I began rolling out this list day-by-day on January 2nd, promising that I’d force myself to stop at the end of the month. The end of the month has now arrived, and sadly for me, today is the final installment. I mean, it would seem odd to continue a year-end list into the second month of the next year, but I easily could have kept the list going for another month.
That’s because many worthy songs still remain on my list of candidates, and in fact many are just as worthy as the 66 I’ve included through today. I readily admit that, and I only regret that I couldn’t name more before running out of time. So please hold your fire because a bunch of your own favorite tracks didn’t make it.
Tomorrow I’ll have a “wrap up” post that lists all the songs in one place, with links to each of the 22 installments. Here are the final four:
In his review of Ashenspire‘s 2022 full-length, Andy Synn wrote: “Hostile Architecture is one of the best albums of the year. That’s not exaggeration or hyperbole. It’s just an accurate assessment of the second album by Avant-garde, anti-capitalist Black Metal collective Ashenspire“. In explaining why, he underscored that it wasn’t just “the thrilling vitality and vibrant versatility of the music which makes this album so great,” because “the lyrics are just as important to the overall experience, offering up a damning critique of the cruelty and inequality cast in concrete and baked into the foundations of society”.
The lyrics of “Tragic Heroin“, and the way they are expressed, is certainly a vital part of why that song made such a big initial impact on me, and why I’ve gone back to it a lot. The song took me by surprise — over and over again — when I first encountered it. Underpinned by sludgy bass lines and unpredictable drum maneuvers, it sounds at first like high-intensity post-metal, and the vocals like a lit-up poet passionately proclaiming his lines on an urban street corner with unnerved people flowing around him like a stream around an immovable stone.
Feelings of despair seep through the music, the vocals catch their own rhythm and then sing, the guitars ring and shine, jitter and dart. The song hits a compulsive rumbling and hammering groove as a violin dances in delight (or maybe agony). The drums start blasting, the vocals become even more wild… and the song abruptly stops, too soon. The video for the song is also hell of a thing to watch.
This next pick is a song that I had the pleasure of premiering along with the video it came with last year. I knew then that I’d have to include this hellraising song before ending this list, and so I have. I’ll repeat what I wrote before:
“Irreligious” is a mean song, like a pack of big feral dogs that haven’t eaten in a week. The drums drive hard, the dirty riffing growls and brays, jitters and slashes, and the vocals sound like the inflamed growls and snarls of a throat filled with blood and bone fragments. And speaking of hell, as pulse-pounding as the music is, it’s also palpably menacing and sinister, as well as flame-throwing and vicious.
Turbocharged also keep you on your toes, switching up the pace and the riffing in a way that will work your neck, and using the change to make the music sound both more infernally occult and more brazenly imperious.
Needless to say, “Irreligious” is also highly infectious. And in listening to this song yet again, I still think it’s likely to have a strong appeal for fans of Goatwhore (one of our favorite hellraisers on this side of the water)
The video is a DIY effort by the band, and it’s a cool thing to see. Filmed from a lot of angles and with excellent lighting, it adds to both the menace and the electricity of the song itself, which is already very damned electric.
CULT BURIAL (UK)
I really did have to think hard about adding one of this band’s 2022 singles to the list. Not because I had any misgivings about choosing “Strive“, but because I wondered how people would react to me calling such a bleak and devastating song “infectious”. However, it’s a stunning song, and a very memorable one, and that’s certainly one quality intended by the term “infectious”. To repeat what I wrote once before:
“Strive” is monstrously heavy, with a thrumming undercurrent you can feel in your bones, and the waves of melody are both heated and disturbing. The tremolo’d vibrations of the riffs lacerate the mind like storms of needles as the vocals growl and howl and the drums clobber and clatter. There’s a towering and sweeping quality to the music as it erects musical monuments of peril and pain.
The wail of the lead guitar sounds unhinged. The music leads us into a miasma of sonic poison, choking and inflaming the throat. It also drops bunker-busting bombs and then continues to seethe and sear, to writhe like maddened vipers, and to rise up like a frightening behemoth. The lyrics are as apocalyptic as the music, and include this memorable phrase: “Immense depravity weighs on the soul”.
FALLS OF RAUROS (U.S.)
Because we’ve reached the end of this list I decided to choose the song that ends Falls of Rauros‘ latest album Key To A Vanishing Future (reviewed here). I easily could have picked one of the others from that record (“Known World Narrows” was especially tempting), but it just seemed fitting to go out with the way the band went out on their latest opus.
Like most of the other songs in today’s collection, the lyrics to “Poverty Hymn” are intensely dark, and evocative of the despair that fills so many lives in a broken world. They connect to the words of “Tragic Heroin” and “Strive” above. And the intensity of the vocals makes them even more shattering.
The music channels feelings of despair as well, driven by a rhythm section that packs a visceral punch and fueled by trilling guitars that blaze in brilliance. Bu there are also feelings of fiery resilience and heart-stopping grandeur in the music, as well as moments of poignancy and beauty, and the ending, despite the crushing words, points to something like joy.
And so today we end… on a high note after all.