Today we reach the 10th part 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. I’m still not positive how many more parts remain, but I have resolved to finish before this month ends.
If you’re not familiar with today’s two additions to the list, you’ll soon understand why I grouped them together. They’re the least “extreme” of the songs featured so far, and I suppose some folks might argue they don’t belong on this list at all. But as different as both songs are from what I usually pass my days hearing and writing about, both of them lodged firmly in my head and have meant a lot to me since I first heard them. So they’re here, and so are you, and on we go…
Falkenbach is the German one-man project of Vratyas Vakyas. Since 1996 he has released six albums on an irregular and unpredictable schedule, the most recent being 2013’s Asa. By coincidence, it appeared on a late-breaking year-end list we published this morning, with these words:
“With multiple styles present, Asa sounds atmospheric and epic, Vratyas Vakyas putting forth excellent performances in everything he’s done with this album. The contrasting vocal styles are well done and may rival some of the best bipolar voices in metal, but the use of acoustic guitar may actually be the highlight of the album. I can envision Asa being what campfire stories at night would sound like with backing guitars and drums as others go forward to to do the deeds being sung about back home…. Falkenbach remains one of folk metal’s standard bearers, Asa showing exactly why.”
There are some devastating, more traditionally black-metal songs on the album, but the track that has stayed with me most strongly isn’t any of those. It’s “Eweroun”. From the beginning introductory passage, which features acoustic strumming and a somber folk melody voiced in a clean baritone, straight through the balance of the song, with heavier instrumentation joining the acoustic guitar and the vocals rising in range, it’s extremely memorable. The main acoustic lead, in particular, just will not let go of me. “Eweroun” makes a virtue of simplicity, though it’s far from simplistic. The lyric video for the song is also beautiful:
THE LION’S DAUGHTER AND INDIAN BLANKET
A Black Sea, the collaborative album created by two bands from St. Louis — The Lion’s Daughter and Indian Blanket — seemed to come out of nowhere, but man, did it leave a mark. BadWolf reviewed it for us, and I’ll quote these excerpts — with which I completely agree:
“A Black Sea is the sort of album that one can listen to from front-to-back and then re-start. Both Indian Blanket and The Lion’s Daughter carry a versatile array of styles, and employ every one of them on this album. As a result, even though the overriding mood stays bleak, the album winds from churning sludge to delicate acoustic passages—it feels every bit like a journey across the titular sea, or into the foreboding, prehistoric forest depicted on the cover….
“The union of Americana and folk metal has yielded some of the finest fruit in the past few years. I speak of records like Agalloch’s Marrow of the Spirit, Panopticon’s Kentucky, and Cobalt’s magnificent Gin. Earlier, Islander meditated on what albums we, as metalheads, might consider—for lack of finer terminology—works of art, and the albums I just mentioned fall into that category for me. My assessment may be premature, considering how little time I’ve had to digest it, but so far A Black Sea absolutely stands with such esteemed company, for me. This is one hell of an album, and one that may be sadly slept on my the metal press at large. Give these fine gentlemen and women your attention—these young masters deserve it.”
The first song I heard from the album, and still my favorite, was “Wolves”. The music seamlessly integrates the kind of dark folk music that fans of Leonard Cohen would eat with both hands and the massive chords of sludgy funeral doom. The melody is bleak but unforgettable, and the pairing of contrasting vocalists from the two bands is a match made in heaven, if heaven were a shattered, black place. A deeply affecting song that has been my companion many times since its first airing, it’s the newest addition to my list.
(P.S. I failed to write about an official video for another song from the album (“Swann”) when it debuted a couple weeks ago. It’s a great song, too, and so I’m making up for lost time by including the video below as well).