(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.
(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!
(In the glorious 75th edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy reviews the discography to date of South Dakota’s Woman Is the Earth.)
Recommended for fans of: Agalloch, Wildernessking, Wolves In The Throne Room
Hailing from Black Hills, South Dakota, Woman Is The Earth deal in a brand of Black Metal that’s as heavy in atmosphere as it is in aggression, with songs that meld writhing riffage and rolling drums with passages of acoustic contemplation and ambient meditation, all without falling prey (in my opinion at least) to the more generic tropes and clichés of the over-saturated “Post Black Metal” scene.
They do this by never forgetting that – unlike some of their more populist peers — they’re definitely, even defiantly, a Metal band at heart… and a Black Metal band at that… so their music is never in danger of pandering to the notions of bland accessibility or pretentious artistry which undermine so many other acts of this type.
Having released their latest (and greatest) album earlier this year, and with the recent demise of Agalloch still weighing heavy upon so many of our hearts, now seemed like an opportune time to expose our readers to the band’s particular blend of grim grandeur and metallic majesty!
(In this June edition of The Synn Report, Andy reviews the discography of Gigan.)
Recommended for fans of: Gorguts, Cephalic Carnage, Wormed
I try my best to keep things (relatively) fresh and exciting here at The Synn Report, and a big part of that is keeping things varied and different between editions. As such we’re taking a leap away from the monolithic fields of Post-Metal we explored with last month’s offering and jetting off into the bleed between dimensions in the company of Gigan and their mind-melting, brain-bending brand of calculated Tech-Death chaos.
Hailing from Chicago (by way, originally, of Tampa, Florida… something which potentially explains the undercurrent of semi-lucid lunacy present on every song), the three-piece clearly take a warped sense of pride in pushing Tech-Death into some truly weird and wonderful places, anchored by the unholy talents of multi-instrumental main-man Eric Hersemann, who not only handles 99% of the guitar-work across the band’s three albums, but also the bass, synths, theremin, and xylophone(!) to boot.
So, if you’re in a particularly masochistic mood, and fancy having your brain reduced to a quivering mass of over-cooked and over-stimulated neurons, then by all means, please click on…
(In this 73rd edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy reviews the discography to date of Maryland’s Dying Sun.)
Recommended for fans of: Altars of Plagues, Cult of Luna, Massive Attack
Every so often a band comes out of nowhere and blindsides you with how utterly fantastic they are, making you wonder how in the world you ever managed to get along without them.
Dying Sun are one such band.
The Maryland three-piece deal in a brand of intensely metallic, immensely atmospheric Post-Metal not quite like anyone else I’ve heard (although general comparisons to both Cult of Luna and Altars of Plagues are certainly valid, to an extent), packed full of titanic, weighty riffs, anguished vocals, and cosmological waves of pulsating programming.
Ever since discovering them I’ve had all three of their releases (arguments can be made as to which of them counts as an EP or as an album) practically glued to my playlist, and I’ve just been waiting for the right time to share their moody magnificence with you all.
Well, that time has come.
(We present the April edition of THE SYNN REPORT, in which Andy discourses about all three albums in the discography of Italy’s Incoming Cerebral Overdrive.)
Recommended for fans of: The Dillinger Escape Plan, (early) Mastodon, Nero di Marte
Somehow this Italian quintet have completely passed me by up until now, despite releasing three extremely well-received albums within the past 8 years. Thankfully this edition of The Synn Report allows me an opportunity to rectify my mistake, and really dive into the band’s eclectic, eccentric, electrifying Prog/Tech/Math Metal stew.
Now, to be clear, when I use the term “Progressive” in this column, it’s to refer to the more chaotic, out-there-adventurousness of bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan, Botch, and early Mastodon – so don’t go expecting some sort of Dream Theatre-esque instrumental extravaganza or gleaming, harmony-laden Post-Metal odyssey – as Incoming Cerebral Overdrive (or I.C.O. as they shall hereto forth be referred to) have a much rawer, more experimental vibe to their music, and aren’t afraid to take a few risks whilst also keeping things nice and heavy.
That being said, their most recent album (2012’s Le Stelle: A Voyage Adrift) definitely saw them reining in the chaotic Hardcore influences of their earlier works in favour of a more refined — though no less challenging — sound, so it’s clear that the Italian band aren’t done experimenting and progressing (in the most literal sense of the word) their sound just yet!
(In the 71st edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy Synn reviews the discography of Code.)
Recommended for fans of: Borknagar, Ihsahn, Leprous
For whatever reason I’ve decided to stick close to home again for this edition of The Synn Report, following up the beefy Death Metal of Dyscarnate with the category defying, blackened-prog vibes of the legendary Code.
Though originally a joint venture between members from Norway and the UK, with strong ties to such groups as Ulver, Dodheimsgard, Indesinence, Season’s End, etc, the current incarnation of the band is an entirely British affair.
However, despite the many changes in the band’s line-up, and the ever-changing, ever-evolving nature of their sound, there remains an undeniable and intangible thread of identity and continuity within their music, running all the way from the very first track of their debut, Nouveau Gloaming, to the final climactic notes of last year’s phenomenal and shamelessly progressive mut.
(In this 70th edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy Synn reviews the releases to date of UK-based Dyscarnate.)
Recommended for fans of: Immolation, Hate, Misery Index
I’ll probably catch some serious flack for saying this, but sometimes it seems like the UK scene has an unfortunate tendency, consciously or otherwise, to celebrate mass-appeal and mediocrity over inspiration and artistic integrity — often mixed in with a weird strain of pseudo-nationalist sentiment that demands your unequivocal, unthinking support for “True British Heavy Metal”… and insinuates that you’re a traitor or a poser if you fail to do so.
Despite the fact that the country is currently bubbling with fantastic, unique bands (particularly in the Doom and Black Metal genres) easily the equal of anything the rest of the world can produce, there’s still a large section of the scene who seem happy to just settle for what’s comfortable and familiar, be it the next in a seemingly endless line of interchangeable, lowest-common-denominator Thrash/Groove acts, or yet another generic, domestic-brand version of whatever’s currently trendy in the good old US of A.
And yet despite this, or maybe even because of it, it still pleases me whenever I get the chance to showcase a UK band capable of going above and beyond the call of duty. A band kicking ass and taking names entirely on their own terms. A band like Dyscarnate.
(In this new edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy Synn has picked a fine day to review the discography-to-date of Finnish marvels Oranssi Pazuzu — including the band’s brand new album that’s due for release today, for which we have a full album stream for you to hear.)
Recommended for fans of: Nachtmystium, (mid-period) Enslaved, Killing Joke
After two more Death Metal leaning editions of The Synn Report, I think it’s time to take things in a… different… direction. And, if there’s one thing that can be said about Oranssi Pazuzu it’s that they’re definitely “different”.
After all, the Finnish quintet have never been your stereotypical Black Metal act and have rarely, if ever, played up to the expectations of their audience. Over the course of the last 9-or-so years the quintet have released three (now four) critically applauded albums fusing the base elements of Black Metal with massive injections of proggy psychedelia and surrealistic sonic experimentation, constantly pushing their sound in ever more unusual, unconventional directions.
With their fourth full-length album Värähtelijä set for release today, now seemed like the perfect time to suit up and take a trip out into the void in the company of these Finnish cosmonauts!
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.)
Recommended for fans of: Eyehategod, Acid Bath, Soilent Green
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.