Record(s[es]) o’ the Month(s) – October & November 2022

December is upon us. Smoke rises from the mountain of doom, Listurnalia™ is just around the corner and Steel Druhm rides to AMG HQ in a vain attempt to get the Record(s) o’ the Month back on track in 2023.

I, too, would like a lot of things to get back on track in 2023, I admit it. But I honestly never placed Steel Druhm as an optimist. He always refers to his mighty stein as “half-empty” in our Beers ov Zoom! And he seems so beaten down when we chat about deadlines otherwise. Here, I finally thought I’d cured him of hope. I guess there’s always next year…

October and November’s Record(s) o’ the Month both feature German(ish) progressive death metal bands. But that’s where the similarities end. These two bands have deeply different sounds and approaches to what it means to be progressive death metal. October’s winner, Obsidius’ Iconic, finally answered the question: “Do we really need another Obscura-branch making music in the style of Obscura?” which I had been pondering since word that Rafael Trujillo, Linus Klausenitzer, and Sebastian Lanser left to form Obsidious. Fortunately, the resounding answer to that question was: “yes, apparently we did.” Though, it’s also worth noting that Obsidious sounds a lot less like Obscura than I had expected. Rather, Obsidious’ debut reminds me quite a bit of Gorod’s brilliant Æthra, with its melange of vocal styles and its technical brilliance. And yes, all the musicianship on Iconic is genuinely brilliant across the board. But if you love guitar, Iconic is worth listening to for Rafael Trujillo alone. I can’t think of another guitarist in death metal whose work is this smooth, so consistently creative, surprising and, most importantly, entertaining. Listening to Trujillo’s guitar solos is always an adventure in true virtuosity. That genuinely next level guitar work—mixed with good compositions and a band that complements Trujillo’s brilliance—makes Iconic something special. It’s tech, it’s prog, and it defied my expectations big time.

November, on the other hand, offered up a very different view of progressive death metal that pushes into the epic, the orchestral and the dramatic. “Like Disillusion’s prior work,” wrote GardensTaleAyam is impossible to appreciate fully on a single spin. The music is simply not direct enough for that; though there’s a spectrum of excellent hooks and riffs, and a glut of truly fantastic solos, they are not the focal point. There is an arc to each individual song. An initial mood is set up, and through its changes in pace, texture, and instrumentation, the composition” takes listeners on a journey.1 Ayam is moody, with its clean parts evoking Riverside, while its heavier material ranges afar; but always sounds like Disillusion. And “by combining the best of the band’s past and present and wrapping both in that wondrous, impeccable, adventurous songwriting, executed with unfailing precision, Ayam has become a transcendent experience” that, according to L. Saunders, finds “Disillusion riding a creative peak, a testament to their resilience and willingness to overcome setbacks and push boundaries. Ayam is a triumph on multiple levels, a stunning progressive metal opus that finds Disillusion at the peak of their powers.”

Runner(s) Up:

De Profundis // The Corruption of Virtue [October 14, 2022 – Transcending Obscurity Records]: De Profundis has to be one of the most underrated bands in death metal. And four years after I got all up in a tizzy about The Blinding Light of Faith, the rest of the death metal-loving writing corps here at AMG has heard the call. Released in mid-October, The Corruption of Virtue finds London’s finest dropping another slab of riffy death metal and TheKenWord explained, “The Corruption of Virtue melds the filthy sounds of US death metal—especially that which spawns from the swamps of Florida—with a touch of the polish and melodic sensibility common to many Swedish projects, olde and new. Rhythmically, this record spans the deathened gamut, adopting the same pointed oscillations we see in technical death metal licks, while simultaneously carving out deep OSDM grooves.” The performance being sufficiently old school with nods to Death and a bass-heavy approach makes The Corruption of Virtue a sound both classic and their own. Don’t make the mistake of sleeping on De Profundis again.

Devenial Verdict // Ash Blind [October 28, 2022 – Transcending Obscurity Records]: Thus Spoke introduced Devenial Verdict’s full-length debut in the following way: “Ash Blind sounds, in many ways, like that Lewandowski art looks: huge, sinister, and darkly beautiful. It creeps slowly behind you with oppressive chords and doomy paces. It shrouds you in a reverberating smoke in which hang haunting, mournful guitar refrains. It crushes you with claustrophobic discordant riffs and pummeling percussion—the same drums that at another moment pull you along like a gentle tide with smooth fills. Songs all bleed gently into one another, enhancing the feeling of one fluidly transforming soundscape where all shifts remain natural, inevitable.” Such an excellent description surely would have made me convinced that I would hate Ash Blind; two things I often find myself unimpressed with lately are “atmosphere” and “discord,” which I read as code for “can’t edit” and “struggles to write memorable riffs.” Fortunately, I pressed play on the Bandcamp embed and learned just how fucking impressive these Finns’ full-length debut is. Rather than being short of ideas, Ash Blind is filled to the brim impressive ideas, interesting stylistic turns, and a feel that is undeniably expansive and simultaneously claustrophobic. Ash Blind ”envelopes and oppresses, but it does not suffocate.”

The Offering // Seeing the Elephant [November 4, 2022 – Century Media Records]: We’re in a new era where the silly children who listened to nü-metal unashamedly because they didn’t know any better have grown up to be adults who discovered Gothenburg’s legendary metal scene via the New England hardcore scene. As a guy who scene policed anything remotely nü-metal adjacent during my youth/young adulthood, I find this to be a disturbing trend. Yet, good things can come from almost any scene and The Offering has most certainly done the work of integrating the downtuned groove and simplicity of the nü-era into something way more interesting and less cringe. Where the Korns of the world whimpered and whined, The Offering offers impressive vocal harmonies; where the Bizkits offered up a dearth of interesting guitar work, The Offering brings its axes to play. With great production and tight composition, Seeing the Elephant transforms its deeply uninteresting and unimaginative source material into something better by association. And while his grades should always be taken with a grain of salt, Holden4.five may have been on to something when he ejaculated: “With a second modern metal masterpiece under its belt, The Offering has established itself as one of the most exciting bands in heavy music.”

Threshold // Dividing Lines [November 18, 2022 – Nuclear Blast Records]: Long, storied careers playing progressive metal are many things—feel good stories, life-enriching art, and uncommon—but in these parts, they are first and foremost a sign that Steel Druhm is going to plant a big, sloppy kiss on your new record. Fortunately for Threshold, Druhm is onboard and he’s not wrong. Sure, Dividing Lines throws back like it’s written by Victor Smolski. Yet repeated listens show that Threshold is still atop its game, with loads of riffs, hooks aplenty, and clinical production values. And while the record pushes over an hour, it’s hard to know what songs one would drop from it. While Druhm lauds them for their opening salvo, my favorite song on the album is the eleven-minute cheese factory “Domino Effect,” where they double down on their prog side and anachronistic sound. But whatever you love from Threshold, Druhm‘s opinion is that “Dividing Lines should be a no-brainer purchase,” because Threshold “remains one of the best in the prog business and they’re still on top of their game.” It’s just that the game sounds like the cutting-edge of 1993.

Show 1 footnote

  1. Note that this guy’s all “meh, I dunno” about Wilderun, but this is what he truly values in music. *eyeroll*
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