I usually try to group songs together in these installments in a way that makes sense at least to me, sometimes grouping by genre but in other ways as well. Today, however, the music is a little more “all over the map”. All three songs come from albums I love (and I think are pretty uniformly liked by my NCS comrades too), and I just want to make sure I honored the music before running up against the end-time for this list. You can find everything that preceded these three tracks here.
BLUT AUS NORD
Part of the thrill afforded by a new Blut Aus Nord album is the process of discovery, because BAN has rarely followed a straight and steady path from one record to the next, and predicting how their path might twist and turn requires a crystal ball. The music is, as Vindsval has said himself, a “process of perpetual regeneration”. In the case of their new album, Hallucinogen (which I reviewed here), BAN turned to psychedelia, which they transformed through reformulation into a new aesthetic.
“And so”, as I wrote, “the music actually is psychedelic, but not necessarily in all the ways that might be expected. It’s expansive and panoramic, as if reaching for the stars or diving into inward meditative visions. It’s also explosively powerful as well as dreamlike, ravaging as well as reverent. But it is nevertheless in keeping with one of the key defining aspects of all the variant forms of music that have been given that label — it takes you outside of yourself, perhaps even enables you to lose yourself and to achieve an awareness of other powers, other forces, other possibilities”.
I found the album an absolute thrill to listen to, “a beautifully crafted album, with great dynamics, killer riffs, and punchy drumwork — as well as presenting visions of splendor, leavened with glimpses of the abyss”. The punchy physical thrust and rocking rhythms of the opening track “Nomos Nebuleam” are mainstays throughout the record, reaching zeniths in the hard jabbing and carnal swagger of “Nebeleste”, in the gut-punching riffs that emerge in “Sybelius”, in the slashing chord-work near the end of “Mahagma”, in the bruising central riff of “Haallucinählia”, in the massive head-banger that forms the finale of “Cosma Procyiris”.
A lot more is revealed in the songs than those qualities, including deep darkness, celestial wonder, and ravaging violence, but those head-moving qualities are a big part of what makes the whole album “infectious”. Forced by my own rules to pick just one track for this list, “Sybelius” is the one I chose — but if you haven’t yet discovered the album, don’t stop there.
I’m intentionally bending (okay, probably breaking) the rules with this next song — because the song isn’t from a 2019 album. In fact the track is from Thy Catafalque‘s new album Naiv, which is being released today. But the song itself was released as a single last October, and that’s my defense for what might otherwise seem like a perversion of a 2019 year-end list.
Coincidentally, we also posted a review of the album just yesterday, written by our old friend Professor D. Grover the XIIIth. The Professor is open and unabashed about how much he loves this band, and concluded his thoughts about the new album with these words: “For a neat summary, this is a typical Thy Catafalque album, by which I mean that it is both familiar and unpredictable, painstakingly crafted, and absolutely beautiful. Tamás Kátai is a musician whose passion and attention to detail shine through from the moment the needle drops until the last bass note fades. This is already the best album released this year, and it’s going to take something truly special to unseat it”.
It was actually the same D. Grover who introduced me to Thy Catafalque back in the olden days when he was running The Number of the Blog, and ever since I became amazed and enthralled by Róka Hasa Rádió I’ve been just as devoted a fan of the band as he is, and just as enamored of every subsequent release.
Naiv is indeed another marvel, and another masterwork in varied songcraft. There’s so much richness in the music that, like Grover, I have trouble trying to capture it in words. As he wrote, “If you’ve never heard a Thy Catafalque album before, then trying to describe to you what this album sounds like would be like trying to explain calculus to a cat”.
I picked “Szélvész” in part because it’s one of the heavier and more aggressive songs on the album (and this list, after all, is supposed to be focused on “extreme metal”). But it also gives you a good taste of how multi-faceted and how different Thy Catafalque‘s music is from, well, everything else you might have encountered. And of course there’s the fact that the song was first released in 2019.
My friend DGR wrote our review of the debut album by Strigoi — the newest brainchild of Greg Mackintosh (Paradise Lost) after he laid Vellenfyre to rest. As is typically of DGR’s reviews, it was a long write-up, but I’ll leave just a couple of excerpts here for those of you who haven’t yet discovered the record:
“Abandon All Faith comes packed with music, weighing in at eleven songs and an intro track and all of it some of the weightiest and sometimes dirtiest death metal that the group could muster. If there were an award for crushing by sonic weight via guitar tone, Strigoi could easily find itself in the running, as the whole album is filled with cacophonous bellowing and hefty guitar riffs that make every song feel astronomically heavier than they otherwise would have been.
“It’s a huge album wherein the experimentation comes largely in the different atmosphere the band try to portray across their twelve songs, and although there is a strain of familiarity that runs throughout Abandon All Faith, hearing the group still manage to create a suffocatingly heavy brick of death metal remains an exciting experience.”
It really is damned exciting, and damned strong from start to finish. And what a start it has. After “The Rising Horde” opens the album with a build-up that sounds like the forces of hell at your doorstop, Strigoi deliver “Phantoms“, the song I’m now adding to this list, of which DGR wrote: “Phantoms’ amplifies that feeling as a hybrid death metal and doom song that gains a lot of strength based on the musical annihilation taking place behind its opening line of ‘There is no heaven/there is only hell’; the second verse, opening with ‘There is no solace/only the end’, is equally powerful”.
I had a few things to say myself about “Phantoms” when it initially premiered along with a frightening video:
“The music is ferocious, but Mackintosh‘s vaporous and gleaming leads are eerie — eerie enough to turn the blood in your veins ice cold. Elements of doom enter the mix (not surprisingly), when the pummeling assault of the drums relents and Chris Casket‘s bass becomes an even more titanic and skull-splitting presence.
“As suggested above, the music includes some surprising changes, none more so than what happens at the 2:30 mark. All I’ll say is that you should be prepared to bang your head with the vigor of a crazy person. And then be prepared to marvel at Mackintosh‘s solo”.
The occult-themed video, by the way is fantastic. (They find the key, but the work required is… wet.)