The Top 20 Albums of April | 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. This month there was a flood of excellent death metal, plenty of unique black metal to choose from, and a solid grip of traditional heavy metal interest otherwise. Keep in mind I didn’t have enough time with Bell Witch‘s latest record to consider it for this list. As always, I’ve done my best to represent entertaining variety while also choosing that which is undeniably great, lasting work. // Roughly ~25 full-length releases are in consideration for full review coming up in May with several already in-process right now.

II. 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 (every Thursday). 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
TITLE:Beyond the Cenotaph of Mankind
RECORD LABEL(S):Hammerheart Records

The umpteenth evolutionary step into elite hex of death-consciousness, ‘Beyond the Cenotaph of Mankind‘ is the nigh perfect balance of the Runemagick way, not a cumulative look at the past but music created today by folks who still appear to have great passion for dark death metal music. It reads to me as not only a great work of unique death/doom metal voice, a gem-like rarity, but also a clear sign that there is life and blood inside of their creative wells which is yet capable of incredible presence and profound statement. It was a slow burn and an incredible descent but I’d eventually gotten to the point that all of their last thirteen full-lengths have arrived, a certain mastery of surrealistic death which sticks in mind and contorts unto morbid gloom.


TITLE:Black Medium Current
RECORD LABEL(S):Peaceville Records

Death is all I have, it is all I want, all I need. — If we can quickly identify the “what” here ‘Black Medium Current‘ is a decidedly atmospheric avant-garde black metal album with varietal influences upon both its exploratory philosophical statement and its indulgent rhythmic manifestation, each of which are entangled in purposeful harmony which communicates the labyrinth of the auteur’s mind palace. The lyrics bend between Norwegian, which is too stylized and referential for me to parse in the slightest, and English which goes quite a bit deeper beyond the fraught existentialism we’re typically faced with per black metal modernity. In fact the meta-statement to make here is perhaps that Dødheimsgard continue to manifest as modern music but not in the populist sense, music which reacts to the present day in perception and with a mind for what fresh Hell arrives in the spheres their consciousness ingests as taste. This allows for the conversation of the lyrics to manifest as sentient, an intelligent reaction to the strange yet exciting excess of suffering and confusion of our times. With each listen the spectral realm conjured seems to find new imaginative depth.


TITLE:The Conquest of Time
RECORD LABEL(S):Electric Assault Records,
No Remorse Records

Stockholm, Sweden-based heavy metal duo Century features key members of labyrinthine death metal act Temisto and brilliant metalpunk crew Tøronto yet their focus on this record is an ’83-’86 feeling of pure heavy metal that celebrates the cadence of NWOBHM groups Satan and Quartz (among others) and the heavy rocking charge of decidedly melodic groups like Gotham City. Their approach isn’t so resolute in revisionism, it doesn’t quite feel ready to be lumped in with any faux new wave nor does their songwriting feel like plain 80’s emulation beyond the strong characterization of the vocals. Just a brilliant heavy metal record, anyhow, and absolutely one for the ages per my own taste.


TITLE:Flagellum Universalis

Whereas past works had been pure bolts of black metal corruption prone to explore the fallout of their attack ‘Flagellum Universalis‘ celebrates the radiation itself, less an exploration of the “contrarian” inherent to all human beings but the dissatisfaction of the outlaw, the trait of the non-participant and its causation from a spiritual-intellectual point of view. It’d seem that whatever change in perspective, or, angle of approach Heretic Cult Redeemer have taken here they’ve found an exceptional fire to feed their work and the results were undeniable in their quality and resonance.


TITLE:Threads of Unknowing
RECORD LABEL(S):20 Buck Spin

Where the insanity of the Gods’ stolen-away immortality meets the endless search for knowledge we find multi-national progressive death metal quartet VoidCeremony aiming for their own dark empyrean ache of meaning on this luxuriously dissociative second full-length album. ‘Threads of Unknowing‘ almost unwittingly speaks to the ailment of ambition through fantastically blurred worlds built, a still tenebrous escapist sight framed by ebulliently stated shred metal and draining-loose sojourn. It is a listening experience which appears mindful only of its direction and run-on statements to start, ultimately aiming for a pristine ouroboric result rather than any truly tuneful countenance. As far as the ‘old school’ progressive death metal fandom is concerned it will be a mighty showing of technique up front and a frothing mass beyond, a feat built upon spectacular arcs of page-scouring, pen whipping in-the-moment bloom of the psyche largely by way of rhythmic inspiration.


TITLE:Beliefs of Dead Stargazers and Soothsayers
RECORD LABEL(S):Rotted Life Records,
Memento Mori

The ‘old school’ death metal fandom at large will recognize familiar shapes, cruelest strikes of horrifying detail in bursts within the spiral of guts and grime-stricken high-rate riffcraft as the a mysterious haze of Brisbane, Australia-based quartet Pustilence generates their hellish whorl. ‘Beliefs of Dead Stargazers and Soothsayers‘ offers a blunt merger between the best traditions and their own curvaceous line drawn outside the box. Relying upon hideously distorted visions of the past to inform their esoteric choices today these fellowes present the apex standard of classic death metal one step beyond its commercial peak, the mid-1990’s, as this impressive debut full-length manages not only elite-level craft but continues to build atop an unsettling lore, an estranged realm of brutality all their own.


TITLE:Weary Traveler
RECORD LABEL(S):King Volume Records

Classic rock aplomb, 80’s heavy metal guile, a pro-level stoner metal sonic spread and a hit of modern heavy/doom metal’s revisionist anthemic focus all keep Faerie Ring rolling forth ensuring their appeal is multifaceted yet honed to a point of seamless, soulful hi-fi heavy rock elegance. These folks have what so many other stoney, heavy rocking and doomed sorta bands don’t: A good picker when it comes to the riffs that actually go to tape and nothing makes the cut here on their second album unless it serves key gusto in support of big, inherently memorable songs that slosh and buzz as they flow together. Though their combination of classic forms is curiously atypical to some degree the affect of the music is wholly recognizable as a heavy rock ’til heavy metal comedown viewed from ‘sword and planet‘ gazing eyes. For those in the know this record’ll be a stunning but not unheard of transformation rendered in real time, an admirable stepping up expressly for the ears of anyone tripping the void between heavy metal and stoner/psychedelic rock these days.


RECORD LABEL(S):Willowtip Records

In their own way Roman brutal death metal quartet Devangelic meditate upon on the feeble art of self-exorcism which plagues mankind throughout history as they rip through this fourth and heaviest full-length album in unholy barrage, feeding the darkness rather than attempting to extract it. Though their work on ‘Xul‘ leaves slightly more room to breathe here and there these folks are no less relentless by nature, still brutal berserkers as evidenced by the way they’ve wrecked their way through this savagely beaten yet meticulously crafted proper brutal death record. Though there may be little hope for any meaningful evolution within the remainder of human history as the horizon dims before us… that doesn’t stop this Italian quartet from taking a considerable next step on their own impressive series of potent adaptations.


TITLE:Det förtegna förflutna
RECORD LABEL(S):Nordvis Produktion

If the goal of this album was to fill a void and revitalize a realm of black metal which is so often approximated by the strange divisions of pagan, folk, and vikingr side-questing while speaking to Swedish naturalism and heritage then consider ‘Det förtegna förflutna‘ a success. For the average listener Blodtår‘s album will more obvious read as a triumph of guitar driven and heartily melodic music in the general black metal sphere, a feat which boldly strikes at a path less trodden and never stumbles, not even for a moment. The fact that there is no amateurish, gritty or loose nodes left in their work is frankly somewhat stunning as this professional standard is a bit ridiculous for a not-so well known group on a debut full-length. It bodes well, spins well, and I’d found myself listening on repeat every chance I got over the last several weeks.


TITLE:Islands in Cosmic Darkness
RECORD LABEL(S):Chaos Records

Treviso, Italy-based black metal quartet Thysia are leagues ahead of most as scholars of the dark art of these singular constructs, strangely woven architecture built on upwards-resonant striking at meaning, which surely amounts to mayhem when staring downward. Their debut full-length album, ‘Islands in Cosmic Darkness‘, is exactingly invoked by its name as a record which strings together each piece with a satisfyingly ominous tension, paddling with great intensity in front of waves which connect each point of presentation with knotted and probing riffcraft. On each suggested island they meditate upon what took them there, a fresh dock constructed to commemorate their ongoing journey before they press on to the next, making sure not to forget where they’d been while keeping the one major current ever-alive in mind.


RECORD LABEL(S):Aesthetic Death,
Solitude Productions

Bound by the wonderment, the flesh-wrenching bite which comes in realization that even in death no grief is forgotten, we audience of bloodless ghosts anxiously weeping in the dark are readied to explore this fourth full-length album from multi-national funeral death/doom metal quartet Mesmur. On the back of the colossus, our seated-yet-shaking glide through the dissonance of the netherworld becomes the phosphorescent radiance of ‘Chthonic‘, a cinematically lumbering feat of classic funeral doom influences and majestic death/doom metal aggression in captivating, utmost meld. Though their signature is upheld in these works they are yet inarguably venturing into a distinct realm, a setting which offers its own set of possibilities as the greater delve of this fine record perpetually reveals in descent.


TITLE:Millennium of Night Bliss
RECORD LABEL(S):Memento Mori

Millennium of Night Bliss‘ feels like a lost classic of mid-90’s death metal, deeply in service to the innovations still firing off after that first step beyond the 80’s without losing their own identity developed over the last couple of decades. Because they’ve gotten this feeling so precisely right it feels like I’ve spent far more years listening to Valgrind than I have, only really catching onto their sound in 2018, and yet I can appreciate that each of their records sound a bit different per its performers or production values. This is the sort of death metal record which has some particularly strong staying power per my own tastes, especially as a perceived sister record to set next to their fourth LP, which has held up extremely well, so my [very high] recommendation naturally reflects this.


TITLE:Shambhallic Vibrations [mLP]
RECORD LABEL(S):20 Buck Spin

As a debut statement ‘Shambhallic Vibrations‘ feels entirely considered, tastefully presented and virtuosic to the point of nigh jaw dropping spectacle. The “twist” of the full event is perhaps even more impressive, an unexpected revelation from a virtually unknown project which is easily read and repeatable while still feeling like a new prospect in the modern but not history-blind world of progressive death metal. It ends up being the perfect introduction which already leaves the mind spinning with possibilities, not only for stylistic points of fusion but for the heady religious themes that give the event such a strong atmospheric focal point.


TITLE:Consuming Aberration
RECORD LABEL(S):Pulverised Records

With ‘Consuming Aberration‘ this persistent Chilean death metal crew have made good on years of work put into this beast with a properly representative, serious but still underground death metal record which speaks to the Putrid Yell way. While I do think the nuance of their craft will eventually speak louder than their stylized distortion pedal usage there is some threat that folks will hear that guitar tone and assume this us plain Swedeath worship but in fact anything beyond a casual listen will reveal a thousand-armed thrashing beast beneath the waves. This is the sort of album that wasn’t so much a grower but a lagoon of black water, a record that is much deeper than it seems and bears all sorts of monstrous innards when given a serious exploratory dive. 


TITLE:Cross. Deny. Glorify.
RECORD LABEL(S):Lavadome Productions

Cross. Deny. Glorify.‘, the third full-length from Nantes, France-based death metal band Athanatheos is the latest chapter in their conceptually driven presentation which tasks itself with revealing the long-usurped religion as the cult of greed, death and power that it has been throughout the history of the western world. Instead of endeavoring to “kill the thought on Christ” they’ve chosen a beautifully telegraphed route from reactive pre-year zero origin to the deadly corruption of power the true history of the Christian religion took within its first four hundred years. This album in particular takes us to the turning point from persecution to mainstream Christian supremacy in the era of the First Seven Ecumenical Councils ~323-392 C.E. and as the scenery becomes more elaborate so does the band’s increasingly illustrative style, careful not to woefully overstep the bounds of pure death metal action any more than they’d have to in depicting their grand vision.


TITLE:Corrosion of Hearts
RECORD LABEL(S):Prophecy Productions

Australian depressive black metal duo Austere thrive beyond the wear of time and distance, bringing themselves back to build upon their incomplete legacy with a third full-length. Rather than wallow in recreation of a past self ‘Corrosion of Hearts‘ thrives within a better rounded sonic identity, tempering the naked indulgences of yore while leaning into the gloom-ridden atmospheric values and distraught friction they are known for. Matured and melodic, this unexpected return makes a case for future miseries within its own doomed state of yearning, lifting away the charm of not-so distant nostalgia with an inarguably finest yet result.


TITLE:Ab Amitia Pulsae
RECORD LABEL(S):Purity Through Fire

The appeal of ‘Ab Amitia Pulsae‘ is clear enough from the start and restated within each song they’ve set here, memorable black metal songs which step apart from the usual cloying melodic maudlin-isms of today and strike at it with some appreciable vigor. While I am not willing to learn the German language to better understand their prose here I’d just as well understood and appreciated the unmistakable fire behind their work which may very well begin to sound more accessible and catchy than some black metal fans will be willing to engage. From my point of view Mavorim have certainly put out several good albums but this is the one that fully strikes upon greatness and as such it comes with a high recommendation.


TITLE:Drifting in the Endless Void
RECORD LABEL(S):Blues Funeral Recordings

Borlänge, Sweden-borne stoner rock quartet Dozer are a part of stoner rock/metal history per the European uptake, difficult as stoner music history can be to nail down in an agreed-upon sense. Either way, ‘Drifting in the Endless Void‘ is a great heavy rock record whether or not you were around to witness the first few waves of heat that Scandinavian musicians brought to psychedelic, stoner, and doom-adjacent music of a certain era. That said we’re not here to put heads on pikes and thump chests for any old guard, stepping into this sixth record it is clear we’re getting more than two decades of experience in performance, songcraft, and a love for much more than mumbling, fuzzy yesterdays on this invigorated return.


TITLE:Wild Rites and Ancient Songs
RECORD LABEL(S):Gates of Hell Records

Trading the hum of folkish stride and golden key’d performance for ear-grabbing, hall riling electricity Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based heavy metal quartet Blazon Rite still appear in the bardic, braggart tradition of high fantasy heavy metal but this time their story is told with shirts ripped open, swords held high and ale flavored spittle slung in boastful song. ‘Wild Rites and Ancient Songs‘ has its cautionary tales, its empowering chants, and seeming tall tales enough to impress the greater pure heavy metal fandom with their vigor but it’ll likewise catch on with folks interested in epic heavy metal storytelling and some classic heavy rock gone heavy metal spiritus. A choice example of heavy metal crafted for the sake of the song yet thoroughly considered as a full album experience.


RECORD LABEL(S):Nuclear Winter Records

The horror of the unknown overtakes the ‘ready disturbed mind as Dhaka, Bangladesh-based death metal trio Kaal Akuma return beyond their inspired plague-age debut full-length with a substantive and appreciably mutated EP. ‘Turiya‘ expands upon the classics minded, trench-hammered death they’d presented with increasingly surreal strikes at the cortex, an intentionally blurred and swerving treatment of their otherwise traditional death metal craft which marries the garage-built and noisome kick of their craft with engagingly ominous affront. Here they reach a ruinous point of intense psychological horror and savage presence, a notable totem to morbid spiritual transcendence.



<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