We just wrapped up a whole week of celebrating the best albums of the year. Some of these albums hooked us immediately. Others took more time to marinate in our mental cauldrons before they were ready for proper consumption. Today we celebrate the growers rather than the showers.
In his acknowledgement of his number 5 pick, Mysteries by Black Cilice, the Masterlord commented:
Quite possibly the rawest release of the year; Mysteries sounds like absolute fucking shit, and in the best way ever. Black Cilice has been around for a while, but when Joe slung me the promo for Mysteries I had no idea what I was getting. During my first cursory listen, I still had no idea what it was. After three or four listens, I still… you get the point. It took a while to settle into its own, but once it did, it did, man. The endless layers of distortion, the dying-whale-in-a-wind-tunnel howling, the hauntingly melodic ebb and flow of deliberate feedback, all coalesce into a suffocating soundscape of coarse but captivating sum of its parts. I had trouble explaining the appeal when I reviewed this way earlier this year, and that hasn’t changed. But this has stuck with me, and I find myself throwing it on every time I need a depressing dose of raw ambiance.
I experienced something very similar with one of my own choices, Black Wisdom by Grey Heaven Fall. Though I was immediately drawn to the sound of “The Lord is Blissful in Grief”, the remainder of the tracks took me a fair amount of attentive listening to parse.
It’s curious to me that music we should, ideally, take to immediately so often requires effort for us to enjoy. I am no stranger to challenging metal. I love Jute Gyte and Krallice and even heaped praise upon Hirngemeer by Todesstoß, remarking:
Clocking in at a grueling 75 minutes, Hirngemeer is a nigh-impenetrable mess, and that’s exactly what mastermind Martin Lang intended. Each of the three songs is a steel spider-web of gibbering screeches and maniac grunts, drunk tremolo riffs, bio-organic percussion, and other, weirder elements (including synths and harmonica). There is no discernible structure to be found, just a loose, sprawling impressionist painting of our fever dreams in sonic form. If you want music that tests both your patience and your sanity, there are a lot of parts to enjoy in these three long tracks, but you’re going to be investing quite a bit of your time to pull out those small nuggets of brilliance. However, if you embrace fluid definitions of black metal and want to see it pushed to artistic limits, listen to the album here.
Still, Black Wisdom was a challenge for me to grasp. Perhaps it was due to the length of the songs. Perhaps it was due to the uniformity of the relentlessness across tracks. Perhaps my brain is just exhausted here at the end of the year.
Perhaps, though, music catches us and grips us at just the right moments in our lives. I can think back to a number of records that meant something profound to me at a certain point in my life. Artists like Nine Inch Nails and Agalloch took on new meaning for me over the years as I accumulated certain life experiences and underwent the appropriate triggers that allowed those songs to resonate with me where I was. Perhaps the same is true for an album like Black Wisdom.
Whatever the reason, I’m glad I persevered, as dissecting every subtle chord change and rhythmic shift, every little eccentricity and deliberate oddity, inherent in the record has been a gratifying experience. I’m doubtless you’ve experience the same sort of joy that comes from working to understand and enjoy a particular album. I’m sure that not every one of your favorite albums meant the same to you when you first heard them as they do now.
This is your moment to weigh in on that. What have been some of your favorite late bloomers, either of the year or all time?