Record(s) o’ the Month – January 2023

A comment that says: "It ain't a new year unless AMG Himself pops around the corner for a timely, self-written review about a site mainstay and a personal favorite, complemented by the diabolically genius facade that he contributes to his own blog, before dissipating into the ether for the remainder of the year. Might we even got the Record of the Month on time again?"January is generally known as a throw away month in the reviewing world. It’s my impression that labels often treat January as a down month following the Christmas holiday. As a result, good new music tends to be slim pickings most years. So, let’s hope that it’s a good sign that the first month of 2023 was uncharacteristically good. There was, in fact, plenty to be excited about! The first new Ahab record in 40 years, the album art of the month on …and Oceans‘ newest album and, most importantly, and the best Riverside record since 2009! Hell, Steel Druhm was even blown out of the water—breaking the score meter like the apish hypocrite he is—with Tribunal’s mighty debut The Weight of Remembrance, which he has endlessly advocated for in recent weeks.1 But most importantly, I’m back here writing “timely, self-written review[s] of […] site mainstay[s] and personal favorite[s],” thus giving the mistaken impression that I actually work here.

So yeah, here’s your “RotM on time again” in order to “compliment [sic] the diabolical façade that [I] contribute to [my] own blog.”

In a hard fought month filled with more excellent metal—and even some very good prog!—there was no record that caught my attention like Leiþa’s Reúe. A surprising combination of desperate depression and razor sharp riffs that evoke the legendary Windir, Leiþa (which is pronounced “Leitha” not “Leipa,” in case you were wondering) has wrought a masterful platter of great—potentially even excellent—black metal that deftly balances the genre’s past and present. The album, which Carcharodon correctly diagnosed as both “rich and textured,” is also “uncompromising,” cutting a unique path through the depressive black metal subgenre with aggressive riffing and production which is on the attack. Yet, despite being free of the bed of reverb endemic to anything ‘depressive,’ Reue exquisitely evokes the existential angst of remorse. “Packed with emotional heft and great songwriting,” Carcharodon concluded, “Reue was a very good way to start 2023.” This was the clear winner almost from the minute I started listening to it.

Runner(s) Up

Album cover of At the Heart of Wintervale by Twilight ForceTwilight Force // At the Heart of Wintervale [January 20th, 2023 from Nuclear Blast Records] — A constant disappointment of mine is the number of lactose jokes that arise every time power metal gets posted here at Yes, I am aware that the genre conventions of cosplaying your favorite Dungeons & Dragons™ character might be a bit silly, but it’s a tragedy that we cannot embrace bands producing stellar, adventurous music because it makes us feel silly to enjoy ourselves through play. Or, said differently, we feel silly having fun! And that’s what At the Heart of Wintervale is: fun! The album is adventurous, epic, and surprisingly agile power metal from Dalarna in Sweden (+ a brilliant Italian singer). Throughout this epic romp through Wintervale, these Swedes(ish) pummel the listener with “bombastic” and “flamboyant” songs that develop a diverse, more experimental sound than what Twilight Force trafficked in previously. The result is an extremely diverting record with only minor blemishes, and which Eldritch Elitist rightly claims “reveals a clear hunger to iterate on their unmistakable sound, without betraying what made it so endearing in the first place. Between At the Heart of Wintervale’s adventurous spirit and vastly improved mixing and overall production” the future has never seemed brighter for Twilight Force.

Album cover for ...and Oceans - As in Gardens, So in Tombs.…and Oceans // As in Gardens, So in Tombs [January 27th, 2023 from Season of Mist] — It was not long ago that …and Oceans impressed me—and most of the staff—with its first album since in 18 years. Cosmic World Mother earned our praises, a Record o’ the Month spot, and did fairly well during Listurnalia. Two and a half years later, As in Gardens, So in Tombs is another slab of great symphonic black metal that fills an Emperor-shaped hole in our lives. As in Gardens, So in Tombs offers up blasty black metal, synth-driven ambience and an intensity matched only by its disciplined songwriting where …and Oceans is distinguished from a modern black metal scene “that prioritizes repetition-induced atmosphere,” to quote El Cuervo. The old crow didn’t stop there in his praise, arguing that “As in Gardens, So in Tombs falls right into a Goldilocks zone for melodic black metal, treading the line between light and heavy, alluring but powerful.” This breeds the potential for new fans, because …and Oceans are “so traditional in their blast beats and harsh vox, but so brazen in their melodic sensibilities, that they offer exactly the sort of gateway that new fans might need to reach for the dark side.” But whether you’re an old fan or a new one, As in Gardens, So in Tombs should adorn your record collection.

Show 1 footnote

  1. This even resulted in a brawl between the Ahab supporters and the Tribunal supporters. Which means we now have The Wave style gangs at AMG. HR is swamped!
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