On Friday night I returned to Seattle after a very nice vacation that lasted nearly two weeks. Thanks to the efforts of my NCS writer comrades, I was able to keep my promise to my spouse that I wouldn’t blog (much) while on vacation. And as a further bonus, the loris horde didn’t burn the NCS compound to the ground while I was gone, though I did notice what seem to be the bones of a few small children strewn behind their barbed-wire enclosure that weren’t there when I left. That seems like a fair price to pay if it avoided an assault on our headquarters.
As I try to get my head back in the game, I count 14 days remaining in 2017, and I thought I’d give you a preview of what lies ahead at NCS before the year dies and we cremate its remains. And because I detest posting anything here that doesn’t include music, I’m throwing in one new song after that.
LISTMANIA 2017 will roll on, of course. We’re almost finished re-posting year-end lists from selected print zines and “big platform” web sites, and last week saw the unfolding of Andy Synn’s annual week-long series of lists. As usual, we invited some old and new friends to share their year-end lists with us, too, and I’ll begin posting those tomorrow, starting with the first part of a two-part list by Neill Jameson. I’ll continue posting those guest lists through the end of the year and possibly beyond, depending on when they finish arriving in our in-box. In addition, I’ll be posting year-end lists from more of our regular and semi-regular staff writers.
And while the accumulation of so many lists might seem excessive, I think you’ll find that the ones we’ve collected (as in past years) are so diverse that every new list will provide the opportunity for new discoveries of metal you might have missed. Also, “excess” is our middle name.
Not this Sunday, but next Sunday, I’ll also resume our SHADES OF BLACK series, and we’ll have more of the usual round-ups, premieres, and reviews during the two remaining weeks of the year, though probably not quite as many as would be typical, given the continuation of LISTMANIA. There won’t be any days off for Christmas or New Year’s Eve, because there never have been around here, so why start now?
The final part of our year-end LISTMANIA is my own selection of The Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs of the year. Last year I waited until January 2 to begin that list. I might start it earlier this time, but nothing is set in stone — mainly because I haven’t even started winnowing down the candidates. And as usual, it’s a really gigantic list of candidates.
My own list of candidates is 370 songs long. In response to our request for ideas from readers, we got 111 suggested songs. DGR has given me a further list of 47 tracks, and I’ll probably get some more from other NCS writers. I know there are overlaps among these lists, but it’s still a hell of a lot to choose from, requiring many hours of listening, or about a half hour of printing the lists and then throwing darts at them.
So much for previewing. Now it’s time for that song I mentioned at the outset.
There are two bands named Arkona that I’ve written about with some regularity over the years. One is the long-running Polish black metal band whose superb last album was 2016’s Lunaris. The other is the Russian pagan/folk metal band, who themselves have an extensive discography, though they’ve haven’t been around quite as long as their Polish counterpart.
The song below, “Shtorm“, is by the Russian Arkona, although the music isn’t what I was expecting when I heard it. It comes from Arkona’s next album, Khram (the Russian word for “temple”), which will be released by Napalm Records on January 19th.
Writing infectious songs has never been a problem for Arkona, and I’ll just go ahead and say that this one has become the first candidate for the 2018 “Most Infectious Song” list. Rather than the kind of folk metal I was expecting, to my ears it’s a thundering blackened rocker with melodic accents that are searing, sulphurous, wailing, and bleak, all of them riding on the back of massive, hammering rhythms. There’s a bit of soaring clean vocalization in the track, but the vocals are mainly lycanthropic howls that are savage enough to stiffen the hairs on your neck.
I should add that “Shtorm” is unlikely to be representative of everything else on Khram. Napalm’s press release tells us that the songs on the album “shift from blackened pagan metal masterpieces to epic tracks with crystal-clear melodies and piano infusions”, and that the music includes “cellos, brass parts, wind instruments and throat singing”.