This is the day on which I originally planned to end the rollout of this 2020 list, but I’ve revised my plans, mainly because I wasn’t able to make a new installment on a daily basis during January. The days I missed have left me with too many songs that I still want to include.
The 2019 edition of this list included 60 songs, which was a lower number than in the preceding three years. If you’ve been counting, you know that this year I’ve only made it to 42 so far (including today’s two tracks), so I really feel compelled to keep going. When will I stop? I haven’t quite figured that out yet, but I’ll let you know when I do.
…And Oceans‘ 2020 record Cosmic World Mother was a comeback album, the group’s first full-length release since 2002. As my friend DGR wrote in his review, it was also one of the more blistering releases to come out last year, a symphonic black metal assault that was “absolute hellfire in song form”. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t contagious.
DGR called out the album’s title track as “easily one of the album’s highlights and possibly one of the best points to end Part One of an album on”. He wrote:
“‘Cosmic World Mother’ is a massive song — so huge in fact that it’s felt like a personal roadblock in writing this review since it was first heard, and it sits five songs into the album. ‘Cosmic World Mother’ isn’t even one of the longest songs, yet it’s a testament to using each and every element available to …And Oceans as effectively as possible. The song just seems to build, and build, and build during its roughly four-and-a-half-minutes, absorbing everything that was done in the four songs prior to it until it becomes a musical blob of its own. Its own personal dynamics can seem to color the first four songs of the disc, making it seem like …And Oceans were building up to that specific moment, when ‘Cosmic World Mother’ bursts into flame in its back half before suddenly being put out.
I dallied with consideration of another song or two from the album for this list, but then got my head screwed on straight and acknowledged that it really had to be this one.
It has been a rewarding experience to watch the rise of Gaerea since they first appeared on the scene. Now it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to call their name a household word around extreme metal fandom. They’ve come very far relatively quickly, and their 2020 album Limbo deserved all the praise it received. Among those showering it with appreciation was our own Andy Synn, who closed his review this way:
“Make no mistake about it, Limbo is not an album for the faint of heart. It’s an unforgivingly intense, emotionally wrenching experience, from start to finish, which demands an awful lot from its audience. But it’s also one which rewards the truly dedicated listener with the sublime experience of having all their negative emotions dragged up, laid bare, and washed clean in a raging flood of pure catharsis. And who among us doesn’t want to experience that, at least once in their lives?”
Of all the powerhouse songs on Limbo, it’s the long album opener “To Ain” that for me has become the most memorable. Andy also singled it out in his review: “While the music is, undeniably, driven by a thunderous torrent of rolling kicks and hammering snare hits, it’s the song’s meditative mid-section – the calm at the heart of the storm, if you will – which is its true heart, and it’s the contrast between these fleeting moments of melodic ambience… which makes this record so incredibly immersive and endlessly engaging despite its almost overwhelming intensity”.
I spilled words of my own after I first heard “To Ain” and saw the Guilherme Henriques video through which it was presented: “In both its sights and its sounds the new video is extremely powerful. The inner pain they express is mutilating. The music is both crushing and explosive, delirious and despairing, sweeping and scathing. For such intense music, it’s also thoroughly immersive… or perhaps it’s better said that this is an emotional vortex that’s hard to escape. There is a point at which the music becomes soft and sublime in its glimmering radiations. The effect of that instrumental interlude is mesmerizing – a bit of rest in this searing journey.”
And so, “To Ain” goes on my list: