We’re down to the penultimate day for the rollout of our 2016 Most Infectious Song list. I’m in a bit of a panic, because I’m having so much trouble deciding how to end it. There are still so many songs that I feel are deserving of a place on the list, but it also seems awkward to continue a 2016 list of any kind past the first month of the new year.
And I suppose I should remind you that because I have so much difficulty as a list-maker, I didn’t have the list completed when I began the rollout, and to an extent, I’ve been making it up as I go along. That’s why tomorrow’s ending is arbitrary, and why there is a degree of randomness in what’s on the list and what isn’t. What’s not random is my conviction that all the songs I’ve picked are worthy of the awards.
I ask you, if you can’t make an exception to our Rule about singing for the likes of Andreas “Vintersorg” Hedlund, Simen “ICS Vortex” Hestnaes, and Kristoffer Rygg, then who could justify an exception?
All three of those amazing voices can be heard on the title track to Borknagar’s latest album Winter Thrice, and they account for much of its infectious melodic appeal, but of course guitarists Øystein G. Brun and Jens Ryland also have a great deal to do with the soaring power and gorgeous aura of the song. And, I suppose it goes without saying, Vintersorg’s savage growls do warm my black heart every time I hear them.
In his NCS review of the album, my friend Andy called Winter Thrice “a truly magnificent piece of work, a diverse and enviably multi-faceted, multi-textured album, where no two songs sound quite the same, and yet all the tracks fit together seamlessly as parts of the greater whole”. And when I sought help in making the final decisions for what’s left of this list, he provided a timely reminder of what a stand-out song this is, from a stand-out album.
The video below was filmed by David Solbjørg and Kjetil Kolbjørnsrudat, and the indoor scenes are on location at the Viking Hall of the Midgard Historical Centre in Borre.
I confess that once I had decided to begin this installment with “Winter Thrice”, this next song leaped into my head as a good follow-on. It’s “The Old Blood Sings” from the album The Last Battle by New Jersey’s Helcaraxë.
The song is a heavy beast that’s spine-jolting, but the soaring clean vocal melody (yes, more clean singing) really makes the song one that has stuck in my head — along with the fluid lead-guitar work, the overarching aura of grandeur, the beautiful soloing in the song’s most somber segment… and the throaty, gravel-filled bellows, of course.
It’s a dynamic, dramatic song (even theatrically so), richly textured, and thoroughly invigorating — a musical saga all by itself. And of course, very infectious.
IN THE WOODS…
I’ve gone this far down the path of clean singing that it seemed this post was the right place for “Cult of Shining Stars“. I mean, I’ve been pretty sure for a long time that this song would be on this list; I just hadn’t found the right time to add it.
We had the pleasure of premiering the song from Pure, the first album in 17 years by the Norwegian alchemists In the Woods….
In addition to new vocalist James Fogarty’s arcing clean vocals, there’s a shining and dreamlike (but ominous) quality to the song, especially at the beginning, thanks in part to Fogarty’s haunting keyboards, which shimmer and cascade like the aurora borealis in an endless night. But make no mistake, this is a heavy, bone-grinding track as well, propelled by distorted, hammering, massively headbangable riffs and vibrant, physically arresting drum and bass performances.
It’s a song that has stood the test of time for me, and no doubt will continue to do so.
Okay, I might as well go all in with the clean singing, but this time in the context of some caveman battle doom.
This is a song whose lyric video we premiered more than a year ago, in advance of the album’s January 2016 release. It’s the title track to Conan’s Revengeance. The video is candy for the eyes, because it features the fantastic cover art for Revengeance, and as for the lyrically nihilistic music, it rumbles, it rolls, it hammers with vicious intent. It’s a neck-snapper at the start and then transforms into a cataclysmic dirge, the band seemingly intent on methodically smashing the bones of their listeners into a fine dust. In a penetrating wail, Jon Davis tells us we all are nothing, and the music backs him up.
Did I mention that the drumming is goddamned murderous? It’s a big part of the reason I enjoy going back to this song — to get crushed to fragments.
This is a late entry, and like the Borknagar track, I was reminded of it by Andy Synn when I sought help making decisions about how to bring this list to an end. I listened to the track for the first time only three weeks ago, back when Andy reviewed the album from which it comes — Sundown Pleasures by the German band Phantom Winter. It did grab me roughly by the throat and then proceeded to beat me about the head and face and scar my psyche, but I haven’t spent as much time with it as I have other songs on this list… perhaps because I haven’t been ready for yet another hospitalization.
However, in listening to the song again after receiving Andy‘s recommendation, it struck me that it would make a good follow-on for the Conan song. It also comes packaged with a frightening video. The penultimate words before the video will be some of Andy‘s, concerning the album as a whole:
“I haven’t heard anything quite this bleak and hateful since 2014’s soul-crushing Death Mask by Lord Mantis, such is the sheer, all-encompassing aura of rage and frustration which permeates each and every track.”
Yes, but this song is also very addictive, in its own twisted and nihilistic way. This is “Bombing the Witches”: