We have seven weekdays left before the end of January, which marks my self-imposed ending of this list. Seven days before I ought to stop, and like every other year, the impending end adds to my anxiety levels because I know I have so many more songs I’d like to include and not enough room to include them all. To begin this final seven-day stretch I decided to concentrate on shades of black metal.
Seemingly out of nowhere this indigenous black metal project from the Adirondacks made a big splash in 2022 with a debut album denominated I. The size of the splash was measured by how often it appeared on year-end lists, both here and in many other locations across the web. For those of you who somehow missed the album despite all the attention and acclaim it received, I’ll borrow some words from Andy Synn’s NCS review:
“It’s a heady brew, that’s for certain, one which moves seamlessly from seething rage to swaggering groove, all laced with gleaming threads of melancholy melody and mournful atmosphere, but one which never loses its sense of direction or identity – rather, each element builds upon and enhances all the others, such that the final product is, pardon me for saying so, more than just the sum of its parts…. [T]here’s a damn good chance that we’re going to one day look back on this record as the dawning of a vital new voice in the scene”.
Before most of us heard the entire album we heard an early single named “Barefoot Ghost Dance on Bloodsoaked Soil“, a song that summoned those who would stand against the defilement of the Earth, “spears in hand” and blood flowing their veins like a river “to ignite the sacred flame”. That song made an immediate impact and has stayed with me. To repeat what I wrote at the time:
The song sends swaths of grand, grim, and despairing melody across the senses like a racing mass of storm clouds, accompanied by thrilling drumwork and vocals that scorch the earth with their screaming and roaring intensity. It’s an enormous adrenaline rush, and the emotional power of the melodies is deep and immersive. The storm does briefly abate, and then the music seems to call back to an ancient age, channeling feelings of both splendor and tragedy.
In my late-September browsing for music to feature in one of my round-ups I got bowled over by the discovery of a song from the Peruvian band Putrid off their then-forthcoming split release with Hexorcist from Florida (whose music was equally breathtaking). That song got its hooks in my head so powerfully that it’s one I’ve kept going back to for a guaranteed adrenaline rush, and so I had to put it on this list.
That song, “March Into Ashes”, is no march, but (as I wrote at the time) is “one of the most electrifying and explosive onslaughts I’ve heard this year”. It’s like a racing tornado of fire that torches and obliterates everything in its path, but also includes monumental grooves and power chords of ferocious grandeur to go along with all the light-speed drumwork, the warped and writhing riffage, and the berserker vocals.
I haven’t been keeping count but my sense is that most of the songs on this list so far have come from 2022 records that one or more of us here wrote about last year. However, this next song is an exception. We didn’t review Gudsforladt‘s album Friendship, Love and War, and I never wrote about any of the music in any of the round-ups I put together. What finally made me pay attention were recommendations from readers when I asked for suggestions for this list, followed by Todd Manning putting the album in the No. 8 spot on his NCS year-end list. I also saw this recommendation on Facebook from Jacob Buczarski of Mare Cognitum fame:
“What are you supporting today on this fine Bandcamp Friday? Here’s a good choice: GUDSFORLADT presents today the newest chapter of their heroic style of melodic black metal with classic heavy metal attitude. Through lush, warm twin guitar attacks, mystic tales of the redemption of the self are deftly woven and loneliness turns to triumph”.
Well, as you can tell, the album hooked me when I finally listened to it. As Todd noted in his YE list, the music is “raw and underproduced black metal, but with great guitar harmonies”. It further includes some beguiling acoustic interludes, and the emotional atmosphere of the music truly is redemptive and heroic.
The appeal of those guitar harmonies is potent, even though the sound is rough and the screamed vocals are fanatically abusive to the ears. I decided to pick “Heads Bowed in Silent Prayer” as the entry for this list. It applies the blowtorch immediately, then quickly converts into a gripping gallop. There’s kind of an Old West twang and texture to the ensuing motif, and then the song carries it high like a banner whipping in the wind, racing into a glorious crescendo.