I’ve grouped together many of the preceding installments in this list (all of which you can find here) by various organizing principles that made sense to me. I don’t really have one for today’s Part of the list, other than the fact that both groups here are black metal bands and both make distinctive music, albeit in markedly different ways. One made a very big splash with their 2020 album, and the other is still beneath many people’s radar screens, though they deserve more attention (and maybe this post will help produce a bit more of that).
This Finnish band just keeps getting better and better. They were a worthy choice for one of The Synn Reports last year (here), in which Andy meticulously traced their growth over three albums into becoming “masters of a scintillating brand of Black Metal which fuses the epic extravagance of their countrymen in Moonsorrow with the swaggering, riff-centric approach of Immortal and the fearless melodic mettle of Bathory“, while also making the sound something they could rightly call their own.
The most recent of those albums, 2020’s Uinuos Syömein Sota, was (in Andy’s words) “somehow more epic, more heroic, more atmospheric, and more powerful, than ever before”, and it predictably made lots of year-end lists, including many lists of our own and our readers that appeared at NCS. Every song on the album is a memorable one, but the one I picked for this list is “Pohjolan Tytär“. Andy described it this way in his review:
“‘Pohjolan Tytär‘ kicks off with a killer riff that sounds like Abbath playing early Metallica, before settling into the sort of titanic, cinematic groove that Kampfar have made themselves masters of in recent years (with a similarly varied and venomous vocal performance too), leading to a back half that’s dominated by some of the most ridiculous (and ridiculously awesome) solo/lead work on the entire record”.
I doubt everyone will agree with this choice — because every other song on the record is going to be someone’s favorite. But choices must be made… and this song truly is spectacular. Prepare to have your heart leap into your throat (and to get of a helluva neck workout):
LAETITIA IN HOLOCAUST
Now we come to an album that I fear is still flying along below most people’s radar screens, despite its manifold attractions. This Italian band flew beneath my own radar until I had the startling pleasure of premiering and reviewing their 2019 album, Fauci Tra Fauci, which turned out to be an enormous surprise. I’ll share just a bit of what I wrote about that album, because much of it still held true when I encountered their 2020 album, Heritage:
“The music displays the variability and inventiveness of the avant-garde, but this duo incorporate melodic hooks and other instrumental motifs that make the music coherent and memorable despite all the eccentric twists and turns. And that makes the album the best of both worlds — it’s unpredictable and head-spinning, intricate and unrestrained, but not inaccessible to a mind that prefers a bit of order. There’s very little that’s simple about the music. They’ll lock into patterns just long enough to hook you with it, and then move on to something else. Yet the effect is not disjointed or confused. Everything is according to plan… even if those plans are more than a bit mad.”
Heritage also proved to be unpredictable, and thoroughly charismatic. One song in particular really got its hooks in me (it took about 10 seconds of the flickering opening riff for that to happen), and I still go back to it a lot. “Dissolution in Black Pastures” is a wild trip, amalgamating thrilling, crazed arpeggios, bursts of rapidly jackhammering industrialized groove, and furiously blasting drumwork. With growled vocals that are utterly ferocious and generous doses of flickering and soaring fretwork, as well as electrifying drum-tumbling, the song is a blood-rushing extravaganza. But in the passage near the end, when the drums steal the spotlight and the bass murmurs and moans, shimmering ethereal tones add an element of mystery.