Nov 262015

Swallow the Sun-Songs From the North


(Here are some ideas from Andy Synn….)

Recently my good friend DGR and I were having a discussion about the merits of Songs From the North, the new Swallow The Sun triple album, focussing mainly on which of the three CDs we considered the strongest overall, which we thought were the best songs across all three albums, and just generally shooting the shit about the reasoning behind releasing such a mammoth endeavour in one fell-swoop.

As expected, we eventually digressed into a wider discussion of the band’s discography, but came to loggerheads over how we viewed the band’s 2012 release Emerald Forest and the Blackbird. DGR thinks that, though it’s not the band’s best album, there’s still some solid songs on there. I disagree.


Because it doesn’t pass “The Setlist Test”.

Oct 162015

Jo Bench
Jo Bench (Bolt Thrower)

(In March of this year we gave cultural anthropologist and dedicated metalhead David Mollica a platform for recruiting people willing to be interviewed for a research project about gender in the metal community and what it means to be a metalhead. And now we’ve got a report on his interview results and conclusions.)

I know I’m all kinds of slow with getting to writing this, but you know… excuses and stuff. Anyway I’d like to share what I found from the interviews some of you lovely readers were kind enough to sit through with me months ago. Thanks to your help I ended up interviewing 6 women and 5 men, making this the first study of its kind that I know of to have equal gender representation. Most other studies looking at gender and metal have ended up talking to a pile of dudes and next to no women.

Without getting into the fine and horrendously boring details, I do inductive research. Basically, I like to ask questions and see what I find. I’m not a mathematician and I don’t like to treat people like laboratory subjects. Instead I look for patterns and common themes that emerge from the interviews I conduct. I then take those themes and patterns and put them into categories that can be used to build a model of what I am researching. This time around, I found four common categories that help to explain why women are sometimes under-represented at metal gatherings. Some of these things are going to be obvious to you, so keep in mind that the research was intended for an audience in the social sciences who generally can’t tell Fenriz from Gaahl.

Sep 302015



(This is Part II of a multi-part article prepared by our Russian friend Comrade Aleks. Part I is here.)

This is the second part of an article describing events that took place on the Eastern Front of World War II through the eyes of few extreme metal bands. This part is written with the musical help of Heaven Shall Burn, Marduk, Jucifer, Hell’s Domain, Vergeltung, and Tank; also here you will find exclusive comments from Darknation, Tales of Darknord, and Caducity… and some historical explanations from Wikipedia, of course, as such huge text would be pretty difficult for me to write and it could eat much more time.

Sep 272015

Space Bong-Deadwood To Worms


I’m never quite sure whether anyone notices when things take an unusual turn around here, but since Thursday morning they have.

On Friday we had only one post on the site (Andy Synn’s review of the new Abigail Williams album) and only one yesterday (the premiere of an Invoker song). The Rearview Mirror post from earlier this morning plus this thing you’re now reading are all I can manage for today. And on top of all that, I’ve been unable to do my usual daily searches for new songs worth sharing around in our “Seen and Heard” posts, or even read most of the hundreds of e-mails we’ve received since Thursday.

Whether anyone has noticed or not, I figured I’d give a brief explanation and let you know what’s happening this coming week.

Sep 222015



(This is the first of a two-part article prepared by our Russian friend Comrade Aleks.)

We are used to horror lyrics in metal and especially in extreme metal music. Different reasons push different bands to write about it, and I’ll let someone else write about that who knows this topic better than I do. Today I have for you a compilation of tracks dedicated to World War II, mostly to the Eastern Front. 70 years ago the War ended, and today there is still a lot of discussion born in Russia, the East, the EU, and the USA about how it truly was, and how it could have turned due to some specific circumstances. I will not tell you my point of view — but just provide brief historical excursions, music, and sometimes the comments of death, black, and doom bands about it.

Here you will find exclusive detailed comments from Martin van Drunen of Hail of Bullets and some stories by participants in Skyclad, Altar of Oblivion, Mental Home, Eastern Front, Dark Lunacy, and Sodom.

Why the Eastern Front? Because a damned lot of things happened here, sooth to say. My grandfather was recruited in January 1943. He was 17 years old, and German aviation had bombed his village near Leningrad / Saint-Petersburg. He took part in breaking the Leningrad siege and in a Finnish company where he was wounded. The War touched nearly every family here, and we must remember. I’m thankful for all these bands who remind us about it.

Sep 092015

Dawn Olaniyi-Frustrated
“Frustrated” by Dawn Olaniyi

I think most people who know me would say I have a sunny disposition. I’ve thought about why this is, but I’m not sure whether it’s genetic, or the fact that I received a lot of familial support while my frontal lobes were developing, or because over time I’ve randomly been dealt lots of good hands by the uncaring cosmos — or some combination of these or other factors.

I do think about this from time to time, because it seems that most of my friends seem to have a 50/50 split between sunny and sour, and some seem to be sour most of the time — which I would guess is more par-for-the-course among the great mass of humanity as a whole. I still like all of my sour friends, and feel a strange compulsion to try to make them feel sunnier.

But even I, with a sunny disposition of indeterminate origin, have sour days. I had one yesterday, and it’s going to roll right into this day like the stench from a West Texas feedlot.

Sep 062015



(Father Synn returns after 4 weeks of intense purification so that he may once again hear all your disgusting metal sins. Please leave them in the Comments so all that “purification” won’t be wasted.)

Rejoice my children, for I am returned to you from my wanderings! 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness… or at least, it feels like that. Time flies when you’re drinking/carousing/shirking your priestly duties…

So once more I come before you burdened with the weight of truths yet untold and words yet unspoken. Let me be as a light to you in the darkness, a balm to your wounded soul, a… canary in a particularly pungent coal mine.

Let me lead you. And where I go, thou shalt follow, into the arms of metallic salvation!

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.

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