Aug 262015

biting the hand


(NCS writer Andy Synn penned the following thoughts….)

So this column is something of a follow-up to my piece entitled “The Negative Zone” that was published last week (here), as there were certain issues and ideas touched upon there that I felt deserved closer attention, particularly the complex, convoluted, and sometimes downright chaotic, relationship between humble Metal blogs like ours, and the Labels, PR reps, and bands that we deal with on a daily basis!

Now, I’m not sure how many of you, or indeed if any of you, stop to think much about the various issues that go into running a blog like this, or whether you simply just enjoy reading the articles now and then (which is totally fine!). But it’s not just about making sure the reviews get edited and published on time (or, at least, in a timely fashion), there’s also a hell of a lot of work involved in managing the relationships that keep the gears turning and keep that content rolling in – all the while trying to maintain at least some sense of journalistic integrity and honesty!

Aug 202015



(The author of this piece is Andy Synn. I expect it will generate some critical discussion — I hope it will — and as the editor of the site I expect to join in that discussion.)

Now, don’t worry, this has nothing to do with the (supposedly woeful) new Fantastic Four movie (“Fant4stic”?) that’s just come out. No, it’s just another rambling column by yours truly about the perils and pitfalls of this thing we call “blogging” – in this case on the topic of negativity, or the lack thereof, at this site and others.

You see, there are definitely times when I wish that NCS could be a little bit more negative in its outlook. Not much. Not drastically. But there’s definitely times when I’ve felt like writing about an album in order to point out its flaws more than to praise it, particularly when I see that album receiving what I feel is undue (or, worse, downright suspicious) levels of praise (more on this topic in a subsequent column).

That’s not to say we aren’t critical here at NCS, when the occasion calls for it. Though we try to remain positive and post mainly about music we’ve heard/found/discovered that really kicks our proverbial asses, we’re also willing to say when we think certain aspects or elements don’t seem to be working, or need a bit of polish, or simply aren’t quite up to the band’s usual standards (see my recent Soilwork review for an example of this).

So, I think there’s definitely a time and a place for a bit of negativity, without sliding into full-scale abuse. But where do you draw the line?

Aug 082015

The Clouding by Philip Straub
“The Clouding” by Philip Straub

At least in most metal circles, I’m an old man, in years if not in spirit. That colors the way I see things. What I see, every day through this blog, are people of all ages (but mainly people young enough to be my kids) creating art. Some of them hope for glory, praise, perhaps even a career. Others, having hoped for that once, or never at all, simply do what they must — make music or explode! For those people it’s a necessity, like breathing.

Because I am of a certain age, I’ve seen a lot. Given what I’ve seen, it would be easy to be cynical about most things but I’m not, probably because life has been pretty good to me. However, I do realize that for most people, survival and personal progress in this world require calculation, sacrifice, compromise — a whole gauntlet of vicious knives that usually happen to be antithetical to art and the artistic impulse of creative people. That gauntlet cuts up a lot of artists and then grinds the remains to dust.

Seeing what the hostile reality of daily life does to many artistic people makes me sad. Knowing what the future holds for most young, artistic people makes me glum. But at the same time I’m dumbfounded by the tremendous number of creative, talented, exuberant people out there. I’m sure it has always been that way, but I’ve only truly seen it since we started this putrid blog almost 6 years ago, and now I see it every day — great rolling floods of creativity, energy, inspiration — never ending. That makes me feel like applauding.

Jul 312015



(This concludes Andy Synn’s three-part post about the tendency of metal fans, critics, and bands to compare one band’s music to that of another and the ways in which it works… and doesn’t work.)

So, as I said, my writing process tends to be a little bit… free-form… so much so, in fact, that yesterday’s publication of Part 2 of Comparative Metallurgy was in fact quite different from how I’d originally envisioned it. One whole section was excised and replaced with the anecdotal part instead, which was originally intended to make up the bulk of Part 3, and the excised section put aside for a different feature sometime in the future.

But this raises a bit of a conundrum, as what I originally had planned for Part 3 has already been published, leaving me with no content for the promised column that you’re currently reading (and that I’m currently writing).

However, as always, our loyal readership comes to my rescue, with this comment from Gipson giving me a new idea for Part 3.

“Good piece! I look forward to parts 2, about egregious examples of misuse (should be fun), and 3, which I assume will be about times you really felt got it right.”

So, let it be written, and let it be done… these are the times when (I think) I didn’t get it wrong!

Jul 302015



(This is Part 2 of a three-part post in which Andy Synn discusses the tendency of fans, reviewers, and bands to compare and contrast the music of one band to that of others. Part 1 is here.)

Here’s a little peek at my writing “process” (scare quotes entirely necessary here…).

As I’ve said before, this was originally only a single column – at least in my head. But as it expanded and snowballed (no, not in that way… get your mind out of the gutter) into a longer and longer piece, it seemed prudent to split it up and rework each separate section slightly to give each one its own focus and theme.

So, as it currently stands, I’m actually still writing/rewriting the main body of Part 2 even as I type this introduction. That’s my process. A mix between stream-of-consciousness rambling and periodic bungee-cord recoils to retype or rework previous sections as and when something new occurs to me.

If I was feeling generous I’d call it “organic”. Although “haphazard” might be a better word for it.

Still, for Part 2 I’ve elected to focus on the ways in which the use of comparisons can be roundly abused and misused, whether consciously or unconsciously.

So let’s get on with it, shall we?

Jul 292015



(Here’s a thought piece by Andy Synn about a topic that we as reviewers have pondered more than once.)

Ok, so… originally this was just once piece. But, over the course of writing it, it began to snowball and expand beyond the original specifications. So it seemed only sensible to split it up, first into two, then into three, separate columns – that way you can pick and choose whatever parts most grab your fancy (and ignore the others).

Sound good?

Anyway, I’ve been kicking around some thoughts, feelings, and questions with various friends and compatriots recently, all to do with the idea of what it means to compare one band with another – when it’s appropriate, how frequently to do it, and how to do it right.

Because, and I’m pretty sure you’ll all be with me on this, over the years I’ve seen it done right, and I’ve seen it done very, very wrong…

Which leads us to Comparative Metallurgy, a three-part infosplurge of spurious factoids and absolutely bulletproof opinions about the use, abuse, and over-use, of comparisons between bands.

Jul 262015



(Father Synn has been shirking his ministerial duties lately. We trust he has duly administered chastisement to his flesh. And now he is again ready for your flesh. Share your metal confessions in the comments. This is not a request.)

Forgive me my children, for I have synned… it has been one whole month since our last confessional. Truly it is a poor shepherd who neglects his flock for so long. Woe be upon me if any of you have been led astray in the meantime.

My only excuse, the only caveat I can offer… is that I’ve been off enjoying myself and getting drunk quite a few times… so suck it.

As always, let my sins be the shining light leading you on the path to redemption!

Jul 032015

artwork by Sam Nelson

(Andy Synn wrote this opinion piece about the tendency of some people to make excuses for mediocre or terrible bands in the face of criticism. We gave up making excuses for Andy long ago.)

A wise man once said:

“It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.”

A similarly wise (and far more handsome) man also once said:

“Excuses are like assholes… I don’t want to hear yours, and it’s not special.”

Ok, so maybe that second one is slightly less well known, but still…

Jun 212015


(Father Synn is ready once again to listen to your filthy confessions after first making his own, and then to prescribe your penance. Unburden your diseased souls below.)

This week’s confessional has a special theme my brethren (and sistren). That of chances not taken and opportunities lost. Oh the sorrow. Oh the shame. Oh the goddamn fucking irritating annoyance of everyday life getting in the way!!!


As always, where I lead, thou shalt follow!

Jun 142015


(Father Synn returns after a brief hiatus, ready once again to listen to your filthy confessions after first making his own, and then to inflict the penance.)

Truly my shame is deep my brethren. It has been two weeks now since our last confessional together. And without my firm hand (piercing eyes, flowing leonine mane, washboard abs… sorry, getting sidetracked there) to guide you, who knows what terrible acts you may have committed?

Dear god, what have I wrought?

So I beg you… come forth and let me cleanse you, let me wash you, let me bathe you and…


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