We’re getting down to the wire for the completion of this list, so I’m doing my best to pack in as much as I can before I post the final installment on Monday — hence, this Saturday segment, and I’ll add another one on Sunday. I’m also again expanding the remaining segments to include four songs instead of the usual three.
For most of these posts I’ve had some kind of reason for grouping the songs together, even if they may not always be clear to others. But today there’s no reason at all. I’m just flailing around trying not to forget things as the list rushes to a close. To check out all the preceding songs on the list, click this link.
Darkthrone put out a well-received new album last year and there’s still a chance I might pick something from it for this list, but today I’m adding something from a different Nocturno Culto project, i.e., Sarke. The fact that I’m now including this song should come as no surprise, because I did actually guarantee it when I first commented on the track back in October.
I liked this comment about the album from a blog called Flying Fiddlesticks that I saw in a press release about the band’s 2021 album, Allsighr: “SARKE is known for an atypical mixology, combining basic rock from the 1970s with curious bursts and – least likely to go with the others – black metal infusions. It is crackle and stomp with a gloomy cloak strolling in the swirling mist…. This music will completely take you over if you let it. And you should let it.”
Allsighr did take me over. The whole thing is both interesting and catchy as hell, but the track that grabbed me first and then didn’t loosen its hold is “Beheading the Circus Director“. So, get ready to rock the fuck out in this tale of revolution and vengeance, with the afore-mentioned Nocturno Culto on vocals and Steinar Gundersen doing a star turn on guitars.
HOODED MENACE (Finland)
I have no inside knowledge about sales of The Tritonus Bell, but I’ll bet it’s the best-selling album of this band’s career. The stylistic changes that have made it so popular succeeded in extending its appeal beyond the band’s core fanbase in the subterranean realms of doom/death — and predictably provoked some backlash within that core.
Honestly, none of that has mattered to me. I took the album just as it is, divorced from what preceded it, and really enjoyed the record. I found two songs particularly infectious. One was “Chime Diabolicus” and the other was the one I actually picked, “Blood Ornaments“, which was the first advance track from the record.
When it first surfaced guitarist Lasse Pyykkö commented that “it comes with some of our most intriguing ingredients yet…. There’s a contrast between death/doom misery and head-bangable heavy metal riffs like never heard before in Hooded Menace‘s music, making ‘Blood Ornaments‘ my favourite track from the album”.
He wasn’t kidding. From the first highly head-bangable minute of the song, I wouldn’t have guessed this was Hooded Menace. But this leopard hadn’t completely changed its spots. After that bracing start, the song becomes monstrous (thanks in part to Harri Kuokkanen‘s horrifying growls) and steeped in anguish and misery. The gut-punching grooves and pulse-racing riffage from the opening return (along with variations, and soloing spectacles), but continually trade places with episodes of appalling menace, frenzied ferocity, shimmering, unearthly mystery, and poignant heartbreak. And it all ties together beautifully. Hell of a good song, and a very infectious one.
I didn’t provide a written guarantee that this next song would make the list after I first heard and wrote about it, but I made a mental guarantee to myself.
I wound up premiering a full stream of the album, accompanied by a review, and I still think it’s tremendous. But before that happened I paid attention to a single from the album that was accompanied by a video which included a fascinating collage of images. That’s the song I immediately knew would be on this list. To repeat what I wrote at the time about “Bloeddraad“:
It’s the sound of a sinister dream, an embroidery of acoustic chords and ringing guitars, of bestial snarls and flesh-flensing screams, of shimmering synths and eerie, mercurial arpeggios. It includes a slower, spellbinding break near the end that features choral vocals and a feeling of rising, ominous grandeur. And in addition to that, the song has tremendous visceral appeal, thanks to a simple but compelling drum rhythm, accented by bursts of rumbling double-bass.
The song is from this enigmatic heathen black metal project’s third full-length album, Vergezicht,
JUST BEFORE DAWN (Sweden)
I’ve confessed repeatedly that I’m a die-hard of old-school chainsawing Swedish death metal. Like Pavlov’s dog at the ringing of the bell, I tend to start drooling whenever I hear a band (old or new) who really do it well. I’ve also repeatedly stated that I think Just Before Dawn are among the very best of the current practitioners.
Last month, just as the year was about to expire, JBD released an EP named In the Realm of Ash and Sorrow as a tribute to their fallen brothers Sven Groß and L.G. Petrov, both of whom passed away in 2021. It included four new original songs and a cover of the Entombed song “Drowned”. I gave it a brief review here, from which I’ll provide this excerpt:
By now everyone should know that where JBD excels is in the delivery of absolutely crushing, neck-wrecking riffs, with a tone that makes the cliched “chainsaw” metaphor a pitiful understatement — and you’ll get a big dose of those in the new EP, matched again by Jon Rudin‘s skull-cracking drumwork.
But JBD has also become very adept at manifesting other dimensions of mechanized war besides channeling massive tank attacks, bunker-busting bombing campaigns, and the fierce and frightened frenzies of combatants. The songs on this EP, as in previous releases, include melodies (as well as haunting, heart-felt solos) that capture misery, despair, and grief — the traumatic after-effects of bloodshed and death. And Remco Kreft‘s gritty, full-throated roars and high-flying howls are vivid in their manifestations of raw fury and torment.
You’ll get a feeling for all of those qualities in the song I’m now adding to this list: “Bloodlands“.