I’ve fallen behind in the rollout of this list, having failed to post installments on the first two days of this week. Rather than spend time detailing the excuses, I’ll use the time instead to catch up. Instead of posting one installment today, I’ll be posting two of them. That won’t completely make up for the lost two days, but I’ll figure out a way to make up for the other lost day.
Death Metal is the order of the day, at least for this Part 7, with two heavyweight songs that became addictions for me in 2019. (In case you’re new to this list, you can discover the preceding six installments here.)
Last May the Swedish band Mordbrand (whose music I’ve been trumpeting for a lot of years) released a fantastic two-track EP named Döden / Efter Doden. The lyrics of each song were taken from poems by Gustaf Fröding, who died in 1911, and is considered “one of the greatest poets of verse that Sweden has ever produced”. In his own life he struggled with alcoholism and mental illness, and according to the same source just quoted, “His poetry combines formal virtuosity with a sympathy for the ordinary, the neglected and the down-trodden, sometimes written with his own dialect. It is highly musical and lends itself to musical setting….”
Mordbrand’s particular musical interpretation of the two poems is riveting, and the subject matter of the poetry (death, and what might come after) clearly provided a powerful inspiration. Mordbrand honored a tortured but brilliant literary artist, and brought honor upon themselves as well.
Both songs are great, but in terms of “infectiousness” it’s “Efter Döden” that takes the prize. I’ll repeat what I wrote about it when we premiered the EP:
“As compared to “Döden“, Mordbrand‘s music here is immediately boisterous and hard-rocking, with a skirling riff that’s also immediately addictive. The rhythm section delivers just as much megawatt power as in the first song, and will get your pulse jumping hard and fast.
“The dynamism present in “Döden” is also on display in “Efter Döden“, as the band transition the song into a glorious anthem and then a punk-rocking gallop. Following a bright, rippling guitar bridge the band create a headbanger’s heaven, so get your neck loose before you get into this track. The music cycles seamlessly through changing cadences and musical styles, and even though the song is full of buoyant life, Mordbrand don’t let us forget that the song is still about death, and there is something about the simmering riff that draws the track to a close that’s disturbing, fearful, and hauntingly otherworldly.”
As in the case of Mordbrand, we also hosted the premiere of Rattenfänger’s 2019 release, an album named Geisslerlieder. And like Mordbrand, Rattenfänger’s inspirations were unusual for a death metal band. With lyrics in Latin, the tracks were rooted in the medieval phenomenon of Flagellant songs — “the songs of the wandering bands of flagellants, who overspread Europe during two periods of mass hysteria: the first during the middle of the 13th century, and the second during the Black Death in 1349” (per this source).
As I wrote at the time of the premiere: “The tone of the music is massively heavy, dense and primitive, and heavy-grooved enough to leave craters in concrete pavements, and the roaring vocals are themselves brutal, belly-deep, and cold-hearted…. All in all, the album is a bone-smasher that also manages to be atmospheric — and you should be warned that it’s highly addictive too”.
That the album was so good should not have been a surprise, given that Rattenfänger’s members have also formed the line-ups of Drudkh, Blood of Kingu, and Old Silver Key. And yes indeed, the album is highly addictive, a record from which I might have chosen multiple songs for this list. The one I did choose, “Materia Prima“, is the first full song on the album after a scene-setting introductory piece. I’ll again borrow my own words from the album premiere:
“‘Materia Prima‘ delivers bursts of thunderous booming intermixed with blasting drums, vicious roiling riffage, and that leads into grim, thuggish chords, skittering strings and skull-cracking snare beats. Waves of eerie tones and dismal whirring noise crest above the crushing rhythmic excavations in the low-end, whose compulsive pile-driving grooves will shake you like a rag doll in the hands of giants. And as if that weren’t enough to wreck your neck, the band launch into a closing sequence of monstrous jackhammering that will finish the job”.