(Austin Weber wrote this review.)
It’s been awhile since I came out with anything labeled under my “Underdogs” series here at NCS, but some recent events have influenced its return — mainly that Islander is stuck in work hell, and this site needs content damnit! But more specifically, it needs what we do best: coverage of music that few others do.
So, the plan is for me to do one of these a day (on weekdays) to help out, and also to give me a chance to write about more of the bands I keep finding online. Some may be shorter than this, but all will cover exceptional bands you need to hear from various metal subgenres.
The first target in the resurgency of this series will be Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based technical death metal omni-wizards Ara.
We bring you a review and the premiere of L’aorasie des specters rêveurs, a four-track EP by the a one-man atmospheric black metal band from Québec known as Grimoire. The EP is being released by the German label Eisenwald and it follows Grimoire’s 2011 debut album À la lumière des cendres.
The one man behind Grimoire is Fiel, who is also a member of other Quebecois black metal bands – Forteresse, Csejthe, and Ephemer. With this EP he has created an enthralling union of the the harsh and the sublime, a captivating work that is effectively atmospheric and emotionally gripping.
(TheMadIsraeli reviews the new album by a one-man Floridian band named Encircle.)
Anthony DiGiacomo has been my friend now for a couple years in some capacity or another even though we didn’t really get close until last year. I have to admit, I’ve never seriously listened to his music under the moniker Encircle until recently. With that said, I am giving full disclosure here: I am reviewing the music of a friend. Some bias may be unavoidable.
However, that doesn’t mean that the music under the Encircle name isn’t great. It is. It’s also exactly what I like, which is very hybridized music. Anthony mixes the best aspects of more modern tech death, technical metal core, and a bit of some big dumb death core skull-smashing to taste. Lost Chronicles is a pretty beastly record if what I just described sounds appealing to you.
(DGR reviews the new album by Poland’s Hate.)
With most musical sub-genres and regional scenes, I have found that most people will have what I call a three- to four-pillar series of bands. These groups are generally the more popular bands. and sometimes even the cream of the crop. They do what they do the best and have come to define their particular musical realm.
In the case of the Polish death metal scene — which is a dangerous one to bandy about, since it seems like huge swaths of it have become the “blackened death metal scene” — the imperialistic, riff-heavy, relentless-blast-and-shouted brand of death metal that has hailed from Poland, and it seems like only from there for some time, would later become one of the progenitors, if not the most important one, for the sort of subtle genre-morph that Blackened Death Metal has gone through. It has reached the point where the two have almost become synonymous.
(Andy Synn wrote this review of the December 2014 album by an Indianapolis band named Mapmaker.)
In a crowded scene where the word “Progressive” has been bastardised and bandied about so much that it’s become almost meaningless, a band like Mapmaker, with their melding of proggy, emotive instrumentation and bruising, Deathcore-ish heft, seems like precisely the sort of band you’d expect me to instantly dislike.
Yet I must admit I was drawn in by the fantastic cover art (never underestimate the value of a good album cover, kids), and decided to give the Indiana natives a chance, hoping to discover something new.
And I’m very glad I did, because this is a fantastic (if flawed) gem of a debut.
In fact although the album may not be perfect, Automation more than justifies the band’s use of the “Progressive” tag (de rigeur sci-fi concept, notwithstanding) with an enviable wealth of ideas and focussed ambition, every element being organically woven together in layers of carefully crafted texture and nuance, all bolstered by an extremely heavy low-end of juddering intensity.
Doubtless it won’t be for everyone, but in a scene where shallow superficiality and bland technicality are often used as a substitute for real creativity and credibility, Automation clearly stands head and shoulders above the rest, both on the strength of its song-writing and the impressive clarity of its vision.
(TheMadIsraeli reviews the new album by the UK/Ireland band Shattered Skies.)
I was rabidly a fan of Shattered Skies’ debut EP Reanimation back in 2011. Their odd djent-meets-heavier-power-metal like Symphony X and Evergrey style made them really stick out to me. I’ve waited FOREVER for these guys to put out a full-length, and I was honestly wondering if they ever would. The World We Used To Know completely blew away my expectations for a debut from them, and it’s a definite surprise first highlight of 2015.
The grooves on this record are like getting hit by concrete-filled boxing gloves, but it’s all punctuated by some absolutely angelic, infectious, and overwhelming vocal melodies, along with stellar keyboard and string incorporations.
We have the great pleasure of premiering for you a full stream of an extended split release by four very talented northeastern U.S. bands, an album-length work entitled Northeastern Hymns that has quickly become one of my favorite releases of 2015.
Three of the bands — Obsidian Tongue, In Human Form, and Infera Bruo — make their homes in Massachusetts, while the fourth — Autolatry — hail from Connecticut. In each case, these long songs mark the bands’ first recorded output since albums that appeared in 2013. In each case, there is a connection to the genre of black metal, but other musical elements are more dominant. And together, they provide a tremendously multi-faceted and tremendously engaging array of musical creativity and instrumental talent.
(In this post Austin Weber reviews the new release by Finland’s Devouring Star, which is available now from Daemon Worship.)
When I first wrote about Devouring Star here at NCS last year, they were a newly formed act who drew my attention with a incredibly dense and chilling demo of unnerving and chaotic black metal. After my first post about them, they hooked up with Daemon Worship Productions for the release of a new album entitled Through Lung And Heart. and we were fortunate to premiere the track “Decayed Son Of Earth” last November (here). Coincidentally, NCS writer Badwolf likewise premiered another track off it, “To Traverse The Black Flame”, over at Invisible Oranges where he is currently that site’s editor.
For those still unfamiliar with Devouring Star, they are a Finnish act that draw a sizable influence from the stylings and form of black metal that Deathspell Omega founded. However, I would venture to say the inspiration has more to do with informing the sonic ingredients that Devouring Star use in their compositions than sounding like a copycat act or watered-down hero worship.
(Austin Weber wrote this show review, and music streams are included.)
At the very beginning of 2014, January 14th to be exact, I was finally able to see upstart New York prog-metal wunderkinds Cryptodira for the first time live. It was a show that I covered for NCS with resident photographer Nik Vechery taking some killer pictures. I mention this because as we move into 2015, I got to see Cryptodira again, and eerily enough, just a day later in January than when I saw them last year. What another fitting start to the year.
Unfortunately, due to my boss not telling me he was able to get my shift covered until I showed up for work the night of the show, I was unable to have Nik accompany me and take pictures. Normally I would have borrowed someone’s camera, but I couldn’t make that happen on such short notice, so most of the photos in this post were taken on my sub-par quality phone camera, with a few Cryptodira shots taken by the fill-in vocalist for Wings Denied, Jeff Klemm.
(I think DGR has reviewed every release by Chicago’s Mechina. They released a new album this month, and like the sun rising in the East and setting in the West, DGR now reviews it.)
Mechina are a band whose growth has been one of the most interesting to watch over the past few years. Few bands have been quite as ambitious as they have been with their music. Few have completely ignored whether or not they were going to be successful, and just went big anyway, but that is exactly what Mechina have done during their time as artists.
Starting out as a full band before eventually becoming the studio project of a couple of producers in the Chicago area, Mechina have already banged out a whole arc of albums — a conceptual trilogy told over three full discs and a smattering of singles — that have archived a whole universe constantly at war, ending with planets left barren and whole populations destroyed, played out over the soundtrack of an industrial/symphonic death band with a taste for eight-and-up-string poly-rhythmic guitar playing.
Over time, the band’s production has grown leaps and bounds, and as they’ve adopted characters into their story and adapted a new vocalist into the fold, they’ve created enough lore in their universe that someone actually took the time out of their day to try and establish a wiki site to keep track of all of it, one that I’ve already used liberally. While we haven’t quite hit Bal-Sagoth levels of craziness, I imagine Mechina could be reaching that point soon enough with their sci-fi, planet-destroying antics.