Like yesterday’s installment of this list, today’s lucky 13th grouping doesn’t have much rhyme or reason to it. I mean, all these songs are here because I found them all highly infectious and very good in different ways, but I sure won’t claim that they have many other connections.
Oh, I guess I should mention that all three happened to be either songs or videos we premiered at NCS, though that’s not the reason I picked them.
I feel honored every time someone asks us to host a music premiere, but I admit I was especially excited when we were asked to premiere the come-back album of this Danish death metal band last year. Not only did it represent the return of a group who made a heavy mark in the old annals of death metal with their 1992 debut A Serenade of Agony, it also featured Dan Swanö stepping in again to fill the session vocal role, as he did under the name Day Disyraa for that 1992 debut. And the new album also turned out to be really fucking good — an opinion I attempted to justify at great length in a review accompanying the premiere.
photo by Carsten Horsted
I won’t repeat everything I wrote for that premiere last November, but I want to emphasize again how fervently and adoringly Maceration returned to the roots of ghastly and grisly Swedish death metal on last year’s album, and how mad, monstrous, and hideously majestic the music was. The album also repeatedly demonstrated Maceration‘s “fiendish talent for cooking up riffs that are big ear-worms, or sharp hooks (choose your poison), and bringing them into play with songs driven by dynamism and fueled by adrenaline”.
I could easily pick a lot of songs from It Never Ends… for this list, but I chose the title song. Even though the humongous buzzing riffage within the title track seems to straddle a line between despair and derangement, it’s a grim musical expression of endless suffering that gets stuck in the head damned fast, even as it pounds and punishes. And of course Dan Swanö‘s vocals are tremendous.
This next selection happens to be another song that we were proud to premiere here. Even before that it had become apparent from previous singles from their 2022 album Arcane Paths To Resurrection that these Greeks had a talent for cooking up gale-blown, flame-throwing, and slashing riffs that had potent hooks in them, fortified by a rhythm section that thundered but also rocked, and by vocals that were both deliriously hellish and grim in their chants.
The song we premiered, “Enslaved To Be“, was further proof that Decipher know how to concoct riffs that set the hook fast and hard, even if the mood they create is daunting and disturbing — and the way “Enslaved To Be” begins is certainly all of that. The guitars feverishly writhe, creating feelings of confusion and agony, and they flare and ring, catching attention just as quickly that way, while the drumming hurtles and stalks and the vocals range from vicious snarls to extravagant cries.
It’s an ear-worm of a song to be sure, even though filled with sensations of peril, degradation, and hopelessness. The lead guitar refrain that takes over the song in the closing two minutes is a great example of this quality: It seizes attention quickly and burrows deeper as it cycles along, but its mood is sheer heartbreak, and it seems to cry out in pain at the song’s finale. Just because the song ends, it doesn’t let go. Easy choice for this list.
P.S. I thought the album would probably be released by Transcending Obscurity Records before the end of last year, but it’s still not out and I haven’t seen a release date. So this is another instance of a 2022 song I’ve put on the list from an album that will be out in 2023.
Well, I had to find some place and some time for this song (I had to!), and I guess today is as good as any.
If you’ve never heard the song or seen the fantastic video before, you might be scrunching up your face at first, about to snarkily say, “But you called this a list of extreme metal songs!” But just wait a bit. “The Devil’s Garden“ is also the closing track on this Arkansas band’s 2021 EP, Every Kind of Dog, so you might also be questioning what it’s doing on a 2022 song list. But the video we premiered came out last year, and that’s good enough for me.
I went on and on and on about the song and the video in what I wrote for the premiere, but will resist the desire to repeat it all now — just some of it.
The song traverses some interesting and unexpected musical territory. It features an array of instruments that includes mandolin, cello, violin, banjo, upright bass, and different guitars. The strings provide a dark and downcast overture, setting the stage for frontman Baker McKinney‘s arresting voice and a soft thumping beat. The effect is spellbinding as well as sorrowful, but when McKinney reaches the soaring chorus and the banjo becomes more prominent, the song becomes livelier — and more devilish, as the fiddle melody rises.
The tune will get your toes tapping and your head nodding, but a tense and heavy undercurrent begins to swell in the sound, leading toward a scorching scream. What was once merely sinister becomes frightening; what was harmonious becomes abrasive; and the vocals becomes a cold, gritty roar. The drums hurtle, the bass thunders, the other instruments convulse in a frenzy, and the roars and screams turn cacophonous. By the end, the whole experience feels demented and predatory.
And then there’s the video, which features Baker McKinney and his daughter. What a lucky little girl that is. What a lucky father that is. How lucky we all are, to have this.