Nov 302010

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are behind us, but the relentless commercial onslaught that is Christmas is not done with us yet — not by a long shot. To borrow what Matt Taibbi vividly wrote about Goldman Sachs, the commercial Christmas machine will continue to wrap itself around the face of Western humanity for the next 30 days like a great vampire squid, “relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.” As you’ll see, even some metal bands turn into vampire squids this time of year.

Yes, we need to vent a bit. That’s all. To be brutally honest, which is the only kind of honest we know how to be at NCS, we have nothing original to say about Christmas. Will that stop us from expressing our opinions?  Fuck no!  If incisive original thought were a requirement for NCS posts, we’d be in very deep shit. Lacking any such constraints, however, we will proceed — and you can’t stop us!

You might infer from the title of this post that it will just be an atheistic diatribe against Christianity, but you would be wrong. From our point of view, it really doesn’t matter whether you’re a Christian, an adherent of some other faith, or someone who has concluded that God is a myth, that Jesus was just a man, and that religion is for feeble-minded sheep.

Really, it doesn’t matter what you believe or don’t believe: All right-thinking people, Christians or not, theists or atheists, should raise their voices and middle fingers in unison and repeat after us: FUCK CHRISTMAS! (more after the jump . . .)

Nov 292010

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Today we have another contribution from our Midwestern correspondent BadWolf -- this time, an awesome interview with Grace Perry and Matt Martinez following a recent live performance . . .]

The following interview with Arizona Death Metal masterminds Landmine Marathon was conducted on November 20, 2010 at Frankie’s Inner City in Toledo, Ohio by BadWolf.

Landmine Marathon killed it that evening, by the way.

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G- My name is Grace Perry and I’m the singer for Landmine Marathon.

M- My name is Matt Martinez and I play bass.

BW- You guys, the whole tour [Skeletonwitch, Landmine Marathon, Withered (who did not play on this date)] is on Prosthetic Records. What is your relationship with Prosthetic Records?

G- A really great relationship. We’ve only been with them for a year now I think. We released Sovereign Descent with them, and they re-released Rusted Eyes Awake as well as Wounded. It’s a very easygoing relationship—not very demanding. I’m happy.

M- The really cool thing is that their roster isn’t huge. It isn’t ten releases a month; they really focus on their bands. That’s been the awesome thing.  (more after the jump .. including a video)

Nov 282010

You probably thought we were finished with our mini-series on long songs — but no, we’re not finished. We have one more. Well, maybe two more, if we ever get around to the second one in between reviewing the flood of stunning new albums that were released the last couple of weeks. But at least one more, today.

In our previous installments of this series, we reviewed long songs by Hull, Agalloch, Akelei, and Radiance. Today, we’re writing about the longest song yet in this series: It’s an album-length song released last year by a black-metal band called Obitus. The album is divided into seven tracks, but that’s merely to facilitate jumping to favorite passages; Obitus intended the album to be heard as a single, seamless work, more than 47 minutes in length.

Now, in today’s frenetically-paced, attention-deficit-afflicted world, asking music fans to sit still for an entire album’s worth of non-stop listening is like trying to stop a surging river in its course with kind words. But in our heart-of-hearts, we know that unless we slow down and focus, at least every now and then, we will miss out on some valuable experiences. And so it is with the second full-length album from Obitus — The March of the Drones.

Obitus was formed in May 2000 by a couple of Swedes, Anders Ahlbäck (who plays all the instruments) and Johan Huldtgren (vocals and lyrics). Since then, they’ve produced a demo, a split, an EP, a debut full-length that was never released, and The March of the Drones. They took some risks creating an album-length song, testing the patience of a mostly impatient population of metalhead fans. But they clearly poured their hearts and souls into this work — and don’t be misled by the title: It refers to the album’s lyrical themes. Musically, The March of the Drones is a full-body immersion into a surging torrent of dark fire.  (more after the jump . . . including a sample of the music)

Nov 272010

It’s been almost three weeks since I put up a MISCELLANY post, which is way too long. My vacation had something to do with that delay, but still — too long. My list of bands to check out has grown to gargantuan proportions, which means the selection for today is even more random than usual — and this post is also really long. But it’s a fucking holiday weekend, and what else have you got to do?

You know the rules of this game by now: I keep a running list of bands I’ve never heard but who look interesting for one reason or another, and when I have time, I randomly pick a few names off the list and listen to one song from each band — not knowing in advance whether the music will be worth a damn. And then I record impressions in these MISCELLANY blogs, and provide you the songs I heard so you can form your own opinions.

For today’s way-late installment, I checked out four bands from distant countries. In fact, distance was sort of the criterion I used for picking names off the list this time. Of course, all countries are distant from Seattle, except Canada, which is more or less spitting distance away.

Not that I would ever spit on Canada. In fact, when I get nauseous about the state of political discourse in the U.S. (which happens about every other day), I fantasize about moving to Canada — until it dawns on me that I don’t know anything about the state of Canadian political discourse, plus the national sport seems to be hockey, which always looks to me like someone dropped a big pile of ants onto a piece of ice and stirred ‘em into a state of frothing anger with a big stick. In other words, I have no fucking idea what’s happening.

Where was I? Oh yeah — metal bands from distant countries. For today’s post I checked out Heathen Beast (India), Skrypt (India), Bilocate (Jordan), and (in a late addition to the post) Ektomorf (Hungary). See what I found (and listen to the songs), after the jump. And just to spare you the suspense — I was pretty well blown away by what I heard from the first three bands, and the fourth was at least fun.

Nov 262010

Legend is a metalcore band from Michigan whose debut album, Valediction, we reviewed in June (here). At that time, the members of Legend included vocalist Chad Ruhlig (ex-For the Fallen Dreams), bass-player Joe Ellis (also ex-FTFD), and guitarist Aaron “Bubble” Patrick (ex-Bury Your Dead). In the space of the last five months, the line-up has undergone a thorough revision. Ruhlig is still on vocals (thankfully), but Ellis and Patrick are gone, and the new line-up consists of Devan Dickerson (guitar), Matty Harrah (bass and vocals), and Dylan Shippey (drums).

Today’s update was prompted by the revised Legend’s hot-off-the-presses release of a new song called “Proven”. It’s a hot song — heavy as fuck, obliterating as a jackhammer with a mind of its own, synaptically convulsing, and fueled by Chad Ruhlig’s wonderful hardcore howls and death-metal growls. The production has got just the right mix of muddiness and clarity for a brutally downtuned song like this. And to put some sweet icing on this dense cake, Legend’s label (Rise Records) is making the song available for free download at the band’s Pure Volume site (here). We don’t know how long the free download will last, so don’t delay — go get it.

Now, even though it only takes seconds to download this song, you may still want to hear it before allowing it to occupy the precious storage on your hard drive. We can handle that. We can let you hear the song first. And we can even do better than that. We can play you the song while at the same time allowing you to see a time-lapse video of Josh Schroeder, a.k.a. “Metal Josh,” creating new merch artwork for Legend. Josh also runs a professional recording studio (called Random Awesome), and he happens to be the dude who recorded this Legend single (in addition to recording albums for Dagon, For Today, Beneath the Sky, Hester Prynne and many others). Multi-talented people make us insecure.

So, while creating the artwork that you see above, Josh kept the camera rolling and then speeded it up so you can see the creation of the art from beginning to end while you listen to the song. Seriously, it’s so much fun to watch. So, continue past the jump and watch it!

Nov 262010

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Our UK contributor Andy Synn made his way to Oslo, Norway, to catch Dark Tranquillity's live show on November 6. DT was supported at that club show by fellow Swedish metallers Avatar and Marionette. Andy provides this review of the night's offering of metal in Oslo.]

John Dee’s in Oslo is a surprising venue in many ways. As the smaller of the rooms available in the building on Torgatta you immediately expect it to be of perhaps a lower quality than a larger venue, yet overall the entire place was presented with a higher degree of class and quality than most venues of a similar size which I have visited here in the UK. Wide-ranging and extremely clean, well-laid out with two separate bars and a raised area at the back of the room, the venue worked perfectly for a metal show this evening. Kudos to the owners and staff of John Dee.

Unfortunately, the supports were not exactly of the same level of quality.

MARIONETTE

First up was Marionette, a Swedish band of whom I’d heard good things with regard to their brand of modern melo-death, influenced performance-wise by Japanese visual Kei. Unfortunately, they were, and are, routinely terrible. Embodying much of what has gone wrong with the melo-death sound in recent years, the band appeared onstage garbed in black shirts and white ties, each with their own “interesting” hair-style and accompanied by a singer in a pseudo-Japanese mask that lasted all of 30 seconds on his face. They came across as a bad metalcore band using keyboards and “wacky” imagery to appear interesting in a desperate attempt to appeal visually to angsty teens who think that Green Day are punk as fuck and My Chemical Romance have something important to say about the youth of today. (more after the jump . . .)

Nov 252010

Plainly, I have too much time on my hands today. I didn’t set out to do a THAT’S METAL! post, but the surfing of the web led me to some new discoveries that proved irresistible to me. You’ll understand why in a moment.

It all started with Haate Kaate — a Bulgarian artist whose work we’ve featured before on this site, initially in a post about the most excellent album by German black-metal band Odem Arcarum, called Outrageous Reverie Above The Erosion Of Barren Earth, and then again in our longer review of that album.

We saw a MySpace bulletin about the album art she has just finished for a compilation CD due in December on the Ahnstern label called Oak Folk, which will include exclusive contributions by Agalloch, Allerseelen, Arnica, Changes, Dannagoischd, Fräkmündt, Hrefnesholt, Klammheim, Splinterskin, Sturmpercht, Waldteufel, Werra.  This dovetailed with the news we discovered that Agalloch and Allerseelen will be joining together on a mini-tour of the West Coast in December (see one of our earlier posts today).

In trying to find out more about that Oak Folk compilation, I browsed the Ahnstern Facebook page. A post on that page in turn led me to the discovery that there is a town in Austria called . . . wait for it . . . Fucking. In learning more about that town, I also discovered the town of Wank in Germany.

Now, you know us well enough to understand that there was no way in hell we could resist adding a post about these towns to NCS, with a few of our typically tasteless embellishments. So, here goes . . . after the jump.

Nov 252010

I guess this still qualifies as catching up.  I just saw a notice on the Profound Lore web site that in tandem with the November 23 release of Marrow Of The Spirit, AGALLOCH have announced a West Coast tour with “Austrian industrial/neo-folk/martial ambient act Allerseelen.”  The tour begins on December 17 in Agalloch’s hometown of Portland, Oregon, which will also serve as their record release show.

The number of tour dates is limited, and if you don’t live on the West Coast of the U.S., this news probably won’t do you much good. For us here in Seattle, the chance to see Agalloch on the heels of this new album release is just a fucking bonanza. The dates and places for the Agalloch/Allerseelen mini-tour are as follows:

12/17 – Portland, OR @ Berbati’s Pan (w/Aerial Ruin)
12/18 – Seattle, WA @ Neumo’s (w/Waldteufel, Alda)
12/21 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Proud Bird (w/Winterthrall)
12/22 – San Francisco, CA @ Great American Music Hall (w/Dispirit)

Nov 252010

Yes, still catching up on developments in the world of metal that happened while I was on vacation. Yes, there’s probably a better-than-even chance that you already saw some of this while I was fucking off, but maybe you didn’t, or maybe you didn’t pay close attention the first time around. So, here are a handful of additional items I thought were interesting as I slogged through the mountains of posts on a few metal blogs and/or Facebook and/or MySpace that appeared while I was away.

Today, we have for you a hot new video by Bloodshedd (The Philippines) and new music from Murder Construct (California), and Exist (Washington, DC).

BLOODSHEDD

In February of this year, we reviewed an album called Spare No One, released in 2009 on the Tower of Doom label by a band from The Philippines called Bloodshedd. We summed up our review with these words: “Trust us on this: If Bloodshedd were in the U.S. instead of the Phillipines, they’d be turning heads far and wide. They’ve sure spun our heads all the way around! This is blazingly creative music played with passion and top-shelf skill.”

Well, while I was off on vacation, the band released their second official music video in support of Spare No One. It’s for a song called “Beast 696″. The video is another one of those band-playing-in-a-warehouse-or-alley concoctions, with fast cut-aways in the editing to keep pace with the blazing music. And oh hell, does it blaze — a buzzsaw of blackened thrash played with top-shelf instrumental skill and a knack for triggering neck-snap’s.  (more after the jump . . .)

Nov 242010

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Today we're stepping aside again to make way for another album review by our UK contributor Andy Synn. It's about the latest release, In Dreams, from one of NCS's most beloved bands -- AFTER THE BURIAL -- but brace yourselves, because Andy is underwhelmed with the effort -- and backs up his opinion in detail. Comments please!]

Apologies all, but I’m afraid this is going to be my first ever mainly negative review.

To qualify myself for this, I’d like to state that although I found Forging A Future Self to be a little stock for the majority of its running time, the band’s sophomore release Rareform remains one of my favourite albums of the more modern iteration of metal. It’s a skillful display of technicality and melody, mixed with a sense of interesting and progressive song-writing and a great sense of (non-derivative) Meshuggah-influenced groove. It had energy to spare and was organic in its ability to shift styles and tones.

Unfortunately, the third album In Dreams seems to have forgotten much of the positive growth demonstrated by Rareform, aiming for a more derivative and mass-appeal based sound. In a move similar to much of the “djent” movement (and also in a way reminiscent of the development of UK hardcore darlings Architects) the band have regressed to a more simplistic, and arguably less “metal”, sound. Now whilst not every record needs to be “tr00″, “kvlt”, or whatever is the precisely elitist terminology of the day, this record comes across as rather forced and lacking in certain departments, leading me to wonder if the band have lost a lot of interest in the “metal” element of their sound. (more after the jump . . .)

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