Welcome to Part 3. Like yesterday, I was influenced to put these three songs together because of the videos that were paired with them, and because all three are shades of black metal.
Kanonenfieber had a productive year, following up quickly on the brilliance of the band’s 2021 debut album Menschenmühle. Last year they brought forth two EPs, Yankee Division and Der Fusilier, and both of those included songs I put on my list of candidates for this list as soon as I heard them. But it was the standalone single “Stop the War” which won out.
I confess that the subject matter and the video tipped the scales. If there had been no video and I hadn’t known why the song was written I probably would have chosen “Der Fusilier I“, or at least it would have been a harder choice.
The single was released on March 3, 2022, eight days after Russia began its invasion of Ukraine. The person behind Kanonenfeber (Noise) made clear this music was not about Kanonenfieber or any effort to profit from tragedy. The band’s logo didn’t appear on the cover art. All proceeds were donated to the charitable organization Caritas Emergency Aid – Ukraine. The goal was to spread awareness about a horrific conflict that Ukraine was confronting, which at that point was just one week old.
The video for “Stop the War” unfolds in roughly four parts, as does the music. Ominous and bleak at first, the music matches the imagery of once beautiful cities threatened by the start of a brutal invasion. The music explodes in a soaring fury ladened with melancholy as the video depicts scenes of shocking devastation. The music softens as the video provides footage of protests. And then, coupled with film of armed resistance, the song throbs with a fiery pulse and then soars again.
We’re now approaching the one-year anniversary of the invasion, with no end in sight. It looks like Putin’s goal now is no longer conquest (which proved to be impossible) but simply ruination. Today no one is unaware of what is happening, but the song still sticks in the head.
VIDRES A LA SANG (Spain)
Last summer this Spanish band released their fifth album, Fragments de l’esdevenir, one that pays homage to the poetry of the great Catalan author Miquel Martí i Pol (1929-2003), whose works have been a steadfast inspiration to the band’s mastermind Eloi Boucherie (also known for his work in the wonderful White Stones). I found it an unusual and thoroughly fascinating piece of musical alchemy, one that’s intricate and technically impressive, experimental and progressive, both bewildering and mesmerizing, and yet also fiery and ferocious in ways that I thought would appeal to fans of death and black metal.
In advance of the album’s release I happily premiered a song called “Salveu-me els ulls“. Not then but a short time later, the band released a video for the song that was filmed and edited by Visualnoise Barcelona. It’s a fascinating thing to watch, and it did play a role in my decision to include this song on the list. I’ll repeat what I wrote in the premiere:
“Salveu-me els ulls” builds slowly, with warbling and whining tones gradually swelling in volume. The sounds are strange and inhuman yet somehow seem melancholy. With such a subdued and unsettling start, it thus comes as a surprise when the band suddenly begin a rapid assault — drums battering, bass bubbling, guitars jabbing between the two channels, and the voice growling with guttural lows.
The fretwork frenzy intensifies and comes in bursts, adding to the music’s feeling of insectile dementia. Yet sensations of ecstasy flower through an extended guitar solo that beautifully swirls and soars over the rhythm section’s turbocharged and increasingly extravagant attack. The rapid, bursting pulse of the song returns and climbs to new heights of electrifying exultation as the vocals scream; the rhythm section puts on a display of eye-popping virtuosity; and the guitars revel in their fevers.
IMPERIAL TRIUMPHANT (U.S.)
Having picked that unconventional but still infectious song by Vidres a la Sang for this list, I decided to include an even more unconventional one right after it, which was presented with its own attention-seizing video.
I suspect that “Maximalist Scream” will strike many people as an odd choice. Among other things, none of our readers proposed it among their collective 223 song suggestions. I didn’t even put it on my own evolving list of candidates after I first heard it. But I’ve revisited the song several times in recent weeks, in part because I wanted to watch the noir-ish video again, and realized that it is indeed a catchy concoction, bizarre and unsettling as it is.
The song features guest vocals by Snake from Voivod, and it reveals Voivod influences in other ways too. It’s a lurching and staggering menace, but also includes manic but unpredictable drumming and crazed screams, as well as hideous snarls and freakish fret-leaping contortions. And that’s just the beginning.
The song’s hallucinatory, twisting and turning, maneuvers further include mercurial, hypnotizing bass lines; swirling, swarming, scathing, and searing anti-melodies; bursts of slashing discordance; moments of meandering madness; and a finale that sounds like sirens going off. It’s quite an intricate and elaborate mind-fuck, and yet its twisted hooks (corkscrew hooks?) are compelling.