Feb 252015


(In this latest edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy Synn reviews the discography of the late, lamented, and apparently resurgent The Agony Scene from Tulsa, Oklahoma.)

Recommended for fans of: Devildriver, At The Gates, (early) The Black Dahlia Murder

“Metalcore” is such a dirty word these days that bands go to great (sometimes hilarious) lengths to avoid it. But it’s easy to forget that there was a time when it offered something both fresh and new and utterly vital to the metal scene as a whole.

Case in point, The Agony Scene were, in my humble opinion, one of the unsung heroes of early millennial Metalcore, with roots deeply embedded in the Northeast hardcore scene, but possessing a uniquely visceral sound which pulled in a host of influences from across the Death Metal spectrum.

The band specialised in hacking, machete-like riffs, rib-cracking drum work, and throat-ripping, Carcass-esque vocals, occasionally veering into moments of seditious melody or creepy atmosphere, only to shift back into punishment mode at the drop of a hat.

You may have noticed that I’ve been referring to the band in the past tense, as they unfortunately broke up after the release of their third album Get Damned. However, that’s not entirely accurate any more, as it appears the band have a new album in the works (and a visceral new logo to go with it), so I’m hoping to hear more from them very soon!

Feb 242015


NCS supporter and budding contributor Grant Skelton wrote me to propose an idea that I thought was cool. But it will become a reality only if we get some help.

Grant’s idea was for NCS to invite guest contributors to write a showcase on bands from their cities/states/regions within the U.S. The bands wouldn’t necessarily have to be unsigned and independent bands, but the mission of the series would be to put the spotlight on lesser known names — bands who don’t get much media coverage, and maybe even don’t have any official releases (beyond demos) under their belts.

The goal would be to post installments in the series once or twice a month, with the lofty aim of eventually trying to cover all 50 states. Grant also suggested that we consider inviting international contributors — which makes sense to me, given that we write about bands outside the U.S. at least as often (and maybe more frequently) as we do home-grown products. So this invitation includes people who live outside the U.S., too.

Feb 242015


Existential Animals come our way from Oberlin, Ohio. They made some serious first impressions last year with the release of their debut EP Surrealith (which was graced by one of my favorite pieces of art by one of my favorite metal artists, Paolo Girardi, and also included a guest vocal appearance by Will Smith of NCS favorite Artificial Brain). Existential Animals are now back with a two-song single — “Prism Prison/Apopheniac” — that’s due for digital release on March 3. The artwork for the single, created by Cameron Almasi, Yuri Popowycz, and the band’s Mark M-R, is stylistically quite different from Surrealith’s cover, but it’s just as eye-catching. As you’re about to discover, the music’s eye-opening as well.

What we’re about to show you is a colorful and frenetic animated music video for one of the two new songs, “Prism Prison”, which is itself colorful and frenetic. It’s a purely instrumental form of technical death metal that may bring to mind fond memories of Blotted Science. There’s a lot of fret-wizardry on display, and as the song barrels along its brain-twisting course it becomes increasingly complex, blending start-stop rhythms, call-and-response interchanges between the bass and the guitars, and deranged note swarms that build to a frenzied crescendo.

But here’s perhaps the most surprising thing about the song: cunningly intertwined within the matrix of instrumental intricacy is an infectious melody that you may not even realize you heard until the song ends — and then it surfaces in your head and makes you want to go back and re-live the experience. That’s an impressive achievement.

Feb 242015


In January we came across a musical teaser clip for a forthcoming album entitled Innerstanding by a Cypriot band named Tome of the Unreplenished, and featured it (here) without much commentary in a round-up of new discoveries. Since then we’ve had the chance to explore the album, and today we bring you the premiere of a full song, a work named “Take Me To the Stars”.

The sole member of this band, who calls himself Hermes, was at one time affiliated with the satanic black metal band Necrosadist (and the new album was mixed by Necrosadist’s A. Dictator), but Innerstanding is not an assault of raw black metal. Though it still makes use of black metal elements, it has different goals and follows different pathways, more a work of personal catharsis and experimentation than a re-treading of old, unhallowed ground. As the album’s title suggests, it is an exploration of one man’s inner self as well as a conception of an individual’s place in the immensity of the cosmos. Yet the music is also open to interpretation by the listener, the kind of sounds that inspire imaginings which will vary from person to person.

Feb 242015


On April 20, Season of Mist will release the first new album by Ukrainian black metal band Drudkh since 2012′s Eternal Turn of the Wheel. The name of the new album is A Furrow Cut Short, and today we have the pleasure of bringing you its first advance track — “Till Foreign Ground Shall Cover Eyes”.

The music races, but within the vibrating whirl of guitars and the bolting rhythms, huge waves of dramatic melody move like tides, slow and powerful. The pulsating bass notes, rapid-fire drum munitions, and wild, predatory howls get the blood pumping, but the non-stop intensity of the auditory assault only enhances the passion and staying power of the fiery, tremolo-driven melody. It’s an exhilarating cascade of black metal potency, both ferocious in the moment and memorable in the aftermath.

Feb 242015


It has always been
It has come to this
Family mansion for this life
Family tomb for the next

Shroud of Despondency have done it to me again. Last November, not knowing much about the band, I decided to devote just a few minutes to their new EP, Defective Overpass, just to see what it was like. And the music promptly shoved all my other plans over the side and wouldn’t let me alone until I had gotten my thoughts about it up on this site.

I found out yesterday that the band’s final album, Family Tomb, is now available on Bandcamp. I thought I was better prepared this time, having heard the EP. But I wasn’t. And here I am again, unable to do anything else I had planned to do until I’ve spilled my thoughts all over this page.

I haven’t listened to the album as much as I should, and I haven’t spent as much time writing this review as I should — but I have to tell you about this album, and I need to do it now.

Feb 232015


Australia’s Rise of Avernus are following up their 2013 debut album L’appel du vide with a new EP entitled Dramatis Personæ. It’s a five-track, half-hour affair that includes a guest vocal appearance by Enslaved’s Grutle Kjellson (on the song “Acta Est Fabula”) — and today we bring you a stream of the EP’s penultimate song, “An Alarum of Fate“.

The booming drums and darting orchestral strings that start the song provide immediate elements of intrigue, and they are strong attractions to the music throughout. But they’re not the only attractions. Take the vocals, for example: They’re an appealing blend of flesh-scarring growls, skyward-soaring clean vocals, and ghostly whispers. And just as appealing is the music’s integration of heavy riffs, hammering beats, mesmerizing piano notes, warm bass tones, and dreamlike strings.

Feb 232015


In mid-December of last year the Obama Administration announced an array of changes in U.S. governmental policies affecting relationships with Cuba (summarized here), including the re-establishment of diplomatic relations, easing of travel restrictions, and permitting certain kinds of import-export trade. Putting aside all the political hot air about the decision that has been vented in the U.S. since then, there’s no doubt it will be the start of dramatic changes inside Cuba itself.

Those changes were inevitable, it was just a question of when. Some observers are adamant that the effects will be negative, some are equally adamant they will be positive. They will probably be both good and bad.

Feb 232015


(Our Russian contributor Comrade Aleks returns with this interview of Christian Draghi, vocalist/guitarist of Italy’s Doctor Cyclops.)

Take the map of Italy and find the small town Vaghera in Lombardy. Do you see it? It’s there in the North… Yes, that’s right. It’s a place where the Maserati Brothers were born, four gentlemen who created what has become one of the world’s best luxury sports cars for a long time. But today this place is more interesting for us because of Doctor Cyclops; they’re a trio who have been playing pretty original retro doom rock since 2007. Their songs have a unique Italian touch – some prog elements, something from the atmosphere of Argento movies, and something elusive and really fresh. And they are not as simple as one might think.

I had this interview with Christian Draghi (guitars, vocals), and we discussed their two albums Borgofondo and Oscuropasso. After that I have even more respect for the band. So here he comes – Doctor Cyclops.

Feb 232015


On January 3 of this year I saw the remarkable artwork you’re now looking at, a piece named “The Cold Steps To Solitude” by the Australian artist Chris Cold that was then destined to appear as the cover of an album by a band from Perth named Wardaemonic. I remember the date because I wasted no time in posting it on our site’s Facebook page. And I thought to myself, if the music turns out to be as good as the art, the album is going to be an eye-opener, too.

The name of the album is Obsequium, it’s due for release on March 13, and we have the pleasure of premiering its first advance track, “Endless War”.

That’s a fitting title for this song, because it’s a full-force black metal blitzkrieg of blasting drums, storming tremolo riffs, and razor-edged shrieks. The boiling conflagration is punctuated by bursts of dual-guitar jabbing and it subsides in the closing minutes to make room for a slow, sinuous passage of atmospheric melody, moving like poison fog across the blasted battlefield.

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