Feb 082016

Obscura-Akroasis

 

(Andy Synn reviews the eagerly awaited new album by Obscura.)

Let me ask you something… when you see an album being universally praised across the board, especially if it’s an album by a band who it seems were “predestined” in some way to be a big deal, do you ever find yourself a wee bit suspicious of this outpouring of goodwill and fawning praise? Do you ever find yourself questioning the motives and intentions of the writers/reviewers in question? Do you ever find yourself thinking “well, duh, of course you were going to say that… but what’s it really like”?

Because I do.

I think it’s normal to be a little suspicious of any artist or album that’s receiving nothing but positive (often overly so) reactions from the Metal press. Heck, I think I know enough about the “scene” these days to have a good idea of which publications still retain their integrity and impartiality (such as it is)… and which ones don’t… and think I have a pretty good sense of when a review was clearly pre-planned and effectively written out even before the writer heard the album. Such things come with the territory.

But I’m here to tell you now that the praise being flung Obscura’s way for their new album Akróasis? It’s all very much deserved.

Feb 052016

Ketzer-Starless

 

(Wil Cifer reviews the new album by Germany’s Ketzer.)

This German band’s third full-length continues to defy genres. It varies on a song-by-song basis as to what shade of darkness these guys are bringing. From the more blackened death metal roar of riffage that is “When Milk Runs Dry” to the punk influence permeating the thrashy moments of almost black ‘n’ roll. It’s the attention to detail and aversion to following a formula that elevates this album above the dozens of other metal releases still sitting in my in-box. The solos are very melodic and add to the song rather than just litter them with shredding.

Ketzer are most often thought of as a black metal/thrash hybrid, though their bassist plays a much larger role in their sound than the bulk of black metal bands. At times this creates almost a groove without conforming to mainstream metal.

Feb 022016

Mechina-Progenitor

 

(DGR weighs in on the new album by Chicago’s Mechina, as you knew he would.)

The January 1st album release has become a comedic undertone to my writing as of late. It’s never one that I have advanced warning for, nor is it one that I am ever truly adequately prepared for. Instead, it just serves as a reminder of the relentless march of time and the constant – and reassuring – pressures of being a writer for this site. It’s strange, but I have found comfort in this sense, the idea that I am already late and that I have fucked up.

Without that pressure, life seems aimless, and so, as it has been for the past handful of years, I have Mechina to thank for the fact that I am once again dragging ass on a review. The sun has risen in the east and set in the west, the sky is still blue, and all is right with the world – because as I take longer and longer to write out this review out, each moment means that I am later than I was before. Always the hare in Alice In Wonderland, and in that way continuing exactly how I felt last year and the year before.

It’s that consistency that one needs as a reminder that while the year has ticked up one notch, things haven’t really changed and the world is a mess. God forbid any actual events happen. This ladies and gentlemen, is how I start my year.

Feb 012016

Seven Sisters of Sleep-photo by Forrest Locke

photo by Forrest Locke

(For this 68th edition of The Synn Report, Andy takes as his subject the discography of SoCal’s Seven Sisters of Sleep — including their brand new album due for release by Relapse on February 5.)

After traversing the parched, sun-beaten wastelands of Texas in last month’s edition of The Synn Report, this time we’re travelling West to the city of angels, Los Angeles, to catch up with inveterate noise-mongers Seven Sisters of Sleep.

For those unfamiliar with the band, here’s a warning. This is some nasty, unrepentantly nihilistic stuff, straddling the blood-crusted nexus point between filthy Sludge, groaning Doom, buzzing Drone, seething Hardcore, and grim Old School Death Metal… with more than a few splashes of venomous Grind thrown in for good measure. Suffice it to say, this is definitely not music for the faint of heart.

By the same token though, it never feels like the band have just mashed-up all these sounds into one big, messy Extreme Metal sundae. Rather their sound comes across like a distillation of each of these styles down to their shared essence, filtered and refined to produce pure Extreme Metal moonshine, that’s just as likely to make you bang your head and scream your guts out as it is to make you go blind… and scream your guts out.

Though the band have a fair few splits and EPs to their name, I’ve elected to stick just to the full-length albums for this edition of The Synn Report, in particular their about-to-be-released third album Ezekiel’s Hags.

Feb 012016

Entropia-Ufonaut Cover

 

In the last days of the last year I came across a new song named “Mandala” from a new album by Poland’s Entropia. As I wrote at the time, it’s heavy, high-energy music that defies easy genre classification, with pneumatic grooves, twisted riffs, otherworldly guitar arpeggios, and quirky electronica capable of pushing you past your comparatively drab surroundings and into this band’s inventive vision. And as you’re about to find out, the same could be said of the entire mind-bending album.

The name of the record is Ufonaut. It follows the band’s 2013 debut album Vesper, and it will be released by Arachnophobia Records on February 15. It’s a cocktail of adrenaline, paving tar, and mescaline, consumed in an asylum — and it’s a completely electrifying concoction from the first gulp to the last.

Feb 012016

Fuath-I

 

(We welcome Jay Lawrence to the pages of our putrid blog. He is a self-described long-time metal nerd from Philadelphia with a specific penchant for black metal. He likes both cats and dogs, couldn’t care less about the Eagles or Phillies, and doesn’t want to hear about your experiences with cheesesteaks. He shares with us his review of the wonderful new album by Scotland’s Fuath.)

Look at that cover artwork. Could anything be more fitting for a winter release?

I suppose I’ll begin by telling you what you’ll all be able to find out when this band and album eventually get added to Metal Archives: Fuath is a Scots Gaelic word meaning hatred, which is an interesting choice in my opinion, but more on that later. Fuath is also the latest endeavor from the Scotsman Andy Marshall, well-known previously within our community for his work with Saor, formerly Àrsaidh, — direct, if far more mature descendants of Andy’s early project, Askival, and all of those projects being black metal of an epic, Celtic folk-influenced nature. This is not true of Fuath, which certainly explains an entirely new brand being created under which to release this album.

Jan 312016

LVTHN-Eradication of Nescience

 

This is a rather super-sized edition of Shades of Black, collecting new and recently discovered music in a blackened vein. But believe me, this could have been much bigger still, because I’m sitting on a ton of other releases I’d like to include. I’ll put them in the fridge so they don’t spoil and defrost them later (though of course they’ll never completely de-frost).

LVTHN

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of this Belgian band’s previous releases, and have managed to write about most of them (collected behind this link). And before I get to a brand new LVTHN song, I’ll mention that the band have recently made their 2014 compilation release The Grand Uncreation available for “name your price” download on Bandcamp (here).

Jan 292016

Rhine-An Outsider

 

I knew Seattle’s Gabe Tachell was something special when I discovered Duality, the 2011 debut album of his then-solo project Rhine (briefly reviewed here). When I heard it, I became intrigued about what he might do next. But as head-spinning as Duality was, it still couldn’t have adequately prepared anyone for the almost boundless extravagance of the band’s new album An Outsider.

Since Duality, Tachell has surrounded himself with a talented group of other musicians for the band’s live performances (which are strikingly impressive) — guitarist Alex Smolin, bassist James Porter, and drummer Carlos Delgado. But for An Outsider, if I have my facts right, Tachell did everything again other than perform the drums, which were handled by Sean Lang — and that makes the results even more astonishing.

Jan 292016

Odyssey-Voids

 

(Austin Weber wrote this review of the new album by Odyssey from Spokane, Washington.)

Beyond being perennial favorites of a few of us here at NCS, Odyssey have always stood out to me as an instrumental act operating on a different wavelength than most of the instrumental metal I listen to. And I say that as someone who listens to a lot more instrumental metal than most people. While I try not to inject too much personal commentary in reviews, I won’t have time to do as many reviews here in 2016 at times during the year, at least compared to my past output. So I figured, what the hey, let’s do a fun and in-depth one while I have a moment of time currently to do so!

As I mentioned in the write-up for the premiere of “Before There Were Eyes To See” here at NCS recently, Odyssey have mastered the art of writing instrumental metal that doesn’t forsake an aggressive bite and headbanging pulse. But beyond that, Odyssey has always had their own thing going on. And by that I mean that they existed and started developing their sound long before groups like Animals As Leaders, Chon, and countless other newer (by comparison) instrumental acts inspired a paradigm shift and explosive growth for various strains of instrumental metal. A lot of which I love to be sure.

And I think part of what makes Voids special is the sheer sonic diversity from song to song and moment to moment. Odyssey weave together a larger tapestry of influences and ideas than many of their peers. And the special touch they bring to their craft shows across all ten tracks on the album.

Jan 282016

Ithaqua-BØG split

 

I’d like to recommend a new split release by a Japanese band named Ithaqua and an Australian band named BØG. I don’t know much about either band, and I’ve already now forgotten how I came across this split, but this thing has cleaved my head right in two.

ITHAQUA

The Ithaqua tracks feature truly mountainous bass-level riffs paired with creepy guitar excretions and banshee-shreiked vocals that contrast with the stupefying low-end weight. I’ll warn you that when the first track “Ghost” really starts to move, it hits a bulldozing groove capable of producing serious neck sprain.

The last couple of minutes in particular are just fucking ridiculous — a mix of unstoppable riff magic and deranged guitar psychedelia.

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