Feb 032020


First of all, I want to thank everyone who suggested songs for this list, from the readers who left so many good recommendations in the Comments on this post last November to my NCS comrades who offered some of their own. With more than 450 songs on the final list of candidates compiled from those sources, plus my own ideas (which I assembled as 2019 went along), it’s obvious that what I chose was going to be massively incomplete. For the sake of accuracy I should consider re-naming this “Among the Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs of the Year“.

As I’ve made clear already, I forced myself to stop yesterday, not because I was completely satisfied that I’d gone far enough, but because I want to start devoting more time to 2020 music. At the end, I included 60 songs on the 2019 list, compared to a whopping 99 on the 2018 list, 78 from 2017, and 71 from the year before that. Below I’ve listed all the songs I chose, in the order in which I rolled them out, and I’ve hyperlinked them to the original posts where you can listen to the music. (I know it would have been easier on listeners if I had included all the streams right here in one place, but that would have taken more time than you probably realize. HOWEVER, one of our supporters, matt, has created a Spotify playlist that includes almost all the songs, and you can find that here.) Continue reading »

Feb 022020


As predicted at the end of yesterday’s penultimate segment of this list, I spent hours agonizing about what to include in this final Part. And in the end, despite the internal misery occasioned by having to make a final choice among so many strong remaining candidates, it’s still a largely random outcome — even though this final episode includes a LOT more songs than usual. Basically, I went with my gut, slightly aided by my brain, which thought this sequence of tracks might be a fitting conclusion. At a minimum, it’s more directly in line with the title of this list than yesterday’s choices.

The first three songs are guitar spectacles, the fourth and fifth ones keep the savage energy in the red zone in different ways, the sixth moves into malevolent brutishness (with serious risk of sore-neck syndrome), and then we shift gears into downright epic territory with the last two stirring and marvelously multi-faceted songs, which seemed the right way, in farewell, to express how glorious metal was in 2019.


I first stumbled across the Swiss band Matterhorn in the spring of 2018 when they had two songs up for streaming in advance of Iron Bonehead‘s CD release of their debut album, Crass Cleansing, and I came away very impressed. I had a tough time categorizing the music, describing it then as a stew of extremity that included elements of thrash, speed metal, punk, black metal, and death metal — and the overall impact was electrifying. Continue reading »

Feb 012020


I missed two weekdays in the rollout of this list, and I want to make up for that, so that’s the justification for breaking my promise to finish this list by the end of January. I have this installment today, and I’ll have another one tomorrow, and then on Monday I’ll tie things up with a black bow by listing all the songs from start to finish. Of course I won’t really be finished, because a ton of deserving songs will have been omitted. I will just have forced myself to stop.

Today’s four songs are all well-deserved exceptions to our porous rule about singing. The musical styles of the songs are all different from each other. All together, they make for an enthralling (and infectious) playlist.


Wil Cifer reviewed GastiR – Ghosts Invited for us, and concluded with this paragraph: “This is one of the few albums this year that I have been able to just leave on a let-play all day, on endless repeat, and not get bored with it. If you do not need your black metal to live on blast alone and prefer the feel of darkness, then this is more than worth your time”. Continue reading »

Jan 312020


2019 was a banner year for medieval black metal, and in this 20th installment of the infectious song list I’ve included four of my favorite tracks from four of my favorite albums in that fascinating sub-genre. I’ll quickly add that this installment could have been longer, and I apologize in advance if I omitted an album you think should have been included here. In my defense I’ll note that this is the first time in this year’s list when I’ve included four songs instead of three or two. (To check out all the other songs that have preceded these three, click this link.)


Our old friend Professor D. Grover the XIIIth (ex-The Number of the Blog) reviewed Obsequiae’s new album for us in late November, closing with the observation that “there is no doubt in my mind that The Palms Of Sorrowed Kings is the best album released this year”. Continue reading »

Jan 302020


Well, those of you who’ve been following this list know that I fucked up and didn’t post the next installment yesterday. I had some unforeseen and immediate obligations to deal with in my personal life. It was all I could do to write the premieres I had promised for yesterday. So now (if you’ve been counting), I have two missed days to make up. It’s looking more and more likely that I won’t finish by the end of January after all.

Excuses aside, today’s episode is another one in which I didn’t try to group songs that shared strong stylistic similarities and instead just wanted to make sure that I put these songs on the list before time ran out. Still, I do think they make a great playlist.


I gave a hint not long ago that there would be a Sorcery song on this list, and so there is, just as there was in the 2013 and 2016 editions of this list. Basically, with every album these Swedes have put out since their resurrection after a long dormancy, I’ve become so addicted to their songs that I’ve felt compelled to honor them in this way. Continue reading »

Jan 282020


Welcome to Part 18 of this expanding list. I’m a day late posting this one because yesterday turned out to be very busy. I’ll figure out a way to make up for that missed day.

This is another episode in which I decided to hook together three tracks that are stylistically dissimilar from each other, just to make sure I got them on this list before running out of time. But I do think the flow from one to the next makes this a good and dark little playlist, in addition to providing recognition to three addictive tracks that I’ve found myself returning to again and again.

(To see the songs that preceded these on the list, go here.)


I don’t always have time to immediately listen to albums reviewed by other NCS writers that I’ve not yet heard. But eventually I get around to them, and that’s what happened with Sūrya’s second album, Solastalgia, which was released by Argonauta Records last summer. I read Andy Synn’s review of the album in the course of getting it ready for posting, but couldn’t immediately give it a listen even though he said some very nice things about it and even though I was a fan of the band’s full-length debut, Apocalypse A.D. (2015). Continue reading »

Jan 262020


I’m writing this on Saturday, to make sure I’m able to post it on Sunday — because there’s a more than even chance that my head won’t be functioning very well on Sunday morning. I’m going to an annual party tonight (to celebrate the birthday of Robert Burns), and based on past experience I’ll drink way more single malt whisky and sleep less than is conducive to the formation of sentences the next day.

For the same reason, the odds are high that I don’t get a SHADES OF BLACK column written for Sunday (I also do remember that I never finished Part 2 of last Sunday’s column). So, to partially make up for that, the songs I grouped together in this Part 17 of the list fall into the categories of black or “blackened” metal.


In the 2018 edition of this list (here) I included the title track from Sargeist’s brilliant last album, Unbound. Given that the band have established about a four-year cycle on their albums, I figured it would be 2022 before we got more new music from them. But at the beginning of the last week of 2019 they dropped a surprise EP named Death Veneration. Continue reading »

Jan 252020


If past is prologue, some newcomer will see this post and go, “LOL — there’s clean singing in these songs!”, ignorant of the fact that from the very beginning of the site more than 10 years ago we’ve made exceptions to the “rule” in the site’s title where the exception is well-earned — and these three songs earn it.

Know-it-all newcomers may also point out, as if I didn’t know, that these songs aren’t really “extreme metal” either. But as these annual lists have gone on, also for 10 years, I’ve allowed myself some flexibility in my adherence to the title I chose for the them, in part as a way of providing a bit more breadth in the scope of the list as a vehicle for remembering all the good things that the preceding year brought us.

Of course I’ll quickly add that this Part of the list is just that — an exception in both respects, as you’ll understand if you check out all the preceding Parts (which you’ll find collected here). I’ll further add that it probably won’t be the last exception before I finish the list this year.

And with those observations behind me, let’s venture forth into the grand halls of doom…. Continue reading »

Jan 242020


I usually try to group songs together in these installments in a way that makes sense at least to me, sometimes grouping by genre but in other ways as well. Today, however, the music is a little more “all over the map”. All three songs come from albums I love (and I think are pretty uniformly liked by my NCS comrades too), and I just want to make sure I honored the music before running up against the end-time for this list. You can find everything that preceded these three tracks here.


Part of the thrill afforded by a new Blut Aus Nord album is the process of discovery, because BAN has rarely followed a straight and steady path from one record to the next, and predicting how their path might twist and turn requires a crystal ball. The music is, as Vindsval has said himself, a “process of perpetual regeneration”. In the case of their new album, Hallucinogen (which I reviewed here), BAN turned to psychedelia, which they transformed through reformulation into a new aesthetic. Continue reading »

Jan 232020


Yesterday’s Part of this list was pretty blackened. Today I decided to become enshrouded by death (metal). The first band is now up to their third album, but the other two made their debut releases last year (though one of those has a veteran line-up whose members are attached to a much more well-known band, who themselves released a new album in 2019 that may also make an appearance before I finish this list).


As in the case of yesterday’s list, I’m beginning with a band whose discography was the subject of a SYNN REPORT last fall (here). That band is the UK group Vacivus, whose work Andy recommended to fans of Incantation, Teitanblood, and Sulphur Aeon. But he mentioned some other names as reference points as well. He wrote: Continue reading »