Contrite Metal Guy – Mistakes Were Made [N00b Cautionary Tales and Warnings Edition]

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.

I and several other writers lamented recently the sheer volume of free music that we are forced—forced, dear reader!—to consume. Occasionally, we miss the freedom to just wallow in the greatness of a single album we stumble across or to sacrifice hours, or even days, disappearing down the rabbit hole of the discographies of favorite bands. Another scribe, tears leaking unnoticed from his left eye, confessed that the 3.5 he’d awarded an album must be a clear case of overrating, as he’d not had time to revisit it since. Pity us, dear readers, as we put ourselves through the Metal Meat Grinder just for your benefit.

Think these are problems you’d like too? Well, we invited you to try and wheedle your way into the Hall, so let’s see how that works out for you. Indeed, the tantalizing prospect of blooding sacrificing tormenting torturing … ‘welcoming'(?) new n00bs to Team AMG even forced a few of us, including yours truly, to consider whether any errors had been made during our own, half-forgotten n00bdoms.

So, behold, the latest—possibly largest—act of contrition, where we lay bare our regrets for all of you.

– Carcharodon


Carcharodon

Scores migrate south

When Bossk‘s second full-length, Migration, landed on my desk in June, it hit me hard. Circumstances played their part in this: I was coming off a streak of 14 reviews with an average score of 2.4. So when a really good post-metal album enveloped me in its stuttering, glacial grandeur, I surrendered with more ease than perhaps I should have. Indeed, I coughed up a 4.5, something I’d only done twice before and those two records took first and second place on my List last year. Almost five months on from reviewing Bossk and with List Season looming, I have to admit I was … generous in my assessment of Migration.1 It remains a very good album, with an eerie, brooding grandeur to it and I don’t subscribe to the views I have seen bandied about that Bossk‘s work feels unfinished. There is no getting around two facts, however. First, it is telling that I have hardly touched it since finishing the review. Secondly, there is zero chance it will come close to topping my List. I find myself, therefore, in the curious position of agreeing with everything I said in the review, while recognizing that the score was clearly wrong.

Original score: 4.5
Adjusted score: 3.5

 

Stormy scores

Third Storm - The Grand Manifestation 01I recently reviewed Gold Spire‘s self-titled debut and, according to many of you, underrated it. That, however, is a story for another day. What Gold Spire also did was remind me of the first album I ever reviewed for AMG—in those heady days when I was still Nameless_N00b_17Third Storm‘s The Grand Manifestation, since the bands share a vocalist, Heval Bozarslan. As well as cringing slightly at my writing three years ago, I now realize Third Storm was also a more challenging record to tackle than I recognized at the time. This is for two reasons. First, there were a lot of familiar elements on The Grand Manifestation, which gives the listener (or baby reviewer) a number of different hooks or holds to cling to. Secondly, a lot of what Third Storm do on the record is fun and well-executed. In retrospect, however, there is too much going on and, while I still dip in occasionally for cuts like the Skeletonwitch-esque “Gorakaathuar,” the album as whole is the very definition of mixed. Also, if, as I maintain, 3.0 is the correct score for Gold Spire it does not sit well with me that I scored these two very different records the same and so, I shall no longer score them thus,

Original score: 3.0
Adjusted score: 2.5


Grymm

Jeebus, have I really been doing this gig for over eight years now?! Damn, time flies when you’re chained to a metal chair in the boiler room with an angry snapping turtle chomping at your ankles writing for the best damn metal blog on the webisphere. Even then, though, mistakes are bound2 to be made, personal errors are confronted, and adjustments are to be partaken of. As such, for the second time, let’s rip the bandage off, blot out the oozing wound, and come along as I bump up (or down) some scores that need bumping up… or down.

Better Than I Thought!

At the time of writing this review, I felt that Anaal Nathrakh‘s streamlined about-face after 2018’s conceptual-but-uneven A New Kind of Horror deserved the score it received late last year. Over the last few months, however, Endarkenment has not only continued to grow on me but its messages of willful ignorance, blind political allegiance (regardless of what side of that pyrrhic war you run with), and various human atrocities have only grown more potent. Is it perfect? No, but it’s so damn close, and it deserves a score that reflects that. Speaking of…

Original Score: 4.0
Adjusted Score: 4.5

 

The album prior to A New Kind of Horror also was underrated. I’ve felt that Anaal Nathrakh hit peak creativity/insanity with 2009’s unfuckwithable In The Constellation of the Black Widow. And while I maintain that Constellation is a perfect album, The Whole of the Law goes toe-to-toe with it admirably, and is easily the most vicious, hungriest late-period album Anaal Nathrakh has released to date. Listening to it now shows even more nuances than originally thought, all while being relentlessly savage from beginning to end, with no weak moments in sight. Hence, a much-deserved bump and recognition.

Original Score: 4.0
Adjusted Score: 5.03

 

Not Quite Holding Up

At the time of release, I played Primordial‘s Where Greater Men Have Fallen countless times, reveling in the band’s unflinchingly proud stylings of their Irish origins and passionate vocals of Alan Averill. However, after returning to it years later, I’m skipping more than half of the album, with only the title track and closer “Wield Lightning to Split the Sun” making an impact. While the highs continue to captivate, the lows see them trudging.

Original Score: 4.5
Adjusted Score: 3.0

 

Killing Joke - PylonI know, I know … before you nail me to a wall, hear me out.4 I still believe that Pylon is, musically, one of the best Killing Joke albums ever released, easily going toe-to-toe with both 1990’s Extremities, Dirt, & Various Repressed Emotions and their second self-titled from 2003. But the production on Pylon mars it considerably, hampering my enjoyment factor upon revisiting. It’s a shame, too, because Pylon is otherwise a stellar album to this day. Shut up.

Original Score: 5.0
Adjusted Score: 4.0

 


Dear Hollow

Underrated!

I’ve been in denial about Amnutseba. In spite of my original assessment that they’re another competent but unspectacular Deathspell Omega copycat, I find myself comparing likeminded acts’ output to debut Emanatism. It’s undoubtedly uneven: “Abstinence” and “Ungrund” are massively unhinged beatdowns of dissonance and menace, while “Dislumen” and “Tabula” settle into a mid-tempo omen. However, thanks to its absolutely bonkers vocal attack and nearly-grind pummel, the palette takes on a life of its own that distinguishes it from the pack – namely because it never forsakes its absolutely maddening pitch-black atmosphere. While the potential outweighs the actual output, Emanatism is nonetheless deserving of a damn high score, as its legacy speaks for itself and the trajectory promises a world of dissonant, obscure success. I’m not often one for Contrite optimism, but holy shit, Amnutseba is great.

 

Original Score: 3.5
Adjusted Score: 4.0

 

Overrated!

Vouna - Vouna 01It occurred to me that with 2021’s Atropos, Yianna Bekris’ Vouna has massively improved from its self-titled debut but my scoring only showed a half a point increase. As Vouna was one of my n00b reviews, I was blind to red flags or journalism or anything that makes me a good contributor. While ambitious in its fusion of Wolves in the Throne Room-esque folky organicity and retro synth textures, alongside funeral doom and black metal tropes with mournful Katatonia-inspired vocals, Vouna dwells in faulty songwriting and too much variety to make a statement. It’s ambitious, no doubt, but ultimately its main issue is that it’s not as evocative as its successor, nor does it pack in the highlights to justify repeated spins. Put briefly, Vouna is boring. Every shortcoming is addressed in this year’s excellent Atropos, which makes me feel a bit better about trash-talking its predecessor.

Original Score: 3.0
Adjusted Score: 2.0

 

A Smidge Overrated!

I love this band. I love this band so much. Death ‘n roll is a dying art, and the lone proprietors who take the Entombed example and run with it are the last of that breed. The Generals is a band that consistently creates excellent death ‘n roll, like Wolverine Blues on steroids. It’s gym music at its finest, but lacks the momentum needed for list-worthiness. While I stand by the fact that groove-inflected shred makes “Faith in Fire” a head-crushing bop and the unrelenting thrash elevates “Locate Decapitate Incinerate,” there is simply too much filler (contrary to my original assertions of “all killer, no filler”), making tracks like “Thrill Kill,” “Deadlock,” and “Bombardment” tragically forgettable. Over-repetition damns marginal tracks, leaving limp riffs stuck in the head for the wrong reasons. Still a kickass album, just lacking the momentum to stick.

Original Score: 3.5
Adjusted Score: 3.0

 


My Dearest n00b, by Cherd of Doom

“As you are now, so once was I; As I am now, so you must be…” So the pithy gravestone supposedly says, letting some wet blanket continue to be a downer from beyond the grave. Allow me to address the pending influx of n00bs with the same sentiment. I was once like you: eager, dazzled by the bright lights of probationary writer status on your favorite blog,5 and prone to overrate like an absolute amateur. For the benefit of these wet-behind-the-ears scamps, I’ve chosen to revisit two of my probationary reviews. Observe me, young cadets, as I make amends for my insufferable optimism.

Crossing invisible lines

Perhaps the most important lesson you can learn as a young n00b is when NOT to give out a 4.0. Your second ever review of a new, one-person black metal project that runs under 25 minutes and is actually a glorified EP is a bad time to give a 4.0. And yet, here we are. Spain’s Lifelost, or rather, one Mr. Phlegeton (Wormed), threw his hat in the blackened ring with 2018’s Dialogues From Beyond. Don’t get me wrong, this guy does dense, slightly disso-black almost as well as he does tech-death but this is a 3.5, tops. Of the five songs, three are genuinely very good, but the other two coast on Lifelost having a good sound, rather than succeeding as standalone songs. It’s an easy mistake to make, elevating style over substance, but a 4.0 is an invisible line that should only be crossed when an album is exceptional. If you’re a sports fan, remember, there’s a Hall of Fame. Not a Hall of Very Good.

 

Original Score: 4.0
Adjusted Score: 3.5

 

Creeping Cherd scores

The Great Sabatini - Goodbye Audio 01Score creep is very real. There’s a reason why we say “when in doubt, round down.” Baby n00b Cherd had his doubts about The Great Sabatini‘s noise/sludge/hardcore album Goodbye Audio, but he gave those 90s loving boys the benefit of the doubt. I was so happy to get some sludge, a style I’m in the minority for liking at ol’ AMG and Sons LTD, that I willed it onto the “Good” podium with a 3.0. Going back and listening to it with fresh ears, this is squarely in “Disappointing” territory. The sludgy riffs run together from song to song and the imprecise approach to the instruments too often treads the line between charmingly loose and downright sloppy. While each song has an interesting turn or two, the only good tracks are “You’re Gonna Die (Unsatisfied)” and the album’s true highlight “Hand of Unmaking.” I’ve never once had the urge to put on Goodbye Audio since my original review, and that’s all the evidence I need to demote it. My sweet, innocent probationary writer, your cheeks are like little fleshy apples and I just wanna pinch them until they bleed but, if you have to ask “Should I give this a decent score,” you shouldn’t.

Original Score: 3.0
Adjusted Score: 2.0

Show 5 footnotes

  1. You were an overrating bastard! – Steel
  2. *nervous gulp*
  3. *Shocked gasp* – Carcharodon
  4. Can’t we do both? – Carcharodon
  5. How can it be your favorite? THERE ARE NO OTHER BLOGS! – Carcharodon
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