In thinking about what to pick for the penultimate installment of this list I was kind of wildly scrambling through the hundreds of songs on my master list of candidates, nearing mental lock-up as I tried to figure out what to do. Despite how many songs I’ve already selected, the decision process has gotten harder, not easier… because time is about to run out.
As a result, there’s no organizing principle in today’s collection. The music is all over the place, stylistically. But I sure do like all three of these picks, and hope you will too.
This year, as usual, the bands whose music I’ve chosen have been a mix of old favorites and newcomers. Gorod falls into the camp of old favorites because they’ve been so consistently good (and so consistently interesting) over such a long stretch of years.
The band’s sixth album, Æthra, was reviewed for us by Andy Synn, who put his finger on one of the qualities of the album that made it a natural source of material for this list:
Largely eschewing the outlandish eccentricity which characterised their previous full-length (2015’s A Maze of Recycled Creeds) in favour of a hookier and more song-based approach this time around, killer cuts like “Bekhten’s Curse”, “The Sentry”, and the spellbinding “And the Moon Turned Black” (to name but three of the album’s many multi-faceted delights) sound more lithe, more agile, and more spontaneous, than ever before, and practically pulsate with a sense of energy and vibrancy which is as intensely infectious as it is practically irresistible.
…[I]t successfully marries the band’s obvious (and unapologetic) technical talents and passion for creative weirdness to a form of keenly focussed, goal-oriented song-writing which sees hookiness and technicality not as two separate elements of the group’s sound, but as two complementary sides of the same coin.
The album provoked a similarly enthusiastic response from DGR, who also noted the infectious qualities of the music when he put it on his year-end list:
Songs on Æthra are appropriately heavy, but the Gorod crew don’t really compete in the metric measurement we often use to describe how heavy a song is. Instead, the band write hyper-complicated and intricate four-to-five minute blasters that can see them embracing the heaviest death metal drill or, as is more often the case, flinging forward expansive guitar parts that basically have every musician hanging on by their fingertips to a musical tilt-a-whirl to see who gets thrown off first.
Every song here seems to be a never-ending string of either “holy shit what the fuck was that” or the sort of hyperspeed tempo that leaves one’s mouth agape. The way Gorod continue to dance between the two, and create moments every once in a while that are so catchy as well, continues to impress.
As noted by both of my colleagues, there are a number of songs on Æthra that are infectious as well as head-spinning, but in my own estimation “The Sentry” edged out the others, and that’s the one I’ve chosen:
This next pick might have a bit of an “out of left field” quality to it. We nearly didn’t mention the album at all before the year ended, and narrowly avoided completely ignoring it only by Andy Synn‘s inclusion of it in a big 26-album round-up in late October of things we’d previously failed to write about. He wrote:
The second album from John Kerr’s Marsh Dweller project sees the multi-instrumental marvel moving even further into the realm of Post Metal, while still retaining just enough blackened bite and aggression to balance out this shift into more atmospheric and introspective territory.
It was Andy’s quick summary, coupled with another review I read at DECIBEL at around the same time (by former NCS scribe Joseph Schafer), which reminded me that I needed to pay attention to Wanderer (which was released on October 19th). I’m sure glad I did — because it really is a wonderful record.
Part of the wonder comes from the fact that John Kerr does everything on the album, and does everything so ridiculously well, from the song-writing to the performances. The album is full of minutes that get stuck in the head, but I guess “Wander I” has burrowed deeper into my brain than others — though if you check back with me tomorrow, I might have a different decision about which one is best-suited for this list.
Listen to it… and then listen to the rest of the album as soon as you can.
Abraham is a fortunate band, fortunate to have a fan as devoted and persistent as “Matt4815162342“, who has been a vociferous advocate for their music in our Comment section, and who has pushed for their inclusion in this list. I would be lying if I denied that his passion had nothing to do with this choice.
But I will also say that this Swiss band’s giant 2018 concept album Look, here comes the dark!, released last May, really is very much worth your time. It presents a post-apocalyptic dystopia, described as “a musical version of McCarthy’s The Road, or Whitehead’s Zone One. The album is divided into four consecutive periods, “throughout which the story of the disappearance of all life on Earth is told”.
Each section is different, and this is not the place to attempt to describe how they differ. But the album as a whole is remarkably intense, almost overwhelmingly so. The entire experience is like being swallowed whole within someone else’s vast, dark vision.
But apart from being an emotionally shattering experience, the album is also home to some damned memorable, and damned head-wrecking, music. In retrospect, I think it’s only fair to defer to Matt4815162342 in choosing one for this list. His recommendation, and one I endorse, is “Dead Cities“. It’s catastrophically harrowing, like so much else on the album, but the enormity and extravagance of the rhythm section’s work is highly addictive.