You see what I did today? I guess it’s not very subtle.
Believe me, it’s not easy to pick the songs for this list, because so many are deserving. When things jump out like these did as I was frantically scrolling up and down through my alphabetized list of candidates, it’s very easy to give in to impulse rather than yield to insanity.
Mind you, these songs were on the list of candidates for a reason, and they jumped out not only because of the bands’ names appearing in fairly close proximity to each other and with phonetic syllabic kinship. I remembered the songs and mentally exclaimed THERE! THAT’S IT! PART 15 IS DONE!
Three years ago I picked a song from Disllusion’s comeback album The Liberation for the 2019 edition of this list. Three years later Disillusion returned with another album, Ayam, and here we are again.
Like that previous time three years ago, it was again a review by Andy Synn that first made me pay attention, although the album subsequently wound up on a lot of year-end lists both here and elsewhere, providing extra reason to be attentive.
The music on Ayam has many head-turning and head-spinning facets and contrasts, all of them interwoven with consummate skill. As I’ve done in other cases this year when I had some trouble picking just one song from an album that was home to many worthy candidates, I chose one that came with an excellent video.
Like the album as a whole, “Tormento” provides lots of twists and turns, from the dreamy, cinematic intro to the pneumatic slugging that follows, from the sinister spoken words to the sky-high singing and voracious howls, from the blistering percussive assaults and disturbing melodic seas to the swirling fretwork spectacles, the electrifying drum fills, and the heart-exploding musical maelstrom at the end.
Last year the Danish band formerly known as Defilementory made a very big “reset”. A long eight years after the release of their debut album The Dismal Ascension, they released a new album (Scar Echoes) with a changed sound and they changed their own name to mark the occasion. Whereas Metal-Archives branded Defilementory a “Brutal Death Metal” band, Scar Echoes embodied dark and dissonant death metal delivered with intense ferocity and technical flourishes.
But that emphasis on dissonance and technicality didn’t prevent the songs from being infectious, and the one I chose for this list is “Silvery Tongues“. Even without the imagery of the video that came with it (which will cause skin-crawling discomfort for arachnophobes), the song is capable of putting your teeth on edge. It’s a full-bore assault of obliterating drums, flying fretwork, and howling vocal insanity, but the high ring of the guitars at the outset is an unnerving expression of frenzy and fear.
The band break up the assault with start-stop rhythmic explosions, acrobatic drum fills, and a sonic kaleidoscope of riffs that channel serial-killer cruelty and mindless insectile swarms, but those eerie and unnerving wailing tones from the song’s opening re-surface repeatedly, and they tie the song together. More than that, those motifs get stuck in the head despite how desperate and agonized they sound. In other words… infectious….
During 2017 and 2018 we devoted quite a lot of attention to The Abyss Noir, the second album by the Athenian metal band Disharmony, whose multifaceted musical textures have drawn comparisons to the sounds of Nevermore, Sanctuary, Judas Priest, Iced Earth, and Anthrax. Five years later, Disharmony returned with their third full-length, Gods Made of Flesh, and it got a lot of deserving attention too.
To pull from Andy’s review, Gods Made of Flesh kicks an inordinate amount of ass, “delivering both some seriously heavy riffage and a plethora of soaring vocals hooks, as well as some impressive lead guitar pyrotechnics”. And once again, I wrestled with which song to put on this list.
There were a bunch of possible choices, including a song we premiered (“The Cynic and the Beggar“) and one that Andy called not only the best song on the album but also one of his favorite songs of the year as of the May date when he wrote the review (“L.I.F.E.“). I’m not going to argue against the point that “L.I.F.E.” is the best song on the album, but I do find the one we premiered to be the slightly more infectious.
“The Cynic and the Beggar” packs a visceral punch — it jolts, slugs, and spits armor-piercing bullets — but its melodies and the clean-sung vocals soar. Harsh vocals become a menacing, snarling presence, but the guitar soloing swirls and flashes in displays of scintillating splendor. Sinister harmonies abound, in both the vocals and the guitar melodies, and feelings of grim portent and blazing glory conjoin. Loosen your neck and press play below: