Contrite Metal Guy – Mistakes Were Made

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.

Traditionally, these Contrite posts are an opportunity to humbly reflect on, and correct, one’s own errors of years past and not an opportunity to beef with other writers’ perceived missteps. Today, however, I wish to both set right a misjudgment of my own and a more grievous error by another scribe, who spent but a short time slaving in the Skull Pit. Many of us here at Angry Metal Guy are, as Steel and AMG himself never tire of reminding us, undoubtedly overrating bastards. In my own, worthless1 opinion, however, underrating is just as serious a crime, since it does a disservice to the musicians responsible for whichever record it is. I am not the only guilty party here, however, with Doom_et_Al and Diabolus in Muzaka also both in the dock.

Despite all being overrating bastards, that mightiest stamps—the 5.0—rarely sees action these days. Indeed, public sightings of the 5.0 are getting fewer and fewer as the years go by. We have even managed, through ceaseless surveillance and by Staying Alert, to prevent it falling into the dastardly clutches of 4.0ldeneye, thus preventing him from leveling up to the unstoppable 5.0ldeneye. Following a few careless comments under a recent review, however, I insisted politely requested that Mr. Steel Druhm come and explain himself, and show a little contrition for previous—and admitted—misuses of Ol’ 5.0.2

Carcharodon


Carcharodon

Underrated!

For the last year, the nagging feeling has been gnawing at me that I denied Toronto, Canada’s Panzerfaust a undeniably-deserved 4.0. Now, we may only be talking about half a point here, since I awarded their fifth full-length, The Suns of Perdition I: War, Horrid War, a very respectable 3.5. But it simply should have been a 4.0 and, where 2.0 vs. 2.5 or 3.0 compared to 3.5 may not matter so much, crossing the divide into 4.0 territory—or not—matters. It is a divide accorded due respect by all but one member of writing staff.

The Suns … clearly makes that leap into 4.0 territory, with its brutal, industrialized black metal attack, with its moments of surprising delicacy and with the generous slatherings of atmosphere that drench its runtime. That Panzerfaust kept that runtime to a crisp 31 minutes makes it all the more impressive. Throughout, the vicious, layered—often dual-tracked—vocals provide a suitably tortured take on the horrors of the Great War, while the searing riffs and pummeling drums crush the listener into submission. In my review, I complained that, due to the different elements the band had packed in, The Suns … felt a little ‘unfocused’  but that with ‘each listen, it came together more and more for me.’ Perhaps one more listen last year would have been all that was needed because I regretted my 3.5 almost as soon as I had signed off on it. On display are impeccable songcraft and incredible intensity, combined with haunting moments like the rendition of Silent Night / Stille Nacht. Add to this, the restraint needed to not over-work the record, Panzerfaust set the bar very high with this, the first installment in their The Suns of Perdition series.

Original score: 3.5
Adjusted score: 4.0

 

Grievously underrated!

Way back in 2014, Beak dropped their first—and to date only3—full-length record, Let Time Begin. The review, which awarded the album a measly 2.5, received only two comments. One from “Alex” (not me but coulda been) and one from Madam X, who had this to say: ‘Well impressed with this album. It keeps me coming back.’ Almost six years on and I am still coming back regularly to this dissonant, jagged slab of hardcore-infused post-metal, as is Madam X. Having sought her counsel before writing this, Madam X and I are agreed that we did Beak a grievous disservice with this review, the thrust of which seems to be that Beak are not Cult of Luna. And that is true, as far it goes but the reviewer missed so much more that Beak offered.

The Chicago quartet offer a more direct, punchier take on post metal than their Swedish counterparts. Clocking in at 40 minutes, Let Time Begin is abrasive, aggressive and angular, packed with fuzzy, gritty riffs. Beak‘s raw, stripped-back assault is punctuated by passages of ethereal calm and beauty—like the trippy opening to album highlight “Breath of the Universe”—which rise above the swirling storm, just as the tip pyramid adorning the cover rises out of the ocean. Guitarist Jon Slusher’s harsh, throat-shredding barks, combined with his and fellow six-stringer Andy Bosnak’s outstanding riffs and sparing, melodic leads, give Let Time Begin an urgency rarely seen in post-metal. Very far from playing it safe, as our former colleague alleged, Let Time Begin is a series of visceral gut punches, coupled with soothing passages to allow you to get your breath back. As Gothmog is not here to see the error of his ways and ask forgiveness, I will do it for him: if you are a post-metal fan, go check this out. Now. Go! 

Original score: 2.5
Adjusted score: 4.0


Steel Druhm’s Hall of Slight Regret Due to Unforeseen Circumstances Beyond His Control

Perhaps Somewhat Overrated in Hindsight

Stormzone - Death DealerThe first album I ever awarded a perfect score too was the little known, largely unheralded Death Dealer by Ireland’s own Stormzone. At the time I was a mere two months into my AMG career of infamy, and this was but my 12th review. I had an imperfect grasp on what a near perfect/iconic album was, and as I was very much taken by the olde timey charm the album delivered, I definitely overrated it. Make no mistake, Death Dealer is a righteously sloberknocking platter of NWoBHM influenced, balls to the walls heavy metal, and I still love it to this day. It has an amazing blend of metallic excess, hooks and slick songwriting and a certain charm that’s at once timeless and hopelessly stuck in the early 80s. Cut after cut assaults the listener with a sound mixing the magic of vintage Iron Maiden and Judas Priest with the brawny bluster of Manowar, and the hook factor is on par with that of an industrial metal packing concern. As far as flaws go, “Labyrinth” and “Wasted Lives” though quite good in their own right, don’t hold up in comparison to stand outs like the title track, “Secret Gateway,” “Stand Up and Fight” or “Greatest Sacrifice.” There’s some bloat too, as on the ironically titled “The Legend Carries On” and lengthy closer “The Final Journey,” each capable of losing two or three minutes and being better for it. I suppose in some ways this was my White Wizzard moment, but Death Dealer is a far, far superior album to anything those pale and sickly necromancers ever conjured. Nostalgia is a helluva drug, minor mistakes were made, but the legend carries on.

Original score: 5.0
Adjusted score: 4.0

 

Voyager - The Meaning of the II was a big fan of Voyager‘s I Am the Revolution outing, and when a young, still wet behind the ears Steel Druhm was given the opportunity to review their 2011 followup The Meaning of I, I came in a bit too hot. Songs like the unbelievably addicting “Stare into the Night” and “Seize the Day” were everything I wanted from Voyager‘s strange pop and prog-metal style and the songs carved out entire regions of my brain to build nests. Uber catchy cuts like “Broken” and “Fire of the Times” also stuck like Gorilla Glue, and who could hear “Iron Dream” and not love the touching memorial to the late, great Peter Steele. The high quality of these tracks caused me to overlook the album’s flaws. “The Pensive Disarray” is certainly a good song, but it’s nowhere near the level of the album highlights, and “He Will Return” is a decent if unexceptional interlude that doesn’t really do a lot to move the album along. “Feur Meiner Zeit” is another interlude that adds little. These are fairly minor issues but a 5.0 can’t have such glitches in the matrix. I was wrong here and feel shame, but it’s mostly the fault of others.

Original score: 5.0
Adjusted score: 4.0


Doom_et_Al

Grievously underrated!

I am an Emperor fanboi. In particular, I fanboi hard over In the Nightside Eclipse. Back at the very beginning of my tenure, Vargrav’s Reign in Supreme Darkness fell into my lap, and it just sounded like too much of an Emperor rip-off for my liking. Time and experience have shown me that rather than being a pale imitation of Eclipse, it’s more a sincere homage; it builds on the tropes of its illustrious influence rather than just mindlessly mimicking them. Reign takes the familiar sound of classic second wave black metal, adds just enough of his own twist to separate it from the pack, then croaks its way into your ears.

Where the album really shines is with its atmosphere. It is far more synthesizer-heavy than many of its contemporaries, which initially irritated me, but further listens have revealed that the experienced V-Khaoz makes it work. You can taste the evil in the night air, the palpable sense of danger, the whiff of dread… and it’s glorious. It still hews a little too closely to its influences—and its predecessor—for my liking, and there is some unnecessary repetition in the songs. But my original assessment was wrong. Vargrav’s Reign in Supreme Darkness isn’t a disappointment. Instead, it is a nostalgic, highly enjoyable slice of symphonic black metal.

Original score: 2.0
Adjusted score: 4.0


Diabolus in Muzaka

Underrated!

I’ve got no idea what I heard (or didn’t hear) when I reviewed Fragments nearly five years ago, but I think the appeal of ignorant slam was entirely lost on me. I didn’t grasp what this type of slam was trying to do musically and, much like expecting your hamburger to be a good chicken burger, I was hoping “slam” would entail a polished and technical affair like The Anomalies of Artificial Origin. I was disappointed by Dysentery because they didn’t do what they never set out to do. It was an issue with the reviewer, not the music, that gave Fragments its low score and saw me wrongly dismissing Cephalotripsy as a joke. Listening now, Fragments is a fun, knuckle-dragging slam record with more putrid grooves than a 7” that’s been puked on by a guy who just finished an entire 30 pack of White Castle sliders by himself. Fragments is chunkier than cottage cheese, and a dollop of Dysentery will do for a walloping. Good stuff!

Original score: 1.5
Revised score: 3.0

Show 3 footnotes

  1. I’ll save you the trouble of adding this adjective Steel.
  2. I owe explanations to no one! – Steel
  3. Metal Archives still lists Beak as active but they have not released anything under that name since Let Time Begin and members of the band are seemingly busy with other projects.
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