(Andy Synn presents a collection of songs to celebrate the International Day of Happiness, which the UN has established as March 20th — today!)
How are we all doing today? Good?
I only ask because today is apparently International Day of Happiness, so we should all be feeling that little bit brighter and sprightlier as a result.
Today is also the day when the UN releases their annual World Happiness Report and, wouldn’t you know it, but our Norwegian brethren (and lady-brethren) have only gone and dethroned the Danish as the world’s happiest nation!
So, in tribute to this momentous occasion, here are five bands who help make Norway the happiest place on earth.
Prog-tastic weirdniks Leprous have only gone from strength to strength over the last several years, although their 2011 breakout album, Bilateral, is still the band’s best offering in my opinion.
Four albums (and one fantastic live DVD) into their career, the band’s mix of electrifying, off-kilter riffage, intricate drum work, and theatrical, audacious vocal melodies (reminiscent, in many ways, of the untouchable Freddy Mercury at his most shamelessly extravagant) remains as instantly recognisable as ever, and – all things being equal – it looks like the only way is up from here.
Hideously (hellishly?) underrated, Hellish Outcast are one of the best Death/Thrash bands in the last… I don’t know, pick a number. They really are that good. And their second album, Stay of Execution, is a hugely underappreciated diamond in the rough.
With a vicious array of sickeningly sharp and sadistically serrated riffs, a gut-rumbling rhythm section courtesy of bassist Mads Mowinckel and drummer Mads Lilletvedt, and one incredibly harsh and hooky vocal performance from ex-Keep of Kalessin singer Thebon – whose every screeching snarl and brooding croon positively drips with menace and venom – this is an album which absolutely destroys the competition. And then some.
Long before the “Djent” explosion occurred (and, according to some people, ruined all of Metaldom forever…), Prog/Groove/Post-Metal maestros Benea Reach had already taken the prodigious, pneumatic riffery of Meshuggah and welded it to their own more atmospheric and melodic leanings, resulting in a sound that was as catchy as it was complex, as imposing as it was introspective, and as bombastic as it was beautiful.
Now sadly defunct (though I still hope for a reunion one day), the band left us with three great albums, Monument Bineothan, Alleviat, and Possession, as their lasting legacy, and although it’s a relatively even-tie in my mind between the latter two as to which is their very best, I ultimately plumped for the one you’ll find below as it has the greatest personal resonance for me.
BLOOD RED THRONE
Pretty much a Death Metal institution at this point, numerous line-up changes and a disappointing lack of critical acclaim haven’t stopped Blood Red Throne from continuing to pummel and pulverise the Metal world with album after album of neck-wrecking riffs, gut-wrenching growls, and frenzied, face-melting blast-work.
Last year’s Union of Flesh and Machine was the band’s eighth full-length release, and one of their best yet, proving that there’s a hell of a lot of life left in this Norwegian juggernaut just yet. And while that album isn’t available on Bandcamp right now, their 2013 self-titled effort definitely is, and should certainly sate your bloodlust for a little while.
Drug-fuelled, industrial-strength sonic Satanism? No wonder those Norwegians are so happy!
I couldn’t let this column pass by without mentioning a bit of Black Metal now could I? But since I’m sure you know all the big names by now, I thought I’d go with something a little less well-known (although still highly respected) by plumping for the blackened/industrial vibes of Mysticum, in particular their 2014 “comeback” album Planet Satan.
So strap yourselves in for a wild ride of warped synths and scorched-earth riffage, grim, ghoulish vocals, and pulse-pounding, programmed blastbeats, all delivered with a furious, fuck-you attitude.