Record(s) o’ the Month – January 2021

New year, same old Angry Metal Guy. But this time, he’s been really keeping up with what the blog has been publishing and he has opinions about it. Fortunately, I’m Angry Metal Guy, so I get to impose my will on the rest of the blog and you guys can all whine away in the comment sections.1 In fact, I have found that trolling you, the fans and writers of, is what keeps me living and breathing in spite of the ridiculous parade of horseshit that this period of my life keeps throwing at me. As such, the obvious choice was to go with Steven Wilson’s new album, which came out Friday. Unfortunately, Porcupine Tree wasn’t Genesis and Steven Wilson isn’t Peter Gabriel.

And in 2021, as time permits, I’m introducing a new feature called Angry Metal Rebuttals™ since I’m dumb enough to read what everyone is writing here.2 The idea is that I’m going to choose two or three albums a month to give alternative—mostly positive, I assume—takes on. I thought that January was better than we gave it credit for here at the blog. I mean, as far as Januaries go, I walked away with quite a few nominations for my Song o’ the Year list. As such, I am going to take a minute to pick out two records to engage with my Very Important Opinions™ following the Record(s) o’ the Month. Public shaming needs to come back since no one at this fucking blog listens to me anymore.

Chile’s Demoniac makes a special brand of melodic, progressive thrash that I have been enchanted with since I first heard it pouring out of my speakers. So It Goes balances all the things that I want from my thrash into one super fun, interesting record. There’s an old school and German feel to So It Goes that I think works well for them. But unlike Kreator, Demoniac isn’t afraid to get a little weird. This is demonstrated by the fact that the title track is nearly 20 minutes long and that the opening track “RSV – Fool Coincidence – Testigo” has three minutes of guitar interludes that flirt with Iron Maiden’s “Flash of the Blade.” These flashes of a fresh, fun take on thrash make my heart go all aflutter. Add in a clarinet section in “Extravidio,”3 and these guys stole my heart. Everyone I’ve showed it to loves it except Martín López who reminded me that Chile backed the British in the Guerra de las Malvinas or, as we call it at home, The War of Thatcherian Aggression. Some might suggest he has a horse in this race, however. 4.0ldeneye was out first on this one and deserves credit for taking time to get to know and love Demoniac. He lovingly opined that “Demoniac is stretching the boundaries of what we consider to be acceptable in thrash, but they do so without losing sight of the elements that make the genre so great in the first place: frantic riffing, virtuoso bass, and some of the best leads you’ll ever hear. [This is] a record that simply must be heard.”

Runner(s) Up:

Soen // Imperial — While it seems overkill to write another paragraph about Imperial since I just dropped an 1800 word review yesterday and Huck has a finished review that will run next week, what choice do I have? Imperial is a record that I’ve listened to 50+ times since I received it and that I am listening to again right now as I write this. Despite complaints that it’s “dad rock” from the commentariate or that the band has lost their progressiveness, I find myself enjoying the drama and the band’s approach to songwriting on Imperial. Sure, the Kane Churko (yeah, sorry about that) production is pretty poppy and the CD version of the album rocks an unfortunate DR5, but the songs are there, the performances are fantastic and the gambles the band took paid off. As I wrote just yesterday, “The next struggle for Soen is going to be figuring out where to turn. They can rest easy knowing that Imperial is an accomplishment that they can be proud of and which will easily compete for a spot on several lists during #Listurnalia in 2021 while they answer that question.” I’ll enjoy seeing you in the comments. I’ve bought two flamethrowers for this special occasion!

Bloodletter // Funeral Hymns — For the first time since the 1980s, I like two thrash metal albums that were released in the same month.4 Chicago’s Bloodletter doesn’t make a kind of thrash that you’ve never heard before, but they do a great job of pushing right up against the melodic death territory and unapologetically thrashing. Unlike Demoniac, there is nothing about this album that could be described as “expansive.” The songs top out at 4:24 while averaging about 3 minutes and they are thrashy-as-fuck. If there’s a big knock against Funeral Hymns, it’s that the album hews a bit too close to the sounds that the metalcore scene plagiarized so thoroughly that kids who never heard At the Gates before they heard Unearth don’t know what a Björriff is. But what makes Funeral Hymns fun is that it’s unapologetic, tight, well-written and it has metal flowing in its veins. From start to finish—and they’re not kidding themselves about their sound at 11 songs in 32 minutes—Funeral Hymns demonstrates the power of the riff. I thirst for fast, genuinely heavy melodic thrash and melodic death metal and Bloodletter hit me right where I need it. It’s mastered to the hilt, but I follow where the riffs lead me.

Angry Metal Rebuttals

Winterage // The Inheritance of Beauty (3.0/5.0 [±0.5]) — When we write negative reviews, I try to remind the Angry Metal Gang to zoom in on the details of things so that no one can think we didn’t give them a fair chance. Winterage could be interpreted to have gotten a raw deal at the hands of Dr. A.N. Grier, but mostly I just thought he was wrong. These bombastic Italian power metallers are the lesser sons of greater forebears, owing their sound to [(Luca) Turilli(‘s)/Lione] Rhapsody [of Fire] and with a heavy resemblance to Elvenking’s good material. As such, their new album The Inheritance of Beauty is a record which follows the Turillian formula almost to a T. From the introductory “Ouveture” to the narrated, epic closer “The Amazing Toymaker,” Winterage hits every cue with enough creativity and inventiveness to separate them from the flock. Musically speaking, they’re accomplished writers and tracks like “The Inheritance of Beauty,” “Orpheus and Eurydice,” and “Oblivion Day” balance on the line between folk metal and Turillian power metal. While “The Mutineers” and “Chain of Time” could save the album some precious time, “La Morte di Venere” follows Fleshgod Apocalypse’s lead with its use of opera and feels fresh and dramatic. But even the songs that aren’t quite as good are engaging and fun to listen to.

The biggest bone that I have to pick with Grier‘s characterization of the album is actually the epic “The Amazing Toymaker,” which defies the tradition of [(Luca) Turilli(‘s)/Lione] Rhapsody [of Fire] epics by being exceptionally fun and musically diverse. The inventive, and frankly pretty progressive, song gets treated with the double standard power metal is often treated with: it’s simply laughed out of the room despite its merits because the band dared to do something that isn’t super grimdark toughguy raaawr. While absurd, these guys are taking a risk to do something that doesn’t easily fit into our ideals about metal and I think that deserves praise, not ridicule.

The Inheritance of Beauty is not perfect, of course. Primary vocalist Daniele Barbarossa carries himself like Fabio Lione but is a kitten when compared with the hunting cat. He has a decent wail, but he spends time working in parts of his range that aren’t his strength (“Of Heroes and Wonders” and “Oblivion Day” both show this off) and his tone seems to fluctuate between a flat affect (most obvious in the beginning of “Orpheus and Eurydice”) and an affected, peacock-like tone (“The Inheritance of Beauty”). He’s better with the ensemble behind him, as demonstrated by when he tries to strut, coming off as amateurish and silly (see the very end of “Of Heroes and Wonder”). He and the band need to reflect on what he can and should do going forward, but he’s hardly without talent and I got used to his tone with a few listens. Grier is also correct in his assessment that “The Amazing Toymaker,” too, suffers from its extremely exposition-heavy narrations. These awkward screeds, while read by a native speaker, are clearly written by a non-native speaker and delivered with questionable editing or oversight. However, these rough edges are things which I believe can be sanded away for future releases and I don’t find that they render the album bad or unlistenable.

No, Winterage has produced a fun power metal album that gets a bit too long but doesn’t have anything obvious to cut except about 4 minutes of narration from the epic. All-in-all, The Inheritance of Beauty is an album that actually has significant growing power and upon deeper listens came dangerously close to filling in the the third spot on the Record(s) o’ the Month post. I think Winterage has a bright future.

Scarred // Scarred (3.0/5.0 [±0.5]) — In Kronos‘s review of Scarred, he began his review by asking this rhetorical question:

Like many other tech metal bands, Scarred don’t play much that’s very technical and (to their credit) make no attempt to pantomime extra technicality. But if Scarred isn’t a vessel for showing off their chops, what is it for?

So, when I set about listening to the album, I couldn’t help but thinking that he was both right and wrong. In one way, the review read like it was critical of the promo person who called Scarred tech metal more than the band’s music, so the question is misdirected. With the different comparisons being made, there’s this idea that these Luxembourgers are trying to follow in the footsteps of Dillinger Escape Plan rather than what they have done. But really, what have they done? Well, they’ve put together 56 minutes of fun (“Chupacabra”), groovy (“Nothing Instead”), catchy (“Merry-Go Round”) and inventive songs (“Dance of the Giants”) into an album that has a slick vibe that I really enjoy. With Soen’s production—rather than the extremely muddy production featured here—this album would absolutely pop.

The album lacks focus at times and not every song is amazing (back half of “A.H.A.I.A.,” for example). But having written 13 songs that they felt were a full album, Scarred makes for a fun listen. I’ve been coming back to it at times, trying to figure out what it reminds me of. The thing is, Scarred makes pretty adept heavy music that’s loaded with hooks, groove and melody. Their vocalist resides closer to -core than death with his rasp and the writing is irreverent to the genre considerations that one might expect to constrain it. In a lot of ways, Scarred reminds me more of System of a Down than Dillinger and that’s a compliment if we’re answering Kronos‘s question. SoaD produced great songs that were fun, even if they were mind-numbingly stupid at times. And what Scarred has that a band like SoaD didn’t is chops. Songs like “Petrichor,” “Dance of the Giants,” and “A.H.A.I.A.” all show off different aspects of the band’s sound, but I don’t find any of these songs any less compelling than the others. If this album were more focused, it has the potential to be a juggernaut. If you like your music slick, fun, heavy and a bit weird? Scarred does, too.

Show 4 footnotes

  1. Inb4 Steel Druhm getting grumpy because his favorite band of geriatrics didn’t make the list. Asphyx was fine, but it wasn’t even my favorite death metal this month, sorry man.
  2. Still work-shopping the name, but I got deadlines to hit!
  3. Someone’s mom is just happy to see that the clarinet lessons finally paid off!
  4. Actually, I like three since Nervosa’s new record was pretty good, too!
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