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.






This self-released debut by Minnesotan trio RED\\SHIFT has a lot to answer for. It kickstarted a 6 week period last Spring, which saw me award it a 3.5, followed by three 4.0s – one of which I will be downgrading to a 3.5 immediately below – and a 4.5. Much as it pains me to say it, however, it was my take on Grow.Decay.Transform. that was widest of the mark. I said at the time that I swithered on how to score this album and that, had I been put on the spot after two listens, we’d have been talking a 2.5. It turns out that someone should have put me on the spot. RED\\SHIFT quite simply bit off more than it could chew on this record. As comparisons I made at the time – ranging from Between the Buried and Me to Intronaut, Opeth and even Maiden – show, the band threw the kitchen sink at this. And what I took at the time for brave experimentation and variety, now feels like a slightly disordered bunch of themes and ideas stapled together in a way that is sometimes interesting, sometimes just chaotic.

At the time of the review, I did highlight Grow.Decay.Transform.’s length (all 76 minutes of it!!) as an issue and, in retrospect, I don’t really see how I came to score as a 3.5 a record that I suggested could stand to lose 20 minutes of its runtime. There are also some vocal issues in a number of places – the cleans on “Mandrill” and “Ocean’s Call” being particular offenders – that troubled me more on my revisit than they did on my initial time with the record, although I am not sure which member of the band to point the finger at for these, as all three handle mic duties. In essence, however, I think this is one of those instances where I needed another week with the album but, the time pressure of reviewing meant that I wrote it up when I did and we are where we are. I stand by everything I said in my original review, except the score. In particular, I still think that, with a little more editing, RED\\SHIFT’s next outing, could be something special.

Original Score: 3.5
Adjusted Score: 2.5

A touch generous!

I remember Independence to the Beast hitting me very hard when I reviewed it all the way back in the Garden of Eden-like pre-pandemic world of March 2020. It was also a disappointing fail by Bindrune Recordings, which, despite publicising the many positive reviews for Canis Dirus’s third full-length album, failed to actually release the record until June. A real shame for a very good record – and the duo behind it – even if Independence to the Beast is not quite as good as I remember it. There is a huge amount of depressive misery in which to bathe on the album, which balances folk elements with blasts of black metal fury, and I stand by the description that I penned over a year ago of Canis Dirus as by degrees brutal, harrowing, oppressive and, occasionally, hopeful. Elements that I flagged as slight weaknesses in my review – notably the jarring change of mood in “Extreme Might of Resolve” and the over-use of spoken-word and atmospheric passages in “The Child and the Serpent” and “To Cast the Runes” – grate more than they did first time round, however. On reflection, these lessen the impact of the overall package somewhat by drawing, with “To Cast the Runes,” in particular, undermining the work done on the previous three tracks to build a flow of tortured misery, painted in a variety of bleak hues. That said, Independence to the Beast remains a very good outing for Canis Dirus, and one I enjoyed revisiting but it falls short of the “Great” level that I pitched it at in my initial review. I hope, however, that this piece, despite the slight downgrade to the score, might lead people who missed it first time round – because the label failed to actually release it as promised – to investigate.

Original Score: 4.0
Adjusted Score: 3.5

A touch ungenerous!

Grind is not generally my thing but, every now and again, you find an example of a genre that slaps you between the eyes and makes you really take note. New York’s Gravesend smacked me in the face with a befouled brick. Their debut full-length, Methods of Human Disposal, is a filthy, twisted piece of vicious grind, with just enough genre fusion to make it really interesting, as well as brutal. So interesting in fact that, as someone pointed out, I absent mindedly used Napalm Death’s greatest hits as a reference point in my review! Still, that idiocy aside, I have been regularly revisiting Gravesend (I am advised to steer clear of the actual place) and was reminded of the conundrum I faced at the time of my review: I couldn’t really find any faults with what I heard on Methods of Human Disposal – the band is tight as hell, smashing out some nasty, blackened grind with a nice thick bass sound to it; it’s well written, with a hideous narrative in its lyrics; and sports acceptable, if unremarkable, production. And yet, at the time, I didn’t feel comfortable awarding it a coveted 4.0. I think this is probably because I am always wary of overrating things in genres that I am less familiar with but, having now spent a lot more time with Gravesend I am willing to say that I was wrong. This deserved a 4.0 and I shall now give it one.

Original Score: 3.5
Adjusted Score: 4.0

Steel’s House of Regret and Shame

We’re only human, right? Granted, the AMG staffers are a superior breed of human, but mistakes will still be made. We take ownership for such flubs though, and rarely ever take it out on the n00b minions that serve us. For instance, in the primordial ooze era of the blog, I would occasionally get over excited about a new release and lose clinical objectivity to a greater or lesser extent. This lead to some higher than deserved scores which haunt me in my sleep. Let’s address some of those black marks on my otherwise stellar record.

Way back in 2012 I eagerly tackled the new Grand Magus platter The Hunt. Having loved the preceding few platters, I was all spun up and fanboying like a drunken Holdeneye, which caused me to grossly overestimate what the band actually delivered. While The Hunt contains a few classic Magus cuts (“Starlight Slaughter,” “Son of the Last Breath,” “Iron Hand”), there’s some material that hasn’t aged well. Tracks like “Sword of the Ocean” and “Storm King” are good but not great, while “Valhalla Rising” and the title track are essentially filler-level stuff. The thing that tripped me up so badly here was how much I love JB Christoffersson’s vocals and riffing style. He gets the whole epic, trve metal sound and he’s one of the best at crafting music in this style. Sadly, too many of the songs here are under cooked and lacking in major trvisms. This was a pretty major miss for them and me.

Original Score: 4.5
Adjusted Score: 3.0

Another example of giving too much credit to something in the initial rush of listening is Hatriot’s debut Heroes of Origin. As a lifelong fan of thrash and the greater works of Exodus, a Zetro Souza-fronted act featuring several of his family members seemed like a winning proposition, and their debut is a very solid dose of classic thrash. This is essentially a lost Exodus album that could slot in right after Fabulous Disaster, so my nostalgia meter got the best of me and I was too generous with the points. There’s an abundance of good to very good thrash fury on offer here, with “Cold Dead Hands” and “Your Worst Enemy” being winners, and “The Fear Within” hinted at much better things that sadly never arrived. While I do still spin this, time has shown the album to be a good but not great example of retro thrash in the modern age. Subsequent platters showed this in more stark detail and I’m unclear what the current status of this project is. It was fun while it was fun though!

Original Score: 4.0
Adjusted Score: 3.0

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