Admittedly, I began this year’s Most Infectious Song list in unusual fashion yesterday, diving deep into the underground with songs by unheralded bands from records released on the very last day of last year. However, these next two songs come from better-known bands (though their names are not yet on the tip of every metalhead’s tongue) and from 2019 albums that have received quite a bit more attention (but still not enough).
Misþyrming’s 2015 debut album Söngvar elds og óreiðu opened a lot of eyes — opened them so wide you could see the whites showing all ’round. But these Icelanders were even better than we knew, because four years later they decided to throw us a curveball. Rather than build on the success of their debut with slight iterations on a proven formula, they spread their wings and flew in a noticeably different direction.
I’m not arguing that their second album Algleymi is better than the first one (choosing between them is a very difficult decision), but the fact that they followed their creative impulses even at the risk of not merely surprising people but perhaps even leaving some behind is worth a big round of applause. Of course, I probably still wouldn’t be applauding if their new one weren’t so fucking good.
I don’t mean to suggest that Misþyrming radically reinvented themselves on Algleymi, but as my colleague Andy Synn has written, it “embraces a looser, much more rock ‘n’ roll vibe” and “and the extra dose of old-school groove and infectious swagger… helps to set the band apart from their immediate peers even more”. I’ll also share the words of Tumbleweed Dealer‘s Seb Painchaud, who put the album at No. 1 on his year-end list for NCS:
“Some albums elicit a physical response from the listener. Masterfully crafted music can cause a person to move without deciding to do so. This album will have you clasping the imaginary grapefruits of doom in a failed attempt to have your pose match the epicness of the sounds assaulting your earholes. You can’t possibly just sit there and listen to this. Your flesh reacts to it.”
Algleymi, like the album from which I’ve drawn the second song in today’s installment of this list, is one that’s home to many candidates I considered. It’s very close to the kind of album where you could throw a dart at the track list and put whatever title you hit on this list. I picked “Ísland, steingelda krummaskuð“. To borrow Seb’s words, your flesh reacts to it from the very beginning, and reacts in a carnal way. But there’s also fury and grandeur in the song, and a tragic mood that tears you down at the same time as you surrender to it. Maybe that’s why I like it so much.
This Spanish band’s debut album Come the Tide popped up on a lot of the year-end lists we posted, and a lot of year-end lists at other sites acclaimed it as well. To quote only from our own staff, Andy Synn (who included Come the Tide on his list of 2019’s Great Albums) wrote that “if there’s one band who might just be able to kickstart a brand new Melodic Death revolution, it’s Eternal Storm“, and DGR (who put the album at No. 14 on his year-end list) summed it up as “a master class of progressive death and melodeath hybridization that makes an hour just fly by”.
I really loved the album too. It scratched that itch that Insomnium and Black Sun Aeon used to scratch, without cloning either of those bands. As Andy also wrote: “They just get, instinctively, when a song needs to go more melodic, or more aggressive, when to be proggy and when to be heavy. They know just where the right place is for some clean vocals, or some keyboards, or a spiralling, skyscraping solo. And they’re also confident enough to let each song develop at its own pace, but smart enough to know when they’ve run their course, so nothing here feels underdeveloped or overdone”.
As mentioned earlier in this post, I could have picked many songs off Come the Tide for this list, including the one that we premiered. But because I made a rule long ago that I wouldn’t pick more than one song from any given release, I had to choose only one. As tough as that was, I chose the album opener “Through the Wall of Light Pt.I (The Strand)“. It’s a great combination of thundering aggression, searing intensity, pulse-pounding vitality, and gloriously heartfelt — and heartbreaking — melody. You hear it even once, and it’s very hard to forget. It’s also very hard to leave alone, even though it’s capable of choking up the more soft-hearted among us every damned time.