4.0

Dark Forest – Oak, Ash & Thorn Review

Dark Forest – Oak, Ash & Thorn Review

“U.K.’s Dark Forest has been cranking out high quality music since 2009, with a very interesting blend of Euro-power, traditional heavy metal and just enough folk elements to give them a slightly unique sound. Albums like The Awakening and 2016s Beyond the Veil were very good, teetering on the cusp of greatness, borrowing from NWoBHM legends like Iron Maiden while also dipping into the slick songcraft of Avantasia and prime Sonata Arctica. Their compositional and storytelling acumen improved with each release and I just knew they had a truly big release in them dying to burst free.” Really good wood.

Barishi – OId Smoke Review

Barishi – OId Smoke Review

Barishi‘s 2016 release Blood from the Lion’s Mouth retained the peculiar progressive power of their inconsistent debut, adding a visceral and claustrophobic edge to their sound. It was a much more streamlined effort that showed glimpses of a band working towards something exciting. It lacked a sense of unity. Instead, it consisted of short tracks that dramatically varied in tone and mood, strong in their own right but less stable when held in context: a tasting platter. Old Smoke arrives after a four year silence, a long time between records these days.” Smoke em if you got em.

Calligram – The Eye Is The First Circle Review

Calligram – The Eye Is The First Circle Review

“How can music communicate the feeling of dread? While all styles are able, metal’s inherent darkness fits like a glove. While it’s easy to provide aural bludgeoning or emphasize excess, the discipline of restraint takes time and effort. From the post-metal dirges of Neurosis, the avant-garde buildups of Eryn Non Dae., the spiraling doom of Swallowed, the blackened payoffs of Cultes des Ghoules, and the death metal environs of Desolate Shrine, it revels in darkness, plays with menace, but most notably, waits patiently.” Waiting in the darkness.

Benighted – Obscene Repressed Review

Benighted – Obscene Repressed Review

“With a career spanning over 20 years, French deathgrind wrecking crew Benighted are very much in the veteran class. This perennial favorite continues delivering top notch material, showing no signs of tempering their gnarled, awesomely potent, and over-the-top formula of brutal deathgrind, replete with oddball treats, technical mastery, gut-busting grooves and tasteful lashings of melody.” Own the Benight!

Wake – Devouring Ruin Review

Wake – Devouring Ruin Review

“Finding catharsis in the midst of chaos is the name of the game these days. It’s why every tenth article in your COVID co-opted news avalanche feed is about a bunny who adopted stray kittens. It’s why last Saturday I watched a live stream of a drag queen disinfecting every surface in her kitchen while performing Queen‘s “I Want to Break Free.” As the world around us is brought to its knees by the weight of uncertainty, we instinctively seek out and appreciate these small pressure release valves. Bands who ply their trade in chaotic styles should pay attention. Chaos plus time equals background noise, but there are two options to keep an audience engaged. The first is brevity. This is why hardcore punk albums are traditionally 25-30 mins long. The second is the thoughtful placement of sonic perches to rest upon.” Choose wisely.

Forndom – Faþir Review

Forndom – Faþir Review

“When we talk about “power” in the music we review, it usually translates roughly into one of two categories: “loud” and “emotional.” More often than not, it translates into both. Metal music strives to be powerful, whether in the form of “crushing” riffs, “anguished” screaming, or “epic” symphonies. I muse on these definitions because, when pressed to come up with a word to describe Faþir, the second full-length release from Sweden’s Forndom, “powerful” is the word I feel aligns most strongly with the album. And yet, there are no riffs; there is no screaming; there are no symphonies.” POWERS!

Loviatar – Lightless Review

Loviatar – Lightless Review

“What makes a great doom record? Adequate levels of sadness, helplessness, or loss expressed in a desperate croon? Perhaps doom is defined by plodding tempos and debilitating riffs? Could it simply be a quality of emptiness that pervades every moment of the music, regardless of the superficial qualities inherent to the sound? I honestly couldn’t tell you. All I know is that when a doom metal band brings its A-game, boy howdy does it wreck my shit sideways, backwards and diagonally. Enter Canadian quartet Loviatar, whose sophomore full-length Lightless wrecks my shit sideways, backwards and diagonally.” Stuff is getting wrecked here.

Membaris – Misanthrosophie Review

Membaris – Misanthrosophie Review

“I am worried. I find myself in the midst of an unfamiliar situation that I am not sure I am equipped to handle. I am not talking about the global pandemic—I know I am not equipped to handle that. No, the situation I am talking about is that I am staring down the barrel of awarding another 4.0. You need to understand that, when March began, I had awarded a total of three 4.0s across my whole time at AMG. Now, I am very seriously considering awarding a third this fucking month!” The struggle is real.

Void of Sleep – Metaphora Review

Void of Sleep – Metaphora Review

“Italy’s Void of Sleep caught me by surprise with their excellent 2013 debut Tales Between Reality and Madness. Boasting a suave mix of sludge, stoner, doom and prog influences, Tales was a mighty first statement and addictive, refreshing album that firmly landed Void of Sleep in my sights as an exciting band on the rise. Sophomore album New World Order dropped in 2015 and found the band beefing up the prog and refining their sound. Though a solid album in its own right, it lacked some of the raw energy and penetrating hooks of the debut. Some five years later, Void of Sleep awaken from their slumber with third album, Metaphora, a highly anticipated release from my viewpoint.” Cuddling the void.