After an awesome October, November has seemed a little bit drab. It’s not that there hasn’t been anything good, but October was fucking ridiculous. I almost felt like we should run the November Record(s) o’ the Month like “Record(s) o’ the Month – October 2015 II: The Re-Octobering!” But that’s unfair, because November actually had a few good records that really should get their time in the not-very-much-sun of a Scandinavian November. I’m also going to do something that’s extremely unusual at Angry Metal Guy: I’m going to include a record that hasn’t received a formal review on the list. So this is part review and part RotM because, well, there ain’t much time left to get this up!
Our Oceans is the dreamy progressive rock project of Tymon Kruidenier (ex-Cynic, Exivious), which he formed together with two of the other dudes from Exivious and Dodecahedron (Michel Nienhuis on guitar and Robin Zielhorst on bass and Jasper Barendregt on drums). When one thinks of Dodecahedron and Exivious, the ethereal tones of Our Oceans are down right shocking. Take a minute to re-familiarize yourself with Dodecahedron. OK. Good shit, right? And now that you’ve done that: Our Oceans sounds nothing like that all and you should forget it. But it’s equally as awesome in its own unique way.
Our Oceans is a record with a name that reflects its contents. The sound is dreamy, ethereal, beautiful. The songs are wet, with guitars often drenched in reverb. Zielhorst’s fretless bass swirls and swoops under the surface, a subtle undertow, tugging against—and supporting—the flow of the songs. The drums, too, anchor songs that border on meditative. While good, they rarely have a chance to distinguish themselves in music that’s a lot closer to singer/songwriter music than metal or even much of the progressive rock we cover here at AMG.
Tymon’s vocals are one of Our Oceans‘ highlights. His performance is excellent, displaying a wide vocal range and emotional performances. While his voice is not the most expressive—falling a lot closer to Steven Wilson than Daniel Gildenlöw—the songwriting shines because of its emotional tenor, which he carries with ease. It helps, as well, that the progressive tendencies of the songs push him into territory which is hardly predictable, but still manages to be catchy. “Lioness’ Sunrise,” for example, has a verse melody that is anything but linear, but is uncommonly sticky. “Let Me in” has a great verse which sets the stage for a beautiful bridge and an almost metal chorus, while “Illuminate” reminds me of Traced in Air; subtle, but gripping.
Our Oceans features some of the most beautiful production I’ve heard this year, with obvious taken to make the album feel cohesive. Still, each song is unique, as Tymon explained in the AMFi interview. The sound is lush, emotionally evocative, and dynamic. This is the best record I heard in November and a beautiful and unique contribution to progressive music; so it’s your Record o’ the Month for November, 2015.
Kampfar // Profan — Kampfar is an old band with some old school black metal cred, but they’ve never really received the love they deserve when people talk about the Norwegian scene. The winds of change, however, appear to be blowing. Profan has been critically extremely well-received, and it didn’t get overlooked by our very own Dr. A.N. Grier, who saw it as a “natural progression from Djevelmakt,” but better, “a great album.” Profan features powerful tracks, but functions as a whole, exhibiting a slow build that keeps listeners riveted to their speakers waiting for the big payoff. Don’t miss the profane train of Kampfar‘s Profan.
Also, great art.
Dodsferd // Wastes of Life — Now that Kvarforth appears to have gotten counseling, we’re all searching for the heir to the “tell people to kill themselves while not following through” throne. Dodsferd seems ready to climb onto that dirty chair, and their new record Wastes of Life combines performative misanthropy with songwriting and degrading lyrics that got Madam X pretty gushy: “When Wrath says ‘Remember that no one gives a shit about you, because you are nothing, nothing but wastes, wastes of life!’ he means it and that comes across.” Wastes of Life is a record that manages to build gripping, hateful metal around epic songs and great writing. And “if this is Dodsferd‘s new direction,” we’re getting aboard that hype train!
Editor’s Obviously Troll-y Protest Is Obvious: The stunning absence of Swallow the Sun‘s ginormous three-part opus Songs from the North smacks of unseemly length bias and elitist time hoarding and as such, Steel Druhm cannot in conscience abide.
Angry Metal Guy’s Totally Trolled Response: Songs from the North is a record that is truly a failure on all accounts. The defenses of the album from everyone are based on shifting goalposts. When I criticize the album for not being a cohesive whole, then I am told that “of course, when a band releases three records at the same time, they are meant to be consumed separately!” On the other hand, when I criticize them individually (because they’re mind-numblingly boring), then I am told that I am supposed to consider the album as a whole.
Records are meant to be reviewed/listened to as a whole. A band that produces 150 minutes worth of music that I want to listen to straight through every time and that I feel continually driven to listen to frequently is a band that has produced an album worth of a 3.5. By the logic of our completely arbitrary, but relatively consistent and strict, rating system, Songs from the North can be nothing but a 2.0 or lower. It is neither a cohesive whole nor defensible as individual units. That it received the score it received shows, once again, the completely arbitrary and capricious nature of rating systems.
But what aggravates me most is that Swallow the Sun failed at what they set out to accomplish. According to their own framing, Songs from the North was an album which was set to “save” the album from the ADHD nature of the digital age. I cannot think of an argument that is more contrary to the reality of the digital age than that one. Not only (1) would a 5 LP/3 CD volume of music have been completely unthinkable in a pre-digital age (because no label would ever have paid for a band like Swallow the Sun to record that much music when that shit cost actual money), but (2) the reason the album was a good format in the first place was because of the constraints of the LP, as I have previously covered.
In fact, Songs from the North is the antithesis of what is strong about the album format. Swallow the Sun puked everything they had written in the last three years into a single volume. Rather than exerting an ounce of impulse control and self-distance and editing themselves, the band has produced a completely unlistenable album. Songs from the North tries to do everything and is good at nothing.
Unlike the time when I hat-tipped NeO because others on the staff liked it, I, in all seriousness, don’t even feel comfortable mentioning this album in the same breath as the best material that was released in November.
Also, yes guys, I am mad. The site is called “Angry Metal Guy.” I’m not really sure what you expected.