Oct 152014


(In this post Andy Synn offers some opinions and poses some questions — and invites your answers in the Comments.)

Now that the financial crisis is over… fair and equitable punishments have been meted out to those involved… the banks have all learned their lessons… and nothing like that will ever happen again…. I think we can safely move on to discussing more important topics, right?

All (slightly depressing) jokes aside, zeitgeisty terms like “too big to fail” actually have their use and can be applied and utilized in a bunch of wider contexts. Case in point, what happens when a Metal band becomes “too big to fail”, and how does a band even reach that point?

Oct 092014

EDITOR’S PREFACE:  Thanks to a recommendation from my friend MaxR at Metal Bandcamp, I discovered an article written by veteran musician Matt Harvey of California’s Exhumed that he posted at the Exhumed blog (here) in late August. It consists of reflections about the evolution of death metal, as he has witnessed it, over the more than two decades he has spent in the scene.

I thought the article was really well-written and very thought-provoking, and it occurred to me (and to Max) that it was something more people ought to see. I also suspected that it would generate some interesting discussion among readers of our site. So, I contacted Matt Harvey and asked for his permission to re-publish his article here, and he graciously agreed.

I’ve re-posted the article exactly as it appeared on the Exhumed blog, with the same graphics, links, and music clips. Perhaps needless to say, I hope people will make the time to read this in its entirety and to add your thoughts in the Comments. I don’t expect everyone will agree with all of Matt’s observations and opinions, but I think you’ll find it informative and interesting, regardless. Here you go:

Sep 092014

(Our old friend and stalwart NCS supporter Vonlughlio is passionate about metal, he happens to like physical copies of the metal he favors, and he lives in The Dominican Republic – which means he mostly has to order what he wants, and that isn’t always easy. In this guest post he singles out the labels that mean the most to him. We encourage you to do the same in the Comments.)

I decided to write about my favorite labels in metal after a discussion with a friend in which he stated the following: “I don’t buy from the labels because they don’t give the money to the artist or treat them with respect”. Sure, there is some truth to that in the case of certain labels, but there are labels out there who represent the opposite of this statement. Plus my friend could usually still buy direct from the band if needed, but that is another discussion for another time.

So to counteract this negativity about labels, I’m going to list my favorite ones. The list doesn’t include the largest labels, since they tend to specialize in different genres from my favorites. This is also my way of rendering tribute to those I’m listing for their hard work.

Aug 272014

(Andy Synn wrote this piece. Your comments are welcome, as always.)

Isn’t it funny how when bands sell-out, they also seem to feel the need to denigrate and insult their former fans at the same time? It’s a woefully common phenomenon – a band changes its sound in order to target mainstream success, and then goes to great lengths in interviews to talk about how they’ve “gone beyond” metal, or “grown out of it”, simultaneously insulting the genre wholesale whilst confirming all the worst clichés about it being “childish” or “immature”.

The latest offender to play this game of PR politicking is All That Remains frontman Phil Labonte, who posted the following recently, after announcing that all the tracking for their new album had been completed:

So in the past six months bleeding through called it quits, god forbid called it quits, and just today shadows fall has announced that for all intents and purposes they’re calling it quits. I’m so glad ATR have transcended “metal” and have become “musicians.”

And it inspired me to address the topic, and maybe call Phil out on his bullshit a little.

Aug 262014

A detail from “Green” by Philadelphia artist Taisya Kuzmenko

I preface this article, which asks some questions, by telling you that I’m looking for honest answers. I think most of our regular readers are good-hearted people who actually care about this site and therefore may be prone to say things that will make us feel good. Don’t do that. Tell us the truth. If the truth isn’t what we want to hear, don’t worry. I can tell you with near certainty that it won’t change what we do, and we’re thick-skinned enough that it won’t hurt much. The questions are more a matter of curiosity than a gathering of information that would lead to a change in what we do here.


We’re long-winded. Compared to most metal sites our posts tend to go on… and on… and on. Though Andy Synn occasionally brings us reviews in haikus, most of our reviews are long (DGR recently wrote a 600-word piece about one song). Most of the other features are long, too.

For example, I write almost all of the “round-up” posts, which focus on news and new music, and I have a habit of cramming those with a lot of items and a lot of words. Same goes for the MISCELLANY posts (when I get to them) and other regular or semi-regular features I put together here. I could break them up into a string of smaller features and sprinkle them through the day, or many days, as some other sites do. I’m not even sure why I don’t.

Same goes for the song and album premieres — we tend to describe our thoughts and feelings about the music before we come to the music streams. Many other sites don’t do that. They include a few sentences of introduction and then BOOM — there’s the music player.

The posts today that are going to follow this one are typical of what you’ll find here — the jumbo round-up of news and new music that will follow this post, Andy Synn’s 50th edition of The Synn Report (in which he reviews an entire seven-album discography), and Gemma Alexander’s thoughts on Day 2 of Iceland’s recent Eistnaflug festival. None of them will be short and sweet.

So, here’s the serious question:

Aug 152014


(Time to get some discussion going.  Tell us about bands you used to adore but hd to break up with. Andy Synn starts things off with a break-up story of his own.)

Now, to assuage your fears, I’m not leaving either Beyond Grace or Twilight’s Embrace. Like a persistent rash that you can’t quite explain… I’m sticking with both bands for a long time.

No, this is about what happens when a band you love, a band you’ve followed and supported for years and years, decides to make a change and, in doing so, changes the way you feel about them.

What do you do?

The one thing you don’t do is fly completely off the handle, insult and troll the band online, and basically make yourself look like a jackass. Like any break-up, it’s better for everyone if you handle things with dignity.

Remember what happened when Peter Dolving rejoined The Haunted? The outcry that prompted was both utterly disproportionate and thoroughly amusing at the same time. I remember clearly one commenter threatening to “go and take all [the band’s] cds from the store and burn them”. Now not only would this be very much against the law, but what does it really solve?

Aug 062014

(Here’s another installment of Andy Synn’s irregular series devoted to his favorite things that come in fives. As always when he does these things, please feel free to share your own list in the Comments — in this case, your favorite bands you’ve never seen live.)

It’s been a while since I’ve written one of these random little columns. I bet you were beginning to think I’d forgotten about them, hadn’t you?

Well, my strange predilection for numerical lists of my favourite things has reared its ugly head again, and this time we’re dealing with the mournful issue of bands I’ve never (for a variety of reasons) managed to see live!


Let’s start with a big one, shall we? I love Extol. They are one, if not the biggest, of my favourite bands. Their dissolution back in 2007 seemingly put paid to my chance of ever seeing them live, but now they’re back with an amazing new album and are playing a few select live shows… well, let’s just say that there are few things I wouldn’t do for a chance to see and hear them perform!

Jul 312014

Eno (photo by Richard Burbridge)


Yesterday I read two articles that jarred a few thoughts loose in my head. One was a feature (here) by Sasha Frere-Jones in The New Yorker about the musician Brian Eno and one was a Q&A (here) between Kim Kelly and Bölzer’s guitarist/vocalist Okoi “KzR” Jones that appeared at Stereogum.

Eno is credited with coining the phrase “ambient music”. He first became visible through his membership in the band Roxy Music and his subsequent solo albums of pop and rock songs that made extensive use of synthesizers. He produced Devo’s debut album, produced and performed on three albums by Talking Heads, produced seven albums for U2, wrote music and performed on three David Bowie albums, collaborated with King Crimson’s Robert Fripp on multiple records, and worked as a producer and/or performer with many other musicians too numerous to mention. On top of that he is a visual artist, and he has continued experimenting in the creation of music to the present day.

When he spoke to Sascha Frere-Jones in 2013, Eno said:

“I think negative ambition is a big part of what motivates artists. It’s the thing you’re pushing against. When I was a kid, my negative ambition was that I didn’t want to get a job.”

Listening to Eno’s music and reading about the evolution of his life as an artist, you get the sense that his “negative ambition” extended beyond not wanting to get a conventional job. As Sasha-Jones wrote of his art, “Eno fights against received wisdom and habit”. Even in his work as a producer, “Eno often works with highly skilled musicians and then asks them to play against their own virtuosity”.

Jun 022014

(In this post NCS guest contributor Kevin P, who I had the pleasure of meeting in person for the first time at this year’s edition of Maryland Deathfest, provides his thoughts about the 12th installment of this amazing U.S. festival.)

This was my third MDF and the first one I planned on attending all four days.  In 2011 I went Friday through Sunday, and last year on Thursday only (yes, I flew out simply for Bolt Thrower).  As luck would have it, Triptykon cancelled three days before their scheduled performance on Thursday, which made me rethink my plans.

We have a brand new baby in our house (three months old) along with a ten-year-old, so the wife wasn’t what I would call “pleased” that I was going to be away for almost five days while she played the single parent game.  The only bands that really mattered  to me on Friday were Necros Christos, The Ruins of Beverast, and At the Gates (who I’d just seen twice on Barge to Hell in Dec 2012), so once Triptykon made Thursday utterly useless for me (yeah, Coffins are cool and all, but nothing that gets me all chubbed up at night), I decided to cut my trip to only Saturday and Sunday (ya know, help out around the house, make the wife happy, all that kinda shit).

Then, in their infinite wisdom (and possibly me gently nudging and requesting it on their Facebook page), the organizers decided to add a second Bölzer set on Friday night (in place of Aeturnus, who had visa issues at the airport).  Bölzer was originally scheduled to play Saturday night, opposite Dark Angel, which was my sole pain point for the whole festival.  I don’t live and die everything Dark Angel, but they are a legendary band I enjoy and have never seen.  But when the hell am I going to get a chance to see Bölzer again?  So once they added a second Bölzer set on Friday night (opposite At the Gates’ time slot), the wife said “go, why not at this point”.  So at 11:50pm Thursday night I rebooked my flight AGAIN to arrive on Friday early afternoon.

May 292014

I’ve been reliving my experience at Maryland Deathfest XII through these “travelogue” posts. Maybe “extending my experience” would be a better way to say it, because I really didn’t want it to end and still don’t. But I need to move back to what I usually do at the site (as soon as I remember what that is), and so this will be the final installment.

When I left off yesterday I was in the middle of giving a round of applause to the bands I saw at the Rams Head venue during the course of MDF who made the biggest impact on me. To be clear, I enjoyed the performances of every band I heard at MDF, but the ones I’ve mentioned in these posts were the highlights. I’ll wrap up my thoughts about the performances at Rams Head next, and then turn to the bands who were at Edison Lot.

Saturday night after Bölzer finished their set and I finished waiting in line at their merch table to throw money at them, I caught the last half of the set by Finland’s Hooded Menace, a band I like a lot. They were hooded and they were menacing, boulder-sized doom chords falling down like slow rain (if it were raining boulders) and bleak (but entrancing) guitar melodies rising up like graveyard mist.

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