Mar 102018


As I woke up this morning and it hit me that the final edition of Oration Festival was over, I experienced a wave of sadness, coupled with regrets over not having made the trek for the first two years of the event. Oration Fest MMXVIII was, by my lights, an extraordinary experience, one formed by the combination of its setting in Reykjavik (a magical place), the wonderful friends, both old and new, with whom I was able to share the experience, and of course the incredible music.

I’ll have some more perhaps excessively emotional things to say about all that at the end of this post, but the first order of business is to provide photos, videos, and accompanying personal reactions concerning the performances last night by these bands, who appeared in this order: Almyrkvi (Iceland), Inferno (Czech Republic), Misþyrming (Iceland), Svartidauði (Iceland), Vemod (Norway), and Rebirth of Nefast (Ireland/Iceland).

Once again, the high-quality photos you’ll find below were made by my Seattle friend Tanner Ellison; I made the rest of them, and the (sadly mediocre) videos, with my phone.

Mar 092018

Reykjavik wall art


The second night of the third and final installment of Oration Festival took place at the Húrra bar in Reykjavik, Iceland on the night of March 8, 2018. It proved to be just as thoroughly enjoyable as the first night (reviewed here), although the music took more deathly turns, and ultimately concluded in a marvelously bewildering and beguiling way.

Last night the bands who performed, in the following order, were these: Mannveira (Iceland), Devouring Star (Finland), Abominor (Iceland), Abyssal (UK), Slidhr (Ireland/Iceland), Sortilegia (Canada), and Virus (Norway).

As before, the group of friends from Seattle and elsewhere who’ve been sharing this experience with me convened for food and drink about two hours before the first band was scheduled to begin the night. Yes, two hours, because our group has a proven tendency over the course of many previous festivals to talk like there’s no tomorrow, lose track of time, and arrive late if we’re not careful. Which of course is what happened last night even with the two-hour head start.

Mar 082018


The third and final edition of Oration Festival began last night in Reykjavik, Iceland. The first night of the festival featured performances (in this order) by NYIÞ, Naðra, Auðn, Asagraum, Sinmara, and Aluk Todolo. A big group of friends and I made it to the venue just as NYIÞ was beginning, and I stayed through Sinmara’s extraordinary set but was too drained of energy by that point to hang in there for Aluk Todolo.

So, what you’ll find below are thoughts about all the performances except the last one, accompanied by three videos that I made from the side of the stage and an assortment of photos. The dark, blurry, amateurish photos are mine; the really good professional quality ones are by our Seattle pal Tanner Ellison.

Mar 082018


(An NCS fan who we’ll call Barbarian Mike turned in this guest review of the presentation of DECIBEL Magazine’s 2018 tour in Seattle, Washington, on March 6, 2018.)

Whether you consider yourself a fan or not, it’s impossible to deny the status and reverence Enslaved has earned within the community of heavy music. Over a span of 27-years and 14 studio albums – barring live-show DVD’s, splits, and demos – it’s hard to imagine any band as capable as this one in maintaining a passionate fan base and consistently sold-out live performances.

In spite of this success, Enslaved are a band who don’t rest on their laurels, or coast on their hits of yesteryear. In fact, they appear to be continually invigorated by the challenge of creating something new, to pursue new ideas and sounds. It only makes sense that they would headline one of the bigger tours within heavy music – the DECIBEL Magazine 2018 Tour. Needless to say, I was excited to attend the event at Seattle’s own El Corazon.

Mar 052018


As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’m in Reykjavik, Iceland. I say that not to rub your nose in a fact
that seems to have provoked jealousy in a few friends, but only because it’s obvious from what you’re about to read. Of course, it would be understandable if you were jealous, because it is pretty fucking wonderful to be here.

The primary purpose for the trip was to attend the last edition of Oration Fest later this week, but I had an unexpectedly outstanding way to spend our first night in the country, because it turned out that last night was the date scheduled for the Reykjavik Deathfest Warmup show, featuring performances by Skinless, Munnriður, and Severed. (The third edition of Reykjavik Deathfest will take place in May — and Skinless and Severed will be playing again then — and you can details about that here.)

I wasn’t aware of this until a couple of Icelandic Facebook friends told me yesterday afternoon, and one of them took the added step of putting me on the guest list, which removed all doubt about whether to surrender to jet lag or venture forth for a night of headbanging.

Nov 282017

The Great Old Ones


(Greek metal writer and occasional NCS contributor John Sleepwalker attended the 5 Shades of Black show in Antwerp, Belgium, on October 21, 2017, and provides these thoughts about the performances by Saor, The Great Old Ones, Fen, Drawn Into Descent, and Sorrow Plagues. And we are most grateful to Kriss Wolf for kindly giving us permission to use her wonderful photos from the show, which appear throughout this review.)


5 Shades of Black stands as the type of an event that is a rare occasion in the lands of Greece. To the point that it seems more hopeful to dig for water in the desert than to expect names such as these to ever visit the capital city of Athens. Since the brand of old-school names is typically what tends to attract the majority of local interest, the few listeners dedicated to different aesthetics often need to travel to enjoy the related gigs of their choice.

Nov 272017


(Andy Synn continues to make his way down to London to witness shows that make his States-side friends violently jealous, but probably isn’t driven to do so solely, or even at all, by the prospect of that effect. Probably.  We have here his words and videos from the latest excursion.)

So last Friday, for the second time in as many weeks, I found myself back down in London at the Islington Assembly Hall to catch another of Norway’s finest musical exports, the nine-worlds-renowned Enslaved.

Now originally I had planned on seeing the Norse quintet in Nottingham the weekend before as part of their tour supporting Opeth but, due to still feeling like crap, I ended up not being able to make that show, resulting in me making the five-hour round-trip down South instead.

But, truth be told, given the option, I’d much rather see an Enslaved headlining show than an Opeth one, as the latter tend to be a little hit-or-miss live in my opinion, whereas I’ve never not had a fantastic time at seeing the former, so maybe things worked out for the best in the end?

Nov 202017


(This is Andy Synn’s review of the performances by The Infernal Sea, Dawn Ray’d, and Underdark in Nottingham, UK, on November 17, 2017, accompanied by videos he made during the show.)

I’m not sure why, but this November has been absolutely jam-packed with gigs, so much so that I’ve had to be a little bit picky about what I go to, and when, simply because of all the different pressures on my time and attention (not to mention my wallet).

But there was no way I was going to miss this one, considering that between them Dawn Ray’d and The Infernal Sea have produced two of the best Black Metal albums of recent years.

Nov 172017


(This is Andy Synn’s review of the performance by Norway’s Ulver at the Islington Assembly Hall in London on November 15, 2017.)

Despite the fact that Ulver are definitely not a Metal band by any measure (in fact they’ve not been a Metal band for so long that even stating that they’re “not a Metal band” seems utterly redundant at this point), I’m always happy to cover them here at NCS, whether on record, or in the live setting.

When people ask me “why” I keep covering them, particularly in the light of their most recent, shamelessly electro-pop turn, I always answer them in two ways:

Firstly, it’s entirely possible to make “Pop” friendly music which has both depth and substance. Yes, the majority of today’s big sellers may, in general, be the most vapid, soulless examples of “popular” music, but there’s still a rich legacy of acts and artists who have made a very successful career out of twisting and subverting the expectations of their audience in a variety of surprisingly clever ways.

Secondly… well, it’s Ulver, isn’t it? And if any band has earned my trust over the years, it’s them.

Which is why I recently found myself in Islington Assembly Hall watching the band perform material from their latest album, The Assassination of Julius Caesar.

Nov 102017

Employed To Serve


(Andy Synn prepared this review of the performances by Employed To Serve and Svalbard in Nottingham, England, on November 9, 2017.)

I’m not sure whether it’s due to my increasing age, or the regular quantities of alcohol which I consume, but for some reason I was certain – 110% certain – that we’d already covered Employed to Serve and their flabbergastingly good second album, The Warmth of a Dying Sun, here at NCS earlier this year.

So you can imagine my surprise when, as I was gearing up for this show, I discovered that we haven’t written a single word about the band all year!

For shame.

Still, at least I have a chance now to redress the balance somewhat.

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