Ahab – The Boats of the Glen Carrig ALBUM REVIEW

Full disclosure, Ahab is my favorite band. I even went so far as to get an Ahab shirt for Christmas, one which I’ll gladly show off for years to come. I’ve been saving this review for the end of the year, as I feel like it would be a nice closure to 2015. However I found that I really just don’t have a whole lot to say about this record.

It follows the familiar Ahab sound, with crushing doomy riffs (albeit at a slightly more brisk pace this time), coupled with beautiful calming clean vocals, and acoustic passages. On previous Ahab records I felt that they were exploring the notion of wandering at sea, with the waves crashing against your vessel, creating a struggle of man vs water. On The Boats of the Glen Carrig, I feel like Ahab has finally dove into the water, as the cover indicates, giving off a more atmospheric and lighter approach, rather than being sloth like in their riffs, which makes me feel like I’m exploring the vast, colorful landscape of the ocean floor that’s filled with life, rather than the bleak, desolate surface. Ahab has almost totally abandoned the funeral doom aspect of their music, making this much more a post-death doom record than anything else.

It goes without saying that this is a fantastic record, though that’s more due to the fact that I’m not sure if Ahab can produce something that’s not amazing. But, hold on a sec guys. Nalpam Records. The second in command of the Legion of Shitty Entry-Level Records (also know as L.O.S.E.R) right behind Nuclear Blast. So of course they gotta make this more accessible to the avant-teen. In this case, while the tracks are fantastic, they follow an extremely predictable pattern of acoustic intro, buildup, crushing doom section, outro. Every single track does this without fail. There’s none of the subtle variety of the previous Ahab albums. While the sound is great, it overall feels sterile and catered towards mass appeal.

So yes, I feel like this is Ahab’s worst output yet. That isn’t really saying much however, as Boats is still a marvelous record that even when tainted by big industry, manages to stand out above the rest of the Napalmed metal jungle as one of the best doom albums of the year.


Deafheaven – New Bermuda ALBUM REVIEW

As with any Deafheaven release, there are only two camps that are viable on the internet: those that think the release is the greatest thing since the caveman said “Hey, you can put it in the butt too!”, or those that think it’s the worst album of the year, and likely will lead to a second holocaust (which is mostly said by people who think the first one didn’t happen). New Bermuda is a really easy album to polarize. It’s got all the soft and fuzzy “hipster” elements of shoegaze, combined with the overly dramatic and cheesy post-rock chord progressions, and then just enough black metal aspects to give it an edge. And it’s really the black metal part that makes this album so hateable, because “trve” metalheads see a band that turns their walk in the middle of central park at 2am, into one taking place in the middle of the day with plenty of families around. Except they added just enough shady drug dealers to try fit in with the night crowd. It’s easy to see why many would call this patronizing and insulting, especially in the wake of the whole “starbucks metal” trend.

There was plenty of hope that New Bermuda would be a new beginning for Deafheaven, as many heard the singles and said that they were taking themselves much more as a black metal band this time rather than some sort of hipster agglomeration. And to a point, this is true. Unlike SUNBATHER, there are points in this album where it is disputable, 100% atmo black. No question. No gaze, no post-rock, just atmo-black. However those moments are relatively brief and seem very much tacked on. It feels like a very trying attempt to get cred with the metal in-crowd, rather than being seen as a controversial outsider. Which is confusing, because the rest of the album has almost no black metal in it at all. It feels like at times it just switches back and forth instead of being a coherent fusion.

The worst part is it’s not even necessary, as New Bermuda is so much better when there isn’t any black metal involved. Sure it has the typical amount of post-rock and blackgaze cheese, but there are enough interesting tidbits intermixed with that to make those aspects definitely worth listening to. Be it some jazzy chords, a very hawaiian guitar tone, some interesting samples, or various other things New Bermuda has to offer, there’s always a tease to the fact that Deafheaven has the potential to create something quite interesting and great. Unfortunately, this album is mostly tease without any fulfillment. There are so many great chords that go nowhere it’s heartbreaking. While the sample of rain coming down at a nice atmospheric touch, the sample of what seems to be some sort of announcement about future use of the George Washington Bridge is either way over my head, or makes absolutely no sense as to why it’s there in context with the music.

Despite having that one weird sample, Come Back is absolutely the best track on the album, mostly because it has the least amount of black metal in it. It feels much more prog rock and post-rock than anything else on the album, and even includes some heavy metal riffing, which came to a surprise to me. Of course at points it delves into watered-down blackgaze nonsene, but the rest of it I would even call somewhat groovy.

Deafheaven needs to stop trying to be a black metal band, because it’s clearly something they aren’t capable of executing well. Especially since there is so much potential to be a great, more progressive post-rock band. However despite all my criticisms, I actually don’t think this is a bad record at all. I’d even go as far as to say it’s pretty good actually. However as a whole, it’s a bunch of missed potential that’s the result of a band trying to appease a crowd it never will, doing something it’s not good at.


Ghost Bath – Moonlover ALBUM REVIEW

You ever have one of those albums you wish would just never end? Not necessarily because it’s the greatest album ever, but because it just feels so comfortable to listen to? There have only been two albums like that this year: Efferat’s Enlightenment, and this album. I could listen to the sequence from Beneath the Shade Tree to the end of the album for pretty much forever. But despite this, this album has not gotten as high an acclaim as one might think. There has been much controversy about this record. Initially hyped as a one man band from China, before people found out it was a 4 man band from North Dakota, this album has been labeled the SUNBATHER of this year, in that it’s not “true” black metal, and it only appeals to hipsters. Yeah, fuck those people. This isn’t hipster metal, this is beautiful metal, which is definitely not the impossibility that people say it is. Unlike many other black metal albums, which use acoustic guitars in a ritualistic “well, we need a soft section somewhere” way, this incorporates acoustic guitars fully into the albums sound, have two tracks that are almost entirely acoustic guitar. But that doesn’t make this any less metal, even with the scarcity of banging blast beats, or any kind of riffs. The metal part of this alum is in the feeling of despair throughout the entire album, though this isn’t despair in horror, it’s more despair in melancholy and sadness. And how well does it execute this? Near perfectly. There are no actual lyrics in this album, the vocals are purely screams, which to me makes perfect sense, as it’s just skipping the middle man (nobody cares about black metal lyrics) and going straight for what we want to hear. Not a bad thing. What IS a bad thing (and really the only bad thing in the album and why it doesn’t get a higher score) is that the over use of arpeggios and obvious (but not exactly TOO obvious, which is a saving grace) chord progressions that limit how much I can really enjoy this album, at least to an extent. Even with that said, I probably should give this a higher score, but I do feel that along with other minor problems, this albums short length (42 minute) lessens it’s seemingly epic scope. I feel like an extra 10 minutes tacked on the end would really wrap this up as a 9 or higher. Or even on the reverse, ending at The Silver Flower Part II would’ve given some finality to it, even if it would’ve been shorter. The end track didn’t really seem like a firm conclusion, and was more just a “oh yeah, and this is the end of the album” track.

Despite this, the album deserves all of the acclaim it does get, and anyone who’s too caught up in what’s “trve” or “authentic black metal” needs to get their head out of their ass and appreciate music for what it is instead of what you want it to be.