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.

Haken - Affinity

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.

Runner(s) up:

Moonsorrow - Jumalten aikaMoonsorrow //  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 - NorthenSIG: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 MemoriamMistur // 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.

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Kudos to the band for the subtle quotes from The Mountain on “Red Giant,” as well. So cool.
  2. He even pronounces the colon, and you’ll never guess what happens next!
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  • Fazy

    Bloody hell, this is not good, I am getting used to AMG RotM arriving on time. Sorry, Jorn Druhm!

    Mmm, Mistur… Let’s look into that.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    I’ve found that motion-sensored sprinklers are good for keeping cats and apes off your lawn.

  • Dr. A.N. Grier

    Well, I’ll be damned… I agree with everything on this list!

  • hazukihachi

    The proggy thing… I just can’t do it

  • Ben Harris

    What is wrong with me? I’ve liked everything Haken has done. I’m not impressed with Affinity yet. I must be missing something. I have to be.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    Where HAVE you been? You haven’t reviewed anything since the last Ihsahn record.

    • Eh, bad news.

      • André Snyde Lopes

        Damn. Your minions are doing a good job, don’t worry.

  • Rabble rabble MANTAR! rabble rabble

  • Tom Hardy

    No Plebeian Grandstand with a 4.5 over a Moonsorrow’s 4.0? *pat pat* Kronos.

    The list lacks any form of brutal music.

    • Blah blah blah blah blah. Why don’t you get your stunt man to post comments. It would be more giving for everyone.

  • Eryops

    Listening (and “watching”) the Mistur _Distant Peaks_ lyric video, and boy it it cringeworthy — It reminds me of Vegan Black Metal Chef. I wish bands would stop with the lyric videos. They’re dumb, and would be much better served with imagery swirling around and putting the lyrics in the description.

  • Mistur sounds an awful lot like Opeth. Maybe not as boring.

    I also hear Storm of the Light’s Bane worship. Prefer Hyperion to this.

    • Diego Molero

      Opeth… Boring?…

      • Yeah I know, but I think everyone can agree Opeth has some dull moments. I personally just can’t get through an album of theirs without wanting to skip a track or two. I’m sorry ok? I want to love Opeth. I just can’t.

        • Bart the Repairman

          Well, I can’t agree. I want to agree. I just can’t.

      • Thatguy

        They have been boring for the last two albums. Boring re-Prog – that’s my word of the day – re-Prog – ugly word, innit?

    • Hey, when was the last time Opeth had a blast beat on a record?

      • Diego Molero

        I miss that side of Opeth though, I like both sides A LOT, but It would be nice if the next record had some heavy stuff.

      • Thatguy

        Too long ago.

  • Meat Tornado

    Probably killing myself now that Moonsorrow isn’t the RotM.

    • sssgadget

      Same here!! Affinity just doesn’t cut it unfortunately. Oh well that’s they are called “Opinions”. :/

    • Oh calm down.

      • Meat Tornado

        I’ll do it.

  • Pimpolho

    I am disappointed with this list. Not because of the albums here presented, but because it is the confirmation that our mighty lord AMG has been replaced. THE MONTH IS NOT EVEN OVER.

    • Tom Hardy

      Exactly, it’s still the 30th in a few continents ain’t it mate?

    • Soon the site shall be renamed Proggy Metal Guy Who Can Be Grumpy From Time to Time. It’s still him though, it’s just Kronos’ law of hippietude.

      • Nah, I’ve always loved prog. And I have to say that Mistur is THIS close to displacing it.

        • AlphaBetaFoxface

          do it, do it, do it

    • This is the 4th month in a row, btw.

      • Pimpolho

        Complete a year or we RIOT!

  • Levly

    I don’t have any complaint about the records chosen because they are all wonderful, but I wished Novembre could also get a shout out for Ursa, it’s a beautiful piece of art, moody, melodic and unique.

    Also, omg Mistur sounds amazing! I knew instantly it was something special and the record is already purchased :). Now I can’t wait to listen and re-listen to it :D!!! Surely the second great find of the year after Hyperion.

  • Kronos

    Not brutal enough! But I’ll take it. Haken was sort of a forgone conclusion; it’s great.

    • AlphaBetaFoxface

      Howls of Ebb, Zealotry, Plebeian Grandstand…

      It’s been a pretty damb solid month for metal

  • Goodbye, Opeth’s Pale Communion. You have been a pretty and warm sight on the frontpage for more than a year. See you on the other side!

    • The Calgary Nerd.

      I think he kept it there just to troll you.

  • Akira Watts

    Schammasch’s Triangle is pretty fucking outstanding. But it *did* come out only yesterday and takes a serious amount of time to wrap one’s head about. Can’t disagree with the contents of the list otherwise.

    • Tom Hardy

      It sure is, I pre-ordered it and the songs are great. Outside of Roquetin, I don’t think anyone on the board would be into the real underground as much. There’s another album that came out today that knocks the socks off everything reviewed on the site this month but there’s not enough harsher, brutal metal being featured. It’s a specific audience for sure that’re being catered to and the food establishment has cooks to cater to those needs only, fortunately or unfortunately. There’s also the volume any restaurant has to think about. Do they serve just burgers or do you have every kind of food in your catalog of a menu? I’d imagine this particular restaurant as supposed to be the kind that’s supposed to serve global food but instead, it can only feature a limited flair of items.

      • “I don’t think anyone on the board would be into the real underground as much.” You’re so trve.

    • THREE RECORDS NO FUCK YOU

      • Akira Watts

        Don’t think of it as three records. Think of it as 100 minutes.

        • Diego Molero

          It’s still to long…

          • Akira Watts

            Matter of taste. I find the three albums have a distinct enough sound that it doesn’t get fatiguing. Still, 100 minutes is 100 minutes. Not everyone’s cup of tea.

        • I love how the length of the hour stood in the way of them successfully making their record evil. Made me lol.

      • Shangsean

        Nothing wrong with 3 records if the music is good. If a band I liked released a triple album of good music, I’d be in heaven.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Seems to be becoming a trend. It’s probably only a matter of time before we see a four-record release.

      • Thatguy

        It’s only three records if you want it to be.

      • I can find no flaw in this statement.

    • Herring

      You better review this one guys. Or I’ll be disappointed. Fantastic stuff, doesn’t have to sound evil throughout either. In fact that’s why I love it, and think it’s miles better than Contradiction.

  • tomasjacobi

    I was sure Moonsorrow would be RotM, but I agree that “Affinity” is an amazing album so Haken it is… (I absolutely love the ’80s sound)
    “Northern”, while not bad, hasn’t really grabbed my attention the few times I’ve tried to listen to it, so I would replace it with Ihsahn “Arktis” which I’ve REALLY enjoyed.
    Mistur sounds great, but I’m only listening to them now for the first time, so we’ll see.

    • Diego Molero

      I have to say that I have really enjoy Arktis. a lot as well, every spin that I give it and I like it more and more.

  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    That Mistur record is some mighty fine stuff. My personal RotM. Loved new Plebeian Grandstand, Moonsorrow, and SIG:AR:TYR, but am gonna need more time with Haken before I decide my thoughts on it. Been a pretty fantastic month for metal, I’d say!

  • Julien Robitaille

    No love for CoL? Awww…

    • The new album with Julie Christmas is by far their favorite of mine. Love it, and absolute AOTM for me (although I really love Zhrine, Sinistro and Deftones).

    • JohnC

      They didn’t review it, which I too am kind of disappointed in, but I feel like it will be on the things we missed list if anything.

      • Julien Robitaille

        I know they didn’t review it, but considering they had Vertikal as ROTM 3 years ago, I figured they would at the very least acknowledge Mariner’s existence. Oh well…

  • dduuurrrr dddduuuurrrr

    Really sorely missing Plebeian Grandstand and Howls of Ebb.

    Both of those are pretty likely to end up on my EOTY list.

    • dduuurrrr dddduuuurrrr

      Ihsahn love faded pretty quickly too it seems.

      Has anyone else heard of Zeal and Ardor? He released an album this month too that is… spectacularly interesting. It’s in the style of slave hymnals combined with black metal… the closest thing I can compare it to is Panopticon’s Kentucky album.

      • Meriyas

        Devil is Fine… I’ll have to give it a listen, it sounds interesting. Thanks!

    • Monsterth Goatom

      Oh man, Howls of Ebb. Amazing stuff.

    • dduuurrrr dddduuuurrrr

      I really can’t wait for the next album of the month post, that Haken cover is really hideous all blown up as the page background.

  • Yay, we get a 80’s casette tape cover as background for this month.

    Seriously though, Haken really delivered some awesome stuff in “Affinity”. Overall, this month had a ton of good releases, but I did miss SIG:AR:TYR, will definitely check them out

  • Nick Maestas

    Must listen to the new Haken album, I listened to mountain when I read the review for it like 2 years ago and it was really good.

  • Nick Maestas

    People that don’t like this list don’t know AMG’s love for prog hahahahaha

  • Kryopsis

    I spent most of April listening to Ihsahn’s Arktis. I keep coming back to it again and again. In fact, I listened to it on my way to see Exmortus / Entombed AD / Amon Amarth yesterday and then once again on my way back.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      That looks like a trvly excellent gig! Arktis is pretty unlucky not to be here. I’ve really enjoyed it too

      • Kryopsis

        The new AA drummer set up his forest of drums inside a giant, hollowed-out, historically inaccurate viking helmet (with horns and red glowy eyes). Behind him was a massive backlit banner depicting the ‘Jomsviking’ album cover. It was eventually changed to the cover of ‘Surtur Rising’ and later, a depiction of Asgardian deities battling. The band paced around a massive stone stairway built around the helm and played the better half of ‘Jomsviking’ as well as a set-list highlighting nearly 2 decades of hits: ‘Death in Fire’, ‘Runes to my Memory’, ‘Cry of the Black Birds’, ‘Twilight of the Thunder God’, ‘Guardians of Asgard’, ‘War of the Gods’, ‘Deceiver of the Gods’, ‘Father of the Wolf’… For the latter, Hegg briefly disappeared off-stage and emerged in a horned helmet and cloak. While performing ‘Twilight of the Thundergod’, he waved a huge hammer. During ‘The Way of Vikings’, two swordsmen clad in chainmail and viking helms fought each-other on stage and they later returned for ‘One Thousand Burning Arrows’, this time wielding bows. Halfway throughout the show the stage manager emerged with a cake, as it was Hegg’s birthday. Hegg shared the cake with the band before unceremoniously pitching the rest into the mosh pit… Needless to say, it was a very memorable evening and the band is incredible live!

        • Carlos Marrickvillian

          Man that sounds awesome! I hope they come to Australia on this tour.
          Ishan probably seemed quite mellow after that…

        • That drummer played in Vomitory. Those guys were great.

          • Kryopsis

            Thanks! His performance was masterful and I felt bad for not remembering his name, even though Hegg introduced him at the beginning.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    I can’t really complain about this list Moonsorrow, Ishan and Sig:Ar:Tyr would be my pick…though I’ve not heard Haken or Mistur.
    Pretty decent month of releases Amon Amarth is fist pumpingly awesome and I’m yet to get copy of Messa which I’m really keen to hear same with Plebian Grandstand.

    • Thatguy

      I’m with you on all this, Carlos, except that didn’t like the Haken track any more than I liked the ‘The Mountain’. I got that on the basis of the review here, and, fuck me, AMG was wrong about that too. I will have to start ribbing him about Haken instead of Gazpacho I think.

      Maybe it’s because I’m old and I listened to all the old prog bands in my youth. I don’t have any interest in re-Prog.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        Lol Re-prog sounds like something you buy in the plumbing section… I got a soft spot for prog I can’t help it… I blame Dark Side of The Moon

        • Thatguy

          Well, mate, I like ambitious, densely composed music – you could call that prog, I guess, but I do not like stuff that sounds like 1970’s prog – been there, listened to that.

          Re-prog is indeed an ugly word for an ugly thing – I give it to the world.

          I can still enjoy Van Der Graaf Generator though…

  • Goldicot

    HOWLS OF EBB GOT ROBBED

    I’m cranky about this month. I don’t like any of these records.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      Haha

    • AlphaBetaFoxface

      Did you check out Zealotry’s latest? Not quite as extreme, but same obscure dm vein. Really damb solid. Cursus Impasse is the best dm record I’ve heard all year

      • Goldicot

        You don’t think Zealotry is as extreme as Howls of Ebb? I nearly bounced off Zealotry because of how dense of a listening experience it was, but I loved it by the end of it. Cursus Impasse is an easy win for me in terms of April and death metal over all (although it still has Gorguts to beat…)

        • AlphaBetaFoxface

          I didn’t clarify. Zealotry is considerably heavier, but also easier to digest imo. Not as extreme in regards to pure obscurity, but definitely on the weirder side of dm. Give it a few more spins if you have the time; my thoughts on it have improved considerably after extra listen so! I am very curious to see if Howls will stand against the new Gorguts record

          • Goldicot

            Zealotry’s on my wishlist to pick up, so I plan to give it a bunch more listens. I’m surprised you think HoE is harder to digest — Howls is very weird, but I didn’t think they were particularly hard to grasp. Great stuff either way — both death metal, but arguably not that comparable.

      • Tom Hardy

        Try Qrixkuor’s new one mate.

        • AlphaBetaFoxface

          Dang. This stuff is intense. Will definitely be giving it some plays; album art is absolutely insane too!

          • Tom Hardy

            Heard about em when they released Consecration of the Temple, grabbed that cassette. Silence for a year or two and the day I read this list I figured I should seek out other bands I may have missed and what do you know, I see an April 30 release for a new one from em. Sheer luck, rubbed my eyes to cross-check, mid-song I knew I had to pick it up and the purchase was made.

          • AlphaBetaFoxface

            Always a joy when you stumble across a subconsciously anticipated release unintentionally. Really loving the record from the brief time I’ve had with it, the atmosphere is crushing

          • Tom Hardy

            Couldn’t have said it better. You’re a gem of a lad on here Stig. Cheerio.

  • Bart the Repairman

    If I understand correctly the last sentence about „Affinity” – do you complain about the sound of it? IMO the mix is butter-smooth, it sounds fantastic, even with standard DR6.
    Good choice for ROTM. I miss Ihsahn on that list, but on the other hand, thank you for mentioning Mistur. I’ve never heard about them and right now in the middle of „Firstborn Son” I have to bend down under my desk and look for my dropped jaw.

  • Whilst Moonsorrow and Haken sadly do nothing for me, I cannot complain about April’s RoM post because Mistur appear to be fucking ace. Subjective opinions eh?

  • Marco Stojanovic

    New Cult of Luna and Long Distance Calling are missing.

    • EvilNoteForDinner

      Mariner is a great album! I hope someone from AMG staff is going to review it.

  • Norwegian viking

    What about Schammasch-triangle? What an absolute monstrous album and a big contender for album of the year imo. Love this site thoug and this is my first comment here. Keep up the good work!

  • 517H

    Agree with Haken but was hoping to see the new Aborted mentioned somewhere. It’s pretty damn good

  • Gaëtan Baratin

    No Messa – Belfry?

    • Tom Hardy

      Comes out in May mate. Stiff competition with the new Gorguts I’d imagine.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      That’s a May release. Steel ripped me a new one for not knowing that when I suggested it. So watch out!

  • lennymccall

    Mantar, Ode to Flame is my top pick. Just made it in for April but it kills.

  • robpal

    Surprise, surprise, my AOTM is… Affinity! But April was overall a very good month for progressive music.

    AMG army prog boyz, check out Long Distance Calling – TRIPS.

  • Blueberry Balls

    All three runner up’s are fucking killer. I can’t stop listening to any of them.

  • mtlman1990

    Ihsahn’s new album was my favorite.

  • Dirty G

    Has anyone here heard Aquarius? I mean, its okay, but not groundbreaking. I guess I wrote Haken off as another average prog group after I listened to that record a few times. Perhaps I need explore their later records, I feel like I’m missing out.

    • Darren

      I have their entire discography and I’d say Aquarius is their weakest effort so far (though it’s still great, and Streams is up there with my all-time favourite songs)

    • HailToTheMusic

      My buddy lent me Aquarius a few years ago and I wrote off Haken for a long time, finally gave them another chance with this album and I love it.

  • Tom Swinnen

    Damn. Mistur is ridiculously tight. It’s like a perfect love child of Windir and Thryfing. Two of my favorite bands from up north.

    • I love their new approach. Musically, an amazing album! The only thing that is “too tight” is the bricks in the wall, as the compression kills a little bit of the fun.

    • Westpaceagle

      The Sight is a masterpiece of a song. Whole album is incredible. Hindsight would have put Mistur as RotM. Trust your feelings, AMG, you know it to be true…
      Also, May the 4th be with you. Check out Oathbreaker by Hoth for some Star Wars inspired melodic black deathiness…

  • Phantom667

    Really? No review for Mariner – the album of the year for post metal worshipper?

  • brutal_sushi

    Finally spent some time with the new Haken. It’s impossible to listen to just once. I immediately need to spin it again and again.

  • dāvology

    Re: Haken – I’ve rarely come across a band that can evoke so much recognition of other bands I love, while still having their own sound. Obviously Dream Theater (more so on this album than The Mountain), but I can hear Rush, Anathema, The Faceless, Steven Wilson, Symphony X, BTBAM, and so many more. I’m a Dream Theater fan, but these guys are infinitely more consistent in quality of songwriting. ‘1985’ is absolute gold (I’m old enough for it to hit me right in the feels). Plus their cheese-factor is so much more engaging and less cringey than most of DTs work.

    Great band.

  • Patrick

    Mistur released my favorite album of this year so far. Can’t stop listening to it!

  • Meat Tornado

    I’m still pissed about this, and I’m still going to never read this site again. Nobody is better than Moonsorrow