Oct 312010

Late last week we decided to start running a series of posts on long songs that actually warrant the time required to consume them.  All of the songs we have in mind are quite recent releases from quite interesting bands.  Our first installment was a 16+ minute song by Hull. Today, we’ve got one that’s almost 12 minutes long. It’s called “The Watcher’s Monolith” and it will appear on the forthcoming album by Oregon’s Agalloch.

Agalloch is a blazingly talented underground band with a global cult following that seems to care very little about self-promotion.  They create their music with devotion to detail, they release it when they’re ready and not before, and they’re constantly exploring. If by chance you’re not familiar with Agalloch, they’re not easy to shove into a genre pigeon-hole, in part because the music has evolved so significantly over the course of their discography. To varying degrees, they incorporate elements of black metal, folk metal, pagan metal, progressive rock, and — well, maybe you get the idea.

Agalloch’s new album, Marrow of the Spirit, will be released on November 23 via Profound Lore Records. This will be the band’s fourth full-length release, and of course it’s highly anticipated in certain circles (including the somewhat oblong circle here at NCS). In the run-up to that release, Agalloch’s John Haughm granted an interview to Stereogum, and in conjunction with that interview, Stereogum debuted “The Watcher’s Monolith” two days ago. In a word, it’s awesome.  (more after the jump, including the song . . .)

Oct 312010

Yesterday we tossed up a teaser on this site, just a single song for you to hear with no information about the band (other than the mp3 tag that I didn’t know how to eliminate from the file). We did promise to reveal more about the music today, and we don’t lie.

The song we featured yesterday is called “The Discovery”. It’s the seventh track on a debut album that’s also called The Discovery. It was released in July 2008 by a “band” called Cloudkicker, which turns out not to be a band at all.

Cloudkicker came to my attention via a message from my occasional NCS collaborator IntoTheDarkness, which was worded as follows: “Ok, so I know ur not much for instrumental stuff, but i’ve been listening to a lot lately and you need to check these guys out. They are called Cloudkicker and they are hands down the best instrumental band I have ever heard next to AAL. Especially check out the song ‘the discovery.’ Fucking incredible.”

So that certainly got my attention, particularly because “AAL” is Animals As Leaders, and I’ve made quite plain my slavish devotion to that band. I tracked down the song, listened to it, and quickly decided that yes, it is indeed fucking incredible. And it turns out that Cloudkicker has generated a lot more music that’s equally awesome.  (more after the jump . . .)

Oct 302010

I’m in Austin, Texas this weekend visiting family and friends. 1349 and Triptykon were playing last night at a venue called Emo’s. I was tempted to go, and the group of non-metalheads I was hanging out with even indulged the idea for a while. But then, it got to be 11:00, and then 12:00, and then 1 a.m., and of course by then the idea had perished in a flood of beer and tequila. My friends probably would have run screaming from Emo’s even if I’d managed to herd them over there.

At some point during the night I got a text message from my too-infrequent NCS collaborator IntoTheDarkness raving about a band he had discovered. He doesn’t rave very much, so I decided I’d better check out the music. I was in no condition to do that last night after the flood subsided, and I’m not in much better condition this morning — but I downloaded two albums (legally) of the music ITD recommended, and I’ve been listening to random songs this morning while nursing my titanic hangover.

The weather in Austin has been stunningly good. This morning, the sky is a crystalline, cloudless blue, the air is cool and dry, and there’s an invigorating breeze. It almost makes me feel human. And sitting outside in that environment, gazing at the sky and feeling the breeze, turns out to be an almost perfect setting for this music. (more after the jump . . .)

Oct 302010

When we last checked in with our favorite bagpipe-driven metal band from South Africa, Haggis and Bong, about a month ago, they had just made four songs available for free download on their ReverbNation page. That ended a long dry wait for us. Finally, we had the ability to carry H&B songs around with us so we could get skirled to death by the music whenever the fuck we wanted!

A month ago, we also learned that Haggis and Bong had expanded their line-up to include, in addition to the Highland pipes and drums, a bass player and a trombonist. We wondered how the addition of a bass would affect the sound (we thought it would likely make it more metal), and of course, everyone knows that a metal band without a trombone is like a three-legged dog.

And now we know — because Haggis and Bong have added a new song to their ReverbNation player called “Celtic Force” — and it includes bass guitar and trombone!  That player also includes an upload of yet another song from the band’s 2008 debut, Fire in the Bowl.  That one’s called “The Plague”. And you can download both those new songs (in addition to the previous four) at a cost of nothing more than a mouse-click and a dirty thought.

And since we know our readers oh so well, we know all this will really cost you is the mouse-click. (more after the jump . . .)

Oct 292010

The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes had it right: life is nasty, brutish, and short. In much of the world, living conditions have improved in the 360 years since he wrote those words, but still — too many people are no damned good, bad things happen to the best among us, and the truly wicked get away with murder. On the other hand, living does have its compensations, and the immense and constantly evolving variety of music is one of them.

As with life in general, the kind of metal I tend to prefer is also nasty, brutish, and short. This suits my attention span, which is somewhere between that of a hummingbird and a rhesus monkey.

Long songs tend to try my patience, perhaps because the length so often seems forced — as if bands were taking shorter songs and artificially padding them to achieve a certain length rather than because the bands really needed more time to express what they were thinking and feeling.

But in the last few days I’ve come across some long songs that merit every minute of the attention they require. And when I say long, I don’t mean 6 or 7 minutes. I mean loooong — as in, the shortest one is 16+ minutes. And that’s the one we’ll start with today. It’s called Viking Funeral, it’s by Hull, and it blows my fucking mind.  (more after the jump . . .)

Oct 282010

We’re starting to get our engines revved up for Nile’s fall NorthAm tour with Ex Deo, Psycroptic, Keep of Kalessin, and Pathology — which will detonate in Seattle on November 12. And just to make our fucking day, Nile has recently released an official video for the completely awesome song “Permitting the Noble Dead To Descend To the Underworld” from their completely awesome 2009 album Those Whom the Gods Detest.

If you know this song, then you know it includes a blistering Karl Sanders solo — but you watch this video and you’ll see living proof of just how blistering it is. See if you notice any change in the appearance of vocalist/guitarist Dallas Toler-Wade. And if you don’t, time for that eye exam you’ve been putting off.

The vid is after the jump . . .

Oct 282010

The people who have collaborated on the creation of this site live in the Seattle area, but we spend most of our time covering music from around the country and the world. Even when we go to shows and write about them, we tend to focus on national tours, and if we see a local band, it’s only because they’re an opening act providing support for the tour. That’s not to say that we’ve ignored bands from the Pacific Northwest. For example, we’ve written about Arkhum, Blood and Thunder, Odyssey, 7 Horns 7 Eyes, I Declare War (before they hit the big time), and more.

But although NCS is never going to be just a local or regional metal blog, we do feel compelled to start paying more attention to metal that the PNW has to offer — not just because supporting our local scene is a worthwhile cause, but also because this region is producing a lot of very good music that you might like to discover. Metal in the Northwest is growing and strengthening, and the bands in Washington and Oregon are getting more organized and becoming more mutually supportive in sharing information, expertise, and ideas.

So, with thanks to Blood and Thunder’s Ryan Yancey for gently kicking us in the ass outside El Corazon at a recent show to focus more on the local scene, we’re going to do that — starting today. And today, we’re shining our feeble, guttering, NCS spotlight on a band from Tacoma, Washington, called Terra Morta, which was one of several bands that Ryan promoted to me in that sidewalk conversation not long ago.

My two NCS co-founders have heard Terra Morta’s live performance and really liked what they heard. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet caught their live show — a deficiency I intend to remedy. But I have been listening to the music they’re streaming on their MySpace page, and I’m really liking what I hear.  The music is a blending of death, doom, and black metal that’s very cool. (more after the jump . . .)

Oct 262010

Last week we opened a new chapter in our correspondence with African emissaries who want to give us money.  The Nigerian/Ghana chapter seems to be over. No pre-funded ATM cards, big piles of cash, or bags of gold dust have ever arrived at the NCS island, and we’re hearing nothing but crickets from our original correspondents (all of whom have proven themselves to be no better than used toilet paper).

But as we reported last week, we heard from two women — one from Mali and one from Burkina Faso — who were attacked by the ravages of cancer, and whose experiences led them to offer me large sums of money, presumably because they are trve metalheads and appreciate all the awesome metalness this site has to offer.

As reported last week, I wrote back to both of them — one who survived cancer, and one (Ms. Sandra Luzy) who expected to end her race, perhaps even before my e-mail would reach her. So far, I’ve received no response from the Malian cancer survivor who is spending my money vacationing in Japan — but I did receive a message from the bank that the mortally stricken woman from Burkina Faso had appointed to funnel $4.5 million my way — assuming I was the first foreigner to apply for the money following her anticipated expiration.

But strangely, on the heels of that message, I received a different one from another bank in Burkina Faso offering what seems to be a completely different — though equally eye-popping — sum of money from another distant relative of mine who perished in a car crash.  As in the case of the late Dr. Phillip Waterman (he of the bag of gold dust), I’m having trouble placing the name of this relative, but the money involved is rapidly improving my memory. (more after the jump . . .)

Oct 262010

On our metallic NCS island, speed is usually king. The metal we usually prefer is fast and overhwhelming in its power. The closer it comes to producing feelings of delirium and dementia, the better. Catchy rhythms and memorable melodies are nice, too — we find that those elements in a song tend to bring us back for repeat listening. Even in those instances, however, we still prefer that the hooks be embedded in music that zooms along like a machine on a fast track.

But every now and then, though infrequently, the king takes a holiday and turns the island over to slower moving creatures. On those days, we might spend a few somewhat more tranquil hours in the Lorisarium — which unfortunately exists only in our minds, because our duplicitous pen-pals in Nigeria, Ghana, Mali, and Burkina Faso have still not followed through on their promises of wealth so that we might make our Lorisarium dreams a reality.

Off and on over the past couple of weeks, the king has been edged into a forced absence by the music on a debut EP called As Beauty Springs From Mud . . . that we received from by a band called Rest In Disgrace. On first impression, the seven songs on the EP seem simple. The pacing varies, but never arches into the red zone of mayhem. There’s very little blazing fretwork or techie song construction, and the drumming didn’t cause our jaws to drop in amazement at its dexterity.

But the more we’ve listened to this EP, which is built around lyrical themes from Buddhist and Hindu philosophy, the more impressed we’ve become. It combines mid-paced death metal with elements of doom and prog and melodeath, with mood shifts implemented by dreamlike instrumental interludes. It’s not as simple as it seemed at first, and even in its simplest moments, it exerts a primal attraction.

As Beauty Springs From Mud expertly combines the heavy with the sublime, and has won us over despite our usual preference for blazing catharsis. And there’s one song on the EP in particular that has pulled us back again and again like few songs we’ve heard this year.  (more after the jump, including that song . . .)

Oct 252010

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Today we have another album review from our UK guest contributor Andy Synn about a band called In-Quest . . . ]

For those of you unaware of this band, here’s a quick summary… In-Quest are a Belgian death metal band, vaguely comparable to Decapitated and Meshuggah in terms of dry, futuristic technical death metal, and who formerly featured Aborted singer Sven De Caluwé amongst their ranks. They’ve so far produced 5 albums of ever-increasing quality, and although the early stuff is woefully out of print (and not quite as good), the EP Destination: Pyroclasm, and the albums Epileptic and The Comatose Quandaries are all still available and highly recommended.

The latest album [released in December 2009], Made Out Of Negative Matter, has definitely seen the band refine their approach to its sharpest yet, both in terms of speed and overall intensity, by partially scaling back the melody to make way for a more dis-harmonic approach that famously recalls “I” by the mighty Meshuggah. Moreover there’s a depth to their sound that seems lacking in much of “modern Death Metal”, allowing the crafty listener to peel back layer after layer of music and structure in order to truly appreciate the craft involved.

For the more suspicious/jaded amongst you, the band’s mixture of low slung, grooving death metal riffs, poly-rythmns and haunting lead lines might bring to mind any number of today’s aimless Meshuggah clones, yet whilst the influence is clearly there, In-Quest are amongst the special few bands who can take this influence and wield it well without ever coming close to being derivative.  (more after the jump . . .)

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