Nov 282012

Time for another daily round-up of things I saw and heard this morning while snooping around the web that I thought were worth sharing. There’s one thing (and only one thing) that all three of the following items have in common: They all involve genuinely eye-catching cover art. The bands are Byzantine (U.S.), Portal (Australia), and KONGH (Sweden).

BYZANTINE

It was a very sad day when West Virginia’s Byzantine dissolved roughly five years ago following the release of Oblivion Beckons. The band broke a lot of ground while they were up and running, they had talent in spades, and they clearly weren’t the kind of outfit who were going to remain static in their musical approach as time passed. Much time did pass without new Byzantine music, but as we were thrilled to report much earlier this year, Byzantine have reunited.

They’ve completed recording a new album, self-titled, that’s currently scheduled for release on February 26 via Gravedancer Records. We’ve been tremendously fortunate to get an advance listen to the album, and all I can say at this point is that it more than makes up for those long years of silence. This is a mature band who have created something quite diverse and really special from end to end.

Today, they’ve unveiled a new song from the album by the name of “Signal Path”. I said the album is diverse, and so I don’t think any one song could really stand as representative of the whole, but “Signal Path” does display the kind of masterful integration of disparate elements that’s indicative of what the album brings — in this case, massive groove, infectious melody, soulful/gritty vocals, blazing guitar leads, and jazz-influenced soloing.

Nov 282012

(We apparently have a reputation among some denizens of the web for being a “long-winded” metal site. The following guest review by Rob Watson will do nothing to change that reputation. In fact, it’s so extensive that we’re dividing it into two parts, with Part 2 coming tomorrow [now posted here]. The music can be found at the end.)

“Robert, this object has wu.” This is the sentence that immediately sprung into my thoughts when I first heard the debut album of Maybe That’s Why Human’s Drink the Darkness That is Coffee, Window to the World. The sentence comes from a book by Philip K. Dick, one of my favourite writers, and refers to something which “represents nothing”. It uses the word ‘wu’ in derivation from the Taoist spiritual text the I Ching, in which the concept of ‘wu wei’ is to possess the foresight to know when to act and when not; to be able to drift effortlessly upon the breeze of time, merely glancing off the fabric of reality, balancing the forces that flow constantly through it, opening up endless possibilities of interconnectedness among the corridors of the universe. In short, the aforementioned object is very rare, and very, very special.

This is an important comparison, because it is the one that is most obvious, even to the casual listener. The album’s uniqueness is intrinsic to its appeal; it has a feel that, although not stretching as far as being ‘anti-music’, is most definitely ‘anti-djent’ (if ‘djent’ is defined to be a genre of music stereotypically featuring downtuned 8-string guitars, pristine production devoid of almost any organic substance, and syncopated palm-muted double-octave power chords).

Another key concept of Taoism is that of Yin and Yang (dark and light). The idea of ultimate polarity existing within the universe and resident in all things (though not always with both poles together) is a facet of this album that is central to its purpose. Parts of this album will twist your ears into a new, as yet undefined shape; so random and unprecedented are the levels of raw energy that it exudes that at times you may feel completely disillusioned and perhaps even put off from persevering with the album. However, the band temper their brutal, uncaring approach with melodic passages that will make you want to shed a tear or drift off, unhampered by gravity, to far-away lands of permanent plenitude, unscathed by the atrocities of human society.

Nov 282012

A milestone has been reached!  Our 50th installment of the not-so-regular MISCELLANY series! And here are the self-made rules of this self-made game:

I pick bands whose music I’ve never heard using a methodology akin to throwing darts at the wall; I listen to a song or two from each band; I write some brief impressions; I embed the music so you can listen, too. It’s an experiment, because I usually have no idea what the music is going to sound like, and it’s a way to make new discoveries.

In this installment of the series, I checked out the music of Into Darkness (Italy) and Deathcode Society (France).

INTO DARKNESS

Why did I pick this band? Well, to be brutally honest, which is the only kind of honest we know how to be at NCS, you’re looking at two of the reasons at the top of this post. That’s right, the one in the middle has cool shades and a cool jacket.

The other reason is that MaxR at Metal Bandcamp strongly recommended them. I guess that’s sort of a cheat on the MISCELLANY rules because even though I hadn’t listened to the music before beginning this excursion, I know Max has good taste. So this wasn’t a complete shot in the dark. Unless of course Max was drinking heavily when he sent me that message.

Nov 282012

In my daily ramble through the interhole yesterday probably nothing made my eyes bug out quite as much as the sight of The Acacia Strain’s overturned van, which will force them to pull out of their tour with Veil of Maya but fortunately (and amazingly) left the band with only minor injuries. But a couple of other items were close seconds in the eye-popping competition. I’m including those in this post — new album art for the next releases by Vreid (Norway) and The Botanist (U.S.). I’ve also got for you a brand new song from Vreid and a new song by Maveth (Finland) from their forthcoming album.

VREID

Vreid’s last album, V, was extremely good. It made a number of the year-end lists we posted at the close of 2011, including our own Andy Synn’s list of “The Great Albums of 2011”. Summing up his thoughts, Andy called V “a stunningly dynamic series of songs that filter the thrashy energy and classical aspirations of Ride The Lightning-era Metallica through a blackened prism of primal fury.”

So my eyes went wide yesterday when I saw the album art for Vreid’s sixth album, Welcome Farewell, and the news that it will be released by Indie Recordings on February 26 in Europe, February 22 in Germany/Austria, and March 5 in North America. Yesterday Terrorizer also premiered a track from the new album named “The Reap”. I gotta be honest — it surprised me.

Nov 272012

Travis “The Virus” Helton is a friend of mine who’s the vocalist and guitarist in a three-man Seattle death metal group named Carnotaurus. I’ve talked with him about the band numerous times and listened to some of the band’s early recordings (when “the band” was just Travis and a drum machine), but had never made it to one of their gigs until last night. They played at Seattle’s 2 Bit Saloon (a very cool place, btw), and I showed up along with a group of other mutual friends of Travis and mine.

To be honest, I was a little nervous. Travis is a wonderful person and a walking encyclopedia when it comes to metal, but what if his band turned out not to be very good? I mean, I’m not a very good liar, except when I’m making up stories about the NCS loris horde. What would I say if the music proved to be disappointing?

Well, thankfully, I needn’t have worried, because I had a fuckin’ blast listening to Carnotaurus. In fact, I liked them so much I thought their show deserved this post. Also, my confounding camera decided to play nice with me for a change and I got some decent pics of the venue and the Carnotaurus set. I’m including some of those at the end of this review.

In a nutshell, Carnotaurus sound like a full-throttle battle tank. I don’t mean one of those slick, modern-day, high-tech M1’s that cost about $5 million a copy. I’m talking about something from the last World War that has somehow survived the decades while remaining just as destructive as ever — loud, heavy, rusted-out, belching noxious fumes, scattering metal shards, throwing pistons and treads, and just crushing everything in its path.

Nov 272012

EDITOR’S NOTE: Seattle-based writer and NCS reader Gemma Alexander recently journeyed to Iceland in late October to see the country, and she timed her visit to coincide with the Iceland Airwaves festival, which included over 420 bands playing all over Reykjavík for five days, plus 400 more unofficial, off-venue performances.

While in Iceland, Gemma generously arranged to conduct interviews of some Icelandic bands for NCS. So far, we’ve published  her interview of Angist and her interview of Beneath. Today we’re giving you part of Gemma’s fascinating interview of Kontinuum’s Birgir Thorgeirsson. It’s the metal part of the interview. Given the nature of Kontinuum’s music, there were “less metal” parts as well, and you’ll be able to find those at another blog for which Gemma writes regularly, Three Imaginary Girls, by following this link.

To hear Kontinuum’s well-received debut album Earth Blood Magic, you can stream it in full via the player located at the end of this interview. The album can be purchased from Amazon as an import, or preordered directly from Candlelight. Kontinuum is on Facebook here.

And if you haven’t yet checked out Gemma’s beautifully written blog about her entire Icelandic vacation, do yourself a favor and do that via this link. And now, here’s Gemma’s interview, preceded by her own introduction:

********

Birgir Thorgeirsson may be familiar to the tr00 and cvlt from his work in Potentiam, one of the first black metal bands in Iceland, and one of the few to ever release albums internationally. After a stint abroad, Birgir is back with a new project, Kontinuum. They are the first Icelandic band to sign with Candlelight, which will release their debut album Earth Blood Magic in North America on January 8th, 2013.

This one comes with a warning: it’s an Exception to the Rule – the NCS rule, and most other rules you can think of. Mostly clean vocals lean to the gothic. The music, too, is right on the edge of NCS territory, extreme primarily in its disregard for conventional genre boundaries. Like other notable Icelandic bands, Kontinuum are doing whatever the fuck they want with their music, without particularly giving a rat’s ass what anyone thinks about it. If you use spellings like tr00 and cvlt, as Angist’s Halli tells people when they discover that he’s in a band, “You’re not gonna like it.”

Nov 272012

Yeah, I knew you would, you sicko.
 


 

I didn’t know anacondas were picky eaters.  Maybe this one was strictly into free-range, grass-fed beef. Or this cow was too much hoof and not enough haunch. Or the fuckin’ snake had a rough night at the local anaconda bar. Or it could just be that this anaconda violated my own personal rule: Never eat anything bigger than your head.

As interesting as this video was, what I’d really like to see is film of how the snake got a whole fuckin’ cow inside in the first place.

Actually, I don’t really want to see that. I didn’t really want to see this one either, but Ben C (Church of the Riff) sent it to me, and I fell under a horrible compulsion to watch it. I bet you watched it, too. You sicko.  For the record, Ben C is sick, too, though I’m stealing his words for the post title and first sentence.

Nov 262012

New discoveries don’t always come in threes around here.  I think it’s just some deep-seated superstition that makes me collect groups of three things in most of my posts.  I’m sure there’s some scientific learning out there about why people do this (and don’t tell me it’s about the Holy Trinity because the power of three’s pre-dated JC by millennia). Someday I’ll have to get educated.

But for now, I got three items. They concern Seth Siro Anton and Septic Flesh (Greece), Daemon Worship Productions (Hell), and Tombstone Highway (Italy).

ITEM ONE

Yeah baby, you’re lookin’ at it! That’s the latest album art that Seth Siro Anton created for his band Septic Flesh. I really like everything he does, whether for Septic Flesh or other bands, and this is no exception. It’s the just-released cover for a special re-issue of the band’s 1994 debut album, Mystic Places of Dawn. It’s the first of four Septic Flesh reissues that Season of Mist is planning for 2013, with this one hitting the streets on January 22 in North America (and Jan 25 elsewhere). This reissue will also include the four tracks from the 1991 EP Temple of the Lost Race.

It looks like Season of Mist is already selling pre-orders for the album, including vinyl, CDs, and shirts featuring this new artwork, at this location. Awfully damned tempting. That shirt is calling my name . . .

Nov 262012

Happy Fucking Monday.  What else is there to say about a Monday?  On this Monday, I actually do have a few more things to say.  Specifically, I want to tell you about three new sharp shards of metal I heard (and saw) this morning: new videos from Evocation (Sweden) and Koldbrann (Norway) and a new song from Sons of Aeon (Finland).

EVOCATION

Evocation’s new album Illusions of Grandeur is out now on Century Media. I’m a big fan of this band, and have really enjoyed the new album. This morning DECIBEL premiered an official video for the song “Divide and Conquer”. It was filmed by German director Carlo Oppermann in an abandoned hospital in Offenbach, Germany, with interspersed scenes from World War II and Evocation performing the song.

As you listen to this awesome song, you will be forgiven for thinking you’ve heard the second coming of Amon Amarth. 

Nov 262012

In this day and age there’s not much you can do to a shot of undiluted death metal without turning it into a different kind of cocktail. But if you’re going to consume it straight up, there are big differences between the premium brands and the cheap stuff that’s kept under the bar at your local corner of Hell. Aeons Black, the new fourth album by Sweden’s Aeon, is the top-shelf stuff, and worth every penny. And you don’t get cheated on the pour either: the album is a 15-track monster with a 51-minute run time.

Aeons Black is not only premium face-melting death metal, it’s also one of the top 5 death metal albums of the year. You know I hate making lists, so I don’t know what the other four albums are. I just can’t imagine that more than four would be in this league.

Aeon are often compared to the likes of Cannibal Corpse and Deicide, and they prove once again on the new album that they can indeed hold their own with those titans of Floridian death metal, while incorporating the blazing fretwork of Suffocation as well. The riffs on high-speed numbers such as “Still They Pray” and “Nothing Left To Destroy”, which make up the majority of the songs, are absolutely blistering. And they’re matched by the furious drumming of Arttu Malkki, who has returned to the band after an absence that began after Aeon’s 2001 debut EP Dark Order.

But even the album’s most superheated songs are not simply open-wide flamethrowers spewing hellfire. They’re marked by big, hook-filled, piston-driven rhythms that hammer and pummel and blast like big, heavy-caliber weaponry. If you can’t get a powerful head-slam going while listening to this album, you need to check into a nursing home.

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