Apr 302013

Yeah, hairless cats. We don’t have enough hairless cats here at NCS. Actually, the only other time we had a hairless cat at NCS was in this post from three years ago, of which I’m still awfully damned proud. But today I saw some hairless cat photos that just seemed to cry out for a feature.  Voila!

POTERGEIST

The first photo is up above. It was taken by none other than Seth Siro Anton (Septic Flesh), and the subjects are Alex S. Wamp of Greek “swamp metal” band Potergeist and Sethi. That’s Sethi on top. I think it’s a badass pic.

Before seeing it I didn’t know anything about Potergeist, but now I know that they have a new album on the way named Swampire and that Mr.Anton will be doing the cover art for it. In hunting for Potergeist music, I found two things that I liked. The first is a cover they recently recorded of Black Sabbath’s “The Wizard”, which appears on a Greek tribute to Sabbath named Sabbath Cadabra that Metal Hammer Greece is giving away with issue #340 (it went on sale April 2). Some fuckin’ juicy riffs in this thing, not to mention a sweet blues harmonica, a nice guitar solo, and some squalling vocals.

Before I get to the second thing I found, here’s another photo of Alex and Sethi:

Apr 302013

The Wild Hunt is coming.

We learned in January that Sweden’s Watain had begun recording a new album, the follow-up to 2010’s Lawless Darkness. Today the band announced that the album is finished and will be released on August 19 in Europe and August 20 in the US via Century Media Records. The title is The Wild Hunt. I don’t have anything else to say, except to note that I’m excited about the news. So, here’s the posting that appeared on Watain’s Facebook page about an hour ago:

After 120 nights of iron will and ardent magic, the fifth fullength album of Watain is now complete. With broken bones and burning hearts we have ploughed our way through deepest winter into a new wilderness, to which we will open the gates at summers end. THE WILD HUNT will be released on August 19th in Europe and August 20th in USA. Beware!

Might as well use this as an excuse to post some Watain music, so have at it following the jump . . .

Apr 302013

(This little round-up is provided to you courtesy of NCS writer DGR.)

MECHINA

Chicago’s Mechina are now close to five months in from their unleashing their excellent release Empyrean. However, they’re not a band to just sit on their laurels and instead have been hard at work on quite a bit of new music. They’ve already discussed a follow-on trilogy of musical releases — which in itself is ambitious as hell — but the group have also been putting out the occasional oddball single/cover and have recently made a couple of them available for free download.

It’s done through a website called WeTransfer, which I’ve never heard of before, but it seems legit and it checked out on the two webrep style programs I use, and neither song has given me any crazy-ass computer sickness as of the thirty minutes ago that I downloaded these things. Plus; if anything does happen we know the band are based in the Chicago area and, really, how hard is it to find four or five guys within a mass of millions, right? Now, let’s discuss the songs.

First up is “Anicetus” – which is an electronica-augmented song that the band proclaims is a “dubstep/whatthehellyoucallit” track made for the hell of it. As someone who has been exposed to an oddly heavy amount of the genre I can say that yes, there are definite elements of it throughout the whole song, so there’s no denying its presence. However, the amount of noise, guitars, electronics, and orchestral elements combine to make something that is oddly compelling.

Apr 302013

(NCS contributor Austin Weber reviews the new album by Agrimonia., which is being released today by Southern Lord.)

It can be very exciting to stumble onto a band who are new to you part-way through their career. When that happens you have no preconceived notions, no expectations, and are not comparing what you’re hearing to what you’ve heard before. Which is not to say expectations are bad, but they can lead to a bias that may affect how you perceive new music by groups you enjoy. Such was the case for me with the Swedish bastards of Agrimonia, who had two full-lengths under their belt by the time I first heard “Talion” courtesy of a Pitchfork premier. They are clearly in the class of bands who are identified as, and make music labelled, “post-metal”, but they deliver their take on it in a way uncomparable to all but maybe Downfall of Gaia (who compose their music from a similar palette of influences).

Rites of Separation is a gnarled mass of thick sludge riffs that torture at a glacial pace, hoarse ear-splitting vocals, atmospheric black holes, and subdued keyboards. As a group, Agrimonia have shied away from the biggest trope found in post-metal: A near exclusively slow-tempo framework that lends itself to meandering because there is nothing contrasting against the sloth-like pace. Their music is as uncomfortable as it is riveting, most of which stems from their unparalleled sense of dynamics. Agrimonia arrange their music in peaks and valleys, a la post-rock, which allows for fast, hard-hitting parts as a wise contrast to the softer, slower melancholy, a dichotomy of grace that allows them to cover a wider range of sonic expressions than most.

Apr 302013

(In this post TheMadIsraeli reviews the new album by Arsis, which is being released today.)

Arsis are one of those cult bands who really should be getting more acclaim in the metal world than they do.  Time and time again, James Malone has proven himself to be not only an iconic metal front man, with his raptor-like, wrist-slitting screeches and his capacity to execute virtuoso-level technical riffs, but also an ingenious musician.  The band have always been a fine example of melodic death metal that truly is classical in its nature, especially with the absolutely insane counterpoint for which James Malone has become known in dual-guitar displays.  He’s been through a revolving lineup, but this band is his, and because it’s his, it’s always been truly Arsis at its core — a band with an identity — though his experimentation with differing bandmates has been considered a mixed-results affair by many, most of whom were enamored by the band’s arresting debut A Celebration of Guilt.

To a lot of the Arsis fan base, Unwelcome was an album that had to shoulder the burden of making up for Starve for the Devil, a release that many saw as one of the band’s weakest efforts.  I liked that album, but I could see where it might’ve turned some people off with its thrashier direction and a production quality that didn’t exactly help convey the music’s force.  We got a taste of what was in store with the band’s excellent Scion A/V EP Lepers Caress (still freely downloadable here), a delightful sampler that saw Arsis playing faster, hitting harder, and pushing technical limits in a way that hadn’t been heard in a while.  Unwelcome not only cements the impression at which Lepers Caress hinted, it also proves James Malone’s definitive place in the American metal fabric as a musician and composer who should be put up there with the likes of even Chuck Schuldiner.  This is Arsis’ most brutal, yet most sophisticated album to date and is definitely one of the shining stars of 2013.

Apr 302013

When I intend to listen to an album with the thought of reviewing it, I usually avoid reading other reviews. I want to form my own impressions based solely on the music and pick my own words to describe it; this may explain why my reviews leave so much to be desired. However, I read several reviews of Ghost’s new album Infestissumam before hearing it, because I wasn’t thinking about reviewing it for this site. After all, the music is barely metal, if it’s metal at all. Also, it has actual singing in it.

The reviews I read weren’t in mainstream publications or on mainstream sites, though Infestissimum has been reviewed in plenty of those places. I was reading reviews on metal blogs. I couldn’t help but notice that even most of the positive reviews had a defensive or apologetic tone, a kind of “they’re good for what they do, as long as you’re not expecting X, Y, or Z”. And the negative reviews panned the album for not having enough X, Y, or Z — whatever the reviewer was demanding but couldn’t find in the music, such as heaviness or gripping riffs.

Some of the negative reviews came from people who seemed to really like Ghost’s first album, Opus Eponymous. This later puzzled me after I listened to Infestissimum, because it’s not like the band made some kind of radical course change without putting on the turn signal.  I don’t think it’s different enough from the first album to turn praise into a pan.

I began to have a sneaking suspicion that Ghost had become the victim of a combination of two things that don’t go over very well here in the underground: success and gimmickry.

Apr 292013

(NCS contributor Austin Weber provides this review of the second album released earlier this month by Philadelphia’s Azure Emote.)

As far as death metal supergroups go, Azure Emote certainly has not only a killer line-up but more importantly a willfull intent to make music outside the confines of their genre, an aim they achieve by taking death metal hostage and lifting it to unconventional heights of sonic ecstasy.

The Gravity of Impermanence is largely the brainchild of vocalist Mike Hrubovcak (Monstrosity, Vile), who brings more then just potent beastly roars to the table. He is responsible for the electronic elements — ranging from keyboards to diverse orchestral synths and electronica — on all but three of the tracks, and he also contributes some creepy harmonica playing to the sounds of pigs being murdered on “Sunrise Slaughter”.  The way the electronic elements build up the music and flourish instead of being an afterthought is a large part of what gives The Gravity Of Impermanence such a unique identity for a death metal record.

All this talk of keyboards is not to imply that guitarist Ryan Moll (Rumpelstiltskin Grinder, Total Fucking Destruction) is lacking. He isn’t. He lays down a plethora of razor-sharp, heavy-as-hell riffs, colorful leads, and spiraling solo’s. A lot of his riffs subtly remind of old school death metal, though I had a hard time pinning down who I thought they sounded like. Rounding out the trio is the always fantastic Mike Heller (Malignancy, Fear Factory), whose steady blasting and interesting patterns strongly drive the rhythm section into overload, enhancing both the mid-paced moments and the faster, all-out assaults.

Apr 292013

(In this post DGR reviews the new album by Sweden’s October Tide, which is out now via Pulverised Records and available on Bandcamp.)

October Tide can’t seem to catch a break, can they? Even after pulling off the miraculous feat of resurrecting the band and releasing a pretty good comeback disc, they still wind up losing two members in vocalist Tobias Netzell and bassist Pierre Stam. Granted, those two eventually went on to release In Mourning’s The Weight Of Oceans (which was my overall album of the year last year), so all was not lost, but it was a little bit worrying that we might never hear October Tide’s brand of funeral doom again. However, the band pulled off wrangling in two new musicians and now October Tide have returned again – never to be discouraged by their issues with lineup shifts – to release Tunnel Of No Light, a much darker, more melancholic take than its predecessor A Thin Shell.

The moodiness that this album conveys seeps its way into everything, including the artwork – which is probably one of the best representations of the listening experiences of both the group’s most recent discs. Whereas A Thin Shell seemed to find a frail beauty in its depression, Tunnel Of No Light is what happens when more hopeful things that may have been hinted at previously don’t work out. It is a disc so bludgeoning and overbearing in its sadness and gloom that by the end of the album the listener almost feels like the husk portrayed on its cover.

Apr 292013

Germany’s Heaven Shall Burn have a long history of combining their viscerally ravaging music with a commitment to social justice (and animal rights). They’ve found heroes in many places and dedicated songs to them, most prominently on the trilogy of Iconoclast releases that ended with 2011’s Invictus. Their seventh album Veto — due for North American release tomorrow — follows this theme, with tracks commemorating the works of an African revolutionary named Thomas Sankara (“Land of the Upright Ones”), theologian Walter Schilling (“Antagonized”), and the anti-fascist International Brigades who fought against Franco during the Spanish Civil War (“53 Nations”). But the opening track on Veto is dedicated to perhaps the most unusual of the heroes who have inspired HSB’s music.

Reaching back to the 11th Century, “Godiva” draws lessons from the Anglo-Saxon noblewoman who, according to legend, rode naked through the streets of Coventry, England, to free the common people from oppressive policies instituted by her powerful husband, who ruled the region. Tired of her appeals on behalf of the suffering townspeople, the Earl of Mercer agreed to grant her requests on their behalf if she would ride nude through the town, thinking she would never do this. But of course, she did — or so the legend has it.

Risking embarrassment or personal humiliation to stand up for the rights of others may not be as dramatic as braving bullets or imprisonment, but the lesson about social conscience among the privileged seems no less relevant. As for the song itself, we’ll borrow from our recent review of this killer new album: “The band have never sounded more vital or alive than they do on fantastic opener ‘Godiva’, which builds from an opening of sublime melancholy into a veritable firestorm of scorching vocals and powerhouse riffs, revealing  a band as energetic, as pissed-off, and as driven, as ever.”

After the jump, get your first listen to “Godiva” via our premiere of Heaven Shall Burn’s official lyric video for Veto’s opening song.

Apr 292013

Sometimes it happens like this. It’s a goddamn Monday morning and I wake up at an hour fit for nocturnal predators but not for human beings. I brew the coffee and start chugging it like a Bolt Thrower riff. I check the NCS e-mail to see what came in overnight and the first three things I see kick my ass so hard that the coffee becomes superfluous. And I start writing . . .

DEATH ENGINE

Death Engine are from Lorient, France. They’ve recorded a debut EP named Amen, which will be released in a limited run of CDs in May and on 10″ vinyl in mid-June by Throatruiner Records, North Cult Records, and Basement Apes Industries. More info about that can be found via the links below; perhaps one day it will become available digitally as well.

A song from the EP has begun streaming. Its name is “Gun”. It has made me re-think my support for gun control. It punches holes through concrete. It spews acid. It swarms. It rumbles. It rolls. It pulsates. It bends genres, harnessing elements of hardcore, black metal, crust, and noize. It includes a fucking killer drumbeat. I like it.

After the jump I’ve installed the EP’s cover (by Hugues Pzzl), some links, and “Gun”.

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