It’s that time again. The time where I…

Oh, who am I kidding. There’s a really specific reason that the Record(s) o’ the Month are late this month. It’s because I didn’t like anything enough to make Record o’ the Month. In the past when this has been the case, I tend to listen to things that people like and let a “democratic” decision happen. We did an extensive vote and came with a lot of options and no consensus. And while the options ranged from the “pretty good” to the “deeply insulting,” I wasn’t overly thrilled about any of them.

The album cover of Ashbringer's Absolution

That is, of course, until I put on Ashbringer‘s fascinating Absolution. Never a huge fan of what most people call “atmospheric” black metal—best described as fewer riffs, moar song—or its recently-chic sibling “blackgaze,” which tends to lack tension; Absolution dodges both these bullets. Ashbringer offers up a surprisingly tender, and charmingly raw, album. Absolution‘s guitar tone is fuzzy, like Norwegian grinders Beaten to Death, but their songwriting hovers somewhere between Alcest and The Ocean—with lush melodies and soundscapes peaking into heavy walls of sound. Absolution is surprising in its unique combination of ideas and welcome in its embrace of lush melodies. I agree with Carcharodon in his assessment that “the blend of melody and harshness, coupled with cross-genre creativity, will keep me coming back to this album.” Ashbringer‘s Absolution is a bright spot—visually and aurally—in what felt like a pretty dour June.

Runner(s) Up:

This Gift is a Curse - A Throne of Ash 01This Gift Is a Curse // A Throne of Ash — Another black metal band—this time one which pushes up against the sludge wall at times—made a real run at the top of this list. As with the best black metal, A Throne of Ash feels dangerous and impenetrable. But despite this, it sports subtle compositional turns and a fantastic feel for atmosphere that doesn’t belabor the point. There’s a lot of black metal out there, but This Gift Is a Curse keeps it surprisingly fresh and extreme. Doom_et_Al left his wheelhouse to dissect this abstract art and came away with an important insight: “Throne of Ash also doesn’t reveal all its secrets on the first few listens. But for those with the fortitude and concentration, this is deeply intriguing and interesting stuff. This Gift Is a Curse expertly combines extreme sub-genres to form a pitch-black and terrifying weapon. “

Yellow Eyes - Rare Field CeilingYellow Eyes // Rare Field Ceiling — In a rare turn of events, even the third album on this list is a black metal record. Albeit, Rare Field Ceiling falls far more into the classic mold of black metal. Rather than being a mold of different genres, Yellow Eyes produces something more in line with its classic forebears. But Rare Field Ceiling doesn’t ever fall victim to the excesses of decades of repetition within the black metal scene. Instead, it pops with life and mystery and, as expert photoshopper, comment section stalwart and middling writing talent Cherd of Doom put it, “Yellow Eyes have placed themselves right in the middle of the current zeitgeist and put American black metal in the same conversation as the current wave of Icelandic and European bands holding up the tent poles of the genre. If you’re looking for a winding journey in turns mystic and terrifying, this album is a must listen.”