Welcome to the 21st — and final — installment in our list of 2016’s Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs. Is the list complete? No, it isn’t. I could easily continue doing this for another month or more, and it pains me to leave so many other infectious songs lingering on my giant list of candidates. But it’s time to shift our focus more intently to what’s coming out this year.
After agonizing over the last 24 hours about what songs to select for this final edition in the series, I cut that Gordian knot in a fairly impulsive way — by simply picking the six songs on a playlist I made for myself in December.
I made that six-track list in December mainly, but not exclusively, because I had just been reading through the year-end list from Panopticon’s Austin Lunn that we were going to publish and was reminded of some addictive tracks I hadn’t listened to in a while. I put those on the playlist along with a couple of others that I wanted to hear again and thought might work well in the flow of the music.
As it happens, before today I hadn’t yet included any of these songs on this Most Infectious list, and so today I decided, why the hell not make all of these into the final Part of this series? They really are all damned infectious, and I do damn well like them.
P.S. I will have a wrap-up tomorrow, listing all the songs from the beginning of this series to the end, with links to all of them.
WOMAN IS THE EARTH
When Andy Synn reviewed Torch of Our Final Night as part of his SYNN REPORT on the entire discography of South Dakota’s Woman Is the Earth last summer, he called it one of the year’s “most underrated and underappreciated” albums, before then going on to extol its many strengths — the work of a band “really ascending to a new level, stepping out of the shadows of their influences and smoothly separating themselves from their peers in the process.”
I hope that by now it’s less underappreciated than it was six months ago. Every song on the album is a gem, but the one I put on that December playlist and now on this one is the title track. To borrow Andy’s words again, “Torch of Our Final Night” positively crackles with galvanizing energy, with even its most ambient and melodic sections providing only a momentary pause amidst the track’s boundless rush”.
That energy and intensity is part of what draws me back to the song.
I’m once again in the position of being able to steal the words of my friend Andy in introducing this next song. From his review of Deathless March of the Unyielding by Death Fortress:
“[S]omehow, in a way I can’t fully describe, Deathless March… feels different. Much like its predecessor it offers up a form of utterly ravenous, old-school-leaning Black Metal which manages to retain and revitalise the core tenets of the genre, without being retro or throwback in nature.
“With a thrillingly raw, yet undeniably clear and powerful production job, Deathless March… channels the terrifying spirit of early Gorgoroth, Immortal, and Dark Funeral and drags it screaming into the modern era, occasionally blurring the line that separates the grimmest corners of Black Metal from the grimiest, grittiest edges of Death Metal with its chaotic cavalcade of scorching, strangulating riffs, throast-bursting vocals, and blasphemously intense blastery.”
And I’m even able to lift Andy’s words about the specific track from the album that’s next on this list:
“The unerringly savage “Enthroning the Oppressor” opens the proceedings, its skull-shattering blastbeats and wrenching, rumbling grooves setting the tone for the album nice and early. Mercilessly aggressive it may be, but it’s also malevolently catchy, packed with riffs that stick in your throat and ugly pseudo-melodies which slither their way under your skin whether you want them to or not.”
Uprising is the black metal side project of Winterherz, the central figure in the amazing German band Waldgeflüster, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at Migration Fest last August thanks to an introduction by his friend Austin Lunn. Uprising’s self-titled debut album was released last March. I gave it a too-brief review that included these thoughts:
“It’s tremendously dramatic and powerful, the songs riding one gripping riff after another and propelled by jolting drum progressions and gut-punching bass lines. Once you get past the harrowing introductory track, it’s one viscerally engaging, hook-loaded song after another, all of them conveying a sense of imperial (and infernal) might.
“Winterherz’s vocals range from skin-flaying shrieks and snarls to cavernous roars to stately clean vocals. The music is likewise dynamic, alternately surging in thundering gallops, howling like a hurricane, and stomping like a titan striding a plain of ice. And let me repeat — the riffs and guitar leads in these ferocious songs are all powerfully addictive.”
Powerfully addictive, indeed, and the kind of album that deserves far more attention than it has received. “Nihilistic Chants” happens to be the song I’m adding here, but I don’t think I could have gone wrong with any of them.
Last March Skeletonwitch released a single named “Well of Despair“, which later appeared on the band’s 2016 EP The Apothic Gloom. After I first heard the song, I wrote about it:
“I think we can all agree that as the vocalist of Skeletonwitch, Chance Garnette was going to be a tough guy to replace following his ejection from the band in late 2014. Last month the band announced that Adam Clemans of Wolvhammer was the man they chose to try to fill those shoes. And now we have a chance to find out how well he is doing that.
“Today Skeletonwitch debuted a video for a new single named ‘Well of Despair’…. My vote is hell yes, Adam Clemans does a fine job spitting venom for Skeletonwitch, and the new song is a jet-fueled ass-kicker.”
The song is still kicking my ass, and although I was sorely tempted to pick “Red Death, White Light” for this list, “Well of Despair” is the one I put on that December playlist, and I’m going with it here, too.
Okay, yes, I’ll admit it before someone accuses me of it: I may not be entirely objective when it comes to Beyond Grace, since my friend Andy is the band’s frontman and lyricist. On the other hand, I put the band’s 2016 single “Acolyte” on my December playlist when no one else knew I was doing that. And I did so because it really is a very infectious (and a very good) song — and it includes a guest vocal appearance by Abysmal Dawn’s Charles Elliott.
We premiered the single here at NCS, and so I get to borrow my own words to introduce it:
“‘Acolytes’ wastes not a single second striking with jolting force through a turbocharged flurry of jabbing, skittering riffs and bullet-spitting percussion, which together sound like high-caliber munitions fired in jarring bursts. The speed and intensity of the song are unrelenting, but as the assault continues, the band reveal more dimensions in the music.
“You get demented guitar arpeggios that twist, turn, seethe, and swarm; a scintillating, shimmering, head-spinning guitar solo; consistently impressive bass and drum pummeling; and a couple of explosive detonations that will loosen the teeth in your skull. The fireball intensity of the instrumental music is matched by the ferocity of the vocals, which veer from bearlike growls and roars to searing, blackened shrieks.
“In short, ‘Acolytes’ is a pure adrenaline surge, and a damned addictive one at that.”
P.S. I’ve heard a bit of the music from the Beyond Grace debut album that’s now being constructed, and so far it’s very impressive. Objectively speaking.
This next track may be the last song on this 2016 list, but that’s solely a result of happenstance. In my own affections, it’s very near the top of everything I’ve compiled for the list this year.
It happens to be a cover song, and although I’ve rarely picked covers for this list, I don’t consider them out of bounds — especially when they’re as good as “Led Astray In the Forest Dark“, which closes Winterfylleth’s 2016 album The Dark Hereafter (reviewed here by Todd Manning). It’s the band’s cover of Ulver’s “Capitel I: I Troldskog Faren Vild’, the first track on Bergtatt – Et Eeventyr i 5 Capitler (1995).
Rather than attempt to explain why this song affects me so strongly, I’m just going to say that I’m not alone, and repeat the similarly enthusiastic assessment of Austin Lunn from his year-end list, which after all had a lot to do with the creation of this last installment of 2016’s Most Infectious Song list: “Excellent release by a great band. Some of their finest moments… but wow, that Ulver cover really took the cake. Amazing.”