The life of the unpaid, overworked metal reviewer is not an easy one. Cascading promos, unreasonable deadlines, draconian editors and the unwashed metal mobs – it makes for a swirling maelstrom of music and madness. In all that tumult, errors are bound to happen and sometimes our initial impression of an album may not be completely accurate. With time and distance comes wisdom, and so we’ve decided to pull back the confessional curtain and reveal our biggest blunders, missteps, oversights and ratings face-plants. Consider this our sincere AMGea culpa. Redemption is retroactive, forgiveness is mandatory.

On September 18th, it will mark four years since Vattnet Viskar‘s Sky Swallower, my first-ever review, was published here at Angry Metal Guy. In that time frame, I’ve written over 200 reviews and think pieces for the best metal blog on the Internet. But in those four years, I accept my scoring abilities weren’t flawless, despite my grumpy half-feline nature reflecting otherwise. Some albums were rated well (at the time) until they became soundtracks to my life, and others were rated well (at the time) until I completely forgot about them, or they lost their impact over repeated plays. Today, I look at five albums that needed re-scoring.

Before you ask, no, Killing Joke isn’t on this list.

Underrated!

Darkher - RealmsWhen I was slated to review Darkher‘s debut album last year, I was blown away by how Jayn H. Wissenberg’s simplistic approach to moody music would put most doom metal legends to shame. At the time, my chief complaint was the production, especially as it related to Shaun Taylor-Steel’s (My Dying Bride) drumming. Realms earned both the score it received, as well as the Record o’ the Month honor for August.

But I’ll be damned if I can get the damn thing to leave my CD player1 over a year later. I originally stated that Realms was a perfect album for a rainy day, or a cold winter evening. Honestly, I listen to it when it rains, gets cold, gets sunny, becomes overbearingly hot, or just because it’s a well-crafted album that gets everyone to shut up and take notice whenever I play it. 4.5 is too low a score for something that silences and enchants people. Hence…

Original Score: 4.5
Adjusted Score: 5.0


Vainaja VerenvalajaSpeaking of albums that refuse to leave my CD player or psyche, Vainaja‘s Verenvalaja topped my Top Ten(ish) list for 2016 with ease. There are two kinds of doom metal that win my blackened heart over: the mopey, melodic kind that tugs at the heartstrings, and the kind that instills the feeling of dread, like when a terrible creature is 100% going to kill you, and there ain’t shit you can do about it. Verenvalaja is the latter kind of doom. My one qualm about the album was the lack of variety in the tempos.

Again, hindsight. There isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t listen to Verenvalaja at least three times. Taken as individual songs or as a whole, it’s not a long album, so those slightly-over 40 minutes turn into an afternoon of replaying the album again and again. And that production is perfection. Just like this album.

Original Score: 4.5
Adjusted Score: 5.0


Overrated!

I know, I know. When Heartless dropped a few months ago, I was won over by the stronger production, Pallbearer‘s slight adoption of progressive overtones, and the retention of their trademark heft. In my original review, I stated that I honestly didn’t know how to rank this against their previous album, the near-flawless Foundations of Burden. More than likely, a few more months would pass before I could render proper judgment, and a few more listens would be required.

Well, months passed and listens were made. Their stronger songs on here definitely rank among the best (“A Plea for Understanding” and “Dancing in Madness” are phenomental), and that production is better than Foundation‘s smothered sound. But while “Ashes” grew on me a bit from Foundations, I never play “Cruel Road” or the title track to Heartless at all. And while the album is still very good, I can’t honestly call it “4.5 good” if I’m skipping tracks. Sorry, guys.

Original Score: 4.5
Adjusted Score: 3.5


Ahh, Anaal NathrakhDesideratum was unrelenting, uncompromising, and unhinged when it laid waste to my eardrums back in 2014. The much-respected Birmingham duo crafted, at the time, an album that could potentially throw their fanbase into a frenzy while upping their game as musicians and lyricists. I fell in love almost immediately, proclaiming that it was stronger than the two albums, Passion and Vanitas.

To their credit, it was stronger than either of those two albums, but nowhere near the level of insanity that was 2009’s future Yer Metal is Olde candidate In the Constellation of the Black Widow, and was definitely dwarfed by Desideratum‘s immediate follow-up, the timely and poignant The Whole of the Law from last year. In fact, “Idol,” “The One Thing Needful,” and “Unleashed” are the only songs I return to from Desideratum. Good, but lacking in comparison to those two albums.

Original Score: 4.0
Adjusted Score: 3.0


Of all the reviews that I look back on in hindsight, To Our Glorious Dead by Canadian kitchen-sink metallers Will of the Ancients would rank as the most baffling. At the time, I was enamored by the audacity to combine every influence, no matter how disparate, onto one album. Also, the goofy-but-fun sing-along during “The Trapper” and the Wintersun-esque and majestic “The Stars Like Dusk” proved that Will of the Ancients could throw so many influences together and put out something of worth.

But this album didn’t age well at all. In fact, listening to it now, I’m cringing a bit. There’s just too many style changes, and other than the clean vocals near the end of “The Trapper” and the ending chants of “The Stars Like Dusk,” they aren’t good. It’s a shame, too, as there’s a bit of charm here that could really shine if they tightened the ship a bit.

Original Score: 4.0
Adjusted Score: 2.5

Show 1 footnote

  1. Yes, I bought it after reviewing the album. Support your favorite artists, gang!

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  • Gage

    Yet another reason to stop giving scores in the first place.

    • ssorg

      I disagree — it’s a good first-order filter for the constant deluge of new metal. I read almost all reviews over 3.0, then listen and try to judge for myselt

      • Gage

        I like the “terrible” “average” “good” “great” system better tbh

        • Grymm

          There should be a “Good buuuuuuuut…” rating, as I’ve been getting a shit-ton of those albums lately.

        • Nag Dammit

          Don’t forget “meh”, “pants” and “fandabbydozey”.

          • Monsterth Goatom

            This was my suggested rating system in the ratings post in the AMG forum:

            How about:
            5 – The bee’s knees
            4 – Jeepers, it’s swell
            3 – It’s OK by me!
            2 – Aw, shucks
            1 – Make the bad man stop!

        • Alexandre Barata

          So instead of 1 you’d use terrible, of 2, average, and so on. So you prefer a numeric score that replaces the numbers by adjectives, but in the end it’s exactly the same thing :P

        • defjam

          There’s also a special category called Amaranthe

    • Boo-urns!

    • I like the scores. You can read a review and say “Yeah, they liked it” but how much did they like it? I enjoy quantifying things. Today has been a 2. Yesterday was a 2.5.

      • But your 2 is my 1.5. And his 3.0 is hers 2.5. And then there is Thatguy’s 5.0 which is really a 4.2 in my book. But of course I spoke with AMG and I’m pretty sure his 2.0 is mine as well except when it’s power metal – then it’s 1.5. I don’t know, but yeah, scores are great.

        • ssorg

          I kinda feel there should be a community scoring system too. Like on Rotten Tomatoes, you know that critic rating >> audience rating means a boring movie that is interesting only to people who watch too many movies. Conversely audience rating >> critic rating means a fun as hell movie that does little to advance the art

          • It’s called rateyourmusic.com!

        • True, numbers will be subjective but given that the entire review is subjective I’m OK with that.

    • Danny

      Scores are useful in that they are a subjective but precise way for an reviewer to summarize how much they like and recommend a record. A written review that discusses strengths and weaknesses without a score can leave confusion as to how exactly those pros and cons balance against each other. Sometimes praise is quick and easy to make, but criticisms take more work to flesh out and explain. This can lead to reviews where most of the words are negative even though the review itself is positive because the weaknesses require a greater volume of words (the opposite is possible as well). A score cuts through this confusion quite simply.

      Of course, we could just use a bad-average-good-great system, but that’s just numbers with words on them and not meaningfully different. In my experience the 5/5 system here is detailed enough to allow for strong distinctions to be made without becoming pedantic, though YMMV there. It really helps that there’s been a whole ton of navel gazing round these parts to really strongly define what each score means and to make scoring consistent across reviewers.

  • AndySynn

    I’d agree that you’ve overrated “Desideratum” there but, in the very same breath, I think you underrate “Vanitas”.

    Shame, shame!!!

    • Grymm

      Vanitas > Desideratum.

      However, In the Constellation of the Black Widow > (Vanitas + Desideratum). But I love that band.

      • AndySynn

        I would say while “Constellation” is probably the better album, I listen to “Vanitas” more. And NOT just because of “Forging…”

        • Grymm

          I prefer “In Coelo Quies, Tout Finis Ici Bas” myself, but it is a good album.

          • AndySynn

            It’s all about “A Metaphor for the Dead” for me.

        • Alexandre Barata

          Domine Non Es Dignus is my personal favorite. It was also the album that introduced me to Anaal, so there’s that. But there’s no song in Domine that I don’t enjoy, while Constellation has a couple that I don’t really like. Still, Desideratum is probably my least favorite Anaal album

          • That’s my favorite as well, I like the more “death metal” guitar tone on it plus the songs are all kickass!

  • dduuurrrr dddduuuurrrr

    I’m the only person in the world for whom Passion is Anaal’s best album. I love it. It’s so damn weird and has so much character.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      It’s been a while. I’ll have to revisit that one. I know Happy Metal Guy was impressed with Vanitas, but, whether or not he still feels that way we’ll probably never know….

      • Ask him when he gets back from sabbatical.

    • LordZaltar

      There are dozens of us! Dozens!

  • Grymm, your revision of the Heartless record is spot on. I love the way it sounds but I wish the source material was stronger. And Anaal is well…Anaal….yawn…I still regret not putting Darkher on my year end list though.

    • Grymm

      I loved Heartless at first, but those two songs never clicked with me.

      • basenjibrian

        I just can’t get it. I try, because everyone raves about it, but it…bores me.
        I am not sure I would rate it above 2.5.

  • metalcasket

    Grymm…curious about one thing: Does Heartless dropping to 3.5 impact your opinion on Impure Wilhelmina? IIRC, they were both in the running for your AOTY, but I’m presuming the change of…wait for it…heart (I’ll show myself out) was pretty recent.

    • Leave the hall.

      • metalcasket

        That won’t be necessary. I am already burned and died.

    • Grymm

      Nah, I’m still playing Radiation almost daily. It’s still a forerunner, but we still have four months out of the year left!

      • AgonMcDuck

        Have to agree on Pallbearer, sadly. I still much prefer Foundations of Burden, even if I think that “A Plea for Understanding” is the best thing they’ve released to date. But yeah, as far as I’m concerned, Radiation is top-three good. It is competing with the Bestia Arcana and Dodecahedron records for my top spot, and while it doesn’t shock and awe me as much as either of those two, damn if I haven’t been spinning it more than those. (Admittedly, though, the new Attic and Der Weg einer Freiheit are also gripping me right now).

        Speaking of Bestia Arcana, really hoping for a TYMHM on Holókauston at some point. It’s just too damn good to not get any love on here.

  • The Akerstache

    This is probably my favorite feature on AMG at the moment. It’s really a treat to be able to read the reflections of past reviews and watch the change dramatically over time. Great read!

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Funny, I happened to listen to Desideratum today, remembering the good score you gave it. It’s pretty much everything you expect from AN, but agree that it can’t touch Law and has none of the latter’s great Wow moments (the choir arrangements, the quirky song structures). I still think Desideratum’s intro track is pretty cool, though.

  • The Unicorn

    Pallbearer part- tears. Unicorn tears of disappoint.

    • Robert Cochran

      Yeah, Heartless is a 5!

      • The Unicorn

        It is for me as well. This band and Khemmis blow my mind.

        • defjam

          Hunted>Heartless

        • Robert Cochran

          I completely agree. Nothing else has come close to Heartless for me in terms of this years releases.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    At 3.5, I think this Heartless is in the right place.

  • Cherd

    I’m noticing a pattern of doom albums being demoted in all CMG installments so far (Alunah, Swallow the Sun, *gasp* Pallbearer). Are we on the downward slope of peak doom?

    • Doom is a wicked and fickle mistress.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      With Doom, it’s always a question of how low can you go.

      • Cherd

        I see. Like, the worse it makes me feel, the better it is. Translated to scores, that means a lower score means it’s better doom, and THAT means Stump Tail Dolly made the best doom album this year? I’ve never been good at maths.

        • Monsterth Goatom

          Aiiieeee!

        • Nukenado

          You forgot Blind Seer?
          That album WAS the sound of impending doom.

    • Ivan E. Rection

      Only until the new Spirit Adrift lands.

      • Let’s not forget about Monolord. Please keep up.

    • Nukenado

      Darkher and Vainaja are doom too.

  • HeavyMetalHamster

    Ok…dammit….I’m going to give Darkher one more chance to win me over!!! Maybe I need to lay off the Effexor to really have it grab me by the short hairs……

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Seeing Darkher here reminds me that Myrkur has a new one coming mid-month.

    • Grymm

      I cannot wait to hear it.

      Also, the new Chelsea Wolfe album is a week or two away.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        No way! Great.

      • Eli Valcik

        I always preferred Darkher to band like Mykur and Wolfe. Even though the experimental black metal parts of Mykur’s songs are pretty great.

        • Master of Muppets

          Same, but I’m ridiculously excited to hear the Mykur tracks with Chelsea Wolfe, that album’s getting my money and that’s all there is to it.

    • AndySynn

      I’ve heard it… it’s pretty good, but I think I prefer the first album in all honesty. The songs on album #2 just all seem a little truncated, for some reason.

      And the last track is just straight up AWFUL.

      • ToddRob64

        SPOILERS MAN, SPOLIERS!!

        • AndySynn

          Think of it less as “spoilers” and more “a dire warning of things to come”.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        That’s a shame. She was really on a roll. Btw, great finds on your latest Short but Sweet post.

        • AndySynn

          Ah, thanks. Entombment was recommended to me by one of the Toilet ov Hell guys, I played a show with the main guy from Iron Flesh when he was drumming for Mithras, and we kept in touch afterwards, which is how I found out about that, and Seprevation I already knew about as a band, but found out about their new EP release via a random facebook post.

  • Levly

    Pallbearer has never been my thing, but I agree that the last one was better than this one (really boring overall).
    For Desideratum, I don’t know, it’s their most melodic album and they really write catchy melodies, while keeping their style (although I agree that on their scale it’s a little tame), so I still quite like it. Live, though, the Whole of the Law quicks much more ass.
    Darkher and Vainaja’s record are some of the most unique records in my collection, and most memorable for sure, even though their utter bleakness is not what I look for most in Metal.

    Anyway, this feature is awesome, distance always affects records and it’s great for the best Metal crew on the internet to offer these retrospections (and Yer Metal is Olde).

  • ocab19

    I love that you guys are being honest and humble enough to admit that you make mistakes with the ratings sometimes, but why don’t you edit the original posts so the new scores are reflected?

    • We aren’t really changing the scores, just admitting we would do things differently in hindsight.

      • Eli Valcik

        But you’ve changed scores in the past, like that one Shining record.

        • AMG might have done that once or twice in the early days but we aren’t doing revisions now. These pieces let us concede mistakes but scores are forever.

          • Eli Valcik

            Makes sense, I’ll buy it.

          • RDGEEK

            Would be nice to provide a link in the original to the updated commentary.

      • Philip Pledger

        Still, it would be helpful to add these blurbs and adjusted scores to the ends of reviews. People do browse this site’s backlog of reviews when looking to make purchases, and they would appreciate having that kind of information.

    • HeavyMetalHamster

      I agree….I am humble enough to admit they made some mistakes…

  • Darkher never really connected with me. Now after reading your post (and I love these articles, keep ‘m coming) I will get back to it, give it another chance. Also I agree with Pallbearer, sometimes you just want the album to be better than it is in reality.

  • Eli Valcik

    I’m happy that I agree with all of these. I am a bit surprised by the 5.0 given to Vainaja though. I fucking love Darkher’s Realms, it totally deserves that 5.0. I’m pissed that Pallbearer went all proggy on my ass.

  • You wot m8?

    I was so very confused when that Anaal Nathrakh album came out. It was very much a “just okay” album for me, and generally I’m all about their style of darkness. Honestly, I would even drop it to a 2.5, just because I only think I only ever made it through the whole album once, but to each their own.

    Loving this new feature, keep up the good works!

  • De2013

    These retrospectives are excellent.

  • Eli Valcik

    Starting to look a bit like HMG there Grymm. You better watch your back and avoid any company mandated “sabbaticals”

  • PLB

    Also love this new feature. Can’t wait for the adjusted score of the Hinder review.

  • AjmsaenZ

    I’ve tried countless times to get into Darkher, but for the love of Jorn, I haven´t been able to, it just doesn´t grab me.

  • Lou Daz

    Agree completely with the Pallbearer verdict.

  • Waiting for the chief (AMG) to write his mea culpa.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Grymmly fiendish!
    I reckon 3.5 is a fair score for Heartless. It’s not quite as strong an album as Foundations… Which is great.
    Your underrated choices are fanboyishly funny!
    Love this feature nice work AMG peeps!

  • galtenberg

    Agreed on the overrateds, now checking out the underrateds

  • John Mosley

    I totally agree on Pallbearer and Vainaja on both accounts.

  • RDGEEK

    Also liking this new feature. That said, I disagree with the specific revision of Heartless. 3.5 is too low. More like 4.0. I’m also unable to really care about “The Plea for Understanding” but I do think “Cruel Road” is ok. Go figure.

    Just saw them in July and was really blown away by the complexity of the parts they write for themselves.

    • Cherd

      The songs on this album were tremendous live. Better than the recording. I also don’t particularly like Plea for Understanding (a little too stadium rock) or Cruel Road, but Plea was, again, much better live.

  • Kryopsis

    I was frantically searching for a glove to initiate a duel over the revised Desideratum score but then was forced to concede the point because I too only listen to ‘Idol’, ‘The One Thing Needful’ and ‘Unleashed’. It’s true that the follow-up was better.

  • Eli Valcik

    So when is Sulphur Aeon’s Gateway going to be moved up to a 5.0 and Khemmis’s Absolution moved to a 4.5?

    • Baltech

      Yes to both of these.

    • Dudeguy Jones

      See, for me “Swallowed” was a 5.0. “Gateway” was a 4.0-4.5 indeed. :P

    • John

      Couldn’t agree more on gateway. That cd is still on heavy rotation in my car.

      • Kryopsis

        I am honestly surprised that so many Metal fans still use CDs. I figured by now most people would see them as individually-wrapped beer coasters.

        • Nukenado

          I think a physical copy adds to the satisfaction of the purchase.

          • basenjibrian

            I will buy CDs if the packaging is particularly special. Behemoth, for instance. I am too careless…of the throw the cd on the car floor school…to choose cds on the whole though. Mea culpa

          • Nukenado

            Hah, I’m not a big user of the CD personally. It’s mostly for archiving and falling back on in case of hard drive failure.

        • Marc Rikmenspoel

          I have around 500 CDs, and OMG are they heavy and a pain im the ass to move around. I ripped them to MP3s and have around 200 albums as digital-only. They’re all on my computer and external drive backup, and the best are on a micro SD card in my tablet. But I haven’t gotten rid of the CDs. Why? Because I’m a collector and pack rat, and never get rid of anything. But I do adapt…

  • I love this new section, but… Pallbearer > Darkher. Opinions are opinions, and I enjoy both albums, but when I compare “Lie of Survival” to “Moths” (as an example) there’s only one of those two I think is an outstanding classic song and the other a simple 3-chord ballad that I happen to like.

  • Chris

    Agree on Vainaja, but completely disagree on Pallbearer and AN. While “Heartless” isn’t as strong as “Foundations of Burden”, both are fantastic. And I actually prefer “Desideratum” to “Whole of the Law”, and realize I’m probably in the minority on that one. If you don’t spin “Joystream” every time you get the chance, something is wrong with you.

    I never could get into Darkher, and would put that one as overrated at either of those scores.

  • Nukenado

    I’m going to see if Mark Z regrets giving King Apathy a 5.0.
    I mean, pulling a White W*zzard is one thing, but not giving the 5.0 record the No. 1 spot on that year’s Top 10 list seemed a little bit bad in hindsight.

  • Baltech

    As the perception of a record can change months or even years down the line, I really appreciate this feature. I wouldn’t even call them mistakes as such. Sometimes a record just needs more time to sink in and sometimes you can’t anticipate an album taking over your life completely.

  • Arjan Zwamborn

    Your ‘underrated’-s are a little safe, Grymm. Both albums you were already crazy about and took the liberty to praise them further.

    Are there no albums you gave an actual low rating that of which you think you were not in the right at this moment?

    I like the current piece but I’m curious for actual mistakes.

  • herrschobel

    great section….still Pallbearer did´t get what they deserve…..which would be a 2.5 – 3.0 Score….those guys are so boooooooring…

  • Frost15

    Completely agree with this edition of CMG! Specially Vainaja’s, which has not left my portable DAP either!

  • Serjien

    I feel like since AMG is comprised of many writers with different backgrounds and tastes, in order for albums to deserve a perfect score it should have at least 2/3 support from the rest of the AMG conclave. Dishing out 5.0’s is a bit of a slippery slope and as someone mentioned, this will turn into HMG! Just my $0.02 anyways, I still enjoy these posts!

  • basenjibrian

    Listening to Realms tonight. Wow. 5.0 for sure. I bought it when it came out and I cant understand why it did not click at all back then????

  • Sean Sky

    Really glad you dropped Pallbearer down… I thought that album was just too boring overall, despite having some really good tracks on it. Darkher is very good but I don’t know if I’d call it 5.0 good, personally. Big fan of Vainaja, though.

  • Madonna

    Does bumping a 4.5 up to a 5 really count as an admission of error? So far, everyone who has contributed to “Contrite Metal Guy” has failed to admit any real error in judgement. Yes, please flagellate yourselves with modest adjustments to albums you already scored too highly

  • garion333

    Yup, love these features.