Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Greg and Danny's Top 10 Star Wars Everything Episode V: Return of the Revenge Strikes Back

This is part 2 of our countdown of all things Star Wars. If you haven't read part 1 yet, we recommend starting here: http://butmostlymetal.blogspot.com/2016/12/greg-and-dannys-top-10-star-wars.html

Danny's 5: Plagueis
Plagueis may be a bit of a misnomer for the title, as the book is largely about the rise of a young Palpatine under the tutelage of his master, Darth Plagueis. Aside from the obvious interest in Palpatine as a character, the book is also noteworthy because it manages to make the events of the prequel trilogy MAKE COMPLETE SENSE! I’m serious. Luceno brilliantly discusses Palpatine’s hand in all the events that led to the blockade of Naboo and, ultimately, the Clone Wars. Having asked Luceno in person about this, he wrote all of this with no guidance from anyone. The poor man had to come up with a way to make The Phantom Menace not seem completely ridiculous, and he succeeded. The saddest part is that Luceno published Plagueis right before Disney mashed the reset button on Star Wars canon. Though he managed to sneak a bit of it into Tarkin, so he’s clearly trying to keep some of that around. If you’re interested in the backstory to one of the most important characters in the original and prequel trilogies, this is a great place to get it.

Greg's 5: Star Wars (A.K.A. Episode IV: A New Hope)
No list would be complete without the one that started it all. It’s the rare movie that changes how movies are made yet still holds up after decades of sequels, prequels, spin-offs, and imitations. The original Star Wars is still the gripping adventure it was in 1977, dropping us into a world that feels real with an endlessly quotable, instantly likable cast. It’s the archetypical story of good vs. evil shot with a style and conviction that separated it from the pulp sci-fi that inspired it.If you haven’t seen it yet, stop reading and go watch it. Just be warned that this rabbit hole is vast.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Greg and Danny's Top 10 Star Wars Everything Episode IV

It should be no surprise to anyone who knows us that our nerdiness doesn’t end at Satan, vikings, Tolkien, Cthulhu, and the hard rockin’ odes to all the above. There’s also a soft spot in both of our hearts for the goings on of a certain galaxy far ,far way. Since Rogue One just came out, what better time than now to share our list of the top 10 Star Wars everything? The rules are simple: movies count individually, while game, book, and TV series count as one entry.

Danny's 10: The Star Wars Holiday Special

The Star Wars Holiday Special is one of the most infamous so-bad-it’s-not-even-good movies/TV specials in the history of moving pictures. The Holiday Special was released at the beginning of 1978, a mere few months after the initial release of Star Wars intended to capitalize on the overwhelming and unexpected success of the movie, and advertise the Star Wars toys/action figures that are probably now worth a shit-ton of money for some reason. The special itself it a total garbage fire of Chewbacca’s family belching at one another (without subtitles, mind you) and mindlessly boring, unfunny skits that are 100% unrelated to Star Wars as we know it. So why does it make my top 10 list? Because I love making people suffer through it! The Holiday Special is one of those things you should never watch alone. Or sober. But god damn it, it is a lot of fun to watch with a group of equally masochistic friends.

Greg's 10: Battlefront Series
Star Wars is an experience best when shared with friends. Games like Episode 1 Racer and Republic Commando were close contenders for the top ten, but nothing puts you right in the middle of the action quite like Battlefront. It’s a simple but endlessly replayable formula: choose your side, pick a class, and relive the iconic battles. It doesn’t matter whether you have 15 minutes or an afternoon to kill, the Battlefront games have virtually no learning curve yet you could spend your whole life getting better and never feel like you played the same battle twice.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Head to Head: Seventh Wonder - Welcome to Atlanta vs. Ayreon - The Theater Equation

 A wife reveals an uncomfortable secret to her husband, and in his rage the car loses control. In the wake of the crash, he finds himself in a coma, struggling to confront his demons in a race against the clock as his life is slipping away. Sound familiar? Maybe a little too familiar? If you were a prog metal fan in the last decade, you might have noticed an uncanny resemblance between Ayreon's The Human Equation and Seventh Wonder's Mercy Falls. The former, in true Ayreon fashion, features a heavyweight cast as aspects of the main character's psyche, while the latter explores his condition through the metaphor of a mysterious town. Both are favorites of mine and Mercy Falls cracked my top ten metal albums. So when both bands released live versions of their iconic albums back to back, what choice did I have but to pit them against each other?

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Ghost - Popestar

In the spirit of brevity, I'll keep this review short. Popestar is a 5 track EP with one original song and four covers that draw from some unexpected sources. For those unfamiliar with Ghost, stop reading this and pull up a video of one of their live shows because the only way to understand their strange aesthetic is to see it for yourself. It's a familiar gimmick executed with a commitment to atmosphere that's all their own,

Square Hammer starts off the EP and is everything a Ghost single should be, with the church organ styled keyboards front and center and the driving bass adding some oomph to the simple but effective riffing. Papa Emeritus shines on this track, and the chorus immediately stands out as one of their most infectious. This is the highlight of the EP and its one original track.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Insomnium - Winter's Gate

The masters of melodic death metal (a debatable point, I admit, but you're here for my opinion, so can it!) are back with their seventh studio album, Winter's Gate. While Insomnium have never been shy about experimenting with new sounds to prevent stagnation, Winter's Gate probably marks one of the biggest and strangest leaps their style has taken between albums. Winter's Gate is intended to be listened to as a single 40-minute song. Though the album is split into seven tracks in digital versions, it's pretty much impossible to tell where the transitions take place. As if that wasn't enough, Winter's Gate is also Insomnium's first foray into concept albums. The album is based on a short story written by bassist Niilo Sevänen about a group of Vikings who set out for Ireland as winter draws near.

As Insomnium are probably my single favorite band (with Ne Obliviscaris nipping at their heels), I've been very eagerly anticipating this album, so let's see if it lives up to my hype. The album cover certainly doesn't slow down the hype train. I mean damn, that is a thing of beauty. Though I actually like it better with the colors inverted. Eh, whatever, on to the music!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Delain - Moonbathers

Symphonic metal is a fascinating crossroads of genres where anything from heavy, operatic beauty and the beast compositions to power pop with pointy black guitars feels at home. Plenty of bands end up sounding like some kind of Nightwish, After Forever, or Evanescence clone, but a talented few manage to find their own niche. Delain are a bit too young to have a major influence on the genre, but they've managed to mix elements of Anette era Nightwish and latter-day Within Temptation into a sound that's distinctly theirs. With 2014's The Human Contradiction they built on their usual pop sensibility and showed a heavier, more complex side to their sound.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Sabaton - The Last Stand

Sabaton is a band that both of us discovered in college and had us exclaiming a collective "fuck yeah!" at the first bombastic chorus of “Primo Victoria.” We've heard every album of theirs since then and even saw them live together on tour with Amon Amarth. Few brands of finely aged cheese have elicited more collective fists pumped and faces palmed than Sabaton. So here were are, doing a joint review of their seventh album (excluding Fist for Fight and the retroactively released Metalizer) and the second with their new lineup. Like Heroes it's a loose concept album, this time focused on famous and not so famous last stands throughout history. So, how does The Last Stand stack up?

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Concert Review: Ne Obliviscaris - Gramercy Theater, NY

Greetings reader! (Yeah, I'm not bullshitting myself about our readership numbers, but fuck it, this is pretty fun to do.) This is going to be my first concert review post, as it's also the first time I've been to a show that I really cared about since Greg and I started this thing.

Anyway, a few days ago I got to see Ne Obliviscaris on their first headlining North American tour at Gramercy Theater in New York City, thereby removing them from my concert bucket list. This is a particularly big deal for this band as

1) they're from Australia, so getting to the US for a major tour in the first place is a pretty big deal. In fact, it's a huge financial burden for the band to get anywhere from Australia, particularly with all the gear they need.

2) they've only released two albums to date. Tim Charles was quoted as saying that he feels like the band "is 18 months ahead" of where he thought they'd be with such an early headlining tour.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Moonsorrow - Jumalten Aika

Moonsorrow, that band that gives my music library classification scheme a massive headache by trying to figure out what the hell genre they really are, has a new album! After a 5 year gap since Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa (which is nearly as long as it took me to write this post, thanks grad school), we get Jumalten aika. As one comes to expect with Moonsorrow, you have a 66 minute album consisting of 5 tracks, and it's generally best to listen to the album as a whole experience rather than isolating individual tracks. At least, that's my own experience with this Finnish quintet.

Jumalten aika represents a step back in a much folkier direction for Moonsorrow. While Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa was a great album in its own right, it featured a much more stripped down sound than its successor. Jumalten aika is about as strangely opposite of that as you can get, with pretty much constant backing from (going off the Metal Archives lineup credits) keyboards, an accordian, a jaw harp, a recorder, and a tin whistle. Then throw in a backing choir for good measure.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Volbeat - Seal the Deal & Let's Boogie

I was originally going to review the new Lacuna Coil album first, but this one practically wrote itself. I'll cut to the chase and tell you this is a simple but effective album. The cover and absurd name promise a collection of fun, hard-rocking tunes to put hair on your chest, and on that front Seal the Deal mostly delivers.

Those hoping for a return to the more abrasive, thrashy sound of their first two albums are out of luck again. Seal the Deal is a hard rock album at heart, which is not to say that Volbeat have gone soft, but there's more emphasis on streamlined, catchy songwriting than ever before. Fans who liked their previous effort, Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies, will feel right at home this time around.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Katatonia - The Fall of Hearts

While I haven't encountered a bad Katatonia album yet, I can't say I awaited their latest release with any real anticipation. The band reached a second career peak with Last Fair Deal Gone Down, Viva Emptiness, and The Great Cold Distance then seemed to coast on that sound with two decent but samey follow-ups and an acoustic remake of the second that came off as a glorified bonus disc. The band must have realized a need to shake things up on their newest release, because The Fall of Hearts feels fresh and eclectic, a progression rather than a retread of what made those earlier albums great.

Takeover opens the album with a distinctly proggy feel. The rhythm guitar that kicks in over Renske's mellow vocals is a clear nod to Tool as the song ambles on for a seven minute runtime without losing focus. Not a total break from form, but far from the concise, punchy opener we're used to. They save that for the second track, Serein, which has single written all over it and one of the catchier choruses on the album with some stiff competition.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Body - No One Deserves Happiness

It was a real treat to take our first reader request and try my hand at something outside my normal radar. I'd never heard anything by The Body before, and avant garde sludge has never been my go-to style of music, so I decided to go in blind and avoid reading any buzz or reviews. On first impression, the cover says it all: grimy, minimalist, but with a clear dedication to a simple message. As promised there isn't a moment of happiness in the album, but it explores a lot of ugly emotions in an often beautiful way.

The guitar tone is a lo-fi halfway point between distortion and fuzz, and I can't help but think back to my own ill-fated attempts at playing metal on a Fender Jaguar just because it looked cool. But there's also a careful orchestration to the album's soundscape, and the low fidelity almost becomes an instrument in own right, with a rhythmic drone that kept reminding me of slow waves crashing against a shore. The occasional bells and string sections add a nice bit of variety to the atmosphere without compromising the griminess of the guitars, which is something I haven't gotten to say since I discovered gothic metal. The pounding drum machines are a hit and miss element, helping build the mood at times, distracting from it at others.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Steignyr - The Prophecy of the Highlands

Surely it's no secret (courtesy of my personal Top 10 Metal Albums post) that I love me some cheesy folk metal. So imagine my joy when I saw a band described as "Celtic Folk Metal" in this week's New Releases thread on /r/metal. So I went to YouTube, and clicked on the first Steignyr song that came up (Tales of a Forgotten Hero, apparently the title track of their second album). Upon realizing that I own better medieval-y garb than anyone in this band, I decided I had to give their newest release a shot. This is also my first encounter with Steignyr, so this will even be the first album I review with no prior conceptions about the band.

The best way I've come up with to describe Steignyr is that they sound like a less folky Eluveitie with a deeper vocalist. Granted, saying a band is less folky than Eluveitie is like saying a person is less wet when they're not in a swimming pool, because, for crying out loud, Eluveitie has a full-time hurdy-gurdy.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

I had to try several times before this post had a title: Gornok's top 10 metal albums

Hello, functioning literates! I'm Gornok. Or Metalex. Or any number of other appellations. I love getting new nicknames and monikers – each is a another step on my sobriquest. Greg told me I should come up with a list of my 10 favorite metal albums and why, so I did. I'm pretty confident in about seven of these choices, and the other three slots are dependent on my mood (sorry, Obituary). Odds are, I'm going to be reviewing things in a more grindy/black/death/obnoxious vein than Danny or Greg. 

Atheist – Unquestionable Presence
The opening two bars of the record: tritone-based bass riff in 5/4, followed by guitar-harmonized version of the same. Steve Flynn's chaotic samba/jazz/metal drumming erupts before resolving to a groovy thrash. I won't describe anything beyond those first thirty seconds, but suffice to say that Atheist knew their strengths (an incredibly technical maelstrom that comes off catchy, effortlessly, and human) and played to them every single song on this album. Countless bands would follow their templates and steal the paints from their palette, but Atheist lives up to their titular boast. Did I mention that this absolute motherfucker of a record came out in '91? This is the birth of tech-metal.

Naked City – Torture Garden
I'm honestly not sure what genre to classify this record as. Naked City is the thalidomide-flippered-and-laser-cannon-armed lovechild of NYC-freejazz-weirdo-saxophonist John Zorn, whose love of Japanese bondage and grindcore were matched only by his inability to stay in the same genre for more than ten seconds. He found four other people on similar wavelengths (all other parts of the 70s/80s NYC "downtown" no-wave and free-jazz scene) and put out this compilation of grindcore minatures. I can't tell you more without ruining the fun of finding the surprises, but I can tell you that I'll slap you if you don't like it.

iamthemorning - Lighthouse

This review is going to be where the "mostly" in this blog's title comes in. While I'm sure all three of us would proudly describe ourselves as a bunch of metalheads, none of our tastes begin and end there. So for a slight change of pace from vikings and space operas, I figured I'd return to a hidden gem from Steven Wilson's Kscope label, Russian chamber prog duo iamthemorning.

Chamber prog might sound like a genre I just made up, but the combination of alt-prog and chamber folk/pop feels intuitive in practice. The duo of Marjana Semkina on vocals and Gleb Kolyadin on piano plus a couple of guest musicians sounds minimalist at times and closer to a full orchestra at others. And on Lighthouse they get a bit more eclectic, incorporating electric guitar and horns in unexpected places.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Blaze Bayley - Infinite Entanglement

Iron Maiden has launched quite a few solo careers with varying degrees of success. Bruce Dickinson spent a few albums finding his sound before putting out two classic albums that rank alongside some of Maiden's best. On the opposite side of the spectrum you have Paul DiAnno, whose own greatest hits album last year was 90% songs from his brief stint fronting Iron Maiden. Somewhere in the middle is Steve Harris' British Lion, which sounds less like a classic Steve Harris album and more like an average rock band that happens to feature Steve Harris, almost like he did it as a favor to a friend.

And then we have Blaze Bayley, the replacement singer who fronted Iron Maiden at the low point of their popularity and sang on two of their most polarizing albums (though I'll defend The X Factor 'til my dying breath.) And while Blaze can't boast any single album to rival Accident of Birth or The Chemical Wedding, he's has a solid solid run of five albums, peaking with The Man Who Would Not Die and Promise and Terror. Then there's The King of Metal, which is the saddest kind of album you can come across: deeply personal at a dark time in his life, clearly an intended magnum opus, but bland as hell in execution.

So where does that put his latest effort, a sci-fi concept album called Infinite Entanglement?

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Amon Amarth - Jomsviking

Amon Amarth, the band that basically invented "viking metal" is back, and for their 10th studio album, they've upped the ante and gone full viking. Jomsviking isn't just a collection of songs about vikings though; it's the band's first concept album. Jomsviking allegedly tells the story of a young man whose love is married off to another man. In his anger, he kills a man, and is exiled for his crime. He joins up with the Jomsvikings and swears revenge on those he believes wronged him. But when he returns (in "A Dream That Cannot Be"), he finds out that the object of his love has moved on and is very happy with her current situation. I say "allegedly" because a good 80% of the time, you're not paying any attention to the lyrics of any given Amon Amarth album. I'm just relaying what Amon Amarth frontman Johan Hegg has said in interviews about this album.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Anthrax - For All Kings

Anthrax occupy an interesting place among thrash metal's big 4. While Megadeth, Metallica, and Slayer's careers are marked by higher highs and lower lows, Anthrax can be counted on to put out decent album after decent album. Following that trend, For All Kings offers no surprises. For anyone who's heard Worship Music, this review is halfway to writing itself.

The album starts with a brief intro track, Impaled, which builds tension nicely into the first proper song, You Gotta Believe. A few things stand out on this track that hold true for more or less rest of the album. The riffing feels more like traditional heavy metal with a thrash influence. Jon Donais fits right in as Rob Caggiano's replacement on guitar, and I'd have never noticed Caggiano's absence if I hadn't already known from following the buzz around the last Volbeat album. Frank Bello's bass is as simple and effective as ever. Joey Belladonna's voice has aged well, or at least he knows how to work with his limited range instead of letting his age show. But that was already evident on Worship Music.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Sunburst - Fragments of Creation

Fragments of Creation is the kind of album every reviewer hopes to stumble on: a band with minimal pedigree coming out of nowhere with something that sounds like seasoned veterans at their career peak.

The opener, Out of the World, sets the tone nicely for the whole album with a riff that sounds like a streamlined mix of Symphony X and Dream Theater, both circa 2007. And as soon as Vasilis Georgiou's vocals come in, I can't help but feel right at home. Many will call him a Roy Khan clone, and the similarly is more uncanny here than ever, but without Roy Khan to fill that role anymore, it's a welcome title to live up to. It helps that the band takes that similarity in an unconventional direction, sounding less like Kamelot and more like a heavier, modernized version of Khan's previous band, Conception.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Borknagar strikes gold twice with Winter Thrice

As I write this, I find it increasingly strange to think that four years have passed since Urd came out and combined the band’s classic sound with new, proggier elements. Perhaps the best thing I can say about Winter Thrice’s predecessor without turning this into a lengthy double review is that I never felt like I was waiting for a new Borknagar album because Urd still felt fresh in my mind. Maybe the band felt the same way, because Winter Thrice sounds like an album with nothing to prove and plenty of time to fine-tune a formula that works.

The album kicks off strong with Rhymes of the Mountain, and immediately ICS Vortex sounds smoother than ever while fusing seamlessly with Vintersorg's growls. It helps that the production is smooth yet organic, without the squashed, overly slick sound that plagues too many modern metal albums. (Contrast the production on the last two Blind Guardian albums for a good example of what I mean.)

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Omnium Gatherum - Grey Heavens: A Gathering of All Things Kinda Boring

Last week saw the release of Omnium Gatherum's latest work Grey Heavens, and as a self-avowed melodeath junkie, I just had to give it a shot. I should confess, right off the bat, to not being Omnium Gatherum's biggest fan. They definitely have their better moments, but honestly I think the best thing that anyone in this band has ever done is be the guitarist for Insomnium. (For the curious, Markus Vanhala has been doing double-duty since Ville Vänni left the band to spend more time with his family due to the impending birth of his first child and focus on his career as a general surgeon.)

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Dream Theater - The Astonishing Display of Overindulgence

 The Astonishing, Dream Theater's 13th studio album released January 29, 2016, is a science fiction concept album about a world in which music no longer exists, save for the noises made by the machines who keep order. This is by far Dream Theater's longest album to date, and their third with drummer Mike Mangini. Because this is a big album released by a big name band, Greg and Danny decided to team up to review this monster 2 hour and 10 minute long album.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Megadeth - Dystopia: a dark vision of the future makes up for the band's recent past

It's hard to approach a new Megadeth album with any specific expectations considering how hit and miss their late career has been. Endgame and The System Has failed prove Dave Mustaine and co. still have the creative spark that made their early output great, but then the blandness of Super Collider makes you appreciate Risk for actually taking a risk. With all that those ups and downs in mind, what jumped out at me first about Dystopia was how easy it was to forget about the band's history or Dave's latest rant and just listen to the music.

The Threat is Real starts things off strong with sharp riffing and pounding bass and drums, which set the tone for the next 3 tracks. The newest lineup, for those still keeping track, features Angra guitarist Kiko Loureio on guitar, and he's a welcome presence throughout the whole album, even if some of his solos feel a bit too polished for Megadeth's style. David Ellefson's bass comes through clearer than ever in the mix and his playing on Dystopia more than justifies it. Dave's signature aggressive snark is abundant in the vocals, and the choruses mostly feel big again in a way they haven't since Endgame.

Fleshgod Apocalypse Still 'King's of Technical Death Metal

Fleshgod Apocalypse's fourth full-length album, King, takes them yet another step closer to achieving the level of balance I've been hoping for out of this band since Agony.

All of the basics are still there, with most tracks being driven by the same unrelenting double bass, as if the drummer just needs to prove to the world that he doesn't skip leg day. Guitar work is just as intricate as ever and requires multiple listens to really appreciate fully. And, as often happens on albums in this general genre, the bassist is mostly just left to play with himself in a corner.

But that's par for the course for technical death metal these days. What really sets Fleshgod Apocalypse apart from the rest of the crowd is their use of backing strings and keyboard, which have (at least so far) reached their peak on this album. They add just enough to each song to make an otherwise good to great tech death track into a properly epic one. Best examples of such on this album are probably "In Aeternum" and "Healing Through War."

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


Thanks for coming here and reading our ramblings on life, the universe, and everything...but mostly metal. Before we dive into new reviews, commentary, original content, and miscellaneous musings, we figured you should know a little about us. So here are our top 10 metal albums.

The rules are simple: One album per artist, no live albums or compilations.

We'll be back soon with our top 10 non-metal albums

Danny's Top 10 Metal Albums

Hey readers (all like 2 of you). I'm Danny B., graduate student in astronomy education, massive nerd, and I just so happen to be a pretty big metalhead as well. So, without further ado, because you're not here to read about me, my 10 favorite metal albums!

Fallujah - The Flesh Prevails
The Flesh Prevails epitomizes everything I think technical death metal should be. Fallujah manages to combine intricacy and what I can only really describe as sheer in-your-face brutality song after song to put together one of the all-around best death metal releases I’ve listened to in a while. The Flesh Prevails also showcases some absolutely brilliant in-studio mixing that allows the listener to fully appreciate the layers of complexity written into every track. This is one of those albums that I can only listen to properly as a whole.

Iron Maiden - Powerslave
My top 10 list couldn’t be complete without an Iron Maiden album, and Powerslave takes the cake for me. The middle of this album has always been the weak point, with utterly forgettable tracks like “The Duelist” and “Back in the Village” holding it back from a top 5 spot. The rest of the album, however, features four of Iron Maiden’s all-time best songs, with particular emphasis on Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which probably ranks as my favorite Maiden song overall, and easily ranks among my all time favorite metal songs. This isn’t Maiden’s most influential album, nor is it the absolute peak of their writing and instrumental abilities, but I think the high points on Powerslave are probably among the high points of their entire career.

Greg's Top 10 Metal Albums

I'm Greg E, administrative assistant and freelance writer, amateur fantasy author, musician, and owner of many frogs. In addition to metal reviews and commentary, I'll be sharing original music and fiction here. Here are my top 10 metal albums.

After Forever - Self-Titled

As a big Epica fan, the idea that a band could get better after Mark Jansen’s departure seems almost absurd, but on their final album, After Forever pulled it off. I could point out that the orchestration is sincerely epic and the death vocals don’t feel gimmicky like they do on too many symphonic metal albums, but really, this record is about one thing. Floor Jansen has the most powerful pipes in symphonic metal, which she’d later use to put two consecutive Nightwish singers to shame. But it’s here that her voice is at top form, showing off a range and passion that make nearly every song impossibly catchy.

Agalloch - Ashes Against the Grain

I’ve heard Agalloch described as the Opeth of black metal, and it’s not too far from the truth. The appeal of their unique blend of blackened folk metal can be summed up in one word: atmosphere. The band comes from Portland, yet the “dark woods in the heart of a Norwegian winter” vibe feels authentic. At an hour long split between seven songs and one interlude, it’s an album that meanders but never feels slow or loses focus. Ashes Against the Grain is a record to turn off the lights and just think to, but it never feels soft or sentimental. The vocals and guitar both sound ethereal, and not in a modern, overproduced way. And even if nothing I just said sounds the least bit appealing to you, check out Not Unlike the Waves all the same.