Jul 092014

For your entertainment and edification I bring you a small group of news items and new music that I enjoyed over the last 24 hours. All of them involve especially enticing pieces of album art that you may view as larger images by clicking on them.


Thanks to a tip from my friend Vonlughlio, I just saw the news that the sixth album by Poland’s Decapitated will be released by Nuclear Blast and Mystic Production (Poland) on September 26, 2014. It was recorded, as usual, at Hertz Studio in Białystok, Poland, by the Wiesławski brothers. The album cover was created by Polish artist Lukasz Jaszak, who also made the cover of the band’s last album, Carnival Is Forever.

This announcement was accompanied by a statement from Vogg (Waclaw Kieltyka) that the new music is “totally crushing and huge” and that Blood Mantra is “the most heavy and mature album” the band have ever recorded.

Such statements must always be taken with a grain of salt, but even if the album is only “about the same level of crushing and huge” as what Decapitated have delivered in the past, sign me the fuck up.


Jun 122014

If you look on the right side of this page under the heading of “Categories” you’ll see a link to something called “Eye-Catchers”. It was an irregular series of posts I started a very long time ago and then sort of forgot about. The original idea was to pick music to write about based solely on the cover art, as a way of testing the hypothesis that cool album art tends to correlate with cool music. I still often check out new music in just that way — because the artwork catches my eye — but writing about what I’ve found in that way as a test of the “Eye-Catchers” hypothesis has fallen by the wayside. I’m going to try to do more of that.

I’ve already written (twice) about music from the forthcoming album (Solace) by Norway’s Vinterbris, and I first paid attention to it precisely because of the cover art, which was created by an artist I’ve praised frequently at NCS: Kim Holm. The last time I wrote about this partnership was after the release of a video showing Kim Holm’s creation of a drawing for the album with the song “Dysphoria” as musical accompaniment. I’m going to embed that video again at the end of this post in case you missed it. But the main reason for the post is to collect in one place all the other pieces that Holm created for Solace — because he created separate pieces for each song on the album (just as he did for Sólstafir’s Svartir Sandar — that art is collected here.)

Solace will be released on June 16 by Nordavind Records. You can order it now on CD either here or here, and that second link will take you to a Bandcamp page where digital downloads can also be pre-ordered. But of course one reason to spring for the CD (which is what I’ve done) is to get the booklet with the art you’re about to see (a CD pre-order gets you immediate download of two songs).

Apr 212014

Swimming through the effluent of the interhole this morning I came upon these life rafts that buoyed my spirits. May they make you buoyant as well.


Last November I reported the happy news that Vancouver’s Auroch had signed with Profound Lore, for the release of the band’s next album during 2014 (that same report was merely the prelude to a review of the band’s killer 2013 EP Seven Veils, which you should hear if you haven’t). And now we have the album’s name — Taiman Shud — and the cover art by Cold Poison, which you can see above and which is damned cool — cold, grim, and undoubtedly fitting for what I expect will be an immense and forbidding death metal release.

The official release date was also announced:  June 24, 2014. A vinyl edition will be coming in July via Dark Descent.

And in other Auroch news, it was announced that Tridoid Records will be releasing the band’s previous album From Forgotten Worlds on vinyl this coming August.

Mar 022014

Masha Scream, photo by Greg Shanta

Russia’s Arkona have completed a new album named Yav. It will be released on April 25. I’m very interested in hearing it, not only because I’ve enjoyed previous recordings but also because I’ve enjoyed the hell out of the two live Arkona performances I’ve seen so far in Seattle. The frontwoman Masha Scream is a force of nature on stage, in addition to the fact that  she has a great dual voice (both harsh and clean).

I’ve read that for the new album she wrote almost all of the music and almost all of the lyrics, which was the first time it dawned on me that her role in Arkona goes well beyond that of vocalist and magnetic stage presence. But this post actually isn’t about her, or anyone else in the band. It’s about Gyula Havancsák, the Hungarian artist who created the artwork for Yav.

In addition to creating the album cover, which you will see in a minute, he also created pieces for each of the album’s 9 songs. Beginning last week, Arkona began posting the song illustrations on their Facebook page, along with poetic translations of the Russian lyrics into English. So far, five of the illustrations have appeared, and they’re very cool. You can see them next, along with the album cover. To hear a teaser of the new music, go to this location.

Dec 042013

(In this post, guest writer This Is The News hands out some personal awards for the best metal album cover art of 2013. Please leave your thoughts — including your own favorite cover art of the year — in the Comments.)

It’s time again for year end lists, which boils down to two things for most of us:

  1. No surprises. Decibel, Revolver, and Metal Sucks will publish lists that we probably could have predicted back in June.
  2. We will want to argue with their choices anyway.

As much fun as that is, let’s take it a step further with a look at some of the best album cover art of 2013. Good artwork can be the incentive to hear an unknown artist, or a small consolation to a disappointing album. Even if you’re bummed out that the new Avantasia album isn’t actually about gnome wizards, at least you still have a fun bit of fantasy art to admire. So look, argue, give your own list of favorites. You know the drill.

Nov 132013

Sales of music CDs in the US are in a state of “terminal decline”, and are projected to continue dropping by an average annual rate of 13% from now through 2017 and will probably never see “any kind of sales increase again”. Ironically, as some believe, they could be saved from complete extinction only by consumers who come to see them as a “nostalgia niche product”.

Maybe a day will come, far off in the future, when history will repeat itself and CDs will experience the resurgence that vinyl sales have been experiencing recently. But even with vinyl sales growing, the total physical market for music in the US is already dwarfed by digital sales, and the disparity is only going to get worse. The same trends are happening globally as well.

As physical sales of music have dropped, some observers have worried that album art would also become less and less significant, both as an art form and as a draw for consumers. I used to be one of those people. But I’ve changed my mind. I don’t base my optimism on any hard data, just my own observations, and so maybe I’m guilty of wishful thinking. But at least in the world of metal, it sure seems that fans still care about quality album art, and that striking album art draws fans into music they would otherwise never discover — even if they’re only buying digital downloads.

Nov 012013

I’ve been distracted today, more than usual, by my fucking day job (the nerve of them expecting me to work for my pay!), but I didn’t want to let this Friday crawl to a close without one more post. I’ve seen and heard a handful of new things today that are worth spreading around, but time being short, I’ll limit this to two excellent items, and perhaps include the rest tomorrow.


The ultra-crushing, doom-dealing blood drinkers in Finland’s Hooded Menace appear to have been working on a follow-up to their gloriously heartless 2012 album Effigies of Evil. The new work will be released as a 12″ EP by Doomentia entitled Labyrinth of Carrion Breeze. The beautiful cover art (and by “beautiful” I mean loaded with fuckin skulls and ghouls) was unveiled on Halloween, and credit goes to Joshua Brettell (Ilsa’s drummer) and Adam Geyer for the creation (Brettell drew, Geyer did the gorgeous coloring). The front panel is above and the gatefold layout can be viewed after the jump (click for bigger views).

In addition to sharing the cover art, Hooded Menace has also made a part of a song called “Chasm of the Wraith” available for streaming. It’s low, slow . . . and actually beautiful, in a dreadful way.

Jun 262013

Yours truly has been keeping both bloodshot eyes peeled for info about the next album by Vasaeleth. Keeping my eyes open without blinking for hours on end makes them hurt quite a lot, and this may explain why I sometimes make whimpering noises. However, we must all endure pain for our pleasure, because this is the way of the world. Of course, much of the time we must endure pain to no good end at all. This also is the way of the world.

Aw fuck, where was I?  Oh yeah, waiting for Vasaeleth. Well, my painful vigilance was rewarded this afternoon with a boatload of information. First, Profound Lore confirmed the title of the new album (All Uproarious Darkness) and announced its release date (August 20). Second, PL unveiled the album’s cover art, which you can see above. It was painted by the viciously talented Antichrist Kramer. It’s quite eye-catching, don’t you think?

And finally, we have been given a new song to hear, one bearing the title “Paradise Reconsecrated”. I’m of two minds about the song. In one of my minds I’m being torn apart by wild, voracious beasts who are growling and shrieking and tearing and swallowing whole in a feast of ravenous abandon. In my other mind, I’m enveloped by a blackened death metal tornado, the air being sucked from my lungs while the guitars grind and moan and squeal, the bass thunders, and the drums rumble like an earthquake; and then I’m eaten alive by wild animals. It feels so good.

Jun 062013

This is the second part of a two-part post about new music that swallowed me up last night. By blind chance, all four of the songs I heard sound like granite must feel, sitting on your chest or coming down in an avalanche on your head. Part 1 (here) dealt with Geryon and Hollow Leg. This one focuses on Lycus (Oakland) and Ortega (The Netherlands).


In addition to delivering crushing music, all four of the bands featured in this two-part post bring us striking cover art for their new releases. As you can see, the debut album by Lycus, Tempest, is adorned with the awesome painted art of the Italian madman Paolo Girardi (go past the jump to see more of the album art).  Tempest is scheduled for release by 20 Buck Spin on July 9 (digitally and on CD/LP).

I haven’t yet carved out time to listen to the album, and nothing from it is yet available for public streaming, but I did check out the first song from the band’s Demo MMXI. That demo was released two years ago by Graceless Recordings (run by Mike Meacham of LOSS) and on vinyl by The Flenser Records, and it’s a name-your-price download on Bandcamp.

Jun 062013

Sometimes the hands of blind coincidence shuffle the cards of life and deal you a flush. And so they did for me last night. In addition to other blog-related activities, I had time to listen to four new songs, and by happenstance they all turned out to be from the same suit — and they were also a winning combination. I know four cards don’t make a flush, but one of the songs is 18 minutes long, so I think that counts as two cards (at least).

The songs are actually from somewhat different genres of metal, but when I say they’re from the same suit I mean that they have this in common: BASS

I’m dividing this post into two parts, with two songs in each one. The next post will come later this morning.


The first song I listened to was brand new, the first track released by a new band named Geryon. I listened to it mainly because Geryon is composed of two members of Krallice, Nicholas McMaster and Lev Weinstein, and the song was produced by a third, Colin Marston. I do like me some Krallice. But there were two other reasons, and you’re looking at one of them at the top of this post.

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