Welcome to Part 9 of our list of the year’s most infectious extreme metal songs. 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 two I’m announcing today, click here.
Both of today’s songs are folk-influenced examples of epic melodic death metal — albeit from widely separated corners of the world. They’re both highly infectious, too.
When Finland’s Tuomas Saukkonen announced about a year ago that he was shutting down all of his many musical projects — Before the Dawn, Black Sun Aeon, Dawn of Solace, Routasielu, and Final Harvest — it rocked me and many of his other fans, and not in a good way. But what Saukkonen put in their place turned out to be something quite excellent — a new solo project named Wolfheart. In the band’s debut album, Winterborn (reviewed here), he took the best elements from what he had done before and interwove them in this new work, while also finding ways to stretch his talents in new directions.
With lyrics full of imagery of ice and snow, deep woods and frozen lakes, wolves and warriors, darkness and frost — and with dramatic, sweeping, intense music that captures the magnificent purity of loss and longing, struggle, and sacrifice — the album is a collection of highly memorable anthems. Saukkonen has always had a talent for writing powerful, often folk-influenced melodies, and Winterborn has them in spades. Sometimes languid, sometimes erupting with compelling urgency, they are woven into the fabric of the music. The album is an epic achievement, and one of the best releases of 2013.
I never had any doubt that something from Winterborn belonged on this list. The big question was which song? My two favorite candidates were “The Hunt” and “Routa Pt. 2”, though a case could be made for others as well. Both of them transport you to a world of legend, both of them are highly contagious. Both of them feature wonderful guitar solos by Mika Lammassaari (Eternal Tears of Sorrow, Mors Subita). Ah, choices, choices…
I picked “The Hunt”… but I’m including the video for “Routa Pt. 2” in here as well, just for the hell of it.
Tengger Cavalry’s 2013 album is named The Expedition, and BadWolf reviewed it for us (here). Employing everything from Horse Head fiddles to a Dombra to Mongolian throat-singing, this Chinese band succeeded in creating a multi-faceted work that was often as gripping and blood-pumping as it was exotic.
The first four tracks on the album are the most metal of the bunch, and as BadWolf noted in his review, they’re the least unconventional. But man, do they get your toe tapping and your head moving. Of those songs, “Black Steed” is the standout. To borrow BadWolf’s words, it “brings the kind of swagger that modern European bands so often lack; it opens with, and returns to, a jangling acoustic guitar passage which down-shifts into full-bore guitar gallop—one of the record’s only curve balls.”
It’s one hell of a rollicking ride, and it’s the newest addition to our list.
(P.S. Tengger Cavalry have just released a new album; you will be hearing more about it from us in the near future…)