, Italy-based black metal duo Ad Omega present a naturally occurring derangement of their greater progression as a thus far yearly release schedule yields a crowning moment with this sophomore full-length. ‘Aphelic Ascent‘ manages to disrupt and appease the listener’s senses within each piece, challenging the ear with ringing alien current in alternation with triumphal narrative rhythms. Though they eventually go over the deep end and indulge in the static of the void the effect is potent, a tangled and occasionally emergent black metal experience which still manages to stick in mind.

Though they’ve just passed the threshold of a novel stylistic combination in elegant practice Ad Omega stuck with me more for the experience in concert with its themes moreso than sub-genre co-morbidity. I hear and see considerable refinement without any sense of the artist losing their psychic connection with these urgent, erratic compositions which arrive with more than enough edge to satisfy the elite black metal fan looking for mutant variation and the potential for mood and mind altering experience. For my own taste the discord and dark ambient/industrial edges of the experience are nearly at the exact right ratio here.”


TITLE:Memento Mori
RECORD LABEL(S):Ripple Music

“There’ll be more gasping, more choice spectacle to be found within the distraught gloom-tones of Victoria, British Colombia-based stoner/doom metal trio Hail the Void‘s return for a second full-length as it manifests in mind. An experience meant to hang in the air, thick with atmospheric dread yet built for loosing into the expanse with umpteenth generational doom intent. ‘Memento Mori‘ sinks in as psychedelic/stoner doom metal which accepts, relishes in the end and the abysm of the ‘self’ without irony. Rather than protest the inevitable hand of Death any longer they hold it, staring longingly into its sparkling sockets.

Hail the Void‘s sound has refined more than it has evolved in the couple year interim between releases with their efforts affording a much more precise, professional production value as this second full-length expands on the hi-fi psychedelic doom/stoner metal affect of the band while leaning heavily into a freshened realm of miserable, captivating gloom. The late 90’s Acid King feelin’, wah-pedal maxing style that’d impressed on their first record (‘Hail the Void‘, 2020) has been burnt down to its essence and now bears a stature much closer to Windhand‘s earlier sound per their debut and especially the warm, buzzing psychosis of ‘Grief’s Eternal Flower‘ on this second record. Leaving behind the raw mid-2000’s Electric Wizard fuzziness and stringy stoner metal bustle found on their self-titled debut helps to emphasize the chilled yet affected side of vocalist Kirin Gudmundson‘s presence who’d been otherwise Liebling-esque on the previous album.”


TITLE:Ultimate Abomination
RECORD LABEL(S):Edged Circle Productions

“The ruthless, bulldozing advance of traditional death metal’s aging zeitgeist continues to spur the heels of the outsized sound design and steadily evolved character which drives Amersfoort, Netherlands-based quartet Bodyfarm into the future, a steady constant in their five LP and roughly fourteen year history which now smartly capitalizes upon a unique opportunity to re-tune and refine their approach as the lineup returns from its biggest shift(s) to date. Album number five, ‘Ultimate Abomination‘, appears energized as it manages to reinforce the band’s signature (or, niche) as often as it leans into memorable and/or varietal stabs both outside and within of their well-established circle.

With repeat listens the overall effect of listening to ‘Ultimate Abomination‘ bears a burly, tunneled-at charm which speaks to the grotesque reality of human society today as well as it speaks a somewhat universal, if not ploddingly phrased, language of pure enough mid-paced death metal. There are no major missteps or glaring technical flaws which allow me to pick or prod a the result, Bodyfarm continue to be slick as Hell within their greater modus. I couldn’t throw a serious nag or put a negative dent in any of their last three records, so, this one ends up being a pretty easy thumbs up — a crowd pleasing tank of a record that manages to crank out a few memorable pieces along its path to war.”


RECORD LABEL(S):20 Buck Spin

“Reciting one completely channeled phrase at a time in infinite alternation United States-based avant-blackened kosmikker death metal trio Ulthar transform themselves entirely through perpetual conjuration, mashing plane against plane in a diabolic dual thread. ‘Helionomicon‘ portends to be the potent essence of the trio’s greater sojourn made liquid, two additive black/death metal rants approaching the twenty minute mark, with each half designed for the reveal of emergent vacuoles which burst into detailed lustre on their path forward, loosened of their horrors without dogging the intended course drastically. Longform, complete and seeming endless channels of riff and rhythmic play await the extensive and practiced attention span. These are experiential pieces meant to captivate and mystify the listener into an unheard-of state of chthonic blissdom.

Helionomicon‘ is a grower, a set of rhythms which read quickly and steadily in their elongated threads which are meant to be enjoyed in a different state of altered mind than the album it comes conjoined with. In many ways Ulthar have exaggerated their sound and approach here in simple yet bold ways on this album which is unheard-of in their discography thus far, the flow of each side is no less valuable than the jagged, mulling stabs of ‘Anthronomicon‘. With some consideration for spacious sound design, the extension of an atmospheric death metal sound, and the longer whorls of space ambient spacing makes for what I’d walk away from considering less a “next” album so much as an alternate reality posited by the trio, a different world built from the obliterated carbon forms of the last.”


TITLE:Repulsie Post-Mortem
RECORD LABEL(S):Cavernous Records

“Slow, slumped over, eerily fascinating and occasionally capable of an inspired acrobatic collapse or two Romanian ‘old school’ influenced death metal quartet Putred manage an eerie spectacle on this modest yet effective debut full-length. ‘Repulsie Post-Mortem‘ certainly reads as brutal, fearsome in the horrified atmosphere it’d generate yet the slinking about it does at such an innocuous pace makes for a blunted instrument, a callous and creeping act.

It’d almost sound reductive to say ‘Repulsie Post-Mortem‘ is a “good start” for Putred, it is a solid album that delivers upon the sound they’d envisioned a couple of years ago on their first few demo tapes, giving a well-polished and altogether improved version of a sound and style with uncomplicated ‘old school’ death metal appeal. Is it primitive? Meat-and-potatoes? Death/doom? Kind of all of those things but just enough of an experience that it’d quickly prove itself easy to sit with for repeated sessions as a kinda catchy, easy to appreciate growler.”


TITLE:The Decline of the Enlightened Gods
RECORD LABEL(S):Transcending Obscurity Records

“A fantastical icebound realm envisioned for over a decade now realized in monumental glacial crags, white-drenched forest rallies and warming melodic strikes at the heart of their wintry escape there is yet no cold and distant feeling to be had when one begins to engage with the melodious yet aggressive pulse of Spanish black metal trio Frozen Dawn, who’ve managed a best-yet representation of their vision nearly nine years beyond their previous full-length release. ‘The Decline of the Enlightened Gods‘ comes well informed by a recharged sense of purpose, a sound invigorated by the old gods just short of servitude which elaborates upon their melodic black metal style with death and thrash metal intensity woven deep within its texture. Expect a dramatic telling of their story, a dynamic and nigh long-winded record which proudly wears its fandom as a point of influence but manages its own voice and realm envisioned somewhere in the mist.

This Mark III version of Frozen Dawn admirably took their time building a solid foundation before adding to the greater legacy of the band’s work thus far. There is the sense that ‘The Decline of the Enlightened Gods‘ had to be something not only bigger and more representative of the trio but that the music should be substantive, repeatable and worthy of a long-time black metal fan’s fixation. In fact this was probably too much pressure to guarantee a pristine result, leading to what I’d consider an excess of pieces which otherwise speak to the exuberance and reverence for black metal which the group upholds herein. Realistically speaking it’ll be the sort of record many will categorize quickly and give a passing thumbs up to but there is yet plenty of detail and engaging melodic value that do well to sustain the die-hard fan of this style.”


TITLE:Evil Summons Evil
RECORD LABEL(S):Hammerheart Records

“With the gloria of Satan resplendent at the bloodred peak of their path, a maestoso envisioning of eternity is revealed. In the past we’d rarely found Greek melodic black metal band Deviser jogging in place, relishing in the moment on their most classic releases but just as well thinking two (or more) steps ahead as their procession grew. On their fifth full-length, ‘Evil Summons Evil‘, their goal is establishment of canon as singularity, an experience which finally roots ye olde ambitions as institution and personae which is readable yet still charismatically charged as their wildest peaks of inspiration. The result is a sleek and menacing anthem after anthem sort of affair, an entirely steadied ship which may or may not play to the individual as well as it’ll reach a crowd with its stamping majesty.

when Deviser decided to go “all in” with this record in terms of production values, memorable pieces, guests and such they’d done a fine job of generating charismatic value in the experience which reads as a freshened addendum to the personality already available to their discography. ‘Evil Summons Evil‘ sets itself apart from the past just as well as it fits into the oeuvre of the entity, creating a new voice for the band which does a fine job of updating and representing their somewhat unique station in Hellenic melodic black metal.”


TITLE:Metal Gladiator [mLP]
RECORD LABEL(S):Dying Victims Productions

“Traditional heavy metal skewed towards the grittier spectrum of NWOBHM is exactly my gig and Murcia, Spain-based quartet Iron Curtain were almost hitting the right stuff for my own taste when they’d released their fourth album ‘Danger Zone‘ back in 2019. With this latest mLP they’ve collected a set of songs that cut right to it, scratching out speed metallic riffs and hitting a solid vocal melody within each song. “Rattlesnake” is basically a preview of what direction Iron Curtain‘s next full-length is headed in and that piece alongside “Crossing the Acheron”, “Burn in Hell” and “Metal Gladiator” are new songs indicative of change for the better. I’d planned on writing about this record in a longform review but the release is straight forward enough that it’ll just have to be a high recommendation for fans of traditional heavy metal.”


TITLE:Gone West [7″]
RECORD LABEL(S):Thrash Tapes

Chico, California-based powerviolence crew Level return to follow-up on their smoking-ass demo with a brief yet brutal shelling of a 7″. Thrashing stuff, powerviolence that eventually mounts unto sludgier terrors along the way. A very brief yet effective release that cuts to the point and makes great use of the limitation a true single-sized space allows. I’m not sure how it’ll hold up for non-die hards of this style once they break out a longer release but as a short kick to the mouth this one was easy to recommend on my part.

TITLE:Beyond the Veil of Night
RECORD LABEL(S):Blood and Crescent Productions

New York-based black metal duo Gauntlet Ring are an easy value to reduce to palatable terms: A bit of the ugly, crackling triumph of Judas Iscariot paired with fleeting graze upon the fields of BlazeBerth Hall stuff and similarly raw yet strident forms of proud black metal soldiery in other Slavic diaspora. For the passerby this is a common combination of forms which clearly aims to be classic as possible while inserting a bit of antihuman prose into gloriously miserable vagaries the sub-genre is rightfully known for when giving a serious faced answer to its bastardization. For those not out to “game” every artist down to categorical sluice ‘Beyond the Veil of Night‘ is a ghastly, nauseous plunge into warrior’s fantasy and one that gleefully drowns in the unambitious sway of its compositions. Their boots are full of blood, bootleg alcohol is dulling the sting of the arrow wound, and the lot of the protagonist vision swings between hallucinatory idealism and a callously mused rescind into the dark. An immersive record at the very least.

TITLE:New York City
RECORD LABEL(S):Fuzz Club Records

Brooklyn’s post-punk (and then some) crew The Men aren’t all about repeating themselves and despite their now nine album discography occasionally feeling uneven there is nothing unnatural, or, foundation shaking about ‘New York City’. A garage rock n’ roll band with a proto-punk rock brain, we find these guys leaning into what’d always gotten folks most excited about their sound, an unbridled adrenaline rock feeling that goes just over the top enough to pull all the ears in the room. Sure, this thing goes camp and over the top in a swinging kind of way but it never comes across pretentious or too strangely forced. My favorite record from the band continues to be ‘Drift‘ (2018) but I still found myself drawn to this one, loving the momentum of its goof-ass push and scatterbrained howling.

TITLE:Portrait of a Wasteland
RECORD LABEL(S):Time to Kill Records

Italian quartet Adversor use the aggressive voicing of late 80’s thrash metal as their basal level of energy in exploration of black, death and traditional heavy metal influenced songwriting which is reasonably compared to Kreator‘s more mid-paced, steadier stomped side of late. Most of these songs land around ~4-5 minutes in length with oddly slow classic thrash arrangements dominating their landscape, allowing a sort of indistinct landscape to form during the full listen but ‘Portrait of a Wasteland‘ eventually wins over in the details and within a few catchy pieces. The thrash-obsessed listener will “get” their gig right away but may not ever ease into the too patient, mid-paced glow of the record. Despite finding the album somewhat frustrating to sit with the positives did eventually begin to mount and I’d found this a strange sort of gem worth recommending to thrash metal fans.


<strong>Help Support Grizzly Butts’ goals with a donation:</strong>

Please consider donating directly to site costs and project funding using PayPal.



Make a one-time donation

Make a monthly donation

Make a yearly donation

Choose an amount


Or enter a custom amount


Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly