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 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 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 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 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.
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.