Record(s) o’ the Month – January 2020

December brings extended downtime to the overworked, never paid AMG staff as the pace of review slowly drops off. It’s the time of year when we’re left alone to perfect our year-end lists before fleeing the hustle and bustle of the Skull Pit and promo spa for a much needed mental vacation. January however means a dutiful return to the writing cells with clear minds, full hearts and musical palates ready for new abuses. The shackles are then reapplied and the whipping resumes in earnest. Thus we begin another angry metal year and hope for good things to come, while bracing for the bad that gets dumped on our doorstep in frightening volumes. Pray for Mojo, but pray harder for the besieged staff of AMG as they sally forth into critical combat once more. THIS is the Way.

It’s been nearly 14 years since Tuomas Saukkonen graced us with a Dawn of Solace record, but in 2020 he made up for the interminable wait with their second platter titled Waves. Teaming up with his Black Sun Aeon collaborator Mikko Heikkilä, Tuomas crafted an album full of beautifully bleak, depressive Finnish melodeath and then opted to leave off the death and just go with clean vocals. It works brilliantly and song after song conjures that perfect blend of metal and melancholy while proving Tuomas is still one of the best at this genre despite his Wolfheart project largely leaving it buried in the ice. Tuomas and Mikko have already proven themselves a powerful tandem, but this is their crowning glory as songs like “Lead Wings” and “Hiding” are simply beautiful, haunting gems of downbeat brooding and icy rumination. This album will likely play a big role in the distant year-end listery and it’s great to hear Tuomas once more doing what he does best. Don’t miss this, you overly cheerful bastards.

Runner(s) Up:

殞煞 Vengeful Spectre // 殞煞 Vengeful Spectre – We don’t get many (or any) albums from Chinese metal acts, but boy howdy did we get one in January. 殞煞 Vengeful Spectre delivered a surprisingly massive dose of folksy black metal with their self-titled opus and it knocked a bunch of the AMG staff on their asses. It was all the more unexpected because information is so very scant about this band and their history. Leveraging traditional Chinese folk instruments against fierce, savage black metal, this is a record that feels massive and turbulent, fierce but focused, with hints of Emperor in its tangled DNA. It’s a concept album of sorts, and it comes across like a mammoth saga for the ages. It may be a bit rough around the edges and has some imperfections, but what this mysterious outfit achieved here should be experienced forthwith. Here’s to getting a lot more metal from China in the future.

Brothers of Metal // Emblas Saga – Everything about this album reeked of cheese wizardry and shame, from the band name to the godawful promo photos and ridiculous video, but here it is alongside the best of the month. Is that just because Holdeneye stamps every promo he gets his grubby mitts on with a blazing 4.0? Yes, but actually no. This rowdy bunch of Swedes blend the burly sound of Sabaton with the Viking ethos of Amon Amarth to arrive at something like a less serious, more tongue-in-cheek Battlelore and it actually works. Utilizing clean female vocals alongside harsh male shouts and vague folk elements, it’s both cheesy and fist pumping, and that means big, dumb fun. Does anybody remember fun? The Brothers (and Sister) of Metal are here to help jog your memory with a spiked war club. Some shame may remain.

In an effort to save the remaining shreds of our cred make our playlists more focused, we at AMG Playlist Consolidated Conglomerations are trying something new this year. Instead of inundating you with our awful and awfully redundant tastes week after week, each month we’ll be selecting our favorite songs released the month prior. Shuffle-friendly and tailored with your listening pleasure in mind, I’m pleased to present the AMG Staff’s Songs of the Month, January 2020 edition.

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