Jun 012017

 

(We present Andy Synn’s installment of THE SYNN REPORT for May, gathering together reviews of the discography of the Swedish band Memfis — who are on Facebook here.)

Recommended for fans of: Burst, Intronaut, Extol

Much like last month’s edition of The Synn Report, today’s post is a day late (and a dollar short) due to, well, me being busy living my life and enjoying myself. That’s right, I do in fact have a life outside of NCS sometimes. Who would have thought?

Still, I’m back in the game, and back in the saddle, now, so how about some “new” music for you all, in the shape of Prog-Metal epicurists Memfis?

The Swedish quartet made some small, but stylish, waves with the release of their debut album The Wind-Up way back in 2006, offering an intriguing and characterful conglomeration of progressive melody, metallic energy, and occasionally outlandish technicality, all topped off with a healthy helping of heartfelt, Hardcore-tinged emotion.

Unfortunately, legal complications ended up interfering with and delaying the release of their second album, meaning that the band were unable to capitalize on the burgeoning momentum gathered by their debut, and have been in something of a liminal state ever since – with the five-track Silva EP in 2013 being the only subsequent sign to date that things are still ticking away in the background.

Now, apparently the group are currently hard at work on album number three – and have been for some time, in fact – but there’s still no title or release date announced, so we’ll all just have to wait and see how things unfold.

Thankfully though, the two albums, and one EP, featured here should serve to whet your appetite in the meantime!

May 012017

 

(We present Andy Synn’s installment of THE SYNN REPORT for April, encompassing the discography of the Finnish band Oceanwake.)

Recommended for fans of: Isis, In Mourning, Swallow The Sun

April has been a remarkably busy month for me, both in my personal life, at my job, and with the band(s). Which, as I’ve already stated, means I’m well behind in my writing for NCS, and hence why this latest edition of The Synn Report is coming in so late.

This month’s selection, Finnish Prog-/Post-/Doom metallers Oceanwake, now have three albums to their name (the most recent of which was only released last month), each of which is practically overflowing with gigantic, mountainous riffs, moody melodies, and crisp, cathartic vocals, all wrapped up in an ever-present aura of atmosphere and ambience that ebbs and flows, swells and contracts, like a living, breathing organism.

So if you’re in the mood for some truly compelling, effortlessly organic, metallic doom ‘n’ gloom – and aren’t afraid of songs that stretch into the double-digits – then please, read on.

Mar 302017

 

(March nears its last gasps, and Andy Synn slips in under the expiration wire with the 83rd edition of THE SYNN REPORT. The spotlight this month falls on the discography of California’s Dreaming Dead, which includes their just-released third album.)

Recommended for fans of: Death, Arsis, Horrendous

There are some bands who just never get their due. And, in my humble opinion, Californian quartet Dreaming Dead are one of them, as their proficiency in the metallic arts is absolutely second to none, and yet their status as underground underdogs has led them to fly under most people’s radar.

Often tagged, erroneously, as “Melodeath”, it would be more accurate to characterize the band as a furious hybrid of Death and Thrash Metal, with a penchant for brash, technically demanding riffage and a knack for incorporating multiple threads of moody melody without lessening the heaviness or impact of their sound one iota.

Formed in 2006 on the mean streets of LA (note: said streets may not have been as mean as portrayed on TV), the band have undergone a few line-up changes in the intervening years since then, although the core duo of Elizabeth Schall (also of NCS-beloved grindsters Cretin) on vocals/guitar and Mike Caffell on drums has remained constant throughout.

The band having just released their third album, Funeral Twilight, last month, now seemed like the perfect time to wax lyrical about them, and hopefully introduce some new listeners to their signature brand of audio extremity.

Feb 272017

 

(For the 82nd edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy reviews the discography of Anomalie, including the new album Visions, which is set for release on March 17 — and from which we will be bringing a very special premiere… soon.)

Recommended for fans of: Harakiri For The Sky, Insomnium, Ghost Brigade

As I’ve mentioned before, there’s a certain clique of bands based in and around the Germany/Austria area who, because they’re influenced by Black Metal but don’t fit neatly into that particular box, are often mislabelled as “Post Black Metal”, either through a misapprehension of what that term actually refers to, or through sheer laziness on the part of the writer/reviewer.

This loose collective of acts, many of whom are frequent touring partners and who often share live members, exists on a spectrum, with the most overtly blackened artists (Der Weg Einer Freiheit, Agrypnie) occupying one end of the scale, while the other end of things is home to acts like Post-Metal/Post-Hardcore types Thränenkind and the sadly underrated Todtgelichter.

In between these two extremes we find bands like shimmering shoegazers Heretoir (whose new album I’ll be reviewing very soon) and NCS-favourites Harakiri For The Sky, along with today’s featured artist, Austria’s own Anomalie, whose mainman Marrock has performed live with several of the artists mentioned above, and whose latest album – scheduled for release on the 17th of March – goes some way towards finally justifying the “Post Black Metal” tag which has dogged the band ever since their first release.

Jan 272017

 

(In this month’s edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy Synn reviews the discography of Nidingr, including their new album slated for release on February 10.)

Recommended for fans of: Mayhem, Pantheon I, Dødheimsgard

 

Somehow, despite all the love we’ve shown for this band, despite all the drunken ramblings we’ve had about their awesomeness, and despite stating numerous times that Greatest of Deceivers is one of the best Black Metal albums of the last ten to fifteen years (at least), it appears that the amount of actual coverage we’ve given to Nidingr has been woefully lacking.

Thankfully, the impending release of the group’s fourth album, The High Heat Licks Against Heaven, is all the justification I need to wax lyrical about the band, making them the perfect choice for this edition of The Synn Report.

Masterminded by wandering guitarist Teloch (who cut his teeth playing with some of the Black Metal scene’s biggest names, including both Gorgoroth and 1349, and who has since gone on to serve as chief guitarist/songwriter for both NCS favourites The Konsortium and the legendary Mayhem), Nidingr originally came into being around 1996, but didn’t release their debut until 2005.

Since then they’ve cycled through numerous members (including both Tjalve and Seidemann of Pantheon I, percussive mercenary Tony Laureano, and the infamous Hellhammer himself), with Teloch and glass-chewing vocalist Cpt. Estrella Grasa serving as the band’s key linchpins, while releasing two, soon to be three, further albums of hyper-aggressive, sadistically melodic, Death- and Thrash- tinged Black Metal.

Dec 282016

fall-of-efrafa

 

(Andy Synn delivers the last monthly SYNN REPORT of 2016, and reviews the discography of the British band Fall of Efrafa.)

Recommended for fans of: Neurosis, Amenra, Downfall of Gaia

Taking in elements of Crust Punk, Post-Metal, Post-Rock, Drone, and Hardcore, and spitting out a captivating conglomeration of pulse-pounding riffs, cascading melodies, and harsh, gritty vocals, Fall of Efrafa were, for a time, one of the most vital and visceral acts in the UK.

The band’s three albums, Owsla, Elil, and Inlé together form a conceptual trilogy inspired by the 1972 literary classic Watership Down (whose author, Richard Adams, passed away peacefully at the grand old age of 96 just a few days ago), with the quintet channelling their political, religious, and social philosophy – particularly their opposition to theocracy and blind faith – through the themes of Adams’ seminal novel.

Following the release of their third album the group disbanded, having completed the work for which they originally came together. In this way, and in many others, Fall of Efrafa were just that little bit different from most bands out there. They had a goal, they had a vision, and chose to both begin and to end things entirely on their own terms, leaving behind an impressive (if still under-appreciated) legacy of passion, ambition, and uncompromising integrity.

Which is why I chose them for this, the eightieth edition of The Synn Report, which I’m also dedicating to my friend Charlie as a testament to her excellent musical taste.

Nov 302016

Terra Tenebrosa art

 

(In this month’s edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy Synn reviews the discography of Terra Tenebrosa.)

Recommended for fans of: Blut Aus Nord, Leviathan, Ævangelist

Some bands are easy to categorise. Death Metal. Black Metal. Thrash. You can stick a band in one of these boxes and (generally) have a good impression of the sort of sounds you can expect to hear.

Of course, sometimes the category itself can be a bit nebulous. Metalcore. Nu-Metal. Progressive Metal. These aren’t quite as well-defined, and are frequently used as a catch-all term (often, but not always, with negative connotations) for bands that don’t fit properly in one of the “core” Metal genres (no pun intended).

And then there are bands like Terra Tenebrosa, who seem to willfully defy categorisation altogether.

“Avant-Garde Black Metal” seems to be the closest approximation that most people have settled on for their sound, but even this doesn’t quite capture it. There are elements and undercurrents of everything from gloomy Post-Metal and chaotic Hardcore to pulsing Industrial and droning Ambient music, all wrapped up in a grim shroud of morbid, blackened vibes and horror-movie atmospherics.

Whatever it is, though, it works.

Oct 282016

hierophant-2016-photo-by-matteo-bosonetto

 

(In this October edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy reviews the discography of Italy’s Hierophant — including their brand new album Mass Grave.)

Recommended for fans of: Trap Them, Rotten Sound, Black Breath

There are times in your life when only the nastiest, gnarliest, most pissed-off and punishing form of auditory abuse will do. Which is the perfect time to crank up any one of the four albums by Italian iconoclasts Hierophant.

Each of the band’s releases is a short, sharp, 600-volt shock to the system, a nose-splintering headbutt from out of nowhere, a stiff, straight shot right to the kidneys, a swift and sudden punch to the throat that leaves you gasping and choking… what I’m trying to say is that these boys don’t play nice, they fight dirty.

Straddling the line between Hardcore and Grindcore, with a hefty helping of blackened venom and sludge and doomy nihilism to boot, the band’s sound is definitely one of the most singularly aggressive and gleefully ugly that I’ve had the (dis)pleasure to encounter in recent years.

And so, with a new album on the horizon, I felt it was high time that the rest of you were made to share my pain!

Sep 302016

shatter-messiah

 

(In this September edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy reviews the discography of Ohio’s Shatter Messiah.)

Recommended for fans of: Nevermore, Exodus, Arch Enemy

I want to start off this edition of The Synn Report with a quick history lesson, if I may? You see, back when Islander first started this site with his two cantankerous compatriots, the name “NoCleanSinging” was chosen as a response to the horrible proliferation of bands roughly shoehorning a sickeningly saccharine clean-sung chorus into every song in a vain attempt to appear more artificially “emotional” or to improve their commercial viability.

However, you may have observed that, in the past few years at least, we’ve not stuck quite as closely to that “no clean singing” ethos as Islander and co. did in those early days… which is why today I have no hesitation in bringing you an overview of the four album catalogue of Akron, Ohio Power-Thrash quintet Shatter Messiah.

Of course it’s impossible to ignore how much the band have in common with the much-missed, much-mourned Nevermore… not least a certain guitarist (and main songwriter) by the name of Curran Murphy. In addition the raw, gritty melodies of singer Greg Wagner (and, later, his replacement Michael Duncan) carry the same sense of spite and venom as Warrell Dane at his most vehement, as well as sharing a similarly indignant anti-religious, anti-authoritarian lyrical stance.

And then there’s the guitar work, Murphy and his chums delivering a plethora of massive, Loomis-esque seven-string tech-thrash riffs and soaring, fleet-fingered lead-lines (that would make the Amott brothers nod their head in serious appreciation) which mix proggy intricacy and dark melody with a brand of heaviness that occasionally borders on Death Metal levels.

Aug 312016

Apathy Noir 2016
Viktor Jonas // Vidar Wetterhall

(For the August edition of The Synn Report, Andy compiles reviews of all the releases by Sweden’s Apathy Noir, including the band’s 2016 album Across Dark Waters.)

 

Recommended for fans of: Opeth, In Mourning, October Tide

By my current reckoning I’ve got at least another two years’ worth of entries for The Synn Report lined up, and I don’t doubt that I’ll end up discovering even more bands worthy of inclusion during that period, so we’re in no danger of running out of potential candidates just yet. Hell, I’d hazard that there’s probably several other bands in my current collection who’ll be eligible by that time as well. So there’s no need to worry. This particular column won’t be ending any time soon.

For today’s entry we’re off to Sweden to touch base with Prog-Death duo Apathy Noir (formerly Apathy), the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Viktor Jonas, who have so far produced one EP and three stand-alone albums, the most recent of which, Across Dark Waters, was released in January of this year.

Now, to address the elephant in the room, I’ll acknowledge that the solemn Swedes owe a very heavy debt to early Opeth – particularly around the My Arms, Your Hearse period. But I’m confident you’ll find that there’s more to them than just that, particularly when they delve into the doomier, gloomier side of their repertoire.

Still, with Akerfeldt and co. treading ever further down the path of pure retro-proggery, there’s something of a vacuum out there right now, and Apathy Noir seem to be doing their damnedest to fill it!

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