Oh holy balls.
Well, 2019 started off alright in terms of timeliness, but even given my previous record this is a particularly shameful display. But you know what else is a shameful display? Once upon a time, Angry Metal Guy dot Com could be reliably counted on to trash all the sludge, crust and country-fried stoner rock available. But now? These days when I poll Record(s) o’ the Month in the AMG group we have an ungrateful insurgence of writers voting for shameful, shameful things. Things that shock and depress me, making it difficult to even get the energy up to write a Record o’ the Month post. When I started this here little blog nigh on a decade ago, it was so that I never accidentally would have to buy a post-hardcore, sludge, or _insert_trend_here_ based on an inflated Blabbermouth review ever again and neither would you. Yet here we are and I am outraged. So outraged, in fact, that it took me weeks to pick myself up off the floor and write this post and I am considering permanent changes around here! So, with that dire warning out of the way: here’s your Record(s) o’ the Month.
Soen‘s Lotus is likely the first album to receive two Excellent reviews on AMG. For me, back in November when I was invited in to the Soen home studio for a listen through the album with the band, it was clear to me that this album was going to be a special one. Lotus is a special album with great writing, intense performances from a band that’s gelling, and a fantastic production job. I can say without question that the vinyl master is incredible and the standard CD master is pretty good, too. And what both Huck and I agree on is that Lotus shows Soen becoming the band we’ve always expected them to be. As I gushed back in 2018: “Lotus is a complete album because it balances Soen‘s contrasts and unifies them into a sound that is more than the sum of its parts. The peaks and valleys are not exclusive to each other; they define each other. Everything—from the songwriting to the mix to the album’s packaging—seems to have aligned to encapsulate Soen‘s unique vision leaving listeners with the impression that Soen has challenged itself to deliver perfection and the album feels like an example of a band that’s striving for growth and maturing together.”
And it’s still that good four months later.1
Avantasia // Moonglow — Back in 2002, I heard the song “Chalice of Agony” streaming on a web radio station and I picked up The Metal Opera (Part II) from Avantasia. While I still love that song, I never was able to get into the project. Until, that is, Moonglow. This is particularly surprising because it’s a great record even if it features Jørn Lande and Geoff Tate.2 So why now? Well, it turns out that Tobias Sammet finally came in touch with his inner Meat Loaf and is edging ever closer to the kind of Arjen Lucassen school of metal operatics. The songwriting is tight and catchy and the performances are great. As Steel Druhm summed it up in his upbeat and positive review: “Moonglow is everything you expect from an Avantasia release with over an hour of fun and frolic through the fields of ego and excess, and fans will not be disappointed. Mr. Sammet has managed to beat the odds yet again, harnessing the diverse talents of a score of musicians to create another collection of songs that are bigger than big. If you need more melodrama and unbridled enthusiasm in your dull, colorless life, this is the album to swaddle yourself in.” And thanks to his advice I’m wrapped up in a Moonglow burrito.
Vanum – Ageless Fire — Ageless Fire doesn’t just have incredible artwork. No, the album also contains a black metal hearkening back to the mighty Bathory and the distinction of being one of the best black metal albums I’ve heard since the Norwegian band Mistur dropped In Memoriam. Our own n00b Cherd was also impressed with the combination of old school ideas and just-raw-enough feeling: “If ‘Elemental’ is a word the band means to evoke with their music, they succeed, and their choice of album cover communicates the same. ‘Tasteful’ also comes to mind when considering the visual and musical compositions. Knowing what you want to do and then doing it well may seem simple enough, but it’s fucking difficult. Vanum is a band who knows what they’re about. They represent themselves well visually, and the music speaks for itself.”
- Note, the sidebar is the inside cover of the album, which you get when you unfold the digipack or vinyl. It’s awesome and I wanted to use it for the background because it works better than the other cover art. ↩
- Actually, Jørn sounds fucking great on this album. And the duet with Hansi Kürsch is a highlight for me. ↩