(You can’t say we don’t take care of our broke-ass readers. DGR brings you word of some free Bandcamp releases that are worth your time.)
We’re broke, we’re all broke. We were broke before the holiday season and we’ll be broke after it. One of the huge unifying things among musicians and fans these days, especially the most fervent ones, is that it seems like we’re always fucking broke. That’s why when a band releases something for “name your own price”, which is usually code for “free”, and it is really good, I try to get it out there. While it is always suggested that you donate generously to these groups, it’s nice to get these experiences, and truly enjoy some artwork with serious passion behind it, for little up-front.
So, I found myself slowly (very slowly) collecting free projects over the past few months that had just come out that I found enjoyable and wanted to spread out to the world. This time, the collection includes a bedroom guitar virtuoso project — ever the staple of the name your own price scheme –, a grind band hailing from the Pacific Northwest, and a melodeath project hailing from lovely Corona, California, home of many things and places that are within the city limits of Corona, California.
(Our supporter xBenx has compiled a series of guest posts, this being the ninth installment. Each one focuses on a different band that he fears may have been overlooked by the masses, and today the spotlight is on the now-defunct UK band My Cross To Bare.)
There’s nothing worse than wasted potential, especially in music. The number of bands I pine over for having released only one album, or worse, one demo, is endless, though it’s not as if my grief will subconsciously force them to release anything more. My Cross to Bare falls into this category. They should have gone on to become one of the UK’s best (extreme) bands. They were even on Siege of Amida at one point (at a time when that label was on a signing frenzy) for their second album, and this made me beyond excited.
Regrettably, it wasn’t meant to be. Apparently, that second album was recorded but never unleashed, with no explanation as to why or how. All that’s left was their monolith of a debut, which combined death, grind, and a dash of hard/noisecore so emphatically that it was startling. A fitting epitaph it seems:
(In this extensive guest post, Booker details the history of Greek band Chaostar, reviews the band’s discography, and provides lots of sample music and videos.)
Every now and then some of our favourite metal musos delve into that ‘other’ territory of music – you know, that strange place that incorporates all those non-metal genres. It’s terrifying to think some people actually enjoy pop for example, but the world is a dark place, full of all kinds of horrors and outlandish fetishes. While we’re all familiar with fusion of metal with other genres, what I’m talking about here is when metal musicians release entire albums with their feet squarely planted in non-metal territory. And if you’re reading this blog you’d probably agree with me that metal can boast some of the most amazing musicians on the planet, so it can be interesting to see what their minds produce when put to other ends.
Which brings us to the topic of this here rant – Christos Antoniou, of Septic Flesh, not only sports some of the greatest dreads in metal, but has revealed himself over the years to be quite a creative individual indeed, and with a degree from the prestigious London College of Music, it should be no surprise that he is responsible for the symphonic elements in Septic Flesh’s works, particularly more prominent on their latest albums. But probably lesser-known is that he has also been the helm of a side-project in the form of Chaostar – a neo-classical “band” he uses to pursue his more experimental side as a composer.
Over the years the band has also included other members of Septic Flesh — Spiros Antoniou (aka Seth Siro Anton, vocalist; who has also done some of the band’s artworks), and now Fotis Bernando (drummer for Septic Flesh) — as well as a cross-over of musical elements between the bands. So if you’re in the mood for a retrospective look over their discography of experimental, often gothic, but largely non-metal, works, read on…
(Our supporter xBenx has compiled a series of guest posts, this being the eighth installment. Each one focuses on a different band that he fears may have been overlooked by the masses, and today the spotlight is on the sadly departed Boston band Grief.)
Grief were such a mystery to me, in the sense that when I first discovered them there was miniscule info to latch upon (shows how old I am). Yet, tracking down most of their albums was pretty easy, even ten years ago. Now it’s more arduous, although Come to Grief’ is, somewhat strangely, on iTunes. But I digress. What about the music?
It’s tortured, misanthropic sludge of the highest order, for me, even higher than that of Eyehategod. Controversial I know, but Grief just had a broader sonic palette and better songs that can worm their way nefariously into your brain.
(In this guest post, Johan Paulin features an eye-popping list of metal bands, all of whom hail from the same relatively small town in northern Sweden. Tons of music in here, too.)
As most metalheads with more than a fleeting interest in extreme metal know, Sweden has been a forerunner ever since Quorthon struck his first minor chord back in the 80’s. The explanations for how a population the size of Sweden’s could spawn so many good metal bands have varied, and I won’t get into them now, but it’s safe to say that the great band / population ratio is over the top. Still, for all the bands you do know, dozens more toil in more or less obscurity and deserve a better fate. Thus, when Islander called upon us readers to contribute while he took a well-earned vacation full of cloudgazing and Krokodil [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desomorphine], I decided to take the opportunity to champion some of the great bands that originate from my hometown of Umeå, Sweden.
Umeå is located in the northern part of Sweden and has a population of about 120,000 in the whole municipality, making it the 12th largest city in Sweden according to The Font of All Human Knowledge. If that may seem laughable to many of you, you’ll be rolling on the floor when I tell you that the population of London is equal to the population of my whole country! So, fuck demographics and let’s get on with the metal.
While awaiting the rollout of our own series of posts devoted to the year’s best metal, I continue to keep an eye out for year-end lists published by what I’ve been calling “big platform” web sites. By “big platform” sites, I mean those that have web traffic which greatly exceeds even the biggest metal-only sites. By definition, these are sites that cover musical genres beyond metal, and usually entertainment interests beyond music.
PopMatters is a popular culture web site with broad coverage of music, film, television, books, comics, software and video games — you name it. Its articles get picked up regularly by the mainstream media, and it claims a readership of more than 1 million unique visitors per month. In other words, it fits the profile of “big platform” web sites whose lists of 2013′s best metal we’ve been re-publishing here at NCS.
Today, PopMatters published its list of “The Best Metal of 2013″, ranking the chosen albums from #20 to #1. The list was compiled by Adrien Begrand, Dean Brown, Chris Colgan, Brice Ezell, Benjamin Hedge Olson, Erik Highter, and Dane Prokofiev (who has been an occasional contributor to NCS over the years). To see the list with accompanying descriptions and explanations of the choices along with sample tracks or full-album streams from most of the listed albums, use THIS LINK.
And right after the jump, you can see a list of the PopMatters picks.
(In this post, guest writer Tal — whose own blog is here — forcefully expresses some opinions about the shirt emblazoned with the above image released by the band Mastodon for this year’s Thanksgiving holiday. As always, Comments are welcome.)
In case you haven’t been on the internet since before Thanksgiving, Mastodon decided to mark that holiday by putting out a really tasteless shirt. The shirt, which shows a male Pilgrim pointing a musket at a kneeling, scantily clad, stereotypical image of a Native American woman holding up a turkey, has drawn outraged responses from members of Native communities (for example here and here). The band seem to think that they are doing something to raise awareness; they wrote on Facebook:
“Regarding our thanks giving shirt, whether you choose to believe or not, the American Indians were massacred by the white settlers who became the Americans we are today. this shirt represents this atrocity and celebrating in the face of this atrocity is chilling.”
They felt the need to add: “we may have a sick sense of humor, but we are far from being ‘Racist’ as some of you who might not get it are calling us.” (What’s actually chilling is that this post had over 4,000 likes as of the writing of this article.)
Mastodon in effect dismisses the criticisms leveled at their choice of imagery by implying that the critics don’t “get” the shirt or somehow don’t believe that Native Americans were massacred at the hands of white settlers, when this is not the problem at all. The problem is not their message, but the way they’ve chosen to execute it, and the band’s response just makes it worse.
(In this new edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy Synn explores the discography of Seattle’s Book of Black Earth.)
Recommended for fans of: Immolation, Grave, Belphegor
The Synn Report is like a fragile eco-system. Cultivating it requires maintaining a careful balance between editions. You can’t have too many Black Metal bands, or too many Death Metal bands, one after the other. You can’t go too dark, or too melodic, for too long. You can’t oversaturate the tech or over-indulge the prog. You need to cover as much ground as possible, varying your approach, as the whole ethos of the column is one dedicated to exposing deserving bands from across the metal spectrum.
While I have some definite surprises planned for the future, this time around I felt like we needed something raw and vicious, something filled to the brim with rabid vocals, blasting drums, and buzz-saw guitars, where even the barest hints of melody have a dark and menacing feel to them.
And since I’m off back to Seattle again soon, I decided that now was the best time to introduce you all to the killer Black/Death hybrid of Book of Black Earth, a band who have walked the left hand path, worshipped at the altars of madness, and dwelt under the sign of hell ever since the release of their first demo, way back in 2004.
(TheMadIsraeli continues his retrospective assessment of the discography produced by the seminal death metal band Pestilence, whose new album Obsideo was released recently. The first part of this series can be found here and the second part here.)
So, after you’ve released a beast of an album, an album that is praised as one of the greatest death metal records ever, what do you do from there? After releasing Consuming Impulse, Pestilence were at a point where the band had to either continue doing the same thing over and over again with consistently stellar results (not an easy thing), or take a ninety-degree turn and pave a new way.
I suppose I really should be saying Patrick Mameli in particular here, because in the end this is HIS band. This becomes no more apparent than during the period after Martin Van Drunen leaves and Mameli takes up both the guitar and mic duties again. For the Pestilence name, the music that would be produced in the next two records would be a definite risk. Neither containing the feral savagery of Malleus… nor retaining the foaming-at-the-mouth ferocity of Consuming Impulse, the next round of Pestilence material would see Mameli exploring progressive structures and ideas, and digging back into and even further exploring the alien brand of riffing found on Malleus….
It’s here that we’ll see experimentations with odd time signatures, fringe elements brought in from other sub-genres (some jazz fusion elements, black metal, and doom metal stuff) and an overall disregard for the conventional. This is where Pestilence would become associated with the likes of Cynic, Death, and Atheist.
(In this guest post, Booker identifies works of literature that he was inspired to read as a result of metal, along with the specific music that provided the push. If you’ve had similar experiences, we’d like to hear about them in the Comments, along with any thoughts you might have about Booker’s post.)
Well, if you’re reading NCS, you’ve probably come to the conclusion that metal is one of mankind’s greatest creations. When I’m feeling generous I’d even expand that to music in general. You know what one of human beings’ other greatest creations is? Sending humans to an orbiting lunar body in specially controlled atmospheric craft and protective suits? Pfft, no! Using a modified virus to evoke lasting immune responses to deadly diseases? Meh.
What I’m talking about is writing. That’s right, writing, without which those other achievements wouldn’t even be possible. When you think about it, it’s pretty mind-blowing that we can scrawl lines on paper, and now digital displays, and someone else can look at those hieroglyphics and almost instantaneously discern meaning, enabling us to convey ideas and thoughts to someone else without even talking to them! From one side of the planet to another, or even from one mind to another across the abyss of time and the divide of death. Think about that after smoking a few pipes (oh my god, it’s like there’s people reading my mind!… over the internet!… and I’m reading some thoughts from someone who’s dead!… woooaahh).
And with writing came literature (and humorous toilet graffiti). Not surprisingly, given the vast array of ideas and storylines conveyed by literature, some of those works have in turn inspired musicians to craft musical works covering the same themes, and when metal musicians do it you get what I’d call a veritable orgy of humanity’s greatest creations – metal meets literature, all getting off over each other. That’s what I’m talking about! But what I’m going to cover here is taking this one step further – not just metal albums inspired by literature, but albums/songs/bands that have in turn inspired me to go back to the source and read the inspirational literature in question.