In this lucky 13th Part of our Most Infectious Song list, I’m doing what I’ve done a few times before — picking tracks from 2018 albums that were widely enjoyed among the ranks of our nefarious writers (and large swaths of our readers). This isn’t always the case, of course, since I’m just as likely to pick songs the other writers might not have even heard before, but that I relish. But not today.
RIVERS OF NIHIL
The fact that all (or nearly all) of us were especially high on an album from last year doesn’t necessarily mean that we would all coalesce around the same track from the album from this list. I don’t know for sure, because the rest of our writers don’t all weigh in with their thoughts about what the list should include — not that I would necessarily bow to their wishes anyway. I do pay attention to what our readers have suggested, but there was quite a bit of scatter in their urgings with respect to Rivers of Nihil‘s latest album — which isn’t surprising.
I count no fewer than seven posts in 2018 in which we devoted our verbiage to music from Where Owls Know My Name, including Andy Synn‘s review, his placement of the record on his list of the year’s Great Albums, and DGR’s fixing of it at the No. 5 spot on his own year-end list, not to mention my own ramblings about individual tracks which surfaced in advance of the full release. We all could agree that the album displayed a band who were bent on continuing to evolve despite past successes, moving in more progressive and fearlessly ambitious directions — “swinging for the fences”, as DGR put it — and that was an exhilarating thing to behold.
What we might not agree on is the best selection for this list. Our readers nominated “The Silent Life”, “Subtle Change”, the title track, and “A Home”; DGR also pushed for the title track; and although Andy didn’t use the word “infectious” in his review, he did opine that “Subtle Change” was “perhaps the album’s real MVP”.
I don’t think I would argue with Andy on that point, but in terms of sheer “infectiousness”, I think the extravagant title track deserves the nod. The physically compulsive drum-and-bass rhythms alone are highly addictive, as are the sax solos, not to mention the swaying vocal melodies, the sparkling keyboard accents, and the searing and soaring guitar fireworks.
Seattle’s own Witch Ripper had a breakout year in 2018 with the band’s debut album Homestead, and it happened to be another album that our core cadre of regular writers (including myself) whole-heartedly endorsed.
In his review, Andy gave significant praise to the music, characterizing it as “a more lithe and limber version of High on Fire or a less-scatterbrained variant on Mastodon’s more proggy musings,” while providing convincing evidence of a band “ploughing their own path towards greatness, rather than simply riding the coattails of others”. For his part, DGR summed it up as “great addition to the band’s discography and one that you should absolutely get in on the ground floor with”.
My pick for this list — “The Swarm” — was a track those dudes also specifically called out in their writings. DGR highlighted it as “a constantly returned-to song on my part, off of the sheer strength of that opening segment before the band settle into a bouncing rhythm section and a killer guitar solo”, and “a blast outside of that, especially with that closing segment just bringing the whole thing crashing down around them”. Andy praised it as “a classic–sounding slab of guitar-heavy grooves and gallops, with lyrics about that most Metal of topics, the rise of a post-apocalyptic zombie horde, which also sees the band showing off some shameless soloing along the way”.
I’m damned addicted to it, too — so here you go:
AUTHOR AND PUNISHER
Well, goddamn, that latest Author and Punisher disc was a monster, wasn’t it?
Wil Cifer summed up his review of Beastland for us in this way: “It’s so commonplace for bands to say, ‘This is our heaviest album yet’. In this case it might be true; it is certainly the most metallic. The aggression is dense and oppressive with the vocals making it more personal. Shone has found a great balance of mood and machine”.
DGR had a similar take when he put the album at No. 23 on his year-end list: “It has to be the heaviest, most metal thing that he’s done so far, coming as a complete surprise from the more droning and slightly sing-song Pressure Mine EP…. Beastland proved to be a massive effort on Author & Punisher‘s part and one that I have found is crawling higher and higher as one of my overall favorites from the project yet”.
As for the track I’ve chosen, “Nihil Strength” scares me, and I always feel like the pounding it administers takes another inch off my height every time I hear it. The keyboard melodies are also intrinsically diseased and miserable, and the vocals are as raw and painful as road-burn. But man, it sure as hell sticks and stays in the head. Great video too.