Well, my fine feathered fiends, here we go again: For the 10th straight year we present our list of the preceding year’s Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs.
I’m going to dispense with repeating the operative definition of what I think makes a song “infectious”; if you’re encountering this series for the first time, go here to see that. But I will remind you what I do to compile the list, and why I currently have no idea how long it will be or precisely when the rollout will end.
The universe of songs I’ve considered includes a list of candidates that I began at the start of 2018 and continued expanding as the year progressed. It also includes recommendations from my colleague DGR (he’s the only staff writer who makes suggestions each year, bless his pointy long-haired head). And it includes every suggestion made by our readers in response to my invitation, in the comments to this post. When you add it all up, that universe of candidates that’s now sitting in front of me includes nearly 600 songs.
Interestingly, but not atypically, only 48 songs received more than one nomination. So there’s obviously a tremendous amount of scatter in what people found most infectious in their playlists, but that’s a sign of just how vibrant and creative underground metal is these days, though it does make my job harder.
Now, to be clear, what I’ll be choosing in this list (as always) isn’t the result of a vote or any other kind of popularity contest. It’s my own personal list, so only I can be blamed for any shortcomings you may see in it. On the other hand, I do pay attention to all the suggestions, including the many songs in the universe of candidates that I didn’t manage to hear last year. And one other thing I try to do is provide genre diversity, so that the list becomes a way of summing up and remembering the year that’s just ended.
Finally, although you’ll see some “big names” represented on the list, and excerpts from some records that made a lot of year-end best-album lists, I’ve also made a conscious effort to recognize music from much more obscure artists and labels around the world, because our site has always been devoted to spreading the word about music that needs more recognition, more so than singing the praises of music that every other metal site in creation is already spotlighting.
Because the candidate list is so massive, and because I’m still only part-way through thinking things over, this list isn’t complete at the moment — which is true every year when I begin the roll-out. That’s why I don’t know how long it will be or when it will end. I will post an installment every day or two, and eventually will start including more than two songs in each installment in an effort to finish by no later than the end of February, though I will try to make myself stop by then even if I’m not really finished.
And now to the business at hand — the first installment of this list. Although, as explained above, the list isn’t the result of a popularity contest, the two songs included here were undeniably very popular. In fact, out of those 600 songs that found their way onto my candidate list, only two bands had multiple songs nominated by more than three people — Necrophobic and Slugdge — and the songs you’re about to hear received the most nominations of all. Of course, both tracks were also on my own personal list, so it was an easy decision to begin the series with them.
This venerable and rightly venerated Swedish band produced one of their best records yet in 2018’s Mark of the Necrogram. It made year-end lists by my co-writers DGR and Andy Synn, and many others across the interhole and in print. As Andy wrote, it “is an undeniable triumph, packed to the rafters with massive, insidiously melodic riffs, shamelessly extravagant solos, and riveting, rock-solid grooves… not to mention a seemingly endless array of humongous metallic hooks big enough to hang an entire bull’s carcass from.” And as DGR observed, “It includes multiple songs that are not only heavy as all hell on the metal front, but also contains multiple earworms — especially in its front half — capable of boring their way into your skull.”
“Tsar Bomba” wasn’t the only track off the album to command a lot of attention in our list of candidates — the title track also received a lot of support — but to my mind it’s the most infectious track on the album, and one of the most addictive of the year from any album.
While Necrophobic have been killing it for decades and are a well-known quantity, it’s fair to say that 2018 was the year when Slugdge vaulted from relative obscurity onto the main stage of global metaldom with their fourth album Esoteric Malacology. I don’t mean to suggest that they are newcomers for most of our own readers — we’ve been covering their music for years, and I think we do tend to have more exploratory and discerning followers than many sites do. But it’s undeniable that this newest album brought vast numbers of new fans into the band’s fold — witness the number of widely-read year-end lists that included it.
Among those year-end lists were again the ones compiled by Andy Synn and DGR for our site. The former lauded it as the band’s best work yet, praising the UK duo for “having carefully cultivated and harvested the very best parts of multiple metallic styles to produce a nigh-on perfect synthesis of form and function that is as distinctive as it is devastating”, while the latter called the record “a glorious experience”.
My combined list of “most infectious” candidates included significant support for both “Crop Killer” and “Salt Thrower”, but it was “The Spectral Burrows” that won out. Of course, what sealed the deal was that “The Spectral Burrows” was my own favorite track on the album, and the one I thought was genuinely the most infectious, and highly deserving of a place in the first installment of this list.