Record(s[es]) o’ the Month(s) – April and May 2021

AMGThis is easily a record in terms of tardiness. I need to apologize for that, as it was definitely not my intention to ever let a RotM post get to six weeks late. I have managed to hand off the rest of the management of the blog to other people despite my powerful desire to not do that, but I really hate delegating the Record(s) o’ the Month. I feel like you should have a little context for what’s going on with Angry Metal Guy (the person) before I hand you a bunch of music you need to hear from April and May.

Roughly six months ago, I was drawn into a “political dust-up” at my work which involved me needing to fight for the basic resources necessary to finish my PhD. A couple months later, I was informed—extremely late—that my anticipated, but meager, income source would be denied me due to a policy change about which they failed to inform me, making it essentially impossible for me to find relevant work. I have, therefore, been expected to work full time on finishing my dissertation with no financial support,1 dealing with the union, dealing with the organizational and bureaucratic nightmare—and inaction—that these things can be when one gets caught up in institutions that want to make things difficult.2

Ultimately, this led to me relapsing into the kind of depression that is difficult to work through but with little recourse but to work full time, despite not having an income. The only way out of this is through it, but that is a kind of catch-22. Long-term stress looks a lot like Attention Deficit Disorder in that it undermines one’s ability to concentrate and self-regulate. Being so out of control and unable to affect my situation in any other way but to try to finish a dissertation that required more of me than I felt capable of giving resulted in me being pretty stuck. Fortunately, in the last few months my habit of getting the fuck out of bed and getting over to work—no matter how late—and pounding my way through stuff has paid off. In the next ten days I will have a copy ready to hand off to my supervisors who will, almost certainly, give me the go ahead to hand it off to the internal examiner, whose critiques I have been dealing with in my revision. Once that happens, I’ll be free to book a defense and get this motherfucker done with and I am looking forward to living a more normal life.

I anticipate that some people will respond to this by asking whether you can help. Yes, you probably can. But that is a topic for a different time. This post is meant to cover two months worth of music that we here at the blog think is pretty fucking rad and that we think you should buy. Yeah, that’s right, buy it from Bandcamp, because one purchase from Bandcamp supports a band better than three years worth of streaming.3 Hey also, I have an Instagram account for that I would really like to have more followers for since I actually have worked quite hard at making the content there cool and interactive. You should follow it.

And now, without further ado… The Records(es) o’ the Month(s) from April and May of 2021. In mid-June. Ha!

Left: April's RotM, Wheel; Right: May's RotM, Impure WilhelminaApril and May both served a variety of interesting records, but they were united in excellence around two albums that exist in the doomy, atmosphere-y territory at the edge of my attention span: Wheel‘s (no, not that Wheel) distinguished, doomy tour de force Preserved in Time and Impure Wilhelmina‘s Grymm-destroying Antidote. Wheel, a classic case of what might be written off by some as Candlemasscore, brings the drama and power of the doom gods while adding their own unique vibe and mastery of the form. The band expertly balances different sounds and brands over a recording that is delightfully live. While bands like this can always been written off as derivative, Wheel feels instead like the inheritor of “bands like Solitude Aeternus and Candlemass,” gushed destroyer of medical misinformation Doom_et_Al, “Preserved in Time is rousing, epic, and crowd-pleasing, with all the hallmarks of its glorious influences.” The only thing I don’t like about this album is the font they use for the album title.

On the other side, topping the month of May, Impure Wilhelmina could seem to not have so much in common with such a slab of classic doom. Yet, Antidote also wears its influences on its sleeve, sounding at times like The Cure but loaded for bear with riffs and moments of extremity. Impure Wilhelmina doesn’t feel retro or derivative so much as they feel like they exist in their own little universe. And that little universe is loaded with great melodies, cool riffs, and a universal constant—a vibe—that hums in the key of Katatonia. Yet unlike the aforementioned Swedes, Antidote has riffs and tension that push deeper into the very best that “post-metal” can offer us. It crests into the extreme before giving way to the dour and placid balancing the two with an elite touch. I don’t know if I agree with Grymm that Antidote is iconic, but it’s definitely “flooded with moments” that make me want to listen to it again and again.

Runner(s) Up:

Kauan // Ice Fleet [April 9, 2021 | Artoffact Records] — Kauan has a stellar track record of atmospheric post-metal releases, and Ice Fleet sees the Russian collective drifting into post-rock territory as they spin tales of a lost fleet and cold, bitter endings. Ice Fleet is the very definition of an atmospheric album, taking pains to convey feelings of icy environs and isolation. Beautiful melodies collide with a harder metal edge as the album moves patiently from act to act, painting a very specific soundscape for the listener to get lost within. Somehow, it doesn’t lose the listener as it floats along in these musical waters where bands—and attention spans—often risk going adrift. And while Ice Fleet won’t be the heaviest album you hear, it’s a journey well worth taking. As a well impressed El Cuervo summed up, “Ice Fleet does so much with so little and it’s a testament to care above abandon.”

Zao // The Crimson Corridor [April 9, 2021 | Observed/Observer Recordings] — Zao has had an interesting journey over their quarter-century run, starting life as a Christian metalcore act and evolving into a non-religious one isn’t entirely -core anymore. The Crimson Corridor [Core-idor? – Ed.] could be called a sludgy post-metal album, and in fact, that’s exactly what Cherd of Doom called it. More crucially, it’s heavy and well executed with thoughtful, gripping compositions that feel like the work of a much younger band. As a highly impressed Grymm expressed, “Much like fellow luminaries ConvergeZao is that rare example of a classic metalcore act not afraid to grow out of their sound and forge their own path, and if The Crimson Corridor is any indication, the path ahead will be intriguing.” The Lord works in mysterious ways.

VOLA // Witness [May 21, 2021 | Mascot Records] — VOLA falls comfortably into what I sometimes refer to as Late Prog, a musical movement made up of bands like Haken, Soen, and Leprous. They are making music in a post-djent world, decades removed from the time when Dream Theater or even Pain of Salvation was the standard for “progressive metal.” They’re figuring out how to hit the Rush Ratio™—that perfect balance of catchy:interesting that Rush did so well—in a world where you can set up your piano roll to a 23/7 time signature and just play around until you find something bizarre.4 And it’s a hard balance that VOLA manages with ease on Witness, while refusing to simply repeat themselves. El Cuervo explained that “VOLA is a highly unusual band. The way they blend the accessible with the inaccessible so successfully belies surprisingly clever writing.” Yet the band is legitimately heavy, pushes into challenging musical territory with ease, yet ties it altogether with “killer vocal melodies.” Witness is fun and palatable but it never feels easy.

Silver Talon // Decadence and Decay [May 28, 2021 | M-Theory Audio] —  Some bands are timeless and unique. Some bands love those timeless, unique bands enough to write entire albums in their style. Silver Talon is the latter, but they’re super fucking good at it. So yes, they also love Nevermore. Cool, now that we have that out of the way, I’ll explain why you should love this album unironically called D&D™. Well, basically, it’s because Silver Talon has a metric fuckton of riffs and the only singer I’ve heard in power metal who both gives Warrel Dane a run for his money and doesn’t make me want to instantly strangle him.5 Add to it the straight power move of rocking three guitarists like these guys are Iron fucking Maiden—and it seems like each one of them has chops enough to make it work—and Silver Talon‘s Decadence and Decay is an album worth hearing. If you’re trve you stopped listening to Silver Talon after 2018’s Devil Machine demo, but for the rest of us, Decadence and Decay is the kind of debut that gives us hope. Dr. A.N. Grier declared Decadence and Decay one of his favorite albums of the year and he’s right to be excited.

Show 5 footnotes

  1. Well, honestly, I think they expected me to quit. But I am way too stubborn for that.
  2. I want to assert here with absolute clarity that the issues I am dealing with are issues that everyone except for certain persons at my department see as being flagrant breeches of norms, if not regulations (though in several cases, also regulations). Part of the reason that this is difficult is that this has not been about me, but rather, it has been about policies that affect me and very few other people (right now). The first conflict which was adjudicated we won unequivocally. But that did not give me the wasted time back, nor fix the damage done. Furthermore, I have had to work to make the systems that should defend me work and it has been extremely time-consuming and draining. Openly discussing such problems risks stigmatization because people assume that I must have done something wrong—”surely nothing like this would ever happen to someone who didn’t deserve it!” I did not do anything other than be on the bad end of an ill-conceived and badly mismanaged situation over which I had almost no control and which I did everything in my power to avert before it got fucked up. And, unfortunately, it hit me when I was still dealing with the ramifications of an earlier crisis that, again, had also been mismanaged and that ultimately left me without means of support.
  3. According to an un-sourced Tweet I read that confirms my biases.
  4. Not that anyone has ever been accused of doing that… *coughLeprouscough*
  5. Full disclosure, he’s still capital-p-Problematic for me at times because of his tendency to swoop into notes and land flat or sharp, but I’m assured by fans of this style that it’s a stylistic choice and it’s about “atonality” and I should appreciate that. I don’t know if I buy it, but this dude isn’t the worst I’ve heard.
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