(Grant Skelton returns to NCS after a bit of a hiatus with a round-up of new doom songs.)
I’ve been a bit MIA from our beloved NCS for the last couple of months, as my educational pursuits had taken priority over my creative ones. But now I have returned to the fold, bringing with me a harvest of disinterred dredgings of doomy delight.
Few metal video concepts have been beaten to death more thoroughly than visions of sword-wielding warriors from a mythic age spilling blood in a northern forest. Somewhere, as you read this, a Ph.D. student is writing a thesis devoted to this subject, morbidly aware that he’ll still have no job when it’s done, but deluded by the belief that he can develop an explanation for the ubiquity of this trope which is more meaningful than the simple truth: metal videos have warriors in forests because it’s fucking metal.
Of course, it helps tremendously if videos of warriors in forests are accompanied by enjoyable music, and the two recent videos in this post have that going for them.
Warbell are a melodic death metal band from Jelenia Góra, Poland. They emphasize that they are “female-fronted”, because, let’s face it, that still gets certain fans interested. When I see that kind of advertising, however, it tends to make me want to run the other way, not because I think female growlers are less capable than male ones but because it often means a band have nothing else going for them besides a pretty face at the front of the stage. In Warbell’s case, I’m glad I didn’t run away.
(Our old friend from New Zealand and occasional guest writer Booker brings us a collection of new releases discovered through their cover art, along with some very entertaining words.)
“You should never judge a book by its cover”, or so the saying goes. No doubt most of us try and do the same with our approach to metal. Yet somehow, in amongst all the diversity of music out there, the community of metal musicians seems to self-organize; just like some drops of T-1000 liquid metal coming together to form a greater terrifying machine, different minds and souls from across the world end up uniting in their artistic endeavours and adorning their albums with specific, identifiable, cover themes. For the most part, seeing a cover with a certain “typical genre X” album art style can lead you to a fair idea of what aural treasures lie inside, but sometimes they can come out of left field and surprise you. We shouldn’t judge albums by their cover, but let’s be honest: we might say we don’t, but we all do. Like masturbation.
Once upon a time back in NCS history, Islander ran a series called “Eye Catchers” dedicated to albums that hooked you in with their artwork (and other tasty aspects). As I was perusing Bandcamp for delicious new audio treats, I realised that I too was basing my decisions of what to listen to by inadvertently succumbing to the artwork, like a moth to flame. So I figured, the hell with it, let’s see where this folly-filled exercise leads me…. and after a few surprises, and some fails, here’s a few highlights I’d like to share.
Most of the music in this Shades of Black series comes from the realms of black metal, but not all of it. Music can be black for other reasons as well, as demonstrated by the first of the four bands featured here.
This is a collection of songs that have been keeping me company in recent dark days. Until I decided to add the fourth band, I was going to call this Shades of Black — Long-Form Edition, because the songs by the first three bands are indeed much longer than average. They convincingly earn the extra minutes, and I hope you’ll carve out some space for them.
SEA OF BONES
As far as these selfish ears are concerned, far too much time has passed since New Haven’s Sea of Bones released their last album, The Earth Wants Us Dead. At last, we have something new.
Last Saturday I explained that because of a serious brain injury to a close friend and colleague, I wouldn’t be able to write much for the site this week other than introductions of premieres I had agreed to host, and that has proven true. When not working at my fucking day job, I’ve been with her and her family in the ICU. That’s not likely to change in the coming days. My friend is showing signs of progress, and it seems likely that she will wake up soon, perhaps today or tomorrow. And then we will begin to find out how the injury has affected her mental and physical functioning. I’m optimistic, and terrified.
Though my routine this week hasn’t been anything close to normal, I have discovered a few excellent new songs and videos, thanks to recommendations from friends, and I thought I would collect them here. I’m grateful for the supportive comments I’ve received from readers, and for all the posts I’ve received from our regular writers and guests this week to keep this train rolling on down the line.
Visions of Exalted Lucifer is the name of the new album by the Dutch black metal band Cirith Gorgor, who began worshipping the Devil through their music back in the mid-’90s. This is the band’s sixth studio album and their first since 2011 (in the intervening years, the band’s line-up has changed). It was released by Hammerheart Records in February. Not long ago Hammerheart and the band released a lyric video for the song “A Vision of Exalted Lucifer”.
Spheron – A Clockwork Universe
I’m actually surprised that the new Spheron record, A Clockwork Universe, hasn’t been covered here yet since their last one got covered quite a bit at NCS. At any rate, Spheron’s latest is a fantastic record that deserves to be heard by more people! For those unfamiliar, Spheron play a particularly proggy and dense sort of tech-death with a stronger emphasis on complex rhythm riffing over flashy lead playing.
(Austin Weber continues to pitch in on round-up duty with the second part of a multi-part post recommending metal we haven’t previously covered. You can find Part 1 here.)
Arms – Blackout
You ready to get down with some nasty math-grind? Because Arms bring it throughout every jagged and howling minute of their sophomore full-length, Blackout.
I have Ken Reda from Bhavachakra (previously covered in a song premiere here at NCS!) to thank for tipping me off to this most excellent display of virulent rad viciousness! I think it’s additionally cool that the diverse and complex sonic whirlwind that Blackout delivers is the result of only one guy, Orlando, Florida-based musician/sound engineer Paul Hundeby.
(Austin Weber pitches in on round-up duty with the first part of a multi-part post recommending new metal.)
Hey there NCS readers, it’s been far too long since I stopped in with a massive round-up of obscure (and not yet covered at NCS) jams from all over the metal map musically. Seeing that Islander has been busy slaving away on work-related duties in order to raise funds to care for the recently rabies-infected horde of NCS Lorises, it felt like a good time to begin sharing some of the many bands I have piling up endlessly in multiple word files. There will be several more editions of this to come, so be sure to stay tuned.
Ever since Islander was kind enough to let me do some writing for NCS, this site has felt like home to me. Our audience is so special, and clearly more eclectic and willing to explore than visitors at most sites, it seems. So here’s to you, oh seekers of joy within chaos and serrated sounds. And also for those who are musically prog heads at heart! I made sure that none of what I’m covering here has been covered at NCS so far, so make sure to give everything a listen! Without further ado… it begins!
(Every now and then Andy Synn shares with us lists of favorite things that come in fives, and this is another one, though he stretched the number a bit this time.)
You may have noticed that my usual output has decreased somewhat over the last week or so. There’s no need to worry, it’s just been a combination of work/band/personal commitments all coming at the same time, requiring me to shift my priorities around a bit, meaning that NCS has had to take a bit of a backseat for a moment.
That should be coming to an end very soon, however, and I have a bunch of different reviews and columns lined up for May that I think you’ll all really enjoy.
In the meantime, however, since I’m still a little pushed for time and opportunity to write, I’ve dashed off this little piece in tribute to a band I’ll always have a soft spot for.
When I woke up at an ungodly hour this morning and then woke up my computer, my bleary eyes were immediately greeted by a bombardment of links from friends to the song stream you’re about to hear (or re-hear): The first new song from Akercocke since the band’s dissolution in 2012, with their last album being 2007’s Antichrist.
The song was broadcast on the Radio 1 Rock Show on April 24, and some enterprising soul recorded the radio stream and uploaded it to YouTube. The uploader made this comment: “The intro sounds like it’s slightly cut off but unfortunately the radio station played right into it, so although it sounds like the intro is cut off, it isn’t, the song just starts that way.”