It’s not often that the Record(s) o’ the Month are decided before a month has already begun, but April got pretty close to being just that. In fact, I feel a little guilty about it, because the month that has been is surprisingly packed with music that I—and the other writers here—love. There wasn’t much of a fight about it, what with all the ruling with an Iron Fist of Steel™ and all, but I would like to apologize to all the contributors who reviewed awesome stuff this month which is getting ignored on this list. I’m sure your complaints will be aired aggressively in the comment section. I’m glad I’ve given you something to get your blood pumping. I’ve heard that sitting around reading metal blogs all day is bad for your health.
For the second time in as many records Haken has earned my Record o’ the Month. Affinity [which was admirably reviewed by El Cuervo due to me not being able to deliver] is a shining example of a band who’s investigating its sound—feeling along the edges for the boundaries of its personality and figuring out where it can develop. This album takes a nostalgic look back to the 1980s—despite being mastered very much like it’s 2016—and blends it beautifully with their sound. Rather than feeling campy or cheap, the obvious influences are an homage that’s fun to listen to; poppy, but not simple. Affinity is a balanced and brilliant album. A band which can balance the 15 minute and 40 second “The Architect”—which is loaded with techy goodness and an intro befitting of Symphony X—with “1985” and the Anathema-laced “Bound by Gravity” is a band at the height of their game.1 Affinity is an enormous achievement and a brilliant album. I’ve heard the vinyl mix of The Mountain is elite, so I hold out hope that my only complaint about this album will be fixed when I get it on wax.
Moonsorrow // Jumalten aika — Two of my favorite bands releasing albums in the same month is a bitter pill to swallow when I have to rank them in Record(s) o’ the Month later on. Jumalten aika is a damned fine album from Finland’s finest folky answer to the slow loris. While the wait was long, and I expressed slight reservations about the future direction of the band, I was surprised that people took those comments as me being negative. So let me clarify: this record is great, guys. I believe that I gushed unreservedly that “Jumalten aika is a great album from a band eminently talented. This album is 67 minutes of engaging, beautiful, and epic music; a masterclass in how atmospheric—and folky—black metal should be done.” With a tongue bath like that, I’m surprised that anyone thought I was being critical at all.
SIG:AR:TYR // Northen — Steel Druhm has been occupying my lawn for weeks screaming “SIG:AR:TYR!” every time I leave the house.2 So I finally managed to get around to listening to the album—mainly so that immigration officials wouldn’t have to deport him, as that would be awkward for everyone—and I must say that I was impressed. From an interesting thematic perspective (see: Moonsorrow and Mistur), Viking/pagan and/or folk metal seems to have had an epic breakthrough during April. Northen takes me back to a time when men were men and drum machine sounded like drum machines and there’s something refreshing and honest about the writing. And that there Steel Druhm wasn’t totally cracked when he emphatically declared that “Northen is a near flawless album and a musical tour de force that manages to remain faithful to the Viking metal genre while elevating it to a whole other realm. As immersive and cohesive an album as you’ll ever encounter, if this doesn’t earn SIG:AR:TYR their due, then there is no justice in the metal world.”
Record that Would Be on the List if I’d Reviewed It
Mistur // In Memoriam — This was on my list to review and then life happened. I will still get around to it, but I have to mention this album because it’s really, really good. Mistur is the post-Windir band I have always hoped for. They root their sound in those legendary pagan black metallers while updating it for 2016. In Memoriam is 56 minutes of some of the best melodic metal from Scandinavia that I’ve heard in a decade. The riffs and melodies are sharp, and chuggy transitions evoke Månegarm and Thyrfing. These guys, too, call on that old scene while blending in proggy and melodic elements—organs and clean vocals—and writing ridiculously long songs. Unlike Moonsorrow, though, Mistur isn’t going anywhere slowly. In Memoriam is a power charged ride, chock full of everything I want to hear from Scandy metal bands. Every song is excellent, but “The Sight” and “Tears of Remembrance” are elite tracks which end the album on ecstatic note. Do not sleep on Mistur.