(In this latest edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy Synn reviews the discography of the late, lamented, and apparently resurgent The Agony Scene from Tulsa, Oklahoma.)
Recommended for fans of: Devildriver, At The Gates, (early) The Black Dahlia Murder
“Metalcore” is such a dirty word these days that bands go to great (sometimes hilarious) lengths to avoid it. But it’s easy to forget that there was a time when it offered something both fresh and new and utterly vital to the metal scene as a whole.
Case in point, The Agony Scene were, in my humble opinion, one of the unsung heroes of early millennial Metalcore, with roots deeply embedded in the Northeast hardcore scene, but possessing a uniquely visceral sound which pulled in a host of influences from across the Death Metal spectrum.
The band specialised in hacking, machete-like riffs, rib-cracking drum work, and throat-ripping, Carcass-esque vocals, occasionally veering into moments of seditious melody or creepy atmosphere, only to shift back into punishment mode at the drop of a hat.
You may have noticed that I’ve been referring to the band in the past tense, as they unfortunately broke up after the release of their third album Get Damned. However, that’s not entirely accurate any more, as it appears the band have a new album in the works (and a visceral new logo to go with it), so I’m hoping to hear more from them very soon!
(In this latest edition of The Synn Report, Andy Synn reviews the discography of Martyr from Québec.)
Recommended for fans of: Death, Obscura, Psycroptic
It occurred to me just recently that the last three editions of The Synn Report have all had something in common, despite each covering very different bands. Each one, you see, tended towards the more mid-paced, or slower, end of the speed-scale, with a focus more on doomy, grimy grooves, over sheer velocity.
So, it seemed time to make an abrupt left-turn, flip the script, and spin the dial 180 to hit you with the fretboard mangling dynamism of Tech-Death lords Martyr.
Formed in 1994, and releasing their first album in 1997 (and, unfortunately currently “On Hold” since 2012), the Canadian quartet were one of the earliest seminal acts in the burgeoning sub-sub-genre of “Technical” Death Metal, standing proudly alongside such legendary luminaries as Pestilence, Atheist and Gorguts with their mix of intricate rhythms, angular aggression, and extravagant fretboard fireworks.
(Andy Synn brings us the 53rd edition of The Synn Report, reviewing the discography of KYPCK.)
Recommended for fans of: Crowbar, Ghost Brigade, Pallbearer
Well, it looks like we have just enough time left in this year to sneak in one last Synn Report. But what band should I cover?
Thrashy prog/power metal? Technically twisted Death Metal? Creepy industrialised Black Metal? Razor-sharp Melodeath? Groovy Nu-Metal? (all of these are potential future entries, don’t you worry…)
No, I’m thinking we need to celebrate the death of the year, and the dawning of a new one, with some Russian-themed Doom Metal from Finland. How does that sound?
Formed back in 2007 and naming themselves after the Russian city of the same name, KYPCK (pronounced “kursk”), these Finnish fatalists have distilled some truly deep and deathly Doom and gloom from the historical antagonism between Finland and Russia, grooving and grinding their way through three albums worth of songs dealing with themes of pain and loss and the futility of war.
(In this 52nd edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy Synn reviews the album-length discography to date of Colorado’s The Flight of Sleipnir, whose forthcoming fifth album will be reviewed in a subsequent post.)
Recommended for fans of: Agalloch, Moonsorrow, The Gates of Slumber
Forgive me oh readers, for I have not Synned…
That’s right. The entire month of October went by without a single edition of The Synn Report to please your eyes and ears with a taste of new and/or under-appreciated music. And for that I must apologise. Between work, travel, and some crazy nights out… I just haven’t had chance to sit down and set metaphorical pen to paper. Until now.
The Flight of Sleipnir is the brainchild of two individuals, David Csiscely (Drums, Vocals, Guitars) and Clayton Cushman (Guitars, Vocals, Bass, Keyboards), two men joined together by a clear and passionate love of heavy metal, heartfelt melody, and heroic Norse folklore.
With four albums to their name – and a fifth, V., soon to be released (expect the review for that by the end of the week – the pair have certainly managed to craft themselves a distinctive sound over the years, whose earth-shaking, doomy power and sombre, progressive inclinations incorporate binding threads of folk-inflected melody and slithering strands of blackened fury.
Whole segments of their material aren’t strictly metallic at all, comprising lengthy acoustic passages and folkish murmurations, where smooth chords ripple and plucked strings sing out clear notes of melody and harmony. Yet when these guys do go heavy they do so with some serious conviction, their brawny riffage and booming drums providing the backing for a characterful mix of ravaged, throaty roars and stirring, cleanly-sung harmonies.
(Andy Synn presents Part 51 of THE SYNN REPORT, and this time he reviews the discography of Norway’s Khold — including their new album Til Endes.)
Recommended for fans of: Satyricon, Shining, Taake
Sometimes deciding what band to cover for an edition of The Synn Report can be a difficult, complex process, with many different variables to consider. At other times though, circumstances endeavour to make the decision for me. Case in point, this week has seen the release of Khold’s sixth album, Til Endes, after 6 years of relative silence, so now seems like the perfect time to introduce you all to the band’s signature brand of grim nihilism and pitch-black groove.
Formed back in 2000, the band’s sound is a seamless melding of old-school venom and new-school aggression, built around a raw, stripped-down aesthetic, but delivered with a multi-layered, modernised sonic crunch and a bullish, belligerent strut which at times verges on a more Black ‘n’ Roll style swing and swagger.
Khold’s focus is primarily on riffs – massive, rumbling, evil riffs, which grind and groove with grim intensity and malicious intent. Blasting is generally kept to a minimum, with the drums instead embedding themselves right in the heart of every pounding piece of primal riffage, anchoring every groaning chord and venomous tirade to an irresistible metallic stomp, here and there cracking open to allow touches of sadistic melody or seditious dissonance to bleed through.
(Andy Synn celebrates the 50th edition of his SYNN REPORT by reviewing the discography of the late Bleeding Through from Orange County, CA.)
Recommended for fans of: Vader, Anaal Nathrakh, Earth Crisis
So this is kind of a big deal, right? 50 editions (not counting special editions or catch-up features) of my inane ramblings about bands you may or may not like, without so much as a protest or petition calling for me to be fired. It’s practically a miracle I tell you.
I chose Bleeding Through for the singular honour of being the fiftieth recipient of The Synn Report because a) the band recently played their final show, and I wanted to commemorate that, and b) they’ve been one of my favourites ever since I first discovered them.
And also because it’s my column, so I get to pick the bands.
Now I know many of you will have been put off by the “metalcore” tag so frequently applied to the band, and their unfortunate association with the more commercially inclined members of that movement, but honestly, a lot of their material is both legitimately heavy and uncompromisingly brutal – a mix of blistering blast-beats and bruising break-downs, crushing riffs, creeping keys, and caustic screams – taking in a much wider variety of influences than many of their peers.
With elements and influences drawn from everyone from Emperor to Earth Crisis to Exodus, the band’s sound mixes many of the best bits of Death, Thrash, and Black Metal with the uncompromising intensity and integrity of Hardcore at its most primal and primitive.
After the jump you’ll find a selection of the band’s heaviest, most metallically devastating tracks, in the hope of convincing some of you to give these underrated underdogs another chance!
(Andy Synn wrote this remembrance of Tristessa, of the Greek metal band Astarte.)
Sad news my friends. Yesterday I learned that Astarte frontwoman Tristessa (aka Maria Kolokouri) passed away due to complications suffered while fighting off Leukaemia. Not only was her wonderful life tragically cut short, but she also leaves behind a husband and young son… and I cannot begin to imagine what they must be going through. My heart goes out to them for their loss.
I’d been following Maria’s battle via the Astarte Facebook page, and her husband’s occasional updates, and had been hopeful she would be able to pull through, because I have been a huge fan of hers (and of Astarte) for a long time now. Indeed we’re coming up on the 50th edition of The Synn Report (not even counting special editions) and it was Astarte who I chose to cover for the very first edition, way back in January 2011.
Here’s how I described them back then:
“With a consistently changing line-up, the primarily female band Astarte began life as a purely Black Metal band, albeit one with an ear for a distinctive and dark melody.
“Over the years they have metamorphosed into a more Black/Death hybrid of a band, shedding and recruiting numerous different members along the way, but each time progressing and improving upon their own sound. They have in the past ten years gained a cult following of their own, whilst also gaining the patronage and friendship of some of the larger leading lights of the international Black and Death metal scenes. Guest slots from members of Rotting Christ, Dimmu Borgir, God Dethroned, Arch Enemy and Mayhem have all served to cement them as a band to be taken seriously on the world stage, although their overall lack of exposure (coupled with their inconsistent line-up issues) has yet to provide them with that all-important break-out opportunity.”
In hindsight I think it holds up pretty well. So, in tribute to Tristessa, I’ve asked Islander to reprint the original Synn Report below, in the hope that more people will be drawn in to appreciate the scintillating blackened art of Astarte.
(In this 49th edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy Synn reviews the discography of Junius from Boston, Massachusetts. Their music is an exception to our Rule.)
Recommended for fans of: Deftones, Katatonia, Solstafir
I first heard about this band in a rather unusual way back at the tail-end of 2011, when they stepped in at the last minute as replacements for Ghost, who were forced to drop off Enslaved’s North American tour at the last minute due to visa issues. Having no prior knowledge of the band at all, I was particularly intrigued when I started to see a quiet shit-storm floating around certain parts of the internet about “that indie band opening for Enslaved”, and felt compelled to check them out… after all, there must be something to them to be causing such a fuss.
And I’m glad I did, because the music they make is astonishingly beautiful and moving, with a sense of haunting atmosphere and blooming melodic power. The guitars shimmer and blossom in great waves of light and shade above an electric foundation of looping bass lines and lithe, progressive drum work, while the vocals – pulsing with echoes of both Joy Division and The Smiths – weave their own distinctive spell of captivating, clean-sung poetry and passion.
The band have been described in several ways… “Alt Metal”, “Post Rock”, “Indie Metal”, “Art Rock”, “Shoegaze Doom Metal”… though none of them really hit the spot. There’s certainly elements of Post-Punk and New Wave in their DNA, that’s obvious enough, as well as a fascination with the metallic atmospherics of acts like Neurosis and Isis, but really their sound is quite unique – oddly anthemic, yet strangely apocalyptic.
Ultimately then, the proof is in the listening. Perhaps start with their latest EP, and work your way backwards. After all, this may not be typical NCS fare, but you trust me… right?
(In this 49th edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy Synn reviews the discography of Send More Paramedics.)
Recommended for fans of: Municipal Waste, Suicidal Tendencies, Exodus
The early part of this new century wasn’t exactly my favourite period when it came to the underground metal scene here in the UK. Not that there weren’t some great, hard-working bands out there doing their own thing (and doing it well!), but it seemed like every other band I encountered was desperately trying to be a sub-standard version of either As I Lay Dying, or Converge, but without an ounce of originality or integrity (while also essentially trying to be as dumb and needlessly confrontational as possible).
Now, that’s not the whole scene by a wide margin, but most of what was out there just wasn’t really clicking with me. However, there were definitely a few exceptions, and one of those was the sheer bloody-minded, self-declared “Zombiecore” madness of Send More Paramedics.
Part thrash, part punk, all crazy… Send More Paramedics rose from the grave in 2001, and were sent back into their deathless slumber in 2007, leaving behind a strange legacy of blood, brains, and bile… set to a soundtrack of rabid thrash riffs and punked-up aggression. The band actually reformed for a few reunion shows earlier this year, but unfortunately I couldn’t make any of them. So, instead, here is my tribute to the heathen masters of undead disaster.
(In this 47th edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy Synn reflects on the discography of Ov Hollowness, and we have Bandcamp streams of all the albums, as well as Andy’s suggested songs from each one.)
Recommended for fans of: Abigail Williams, Nachtmystium, Sólstafir
After the one-two punch of brutality of the last two editions it’s about time for something a little more… nuanced.
Ov Hollowness is the name of an atmospheric/progressive/post Black Metal project masterminded by Mark Rafferty of Edmonton, Alberta (that’s in Canada, for you less geographical types). Since the project’s genesis in 2009 it has produced 3 albums of driving, blackened riffs, thundering rock beats, and cold, haunting ambience.
Though primarily a guitar-driven affair, the vocals are also of prime importance and add their own vital character to the mix, blending bloody, blackened rasps and passages of portentous spoken word with moments of piercing clean-sung melody and clarity. Even the drums, electronically-programmed though they might be, are written and incorporated into each overall song in a way that seems both fluid and natural.
Over time the sound of the project has undergone a slow, organic evolution, moving from a raw, yet fluid early aesthetic, to a grandly melodic, deeply atmospheric, powerfully passionate vision that takes the building blocks of Black Metal and uses them as a foundation upon which to construct something altogether more ambitious.