OUR LIST OF 2018’S MOST INFECTIOUS EXTREME METAL SONGS (PART 12): ALKALOID, THE OCEAN, MONOLITHE
On we go into the 12th installment of this list, in which I’ve added three more songs. To check out the previous installments of this expanding list, you’ll find them behind this link, and to learn what this series is all about, go here.
Well, you had to know there would be an Alkaloid song on this list. We devoted a lot of attention to Liquid Anatomy (and of course so did the rest of metaldom), including Andy’s review of the album and premiere of a song, his subsequent placement of the album on his Critical Top 10 list for all of 2018, and DGR’s positioning of the record at the No. 2 spot on his own year-end Top 50 list, accompanied by an extensive write-up.
Although I’m prone to quoting from our previous writings about albums in introducing the songs for this list, I’m just going to cut to the chase this time, and tell you that I’ve picked “Kernel Panic“. It was a stunning way to open Liquid Anatomy, and seemed to me an obvious choice for one of the year’s most infectious songs — though I came very very close to picking “As Decreed by Laws Unwritten”, which is the song we premiered before the album’s release. You can’t go wrong with either track, or with the album as a whole.
As Peter van der Ploeg‘s List of Lists, The Ocean’s Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic was one of the most widely acclaimed albums during the 2018 listmania frenzy (along with the preceding release by Alkaloid). Honestly, however, that has very little effect on my choices for this list. More consequential to me are the reactions of my fellow NCS writers. For example, between his review of the album and his explanation for putting the record at the No. 4 spot on his year-end list, DGR lavished enough words of praise to sink a battleship. I’ll just excerpt a few of them:
“Although it doesn’t stray too far from what The Ocean collective have been doing for the better part of a decade, the five-year gap between albums is one that nevertheless has paid massive dividends. The songs here — small in number though they are — all play out like they’ve been hammered on again and again so that they can truly be the best that they can be. Phanerozoic is such a dynamic album that it’s hard not to get swept up in it, and the magic trick that the band pulls off — making forty minutes feel like nothing — means that you’ll find yourself constantly looping back to Song One before you notice.”
I confess that all that enthusiasm played a role in leading me to pay closer attention to the album than I might have. Having done so, I latched onto a song for this list. DGR recommended “Ordovicium: The Glaciation of Gondwana”, with the one I ultimately chose — “Permian: The Great Dying” — as his second choice (because, he said, “Permian…” has “an amazing back half (like me, heeeyyyoooo)”.
I’m not going to comment on DGR’s own back half, but I agree about the song — it’s very damned easy to lose yourself when the band lock into the last two minutes or so of hammering, while your head bobs along like a crazy person, and DGR’s right — the vocals in the song’s latter half are particularly impressive. What comes before all that is a hell of an interesting trip, too.
“Burst In the Event Horizon“ actually surfaced in the summer of 2017, and it was then unclear whether the track was a stand-alone or the first excerpt from a new album by Monolithe. Later that mystery was cleared up — it did indeed prove to be the first single from 2018’s Nebula Septem. Because the song can therefore be credited to 2018, I feel okay about choosing it for this list, even though its origins can be traced to the year before.
Every song on Monolithe’s two albums preceding this most recent one (three songs on each of them) was exactly 15 minutes long. With the closing of those chapters, Monolithe embarked on a new approach in Nebula Septem — which presented seven songs at exactly seven minutes each. As my friend Andy summed up in his haiku review of the record:
A change of pace, a
Change embraced. Shorter songs but
Still a grand design
The shorter song lengths made these new ones more easily considered as “infectious” tracks, but the fact that they were more quickly consumable in no way detracted from the immensity of their impact, as Andy noted. In the case of “Burst In the Event Horizon“, the music is mesmerizing, its sweeping, intense melodic vibrations soaring over a prominent bass pulse, building an atmosphere that’s majestic, cosmic, and frighteningly foreboding. The vocals are strikingly (and terrifyingly) powerful as well.
Even on one hearing, the song became hard to forget, and I still love listening to it. So, I think it belongs here.
My man! One post containing both The Ocean AND Monolithe? This surely must be heaven.
I’d have a really hard time picking the best song from Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic, three candidates come to my mind – Cambrian II: Eternal Recurrence, Devonian: Nascent and Permian: The Great Dying. But I’m pretty sure about picking the most catchy one, and that is definitely the last one of them, which you have picked as well.
As for Nebula Septem, I am ashamed to say that I haven’t given it as much attention as to the previous twin albums. I know all of the backstory – seventh studio album, containing seven songs exactly seven minutes long each, cover art containing seven heptagons etc., but gave it only a couple listens (seven probably, guessing from the direction this comment is going) and then forgot about it. Big mistake to be sure…
Oh man, I didn’t even catch all the other ways you mentioned in which Nebula Septem was organized around… septem. I still have a few more listens before I reach the seventh experience, and I’m wondering what will happen to me when I do.
I forgot to mention that “each of the seven songs on the album is played in ascending order of the natural minor keys of the Western scale, represented by the first letter of each song title” (citing one of the reviews) – so Anechoic Aberration is played in A-scale, Burst in the Event Horizon is played in B-scale and so on. Oh, and also really fascinating sci-fi lyric themes, revolving around Fermi Paradox, Dyson spheres and alien civilizations whose only purpose of existence is the extinction of the universe (more about that here: http://www.doom-metal.com/interviews.php?entry=1530).
Fascinating. I obviously didn’t dig nearly as deep into this album as I should have, though given what Monolithe have done in the past, I should have known.
This is such an excellent series, not least because it reminds me to re-engage with these excellent albums. Thank you!
Thank you. Apart from trying to provide a public service (which is actually a relatively small part of my motivation), putting this series together does the same thing for me — gives me a great way to re-engage with stuff I really enjoyed over the last year, even if there’s also a bit of agony involved in having to make choices.