For obvious reasons, I couldn’t resist putting these three songs together for Part 6 of this list. They were all going to be on the list at some point, but the band names just cried out for combining them.
And the combination is especially delicious because the sounds are so distinct from each other despite the commonality of that one word.
I’ll also mention, for those who might be encountering this series for the first time, that you can find the songs that have preceded these on the list by clicking this link.
I’ve been a near-slobbering fan of this Finnish band since the first singles began to surface from their 2018 debut album Lightbringer, one of which (“The Chosen”) made my Most Infectious Song list (here) for that year. Thankfully they did not fall prey to any sophomore slump when releasing their second album Firebride last year.
To quote from the review of my friend Andy, who called the new album “brilliant”:
“To make a long story short, Firebride sounds like the result of some mad time travel experiment where some rapscallion (possibly in a stolen/borrowed Delorean) got together members of early Entombed and Black Sabbath and gave them access to modern day amps and recording equipment.
By which I mean it’s a hefty slab of Old School Swedish Death Metal heaviness meets Classic British Doom Metal groove that somehow manages to put a fresh (not to mention furious) spin on the traditional Death/Doom dynamic.”
My challenge with Firebride, as it was with Lightbringer, was in deciding which song to pick for this list. So many choices… as Andy correctly wrote, “Actually, the more I think about it, the more obvious it becomes that, for all its buzz-saw riffery and doomy delirium, Firebride is all about the hooks”.
Ask me tomorrow and I might pick a different song, but the one I picked today is the title track. When I first heard it I wrote that it was “a titanic neck-bender and bone-breaker (with typically terrific vocals of course)”. I also wrote, “Don’t be surprised if you see this one on the 2020 Most Infectious list”.
In the distant mists of February 2020 I sang the praises of this Russian band’s debut album Black Stream. In my review, I wrote:
“The album has rapidly become one of my favorite black metal albums of this (admittedly young) new year, and I don’t expect I’ll have forgotten about it when the year ends.”
As you can see, I haven’t forgotten. I also mentioned in that column that it would be a source of at least one candidate for this list.
The whole album is well worth your time if you haven’t yet discovered it. To quote myself:
“The tracks are all produced in a way that delivers spine-shaking and nerve-firing power, and there is almost no relent in the penetrating emotional force either. The songs channel shattering anguish and tragic, panoramic grandeur in equal measure, and the vocals are a terrifying force of nature, all of that driven by breathtaking percussive assaults and interspersed with bursts of neck-wrecking riffs and jolting grooves.”
Of all the album’s ravishing tracks, my choice for this list came down to “Пепельные Кубки (Ashen Goblets)“ and “Вмерзший (The Frozen)”, and I finally settled on the latter. It’s a frightening but transfixing experience, creating an atmosphere of terrorizing grandeur, but leavening that with some cruel but compulsive grooves that, through repetition, burrow themselves into the brain.
It may seem by this point in the list that Andy Synn has played some major role in the crafting of it, given how often I’ve picked songs from albums he reviewed for us. But in fact he has stayed away from making suggestions, which is pretty much par for the course every year, though every now and then I’ll seek his advice when I’m torn between tracks from the same album. I guess it’s more that his tastes and mine tend to intersect significantly.
And so here again I’ll quote from one of his reviews, this time concerning Endless Wound, the great 2020 album by the Colorado band Black Curse (whose line-up features members of Khemmis, Blood Incantation, Spectral Voice, and Primitive Man). After noting that the music “purposefully harkens back to the primordial days of Extreme Metal, when the genre’s progenitors were all still exploring and experimenting with the best way(s) to inject their music with the maximum amount of ‘evil'”, he wrote:
“What makes Endless Wound work, however, is that it’s not just about imitating bigger, better bands, or pandering to naked nostalgia without any substance to back it up. Instead it’s about channelling a sound, a style, an aesthetic, which allows the band to achieve their own vision, and to maximise their own potential. Yes, it’s a throwback, but it’s one with purpose, and ambition, beyond simply replicating and repeating exactly what’s gone before.”
Once again I struggled with which song to pick. Maybe I should have sought Andy’s advice. Instead, I stopped struggling and just threw a mental dart at my mental dartboard and came up with the album opener, “Charnel Rift”. One more quote from Andy‘s review concerning this song:
“It’s got an explosive, blast-fuelled opening, a short, slinky little bass break (leading into a beautifully grim and groovy riff), a doom-tinged mid-section which is accompanied by a mind-warping solo, and then a big penultimate riff-gasm which features yet another devilish, divebombing solo. And all in the space of just over five minutes!”