I took a break yesterday from my rollout of this year’s Most Infectious Song list but am back at it again today, and every day this week, barring a meteor strike. For those who have just blundered into this evolving list for the first time, you can check out the previous picks and an explanation for what the list is about by clicking this link.
Some days I include two songs in the installments of this list, and sometimes three, which is what I have today. This is another instance when this particular grouping made sense to me, but I don’t pretend that I have good sense so you be the judge. And if the inclusion of clean vocals in this collection rubs you the wrong way, be patient. Tomorrow I’m returning to much nastier fare.
I’m going to start with some “Mass Darkness“, which will be found on Arktis, the latest solo album by Vegard Sverre Tveitan, aka Ihsahn. My colleague Andy Synn wrote our review of the album, characterizing it as “easily the most gleamingly melodic, intimately accessible… and, yes, poppy, album that the ever-adversarial artiste has put his name to thus far”, while “still very much a Progressive album underneath the glitz and glamour”.
As you can see, this is the fifth installment in our unfolding list of last year’s “Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs“. As you can also see (or will soon discover), not all of the songs in this installment are extreme, or even metal, and there’s a lot of clean singing as well. Feel free to harumph and harang in the Comments, but I could not get comfortable with the idea of looking back at the most infectious songs of last year without including all of these, and I also found a pleasing kind of twisted symmetry in combining them in a single post.
To see the other selections for the list so far, as well as an explanation of what criteria were used in making it, go here.
From my perspective, it’s not worth debating whether Ghost are a metal band or not. There are good arguments to be made on both sides. What I think is beyond debate is the band’s ability to craft immensely catchy songs, and not the kind of cotton candy fluff that makes you sick to your stomach after the fifth or sixth time you’ve heard it, which seems to be true of a high percentage of catchy pop songs. Also, they continue to praise the Devil, and I give them horns up for that. Whether the praise is calculated or sincere is a subject we can debate on another day, or not at all.
Well, here we are at the mid-point of an odd week, a week that falls between two big holiday weekends in a year when both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve fall on Saturday nights, enhancing the opportunity for revelry. Lots of people are having to work this week, but it feels like no one really has their heart in it. Others are on vacation. The usual flood of PR e-mails has slowed to a trickle; most of metal blogdoom is snoozing. As the new year rapidly approaches, people are beginning to fantasize about 2017 being better than 2016 and wondering what other well-loved celebrities will be cut down by the Grim Reaper in the few days before it arrives.
Obviously, we’re still forging ahead during this limbo week, and I thought I’d provide a forecast of what lies ahead at our site.
LISTMANIA will continue into the new year. This week we’ll finish rolling out the year-end lists by NCS contributors Grant Skelton and Wil Cifer and we’ll post year-end lists from our old friend SurgicalBrute and from three more invited guests — Johan Huldtgren (Obitus), Ken Sorceron (Abigail Williams), and Seb Painchaud (Tumbleweed Dealer).
And then LISTMANIA will continue next week with some big brutal lists compiled by our old friend Vonlughlio from the Dominican Republic, as well as lists from a few other invited guests that I’m anxious to see. I trust that I’ll also receive the annual Not-Metal List from ex-NCS slave BadWolf (aka Invisible Orange’s editor Joseph Schafer) along with Andy Synn’s list of favorite 2016 songs. And undoubtedly there will be a few other LISTMANIA surprises before next week ends.
With the soaring popularity of the latest albums by Crypt Sermon and Khemmis, the stage seems well set for the advent of Among the Ruins, the new album by Finland’s Altar of Betelgeuze. It’s set for release by Transcending Obscurity Records on March 10, and today we bring you the premiere of its immersive title track.
Altar of Betelgeuze consists of bassist and growler Matias Nastolin (Decaying), guitarist and clean vocalist Olli “Otu” Suurmunne (ex-Decaying), guitarist Juho Kareoja, and drummer Aleksi Olkkola (Sclerosis, ex-Cardinals Folly). Their first album, an excellent one named Darkness Sustains the Silence, was released by the Memento Mori label in early 2014.
I’ve been immersed in compiling LISTMANIA features the last few days, but at the same time I’ve been noticing the appearance of new songs, many of them from albums headed our way in the new year. I’ve rounded up 9 of them here that I’ve enjoyed, with a range of metallic styles. I organized them sort of like a bell curve, with things starting hard and then getting more melodic in the middle, and then descending again into increasing ugliness and violence by the end.
Also, serious question: Should I divide collections of this length into smaller parts and spread them out over the day? Or does it matter?
I’m afraid that if I googled “lock up” these days, I’d get stories about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The world obviously needs to grind again, and the real Lock Up is here to help us do that.
(Andy Synn reviews the new album by Sahg from Bergen, Norway.)
I have something to confess. Something that’s probably going to cut deep into my well established metal cred (ha!). You see, I don’t really like Black Sabbath.
There, I said it. Let the shaming begin.
It’s not that I actually dislike them. Far from it. As a matter of fact I enjoy them whenever I hear them (particularly the Dio era), and fully respect the band’s timeless legacy (more on that in a moment).
But they’re just not the sort of band whose albums I’d ever spin for my own enjoyment.
However, in the same way that although I’m not really much of a Slayer fan (there goes the last of my credibility), yet still absolutely love many bands who count them as a major influence, there’s a number of artists in my collection who cite Sabbath as their prime reason for being, and who can trace the roots of their sound right back to the Brummie masters (of reality).
And one of those bands is Norwegian doom-groove quartet Sahg.
I hope you’re having a good Saturday, and that this post will make it even better.
I know we’ve been throwing vast quantities of music your way lately as we try to clear the decks for the coming orgy of year-end-list features, but I still have a lot of metal that I feel the need to recommend. I’ll continue trying to keep abreast of advance tracks from forthcoming albums that sound promising, but what’s really burning a hole in my head are excellent full EPs, splits, and albums that have already been released but that we’ve neglected. The best way I know to deal with that problem is to compile posts like this one, abbreviating my own reviews and letting the music speak mainly for itself.
THE LOOM OF TIME
NihilReich is the eye-opening debut album of an Australian trio named The Loom of Time. It was released in March, though I didn’t listen to it until last month despite the significant praise it received from numerous reviewers.
(TheMadIsraeli reviews the debut album by the band Oni.)
Some of you old-timers might remember that I was super-hyped on Black Crown Initiate. I enthusiastically reviewed their debut EP and while I didn’t review their first album, I absolutely loved it. 2016 rolled around, and Selves We Cannot Forgive rolled around and it was… not the BCI I was hyped on. The album was a complete disappointment in fact, and I was extremely, extremely dismayed that the band had already seemingly fallen off the horse. We’ll see what the future holds, but as to what made me lose faith in the band, it was their conversion to a rather directionless, meandering style of songwriting combined with riffs that were barely riffs.
Oni are poised, already, to kick Black Crown Initiate off their own throne where they once brandished a distinctive brand of technical, groovy, yet poppy and melodic progressive death metal. The two bands share many similarities, but with Oni taking it a step further and adding even more influences and elements. I don’t think you can say Oni sound like BCI, but to my ears they have definitely taken the BCI formula and brought it to the next level, whether doing so consciously or not.
When you confront a truly daunting task, sometimes the result is paralysis; the magnitude of the effort discourages effort. Experience teaches that sometimes the only way to overcome that paralysis is simply to make a start, no matter how small the step may seem. Usually easier said than done, but that’s what I’m doing today.
I’m sitting on a ton of recent music and videos I want to write about in the time I have left before our year-end LISTMANIA extravaganza inevitably begins monopolizing my time. I haven’t figured out how I will get everything out and before you that I think you should check out. But this is a start, selected in fairly random fashion, but with an effort to cover a range of styles.
Early last month we enthusiastically premiered a stream of the new album by the French black metal band Sordide. Entitled Fuir la lumière, it is now available through Avantgarde Music and from the band. And as a further reminder about how good Sordide’s music, they’ve now released a live performance video. It was recorded on October 23 at White Noise Studio.
(Our long-time supporter and occasional contributor Booker returns to NCS with this review of the new album by Norway’s Wardruna.)
Wardruna are an exception to the rule here. On the one hand, because of the singing, which is not only “clean”, but is often chanted, whispered, or spoken-word, as well as being in a language few of us would understand. And the foreign-ness of it means that the significance of the vocals – the message, or meaning — is simply the rhythm and emotion the vocals produce, rather than the what the words signify – arguably, in that respect, perhaps not too far off a lot of the metal we listen to.
But they’re an exception, too, as you won’t find any distorted guitars here, nor any traditional drum kits, blast beats, breakdowns, or sounds belonging to the mosh pit. But what’s on offer will hopefully move and entice you all the same.