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.

Got a real treat for you today. And by treat, I mean us being crankier than usual because we’re being hard on ourselves, so hell yeah! Contrite Metal Guy is a chance for us to reflect on past reviews and ratings, as well as how we’ve changed over the years as reviewers and as people. For instance, I could have shown one of my students an album and they were like, “that sounds cool” and I was like, “sweet, +0.5” like it was some fucking DnD stat. We don’t know. Regardless, comin’ atcha live from the Skull Pit, myself and two of the neatest dudes ever, Holdeneye and TheKenWord, are going to reflect on why our original scores sucked. So buckle in, motherfuckers, because we overrating bastards are here to kick our scores into high low gear. In the immortal words of Maurice Moss, “I came here to drink milk and kick ass. And I’ve just finished my milk.”

Now, I’m gettin’ real tired of myself from last year, and while some reviewers enjoy the Mark of the Beast 4.0,1 I’ve dragged the deep and have only awarded three albums such an honor. I’ll be robbing myself of some undeserved optimism today, while your other boys will be shellin’ out a couple silver linings. So welcome to Contrite Metal Guy, where we’re all overrating bastards, but at least this time we admit it.

Dear Hollow


Dear Hollow

Tragically Overrated!

Black metal can really suck sometimes a lot of the time. Case in point: 10:13‘s Result of an Iron Age. It was an embarrassing n00b endeavor for a young boi with good intentions cloggin’ his eyes like coffee grounds down the AMG Headquarters office sink. Steel assigned this instrumental monstrosity when I asked for some black metal, but in hindsight, I think that he was just fucking with me.2 The issue plaguing my original score was not so much a matter of optimism but rather a misunderstanding of what is, um, good. Bad tracks and especially ones I heralded as “good” clank around painfully, missing beats, utilizing a godawful guitar tone, and making dissonance sound unintentional, overrun by nauseating repetition. Ambition and lack of vocals are noteworthy, but the same can be said for baffling incompetence. It’s tragic when a “mixed” review is overrated, but in this case, it really is, and my optimism was about as put-together as that cover.3

Original Score: 2.5
Adjusted Score: 1.0

 

Overrated!

In hindsight, while I could get lost in its density and jaggedness, Glassing‘s Spotted Horse didn’t make it anywhere near my AOTY’s despite being one of the highest ratings I’ve given during my tenure. When Isis-like shoegazy songwriting takes the forefront, the sound is elevated from standard post-metally sludge to “holy shit that’s huge!”, making tracks like “A Good Death” and “The Wound is Where the Light Enters” stunning and visceral.

Unfortunately, the black metal and mathy freakouts are about as subtle as a toddler pointing at you and saying “ugly,” making tracks like “Sleeper” and “Way Out” feel like said toddler’s dinner plate,4 derailing the hugeness they had enacted prior. One-dimensional vocals are also an issue, relying solely on grating shrieks. But overall, while I certainly overrated this bad boy real bad, it remains a good listen, one whose juxtaposition of serenity and jaggedness is worth a second look.

Original Score: 4.0
Adjusted Score: 3.0

 

A Crumb Overrated!

Batushka‘s Litourgiya is probably one of the coolest and most influential contemporary black metal experiments in recent memory. If you split up Batushka over some petty drama, pick a side,5 throw in some Death. Void. Terror. chaotic doom influence, some Yodh-era Mizmor abstractness, and some Cultes des Ghoules fiery devil worship, you’ve got yourself Ancient Moon‘s Benedictus Diabolica, Gloria Patri. While it certainly earns repeated listens, its enigmatic and subtle qualities are a double-edged sword. Simple riffs and flourishes of liturgical atmosphere work in its favor for an eerie and hypnotic listen, but its subtlety ends up feeling like lack of commitment. Overall, while it pays homage to all its influences with epic results, it never manages to create something that I would point at and say, “That’s Ancient Moon.”

Original Score: 4.0
Adjusted Score: 3.5


Holdeneye

I’d like to take this opportunity to lower the score of each and every review I’ve ever done by 1.5 points.

Psych! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! I’m usually spot-on with my scores, but here are a few minor tweaks:

Overrated by a smidge!

I stand by my original assessment that Part of a Sick World by Surgical Strike is a killer thrash album, but I’ve cooled on it ever so slightly since the beginning of the year. I generally reserve my 4.0hammer™ for things that I automatically know will be on my year-end list, but I allowed the optimistic freshness of 2020 to cloud my judgment in this case. Or maybe it was because this review came hot on the heels of my review of Emblas Saga by Brothers of Metal, and the level of Thorium in my system was still dangerously high. Either way, I’d like to set the record straight as I’ve not returned to Part of a Sick World nearly as often as I anticipated while writing the initial review despite this still being my favorite thrash album of the year. There are some absolute bangers on here, but I wish a couple of the tracks were a little more memorable.

Original Score: 4.0
Adjusted Score: 3.5

 

Slightly overrated!

I’m not exactly sure why I was so excited about The Inevitable War by Amulet. It certainly has a pleasing old-school sound and some killer tracks, but I’d be lying if I said I had returned to it since the original review was published. I originally compared it to the modern output of Satan or Visigoth, but it really can’t be placed in the same tier as those bands. After spinning Greyhawk‘s Keepers of the Flames a million times this year, it’s further cemented the nagging feeling of overration — I think I created a new word. Hell, I practically embody it! — that I’ve felt about Amulet. I should have known that I’d unconsciously rejected my original assessment because I’ve since used the review’s comment section as my own personal Los Alamos67 testing site as I try to remember how to link a damn image each and every time I want to do so.

Original Score: 3.5
Adjusted Score: 3.0

 

There’s nothing to see here. Move along.8

 

 

 

 


Original Score:
4.0
Adjusted Score:
4.59


TheKenWord

Underrated!

With only 1-2 weeks to spend with every album, we risk seeing only a few trees where there actually thrives a lush forest. Warforged‘s brilliant debut I: Voice is one such forest. Smelting tech death, atmo-prog and brutal dissonance to craft haunting tales of naturalistic horror that stretch the course of seventy-three minutes, the Chicagoan quintet ask a lot of their audience. To that end, I forgive most for throwing such criticisms as “bloated” and “meandering” and even “self-indulgent” at I: Voice. I called the band out for similar things in my original review. I was dead wrong.

You see, this record forges a future for death metal where not just the songs, but the stories take priority. The characters so intricately formed within songs like “Beneath the Forest Floor,” “Voice” and “Old Friend,” the world-building exhibited within “We’ve Been Here Before,” “Cellar” and “Willow,” and the abject terror wrought by “Nightfall Came” and “Eat Them While They Sleep” cannot be dismissed. Whatever flaws I saw in those initial spins dissipated once this realization struck, months after the fact. Since that moment, I: Voice has bloomed, revealing itself at last as a core entry in the annals of death metal.

Original Score: 3.0
Adjusted Score: 4.5

 

Overrated!

Somewhere along the line in early 2020, I misplaced my rose-colored monocle. I paid a lot of money for that accessory, so it goes without saying that I was quite distraught.10 In the throes of rage I returned to the alma mater of my early metallic education: symphonic power metal. I also felt cravings for some good old fashioned confirmation bias, so I selected last year’s Pythia record. But without that little tinted monocle, I found myself conflicted. How could I have been so deaf to the glaring flaws in The Solace of Ancient Earth?

Yeah, it’s got a few bangers on it still. “Ancient Soul,” “Black Wings” and especially “Hold of Winter” are still top notch tracks from a compositional perspective, and I can keep them on repeat for quite a time before fatigue sets in. Unfortunately, fatigue comes quickly everywhere else, and the primary culprit are the vocals. I steadfastly defended them as reminiscent of Sharon den Adel, but the truth is that one commenter who I slightly hate was absolutely correct—vocalist Sophie Dorman is pitchy as hell. When she has the note in check, it’s a wonderful thing, but too often she trips over higher registers, and in doing so she undoes the record in short order.

Original Score: 3.5
Adjusted Score: 2.0

 

Overrated!

Apparently, power metal had my spongeballs in a vice last year, because once again I allowed myself to depend on that blasted rosy monocle. Vandor, to be fair, absolutely cucked the rest of power metal at large in terms of production with their self-released debut In the Land of Vandor. The low end heft and drum mixing remain untouchable, as do the overall guitar tone and sense of dynamics between pummeling gallops. The songs, too, maximized fun and frivolity, capitalizing on the album’s adventure story and inviting the listener to tag along without hesitation. “Wrath of the Night,” “Possessive Eyes,” “The Land of Vandor,” and the epic “Uncover the Earth” all deserve the praise I unloaded way back in January of last year. So what happened?

Well, once again again, I understated the issues I had with Vide Bjerde’s vocals. He seemed to get better as the album progressed, but it’s a fine line between a high tenor and an off tenor, and he tread that line with a shaky lack of poise. Additionally, there were many songs that felt undercooked, lacking powerful choruses to seal the deal. I still dig some songs Vandor wrote, and I absolutely bemoan all of power metal for not sounding anywhere near as rich and lively as In The Land of Vandor, but my love for the album didn’t survive the test of time.

Original Score: 3.5
Adjusted Score: 2.5

Show 10 footnotes

  1. What are you even talking about? – Holdeneye
  2. Kind of why we have n00bs in the first place. – Steel
  3. *shudder*
  4. Or a Jackson Pollock painting. Take your pick.
  5. Too soon?
  6. Fun Fact: Los Alamos is Dear Hollow‘s hometown.
  7. That is fun! – Holdeneye
  8. You really want to be fired, don’t you? – Steel
  9. I honestly think Cyber Metal is a modern classic. I could listen to this all day, everyday. No album has made me pull out my air guitar more in the past five years. 40 minutes of unique vocals, killer riffs and leads, and fantastic songwriting — what else do you want, poser?!
  10. Did you get it on Zenni? – Holdeneye
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