I’m continuing to stack these installments of the list pretty deep, in an effort to prevent the onset of depression when I have to stop it. However, I’m confident I’ll be depressed and frustrated anyway, because I’ll still be forced to leave a lot of great 2017 songs on the cutting-room floor when I do stop.
Today you’ll again notice some stylistic connections among the songs I’ve packaged together, and because of that I again think I’ve compiled a grouping that makes for a nice, stand-alone playlist.
EVOKE THY LORDS
The first song in this collection is another rare example of a long-form track that I think is immensely infectious despite its significant length. It hooked me the first time I heard it, and I’m still hooked.
“Heavy Weather” is a single by the long-running Siberian doom band Evoke Thy Lords that we premiered last April, drawn from an album (Lifestories) that we also premiered a few weeks later. The whole album is excellent. As our guest reviewer Reverend B. wrote, “On this record, more than on any of their previous efforts, a curious effect manifests — they reach their sound by tapping into values shared with blues and psychedelia, akin to stoner rock, while still keeping the bite and edge of stoner doom.”
I concluded a wordy review of “Heavy Weather” this way:
“This is the kind of long jam that kindles memories of psychoactive head trips from the late ’60s and ’70s (I got flashes ranging from early Pink Floyd to Hendrix), except it’s significantly more bone-shaking and viscerally powerful. As craggy and staggering as it is, it also pulls you from the earth and sends you into vast astral realms. It reaches a crescendo in the final minutes where a lot of things happen at once, all of them completely awesome.
“And no, it’s still not long enough.”
Prepare for a spellbinding and intense experience. And prepare to re-play it as soon as you’ve finished, because I bet you’ll want to.
Catharsis is the name of the debut album by the band Párodos from Salerno, Italy, and it’s also the name of the next song I’ve added to this list. When the song first appeared it was accompanied by a lyric video, which I’ve included below.
There are many things I like about this track — it rushes and rocks in a rhythmically compulsive way; it includes a very catchy lead-guitar motif in addition to hook-laden riffing; the piano melodies are equally attention-grabbing and memorable; and the soaring, heart-swelling clean vocals provide a surprising but very effective contrast with the abrasion of the bestial growls that dominate in most of the minutes. It’s a long song, both grave and grand, but doesn’t overstay its welcome. More than that, it fixes itself in the listener’s head.
And if you’re like me, some of these lyrics will stick to you, too.
Is it okay to include a cover song on this list? It better be, because I’m about to do that. I actually think I’ve done it before at some point (and maybe more than one point) during the nine years I’ve been compiling these lists. And since I make the rules for the list, I don’t even know why I’m asking.
This Sacramento band put out a powerful split with Fister last fall, but their nearly 17-minute-long track for that split (which you can listen to here) isn’t the one you’ll find below. Instead, you’ll find their cover of Black Sabbath’s “The Wizard“, which appeared on a CVLT Nation compilation of Sabbath covers.
“The Wizard” originally appeared on Sabbath’s self-titled 1970 album, and it was also included as the B-side when they released the title track from their second album, Paranoid, as a single. CHRCH don’t try to clone the song on their cover. What they deliver instead is music that’s so stupefyingly crushing that it will threaten the structural integrity of your home’s foundations, while also unlacing the neurons in your head and twisting them into strange new configurations. A brilliant piece of psychoactive sorcery, and as unnerving as it is, I do also find it very catchy.
When you name your band Planet Eater, based on that destroyer of entire worlds in the Marvel Universe, it’s an understatement to say that you’d better be able to bring some damned heavy music to the table. These Canadians from Saskatchewan have that covered.
“The Boats” is the opening track on Blackness From the Stars, the 2017 debut album by Planet Eater. Featuring jugular-rupturing, hardcore-styled vocals and a bleak, threatening, immediately catchy riff, the song is one that grows increasingly intense, fueled by lead-guitar frenzy and battering drumwork. The melodic hooks and grooves in the song are solid. I found myself drifting back to it repeatedly after I heard it for the first time, and my face lit up when those memories came rushing back as I listened to it again in the process of deciding what to put on this list.
I can’t completely separate this next song from the video that introduced it to the world. We don’t have any year-end lists at NCS devoted to “best videos”, but if we did, this one undoubtedly would have been on it.
“Misery” is the name of the song, and it comes from Surrounding the Void by the Swiss band Palmer. It’s a heart-wrenching track, one that achieves its soul-shredding effect through a blend of punishing heaviness and mesmerizing melody, alternately coiling the tension and releasing it, putting you in the crosshairs of a rumbling avalanche and then sending you aloft like desiccated leaves in a soft wind.
Much of the music’s agonizing force comes from the intensity of the vocals expressed by the shaggy man-mountain of a vocalist (Steve Diener) glimpsed through the shadows, and the video creates a visual contrast just as the music does, juxtaposing the grace and beauty of the aerialist Tina Weber. The video (produced by Afrox Film) is beautifully conceived, artfully filmed, and engrossing to watch, and it meshes so well with the song that I can’t think of the one without the other coming to mind.