(Andy Synn delivers the 60th edition of The Synn Report, reviewing the discography to date of Philadelphia’s Burden.)
Recommended for fans of: Ahab, October Tide, Celtic Frost
This was not the column I was supposed to be writing this month. Only an hour ago I was discussing with my NCS compatriots which of two particular bands to choose to focus on with this month’s edition of The Synn Report.
Yet the best-laid plans of mice and men so often go astray… particularly when you stumble upon an artist so good you just have to write about them. And that’s exactly what happened in this case.
Gloomy progressive Doomsayers Burden hail from the darkest depths of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, to be exact) and have, so far, produced two full-length albums and two stand-alone singles of dense, introverted Doom and groaning, cavernous Death Metal, each time employing subtle progressive touches and splashes of captivating melody to maintain a sense of bleak vitality and cleverly shift the dynamic of their lengthy compositions.
Granted, this sort of music often takes a real investment of patience and time from the listener, but when it’s this good it’s definitely worth it. In fact their most recent album, last year’s Without, is probably one of the most under-appreciated and under-rated gems I’ve heard in a long while!
Scarve – 2003
(In this new edition of The Synn Report, Andy Synn reviews the discography of Scarve.)
Recommended for fans of: Strapping Young Lad, Darkane, Gorod
Often tagged with the ever-so-damning “Modern Metal” moniker (shudder), French musical metallurgists Scarve – whose most recent line-up includes Darkane vocalist Lawrence Mackory, Soilwork guitarist Sylvain Coudret, and Extreme Metal’s resident VID (Very Important Drummer) Dirk Verbeuren – can be a hard-to-classify beast.
Existing somewhere in the irradiated wasteland between Death and Thrash, the strong hints of Meshuggah-esque futurism and Fear Factory-style mechanised rhythms have, at varying stages of their career, seen the group lumbered with awkward references to “Cyber-Metal” and “Industrial Death Metal”, neither of which seem to accurately capture the band’s overall sound and style.
Still, we’re not here to bandy genre terms and stylistic tags, we’re here to experience some damn good Metal! So, without further ado, click onwards and feast your ears on the blisteringly technical, ferociously aggressive, and enigmatically progressive Cyber-Metal assault of Scarve…
Dammit, I said it didn’t I?
(For the 58th edition of The Synn Report, Andy Synn reviews the discography of Vindensång.)
Recommended for fans of: Agalloch, Ulver, Altar of Plagues
I’m going to throw a bit of a curve-ball your way with this edition of The Synn Report, as we tack smoothly away from the brutal and the bombastic towards calmer, more atmospheric waters. And, yes, I know that’s a mixed metaphor. Just go with it.
Hailing from the dark and forbidding depths of… Pennsylvania (cue thunder and lightning), the Ambient/Post-Black/Neo-Folk triptych who operate under the moniker of Vindensång have so far produced two albums and one EP to their name, with last year’s phenomenal Alpha providing (in my humble opinion) one of the most compelling and captivating listening experiences of the year, exploring the depths of negative space and droning Post-Metal dynamics in a truly unique and unforgettable manner.
Though large swathes of the band’s sound seems distinctly un-Metal, there remains something… something in the emotions they evoke and the sonic textures they create… that still feels intimately familiar, hinting at a strain of blackened marrow in the band’s soul, one which colours and shades every rippling acoustic passage and ambient bloom with a morose and desolate grace.
(Andy Synn devotes his 57th edition of The Synn Report to reviewing the discography of Germany’s Ichor.)
Recommended for fans of: Hour of Penance, Aborted, Carnifex
After last month’s more progressive and atmospheric offering… let’s go for something different this time around, shall we?
Let’s get heavy.
Here’s a fun fact: Did you know that “ichor” was originally a term used to describe the golden fluid that served as the blood of the gods in Greek mythology? And that it has, over the years, also been used as as a (now outdated) piece of medical terminology referring to bile, as well as cropping up as a literary reference frequently employed by H. P. Lovecraft?
And did you also know that it’s also the nom de plume of a bruising band of German ne’er do wells who deal in a gut-wrenching, butt-clenching, neck-snapping brand of Death Metal/Deathcore?
Well you do now.
(In this 56th edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy Synn reviews the discography of Finland’s Callisto, whose latest album was released in January.)
Recommended for fans of: The Ocean, Cult of Luna, Thrice
There’s definitely a small chance, but a chance all the same, that Finnish Post-Rock/Post-Metal experimentalists Callisto might be a bit of a hard sell to our regular audience here at NCS.
Described on their Facebook page as “Metal / Experimental / Rock”, and by their own admission as “Progressive Noise Rock”, although the band clearly learnt much of their craft at the (metaphorical) knee of Isis and Cult of Luna, they quickly took a much different path than their predecessors, borrowing more from the Post-Hardcore and Post-Rock fields as their discography expanded, incorporating many more jazzy-influenced and experimental/ambient touches along the way.
It seems to me that this verve for experimentation – often divisive, yet never anything less than intriguing – contributed to the band missing the boat slightly during the mid-2000s Post-Metal explosion. Where others were (rightly) praised and lauded for their atmospheric expansion of the metallic landscape, Callisto were, in places at least, castigated for not being “Metal enough” as their interests swiftly diverged from those of their contemporaries.
Which is a shame, because I can honestly say that if you’re a fan of any of the bands mentioned above – or even the more atmospheric approach favoured by Junius and recent Sólstafir – then the Finns definitely deserve your time. And, although it does take a bit of effort and commitment to get deep into some of their albums, I promise you that effort will be amply rewarded.
(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.