Aug 202014

Photo by Guðný Lára Thorarensen and Guðmundur Óli Pálmason

Here’s a quartet of things I saw and heard over the last 24 hours that I thought were worth your time. I could have sub-titled this “The Exception to the Rule Round-Up”, because the vocals are almost all of the clean variety.

SÓLSTAFIR

I’ve written about every advance track that has appeared from Sólstafir’s new album Ótta, which will be released by Season of Mist on August 29 in Europe and September 2 in North America. So I guess it stands to reason that I’m going to write about the full-album stream that premiered yesterday at Noisey.

I love the album, but I’m not sure were going to review it. We didn’t get our promo copy of the album from the label until less than 24 hours before the stream went up (and only about 10 days before the European release date), and I do sometimes wonder what the point is of writing a review when everyone can hear the album for themselves, especially when there are so many other albums whose music is less accessible that are also worth praising. There’s always a point to bringing music to the attention of people who might not be aware of it, but anyone who regularly visits our site couldn’t possibly remain unaware Ótta.

Anyway, whether we write more about the album or not, you really should go listen to it. Among the previously unreleased songs, “Non” in particular has been getting repeated spins among our staff. The goddamn riff at the end is just glorious. Go here — you’ll be glad you did:

Aug 152014

 

Here are some things I saw yesterday that opened my eyes wide and increased my flow of drool, requiring an early change-out of the trademarked NCS bib I wear at all times. You may increase the size of some of these images by clicking on them.

ITEM ONE

Item One appears at the top of this post. It’s a shirt design created by Manuel Tinnemans (Comaworx) for Switzerland’s Bölzer, based on the song “Steppes”. I guess it’s not enough that Bölzer are making lots of people jealous with their music. Now they get shirts like this made for them. Stunning. Here’s the artwork on a black background:

 

 

https://www.facebook.com/pages/BÖLZER/108657105834227

Aug 142014

I intended to finish this collection and post it yesterday, making it Part 3 of a big Wednesday round-up of news and new music, but the old fucking day job interfered, and so I’m beginning our Thursday with it. This collection is a bit different from the usual “Seen and Heard” because it includes a couple of items at the end that aren’t new — I’ve just been really drag-ass in bringing them to your attention.

HETROERTZEN

I first came across Hetroertzen last May when I impulsively decided to explore (and write about) some of the releases by an underground Swedish label named Lamech Records. The band are originally from Puerto Varas, Chile, but are now located in Sweden. They have completed recording a fifth full-length album, entitled Ain Soph Aur. It’s currently projected for release on December 6, 2014, in a variety of formats by Lamech Records, Terratur Possessions, and Amor Fati Productions.

In recent days, two songs from the album have been made available for streaming — “Blood Royale” and “The Rose and the Cross”. Both are long pieces, in the seven-and-a-half minute range, and both are very good.

Aug 132014

 

Here’s Part 2 of today’s effort to catch up on news and new music I think are worth your attention. I had planned a third part, but that will have to wait until tomorrow (fucking day job).

ACCEPT

I’ve made no bones about my lukewarm reaction to much of what passes for “traditional” thrash — perhaps primarily because of the genre’s vocal style. But the new song (“Final Journey”) that NPR premiered today from Accept’s 14th album Blind Rage has knocked my socks off, not least because it includes a guitar melody lifted from Edvard Grieg’s “Morning Mood” as an unexpected accent near the song’s end.

But that’s only part of the attraction. The riffs and the solo are absolutely galvanizing, the melody is heart-pumping, and I actually like the vocals by Mark Tornillo as well. Check out the new lyric video next. The album can be ordered here from Nuclear Blast.

Aug 102014

Earlier today I posted a review of the Denver Black Sky 2014 festival, which I had the pleasure of attending last weekend with a fine group of old and new friends. I was already a fan of most of the bands on the two-day line-up, but the festival also introduced me to some excellent new discoveries. And two of them were the first two groups we heard on August 2 — Khemmis and Gomorrah.

If I had time, I’d write about more of the bands I heard for the first time in Denver, but I damn sure wanted to say something about these two, because they made such a memorable beginning to such a great weekend of music.

KHEMMIS

Khemmis make their home in Denver, and to date their available recorded output consists of a 2013 self-titled EP.  The cover of the EP is excellent — and it appeared on one of the two shirts that my friends and I bought after their set at Black Sky:

Aug 072014

Jet-setter that I am, I’m on the road again this week in my old hometown of Austin, Texas. Until last night I haven’t had as much time as usual to check out new music or write about it. I missed a lot, and am trying to catch up before having to leave the world of metal for the rest of today.

I discovered so many things I want to recommend that I’ve divided them into three parts, this being the first.

DECAPITATED

In advance of their new album Blood Mantra (scheduled for September 26 release by Nuclear Blast), Poland’s Decapitated have begun streaming a new song entitled “The Blasphemous Psalm To The Dummy God Creation”. It’s being released as a digital single via Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, or direct from Nuclear Blast (here).

Aug 052014

We’ve collected here a quintet of new videos for your viewing and listening pleasure. In a rare display of brevity, I’m not going to attempt to describe the sounds or what you’ll see in the videos. I’ll identify the music and provide a band link, and then let you dive into the streams… beginning with an exception to our Rule.

ANATHEMA

Song: “Anathema”
Album: Distant Satellites
https://www.facebook.com/anathemamusic

Jul 292014

(In this 49th edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy Synn reviews the discography of Junius from Boston, Massachusetts. Their music is an exception to our Rule.)

Recommended for fans of: Deftones, Katatonia, Solstafir

I first heard about this band in a rather unusual way back at the tail-end of 2011, when they stepped in at the last minute as replacements for Ghost, who were forced to drop off Enslaved’s North American tour at the last minute due to visa issues. Having no prior knowledge of the band at all, I was particularly intrigued when I started to see a quiet shit-storm floating around certain parts of the internet about “that indie band opening for Enslaved”, and felt compelled to check them out… after all, there must be something to them to be causing such a fuss.

And I’m glad I did, because the music they make is astonishingly beautiful and moving, with a sense of haunting atmosphere and blooming melodic power. The guitars shimmer and blossom in great waves of light and shade above an electric foundation of looping bass lines and lithe, progressive drum work, while the vocals – pulsing with echoes of both Joy Division and The Smiths – weave their own distinctive spell of captivating, clean-sung poetry and passion.

The band have been described in several ways… “Alt Metal”, “Post Rock”, “Indie Metal”, “Art Rock”, “Shoegaze Doom Metal”… though none of them really hit the spot. There’s certainly elements of Post-Punk and New Wave in their DNA, that’s obvious enough, as well as a fascination with the metallic atmospherics of acts like Neurosis and Isis, but really their sound is quite unique – oddly anthemic, yet strangely apocalyptic.

Ultimately then, the proof is in the listening. Perhaps start with their latest EP, and work your way backwards. After all, this may not be typical NCS fare, but you trust me… right?

Jul 022014

Collected here are four new songs and one teaser reel of new music from five bands that I heard over the last 24 hours and believe are worth throwing at your head like a nail bomb. I present the music in alphabetical order by band name.

CEREMONIAL CASTINGS

Go ahead, click that image above to enlarge it. I’ll wait.

Pretty fuckin’ cool, isn’t it? It’s the creation of Belgian artist Kris Verwimp and it graces the cover of a new album entitled Cthulhu by Ceremonial Castings. Cthulhu will be this Washington State duo’s eighth album and it’s due for release on July 8. Based on descriptions on the band’s Facebook page, it will be a monumental concept album spanning 2 CDs, the first consisting of 11 tracks divided into three chapters, with a total run-time of more than 70 minutes, and the second consisting of a single 61-minute work entitled “Cthulhu Unbound”.

Jun 252014

(Andy Synn wrote this review of the new album by Sweden’s Vintersorg.)

So it’s probably worth starting out this review by clearing something up. When Vintersorg (Andreas Hedlund and Mattias Marklund) announced that they were going to release an interlinked quartet of albums, each based on one of the four classical elements, I’m sure that a lot of you, like myself, initially expected each one to be quite different from the others, as befitting the divide between the elements themselves. Something akin to the way Thrice explored very different tonal and musical textures with The Alchemy Index I-IV, perhaps.

Well, we were wrong about that it seems. With the release of the first two albums, Jordpuls (“Pulse of the Earth”) and Orkan (“Hurricane”), which dealt with the elements of earth and air respectively, it became clear that the band’s core sound – a melding of archaic, folkish melody and blackened, progressive metal – remained enviably focussed and largely unchanged.

That’s not to say there weren’t differences between the two albums, of course. Jordpuls certainly possessed a certain earthy flavour and an ageless tone, while Orkan captured the flighty, intangible nature of the wind remarkably well with its ethereal song structures and skittering flutes. But, ultimately, neither was a major shift in style or sound for the band. And that’s ok. They weren’t meant to be.

Really, this whole experiment is more about filtering and refining the established Vintersorg sound in interesting, incremental ways, than it is about altering it wholesale. It’s about changing the little things, the small shifts in focus or delivery, adding a few deft touches and artful rearrangements here and there, all designed to re-envision the band through a different, elemental lens.

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