It’s a blast from the past! That’s right, the Record(s) o’ the Month for June are finally here. And boy howdy, I gotta say that it was tough to get to these. There was plenty of infighting, accusations of me being a distant and cold tyrant. A psychoanalyst was called in. Then the police. Turns out that Steel Druhm may have lots of daddy issues, but he also hates talking about them and has a massive gun collection. We managed to get through this whole thing only slightly injured and now that I’m out of the hospital I’m posting this. So here you have it, Ye Olde Recordes o’ the Monthe for June.

The Vision Bleak - The Unknown

If The Vision Bleak were a death metal band, they would be praised for their uncompromising “old school” cover art. Unfortunately, they’re gothic metal, so I’m sure that those same death metal guys will accuse me of lacking metal credentials for liking The Unknown as much as I do. Like no other album I heard this month, The Unknown captivated my senses and drew me back in. Key for me is the songwriting. The Unknown is a combination of sounds uncommon to the scene nowadays, but which after all these years are like a siren’s call to me. A combination of that mid-90s Type O or Moonspell bass vocals, mixed with rasps and frequently driving tracks. The tracks are evenly weighted, “balancing between beautiful and venomous,” to quote Dr. A.N. Grier, and “the approach is dark, the mood is hopeless, and the atmospheres are blanketing.” This combination of ominous atmosphere and adroit songwriting makes The Unknown a great album and a stalwart on my playlist.

Runner(s) Up:

Thrawsunblat - MetachthoniaThrawsunblat // Metachthonia — This year has been a fantastic revival of melodic black metal. From Sacrilegium to Moonsorrow to Winterhorde and Mistur, I’ve been lapping up this glut of bands who haven’t lost sight of the fact that black metal once upon a time wasn’t terribly goddamned boring. I know, it’s a shock, but once upon a time people wrote songs that were interesting to listen to and that made a guy want to headbang or tell his friends about the band. While Thrawsunblat loses points in my book for having not one but TWO titles one can’t actually pronounce, they’re too busy kicking ass and auditioning for a Scandinavian tour with MånegarmMoonsorrow and Mistur to care what I think. This album is full to the brim with outstanding composition, sizzling atmosphere and grabby hands with an eye on Agalloch‘s post-Scandy black metal crown. And that hour-long run time? Diabolus in Muzaka has it right: “Luckily, Metachthonia is […] a well-written concept album that grows more rich and rewarding with each listen. The good material outweighs the lesser material by an order of magnitude, and the hour-long runtime, even with its flaws, is captivating and never feels overlong.”

Be'lakor - VesselsBe’lakor // Vessels – The glamour boys of Australian melo-death came roaring back with another hefty dose of “Insomnium Gatherum” styled fun, and promptly divided the already fractious AMG staff as to its quality. While some felt it was tired and meandering, others defended it as beautiful and atmospheric. Even the staunch defenders however will acknowledge Vessels lacks the impact of earlier releases, but they’re still one of the best at this “sad boy” style of melodic death. El Cuervo summed it up thusly: “It still comes highly recommended if you’ve enjoyed their previous work or that of other, more long-winded melodeath bands such as Insomnium. But I found there to be a slight dip in quality and the issues slightly more noticeable this time around.”

  • André Snyde Lopes

    Here I am listening to albums from February and the world is already in July…

    • brutal_sushi

      Im either listening to Kauan or various Devin Townsend albums…

      • Reese Burns

        Up voting for Kauan, can never have enough Kauan.

    • Diego Molero

      Same here, haven’t really listen in full to any of the albums listed above. Should probably do. Still busy with Ihsahn, Abbath, Latitudes and Hyperion

      Btw, congrats on Portugal winning the Euro’s, I know I said they didn’t stand a chance, but hell they did it. Shame about Cristiano though.

      • André Snyde Lopes

        Who cares about Cristiano? We won without him anyway! xD Thanks, though. It was just as surprising to me! Needless to say, we’re pretty happy about it.

  • Dr. A.N. Grier

    Wow, Grier and Diabolus get the top two picks of the month? Unfathomable. We are normally reviewing the month’s worst.

    • Don’t get used to it!

      • Dr. A.N. Grier

        Looking at the next couple reviews I am writing, I won’t…

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      Looks like corner offices are just around the corner for you boys!
      That’s probably what Steel Druhm wants to meet you in the car park about.

      • Dr. A.N. Grier

        You’re probably right! Guess I’ll head down there and find out!

        • Smile, look straight ahead and wait for the flash.

          • Dr. A.N. Grier

            I’m so scared…

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    First month this year that I’ve not been overly enthusiastic about the RotM list.
    In fairness though I haven’t got round to Thrawsunblat and in balance The Unknown is going to make a great back ground.
    I really thought Fates Warning would’ve been here somewhere.

    • July 1st release.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        Ahh… Definitely a slow burner that pays with repeat listens

    • Dethjesta

      Highly recommend you do check out Thrawsunblat – really great record; which also would have made a good background, in my opinion.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        I’m gunna!

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        I did and have been really enjoying it too good tip!

  • Interesting choices! Haven’t heard The Vision Bleak but I might check it out even if not a huge fan of the genre.
    I agree on Thrawsunblat and Be’lakor as strong runners up too!
    On our side at Le Mot du Melomaniaque, we named Forteresse’s Thèmes pour la Rébellion as the best record of June and Ashbringer’s Yûgen as the runner-up.
    June was a dense month for new releases and July also seems promising!

    • El_Cuervo

      Forteresse was my pick

    • Alexandre Barata

      Yep Forteresse deserves being RotM!

  • Arikael

    I have to disagree with Be’Lakor.
    For me this is an album of the year candidate and a good expansion of the known Be’Lakor style (which honestly go a bit boring on “of breath and bone”)

  • Bravo, I truly enjoyed The Vision Bleak as well and its been on regular rotation for me.

    I can’t really add anything more to the discussion for Be’Lakor, its a GREAT album, but definitely lost something from the last two releases. I keep saying this though, but that last track “The Smoke of Many Fires” is definitely the song of the year for me, so far!

  • Bart the Repairman

    New background looks gorgeous. Unfortunately, I’ve somehow overlooked this album. I’ll certainly do my homework.
    It seems like June has passed without any eruption of great new talent, right…?

    • Yes, the background on the website really looks nice! I wish it could stay like this for longer than a month! Hey AMG, maybe you could “delay” July’s ROTM?! :)

  • Dethjesta

    The Vision Bleak is a superb album, but for me, Thrawsunblat just blew me away this month.

    • Syn

      Me too. Go Canada!

  • AngryMetalBird

    good choice. I’m also happy that Vision Bleak have managed to create such a great album, they’re output has been a bit inconsistent over the years IMO. also need to listen to Thrawsunblat, I have missed that somehow.

  • Akira Watts

    Love the hell out of the Thrawsunblat album. Haven’t checked out the other two, as of yet, but they’re going on the old list. Personally, I think Astronoid’s Air is worthy of an honorable mention here, but, though it’s one fuck of a lot album, the sound dances on the edge of diabetes, so I get why it might not be for everyone.

  • ferrousbeuller

    Great choice for RotM! I’m calling it early: Witherscape will take July! In Swano we trust.

    • De2013

      Well done! :-)

      • Ferrous Beuller

        It came to me in a dream…

  • Wilhelm

    Not a new album completely, but I would like to see the Original version of Dusk And Her Embrace reviewed here.

    • Alexandre Barata

      It’s not really a necessary edition, but still it’s pretty cool. It’s still more of a collectors item than an essential CoF album, as it’s not hugely different than the other version. And even like that, my favorite CoF album is VEmpire

      • Shawn Cypher

        Also, one of my favorite songs “Malice Through the Looking Glass” isn’t on that version.

      • Wilhelm

        I would disagree, as the production job and vocals are more raw and unpolished, and the drums and keys (?) were performed by different band members. The compositions themselves are full of subtleties and not-so-subtleties that give them a different feel. I would like to see a dedicated review and our various opinions.

  • These are THREE solid picks. Great job, dudes!

  • Kronos

    What a wimpy, melodic month.

    • [not a Dr]

      Yeah! Isn’t it awesome?

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      Not enough slam on this here list.

  • Where’s Katatonia?

    • tomasjacobi

      The Fall of Hearts was released in May. Good album, though…

  • Monsterth Goatom

    The Unknown is great, but I find the tag/genre “Horror Metal” something of a misnomer. Music by its very nature seeks to stir pleasurable emotions. It doesn’t matter if you dig Jazz, Rock, Metal, Pop, etc. If you like to listen to it, you do it because it gives you pleasure (duh).

    The Vision Bleak’s latest is full of great melodies and strong song structures. It doesn’t scare me. That’s not true of movies, where landmark films like Alien and the Blair Witch Project scared me pretty damn good when I first saw them on their release. Yes, for those who dig them (and I include myself), scary movies give a lot of pleasure among the sweat and frequent bathroom visits.

    Similarly, I don’t find “Horror Fiction” like Scott Siegler’s Infected scary — a fun and exciting read, but scary? No.

    I’m intrigued by the extent to which Burke’s theory on the Sublime and the Beautiful applies to passionate, blood-pumping music like Metal. Beethoven’s “sublime”, storm-tossed symphonic music is often said to stir strong emotions and move the listener to a type of ecstasy. A Haydn quartet, by contrast, might be said to be “beautiful” in that it’s soothing to the “soul”. Isn’t Metal both Sublime and Beautiful?

    I’m moving towards the opinion that “Horror” — in terms of its impact
    on the audience — is a tag you can’t apply to anything but movies (but
    what about creepy movie background music?).

    Aaaaanywho, this long ramble should have been stuck in the forum. Good picks all round for ROtM.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      “Pleasure among the sweat and frequent bathroom visits” ? What are you doing in that bathroom that has you sweating with pleasure? ;)

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        On a different note, your “ramble” seems like a good basis for an article on how “Horror as a tag only applies to movies”. But I would say it also applies to literature. And “Cause Of Death” by Obituary when you’re a teenager listening to Death Metal for the first time.

        • Monsterth Goatom

          I can see how some Metal music might scare the bejesus out of a young’un. Like listening to Sun OOOOOOOOO)))))’s Cursed Realms late at night. But, Obituary, yea!

          • [not a Dr]

            I’m mot sure that a Horror movie needs to scare you to be a Horror movie. It seems that it´s a bit like figure skating: as long as certain formalities are respected, it can be considered good.

          • Monsterth Goatom

            Yes, good point. I guess my focus was on the emotional (primal?) impact of something purporting to be “horror”. The aim of most horror films, of course, is to give you some good scares. Personally, there have been many horror movies that have done that for me, and there are many horror movies that are just great movies period (Psycho and Jack Clayton’s The Innocents are two examples for me).

            But I can think of no books or music purporting to be “horror” that have given me the heebie jeebies.

          • Carlos Marrickvillian

            I’d say, at least for me anyway… that books more than movies are capable of instilling a sense of horror.

          • Carlos Marrickvillian

            Comment below asides, Jaws probably terrified more people than any other art or literary work in history… except maybe the bible…

          • [not a Dr]

            I remember being deeply scared as a teen when I began pondering the story of King Diamond´s Them. Imagining myself deeply stoned by otherworldly tea, seeing my family slowly destroyed to fuel chats with spirits, and even helping while knowing what was going on without being able to stop… As I said earlier: it’s up to the audience to provide their own fear.

          • Carlos Parlo

            Interesting. Though I love horror films and books the books have always scared me more than most movies, especially when I was younger. The first time I read Richard Laymon, Jack Ketchum and some of the splatter punk work out there (early Barker included) I was legitimately scared particularly if reading late at night. As for music, the first time I heard Pig Destroyer I was pretty scared but that is mainly because I was relatively new to extreme metal and it freaked me out.

          • Kronos

            Ulcerate had actually evoked a feeling of horror in myself and others.

          • Monsterth Goatom

            I should give Ulcerate another try. Currently, they’re on my “not liked” list.

          • Kronos

            Not an easy band to enjoy.

          • Hulksteraus

            The Exorsist being a good example of that. I agree with MG though, I think the tag “Horror Metal” a misnomer too. The Vision Bleak is gothic really anyway. I followed the good doctors advice and grabbed their back catalogue as well, and am really enjoying all their albums!

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Ooops, well, ya… too much info maybe. : )

        When I watched the first Paranormal Activity at home, my heart was racing, I was sweating, and I kept having to run off to piddle. But, damn, what a fun movie (don’t get me started on the horrible sequels).

    • [not a Dr]

      Infected, like most horror litterature and horror movies, is more disturbing than scary. It seems that most of these works focus more on grossing people out than on scaring them. It is up to the audience to provide their own fear.

    • madhare

      Fun long ramble, and I thank thee for putting it here instead of the forum (which I never get around to read).

      I agree with [not a Dr] that horror is not just about scaring people. I think you’re making a drastic simplification by equating horror with just horror movies. Horror is, after all, a wide cultural genre encompassing literature, movies, music, theatre, etc.

      I think it’s a good idea to contrast horror with other similar genres. Like, say, sci-fi. You couldn’t make a similar statement about sci-fi, that it’s supposedly only about one emotion. No, instead it’s about the topic matter, certain types of atmospheres, use of certain tropes, etc.

      When it comes to music, I think Horror Metal is similar to Tolkien Metal. It’s a description based not so much on the musical style but more on the topic matter and atmosphere.

      I think your comment that horror applies only to movies got the whole thing backwards. You’re talking about a sub-class of movies where the main point is to scare the audience. So I’d say don’t call them horror, as that term is already taken. Instead we need to label them Fright Movies or something.

      I kind of like the idea of applying Burke’s beauty/sublime to Metal. But it’s also a quite simplistic binary division. So I’m not so sure it’s enough. I think so much culture is about balancing them or alternating between beauty & sublime. Say, we start from beautiful calmness, go through a stormy crisis with impending death, and then have a happy ending where calmness is restored.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Thanks for the thoughtful response. I don’t entirely agree with you, but points taken. I agree with you about fright vs. scare, though one might argue we’re dabbling with synonyms.

        When speaking of how horror music doesn’t sound frightening, I also had in mind Truffaut’s observation that it’s impossible to make an anti-war film because most films make war look exciting. A band can try damn hard to make a record that’s frightening, but music by its very nature stirs emotions of pleasure, not fright. I’ve never personally encountered an album, song, Lied, symphony, or whatever that’s frightened/scared me.

        • [not a Dr]

          What about that cheap trick that plagues metal, where a song starts with a pleasing melody you can barely hear, so you turn up the volume and then BAM! the metal part starts so much louder that you jump? Would that moment of startlement count? Horror movies rely a lot on that kind of trick too…

          • Monsterth Goatom

            Hey man, sorry for the late reply. Yea, the old “boo!” effect. Roger Ebert used to joke about the “throwing the cat at the window” effect, or something like that. That’s when a person in a horror movie hears a sound outside, slowly approaches the window and a cat jumps up as opposed to a monster or serial killer. I’d call that a shock or fright.

            Yes, it occurs a lot in music, going back to Haydn’s famous “Surprise” symphony. Don’t know if you’re familiar with it. Haydn noticed a lot of people would doze off during performances, so he crafted a movement where the music gets really pianissimo for a few minutes, followed by a honkin’ huge fortissimo chord. That got people’s attention.

            I’m thinking more of music that gets under your skin and does a slow boil somewhere in your subconscious (hello mixed metaphor!). Something like Khost’s Corrosive Shroud or the last 20 minutes of Black Boned Angel’s The End (though one can argue the latter sample isn’t exactly music).

      • Adjudant

        Also it would seem that to make it truly scary you have to be able to understand the vocals, the cookie monster struggles to take you to a place that really terrifies

    • André Snyde Lopes

      Spektr’s Cypher is as close as we ever got to “horror music”. Legit disturbing album (in my view).

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Interesting. One of my favourite albums, but I’ve never found it disturbing. I suppose that illustrates one of not a Dr’s points: the emotional baggage you bring with you has an impact on one’s experience of art.

        • André Snyde Lopes

          A lot of horror is about atmosphere as well. Listening to that album in the dead of night, coming home through the unlit streets of my hometown did a number on me. I wasn’t terrified (not even horror movies have this effect on me) but it was quite chilling.

    • Philip Pledger

      Hmm, I’d say that video games can be horror too. Sure, most “horror” games don’t really deserve the title. Being startled is not the same as being scared, which is something a lot of game makers (and, to be fair, filmmakers) just don’t seem to get. However, when done right, games can get under your skin quite effectively.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        I agree, though it’s been a while since I played any video games. I enjoyed Deadspace and Bioshock, but, while very engrossing, I can’t say they scared me on any deep level. Maybe if I were younger and more impressionable. I remember one game I played had a banshee that was very unnerving.

  • Meriyas

    I wonder how Sojourner’s debut would have gone if it got a review. I brought it up on another review, but has anyone heard/enjoyed Empire’s of Ash (Sojourner’s album)?

  • Scourge

    Great to see The Vision Bleak get RotM! I’ve listened to the hell out of that album…

    Thrawsunblat sounds great but it sounds exactly how I imagined it would, and I needed a bit of a break from the melodic black after a packed first half of the year.

    The Unknown, however, took me by surprise and is an album I’ll probably continue to to turn to the rest of the year, and years to come for that matter. That album has songwriting chops galore!

  • William Hebblewhite

    Did not think that June was the strongest month. Love me some Be’lakor though and I’ve really enjoyed the new album. Haven’t as yet checked out the other two releases. Must do so.

  • Feytalist

    I managed to miss The Unknown completely when it was reviewed. It’s really something. Sounds like a more metal Diary of Dreams, or a heavier old-school Lacrimosa.

    Been craving some good goth lately. Awesome.

  • Yes, I like all of these! But of course Be’lakor the most, because I’m weak and I like sad boy metal apparently.

  • madhare

    The first ROTM this year that speaks to me. And oh boy, is it great. Although it’s not the most original thing. So it’s not such an amazing “artistic” achievement. But it delivers really well what it promises.

    Funny thing about The Unknown: The first time I listened to it, I happened to be in southern Germany. I had the window open and during the opening track a nearby church rang their bells for morning mass or something. (Do Catholics have something like that around 10–11 am?) The bells fit so perfectly with the tempo and mood of the song that I thought they were part of it. So next time I listened to the same song, I was baffled: “Where are those eerie church bells?! Is this album haunted?!” Took me a while to put the pieces together. :D

  • I.B. Hurtin

    I missed “The Unknown” one when it was reviewed and now that I’ve listened to it I’m in complete agreement that it was the best record in June. So glad that they have a back catalog I can explore, too!

  • FutureBeyondSatan

    What a great fricken month!
    Wolverine and Be’lakor were the tops for me.
    I also really, really like Gojira’s Magma!

  • Muzza1979

    I was about to get angry about your pegging back of Be’Lakor’s Vessels to third until I heard The Vision Bleak. It’s a great album. Still prefer the expansive melodic death metal songwriting and guitar work on Vessels though.