Like all the best-laid plans of mice and men, my goals for the rollout of this list have obviously gone seriously awry. With Part 10 having gone up on January 18th, I’ve missed six weekdays. That’s six missing installments of the list that will be very difficult to make up if I stick to my plan of finishing the rollout by the end of January. Which means I will probably have to change that drop-dead date, because I’d really like to load the list with more tracks than the remaining days of this month will allow, and I’m still busy enough with other things that it’s unlikely I’ll be able to double-up the installments every day.
Anyway, on we go…
Necrophobic’s 2020 album Dawn of the Damned was one of those records that was home to multiple candidates for this list, and as I considered them, no one track clearly stood out above the others. In an effort to settle on just one song, I sought the input of Andy Synn. As usual, he was very little help. He suggested it would be a choice between “Mirror Black”, “Dawn of the Damned”, and “As the Fire Burns”, which simply confirmed my own selection of candidates — though I also had “The Infernal Depths of Eternity” in that group.
So, what the hell to do? In this instance, having tied by mind in knots, I decided to defer to our readers. Among those of you who sent in suggestions for this list, “Mirror Black” got the most nods, and I’m completely fine with that. It IS a gloriously hellish anthem — brazen and supernatural, grim and ferocious, fiery and full-throttle, and of course very memorable.
HEAVEN SHALL BURN
I suppose it’s obvious that today’s installment of the post is focused on some of the bigger names in the metalsphere, with Heaven Shall Burn now following Necrophobic. And once again, their 2020 double album Of Truth and Sacrifice proved why their name has such a high profile. Yes, the thought of a double-album was a bit daunting — such things almost inevitably seem to contain a healthy dose of filler, or at least a dramatic variation in the relative strengths of the material. But as Andy Synn wrote in his review, “I’ll be damned if they haven’t gone and pulled it off.”
When the band released a music video for “Übermacht“, I quickly guaranteed in print that the song would be on this list, even though I hadn’t yet heard the whole album. Purely as a courtesy, I checked with Andy since he did write our review and he does dearly love this band. He, of course (because he delights in being contrarian) said my choice was the wrong choice, and that the honor rightfully belonged to “Protector“. I believe in that exchange he also said something about presenting his own list of 2020 songs to celebrate, and that “Protector” would be on it, regardless of what I chose.
So, to indulge a bit of contrariness myself, I’m changing my choice to “Protector“. It is true, as Andy wrote in his review, that it “is an instant classic made up entirely of razor-sharp riffs, lung-splitting vocal hooks and shamelessly catchy, Gothenburg-esque leads” — even if “Übermacht” truly is top-shelf neck wreckage. “Protector” also happens to have been presented (along with “Weakness Leaving My Heart”) in a very good video.
Sweven don’t have a profile as high as the first two bands in today’s portion of the list, but their profile certainly took off in a meteoric rise once their debut album The Eternal Resonance began making the rounds. The album initially drew a lot of attention because Sweven had been formed by Morbus Chron‘s frontman, guitarist, and songwriter Robert Andersson, and shared its name with Morbus Chron‘s last album before that band called it quits. The album thus inevitably drew comparisons to Morbus Chron – and those comparisons weren’t entirely without merit. As our reviewer Gonzo wrote:
“The Eternal Resonance contains all the same dynamics that made Sweven’s previous incarnation such a goddamn treasure trove for metalheads – Andersson’s unhinged snarl lurking underneath an old-school Swedish death metal backdrop infused with psychedelic grooves, long neoclassical-inspired passages, and enough subtlety to make every listen unveil something new.”
But as Gonzo also wrote, “Sweven takes the road paved by Morbus Chron and adds a few more lanes and some wild twists and turns”. Among all the uniformly distinctive songs on the album (which appeared on lots of year-end lists), “Mycelia” is one of the heaviest and hookiest., but is also loaded with twists and turns.
The band create some sharp contrasts, as they are want to do, leading us through mesmerizing hallucinatory passages as well as gauntlets of tension and turmoil, while also making room for lots of neck-bending ingredients. The chiming arpeggios turn out to be catchy as well as creepy; the big heavy metal chords catch attention immediately; the drumwork triggers all sorts of muscle reflexes; and the sinister and sensuous guitar-and-piano duet creates a riveting experience crescendo.