Ok, this is getting fucking ridiculous. It’s actually kind of ironic that this has taken as long as it has to get me to the place where I’m putting up the Record(s) o’ the Month for March at the very end of April, because March 2015 is probably the best month for music that I can think of in ages. The quality of records released in March of 2015 could practically produce half of my Top 10(ish) of 2015, and that’s not even a joke. Going even further, this is one of the most difficult choices that I have had to make for Record(s) o’ the Month, because the best albums of the month are really close. And while indecision is not the reason this took so long—you can blame my job for that, it gives zero fucks what you think—it certainly played a minor role. So without further ado, I present to you the Record o’ the Month for March, 2015.

Steven Wilson - Hand. Cannot. Erase.

Steven Wilson‘s Hand. Cannot. Erase. is simply a masterpiece. Subtle, smart, and beautiful, I keep coming back to this album with a sense of awe and respect. Built in three acts, Hand. Cannot. Erase. gets darker as it goes along, with a bittersweet tone that spans a variety of musical styles while still feeling like Wilson’s own, unique sound. The emotional depth—coupled with audiophile production quality and amazing musical performances—make this record one of the best you’ll hear all year. Not to repeat myself, but “my biggest complaint about Hand. Cannot. Erase. is the state of existential sadness that it leaves me in every time I listen to it.” Top it all off with amazing art, a heart-wrenching story and high-def FLAC available for sale online, and this is a complete package. I love what Wilson is accomplishing these days, and look forward to his next release.

Runner(s) Up: 

The Gentle Storm - The DiaryNot giving The Gentle Storm the top spot was hard. The Diary is also tremendous release, which shows how Arjen Lucassen continues to develop and mature in his craft. Gentle is mind-blowing, particularly with the vinyl mix being so airy and gorgeous, with so many textures and little details. The story, complemented by Lucassen’s trademark melodies and Anneke’s dynamic and beautiful vocal performance, is marvelous. The whole package is excellent, with gorgeous art, and great material. As I gushed in my review, “The Gentle Storm is a resounding success, and one of the finest records that you’re going to hear this year. While I have loved Arjen’s other material in the last few years, this is as close to the adoration I felt for Guilt Machine since 2009. The combination of Anneke’s beautiful vocals and excellent performance with Arjen’s writing and a huge cast of musicians has resulted in something that I imagine they’re all truly proud to have been involved in, and that is truly unique.” The one drawback for me is that the LP mix I reviewed is not the CD mix that most people are buying. The LP’s airy mastering job isn’t available anywhere but on the vinyl, and that’s a shame.

Barren Earth coverBarren Earth has done everything in their power to get back in my good graces, after becoming aware that they had slighted me in the process of looking for their new vocalist. I was humbled to have received a personal note from the excellent Jón Aldará telling me that he had personally shamed the band for not having given me a shot. And not only that, but the band apologized publicly and even let me listen to the LP mix for their newest masterpiece! With a DR9 copy of the album, I am even more convinced that this is a record I’ll be listening to for a long, long time. Given more room, some of the most oppressive moments on the album shine. Where I previously got lost, I no longer experience the same fatigue. And while DR9 is still pretty compressed for an LP master—I suspect it means that it’s not so much a “dedicated” master, as it is a backed-off version of the CD master for vinyl—it still does give the music a lot more room to breathe and works to show off On Lonely Towers‘ masterful approach to melodic metal. I haven’t fawned this much over a record with 10 minute songs in ages, and I was fawning before they even started apologizing!

Imperial Triumphant - Abyssal Gods 01Around the AMG offices there has been a buzz about Imperial Triumphant that even I, busy as fuck and not having had to review the thing myself, couldn’t help but check them out. Chaotic and brutal, Abyssal Gods‘ unsettling, French approach to black metal makes the skin crawl and the spine tingle in discomfort. Even with ragtime ukulele and a few other little curve balls, Grymm was in full-on fawning fanboy mode over this one: “Imperial Triumphant [has] put out the best French black metal album of recent history. For as good as Goliath was, [it’s] dwarfed by the sheer lunacy and onslaught that Abyssal Gods delivers.” With the bar declared raised, and new masters apparently appointed (don’t tell Manowar), it behooves the humble reader of the blog to let your ears be violated by the triumphant cultural appropriating imperialism of Imperial Triumphant‘s Abyssal Gods. First person to call them ImpTri is fucking fired.

Share →
  • Garak

    Alkaloid? ALKALOIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIID

    I’m not even going to apologize for being the guy who complains about his pick not being on here. ALKALOIIIIIIIID

    • Monsterth Goatom

      Agreed, but, as AMG says, March was a crazy month of great releases. I probably would have put something else in place of Wilson, like Kjeld, Galar, Keep of Kalessin, or Leviathan, but that’s just me.

    • Yeah. It was good. But as a month, the prog rock took the cake.

    • ProgBen

      Agree. Alkaloid isn’t just March’s best album but probably AotY for me

  • Ok, let’t get it over with:

    *RABBLE RABBLE* WHY SO LATE *RABBLE* NOT EVEN METAL *WHINE* NOT ANGRY *RABBLE* WHY NOT [Alkaloid|Kjeld|Leviathan|Acherontas|DHG|ETC.ETC.ETC.] *FUCK THIS “WEBZINE”* *THE END*

    I think that about covers it, right?

    Edit:OH I forgot: “That cover art looks great tho” (And it does)

    • Monsterth Goatom

      ; )

    • Monsterth Goatom

      Is that Hot Pink? “(Shuddering, shrinking, joins his hands: with hangdog mien) O cold! O shivery!”

    • Grymm

      Pretty much nailed it.

    • Alexandre Barata

      Wait, how did you know what I was going to say?!

    • Eryops

      “That cover art looks great tho” (And it does)

      What are you talking about? I only see one circle.

    • sui

      oh please, we are a mature, intelligent audience. We know people have different opinions, and we don’t cry behind the screen if our personal favourite didn’t get picked. It’s totally cool.

      • And above all, we know how to take a joke or two.

    • Want the secret to RotM? Great cover art. I stopped listening to music years ago. Gimme the best looking cover pl0x.

      • Alexandre Barata

        The Gentle Storm’s one says you’re either lying or have awful taste. It’s equivalent of having a car with wood on the outside of the doors!

        • I have to admit that I wouldn’t mind one bit to have Anneke as the background for a month or two

          • Alexandre Barata

            It’s the only good part of the artwork, everything else seems taken from the trailler of Europa Universalis game. So cheesy :D But I agree with you, and if the album came with an A2 poster of her I would think on buying it!

          • GooberMan

            The artbook version comes with a poster – only thing is that it’s A3 though. Close.

          • Well Arjen surely knows its audience and no one can deny he’s business savvy.

  • brutal_sushi

    IM NOT ANGRY ABOUT THIS LIST! NOT ONE BIT!

    • ME EITHER. I’M ACTUALLY VERY CALM.

    • Grymm

      I AM QUITE TRANQUIL. MY CAPS LOCK KEY HATES ALL OF US, THOUGH.

  • Why is this so late? SW is not even metal. Argh! Why no Alkaloid? Fuck this webzine!

    Edit: Cover art is sick though, I’ll give it that.

    • Quit moaning Moenning. Alkaloid is next runner up imo, but keep in mind that I have to hat tip my writers’ tastes, too. There was a broad consensus about Imperial Triumphant.

      • one

        Haven’t you gave a listen or two to dødheimsgard’s umbra omega?

  • Thatguy

    Not angry – that’s not my job – but I beg to differ and I think the list is upside down…..

    • Monsterth Goatom

      Have to agree. On Lonely Towers has shot to the top of my favorites for this years. Such a epic journey. Abyssal Gods, meanwhile, is a monster I’m still trying to come to terms with.

      I’m sure there’s a lot of good in the Wilson and Arjen releases for those who like it, but it’s just not my groove.

    • Nah. If I were to flip the list, it would have Barren Earth up top.

      • Thatguy

        I am impressed by the Imperial Triumphant – my favourite on your list – although I haven’t heard the Gentle storm – I really like Anneke’s voice too…..

    • Antonio Barrote

      totally agree! IMPERIAL TRIUMPHANT is the best on the list… :)

  • Refined-Iron Cranium

    A quick question: When the ROTM is being considered, is it solely confined to metal? Because, despite how good Hand. Cannot. Erase. is, I just can’t bring myself to call it metal. I mean, Pale Communion still had felt like metal at some points, but Steven Wilson?
    This is oddly reminiscent of when Anathema was ROTM a few years ago. It was a stunning album, but on a site called “Angry *Metal* Guy”, I’d expect something more, you know, *metal* when it comes to ROTM.

    Perhaps you should make categories for this sort of thing. Then when albums that aren’t strictly metal (or not metal at all – yes, I remember the Vienna Teng albums) are reviewed and released, they can still get recognition.

    Just my 2 cents.

    • RotM is whatever I want it to be. Metal or prog or ragtime.

      • Alexandre Barata

        More ragtime please!

    • Though I should clarify that I skew heavily toward metal, and absolutely consider (hard) whether or not a prog record counts. In this case, I think the album is dark enough and heavy enough that I don’t feel like it’s disqualified. Even Anathema reminded me of the band’s best metal work. So, it’s not like a Vienna Teng will ever be featured, but I retain the right to do so should I desire to.

      • Refined-Iron Cranium

        Thanks for the clarification. It’s not that I disagree with the picks, because they’re usually reasonable / definitely good. My issue was more to do with the context of the blog (being predominantly a metal review site) and the ROTM being a representation of that.

        But at the end of the day, it’s all subjective. If it’s good, it’s great. If not, no big deal.

  • Hróðvitnir

    Meh, Pitchfork’s better than this. The top one’s even less metal than Gazpacho.
    That being said, the list is very good, mainly because I agree with it ;-). March was a very good month indeed, but Wilson’s, The Gentle Storm’s and Barren Earth’s records really stood out. I haven’t listened much to Abyssal Gods, probably cause I’m not the biggest black metal fan albeit there is a a few that I love, but I’ll give it a fair chance.

    • Thatguy

      Nothing’s less metal than Gazpacho

      • And yet so so so good. No one complains when I review Katatonia, and Gazpacho isn’t so much less metal than them.

        • Thatguy

          I keep dropping in my dislike for Gazpacho just to provoke you AMG…..but actually I really don’t like them

        • Hróðvitnir

          Actually, that’s one of the things I really like about AMG, that you can listen, appreciate and review music that is a bit different.
          I love Demons and Hand. Cannot. Erase.

        • Alexandre Barata

          I kinda despise Katatonia… Gazpacho is soup better served cold, much alike to revenge

    • Are you saying you like Pitchfork better than AMG? Or that people on Pitchfork complain better? Or…?

      • Hróðvitnir

        I was trying to be sarcastic. Pitchfork clearly falls short of AMG (although some of the Periphery/Amaranthe comments could easily be from there).

        • Alexandre Barata

          Anyone with ears will talk more-less the same about those bands.

  • kmal666

    I don’t ordinarily get butthurt over these things but come on… No Alkaloid?!?!

    • 3 spots, and while I liked Alkaloid, Imperial Triumphant really had the writers in a mood.

  • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

    Kjeld. Didn’t. Win.

    :(

    • Who?

      • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

        Frisian black metal band that ain’t stingy on the riffs!

    • Martin Knap

      how many black metal albums have won the RotM since AMG started? not many I guess…

  • Gabriel Pérez

    More like the Angry Progressive rock guy
    But with this kind of month al most everyone would end up with a diferent list.

    • I don’t deny that prog seems to be floating my boat a lot more these days. I think it’s because I have heard so much of what’s “new,” and I long for something that really grabs me.

      • Martin Knap

        I’m registering the domain Verycoolprogrockguy. Interested in buying it form me ;-)

  • Martin Knap

    Oh, so now the background will be all pink for a month or two and people will think I’m checking out a blog about make-up and lipsticks when I open this website somewhere.

    • I firmly believe your masculinity will survive.

      • Martin Knap

        I hope so.

    • Grymm

      See, I think it’s more “80’s action flick” (ala Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon) than “lipstick ad”.

  • 517H

    I thought Raven was a great record. I still go back to it. But haven’t been able to get into this one yet. Although seeing it here has given me the strength and conviction to try again.

    Just a thought AMG (this is my first post and I’m fairly new to the site so apologies in advance if this has been spoken about before) but I would love your Top 10(is) records OF ALL TIME or something to that effect. The ones that simply can’t be missed spanning the last 20 years or so.

    Also, Mark Z.’s reviews are fantastic.

    Carry on.

    • I think we might just take you up on that.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        Bing a total list nerd I always appreciate those posts.
        Could be a good readers contest to try and guess…I reckon I could get close :).

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Will there be prizes, like Jorn action figures and Unicorn stuffies?

        Edit: Oops, this comment belongs in response to Carlos’ post about a contest.

        • Carlos Marrickvillian

          First prize could be an all expenses paid trip to visit Happy Metal Guy…

      • RU63

        What I would like to see is a “must own” vinyl list, right down to which production. It can be frustrating buying metal on vinyl, any help would be much appreciated.

        • That’s a lot harder, I’d say. I don’t have a really good grip on older vinyl because I’m new at this myself. And I don’t trust my setup to be able to give reviews. I need the masters to say for sure.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      I second the suggestion; maybe each reviewer could post their list of desert island albums.

      In the meantime, have you checked out “Angry Metal Guy’s Five Year Anniversary Post”?

      • André Snyde Lopes

        Also each commenter. I want to stroke my ego, too!

      • Steel Druhm’s Desert Island List:
        Jorn
        Other Jorn
        Jorn B-Sides
        Jorn’s Famous Monsters series

        • Carlos Marrickvillian

          You’d be kicking yourself if you left the AOR classic ‘Jorn to Run’ behind too

          • Leave the punnery to the pun pros. Kudos though.

          • Carlos Marrickvillian

            I’d been holding on to that one for a Boss Jorn collaboration…

      • Grymm

        I’m very down with that idea myself.

      • 517H

        No I hadn’t. Thanks for the heads up on that 5 year anniversary post. That should keep me entertained for a while!

  • GooberMan

    It certainly says something about the month if Alkaloid wasn’t included. Perfect spot for an -ish really.

    • sir_c

      yeah, that is one glaring absense

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    When was the last time 2 concept albums topped the RotM? I have no doubt Hand. Cannot. Erase will be a record we’ll still be measuring others against in years to come. A worthy winner (and cool back drop)!
    I still want the AMG concept album retrospective piece…pretty please

    March really was amazing, I’d like a shout out to Enforcer it’s pretty much my go to driving around town album at the moment.
    Also Enslaved, keeps getting better (Just delete ‘that’ song on your playlist, makes a big difference). A Forrest of Stars album is exceptional and should be getting more love. Oceanwake is really great and oh yeah Alkaloid….

    The only bone I have to pick is The Gentle Storm…I just don’t understand…Swap that for any of those others and its a perfect month

  • Lasse Momme

    making that list must have been a thankless task beyond meassure, no matter what. It’s been a loooong time since I can remember one month releasing so much good music, so naturally no one’s list is going to be the same. My personal favorites would probably be Oceanwake, Der Weg Einer Freiheit, Leviathan, Theories, The Ragnarok Prophecy, Kjeld and Gospel Of The Witches. I have never had this many black metal records appeal to me in my life, so it weighs a bit more with me than the prog. releases that have admittedly been stellar as well. Honestly though, as good as March was I think April has produced at least as much goodness so far, what with Minsk, Sigh, Tribulation, and motherfucking Akhlys (!!!) all releasing, imo, ROTY material albums.

  • Jeff Kent

    One of the reasons I love reading AMG is the metallic diversity herein. I have been listening to Imperial Triumphant and Gentle Storm back to back a lot lately. I think you need to mix things up.

  • This is the worst backdrop art since Voivod. It may even be worse.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      Pink has been proven to reduce stress and anger. Think of it as an AMG perk.

      • I’ll kill you! I’ll kill all of you!

        • Monsterth Goatom

          Nothung!

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      Ok if everyone could just
      1. Stop beating up on technical ecstasy, it’s a decent record
      2. Stop making fun of target earth’s cover. It’s a work of genius ahead of its time…

  • Monsterth Goatom

    It’s probably been said before, but I have to say how much I love the layout of AMG — the clean, consistent design, the fonts, the use of white space, how the cover of the RotM becomes the site’s background, etc.

    So many other Metal sites make one feel like you have ADD. You open them up and think, “where the hell do I start?”.

  • dduuurrrr dddduuuurrrr

    March deserves a runners up sublist, there were so many good releases. You could easily put together a reputable list without any of the above included.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    While I may not like H.C.E. I still respect the opinion of our Almighty Megalomaniac Guardian (AMG for short)… But damn, I hope the records of the month of May comes on the 1st so this awful background goes away ;)

    The Barren Earth cover would look kickass without discarding your “metal cred” (though I think that is complete bullshit).

    Also, shoutouts to Ketha’s awesome EP (reviewed in March even though it was actually released in January).

  • Celaeno

    Yes yes yes yes yes. That is all.

  • Tom Hardy

    Viscera Infest’s Verrucous Carcinoma trumps everything on this list. The drummer’s -hand. cannot. stop blasting- at 4000 hits per second, thus creating a sound wave massive enough to result in a -furious storm- that further decimates our -barren earth- … if you get my cheese whiz laden drift.

  • Antonio Barrote

    I would place IMPERIAL TRIUMPHANT on number one, though… :)

  • tomasjacobi

    My 4-year old daughter approves of the pink backdrop!

  • krisdaschwab912

    I like both Steven Wilson and the Gentle Storm project, but I have to go with Gentle Storm on this one. As good as HCE is, it simply feels robotic to me, and I’m not sure why it leaves me so cold and unengaged.

  • JL

    How did Alkaloid NOT get album of the month here?

    • I don’t think anyone at the AMG offices was terribly in love with Alkaloid…

  • Doomdeathrosh

    I must say I missed a lot these few days….but I’m happy I didn’t miss this month! I think all of the above are winners!

  • Banana boy

    Jizz in my pants…