The Thin Air (Semi)-Alternative Christmas playlist is a great alternative for people who want to celebrate Christmas musically without having to resort to the same tracks played over and over again in supermarkets and shopping centres, some of us would rather spend Christmas back in the forest – preferably on a mountain – sharpening our axes and waiting for society’s inevitable collapse.
With regards to this, here are some albums for the Winter.
Agalloch – The Mantle
A beautifully grey album from Agalloch (pictured, top), The Mantle needs to be listened to in its entirety in order to fully comprehend the scope of it. An odyssey into Portland’s beautiful scenery, this album explores animism in the context of modern nihility and religion whilst evoking images of majestic fragility throughout.
Skyforger – Semigall’s Warchant
Raw, dark and uncompromising, this album takes you to the snow drenched forests of Latvia and leaves you there for the wolves. Borne out of a deep reverence for nature and coloured by the uncompromising landscape, this is black metal soaked in local folklore, history and mythology.
Burzum – Filosofem
This one is both more and less accesible than Uncle Varg’s earlier work, depending on where you are coming from. It is certainly more palatable to many due to the less abrasive sound (excluding the vocals), however the repetitive nature of the songs may turn away some listeners. Rarely straying from the main melody or riff on any song, this album builds up an almost suffocating atmosphere at times with the guitars still enshrouding the listener despite the lo-fi (read: thin) production. The synth reminds me of Trentmoller at times, but more haunting. And black metal.
Enslaved – Frost
This is a very complex album. The opening track establishes the frozen atmosphere of their tundra with almost glacial stillness. This calm is quickly pierced by the riffs, reaching like thorns through the blizzard-like drumming. Lyrics evoke the Nordic pantheon and subsequent mythology, and while later albums did work to a more traditional and melodic sound (while still delivering quality metal), the imagery present in this album, consistently relayed through challenging and progressive black metal is almost a celebration of the cold.
Primordial – A Journey’s End
Perhaps more of an autumn album than a winter album, this is absolutely essential listening. Primordial blend the best of black metal like Bathory and Emperor with their own unique Celtic tones, which colours their work with ‘dark romanticism’. A very sombre album, there is a real sense of isolation throughout, as the lyrical imagery ventures into the Gothic at times, with an aura similar to Le Fanu or Poe. That being said, this isn’t gentle music: it is delivered with aggression and passion which belies an underlying sense of yearning.
NB: Please ignore ‘Solitary Mourner’, genuinely one of the worst songs I have ever heard. Its inclusion is bewildering. Conchobhar Ó Dochartaigh