Jul 212017


(In the fifth and final part of a week-long series of interviews by Andy Synn, he talks with Scott Mellinger of the Pittsburgh band Zao, whose late-2016 album The Well-Intentioned Virus was reviewed by Andy here.)

Last, but by no means least, in my retrospective on some of 2016’s unsung heroes we have a band who are probably the most well-known out of all five, though still nowhere near enough in my estimation!

After a seven year break Zao returned in 2016 with The Well-Intentioned Virus, their tenth/eleventh full-length album (depending on whether or not you count the 2003 re-recording of All Else Failed), which proved to be one of the finest slabs of music the band had ever produced.

Now, a little over half a year later, I wanted to catch up with the band and welcome them back to the land of the living, as well as grill them on their time away, and what it took to produce an album which may well go down as their magnum opus.

Jul 202017


(Continuing his week-long series of interviews focusing on un-sung bands with stellar 2016 albums, Andy Synn today talks with guitarist Piotr Chmielecki of the Polish band Koronal.)

Fit to bursting with twanging, tensile riffs and gigantic, gigawatt grooves, Flicker Away, the debut album by this powerhouse Polish quintet, rapidly rocketed its way to the top of my “most listened to” list soon after I discovered it at the tail-end of 2016/start of 2017.

In fact I loved it so much that I was more than happy to state that I actually preferred it to the new Meshuggah album, The Violent Sleep of Reason… an opinion which I still stand by today!

But whether you’re onboard with that statement or not, I ‘m pretty certain that you’ll still agree when I say that Flicker Away was (and is) one heck of an album, and one which definitely deserved a lot more praise and attention than it actually received.

So, with that in mind, please give it up for Koronal!

Jul 192017

(In the third installment of Andy Synn’s week-long series of interviews, he talked with members of the Vancouver BC band Riftwalker — guitarist/vocalist Miles Morrison, bassist/vocalist Spencer Atkinson, and drummer Zan Petrovic — whose 2016 album Andy reviewed for us here.)

Progressive/Technical Death-Thrash combo Riftwalker wowed a number of people with the release of their debut album, Green & Black, in October last year – and I can only imagine that number would have been even higher if that band hadn’t flown under the radar quite so much.

But right now we have an opportunity to correct that (at least a little bit) by bringing the band another dose of well-deserved attention!

Jul 172017


(Andy Synn brings us this first in a week-long series of interviews, and today’s initial installment is a discussion with vocalist/guitarist Andreas Schmittful of Germany’s Phantom Winter.)

One of the great things about being a part of a blog like NCS is being able to write about whatever bands/albums you find interesting, with little to no editorial interference, and no real pressures with regards to deadlines or being made to stick to a certain party line.

And that’s not something I take for granted.

Like the man said, “with great power comes great responsibility…”, and, for better or for worse, I have a platform here which means my voice reaches a lot further, and a resounds a little more loudly, than it would do otherwise.

And since I’m going to be rather busy this week due to a combination of day-job and band-life demands, I thought I’d take this opportunity to use that voice and draw attention to a handful of artists whose albums were, through no fault of their own, largely overlooked in the celebratory orgy of 2016’s End of Year listfest… beginning with Germany’s own Phantom Winter.

Jul 152017


(Andy Synn’s band Beyond Grace released their debut album, Seekers, one week ago, and almost immediately it became available for download on pirate music sites. In this post, Andy shares some reactions to those events and questions what to do about it.)

As some of you may be aware, my band recently released our debut album (I’ll stop going on about it eventually, I promise).
What you might not be aware of is that fact that the album leaked online for illegal download the same day it was released… something which, let’s be honest, isn’t exactly an uncommon occurrence these days.

The thing is, I’m really not sure how to respond to this unfortunate turn of events. There’s several options available to me/us right now, but I’m just not certain what the right move is.

Jul 122017


(Here’s Andy Synn’s glowing review of the new second album by the Norwegian band Timeworn.)


Do you ever feel like Mastodon have gone too mainstream?

That The Ocean (Collective) were better before they got lost up their own prog-hole?

That Burst were the best band no-one’s ever heard of?

Well then, do I have an album for you!

Jul 102017


(Andy Synn reviews the debut album by the Swedish band Tehom, released in April by Blood Harvest.)

Despite my best efforts I haven’t managed to write as much as I’d hoped to over the last few weeks. My job has been keeping me pretty busy during the day, and my evenings have largely been taken up by booking/prepping/practicing with Beyond Grace, and it’s likely that this state of affairs is only going to get worse over the next week or two, as we kick off the first leg of our album release tour this Thursday.

Thankfully I’ve already got a series of interviews lined up to cover my upcoming absence next week, and should have just enough time over the next couple of days to review a handful of albums which I feel have been woefully overlooked here at NCS.

So, without further ado, let me introduce you to the unbearable grimness of Tehom, and their debut album The Merciless Light.

Jul 072017


(Andy Synn brings us a new installment in a series that focuses on recommended new releases from the U.K.)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – the UK Metal scene is in rude health right now.

Across the board, across a multitude of styles and sub-genres, my British brethren are kicking ass arse and taking names and working hard to remind the world that we have more to offer than just trend-chasing Pop-Metal groups and second (or third) hand copycats of American bands.

That’s not to say that things are perfect of course. There’s still a tendency in some areas to celebrate comforting mediocrity over anything with a more distinctive/challenging/interesting sound, and the occasional dominance of certain cliques still, in my opinion at least, has a slightly deleterious effect on our ability to make a serious impact outside of our own borders.

But, for whatever reason, sifting through the more generic and middle-of-the-road acts to find the ones worth my time seems to come more easily to me these days.

Maybe I’ve just become more discerning/cynical. Or maybe it’s just a sign of the cream rising to the top.

Jul 052017


(Here’s Andy Synn’s review of the new album by Decrepit Birth.)

The ability to make comparisons between bands is a key tool in the modern reviewer’s repertoire.

As long as it isn’t abused and overused, making clear and accurate comparisons between different, but similar/complementary, acts is one of the best ways to put your audience in the right frame of mind prior to listening to a new album, and to attract the attention of potential new listeners (while also giving them some idea of what to expect).

But, although some comparisons are obvious (often painfully so), there are times when you’ll spend hours banging your head against a (metaphorical) brick wall, only to realise that the answer has been right under your nose the whole time.

And that’s exactly what happened to me mid-way through listening to Axis Mundi.

Jul 032017


(Andy Synn wrote this review of the debut album by the Texas band Tyrannosorceress.)

A couple of weeks back I got caught up in a… let’s call it a “discussion”, for the sake of politeness… with a certain individual about whether or not all Black Metal bands have to ascribe to a certain “ideology” or ethos in order to actually be counted as Black Metal.

Now this question is nothing new – it’s been argued back and forth for eons (well, eons in internet years), with no definitive answer in sight – yet it still retains its strange power to fascinate, provoke, and repulse in equal measure.

Take even a small sub-section of Black Metal fandom and you’ll undoubtedly find as many different opinions on this matter as there are individuals to hold them, from those who believe that all Black Metal should be all-Satan, all the time, to those who’ll settle for just a general anti-Christian (or, more broadly, anti-religion) approach, to those who feel that the focus should be purely on nihilism/nature-worship/none-of-the-above, and most of whom will soundly reject any suggestion to the contrary as not being “true” Black Metal.

I don’t have an answer for this conundrum myself. In fact I’m not even sure there is one, seeing as how some of the most seminal and respected figures in the scene itself all seem to have different ideas and opinions on the matter.

But I know what I like. And I like this album.

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