April has not been a disappointing month. In fact, April has seen our highest scores yet of 2013 as things begin to ramp up. And that’s good because sweet jeebus this year has been looking pretty mediocre-to-bad so far. However, something not really expected, is that this month it wasn’t Amorphis or Ghost or any of the other big names that really rocked our worlds. Instead the world rockin’ came from less expected places on the spectrum. Following here…

The Ocean - Pelagial

The Record o’ the Month for April 2013 is The Ocean Pelagial. I can assure you that this was entirely unexpected from my part. When I received the promo for Pelagial I was interested, but I can’t say that I was expecting it to be mind-blowing. I had previously enjoyed Heliocentric very much, but been entirely underwhelmed and disappointed in its followup Anthropocentric. While the former felt fresh—progressive, experimental, interesting and fun—the latter was banal and I couldn’t see what all the cranky dudes (and it is always dudes who get cranky) in my comment field were going on about. To put it frankly, I was disappoint. Especially after Heliocentric had really inspired me in ways unexpected from a band I knew nothing about. 

Pelagial, like its predecessors, is a concept piece. But this is a very different record. While there may have been a lack of subtlety to the previous thematic approach, Pelagial shows a development in this department. Not only has the band combined the excellent progressive aspects of Heliocentric with the heavier bits from Anthropocentric, but the presentation is huge – and it grows. There are two parallel pieces happening simultaneously within Pelagial. The first is an album that musically delves into the depths of the ocean—diving through the different aquatic layers (Epipelagic, Mesopelagic, Bathyalpelagic, Abyssopelagic, Hadopelagic, Demersal and finally Benthic). Like the ocean, the pressure builds as one gets deeper. Layer for layer, the record puts new details and heaviness into every new track, culminating in funeral doom crushingness on final track “Benthic.”

Lyrically, this is a record about delving into our psychology. So here the story also digs deeper and deeper into the conscious mind, using the oceanic layers and pressure as an analogy. The result is two brilliant records: the instrumental album which is immense, perfect and never lacking in interesting pieces. Metal lacks really great instrumental metal that isn’t tech wankery, and The Ocean fill that gap artfully. But also, the lyrical album continues to impress and grow. The concept fits perfectly with the music, which is a single piece of music from start to finish, and is evocative, emotional and smart. The Ocean have nailed it. This conceptually perfect record is my favorite of the year so far. Jens Bogren’s production (what isn’t this guy producing these days?) is clinical, which for this band works perfectly. Every note is in its place, every track mixed perfectly and the sound is at times delicate, at times crushing and meets a wide variety in between these extremes.

Pelagial is the first record I’ve heard in 2013 that already belongs on my end of year list. It has a few months to gestate, though at this rate it’s only grown on me, but it is something I continue to come back to. My only knock on it is the length, but that’s just ’cause I’m a busy dude with hardcore Angry Metal Attention Deficit Disorder. But this is the kind of record that makes you want to break out your best earphones and lay in the dark getting lost in the depths of The Ocean‘s vision.

Honorable Mentions / Other Reasonable Choices: 

Shade EmpireShade Empire
Omega Arcane – These Finnish orchestral black metallers have upped their game tremendously in the last few years, releasing their magnum opus in the form of Omega Arcane. This huge, epic and tremendously well thought-out piece is something that several members of the AMG staff have been riveted by. Definitely a strong contender for Record o’ the Month.

Altar of PlaguesAltar of Plagues // Teethed Glory and Injury – After a very lackluster previous performance, Ireland’s Altar of Plagues has righted the ship with something new, extreme, and lacking in the repetitive structures of their previous post-black sound. Instead, Teethed Glory and Injury is a record teeming with disjointed, intense and destructive sounds. This was a pleasant surprise. A stand out record.

Spiritual Beggars - Earth BluesSpiritual Beggars // Earth Blues – I met Spiritual Beggars keyboardist Per Wiberg at an Opeth show back when he had joined the band. It was in Milwaukee and he came up and started chatting. We talked about fishing and his band Spiritual Beggars, which I’d never heard. I told him that I had seen the name and would definitely check it out, to which he responded “Yeah, right.” Fuck you, Per. I have now made your record one of the Record(s) o’ the Month. Då lärde jag mig svenska. Oxe.

Unsigned Rodeo Winner: 

Angry Metal Guy’s Unsigned Band Rodeo has garnered it’s first Rodeo Winner. This was a blast. A lot of people commented on that they loved the format, and you should know that May’s UBR is already underway. The winner was chosen by averaging out the scores, quite simply, and the band that got the highest average won.

Witch Ripper

In a not-unexpected-outcome, Seattle-based stoner metal Witch Ripper is our first Unsigned Band Rodeo winner! Their brand of riffy, stoner rock really hit home with most everyone and even grew on me—an Angry Hater of Stoner Rock and All Things Retro. But when one meets good riffs, one meets good riffs. And Witch Ripper‘s self-titled EP is chock full of riff after excellent riff.

It should be noted, however, that Infested would have won this if Happy Metal Guy had actually bothered to listen to the record. Instead, he spent his time drooling over the naval gazing idiocy that was the terrible Forlorn Path record and trashed what was the otherwise highest rated record from other reviewers. In a move not-unlike the Soviet Union during every Olympics before 1989, Happy Metal Guy blithely spat upon the competitor instead of bothering to give it a fair shake.

Still, we congratulate Witch Ripper for bribing Happy Metal Guy with Pokémon videos, Brony porn, and shitty crossover techometal records thereby securing this month’s Unsigned Band Rodeo! We recommend everyone run to BandCamp to and pick up the band’s self-titled EP, which is certain to be followed up with excellent music from a full band in the future. In all seriousness, Witch Ripper rips, and deserves the attention.

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  • Fucking Soviets….

  • Nice pick for record of the month! And I am glad that my favourite album from this month is also “reasonable” (which is Altar of Plagues). I am really digging Shade Empire as well, though I am still in the process getting familiar with that one.
    One that I am missing (also hasn’t reviewed yet here I believe) is Heaven Shall Burn’s Veto, which was surprisingly good I thought. Perhaps not record of the month good, but worth a few spins nonetheless. Plus the cover art is gorgeous.

    • We didn’t review it, but my gut instinct is that Happy Metal Guy is the only person on our staff who would like it as none of us are big metalcore types.

      Yes, Altar of Plagues is definitely a reasonable choice. It’s just not mine. :)

      • The thing is with the newest HSB is that it actually sounds a lot more like melodic death metal than traditional metalcore. I guess that’s the reason why I’m digging this record; I’m usually not into metalcore (at all).

        That said, neither in terms of melodic death metal nor metalcore the record is breaking any new ground, so you’re probably not missing that much.

        • Ahh! Fair enough. It deserves a listen, then!

          • ’bout time you gave them a listen! Their covers always sound better than the originals. This time, they did a cover of Blind Guardian’s “Valhalla”, which sounds better than the original of course.

          • I second that, Valhalla is pretty awesome. It is probably the first power metal song (arguably it’s no longer power metal since HSB covered it..) I actually like.

            And excellent AMG, perhaps you’ll even like it :)

  • Robert M.

    Oh yes, HSB finally released an album that I like in its entirety. After HMG (it was him, I believe) mentioned it in the Neaera review, I thought we’d be getting a review of “Veto” as well. Starting with “Pelagial” in a few moments, everyone’s praising it so loud it’s gotta be good. But, frankly, I was rather surprised to see you liked “Heliocentric” so much, for me it was really bland (but then again, it was totally before my love-for-sludge days, so maybe I should revisit The Ocean’s back catalogue).

    • HSB is not a band I like very much.

      Pelagial is amazing. Dunno what else to say about it that I haven’t written. Give it a listen.

    • Yeah. I totally agree. First record I’ve listened of this band and I can say that it grows at every listen…btw they make a cover of Blind Guardian and the last track is more to black metal than to metalcore…m/

  • I’m still awaiting the Pokemon video games from Witch Ripper. I think they forgot about our deal…

    • They’re doing that?

    • I guess that means they are honoring the brony porn part of the deal? Maybe I should contact them, /r/clopclop is getting a little stale.

  • Humm I didn’t listened to the The Ocean record until now…maybe in the next month… :) like the rest of the records you’ve chosen…

  • Gipson

    While I’m not sure I agree with the premise that it’s been a weak year for metal so far – the excellent new records by Byzantine, Persefone, Benea Reach, Hanging Garden, Hacride, Nero di Marte and Intronaut beg to differ – I do think the future of 2013 is looking bright. Albums that have me excited are dropping every other week it seems (which I would consider a pretty good pace):

    The Ocean – April 30
    Dillinger Escape Plan – May 14
    Leprous (!!!) – May 28
    Kylesa – May 28
    Deafheaven – June 11
    The Black Dahlia Murder – June 11
    Extol – June 25
    Mouth of the Architect – June 25

    And that’s just stuff I like.

    • Any year where Attack Attack! disbands is a great year for metal.

      Other than that I’m reasonably hyped by both Deafheaven and Locrian, pre-ordered both records.

      I’m cautiously interested in whatever Rosetta, Slough Feg, Ayreon, Keep of Kalessin, Valdur, Watain and Ihsahn have to put out this year. Even Twilight and Draconian, if they actually release anything this year.

    • New Leprous!? Oh damn, I’ve been listening to Bilateral on a fairly regular basis since it came out. Thank ye for bringing this to my attention :D

  • After only hearing samples from The Ocean and Shade Empire, I can say those are some fine choices that I really wanna buy as soon as possible.

  • My favorite wasn’t as well received here but I, for one, am glad that Woe had such a strong output this year with Withdrawal.

    • That’s a decent record! But not one that got me as excited as I did when I first heard about Pokemon X & Y.

  • Tanuki

    I’m REALLY looking forward to shade empire’s release date. What I’ve heard is awesome. Heliocentric bored me and fell into the same pretentious hole as pain of salvation’s BE so not keen to hear the latest…

    Also, I have to disagree with 2013 being a bad year. While I haven’t heard something that would compete with the best of 2012 yet, there’s been enough solid releases to keep me busy.

    • Well, this one is like a mix of Heliocentric and Anthropocentric. Trust me, everyone who has previously liked The Ocean and has heard this record has proclaimed it brilliant.

  • I’d love to buy The Ocean’s new album but Metal Blade has made a cock of releasing it here in the UK. Amazon UK doesn’t really seem to have it in stock. And in terms of downloads it’s only on iTunes – which I don’t use. For some reason the launch on Google Play has been cocked up and it has been placed under the wrong band and at £22, over twice the iTunes price. Bands and Labels really need to do a better job of releasing records if they want to beat piracy, it’s like they aren’t trying here at all. I don’t steal music. But right now I have money waiting for this record and the label and band doing their best to make it hard to give it to them.

    • What the fuck? You should definitely check out The Ocean’s website or webstore. They’ll sell it to you for fairly cheap and then you’re more likely to support the band. Pick it up!

      • I eventually picked it up on CD via Amazon. Once they finally started selling it.

  • In Angry Metal Guy I trust… m/

  • This record is so brilliant…may I say that it is the record of the year until the moment?

    • Definitely the record o’ the year right now.

    • Solbrave


  • Mike Eckman

    Umm so, its June 18th. Was May so bad that there isnt a Record O the Month? What the heck guys!?!