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 202017

 

(It’s our great pleasure to bring you the full streaming premiere of Umbra, the debut album by the Icelandic band Almyrkvi, preceded by Andy Synn’s review of the album as a fitting introduction to what you will hear. Umbra will be released by Ván Records on November 24th.)

 

Just over a month ago our benevolent overlord Islander, he who bringeth the rains and maketh the sun to rise, published a post entitled “List-Breakers” asking our readers to select some upcoming late-2017 releases that had a very high likelihood of breaking their way into their AOTY lists come December, while also providing some suggestions of his own to bear in mind.

And one of the albums he highlighted was the one which we’re lucky enough to premiere for you all here today.

Nov 172017

 

(In this post we present Andy Synn’s review of the new album by Italy’s The Clearing Path, set for release next month by I, Voidhanger Records, and the premiere of album track “Stargazer Monolith“.)

 

Way back in the hallowed era known as… 2015… a hitherto unknown artist by the name of Gabriele Gramaglia came out of nowhere to deliver what I still believe was one of the best Black Metal albums of the year, Watershed Between Earth and Firmament by The Clearing Path.

In the two years since its release …Firmament (and its similarly stellar companion EP Abyss Constellation) has remained in pretty much constant rotation in my daily/weekly/monthly listening habits, providing me with a regular dose of frenetic riffing, frenzied drum work, and tumultuous atmosphere that never fails to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

So you can perhaps imagine how excited I was to hear that the band’s second album, Watershed Between Firmament and the Realm of Hyperborea was scheduled for the release at the end of the year (December 8th, to be exact) and even more excited when the promo for it suddenly appeared in my inbox.

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 132017

 

(Here’s Andy Synn’s review of the new fourth album by The Faceless, which will be released on December 1 by Sumerian Records.)

Talk to any writer worth their salt and they’ll tell you that, no matter how long they’ve been writing, the temptation to be the first to review something, to get your opinions out there before anyone else, never fully goes away.

But while there are certainly times where first impressions can be useful, it’s often better to let your thoughts marinate for a little while before committing them to paper (or, at least, to digital ink).

Now I’ve been lucky enough to have this album in my possession for a few months, meaning that I’ve had more time than most to digest the music contained therein. And while this doesn’t necessarily make my opinion “better” or more authoritative than anyone else’s, it does mean that I’ve been able to take a bit more of a long-term perspective, and so you can be sure that what you’re about to read is much more than just my first, fleeting impressions of an album that comes laden with a heck of a lot of baggage and some serious expectations to live up to.

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.

Nov 102017

 

(Andy Synn wrote this feature about the masked UK duo Nordic Giants.)

The following article is less of a review and more of a… recommendation that you check out the band Nordic Giants, whom I recently discovered at this year’s edition of Damnation Festival (yes, I realise I’m late to the party on this, but that’s the joy of festivals, you can stumble upon something entirely new and wonderful completely by accident).

Now, a word of warning – though the majority of their songs are instrumental, the duo also make use of guest vocalists now and then, so there is some (utterly sublime) clean singing involved in a number of their tracks.

As a matter of fact, the band in general are a walking (but not talking) exception to our general rule, in that they’re not actually a Metal band at all, but I can definitely see their particular brand of dynamic, cinematic Post Rock appealing to fans of everyone from Junius and Sólstafir to Sigur Ros and latter-day Ulver.

Nov 072017

 

(Andy Synn was fortunate to witness the 2017 edition of Damnation Festival in Leeds, UK, on November 4, and prepared this report on the performances, along with many videos.)

One of the things I love most about Damnation Festival is that, because it always sells out, the organisers are free to keep things as underground and as intimate as possible, and to resist the pressure to book some of the more popular (and more predictable) marquee names which you’ll see play other festivals year in and year out.

That doesn’t mean that Damnation is an “elitist” event by any means – in fact the atmosphere and camaraderie on display every year is another one of the big draws for me, as it always warms my heart to see a mingling of Metal fans, of all ages, races, colours, and creeds, in an environment dedicated purely to the love of live music – but this focus in quality over quantity, on providing a unique experience, both for the fans and for the bands who play, is something that sets it apart from its peers and rivals.

Nov 022017

 

(We present Andy Synn’s review of the new EP by the Australian black metal band Claret Ash, released yesterday via Bandcamp.)

Do you feel that? That faint, but growing, tingling on the back of your neck? That slowly developing sense of dread?

If you’re a writer/reviewer like me, you’ll recognise it almost immediately. That’s the sensation that time is running out, that the year is almost over, and yet there’s still so much left unsaid and unwritten.

And while I’m slowly starting to put together my usual yearly round-up to be published next month, I’m also still trying my hardest to award some coverage (and criticism) to as many albums and EPs as possible before the inevitable completion of the current solar cycle.

So, without further ado… here’s some rambling thoughts on the new EP by Aussie Black Metallers Claret Ash.

Oct 312017

 

(We present Andy Synn’s review of the new EP by Pennsylvania-based Zao, which will be released this coming Friday and is streaming in full as of today.)

Zao’s fantastic comeback album, The Well-Intentioned Virus, was easily one of the best and brightest releases of last year, even if its December release date kept it from appearing on most end of year lists.

Regardless of this, the band are clearly keen on capitalising on the momentum of their return, and are already working on their next full-length… while also set to drop a brand new EP, the five-track Pyrrhic Victory this Friday.

Well, you know what they say about striking while the iron is hot, right?

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