There’s an olde Klingon proverb to the effect that Record(s) o’ the Month posts are best served late (and with cheap beer, but we’re on a budget). As we at AMG have a healthy collective respect for Klingon traditions, we do what we can to live up to their br00tal warrior code. May was exceptional for metal releases and there were a bunch of top-flight albums vying for monthly lordship. And as usual, the fractious staff did not see eye-to-eye on who should reign supreme. In times of dynastic struggles, hard decisions must be made, and like the Praetorian Guard of old, we cut down the pretenders and install the most worthy. All hail your new metallic ruler and vassal lords.
Loss descended upon the world in 2011 like a vast swarm of slow-motion locusts, their Despond debut so gripping it forced even non-fans of funeral doom to come around and appreciate the beauty of dark despair. Some among the AMG staff didn’t want to see a follow up, as it could never best what had already been wrought. Chief among the naysayers was our evil den mother, Madam X. Though she was afraid what Horizonless would offer, she accepted its inevitability, dove in and lo and behold, it somehow bests Despond on every level. Horizonless is a mammoth slab of depressive doom, incorporating blackened elements to wicked ends and never letting the listener escape the murky shroud of depression it weaves. Riffs churn from crushing to haunting, vocals besiege with oppressive weight and abject terror, the torture simply never ends. Imagine dragging a 5-ton coffin up a mountain during a snowstorm after quaffing Valium. This is that Herculean trial put to music. As Madam expressed so ably, “Horizonless proved itself a multi-dimensional construct, showcasing a unique blend of melodic harmony, bleak contrast and grinding torment…”
Below // Upon a Pale Horse – Doom is a tough thing to do well. It’s even tougher to mix traditional metal with it and make it work. Below makes it look easy on sophomore opus Upon a Pale Horse. That means you get an album merging the best of Candlemass with Tad Morose led by a vocalist with the chops to pull it off. Slow, crushing doom-tastic songs appear next to upbeat cuts with a strong Iron Maiden vibe, thereby keeping the mood lively and diverse. Song writing is at a premium and the musicianship is first-rate. This one may not end up the the best doom album of 2017, but it will be in the conversation.
Night Flight Orchestra // Amber Galactic – When members of well-known acts like Soilwork and Arch Enemy form a throwback retro-rock project which ends up superior to their day jobs, you just have to laugh and go along for the ride. If Toto, Van Halen and Supertramp collaborated on an album, this would be the stupendously catchy result and like a house guest from Hell, these tunes will never leave your head once you invite them in. This is good enough to make one wonder why the people responsible don’t do this full time. Amber Galactic is shamelessly retro and sinfully old fashioned, but it’s the perfect album for summer fun, mischief and poor choices.