Winter Solstice 2016 (Photo credit: Shane Lange)

Waning Light, Severing Ties: A Playlist for the Winter Solstice 2016

Winter Solstice 2016 (Photo credit: Shane Lange)

Winter Solstice 2016 (Photo credit: Shane Lange)

Once again the time has come to say farewell to the year that has been and to pause and reflect during this, the longest and darkest night of winter, before the earth begins to once again lean towards the light.

Despite the generally depressing cultural climate of 2016 (or in spite of it) which saw relentless heartache at the deaths of several music icons; utterly absurd global hate-mongering; and the ongoing travesty of American politics; creatives nonetheless released some truly great music and art, and here we gladly revisit new tracks from the latter half of the year.

We could go on at length about these songs but each and every one is remarkable in its own way so we’ll skip right to the music. See below for tracklisting and commentary or just click play and enjoy!

TRACK LIST:

  1. Mayhem – Pagan Fears
  2. Syk – I Optikon
  3. Morkobot – Kologora
  4. Muscle and Marrow – My Fear
  5. Neurosis – Fire is the End Lesson
  6. Brain Tentacles – Cosmic Warriors Girth Curse
  7. Seven Nines and Tens – I Come From Downtown
  8. Esben and the Witch – Marking the Heart of a Serpent
  9. Dead When I Found Her – Tantrum
  10. Panzerfaust – Axis Mundi
  11. Anciients – Voice of the Void
  12. Sodom – Decision Day
  13. Gridfailure – A Severing of Ties
  14. Enmarta – Apokatastasis II

Beginning at the beginning: the black metal overlords of Mayhem just released a live recording of their hailed classic, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. The concert album serves as a precursor to the upcoming North American tour, which will see the band perform De Mysteriis in its entirety for 24 dates  over the course of four weeks in January and February. Italy’s Syk lives up to its name – this band is as sick as it gets. Although we’ve included music from their fellow countrymen in Morkobot on a previous playlist we still can’t get enough of their latest album GoRgo.

The opening track from Muscle and Marrow‘s “Love” album follows, and we love this album from start to finish. We’ve closely followed the work of veteran heavy music innovators Neurosis for 25 years and their latest release, “Fires Within Fires”, is a new favourite here on the factory floor that recalls the fury of classic albums Through Silver in Blood and Times of Grace. Brain Tentacles inject a lighthearted and psychedelic dose of heavy to the mix, followed by Seven Nines and Tens wistful yet uplifting “I Come From Downtown”.

Those of you that have been following along with our series of past playlists have doubtlessly realized by now that we’re particularly fond of heavy music with female vocals; somehow, Esben and the Witch have escaped our notice until the release of their utterly beautiful new album “Older Terrors”, but how glad we are to make the acquaintance of Rachel Davies voice, which soars above the snarls of her bass guitar.

After last year’s devastating “All the Way Down” Dead When I Found Her returned with another noteworthy release, “Eyes on Backwards” from which we include the track “Tantrum”, which is decidedly less harrowing than last year’s material and more assertive in its revival of Nettwerk-era Skinny Puppy aesthetics. (Evidently Vancouver’s postpunk/industrial festival Verboden is still booking acts for its three-day weekend event in April 2017 so we’re crossing our fingers that DWIFH will be added to the lineup.)

On new album The Lucifer Principle, the (in our estimation) true Panzerfaust continue to impress and inspire with its organic, intuitive approach to black metal. Naturally we would have loved to see this release carry on for an additional 30 minutes but we’ve waited a long time for this followup to 2013’s Jehovah-Jireh: The Divine Anti-Logos so we’ll shut up and take it.

Much to our surprise and delight, Anciients‘ new record is rife with a Voivod-ian vibe, as demonstrated by the eponymous opening track. More, please!

Sodom‘s “Decision Day” closes out the heavy music portion of the mix with barb-sharp thrash structures and terse production. While it’s great to see this style of music elsewhere embraced by new legions of young bands, it still takes a veteran act like Sodom to deliver thrash in its purest, classic form.

Closing dark ambient tracks from Gridfailure and Enmarta paint an auditory landscape as bleak and barren as an empty mall parking lot buried in snow – the customary end to another season of holiday consumer gluttony – although the warm string flourishes on Enmarta’s  “Apokatastasis II” are somehow as optimistic as they are melancholic.

Best wishes to all for the coming season on this longest night of the year.

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