Welcome to Part 16 of our list of the year’s most infectious extreme metal songs. In each installment, I’ve been posting at least two songs that made the cut. For more details about what this list is all about and how it was compiled, read the introductory post via this link. To see the selections that preceded the four I’m announcing today, click here.
Yes, today I’m adding four songs to the list instead of two or three. These four songs have a few things in common (apart from the fact that I’m hooked on them), which is why I’m grouping them together here: All four are forms of black metal; all four are somewhat more challenging listens than the majority of the songs on the list; and all four deliver memorable melodies in songs of often searing power.
I wrote this in my review of this Ukrainian band’s 2012 album: “Wisdom of Centuries tests the limits of genre classification. It combines elements of black metal, progressive metal, ambient music, doom, and to a lesser degree folk metal, producing something that is bleak, beautiful, and often mystical. Distancing themselves from the black metal label, Khors characterize the music as ‘heathen dark metal’. Perhaps that’s as good a shorthand description as any . . . .”
In the seven months since I first heard the album, it hasn’t lost any of its potency. Listening to it still moves me. One song in particular has stayed with me the longest and strongest, and this is it:
“THE LAST LEAVES”
This next song is an unusual choice, for this reason: Although this now-two-man Bavarian band has a long and highly respected discography, I knew nothing about them until compiling the list of candidates for this thing, and I haven’t even listened to all of their 2012 comeback album, Hoagascht. But readers suggested songs from this album, I listened to those, and I was really overwhelmed by one song in particular.
And then I found out that Hoagascht will be the band’s last album. Such a shame.
The song I picked begins and ends with the hooting of an owl, and other wild, spectral sounds (almost like a cross between owl and wolf) appear throughout. The lyrics, voiced in harsh rasps are in the Bavarian dialect. The music is deeply atmospheric, and its effect is cumulative, like immersion in a pulling tide that inexorably carries you out to sea.
I headbang to this, too.
This UK band created a wonderful album in 2012’s The Threnody of Triumph. Sadly, we had no review of it at NCS — not for lack of caring but for lack of time and good sense.
The song I’ve added to our list from this album is “The Swart Raven”. Like the Khors song, it includes segments of furious blasting, but it’s also emotionally intense, beautifully melodic, sweepingly atmospheric, and very memorable. My favorite track on one of my favorite albums from 2012.
“THE SWART RAVEN”
Yesterday Andy Synn wrote a column for us about the uses and misuses of the term “progressive” in metal. His thesis, as I understand it, is that the term is properly applied to bands who push their music forward in new directions without losing their core identity.
Deathspell Omega are one of those bands who have pushed their own envelope outward in fascinating ways, and their 2012 EP Drought was a fine example of that. I reviewed it (here) last July, and tried to describe the experience as one “that is at times memorably beautiful and at times utterly chaotic but always completely enthralling”.
The most melodic songs on the EP, the ones that linger the longest in memory, are those that start and finish the EP, and I’ve picked the final one for this list. It’s almost entirely instrumental and the vocals that can be heard are clean, subdued, and at least partly feminine. But it sure as hell does stay with you.
“THE CRACKLED BOOK OF LIFE”