For this fifth installment of the list I’ve decided to include four songs instead of two or three. The impulse to include all of these together was irresistible, for reasons I think you’ll understand after you’ve heard all of them.
From humble beginnings this solo project of James McBain has moved from self-releasing its 2015 debut EP (The Manifestation of Evil) and its 2017 debut album (Coagulating Darkness) to landing on the roster of Peaceville Records, which released Hellripper’s second album The Affair of the Poisons last October. For those of us who’ve been adherents of the music since early days, this was a happy development but not a shocking one.
The song that I picked for this list happens to be the first one I heard from the latest album. “Spectres of the Blood Moon Sabbath” is a turbocharged blood-rush of thrash and old school heavy metal with goblin-on-fire vocals, and it includes some groovesome, powerfully head-moving riffs as well as fire-breathing solo work. As I wrote after first hearing it, “It’s such a fist-pumping spectacle that it’s hard for me to believe that any died-in-the-wool fan of evil, high-voltage heavy metal won’t fall for it”. I still feel the same way.
Based on this band’s name and their nation (Brazil) you might have been expecting raw and ripping black thrash, or perhaps balls-to-the-wall speed metal, and Speedkiller do indeed give you high-voltage doses of thrash and speed, but their 2020 debut EP Midnight Vampire turned out to be a much more multi-faceted experience, in which the band also drew on elements of death metal and classic heavy metal — and a genuine talent for cooking up addictive melodies and hook-heavy riffs, and delivering the experience within a supernatural atmosphere.
We premiered a song from the EP named “Circles of Blood“, which was an outstanding track, but the one I picked for this list is the EP’s title song.
“Midnight Vampire” strikes with riveting sonic power. There’s thunderous, gut-punching force to the bass drive, and the skipping, punk-like drum beat chops at the neck like a spring-loaded ax. The riffing is undeniably sinister, and the vocals are those of an enraged roaring lion, but there’s equally a display of rapturous grandeur in the song.
The feeling of infernal euphoria intensifies, thanks to the spectral, reverberating tones of a shrieking and wailing solo. But with a dramatic, pounding fanfare that’s both blaring and bleak, the song also morphs into a manifestation of thrillingly seductive black magic, with the supernatural incantation cast by yet another wonderful ringing solo whose fluid tones are seductive and arcane.
Last summer this terrific New Zealand band brought us their latest album, Warlords, which again displayed their superior talent for creating viscerally appealing, stunningly contagious, absolutely electrifying music. We had the pleasure of premiering a single from it named “Blade on the Fire“, which is a prime example of that talent and was an easy pick for this “Most Infectious” list.
It’s such a huge shot of adrenaline, the kind of hard-hitting heavy metal anthem that gets your heart (and your fists) pumping hard and makes it impossible to sit still. Steve Francis rocks it damned hard behind the kit, putting the whip to the back of your neck right away. Tim Mekalick adds voltage to the rhythms with his gravel-toned bass, and gets plenty of chances to shine on his own. Josh Obrien‘s riffs are electric; the darting, flickering, ringing lead that begins at 3:23 is magical; and the solo that follows it is downright glorious.
Meanwhile, Paul Roberts has the kind of intense, shrieking, no-holds-barred voice that seems capable of melting paint from the walls — and he gets an able assist from a chorus of friends delivering gang roars. As icing on the cake, it’s a blast to get to see the dudes recording this high-voltage thrill-ride, thanks to the video directed by Amber Beaton.
The final song in today’s installment of the list happens to be another that we premiered last year. It’s from this Swedish band’s rip-roaring first EP. I wrote then: “In naming their debut EP Under Siege, it’s almost as if Tøronto foresaw the current viral siege, and also foresaw exactly what would be needed to break the siege — eight bursts of high-voltage speed metal delivered with a raucous punk vitality, the kind of wild thrill-ride that their label’s publicist sums up as “greased-up NWOBHM colliding headlong into early Razor and Warfare, but overseen by Inepsy, mid ‘80s Discharge, and even Howard Benson-era Motörhead“.
The track we premiered, “Ride the Rails“, isn’t the only infectious song on the EP. Hell, all of them are. But I’m still most in love with this one. The fiery and fast-rocking riff that kicks the song into gear is such an immediate jolt to the pulse, and so immediately contagious, that you know within seconds “Ride the Rails” is going to be a shitload of fun. And as the twin-guitar attack works its magic, the rhythm section jumps in to kick the pulse-rate up another notch, and the raw punk vocals dial up the song’s feral energy even more.
While the music’s driving momentum is brazen and boisterous enough to function as a mainline of adrenaline, the band throw in some soloing fireworks to super-heat the experience, and also ease back on the pace just a bit to pave the way for yet another spectacular solo that starts slow and spirals off into the heavens like a rocket whose gyroscope has suffered a breakdown.