Aug 312013

(BreadGod returns with his third guest review of this week, this time discussing the new album by Sombres Forêts from Montréal, Québec, which features this beautiful album cover by Fursy Teyssier.)

There was a five year gap between the release of Royaum De Glace and the release of Sombres Forêts’ latest album, La Mort du Soleil. During that time, the depressive black metal bubble burst from over-saturation by shitty bands. Now the scene is, for all intents and purposes, dead. Of course, that hasn’t stopped Sombres Forêts from releasing their new album in this barren wasteland people once called a scene. In fact, Annatar got together with his friends in Gris and they released both of their latest albums around the same time. I really liked Gris’s latest offering (reviewed here). Let’s hope I can say the same about Sombres Forêts’.

The first song is a beautiful non-metal piece that consists of acoustic guitars and low, droning, clean vocals that eventually transition to pained screams that echo far off in the background. After a while, it morphs into a strange experience where the drums and distant riffs play backwards. It’s quite unsettling, and teaches you to not jump to conclusions so quickly. After a minute of that, we go back to the acoustic guitars. This proves that the album is going to be unpredictable.

The depressive black metal on this album is a bit more unorthodox this time around. The drums are more prominent in the mix and the guitars seem to be off in the distance, like a ghost ship shrouded in fog. This setup might take some getting used to, but it’s all worth it in the end. The drums display even more skill than they did on Royaume De Glace. Their beats are more complex, the cymbal work more intricate, and there are many more fills. Thanks to the more professional production, they also feel much more powerful. Another improvement is in the increased prominence of the bass. It plods alongside the guitars and makes the music feel more rich and full.

Aug 312013

I promised you a shot of the NCS staff with heads as well as torsos, and I don’t lie. This candid photo was taken by a helpful Seattle police officer on Thursday night at the corner of 6th and Union, just prior to the kind of pat-down from a stranger that you usually have to pay for.  I’m pretty sure one of our group got wood, but I’m not saying who it was.

Actually, I just made that up. We didn’t really get a frisk job from an officer of the law. We endangered no one but ourselves, but in truth I’m feeling pretty destroyed today because our revels now have ended and, like spirits, my NCS comrades are melted into air, into thin air. Which is to say, they have gone home, and the great NCS Seattle Confab has ended. The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces, the solemn temples, the great globe itself of our time together, yea, all which it inherit, have dissolved.

You know things are bad when I start quoting Shakespeare.

Aug 302013

(Guest writer BreadGod contributes this review of the latest album by Canada’s Gris.)

I can’t believe it’s been almost six years since Gris released Il etait une foret…, one of the best depressive black metal albums ever recorded. As I said in my review of Thy Light’s No Morrow Shall Dawn, the depressive black metal scene became oversaturated with shitty bands shortly after the relese of Austere’s magnum opus To Lay Like Old Ashes. The scene then collapsed under the weight of all the shitty music and everyone moved on to the next, latest trend. This means that Gris just released their latest album, À l’âme enflammée, l’äme constellée…, to an empty house.

However, they’re not going to let this discourage them. They’re so confident in their musical abilities that their latest endeavor is ninety minutes long and comes on two discs. That’s ambitious. It’s almost as ambitious as Elysian Blaze’s Blood Geometry. Let’s just hope it was worth the wait.

The first thing I noticed was just how powerful the production is. It is so bold and powerful, and every instrument comes in as clear as day. Gris are making it obvious that they’re not a group of teenagers recording half-assed black metal in their parents’ basement. What they’re doing is a labor of love. This album is a true display of professionalism.

Aug 302013

(While attending the NCS Confab in Seattle, TheMadIsraeli managed to write this review of the debut album by Spheron, from Ludwigshafen in the south of Germany.)

It’s been awhile since any of us have turned in anything here except for Andy and DGR managing to scrape some shit together earlier this week, and I started to feel overwhelming Catholic guilt about my lack of effort.  I was wishing there was good shit coming out that we all hadn’t heard yet.   But in an odd move, it looks like what’s left for me now is to go back earlier in the year and pick up some things that we missed.

Our Best of 2013 So Far readers’ poll ended up providing me with a real treat.  I had seen the cover art for Spheron’s debut album before, and then saw  them mentioned in the aforementioned post.

Spheron are really the argument for the idea that finally seeing another Necrophagist record would amount to nothing more than complete and utter disappointment.  So many bands have taken what that band has done and stepped it up so much, and are much better songwriters to boot.  Spheron definitely have the songwriting down, as well as the technical chops and overall sound to match up with death metal greats.

Aug 302013

 (Booker comes through for us in our inebriated time of need with this guest review of the debut album by The Devil.)

Hello fellow readers. Well, with our dear leader and his brethren (or, according to some conspiracy theorists, just Islander and his multiple online personas) otherwise occupied indulging in copious liquid refreshments (or, worried about butt chastity, it’s not clear which…), I thought I’d make myself at home and spam you all about one of my favourite surprise finds this year – The Devil.

Sometimes the greatest finds are ones you know nothing of, where you just hit play and randomly stumble across some aural goodness, which is just the case for my experience of this little gem: officially a November 2012 release, I found this album through Candlelight Records’ Bandcamp page sometime early this year, and after the initial shock of realizing there was no band previously claiming the all-metal moniker of ‘The Devil’ (“hey, who’s that you’re listening to?”….. “I’m listening to the devil!! Muah-ha-haa”  \m/), I hit play and found myself strangely intrigued at what this band had to offer….

This is The Devil’s first album, in which they offer up a kind of instrumental doomish slab of riff. I say ‘kind of instrumental’ as there’s no vocals as such, but the vocal elements are instead replaced by audio samples to provide the thematic, lyrical, and conceptual content; and boy does the album cover some conceptual ground: from that favourite of metal topics – the prospect of nuclear war (see ‘Extinction Level Event’ video below) — to the military-industrial complex, alien invasion (“Universe”; video below), life after death, long-gone civilizations, 9/11, and more.

Aug 302013

(NCS supporter Black Shuck answered our call for guest posts with the following review of the debut EP by Tombstalker from Lexington, Kentucky.)

Hello, boys and ghouls. You may or may not remember, but a year or so ago I wrote a little piece on bands from Kentucky. One of those bands was named Tombstalker, and I’ll be reviewing their self-titled EP for you today. So sit back, relax, and enjoy as I fling my poo at the keyboard, much like the noble chimpanzee, and call it writing.

I included a stream of the EP in last year’s write-up, so if you listened to that you’ll have some idea going in of what this band sounds like. If you didn’t listen, or if too many nights sitting at home drinking to forget have erased most of your long-term memory, this will be a somewhat more in-depth look at the record.

Tombstalker are a mix of extreme metal and hardcore punk, describing themselves as “hammer crushing death crust.” While Anton Escobar’s vocals run mid- to low-range, which could be indicative of death metal influence, the EP has much more of a black metal feel to me. I mentioned their “grimy” atmosphere in the earlier piece on them, and coming back to this record a year later, that is still a large part of what makes it for me. The production is suitably low-fi; while not quite as stripped down as, say, early Darkthrone, it still doesn’t really look like they bothered with any sort of sleekness or polish, which is absolutely a strength of the album.

Aug 292013

(Guest writer BreadGod returns to NCS with a review of two releases by Brazilian band Thy Light.)

Thy Light is a depressive black metal band that formed back in 2005 and released their first demo, the rather awkwardly named Suici.De.pression, two years later. It became quite popular in the depressive black metal scene, and after listening to it, I can see why.

The album begins with the title track, which is a beautiful and wondrous piano piece. It sounds rather joyous, which stands in stark contrast with the black metal that is to follow. I am unable to adequately put into words just how amazing the piano piece is. You’ll just have to listen to it for yourself.

Not only is the piano superb, but so is the black metal. Since this was all recorded by one guy, I’m pretty sure he used a drum machine, but the drum machine is pretty well-programmed. They keep to a moderate-to-slow pace and their structures are simple. One thing I really like about them is how prominent the snare is. This helps make the drums sound so real. I also like the double-bass they play on occasion. It doesn’t sound mechanical like it does in so many other bands. The double-bass here gives the music much more impact.

Aug 282013

(TheMadIsraeli has found time to whip up a few quick reviews while participating in the Seattle NCS Confab, and this one seemed like a good pick for today.)

So, here we have a band who have been inactive since fucking 1992. They have been reformed by the bassist/vocalist (who seems to be the songwriter) with two new guys (being a three-piece seems to be the Death Courier “thing”). The original guitarist is dead, and I don’t know why the drummer didn’t come back.

I don’t pay much attention to Greek death metal — I usually find it underwhelming — but Death Courier’s brand of deathgrind is a fucking beastly affair, and Perimortem is both savage and catchy as shit. Short songs (the album is only 19 minutes long), chainsaw guitars tuned down to B, old-school vomity death vocals, grinds, slow drags out the ass, classic Swedish style riffing that brings forth memories of bands such as Bloodbath and Hypocrisy, and devastating Suffocation-style breakdowns: it’s a pretty satisfying meal for its insanely short duration.

Aug 282013

I haven’t been keeping my eyes peeled for metal news since last week because I’ve been too busy hob-nobbing with my fellow NCS scribes in Seattle. I did take a few quick minutes this morning to glance around and found the following three items that I thought were interesting.

INQUISITION

At the end of July we reported the welcome news that black metal powerhouse Inquisition had revealed the name of their next album (Obscure Verses for the Multiverse) and announced its release dates via Season of Mist — October 29 in North America and October 25 elsewhere. Today brought more information about the album, beginning with the cover art above, which is quite fetching.

We have also been treated to a teaser of music from the album. The video clip that I’ve included beyond the jump includes short snippets from 9 tracks. Except for the snippet of the last track, which features a harsh roar, you’ll learn that Dagon has not changed his vocal style, which continues to sound like a bullfrog being strangled with barbed wire.

Aug 282013

(We welcome first-time guest writer Leperkahn, who introduces us to a couple of discoveries from Dublin — Ilenkus and Gacys Threads.)

Hello fellow NCSers. This is my first guest post for you all, hopefully the first of many, depending on whether I can get enough inspiration to get off my lazy ass and actually write things. As a bit of background, I live in San Diego, where weather does not exist, and promoters expect us to drive to feckin’ Los Angeles for 80% of our live metal, with the other 20% being at venues young’uns like me can’t get into.

That said, this post has nothing to do with San Diego. It has to do with unexpected metallic discoveries I found in Dublin, where I have been visiting family for the past couple of weeks. My aunt decided to show me a metal bar called Fibber Magee’s, where she had apparently been a regular years before. We happened on a little event called the Unleashed Festival, which was to go on all weekend.

Among the recognizable bands at the festival were Irish thrashers Gama Bomb, who headlined the first night. I, however, caught two of the bands performing on the second of three nights. Both kicked my ass and reduced my brain to corned beef, but each did so in somewhat different ways.

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