Record(s) o’ the Month – February 2021

February featured heavy metal that was reviewed by some people at Levity was experienced by all. In the following post, Mr. Metal Guy will tell you all about what his favorite metal albums that were reviewed on the website were.

Album cover of the Record o' the Month for February 2021, a picture of an ethereal being in a cosmos

With vocals provided by my bro and Iceman Jón Aldará and art by newly minted Lör fan and all around amazing artist Eliran Kantor, Access All Worlds seemed like a shoe-in for RotM considerations. In fact, I received no fewer than five messages across three platforms from writers—as well as several more from outside the writing group who think that my Instagram is a place where they can just interact with me—asking me if I had been listening to the album. So, I got the message, I put the album on, expecting once again to resent Hr. Aldará for his obnoxious success, and once again finding myself unable to do so. Access All Worlds is a strong offering of powerful metal that can best be described as expansive and dramatic. Gardenstale, taking a break from growing weed or whatever he does during the day in Dutch lockdown, finally has a banner carrier for fans of dramatic metal in 2021: “Across the spectrum of metal genres, the early contenders of 2021 have begun to arise. Thrashers have their Demoniac and Paranorm, traditionalists have their Significant Point,1 black metal fiends have their Ruins of Beverast and their Misotheist, Kronos has Ad Nauseam. So it was about time those like me, who love their metal progressive and heavy and melodic all at the same time, got their own banner carrier, and Iotunn is perfect for the role. Gargantuan, adventurous, impeccably composed and perfectly executed, Access All Worlds is an absolutely monumental quest through the cosmos.” Too many adverbs? Absolutely. Correct assessment? Yes.

Runner(s) Up:

Ad Nauseam // Imperative Imperceptible ImpulseAd Nauseam is a band after my own heart. The Italians are interested in fast, technical and heavy music with natural sounds and Imperative Imperceptible Impulse’s description on Bandcamp, boasts that it’s DR11 and that it’s influenced by the likes of “Stravinsky, Šostakóvič, Xenakis, Scelsi, Penderecki and Ligeti, to name a few.” Name dropping composers like AMG commenters namedrop obscure bands no one cares about? Pretentious? Technical? Influenced by destructive and modernist classical music? Loudness warriors? Be still my beating heart! I have quibbles with the tone,2 quibbles with production choices,3 and it’s no surprise to anyone that I’m a sucker for a big cheesy chorus, so III requires a specific mood. But this album is fucking nuts and I am in awe of it. III is fascinating, innovative and devious in its intricacies. It’s dissonant, but it has an order to it that really does remind me of the likes of Stravinsky, which makes it beautiful in its twistedness. It always keeps me guessing and at times it’s like listening to logic problems, making me want to stop and re-listen to parts. And hey, while I enjoy this album, Kronos prematurely overshot his 2021 quota of zero 5.0s by one! He was sure to let everyone know that he was in love by declaring the album as iconic and excitedly exclaiming: “Impulse resists every convention and becomes stronger with each subversion of form. Ad Nauseam put everything they had into creating a record that truly synthesizes and transcends its influences. They succeeded.”

StarGazer // Psychic Secretions — At some point we’re going to have to have a talk with bands about album titles that alliterate but mean hardly anything (see: Imperative Imperceptible Impulse above, Psychic Secretions here, etc.). But that day is not today! Today we are here to celebrate an album that not even the guy who wrote the review thinks should be on this list. And yet, here we are because Psychic Secretions is fucking good. It has a slithering nastiness and tech-adjacent entrancement that speaks to me. The things that led El Cuervo to suggest that he admired—but not loved!—Psychic Secretions are particularly why I enjoy StarGazer’s latest album. It’s 39 minutes of interesting ideas, experimental moments, packed in a production that evokes the ’90s, feels clear and balanced and that sports an even performance throughout. Tech-adjacent death metal with a great fretless performance and an aesthetic that must be intentionally meant to evoke Altars of Madness just sits well with me. I admire Psychic Secretions and time will tell if I love it. But I don’t need to be declaring my intentions in order to say that it’s one of the three best albums I heard in February.

Svn.Seeker // Means to an End Review

Album cover of Svn.Seeker's debutSvn.Seeker’s self-released debut EP, which is entitled Means to an End, does two things well. First, it justifies its own existence by telling you that, in fact, it is a means to an end. Second, it introduces Svn.Seeker’s4 upbeat brand of melodic death metal on an unsuspecting public. Aside from 56 seconds of “I’m about to listen to a doom record” at the beginning of the album (“The Plot”), the four full songs do a great job of showcasing the band’s best qualities. The whole thing notches in at under 20 minutes, which definitely makes it a genuine EP, but it’s a fun listen which could be the launching pad for any number of variations in the future.

At its core, Means to an End is a smart, fun scandy-influenced melodeath album that straddles the thrash barrier at times. The songs are anchored with Björriffs, giving a familiar Scandy vibe, but the melodic death metal connoisseur will also pick up hints at times reminiscent of genre-war-inducing Xoth, early Children of Bodom and even Cosmogenesis-era Obscura (“Death of a Judge”). You’ve heard the sound on Means to an End before in some form, but Svn.Seeker shows that there’s some compositional intellect. The use of keys and the occasional unexpected twists and turns offer up smart, fun little moments that keep the listener on their toes.

Nearly everything about the album sounds great from the mix and master to the writing. If there’s a downside to Svn.Seeker’s sound, it’s that the vocals feel strangely out of place. It’s not that their singer is bad, but he’s mixed in a way that removes his power and presence. With a strong modern production, they still have Xasthur’s vocal production, with singer and guitarist Nikita Khrenov recording down the hall in the bathroom. It’s too much reverb and too buried in the mix. It undermines his power and makes the songs seem weaker than they are. And that’s a shame, because there are plenty of memorable riffs and each song offers real promise for the future and enjoyable listens now.

Means to an End demonstrates unequivocally that the potential is here for Svn.Seeker to do whatever they want. If their debut full length, whenever that should arrive, were more neo-classical? I could see that, as the writing has an orchestral bent. If the band was more techy than ever, that makes sense given the Xothy/Obscuraish vibe that comes across in places. They certainly could add in some polyrhythms and some more showy prog parts and they’d be there. Hell, if they wanted to earn the ire of the metal community, they could double down on their half-time parts *coughbreakdownscough* and find a guy who likes talking about his feelings over the song to do vocals, firing the very first shots for the re-metalcore awakening. But I get the feeling that no matter what they do next, Svn.Seeker is going to be good at it.

Show 4 footnotes

  1. As opposed to “Superfluous Point,” which never garnered as much attention and mostly served as a distraction.
  2. A little too Beaten to Death, I’d like a more overdriven guitar tone.
  3. I just want to EQ the mix to emphasize the upper range; it’s a bit muddy in a way that kind of reminds me of Sigh’s Scenes from Hell, maybe that’ll grow on me, maybe not…
  4. I assume this is pronounced “Sun Seeker” but I’ve been pronouncing it “Seven Seeker” for weeks.
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