Welcome to Part 15 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 three I’m announcing today, click here.
After a 10-day hiatus, I’m resuming the roll-out of this list. I’ve identified 29 songs so far, with X left to go — “X” standing for a number that will be revealed to me once I figure out what else to pick from my still-lengthy list of candidates.
I’ve grouped together today’s three songs because they represent the use of black metal musical elements in songs that have only a distant kinship to the music of the first and second waves. They represent a branching out of black metal that has enriched the traditions and given them new life, even if these new blooms have opened far from the roots.
Andy Synn reviewed this iconic band’s 2012 album RIITIIR for us here, showering it with praise, and it has appeared on many of our 2012 year-end lists. Guest writer Fredrik Huldtgren of the Swedish band Canopy summed it up as follows in naming it to his list:
“Enslaved have never really released a bad album, however they have released some less than stellar ones. With Riitiir they are back with a vengeance. This album has everything that I want out of an Enslaved album. Great vocal melodies, filled with prog sections, yet still able to maintain that extreme edge with some great guitar work and Grutle’s patented growl.” I second that sentiment.
The album is so full of memorable songs that I was torn about which one to name to this list. After giving especially serious consideration to “Thoughts Like Hammers” and “Death In the Eyes of Dawn”, I finally chose “Roots of the Mountain”. So much happens in this song that it’s impossible to describe briefly. It’s a captivating union of the beautiful and the heavy, and deserves to be on this list.
“ROOTS OF THE MOUNTAIN”[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Enslaved-RIITIIR-04-Roots-of-the-Mountain.mp3|titles=Enslaved – Roots of the Mountain]
I reviewed this South African band’s 2012 debut album The Writing of Gods In the Sand almost a year ago, praising it as “a surprisingly mature and self-assured work”, one that harnessed together diverse genres in a way that created “a uniquely effective expression of power and emotion, a blending of light and dark, soft and hard, beauty and voraciousness.”
I wondered at the time whether the band’s music would find the audience it deserved, especially given their geographic remoteness, but I think it’s safe to say the answer is yes. This album has been widely noticed and widely honored on many year-end lists.
The song from the album that I’m adding to this list may not be my favorite track on the album (it has some serious competitors for that), but it’s the one I found most infectious. And that bass intro gets me every fuckin’ time.
“UTOPIA”[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Wildernessking-04-Utopia.mp3|titles=Wildernessking – Utopia]
Andy Synn also reviewed Ihsahn’s 2012 album Eremita for us, describing it as “a remarkably bipolar album, containing some of Ihsahn’s most blackened and aggressive solo output, as well as his most melodic and catchy . . . both extremes pushing things out beyond the boundaries of what might have been expected or established.”
Before Eremita, I hadn’t thoroughly explored Ihsahn’s solo work, perhaps because I was too narrow-minded in approaching his own branching out from his black metal roots. But whatever the reason why I was loathe to investigate his previous albums, Eremita really grabbed me, and many of the songs became stuck in my head.
“The Paranoid” in particular became my favorite. Andy wrote this about the song: “[It] is both a face-melting black metal number and a tour-de-force of shameless psychedelic-pop moments, mixing angular tremolo guitars, ear-splitting drums, a hypnotically catchy chorus, crunchy, odd-timed ska-style riffage, and a bold-as-brass horn section, into one coherent package. It’s simultaneously one of his most direct and one of his most unusual compositions.”
“THE PARANOID”[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/2.-The-Paranoid.mp3|titles=Ihsahn – The Paranoid]