It pains me to say it, but this is not only the 20th installment of this list, it’s the last one. I’m feeling some pain because I haven’t really finished the list, but if I don’t stop now I’m afraid you’ll be reading Part 50 at some point in March. Tomorrow I’ll have a “wrap up” for the list, with links to all the tracks I’ve called out since beginning it earlier this month. Please hold off scorching me for not naming your own favorites until tomorrow. Thanks.
Unlike most of the previous installments in this series, there’s no real rhyme or reason to why I grouped these five songs together. It was just one last frantic effort to load in a few more beloved passengers before the train left the station.
“Fall on your knees! Take the oath!” How can you resist the chorus in this track? I can’t. I know that the words are part of Possession’s skewering of the Church, but I like to think of the words as an exhortation to the metal faithful, sort of like, “Swear to the dark, you unwashed bastards!”
I’ve been greedily following (and writing about) the output of this Belgian band since they established their first beachhead with the 2013 debut demo His Best Deceit, and unsurprisingly, I thought last year’s Exorkizein was great. Apart from the terrifying fascination of the music itself, Possession have been interesting to watch because of the historical themes they have employed in their releases. In this instance, Exorkizein tells a story that unfolds across its six central songs, a story focused on the life, the work, and the death of Gabriele Amorth, last-known chief exorcist of the Vatican, who died on the September 16, 2016.
I had the pleasure of premiering a track from the album named “Beast of Prey”, and I was sorely tempted to put that track on this list. However, as noted, I’m a sucker for the chorus of “Take the Oath”, and a sucker for these savage sounds as well.
I’m sure someone will accuse me of nepotism for picking this next track from the list, since our own Andy Synn is the vocalist for Beyond Grace, but I don’t really care. I think it’s possible that I might not be 100% objective about the band’s last album, Seekers, but on the other hand no one but me knows how often I’ve played the album, or this next song individually, and I didn’t spin it as much as I did because of my long friendship with Mr. Synn. I did it because I do get a serious charge out of the music. He, by the way, has no idea that I’m adding the album’s title track to this list.
And yes, it’s the title track I’ve chosen — certainly not the only infectious song on the album, but a highly addictive one. And beyond that, it’s a prime example of the band’s ability to seamlessly meld pulverizing grooves, brain-melting guitar and bass acrobatics, frenzied viciousness, and fluid, flame-throwing solos… and stitching it all together with cohesive melodic through-lines.
And if I may say so, Andy’s array of growls, howls, roars, and shrieks sounds damned good, too.
THE OMINOUS CIRCLE
Speaking of Mr. Synn, it was he who reviewed Appalling Ascension for us, the 2017 album by The Ominous Circle, and it included these very accurate words:
“With a phenomenally heavy and frankly rather cavernous sound, somewhere between the dirge-like density of Incantation and the lurching, prodigious power of classic Immolation – along with an ever-present atmosphere of murky, miasmal menace – the Portugese quintet really don’t pull any punches on this, their disturbingly good debut.
“Every track… delivers a full-force onslaught of churning, slime-spattered riffs and dominant, destructive drums in classically crushing style, although the overall package – overflowing as it is with gargantuan, grinding grooves and truly hideous hooks, not to mention a filthy array of nasty, nihilistic melodies – never feels like a mere throwback or tribute to a bygone age.”
Andy identified “Poison Fumes” as one of the album’s highlights, calling it out for “the doomy, hypnotic vibes”, for “some truly monstrous vocals”, and for its “sudden, spasming bursts of bleeding-edge extremity”. And I agree there, too. It’s a fiendishly addictive track from a horrifyingly monstrous album.
Highrider proved themselves to be sonic alchemists of a very high order on their debut album Roll For Initiative, creating an alloy of metal and rock ingredients that gleams like a rare jewel. The vibrant mix of styles in Highrider’s formula is fascinating. You can readily pick out the influences as you make your way through the album, but what you probably couldn’t have predicted is how creatively and seamlessly Highrider blend them together in every song. The music is thus both pleasingly familiar and marvelously unique — and it also proved to be massively infectious.
I became massively infected by Roll For Initiative in the course of preparing a review to accompany our premiere of the album. As I wrote then: “All the songs are jam-packed with huge melodic hooks, epic choruses, dynamic changes of rhythm and tempo, a knack for knowing when to deliver riffs designed to trigger headbanging, and an equally good instinct for when to ease back on the throttle and drag the listener into a staggering dirge that moans and groans with grief and despair”.
The album really is all killer, no filler, but needing to pick only one song for this list, I settled on “Nihilist Lament“.
How to end this list? The choice was a pretty obvious one — the choice of genre, that is. I’ve probably had a crippling weakness for old-school Swedish death longer than any of my other metal addictions, and I still need a regular fix. When a band supplies that fix while also feeding the ammo belt with some Bolt Thrower-caliber munitions, I get even more weak in the knees.
2017 brought out a lot of very good old-school death metal, but I decided to end this list with a track from In A Pitch Black Grave, the debut album by Gods Forsaken, in part because I still feel like a nitwit for failing to review it. However, there’s a very good review over at Angry Metal Guy, and by way of introduction I’ll quote an excerpt from it:
“Mr. [Anders] Biazzi demonstrates yet again that he’s a living, breathing riff factory, and through his caustic leads, all the demons of Sunlight Studios come crashing back into this dimension like Lovecraft’s hideous elder gods. Yet this feels heavier and more powerful than the typical Entombed clone. The thick, diesel-powered riffage could join the battle on any Bolt Thrower platter and hold their own. Anders also handles the bass and gives the music a meaty foundation upon which to construct his barbed wire riff edifices.
“Jonny Pettersson is a first-rate death croaker and delivers the goods with a phlegmy, crusty and demonic performance that perfectly complements the hostile music. Gurgling, gargling, caterwauling, screeching – he does it all with power and lunatic glee. As always, Brynjar Helgetun scorches the countryside with a thunderous turn on the kit and the drum sound is particularly powerful and satisfying. This is a band of seasoned veterans and it shows on every song.”
I second all those sentiments. And from that stellar album I’m ending this list with “Souls Torn Apart“. As AMG’s review noted, it “rolls like a Panzer division over all your earthly belongings, only to pause long enough to uncork an unexpected and striking melodic solo full of emotion, which really stands out on an album full of unbridled aggression and rage”. And maybe it’s that solo that convinced me to pick this song as a way of ending my list, because the sorrow it channels matches my own feeling at having to stop.