May 292012

(Andy Synn reviews the new album from Sweden’s Marduk.)

This is set to be a big year for black metal, with both the new gods and the old primed for a resurgence.  Both the Swedish progenitors of primal, black metal orthodoxy are set to return in glory, with the satanic discipline of Dark Funeral set to be unleashed sometime before the year’s end, and now, harbingers of the apocalypse Marduk returning to the fray with this, their 12th album of aural devastation.

Remember that 2012 will see the end of all things, and in Marduk we have been given standard bearers of our own destruction, a fitting soundtrack to the final storm that will wipe this world clean of humanity’s infectious influence.

There is a clear distinction between the sound and feel of this album and that of its predecessor. Where Wormwood was arguably a fouler, dirtier sounding record, with an uncomfortable, decaying warmth to it, Serpent Sermon is far colder and more brittle, with more starkly presented dynamics, ready to snap and scar at a moment’s notice.

The production of this record serves to further highlight and accentuate the differences between the two albums. Whereas its predecessor was a roiling cauldron of filth and malice, thick yet fluid, Serpent Sermon is all shards and shadows, bleached bones and hard edges. That’s not to say that it doesn’t flow. It’s more akin to comparing two paintings of the same object, done in entirely different styles – one, a horrid and flowing concoction of hand-painted miasmas, the other a vivid hand-drawn nightmare of figure and form. Continue reading »

May 282012

Here in the U.S., it’s Memorial Day, a national holiday established long ago to commemorate the men and women who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Even though my own long-dead father was himself a decorated Marine Corps vet and my brother-in-law is a veteran of the Gulf War, I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me a while to separate my feelings about people who served in combat from my feelings about the wars in which they served — or about war in general. About the only time I feel warlike is when I’m listening to warlike metal. I think the last war that was worth fighting (for my country) was the one in Korea, and sometimes I’m not even sure about that one.

I did finally realize what should be obvious to people smarter than me — that soldiers and sailors and airmen do not start wars or decide which wars are worth fighting. They simply do their duty, and they become maimed, suffer mental trauma, and die because of decisions made by others who put them in harm’s way. They deserve to be honored for reasons that have nothing to do with whether the causes in which they sacrifice themselves are worth their sacrifices. They deserve to be remembered and supported even when the conflicts in which they have served are insupportable.

Memorial Day should be a day not only for remembering the dead but also for remembering the living — not only people who are currently serving in the Armed Forces but also veterans. The U.S. has done a piss-poor job of supporting its military veterans. Our government is willing to spend trillions of dollars to finance wars and huge defense establishments, but what we spend to support people after they’ve served their purpose and been discharged — especially those who have been disabled during their service — is shameful. Continue reading »

May 282012

(Here’s a round-up of recent news and music from DemiGodRaven about Katatonia, Æther Realm, Fear Factory, Shadows Fall, and The Browning.)

Katatonia’s new album: Dead End Kings (August 27th)

Over the past two weeks Katatonia have done a pretty interesting publicity bit on their Facebook page by putting up a picture of what looked like a dead tree branch in some snow and then slowly adding letters and more to the branch, eventually revealing that it was something more of a dead shrub and that the letters would spell an album title and release date for the group’s new upcoming disc.

Now they’ve completed the whole picture, and yes, it’s got branches on it alright, but it is something more than that. It’s looks like a dead bird wearing a crown, and the album title for their new disc will be Dead End Kings. It has an August release date, appearing a day later in the US than in Europe, but the difference of a day really isn’t that huge when you have the internet essentially spreading everything around at light speed. The moment anything from this album is out I’m sure it’ll be all over youtube, so if you have to wait a day you can find solace in at least streaming the songs that way. The image for you folks to check out is above, all Facebook banner-styled. Continue reading »

May 282012

(We’ve been discovering a lot of good new Icelandic bands recently, and Azoic is the latest. In this post, Phro reviews their debut album, Gateways.)

So, this evening, I opened up my e-mail inbox at PhroMetal (shameless self promotion alert) to find a message from…Iceland? Wow, that’s pretty cool. I don’t know anyone in Iceland. I’m pretty sure I’d have a hard time just trying to find it on a map. (I’m really bad at cartography.)

Anyway, the e-mail was from a band called, Azoic. I don’t know what that means, but it sounds like the kind of noise that the Joker would make if he accidentally inhaled a balloon filled with laughing gas after being punched in the gut by Batman. They were nice enough to ask me to review their new album, Gateways. (I’m not sure if they’ve read anything I’ve written before, because, really, if they had, they’d probably know better than to send me anything besides death threats. But they included a download link, so, hey, I’m not complaining.)

The e-mail called them a black/death metal band. I think that’s pretty accurate, though also functionally vague. (Which really isn’t their fault. Genre labels are important and helpful most of the time, but once we start breeding subgenres with subgenres, we usually end up with mutated bastard children who have difficulty establishing personalities beyond what their parents gave them.) So, we’re gonna have to get our fingers poopy and talk about this album from the butthole out. (That means we’re going deep, hard, and probably somewhat uncomfortably.) Continue reading »

May 272012

We’re pretty high on Abigail Williams around here. NSC writer Andy Synn got a very early listen to their 2012 album Becoming and praised it in this review. It’s an ambitious album, crafted with care and intelligence, and I highly recommend it, too.

The band’s frontman, Ken Sorceron is an interesting dude. He marches to the beat of his own drummer and he’s smart, informative, and entertaining when he talks about his music and “the business” of metal in the current age. At some point earlier this year he set up an account on Formspring, which is a social network where people make themselves available to answer questions from the public and the answers are available for everyone to see.

Recently, Sorceron referred to it in a Facebook status as something he was starting to prefer as an alternative to interviews. So I had a few minutes to kill and went over there to read all the questions and answers. Sure enough, it is sort of like reading an interview. Some of the questions are lame, and some of the questions (and answers) presuppose more inside knowledge of the band than I have, but overall I thought it was a very interesting and informative read.

If more metal musicians started doing this, it would put blogger interviewers out of business. In one place, you could find every question worth asking (plus many not worth asking) and all the answers, frozen on one site for all to see. I think it’s a cool idea. In Sorceron’s case, it may save him the time of enduring repetitive interviews. In my case, it saves me the time of trying to conduct an interview — because I’m just going to post the whole thing right here after the jump, through the magic of multiple screen captures.

Is this lazy of me?  Well, fuck yes, of course it is.  “Lazy” is one of my middle names, and for good reason. Continue reading »

May 272012

Hyperborean is a three-man melodic black metal band from Sweden.  Although the band came into being more than a decade ago, they didn’t release a debut album (on Abyss Records) until last year, following three demos recorded between 2002 and 2005. Despite having the chance for an advance listen to that album (The Spirit of Warfare) and later seeing an 8-out-of-10 review of it in Decibel magazine, I failed to seize the opportunity.

I have a bad habit of constantly moving on to the next new thing, trying to keep this site current or even ahead of the release curve, and spending almost no time going back to music I missed when it was new. And so it was with The Spirit of Warfare. But yesterday I came across a fan-created video that drove me to learn more about the band and has convinced me to make time for the album amidst the sea of new promos and releases.

The video combines a song from The Spirit of Warfare with excerpts from Zack Snyder’s 2007 movie version of Frank Miller’s comic book mini-series, 300. It’s not the first time someone has used excerpts from 300 as visuals for a metal song, but this combination is especially fitting because the Hyperborean song (clocking in at almost 10 minutes) is “The Last Stand of Leonidas and the Battle of Thermopylae”. It’s also a thoroughly winning combination.

Hyperborean aren’t a typical Scandinavian black metal band. They seem to have no use for the usual trappings of corpse paint and spikes, and their songs aren’t devoted to satanic or occult or pagan subjects. Instead, The Spirit of Warfare takes its inspiration from the historical record of human violence, with references in the well-written lyrics (available here) to the World Wars and, of course, to the stand of the 300 Spartans against Xerxes’ army at the pass of Thermopylae. Continue reading »

May 262012

There are times when I catch myself about to say that Quebec is the current tech-death capital of the world, and then I’m reminded by things like the new song from Nile which premiered yesterday that such a claim would be an overstatement. But not by a lot. Quebec seems loaded up with excellent tech-death bands — including Cryptopsy, Gorguts, Neuraxis, and Beyond Creation — and Augury is certainly near the head of the pack.

Their first two albums, Concealed (2004) and Fragmentary Evidence (2009), were both true mind-benders of progressive technical metal, dazzling in their complexity and ever-changing styles, both imminently memorable and satisfyingly brutal.

I had the great pleasure of seeing the band perform twice in 2010 (and reviewed those performances here and here), once on The American Defloration Tour with The Black Dahlia Murder and again on the Panic Over North America Tour with Soilwork. Vocalist and co-lead guitarist Patrick Loisel was especially impressive, perhaps even more so because he’s older than your average death metal frontman and in his day job he teaches history and science.

At the time of those tours, Augury was playing without fretless bassist Dominic ‘Forest’ Lapointe and drummer Étienne Gallo, both of whom were members of Augury when the band recorded Concealed and Fragmentary Evidence. Lapointe had left in February 2010 to focus on another band, Montreal’s Beyond Creation, whose amazing 2011 debut, The Aura, we reviewed here. If you want to have your mind blown by some six-string fretless bass shred, check out this video we featured at NCS of him doing a playthrough of Beyond Creation’s “Omnipresent Perception”. Continue reading »

May 252012

Take an Arabic-sounding melody, wrap it up in blazing, unpredictable fretwork and frenzied drumming, add an array of vocal stylings (guttural gurgles, throaty howls, clean chants), and then accelerate the fucker — and what do you have? You have the new song by Nile: “The Fiends Who Come to Steal the Magick of the Deceased,” the second track off of At the Gate of Sethu.

The song just got its exclusive premiere at Noisecreep, and you really should go hear it if you have any affinity at all for tech-death, because it is a fascinating listen. Then come back here and share with us your reactions. (I could just borrow the Noisecreep player and stick it up here at NCS so you wouldn’t have to look at all the photos of Adam Lambert, Kenny Chesney, and Steven Tyler on that Noisecreep page, but I decided not to be a dick for a change.)

At the Gates of Sethu will be released via Nuclear Blast Records on June 29 (Europe) and July 3 (North America). The handsome cover art (there are two versions) was created by Seth Siro Anton (Septic Flesh). Check out the other version after the jump, along with a nice photo of Nile. Continue reading »

May 252012

I went back and re-read my May 2010 review of The Howling Wind’s last album, Into the Cryosphere, and I cringed a little at how much I had loaded it up with ice metaphors: “Massive distorted riffs that alternately race like an avalanche, chug, or relentlessly trudge forward with the grinding power of a glacier in motion. Guitar leads that establish chilling melodies, as if reverberating off the walls of icy caves. Bleeding solos that howl like inversion winds across a blasted tundra. Icy vocals that hold out no hope of mercy . . . .”  And shit, there was even more . . .

Even though I’m slightly embarrassed to read what I wrote, I do remember vividly how hard that album knocked me down. The intensity of my enthusiasm simply exceeded the limits of my literary skills. When I started hearing rumblings of a new album in the works, I got excited all over again — and now we’ve finally received details about the release, plus a new song.

The Howling Wind’s next album will be titled Of Babalon, it was recorded by Colin Marston (Krallice, Dysrhythmia, Gorguts), it has a cool album cover, and it’s scheduled for release by Profound Lore on July 17. This week Profound Lore also started streaming the fifth track on the album, a song called “The Mountain View”. Continue reading »