The life of the unpaid, overworked metal reviewer is not an easy one. Cascading promos, unreasonable deadlines, draconian editors and the unwashed metal mobs – it makes for a swirling maelstrom of music and madness. In all that tumult, errors are bound to happen and sometimes our initial impression of an album may not be completely accurate. With time and distance comes wisdom, and so we’ve decided to pull back the confessional curtain and reveal our biggest blunders, missteps, oversights and ratings face-plants. Consider this our sincere AMGea culpa. Redemption is retroactive, forgiveness is mandatory.
Once in a while you drift from things you love. Once in a while unexpected pleasures arise. Once in a while giants fall. And once in a while we write reviews we regret.
We here at Angry Metal Guy pride ourselves on independent reviews which reject label pandering. More importantly, we pride the firmness with which we award scores. A 3.5 may be meaningless elsewhere but not here – that’s how we want to operate. This has an important cause: if stuck between two scores, we mark down. It also has an important effect: occasional regret that a higher score was not granted. This feature is designed to mitigate that effect. It shames me to admit that it also serves as penance for those few occasions where we do overrate. It’s sometimes tough to judge how an album will grow or diminish in our estimations over the fullness of time so I do hope you accept this public self-flagellation with grace and mercy1
Much has already been written about Wilderun‘s superlative Sleep at the Edge of the Earth. It’s not my intention to repeat any of the thoroughly deserved praise we’ve lain at its feet. But 2 years have passed and I can say with confidence that it’s one of my favorite records of all time. If that isn’t reason for bumping up to a 5.0/5.0 then nothing is.
It’s just so perfect. More than any individual track or moment – though there are a ridiculous number of amazing ones I could mention if you gave me an hour or three – it is the album constructed in its purest form. Every track is significant and gives context to the rest, in exactly the order which enables the musical journey to run its most satisfying possible course. No moment feels wasted nor extraneous while 54 minutes shows great restraint in this era of 70-minute records. The word synergy is usually reserved for corporate bullshit but Sleep is supremely synergistic in its flow, track lengths and use of contrasts across the whole record, with every moment complementing another. This is just one aspect which has not yet been documented at AMG and rest assured that I could write 1000 more words on further examples. Welcome to hallowed ground gents.
Original score: 4.5
Adjusted score: 5.0
Skyscraper‘s Elevation was one of the first records I reviewed at AMG and I was still learning how to satisfactorily summarize my thoughts and score. It says a lot that I distinctly remember dithering between the 2.5 and 3.0 for it, when such dithering is highly common in this role. Clearly I was torn and the passing of nearly 3 years has demonstrated to me that I was wrong then on two counts: not only was 3.0 the more suitable, but 3.5 is most suitable. I still whip it out a few times per year for easy listening and to satisfy my cheese cravings, which is more than can be said for a few 3.5s I’ve dispensed.
Its melodic rock, almost AOR-style, has proven distinctly memorable despite my initial concerns that its saccharine quality would leave the record fading after just a few listens. I then criticized “Across the Barricades,” “Playing with Fire” and “Everybody Cries Sometimes” as surplus to requirements but I must now admit that I know the words to every song here. Lee Small’s easy voice and awesome croons have remained just as enjoyable as ever and I even bothered to explore his other work. He now fronts a long-defunct but reformed 80s rock band, Lionheart, who once supported the likes of Def Leppard and Whitesnake. They have a new release upcoming and I’d love to hear it, if only to bask in Small’s smooth singing once more. Skyscraper: I’m sorry.
Original score: 2.5
Adjusted score: 3.5
It’s funny how an opinion can change even after just a few months. Four months after initially putting pen to paper over Asira I now know their debut, Efference, will be one of my favorite 2017 releases. It’s certainly faring better than a few others which I initially loved2. All I said before holds true but I’ve found my principle criticism – that the slow parts can drag – largely irrelevant over prolonged listens. These lulls are critical to the record’s flow and allow my mind to wander over the subtleties, evoking distant landscapes and airily contrasting the pleasingly furious blackened passages. My favorite albums in recent times tend to come from a well of influences and nowhere is that well deeper than here, drawing black metal, post-rock, progressive rock, blues and ambient into a perfectly cohesive sound.
I’ve awarded a few 3.5s this year and while I don’t regret those scores, I’ve become increasingly aware that it does a disservice to Efference for it to linger among those albums given its clear superiority. My review concluded with a posed question about whether Asira could be the next Big Deal. Well I now consider their debut itself a Big Deal and a strong sophomore release would cement that status.
Original score: 3.5
Adjusted score: 4.5
Another victim of youthful inexperience with critical writing perhaps, Alunah‘s Awakening the Forest received rich praise in my fifth ever review. An appraisal of how a precious 4.5 was bestowed yields one key error: I mistook the absence of inadequacies as perfection. It very much remains the case that there isn’t anything wrong with the album. The guitar tone is just as monumental as it ever was, the riffs are groovy and satisfying, and Sophie Day’s vocals are similarly captivating. There are no obvious weaknesses beyond these. But I don’t love the record in spite of its strengths. Its inclusion in my 2014 list was more my backing myself – it certainly wouldn’t make the list now – than true appreciation.
I think this was reflected in my recent review of its sequel, Solennial. While Solennial had worse song-writing and justified a lower score, that 2.5 is a significant step down from 4.5 when there isn’t much distinguishing the records. I had come to realize that I am allowed to limit my score even if I mostly have good things to say. It was, in fact, this contrast over Alunah which spawned ideas about a contrition feature which amends reviews we regret3. I sincerely hope our loyal readers accept this token of repentance as I highly value the strict scoring employed at AMG4.
Original score: 4.5
Adjusted score: 3.5