Best non-metal albums (so far) of 2011

This is a place for metal, but let’s not kid ourselves. Who among us ONLY listens to metal? Oh, um, if that’s you, then sorry.

I was just reading an article in Spin about John Darnielle, the leader of the Mountain Goats and contributor to Decibel Magazine. Anyone who’s ever heard the Mountain Goats knows they are decidedly not metal. Still dark in spots, but in no way metal. That said, Darnielle is a huge metal head who would put most people’s knowledge (myself included) to shame, and when he was putting together the new Goats album “All Eternals Deck” (their 16th!!!), he called up death metal producer extraordinaire Erik Rutan (also leader of Hate Eternal) to work on some of the tracks. He said when he called Rutan, the man was thrilled because all he’s ever asked to do are metal records, and his tastes are far broader. Not to put myself in the same category as Rutan, but think of Meat, Mead, Metal the same way. Metal primarily, but there’s a lot more that gets us going.

That said, just like we did a couple weeks ago with the best metal records (so far) of 2011, we’re going to do the same here for non-metal releases. It’s funny, but as I was putting candidates on this list, I realized I have more to consider than I did for the metal list. So that tells you something. Anyway, some of these might be a little obvious, but whatever. I never worried too much about if I was listening to something that tons of other people were as well. So here we go…

Jessica Lea Mayfield is 21, and by listening to her way, way too blunt lyrics, it sounds like she’s on about her seventh life or so. And none of them, this one especially, have been easy. “Tell Me,” her second album, continues the heartbreak and damage she conveyed on her debut “With Blasphemy So Heartfelt,” but the music is far more fleshed out. Her singing, always her strong point, is even more confident, and the songs have a timeless feel. The music has a heartfelt Midwestern flavor, and she can get loud when she wants to, but she tends to let her volume come across in her words. Closer “Sleepless” is one of the most upsetting songs I’ve heard in a long time. If someone you knew wrote this or performed it for you, you’d be calling suicide hotlines in no time. I can’t say enough about how much I like Mayfield.

For more, go here:

Wye Oak is a duo out of Baltimore that makes delicately soft and pulverizingly loud music. They manage to take those two elements and make them work together as well as anyone else. In fact, considering there are so many metal bands that do this very thing, chances are there will be some appeal. Plus, Jenn Wasner can absolutely rip on the guitar. She has quiet, sometimes child-like vocals (not in the annoying way … it’s hard to explain), but when she pounds on her distortion pedal, you’re sure to not be able to hear so well for the next few hours. Their new record “Civilian” is a tough one to grasp at first listen. It may take a few visits to really get this thing. It was that way for me, but I always wanted to go back and explore the thing. It’s hard to put a label on this band other than “indie rock,” which is so generic and really descriptive of nothing. But I think you know what I mean. And it’s also so much more than that.

For more, go here:

Well, here comes Capt. Obvious, coming around on his space craft of obviousness. The new Decemberists is awesome. That’s it. No arguments. People detested their concept album “The Hazards of Love,” which happens to be my favorite of their records. I think in time, that album will get more respect and love. People have a hard time dissecting something in its immediacy if it doesn’t meet some sort of lofty set of expectations. So you may wonder from what I wrote if I like their new one, “The King Is Dead,” more than “Hazards.” I do not. But it’s still an excellent album, very indicative of the band’s earlier, more simplistic years, yet with more of an ’80s edge, likely due to R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck producing and playing on some of the cuts. The record actually debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts (shocking to me since so many people eschewed “Hazards”), but it was well deserved. There aren’t as many morbid tales on this one, but there are 10 damn good, stripped down songs you won’t ever get out of your head.

For more, go here:

Esben and the Witch’s “Violet Cries” is a spooky, dark one. The band itself is named after a Danish fairytale, and they make more noise than any trio seemingly has a right to make. That doesn’t mean they always level you with decibels, because they don’t. They more envelope you with their gothy, shoegazey fog, which probably would have made them giant stars in the mid to late ’80s when “120 Minutes” and shows of that ilk were at their most influential. Anyone into Portishead, Siouxsie and the Banshees or even more recent bands such as Bat for Lashes or Warpaint probably will dig this. The highlight for me is Rachel Davies and her heavily accented, expressive vocals, that add even more lure and mystery to these songs (check her refrain, “We’re dancing,” on “Argyria” that sounds more like, “We’re don-cing”). I have a few Esben and the Witch cuts on the weekend mix my wife and I play as we’re cooking, playing trivia games, etc. And their songs always make me pause. Certainly give this one a shot.

For more, go here:

There are plenty others I could go on about, but I eventually need to do some things around the house. Here are some of my other favorites: Destroyer’s weirdly nighttime-friendly “Kaputt”; Metal Mountains’ waifish, dreamy folk lathering on “Golden Trees”; Caroline’s gorgeously delicate electronica on “Verdugo Hills”; The Head and the Heart’s heart-on-sleeves, emotive folk rock on their self-titled debut; and the Joy Formidable’s ear-splitting, arena-sized shoegaze lava on “The Big Roar.”

More metal to come, of course. We still need to discuss Goes Cube’s new one, as well as new stuff from Obscura and Summon the Crows, which is a monster. All in good time.

Flash of the Blade

Thinking about the fairly short history of heavy metal (in comparison to the history of the world, that is), there are a handful of labels that come to mind immediately.

Roadrunner? Sure, though that label has been so bastardized by lowest-common-denominator signings as of late that the days of King Diamond and Obituary seems lifetimes away, and the era of Nickelback is nauseatingly apparent. How about major Elektra? They had Metallica, Metal Church, Flotsam and Jetsam. Century Media and Nuclear Blast both have done a huge job singing quality bands and breaking them into more mainstream recognition. And how about Metal Blade, the first label that pops into my head when I think of the history of the genre? Their “Metal Massacre” series helped introduce bands as large as Metallica and Slayer, and through the years they were home to Mercyful Fate, GWAR, Armored Saint, Manowar, Cannibal Corpse, and more recently Amon Amarth and Primordial (more on those later). In addition, they have found success with the surge of metalcore with bands such as Unearth, Job for a Cowboy, and As I Lay Dying. Some metal purists would take issue with those bands, and while they’re certainly not my favorite acts, they did expand exposure for the label and metal in general. Nothing wrong with making money, and unlike Roadrunner, they didn’t wreck their reputation (well, at least with me) to do so.

This calendar year has been a surprisingly strong one for Metal Blade, and certainly those who do fall into that purist category would be hard-pressed to disagree. They have two notable album releases and a DVD from veteran acts getting ready to hit store shelves, as well as two others from bands who haven’t yet made their mark but certainly should soon.

Primordial frontman Alan “Nemtheanga” Averill has a hand in two of the bands, because he signed them himself to his Poison Tongue Records, with Metal Blade exposing them to America. Australia’s Assaulter have a raw, primitive feel, kind of mixing death and black metal with a sense of rock and roll. Their songs surge and punish and feel like they’ve been dragged kicking and screaming over thorn bushes. The dudes themselves even look more like a classic metal band (see above!), adorned in jeans no hipster would be caught dead wearing, leather jackets, jean jackets with the sleeves cut off. And they’re not doing it to be ironic. They’re the real deal, which you can hear by taking on their new album Boundless! Their promo materials mark the band’s sound as similar to Destroyer 666, Sodom, and Invictus, and I even hear a little bit of early Bathory in what they do. This trio brings savage fun that most younger bands trying to feast on eras gone by never seem to get right. This just hit stores, so go get it.

For more on Assaulter, go here:

Another I talked about last week in my favorite albums (so far) of 2011, that being Celtic warriors Darkest Era (also a Nemtheanga signing). That’s them above. Their sound is more epic and sweeping, and while they’re not exactly power metal, you can hear some of it in their style. They’re more just classic heavy metal, a band that would have sounded great decades ago opening shows for titans such as Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Dio and even Mercyful Fate. Opening track “The Morrigan” is such a great song and one of my favorite metal tracks of the year. Their debut full-length “The Last Caress of Light” is in stores now, and ever since I got my promo a few months ago, I’ve listened to it at least a few times a week. It’s actually a good workout record, because it’s one that can cause that surge of adrenaline you need right when you feel like you can’t go any further.

For more on Darkest Era, go here:

Now, about those veterans. Amon Amarth (those guys above!), your leaders in Viking metal, return next week with “Surtur Rising,” an album that took me some time to get used to but, now that I’ve spent plenty of time with it, I find to be quite the experience. It doesn’t have one of those sure-fire classics on first, second, even third listen, but the more you take on these songs, the deeper impression they make. Now it’s easy to hear the unique identities each of these songs have, and while the record isn’t terribly different from their past few discs in spirit, it does stand apart. That’s different from what I said last week, but I say that after several more listens. Really digging the opener “War of the Gods” and “Live Without Regrets,” my favorite cut on the album at this moment. Odd for the band is there isn’t a title track. Also up soon (like, at the end of April) is Primodial’s latest “Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand.” Haven’t heard this one yet, and I’m chomping at the bit to do so. Easily my most anticipated record of the second quarter of the year.

Cannibal Corpse have their new DVD “Global Evisceration” in stores, and it culls live performances from two 2010 shows, giving you two hours’ worth of live and behind-the-scenes carnage. There also is a documentary look at the band’s tour in support of their “Evisceration Plague” album as well as their European tour. I admittedly am not the world’s biggest Cannibal Corpse fan, but this DVD was a fun time and I’ll certainly watch it again.

On top of this are records originally out on England’s Rise Above that Metal Blade brought to our attention, including the new Electric Wizard and Blood Ceremony, and the first one from mysterious rockers Ghost. Also up soon are new ones from doom legends Pentagram and prog-death mashers Between the Buried and Me. That’s quite a kickoff to the year for one of metal’s most important and influential labels that clearly is not interested in resting on its reputation.

For more on the label, go here:


So that new Haunted album got some mileage, did it not?

By far, that post made for the most successful day of our short run here at Meat, Mead, Metal.  So thanks to everyone who stopped by. I also said last Thursday that on March 18, the day of the infamous Haunted review, that I’d be running my favorite non-metal albums of 2011. I sort of didn’t. Basically, I have some eye strain right now (way, WAY too much exposure to our VDU monitor … like, WAY too much), and for someone like me who thinks every ailment is taking me directly to the graveyard, I didn’t want to aggravate it further. So look for that list March 25, this Friday.

Mondays typically will be the day we discuss the mead and meat portions of the site, and so let’s go there together. Well, OK, so I didn’t exactly drink mead. It’s … we needed a third M. But there was beer to be had, and usually I try to stop somewhere locally that sells loose six-packs. In case you don’t know what I mean, some establishments let you mix and match different types of beers. Like, this local hot dog shop D’s has a gigantic cooler filled with all kinds of beers, and you can just load up on whatever you want. It gets pricey, but it at least allows you to try some different things.

This week, I bought two different types of Duck-Rabbit, a beer made by a small brewery in North Carolina that I’m actually kind of shocked I can find around here. I went with their barley wine and their Baltic ale, and since both have a fairly high ABV, I left it at that. I started with the barley wine, which was very bitter and very hoppy. I am not a big hops fan. I don’t hate it, but I tend to stay away with beers that have a more pronounced hops taste. That said, this beer grew on me. I went from being slightly disgusted by the taste to, once I got to the end of the bottle, kind of wishing I had more. Also, since its ABV is 11 percent, I felt pretty awesome once I finished it. Cartoon arms. It was then onto the Baltic ale, which is darker and has a bit of a cocoa bend. It’s pretty smooth, tastes good, and when I secretly splashed a little vanilla vodka into it, the taste got even better. Both beers I’ll try again, with the slight edge going to the Baltic. If you want to check out the Duck-Rabbit site (which looks like it was designed in 1996), go here:

Saturday, we got to the meat. Uh. Anyway, we usually do something fun with the crock pot on Saturday, but we didn’t have time to do that, and my wife and I were more in the mood for some grilling. We got home a little later than usual, so by the time I lit the grill (and the fire pit about 10 feet away), our dark yard made it look like we were holding some kind of ritual. Maybe we were. My part of the preparation was really simple: I was grilling the burgers. By the way, don’t put too much spice or enhancements into your ground meat. It’s not necessary. Usually, just some salt and pepper will do the trick, but I put a little BBQ sauce into mine. Not sure what my wife put into hers, but it was all basic.  My wife made a recipe she found on the Betty Crocker web site that was a sort of cheesy potato salsa kind of deal. I didn’t pay a lot of attention to how she whipped this thing together because I had fires to stoke, but you can see the final product. She warned me the salsa she was using was pretty spicy (I tend to not be a big fan of hot, spicy foods), but it really wasn’t too hot. Everything worked together, and you could taste the cheesiness and the salsa at the same time, as no flavor got canceled out. I can’t think of more to say about it because I had a few drinks at the time of consumption. Go make it yourself and find out.

To check out the cheesy salsa potato thing, go here:

As for the burgers, they were grilled perfectly. That’s not bragging. It usually takes me a few grilling efforts each year to kind of get it right, but this is only the second time we’ve grilled in 2011, and it worked fine. My wife put some sort of seasoning on top of her burger before I grilled it, and apparently that didn’t work out so well. She complained it made everything taste like pickles. Lesson learned. Less is more.

Not too exciting, but altogether it was a pretty successful Saturday night. Beverages were had, I tried not to worry too much about my visual strife (as much as I can, being a life-long hypochondriac and chronic worrier), and I even got in a few visits with new albums from Trap Them and Goes Cube (more on that one later). Not sure what next weekend will bring, but it’s supposed to be chilly, so maybe the grill will sit out and the crock pot will come back.

More to come this week.

The Haunted’s lazy failure

There are things I’ll never understand. Why do people argue over politics? Who do people listen to Kid Rock? Why do people take advantage of others? Why did Metallica play with a symphony?

While not nearly as important as some of those items listed above, I’ll never understand what the Haunted were thinking when making their seventh album “Unseen.” The album should be called “Unheard,”  which, if we lived in a just society, would describe this platter’s fate. It is an abomination. It’s one of the worst metal albums I’ve ever heard. Yes, I know there was that onslaught of nu-metal in the ’90s and early ’00s. But those bands didn’t have anything to offer and had zero substance, so really, how could one hold them up to high standards ? But the Haunted? They’ve made some good albums. Not necessarily recently, but they’re not idiots. The Björler brothers were in At the Gates, one of the most legendary, respected death metal bands of all time! And now they’ve got this on their resumes.

I also don’t think frontman Peter Dolving is an idiot. I interviewed the guy before, and while’s he’s a little weird to the point you wonder if it’s a gimmick, he’s intelligent and well spoken. He’s a good performer. He undoes a lot of that on this record. Easily, this is his worst lyrical and vocal performance ever. He sounds lazy, like he’s mailing it in, and that’s something I never expect from him. He sings like he’s aiming to play opener to some X-fest alt-metal garbage summer shed package, sandwiched between bands who wear guyliner and those pants you get at Hot Topic. The ones with the zippers and straps and shit. His vocals sound like they were recorded by Dolving as a corpse. No lifeline at all.

When I’m assigned to write about a record, I give it multiple listens. You almost have to because it’s really difficult to fully absorb a piece of work from just one visit. That was a struggle with “Unseen.” I only sat and listened the whole way through once because to do it more than that would be punishment.  It had to be broken up into manageable pieces, and even that was tough to handle. Most of what’s on this disc sounds like lightweight, thoughtless Tool, and haven’t we just about had enough of bands trying to go that route? And the Haunted are better than that. There are songs on here that sound like they’re trying to be pop-punk fodder, such as the putrid “Motionless” or the title track, that’s damn-near a ballad vying for time on a “NOW That’s What I call Music Vol. Death of a Career.”  “The Skill” sounds like it’s trying to be a pop song. That, in itself, is not a crime, but when you do it this badly, it speaks volume for all of those teen sensations who hire writers for them because they can’t do it themselves. This ends in whistling, but the way. No, your eyes don’t deceive you. Whistling.

“All Ends Well” (itself a lie) tries to swagger like a glam metal song, and at one point Dolving insists, “I don’t care what people say.” Doth protest too much? Then don’t say it. Just put out this shit bucket and don’t pretend like you’re waiting for the long list of negative comments on your My Space page or wherever.

So are any of the songs any good, you may be wondering? I don’t know, actually. “The City” and “Them” are at least listenable, but if they were sandwiched into the middle of a good Haunted record, they might stand out as the bad songs on an otherwise decent collection. They didn’t exactly light my world on fire. Instead, they reinforced the notion that the Haunted could hammer out something relatively listenable if they wanted to, but it didn’t sound like they cared about that. This whole thing sounds like they didn’t give a shit at all, but they knew they had the power to fail so epically for a chuckle.

In an interview with, Dolving described “Unseen” this way:  “Epic. Danceable. Groovy. And very, very, arty farty metal. With this next record we are going to be taking a piss in the general direction of all the crappy 99.9 percent of generic contemporary Mr. Goatse jerks out there.”

But Mr. Dolving, this record MAKES you guys part of that 99.9 percent. This is generic and lame as shit. This is a legacy-damaging album. And I’d argue that legacy has been on the downswing for quite some time, but it’s never been in the critical stage it is now. “Unseen” is a bloated carcass of a horrible idea. It’s a total waste of your and Century Media’s money. And the sad thing is, because the Haunted have a fanbase, people will buy this without thinking because it’s the Haunted. You owe those people an apology. You owe ME an apology for feeling the need to write this about a record I’d ordinarily delete from my iPod, never bothering to visit ever again. From the time I hit “publish” on this entry, I will choose to pretend “Unseen” never existed. I don’t do it to maintain faith in the Haunted, because I don’t have any. I do it because I’m a relatively good person and don’t need this album to continuously torture me.

“Unseen” gets a gigantic F.

Garbage tomorrow; Negative Plane, Titans Eve today

Slow day at Meat, Mead, Metal. Slow, slow, slow.

Reasons for it are pretty good. Not getting a lot of news in as most of my contacts are at SXSW (and, alas, I am not). Also, my deadlines for Outburn are at hand and I’m putting together a ton of reviews for them as we speak (as well as getting together the first of what I’m sure will be a few interview subjects for the next issue). I have a few news notes below that might interest you.

Tomorrow’s entries will be fun. First, I’m going to eviscerate a well-known band for putting out one of the most putrid metal releases I’ve heard this year. Seriously, this thing is an offensive piece of garbage that’s so incomprehensibly awful that I’ll probably have a rough time accurately portraying my distaste. So that’ll be fun. Second, I’m going to list some of my favorite non-metal albums of the first quarter of 2011. I listen to a lot more than just metal, and I’d imagine most of you do as well, so we’ll see if you’re feeling the same way about this stuff.

OK, some news releases about two bands I recommend you check out if you haven’t already.


Stained Glass Relevations, the critically acclaimed and fan-approved sophomore album from New York occultists Negative Plane will be getting the vinyl treatment from Ireland’s Invictus Productions. The album that Aquarius Records described as “a masterful combination of atmospheric interludes” and “metal onslaughts that emerge intricately from the hissing murk with pounding drums, swarms of guitar, and raw guttural vokills, field recordings, bells, cello, piano, organ, and some female vocals are all woven into the mix, creating something quite unique and effective” will be available as a gorgeously packaged double vinyl LP, complete with a special booklet featuring lyrics and exclusive artwork by Timo Ketola. This loving homage to this iconoclastic collective’s most enthralling effort yet will see the light of day this coming April – stay tuned for more details!

Negative Plane’s next live onslaught will take place on May 31st, 2011 at Brooklyn, NY’s Union Pool, supporting Finnish death/doom masters Hooded Menace alongside newcomers Ilsa and Anhedonist. You have been warned.

For more info, go here:


Titans Eve vocalist/guitarist Brian Gamblin has posted a comment today on the band’s My Space blog for “The Divine Equal” reaching the #1 spot on Canadian Campus Radio Loud Charts.

“Titans Eve wants to thank the radio DJs and music directors of the campus loud charts and everyone who is supporting Titans Eve across the country!!! I hope I get the chance to play for all of you as Titans Eve is gearing up and launching one of the biggest tours an independent band is capable of doing. This tour will see us across North America and back. It will be a two month juggernaut of a tour that will be our North American showcase for our album The Divine Equal. Titans Eve will also be touring South America in December and then releasing our second album Life Apocalypse early next year. See ya soon!!!”

Titans Eve debut concept album “The Divine Equal,” based on literary themes from John Milton’s 17th Century poem “Paradise Lost” and the Book of Genesis was self-released February 5th, 2011, and has been gaining momentum with a following from around the globe. Their North American tour dates to support the concept album will be announced in the coming days.

For more on Titans Eve, go here:

For my Titans Eve review at Metal Maniacs, go here:

Best (so far) of 2011

My cat just reported to me with a scroll, reminding me the year is nearly a third of the way over. He’s pretty useful sometimes, this cat.

I always laugh when people marvel about how fast any given year has gone. Then again, I do it myself. And here we are, with March officially half over, and my having heard every notable metal album that was (or will be) released these first three months. Now seems like a good time to do some inventory and talk about some of my favorite ones. These are albums that were released domestically between January and March of 2011. So no bitching about why, say, Burzum isn’t on here. Not out until April.

If I had to pick a favorite record for the first third of 2011, SubRosa’s “No Help for the Mighty Ones” would get the nod
without question. This Utah-based band truly realized their potential on their third album, first for Profound Lore. Their last effort “Strega” (Released by I Hate) was in the “not bad” category, but they were missing a certain magic. They found it on this one. SubRosa consists of three female string players (Rebecca Vernon on guitar, Sarah Pendleton and Kim Pack on electric violin), and while Vernon is the primary voice, all contribute vocals. The rhythm section is all male (Dave Jones on bass and Zack Hatsis in drums). The eye-catching artwork puts all of those dynamics into play, which artist Glyn Smyth explains here: As for the music, it’s gothy, doomy, sludgy, dramatic and emotional. Opener “Borrowed Time, Borrowed Eyes” is my favorite track of the year so far, with a chorus that crescendos soulfully. Just a great record.

Ireland’s Darkest Era was discovered and signed to Metal Blade by Primordial frontman Alan “Nemtheanga” Averill, and hearing their debut “The Last Caress of Light,” there’s no questioning what turned him onto the band. While Primordial are angrier and blacker, Darkest Era tend to be more majestic and epic. It may sound lazy to suggest they fall more into the power metal realm, because that tends to make people think of cheesiness. And there’s none of that here. I guess let’s just call them traditional folk-infused classic heavy metal, the stuff to which you want to raise devil horns and sing back the raucous choruses. Frontman Dwayne “Krum” Maguire has a passionate, righteous delivery that’s always clean. No screaming and growling on this one. Musically, you’ll feel a blood rush and want to take up sword and shield and, once the battle is over, celebrate in the dining hall.

Fell Voices are a bit of a mystery. They don’t really bother to name all of their songs and tend to shy away from record titles. It’s frustrating. But it is what it is, and their new, two-track, untitled album (out on Gilead Media) is one of the most imaginative, riveting pieces of atmospheric black metal I’ve heard in some time. Sonically, it’s less harsh than their 2009 self-titled album (released on Human Resources) and is one of those pieces that you can digest while relaxing and reflecting. Describing the music is tough to do, to be honest. Both tracks are quite long, so there’s so much going on that trying to break it down is pointless. There is abrasion, violence, feelings of self-destruction (maybe that’s because the second untitled cut reminds me a bit of early Xasthur), with vocals here and there. That is, when you can even make out the human voices crying into the night. The record really made its impact on me one evening right after sunset while driving home, and the orange-washed, dark blue night sky was making its temporary presence known. Perfect soundtrack for the setting.

My Fell Voices review can be found here:

New Zealand’s Ulcerate play tricky, unforgiving death metal that delves into the human condition and the rigors of every-day life. When you can make out what they’re saying, it probably won’t make you feel like breaking out a cake and having a party. Unless it’s a “life blows, let’s burn some cities” type of party. Not sure they make invitations for that occasion. Anyhow, their third record “The Destroyers of All” (out on Willowtip) feels like a dark, moody storm settling in over your village, and instead of carrying onto rain down on another town, it stays for a long, long time. You’ll wonder if you’ll ever see the sun again. The seven songs require some strength on your part because they are long, violent and drubbing. The closing title cut, which runs 10:30, has its moments of openness, allowing you to breathe just a bit, but you find yourself suffocating again before too long, as the song burns out into the night. This is heavy, ugly, and brutal, the way death metal is supposed to be.

My Ulcerate review can be found here:

Quickly, here are some of my other favorites so far: Earth’s “Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light 1,” that continues their path of Americana-laced drone; Bruce Lamont’s solo effort “Feral Songs for the Epic Decline,” that’s kind of like a cosmic western; Abysmal Dawn’s “Leveling the Plane of Existence,” a charge of classic death metal with some riveting twists; Blood Ceremony’s “Living with the Ancients,” a doom rock slab that pays homage to the ’70s and lets leading siren Alia O’Brien become a bonafide star; Obscura’s “Omnivium,” a record that keeps their techy tendencies in tact but also adds more depth and humanity, which they’ve long been missing; naturally Trap Them’s “Darker Handcraft” and KEN mode’s “Venerable,” both of which we visited yesterday; and True Widow’s mesmerizing, slow-burning, Sonic Youth-nodding new album “As High as the Highest Heavens and From the Center to the Circumference of the Earth.” Say that 10 times really quickly.

We’ll do this again in June once we get through another quarter of the year. Looking promising so far are new ones from Batillus, Blut Aus Nord, Dark Castle (haven’t heard it yet), Demonaz, Burzum, Liturgy, Primordial (also haven’t heard it yet), Infestus and Explosions in the Sky.

Viking assault!

I unabashedly love Amon Amarth and all of their ridiculousness. I guess some would call them a guilty pleasure, but I don’t call it that. Saying they’re a “guilty pleasure” sort of undercuts the band, almost like they’re not any good and that I like them despite that. This band rules, they have perfected the Viking-inspired death metal deal, and they never have made an album I didn’t like.

OK, so yeah, some people who take the highfalutin path may snub their noses at the band. I, too, enjoy “true” death metal, the kind that’s ugly, gritty, painful. But there’s a place for the melodic stuff, and when it’s done well, it can be riveting. Amon Amarth never fail at that. The other complaint most register is all of their records sound the same. They do. Sort of. Their earlier records were far more raw (probably a combination of budgetary constraints and lack of experience), but as time went on they got more and more slick and well produced. Of course, for what this band does, that higher production actually makes the record sound better because you get to experience every nuance. Again, maybe a matter of taste, but whatever. My tastes tend to be far more widespread. Wow, this all sounds like an apology. It isn’t. I see it more as an explanation.

Anyway, this all takes us into Amon Amarth’s eighth album “Surtur Rising,” a record that, yes, sounds a hell of a lot like their last few. And you expected what? Now, keep in mind, I’ve only listened to the new album a few times, so this isn’t an official “review.” This is just a first impression, so please do not take this as my official stance on the album. It’s also why I’m not going into any great detail because I haven’t fully explored the record yet.

Now, initially, I didn’t hear any songs that jumped out at me sort of the way “Guardians of Asgaard” or “Runes to My Memory” did. You know, those touchstone songs that grab you right away. But subsequent listens have changed that some. Opener “War of the Gods” has made its impression on me, as has “Destroyer of the Universe” and “Live Without Regrets.” They have the classic Amon Amarth traits of punchy verses, sing-alongable choruses, fist-pumping structures. They’ll sound nice live. One of the more notable songs on here is “Slaves of Fear,” which, while undeniably Amon Amarth, has a slightly different tone. It’s a bit more pulled back, the guitar work sits in the mire a bit, and the bombast isn’t dialed up to 11. It’s at, like, 7. So there you go: your curveball.

“Surtur Rising” was one of my most anticipated albums of the spring (the others being Primordial and Dark Castle), and so far I’m enjoying what I’m hearing. I’m still a few more visits away from being able to render an official verdict, so I’ll refrain from saying any more about my personal feelings. Sounds like if you like Amon Amarth, you’ll feel right at home, but if you’re opposed to their style, you won’t exactly have your mind changed. Oh, and if you’re bound to be one of those who has to preorder this thing, can’t go wrong with the package listed below. It’s, uh, interesting.

Meat, Mead, Metal: A preamble

And you are?

What a preamble! No, OK, that’s a good question. I am Brian Krasman, writer/editor/griller/drinker/lover of all metal. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, and I’ve been doing it professionally since 1997. People pay me real money for this! Not THIS, but you get what I mean. I’ve loved metal in all of its forms since I was about 11 or 12. Before that, I was afraid of it because I went to Catholic school and they taught us we’d wind up in hell right next to Bruce Dickinson, Glenn Danzig and the Eagles (true story!) if we got caught up in this filth. The Eagles! Eventually I realized how ridiculous that was, and it’s been downhill on a straight road to hell ever since. I wonder if Don Henley will be surprised when he meets Satan.

A year or so ago, I thought one of my main outlets for writing about metal was going away. I reached out to a friend at one of the labels with which I deal, and this person helped me land gigs at Metal Maniacs, Metal Army America, Outburn, and Metaleater. I’ve since added to the resume. But along the way, I had more than one person ask why I don’t start my own blog. Uh, not sure? Probably because I felt that no one had any idea who I was, so why would they care about my opinion? Perhaps that’s still the case. And if it is, that’s fine. I don’t pretend to take myself all the seriously, even though I do put a lot of time and effort into my work and love writing about metal.

For the most part, my reviews tend to be more positive. Here’s why: With the limited amount of space I have from these sites, I want to focus more on bands that I find to be worthy of the space. I’m certainly not against trashing a band if need be (hello, Engell), but I figured, why waste time shining a light on something bad, when I can do good? I am fully aware of how lame that sentence sounds, but you get what I mean. I expect that will change here. It’s my space, my time, so I can cover more ground.

In addition to the metal, I’ll be talking about my grilling expeditions, what kinds of brews I am enjoying at the moment, what desserts I find fun. Hopefully if people start reading this, they’ll share some of their stories too. Also, because I do like more music other than metal, I’ll pick a day to highlight some of that. I’m thinking Friday. We’ll see.

Hopefully, this site will look better soon. This post is just to get a feel for how to post, and if anyone happens to actually read it, all the better. Working on a banner and other ways to spruce this up. Ideas and suggestions are most welcome.

So that’s it. Meat, Mead, Metal. What else does a man (or lady) need? I’m off to give the new Liturgy another listen and to watch Pitt potentially blow this game against UConn. Take care…