November was sure to be a much easier month to sift through than October, which was outright ridiculous. Of course it had its share of standouts, but most of the AMG intelligentsia was in agreement where the November crown should be placed. Since this is such a rare occurrence, we were able to render a timely posting, which is in itself quite rare. We are about to enter the dreaded month of December (also known as the Season of Good Cheer etc. etc.) where labels seek to dump the offal, awful and regrettable product left in their storehouses, so now would be a good time to stoke the fire, sip some fine spirits, bask in the quality of the esteemed platters below and be thankful.
Given our runner(s) up, this is going to get flamed so hard, but once again the Angry Metal Scandinavian Bias™ strikes. My bias aside, it helps that Dark Tranquillity delivered their best album since Projector and what may shape up to be one of my favorite albums by them ever. But it’s Projector that Atoma reminds me of most. This album is thoughtful and reflective, but it sports razor hooks. 2016’s ‘grown up’ incarnation of DT has finally balanced their Depeche Mode side with the Gothenburg sound that drove them to worldwide success, and that defines this album. Every song for 50 minutes is strong (though “Faithless by Default” is my fav), and it says something that the bonus tracks—which would have pushed the album up to nearly an hour—have essentially become part of the record when I listen to it. Atoma adroitly balances the morose, the reflective, and Stanne’s reedy vocals and simple, but insightful, lyrics to place an exclamation point on 2016. As Steel Druhm summed it up: “Atoma is the most definitive statement on the health and vitality of melo-death in a long while and one of the best moments in Dark Tranquillity‘s lengthy career. It’s also one of the year’s best releases and one you should not miss.” [AMG]
Saor // Guardians – Andy Marshall’s brand of blackened folk has been gathering ardent followers at an accelerating rate, and Guardians is going to keep that momentum rolling in his favor. Taking the Moonsorrow approach of crafting long, folk-intensive blackened tapestries loaded with emotion, Saor keeps things epic and also highly engaging. Featuring instrumentation beyond what most bands are capable of, from the fiddles, strings or bagpipes, everything is integrated superbly and seamlessly. Though the songs are lengthy, they never feel dull and many get better as they go along. It drove our resident fanboy El Cuervo to the verge of sedition: “Your heart will soar, wrench and swell as the album flows and it’s truly one of the most emotive things I’ve heard this year. It’s just so epic. Guardians has something which will make even the most cricket-playing, Pimms-drinking, colony-acquiring Englishman rip his trousers into a kilt and cry for the blood of the South.”
Witchery // In His Infernal Majesty’s Service – Witchery has become a bit of an enigma over the years, part gimmick, part serious act. Regardless of your stance on the band, it’s tough to deny the thrashy charm of In His Majesty’s Infernal Service. Their usual blackened thrash sounds more vicious and with the addition of Nekrokraft frontman Angus Norder, this sounds like a whole new rabid beast with nasty riffs piled on nasty riffs. Lord Lucan summed it up best: “…everything combines to create a record that sounds heavier than the sun, without at any point losing its distinctive character or descending into an all-out wall of noise.”