We’ve made our way up to Part 4 of this evolving list, and so far I’ve managed to keep to the plan of posting a new installment every day since I started.
This is one of those days when there’s no rhyme or reason to the grouping. Stylistically, the three songs have almost nothing in common, other than (of course) that in my judgment they’re all infectious. But even there, the reasons for the infectiousness are also different, as you’ll learn for yourselves.
AN ABSTRACT ILLUSION (Sweden)
“Tear Down This Holy Mountain” is another rarity for this list, an unusually long song that I still find infectious despite its length, or actually because of what happens during all those 11 1/2 minutes. I’m not alone in that respect, since the song received a lot of nominations from our readers, as well as from my compatriot DGR. And to be honest, the song is such a remarkable artistic achievement that I’d feel churlish not finding a place for it, even on a list where artistic achievement isn’t the main measure of success.
I should add that I hope putting the song here will induce more people to investigate Woe, the album where it appeared. Maybe no further inducement is needed for the visitors to our site, since among our writers it occupied the top spot on Gonzo’s year-end list here, the No. 8 spot on DGR’s list, and an appearance on Andy Synn‘s “Critical Top 10” list for 2022, where he wrote:
With its rich tapestry of electrifying riffs and eloquent leads, shimmering synths, and prodigiously powerful percussion, all topped off with one of the most creative, cathartic, and emotionally-resonant blends of gritty growls and captivating cleans that you’ll have heard all year, this is clearly the product of a band with a truly vital and unique voice and vision of their own.
I’ll venture to say that those three NCS scribes (and myself) don’t often all agree that an album is among the very best of any year, because our tastes do differ, but that happened with Woe, and “Tear Down This Holy Mountain” is a great example of why that happened in 2022.
THE HALO EFFECT (Sweden)
If you could somehow sucker someone who knew almost nothing about metal to listen to Colony or Clayman and then listen to I, the Mask or Foregone, they’d laugh in disbelief if you told them the same band made all those albums. Except it really wasn’t the same band, was it? Because four of the members of In Flames who made those earlier records were missing from the line-up that made the more recent ones. Fortunately, those four — plus Dark Tranquillity vocalist Mikael Stanne — have joined together again under the banner of The Halo Effect.
You can’t really deny that the power of nostalgia is part of what made The Halo Effect‘s debut album Days of the Lost such a success, but I don’t think nostalgia alone accounts for its appearance on the year-end lists of our readers or its placement at No. 5 on Gonzo’s list, No. 22 on DGR’s list, or the good review that Andy Synn gave it. I’m in agreement with what he wrote:
[W]hile it’s definitely not going to win any points for originality (though some of the pre-release press might deserve a medal for excessive hyperbole) it’s got more than enough energy and exuberance to carry it over the finish line regardless, and its obvious lack of cynicism is actually pretty damn refreshing. Most importantly, it actually sounds like the entire band are having fun – something which can’t always be said for the often rather forced and formulaic output of many of their peers.
Like many of us, In Flames was an important gateway into extreme metal for me, back when Iwers, Engelin, Svensson, and Strömblad were the core of the crew, and so my ability to be objective about Days of the Lost is limited. But I know when I’m having fun, and I sure as hell have had a lot of fun with this album. It’s home to a lot of catchy tracks, but “Feel What I Believe” is the one I picked for this list.
THUNDERING HOOVES (UK)
What are the odds that the same band would have a song on both my 2021 Most Infectious Song list and on this year’s list? Well, the odds are pretty good when you have a talent for head-busting hooks as primo as Thundering Hooves have.
Last year the song was “Pallid Gaze” off their debut album Vestiges, and this year it’s a song from their follow-up full-length Radiance. We did premiere the new album in its entirety along with Andy‘s favorable review, and more than one of the tracks was on my master list of candidates for this Most Infectious Song list. After much head-scratching the one I picked was “A Howl from the Cloister”. In the band’s words, that song is “loosely based on the novel The Monk by Matthew George Lewis (1796), which chronicles a monk’s descent into vice and depravity after a life of rules and excessive discipline”.
If it were possible to pithily summarize what made Vestiges such a blast (and it really isn’t easy), I’d say it was how adroitly the band interwove so many stylistic ingredients that don’t usually find themselves all wrapped together (including black, death, doom, thrash, and good old traditional heavy metal) and made highly infectious songs out of them. And they did it again with the new album, “A Howl from the Cloister” being a fine example. It’s sinister and vicious, but it’s also a glorious infernal anthem, and you’ll get your groove on with it too.