It’s nearly October, so in the 2017 tradition: here’s the August Record(s) o’ the Month. To be honest, August was a cracking month. Surprisingly solid, given everything. There haven’t been many months—maybe September can compete—with this many good new records to choose from. But when we did the internal voting it became clear: My word is law, and what other people think is completely irrelevant. Given the fact that I hardly even show my face around here anymore, you’d think that’s unfair. But all good dictators know that when one is out pursuing the eldritch artifacts needed to dominate mankind and to stabilize one’s rule, one must remind others who is still in charge through arbitrary acts of violence and shows of force. (Hint: the dictator in this analogy is me.) So, here’s my Record(s) o’ the Month from August of 2017. Consensus schmonsensus.
In Forgotten Sleep by Pennsylvania’s Lör is the less-refined sibling of Wilderun‘s masterful Sleep at the Edge of the Earth. Lör is just cutting its teeth in 2017, having released only two demos previously, but In Forgotten Sleep is a clear demonstration that we have a lot to be excited about. The album’s production choices make for an old school sound that is, indeed, “charming,” and the songwriting pops with interesting riffs and moments—sneakily catchy and addictive. Our very own Eldritch Elitist mirrored my feelings on this record nearly perfectly: “In Forgotten Sleep is a remarkable record in every aspect, one of the only works in my collection that can justify every second of a seventy-minute run-time, and indisputably [one of the best] album[s] of the year thus far. Whether Lör can keep up this momentum has yet to be seen, but In Forgotten Sleep already feels like an underground classic in the making.”
Akercocke // Renaissance in Extremis — The rebirth of Akercocke has been rivaled only by my desire for a new Anata album. You can bet, then, that I was stoked to get my grubby little fingers on their first album since 2007’s superb Antichrist. Despite having sworn to never let Akerblogger anywhere near an Akercocke album due to rampant fanboyism, it became clear that even non-fanboys were having metalgasms for Renaissance in Extremis, and so we let him at it. His verdict? “I wanted Renaissance In Extremis to be as outrageous and creative as possible. It is. […] Akercocke have retained their trademark sound yet managed to hone it and fire it through fresh vistas. With a wonderful production to boot – clear, crisp, and deep, yet never plastic or too clean – Akercocke have hit gold. Renaissance in Extremis is fun and diverse whilst still being pensive and beautifully touching.”
Steven Wilson // To the Bone — It was never going to be possible to follow Hand. Cannot. Erase. with something as (ostensibly) evocative, meaningful or deep. And despite a press campaign which I think makes Steven Wilson sound pretty arrogant and sad,1 it’s tough to deny that To the Bone is probably the best followup he could have released. Rather than trying to “out epic” the previous album, Wilson took his major label debut to write an unapologetic pop rock record, playing with the ideas of identity and truth. It’s an album full of good songs and shows off Wilson’s chameleon-like tendencies—his greatest strength as a producer and his greatest weakness as a songwriter—quite clearly. His songs have a tendency to remind you of something that’s just on the tip of your tongue… and it makes To the Bone entertaining, familiar, but really enjoyable at the same time. In my stead, El Cuervo echoed my sentiments on Wilson’s new album: “The net result of Wilson’s foray into pop influences is favorably comparable with the likes of Kate Bush and David Bowie. While sounding like neither, he tackles tougher topics than an average, modern chart hit and fuses a compelling musical depth with his undeniable hooks. This website caters to metalheads but making it past the disturbing poppy surface reveals superior instrumentation and compositions to flesh out a satisfying record. To the Bone proves progressive music need not solely rely on 70s rock; nay, it should not.”
- Here’s the quote that I find to be the most frustrating: “His breakthrough fourth solo album, Hand. Cannot. Erase, was inspired by the death of Joyce Carol Vincent, who lay undiscovered in her flat for three years, but he admits it is really ‘about me, being invisible in plain sight – a metaphor for my career’.” That cheapens the album, frankly, but I can understand his frustration. Before I rant, a disclaimer: I am not trying to vilify a guy that’s worked hard for his position, is a musical omnivore and has written a massive variety of material but is generally unknown outside of subgenre music nerds. Sure, I can see that as a bit frustrating. But a short rant: Steven Wilson is a dude making a style of music that was popular in the 1970s likely due to a fluke of the demographics of who could afford records. Wilson is as broadly popular as he is today because of the genres of progressive rock and metal, neither of which has had meaningful popular cache since the 1980s. Furthermore, pop music has changed so completely that it’s tough to imagine that Steven Wilson thinks he could ever get mainstream recognition in a time when the industry relies on teams of unknown Scandinavian songwriters to make the music that dominates the charts and refuses to take risks at all due to the pressures of profit margins. I have trouble feeling compassion for a guy who’s complaining about the coverage he should be receiving, instead of the coverage he is receiving. For example, we are one of the most trafficked metal/prog blogs out there and we have heaped praise upon Wilson over the years, but he has repeatedly turned down our efforts to give him more positive press. Some bands don’t get the mainstream recognition they probably should get, but the best ones cope with that reality by turning their fanbase into an army of proselytizers. Iron Maiden sold out arenas four nights in a row in the USA in the 1980s without radio support or mainstream acknowledgement and they did the things they wanted to do, rather than writing records they hoped would get them on the charts. Be grateful to the fans you have and know your niche. It doesn’t befit someone as talented and successful as Wilson to whine about the fans he doesn’t have. Wilson feeling uncomfortable with the title of “The King of Prog” just aggravates me. You are one of the most sought after producers in rock and an artist’s artist. Writing an album about how your career is the equivalent of an isolated person dying alone in an apartment is just narcissistic drivel. Get over yourself. /rant ↩