May 242017


(Andy Synn (and other fiends here at NCS) is attending Maryland Deathfest XV, which begins a bit later this week, and here he names the five bands whose performances are highest on his list.)

In case you hadn’t heard, there’s a little event called “Maryland Deathfest” happening this week, and I’m lucky enough to be attending for the second year in a row.

As a result, my contributions to NCS are going to be somewhat… minimal… until next week (though I do have a little something blast-tastic lined up for Friday for you all), while I do my best to develop and nurse a cumulative five-day hangover/bangover.

In recognition of this momentous occasion, however, I thought I’d put together a quick list of the five bands I’m most looking forward to seeing at MDF this year – although thinning it down to only five definitely wasn’t easy!

Feb 112017


(Andy Synn wrote the following bovine-themed opinion piece.)

Phew, for a group of people often characterised as “rebellious” and “anti-religious”… we metalheads sure do hold more than our fair share of things as sacred and inviolable, don’t we?

Case in point, a certain article last year (which will, for the moment, remain unnamed) dared to question and criticise a particularly famous and highly-regarded album, which of course led to the expected backlash from the sort of knee-jerk reactionaries who like to say things like “this proves you’re a hipster” or “if you don’t like [x] then you don’t like Metal!”

Now while I don’t want this article to develop into a similar bitchfest (again, for such a supposedly “macho” genre, we can certainly be a catty group when something ruffles our petticoats), I do have to say that I thought the article was well-written, and made some cogent points.

I didn’t necessarily agree with its conclusion, but then nor do I think it was wrong to write it, or that the author was just trying to troll people.

Because it is important, sometimes, to go against the grain. To challenge the prevailing orthodoxy and to try to make people think not just about what they like… but about why they like it in the first place.

Sometimes the sacred cow needs to be slaughtered. Or, at least, lightly stabbed.

Nov 212016



(Here we have an opinion piece by Andy Synn, and as always we welcome your comments.)

As most of you should know by now, I generally love Black Metal. Of course I don’t love every band or every particular sub-species of the style, but overall there’s just something about the music and the ethos of the genre – an intensity, an atmosphere, a sense of stubborn individuality — that really speaks to me.

I also particularly love the fact that Black Metal, although denigrated by many for being too insular and restrictive (and, in fact, also celebrated by many for the former), is actually one of the most musically open and creative genres in Metal when you really dig into it.

From the most Avant-Garde to the most Punk, from the most Melodic to the most harshly Industrial, from the Post/Progressive/Atmospheric side of things, to the punishing panzer-style of pure blasting blasphemy… and more… to my mind the core essence of Black Metal is a refusal to be restricted or defined by the expectations of others. It’s about freedom and the ability to “do what thou wilt…”

But, of course, that itself raises some problems.

Oct 212016



(Andy Synn wrote the following opinion piece.)

The initial title for this column was “The Law of the Average”, as its overall focus was initially supposed to be on how easy it is for bands to settle for just being average… often without even realizing it.

But, as I was writing it — and, as usual, my thoughts were racing ahead of my typing — I realized that although my musings on the curse of being merely “average” was definitely still a big part of the piece, the main focus had shifted somewhat. I was no longer writing about how it must feel to realize (or, even more frequently, not realize) that your band may not ever rise above being simply “average” in the grand scheme of things… I was writing about how and about why I think this happens. Which is a subtle but important distinction.

And, ultimately, I decided (though I don’t really know if “decided” is the right word) to zero in on one fact in particular.

The importance of influences and how they shape you, as a band, as a musician, and as a person in general.

Sep 282016



I haven’t written about this subject in a while, but a recent private exchange of messages on Facebook got me thinking about it again.  The subject concerns music created by bands (or at least parts of bands) who embrace Nazi ideology or other similar racist ideologies and beliefs.

These thoughts are my own, not necessarily those of anyone else associated with our site. The issue may come closer to my consciousness than other writers here because I tend to write more about underground black metal and certain offshoots of it, which have tended to be a more fertile breeding ground for this kind of thing than other metal genres.

Sep 242016



(Andy Synn rants again….)

(Please note – the following rant is very much tongue-in-cheek and not intended as a piece of serious critical writing. No-one is going to actually stop you using these words. That being said, there’s possibly a kernel of truth or two in here somewhere…)


Ladies and gentlemen and smizmars… let’s try a little experiment shall we?

What I’m suggesting is that we – as writers, as fans, as commenters – agree to a moratorium (i.e., a temporary prohibition or embargo) on the use of certain words and phrases which have, to my mind, been roundly and seriously abused, over-used, and thoroughly bastardised in recent years.

Can we do it? I don’t know. What will happen? I don’t know either… but it might be interesting to see what comes from removing (albeit, only temporarily) certain “go to” words from our lexicon.

Plus, let’s face it, I’m sure some of you are just as sick of some of these words being misused, misapplied, and lazily attributed where they don’t belong!

Aug 182016

Gustave Dore-Satan from Paradise Lost


(Andy Synn wrote this opinion piece that ends in some questions for you.)

So I was listening to the new Allegaeon album, Proponent for Sentience, this morning (spoiler: it’s really good) when a question suddenly struck me… what is the optimal length for an album?

It’s not a new question by any means, as it’s one I’ve discussed with friends and colleagues over a cold beverage several times before, but it’s definitely one I keep coming back to, particularly when – as happens upon occasion – some overly-angry, impulse-control deficient commenter rears their ugly head and lambasts a writer (whether here or on one of the many other sites I frequent) for daring to suggest that an album is “too long”.

There’s definitely a certain subset of people (I suppose we can call them “fans”) who get unnecessarily indignant at any such suggestion, and who insist in no uncertain terms that more is always better, and how dare anyone be so churlish and ungrateful about it.

In many ways they’re a polar opposite to those “fans” who consider themselves entitled to anything and everything a band puts out, the ones who constantly demand more, and feel like they deserve everything for free because “without us, you wouldn’t even have a career” (seems to me like they don’t have much of one with you… but I digress…).

But though I can’t stand so-called “fans” who act as if a band owes them something, I’m also not big on the idea that we should just blindly accept whatever they give us without criticism.

Jul 082016

Falls of Rauros live in Seattle
Falls of Rauros live in Seattle


As I guess most people know, I live in the Seattle area. It’s a great place to live in almost all ways, except as a place from which to conduct the operations of this putrid little blog — a downside about which I was vividly reminded over the last 12 hours.

It’s a time zone problem. When the normal work day begins out here in the Pacific time zone, it’s already lunchtime on the East Coast, mid-afternoon in South America, the end of the work day in the UK, evening in Western Europe, and the dead of night in India — just to mention a few of the places inhabited by bands and labels whose releases we tend to write about most often. And don’t get me started on Australia and New Zealand (which are further west, but on the other side of the completely bamboozling international date line).

This creates all sorts of complications, especially when we have agreed to post premieres for bands or labels who are on the other side of the world.

Jul 062016

Asphyx live


(Andy Synn prepared these meditations on why he listens to metal.)

Like most of you (or so I’m assuming for the purposes of this column) the above question is one that I was, for a long time, quite intimately familiar with. And though I tend to hear it less frequently nowadays than I used to, variants of it still crop up now and again:

“How can you listen to that stuff, it’s just noise?”

“Where’s the melody?”

“It all just sounds the same!”

And, as much as I’m occasionally tempted by the knee-jerk, involuntary reaction (“YOU JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND!!!) I’m not an angst-ridden teenager anymore… I’m an angst-ridden adult, and thus far more willing to engage with these sorts of questions and statements, and try to understand where they’re coming from.

Plus, it’s actually a good question… why DO we listen to Metal?

Feb 112016

“Progress” by Agostino Arrivabene

(Andy Synn has been thinking… and now shares his thoughts in defense of the phenomenon of crowdfunding.)

I’m often surprised, and yet not surprised at all, at the amount of ire and controversy that surrounds the issue of crowdfunding.

On the one hand it’s seen as a way for bands to engage more directly with their audiences, to cut out the middleman, and get their music directly into the hands of their audience (whilst also, hopefully, cutting down on the oft-crippling levels of debt they would otherwise accumulate).

Yet on the other hand barely a month goes by without someone – whether an older band feeling crotchety, or a newer band trying to establish their “punk” credentials – getting their underwear in a twist over the issue, calling it “pathetic”, or equating it with “begging”, while stating that “real” bands like them never had to do that (simultaneously bolstering their own perceived credibility in the process, whilst also ignoring the hundreds and hundreds of “real” bands who take out loans from banks or friends or family in order to fund their music).

Still, I can see where both sides are coming from (to an extent anyway), even if I don’t necessarily agree with where they end up.

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