Record(s) o’ the Month – March 2022

One of the problems with the Record(s) o’ the Month post is that I, apparently, cannot escape the glass cage of emotion that has been my life for a few years. Unfortunately, said glass cage doesn’t have an internet connection and that makes it difficult to keep up with everything. In reality, Record o’ the Month posts take a lot of work. I have to open the Artboards in Photoshop, which chug on my increasingly aged computer. Then I make all the different images. I have to listen to albums that this motley crew of pretentious misfits tries to pass of as “good” and try to consider their opinions about things even though it’s pretty obvious that none of them has ever actually identified good music in their writing careers. It’s a lot of work. And frankly, I’m pretty much done with it. This may be the soul-crushing depression and weird possibly-covid-fog thing talking, but I’m ready to move on. And so, I’m doing the obvious thing.

Here’s your Record o’ the Month for March of 2022! And every other month of 2022. And possibly 2023. On their current release schedule, probably 2024 or 2025 if we’re honest with ourselves. Regardless, this post will cover the four best albums of every month, as usual. Just from now on, I won’t have to re-write it.

As you know, Wilderun really is the best band active in metal today. I would say they’re tied with Turisas, but since Warlord Nygård has apparently come down with a George R.R. Martinesque case of writer’s block, I’m not sure we could call them “active.” Regardless of competition, however, it’s tough not to appreciate the sheer genius of Epigone upon further reflection. Epigone finds Wilderun doubling down on the dissonant strains that led to one of the best and most epic examples of ‘resolution‘ in the history of music. The record is complex, unsettling, and yet strangely sticky; once it gets under your skin, it doesn’t let go. It just continues being the best thing you’re listening to this month, in perpetuity. In a way, Epigone is the gift that keeps giving. It blends that smooth, orchestral approach with something raw and loud and dangerous. Top it off by being brilliantly played, beautiful arranged, and—this is key—it has RotM art that I’ve already made. Like, I can just pop up the same background we used during its January reign and leave it up until the next time they release an album. The only thing that would make this better would be if I could figure out a way to photoshop a manbun into it. Joking aside, Epigone is just better than anything that came out in March. And I’m making the the bet that it’s also better than what’s going to come out in April, May, and so on.

Runner(s) Up:

Michael Romeo // War of the Worlds, Pt. 2 — As the only other album I listened to in March, I can assure you it is also the other best album released during the month. Once again, Michael Romeo weaved his unique brand of post-Yngwie power metal and brings to you the kind of material that requires puffy shirts, puffier hair, and a singer who wishes he could’ve been fired by Mr. “More Is More” himself! Fronted by Croatian vocalist Dino Jelusic—who fits like a glove into the post-Coverdale hard rock and metal singers common among power metal bands—War of the Worlds, Pt. 2 is a powerhouse of an album that took too damned long to arrive. Small gripes aside—the orchestrations aren’t quite as seamless as the debut and I was a bigger fan of Castellanos’s voice—this album will still blow your socks off. Romeo’s signature is brilliant composition and this album features that from to start to finish. You see this throughout, with progressive strains offset by hard rock and metal tones that drive the music forward. Check out the track “Metamorphisis.” The intro to the song feeds listeners a virtuoso performance that would be the best thing on most bands’ albums. Then, Romeo follows it up with a chorus in 9/8 before merging into 6 and weaving in a theme that was introduced on the album’s predecessor, War of the Worlds, Pt 1. And with Dino Jelusic’s raspy tones, the song still sounds like the band could be touring with Cinderella; it’s brilliant. I once wrote thatWar of the Worlds nails the sweet spot between memorable songs and techy and proggy goodness. Romeo doesn’t just shred or craft riffs, he composes metal symphonies that one can either admire for their depth or just bang your head to.” Fortunately, that’s still true, so I didn’t even have to produce a new blurb.

Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s Star One // Revel in Time — Technically a February release that I missed due to illness, Revel in Time is a fun romp in the world of science fiction movies.1 As with all of Arjen’s projects, it features copious guest appearances from some of metal’s biggest luminaries, including Brittney Slayes, Michael Romeo, Dan Swanö, Floor Jansen, and more. While not a brilliant orchestral concept album like Arjen’s very best stuff, Revel in Time manages to just be seriously fun prog/power. The writing is pure Arjen Lucassen, complete with addictive melodies, exciting prog breakdowns, awkward-but-brilliant lyrics,2 with a giving, but slightly underwhelming, theme of science fiction flicks about time travel. So, “Fate of Man,” for example, is about Terminator (and one of my favorite songs of the year, Brittney does, indeed, Slaye), while “Today Is Yesterday” is clearly about the classic Bill Murray comedy Groundhog’s Day.3 This creates an album that is loaded with engaging, dorky tracks that are just good, clean fun; Arjen Lucassen style. Though, honestly, for me the guy who steals the show here is definitely Ed Warby. As the drummer for all of Arjen’s stuff, I don’t feel like he gets enough credit for just what a good drummer he is. To quote another well-known drummer, Ed is “all taste and groove,” and these drum arrangements are stellar.4 Hell, the record even contains a bonus disc with other singers handling the material (very well, I might add). Truly, a worthy addition to Arjen’s already loaded oeuvre.

Amorphis // Halo — The fourth and final album I’ve heard in 2022, Halo was snubbed by Steel Druhm in the last RotM because he doesn’t like it as much as everyone else. Me? I mean, I heard it and gave it a 4, right? Obviously it’s record o’ the month. Halo features a dark, heavy motor that drives the album forward in ways similar to others of their greats. And after listening to it two dozen times, in addition to reviewing the band’s entire discography in a matter of days, I still love this album. Only Amorphis does whatever these guys do: the ebullient feel, the bongwater keys, the slick af compositions; these guys are truly a class act. And yet, am I wrong to worry that people don’t appreciate greatness while they’re staring at it? As I wrote in my review, “This [seeming lack of appreciation] has to do with the band’s craftsman-like consistency. Rather than having a few songs that truly stand out—and then occasionally producing an album where everything is of that same excellent quality—Amorphis drops albums of impressive quality with regularity. Halo is yet another impressive album from one of heavy metal’s premiere acts. Where this album is in the pantheon of Amorphis records will take time to tell. But I worry that we, once again, are not even truly appreciating the brilliance right before our eyes.” Stop and appreciate Amorphis, folks. They’ve still really got it.

Show 4 footnotes

  1. Doing nothing to disabuse me of my assessment of Arjen as a guy who only writes music and watches movies at home.
  2. For example, from the gorgeous “Prescient” featuring Michael Mills and Ross Jennings, the line “this thing is not just pure mechanics and/or heat” is up there with anything he’s written. Who includes “AND/OR” in their lyrics!?
  3. They use the name Billy, but that’s just ’cause the guy’s name is Phil and that doesn’t work with the song’s rhythm.
  4. Check the ride cymbal on the second time through of the chorus; so simple, but so fucking gooooood!
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