We have made our way up to Part 14 of this year’s Most Infectious Song list, and for the second day in a row I don’t have a coherent organizing principle for why I put these three tracks together, other than the infectiousness of the choices.
I think I can accurately say that these songs are all infectious in the sense of being intensely memorable. They’re so dramatic and often daunting that calling them “catchy” doesn’t seem quite right. But are they the sorts of songs you’d gladly put on a playlist so you can listen to them over and over again as time passes? I think so!
Some songs are so stunningly dramatic, so vast in their scale, so frightening in their intensity, that they send shivers down the spine no matter how many times you hear them. Kampfar‘s “Urkraft” is one of those songs. Even right after I heard it for the first time early last spring, I wrote: “I haven’t committed to memory all of Kampfar‘s tracks spread across an 8-album discography. I’ll just say that I can’t recall any song in their repertoire that stunned me on a first listen like ‘Urkraft‘ did. Listening to it this morning, I was stunned all over again.”
Rumbling and sinister at first, the music begins to blaze like a rapidly kindling bonfire, accompanied by truly extravagant screams. The rhythmic punch of the song is potent, but the band shift the music into a passage of sorrow before it rises again in torment, with near-sung vocals and ferocious chants that are just as extravagant as the cries and shrieks. There are ebbs and flows in the song, but it always comes back to the direction of its arrow — toward heights of gripping, heart-rupturing intensity. The video created for the song by Carl Eek suits the epic expansiveness and harsh contours of the music.
Eventually, Kampfar released the album that included this song, and many other fantastic ones. Andy Synn‘s review of it ended with these words:
“Make no mistake about it, Til Klovers Takt is easily on par with the band’s very best work, as well as being one of the most vital and vibrant Black Metal albums of the year, and it’s high time we all started to give these Norwegian devils their due.”
I think it’s fair to say that all of us at this site were ardent fans of Vallenfyre from the very beginning, and thus it was a sad day when Greg Mackintosh decided to inter that band which was his brainchild. The blow was softened when Mackintosh eventually began another project named Strigoi, especially because Strigoi’s music at first seemed like a natural continuation and progression of the previous project, albeit with more and different elements added to the mix.
And then came Strigoi‘s second album Viscera, released last year. Our reviewer DGR saw it as a cycling back around “to the realm of dense, slow-crawling dirge, death, and doom,” albeit with faster songs in the track list that created a dynamic within the album, and some songs embodying that dynamic, or other kinds, within themselves.
DGR pointed to “Byzantine Tragedy” as trafficking in that vein but with “a laser-sharp focus on build-up in its opening minutes”. He wrote further: “’Byzantine Tragedy’ does a lot throughout as well, with its lead guitar and backing ambience breaking up the sense that it’s another crawler. Every chorus – if you can define the low intoning of the song title as a chorus – has the lead guitar melodically soaring into the sky, while the backing vocals sound like a choir from hell finally getting the chance to call out to someone above”.
Like all the tracks on Viscera, “Byzantine Strategy” is a striking experience, and I’m persuaded that it’s the most infectious one, though that’s a close call, and it’s a worthy entry for this list. Even that frightening build-up at the start and the other scary interludes are damned hard to forget. Hell, the whole song is frightening, in a world-ending way, including the astonishing vocals.
PREDATORY LIGHT (U.S.)
Gonzo wrote the review we published for Predatory Light‘s latest album, Death and The Twilight Hours. He presented it as the answer to this question: “What would it sound like to listen to a choir of demons perform in a haunted church?”
The album included only four songs, two of them very long, and one might have feared that the band would get lost in their own maze of cavernous riffs and shifting tempos, but Gonzo insisted that any such fears were never realize:
“The songs quickly unfurl their tentacles around you and lure you in, like a demonic presence beckoning from the darkest corners of the room. Was it your mind playing tricks on you, or when you stared into the void, was it actually staring back?
“There are some hints of the same kind of madness Deathspell Omega is so proficient in crafting here, as well as some of that insidiously infectious songwriting of Negative Plane.”
I did find passages within even the longest of these guitar-driven spectacles in memory of plague to be infectious, and those two longest tracks had many other captivating (and blood-congealing) ideas around the corners of their winding paths. But I concluded that it was one of the comparatively shorter songs that made for a more natural addition to this list.
That song, the closing track “To Plead Like Angels“, provides an electrifying combination of riotous drumming; devil-spawn vocals; grand, ominous chords; and a layering of beautifully-toned lead guitars that ring and writhe, careen and cavort, in ecstatic delirium (and do indeed sound like they were recorded in a haunted cathedral). Those riffs are devilishly crazy but do get stuck in the head.