Three years ago I vowed that I would begin forcing myself to end these lists before the beginning of February, not because I would really be finished by then but because continuing it past that point had become embarrassing. I renewed the vow this year, and it hit me this morning that January 31st is only nine days away! Shit! Nine days away, and I’m not even close to naming all the songs I want to name.
Well, this means it’s time to expand the daily installments from two songs to three (or more). And I’m going to have to post installments on Saturday and Sunday too, if I can manage that. The three I’ve chosen today have a certain über-dark atmospheric kinship, as I hear them, in addition to being addictive. To catch up with the songs that preceded them on this list, go here.
I was very happy to see that Andy Synn decided to devote his November 2019 edition of THE SYNN REPORT to these frightening Germans, putting in one place streams of all their albums and allowing for a clear view of the ways in which their sound has evolved since 2006, culminating (for now) in 2019’s stunning Venenare, which Andy rightly acclaimed as “without a doubt, one of the most intense and impressive Black Metal albums of 2019”.
I had little doubt that I would put something from Venenare on this list, but have had the devil’s own time deciding which song it would be. I gave serious consideration to “Prayer For Demise”, “Stellar Sparks”, and even the album’s mammoth penultimate track “Darvaza Breeds”. Heck, at one time or another I probably gave some thought to three other tracks as well. But I finally settled on “Zwischen den Worten“.
The fact that I’ve become so addicted to so many songs from Venanare might seem peculiar (at times it even seems peculiar to me), because the music is intricate, unearthly, and blood-freezing (as well as frighteningly fantastical). Not the kind of thing that’s standard fuel for toe-tapping and head-banging. But as ominous and oppressive as the music often is, it gets under the skin nevertheless, and stays there.
As Andy wrote, “Zwischen den Worten” is “groovier and more melodic” than some of the other tracks on the album, and maybe that’s what inclined me to put it on this list. The pair of guitar solos (one soulful, one deranged) had a lot to do with the decision as well. But make no mistake, this music is still bleak and unnerving.
Now eleven albums into their career, Hate should need no introduction. And many people probably think they’ve got the band figured out so well that another new album would be no cause for a feeling of intrigue. Persistently branded as a close sibling of the more famous Behemoth, and therefore seemingly consigned to the shadow of that more famous band, they don’t always get the close attention that their music often deserves. But their 2019 album Auric Gates of Veles was even more deserving of attention than usual.
As Andy wrote in his review, the album found the band “travelling even further down the path towards a much more heavily Black Metal influenced sound – think Dark Funeral more than Behemoth – while still maintaining much of the punchiness and power of their previous sound”. He characterized it as “a leaner, meaner, and altogether tighter version of the band than we’ve seen in some time, and thus avoids the slightly bloated feel that has occasionally afflicted some of their most recent albums, resulting in a record that is easily their finest hour (well, thirty-nine minutes and change) since 2010’s Erebos“.
In his own writing about the album for his year-end list, DGR also pointed out the strengthening of black-metal elements in at least some of the songs, with “Salve Ignis” as a prime example. Its opening riff, he wrote, “is about as hellfire and brimstone as Hate have gotten in some time, on an album in which hellfire and brimstone are practically the bread and butter by which the band get by”.
“Salve Ignis” was a prime candidate for this list, but I instead chose “Sovereign Sanctity“, which I found just that little bit more memorable. It also brings a healthy dose of hellfire and brimstone, in addition to jolting the spine, packing in a multitude of electrifying riffs, and creating an atmosphere of peril and pain, and of fearsome grandeur. There’s a hell of a good solo in the song too.
Just two days before the end of 2019 we premiered a video for a track named “Echokammer” off the debut album of a German band named Raptvre. One of the reasons why I enjoy doing premieres (every goddamned day) is that they often introduce me, as well as our visitors, to deserving music I might otherwise have overlooked, and that was certainly the case here. Watching and listening to that video succeeded in pulling me headlong into Raptvre’s 2019 album Monuments of Bitterness, which proved to be a very appealing discovery. But I’m still especially taken with “Echokammer”, and not just because it was the first song I heard from the album. I’ll repeat what I wrote for the premiere of this multi-faceted neck-wrecker:
Musically, the song interweaves ingredients of dissonant black metal and death metal, together with progressive influences, to create a changing experience that is itself chilling, perilously seductive, and titanically heavy.
The song’s earthshaking low-end power creates perhaps the most immediate impression, thanks to the bone-deep impact of Stefan Braunschmidt‘s bass lines and their body-moving rhythmic interplay with the inventive and physically compulsive drum beats administered by Johannes Kochs. The rhythms and the tempo change as the song unfolds, surging into bursts of blasting mayhem, segueing into bounding gallops and militaristic fusillades, and pounding the listener’s skull like sledgehammers.
Meanwhile, guitarist Kirill Gromada creates a changing array of dissonant and harmonic sounds, infiltrating the song with melodies that are seething and poisonous, haunting and despairing, slithering and sinister, quivering and delirious. A further melodic accent is added through a transfixing saxophone solo by guest performer Hauke Peters that soulfully deepens the music’s mood of suffering and despair at the same time as the rest of the instrumental performers are locked into an irresistible groove.
And to further enrich and intensify an already multi-faceted experience, lead vocalist Thorn joins with Gromada and Braunschmidt to deliver a range of scorching screams, wretched howls, serrated growls, and vicious roars.