Mar 082013

(Here we have the latest installment of Andy Synn’s lists of favorite things that come in fives.)

One thing that metal does very well (compared at least to pop, hip-hop, and even most rock music) is the long-form song. Heck, I imagine if I were to calculate the “average” run time of a song from amongst my vast collection, it would definitely come out somewhere between 5-6 minutes. A “short” metal song is often one that goes up to about 4 minutes after all (in contrast to the fact that this would be considered longer than average in the other genres I’ve mentioned).

One reason for this is that metal often needs room to breathe, to develop its melodic (or dissonant) themes properly. Metal revels in space, stretching itself, filling up the space with noise and sound, light and vision. It’s also a genre often synonymous with story-telling, and one which – largely free from the external constraints enforced upon the 3-minute pop song – contends to offer a deeper and more rewarding (and as such, longer lasting) emotional experience for the listener.

Then of course there’s Napalm Death… so, ok, metal isn’t ALL about length and depth (short, sharp impact is certainly a common trade-mark too) but it DOES tend to do long songs very well.

So I’ve chosen five of my absolute favourites, presented in order from shortest to longest. And there’s not a single Opeth song among them.

Dec 052012

(NCS writer Andy Synn pauses after the 30th installment of THE SYNN REPORT to take a look back at the first two years of the series.)

Ok, so we’ve now had 30 ‘official’ entries in The Synn Report. I hope that a good number of you have discovered new bands and gone out and shown your support for them, buying music, merch, gig tickets, etc.

I thought, since the year (and the world!!!) is coming to an end, it might be a good time to provide a quick one-stop summation of all the previous entries, for those of you who maybe missed a couple, or for new devotees of the site who have yet to encounter the earlier editions and the bands contained therein.

Did you know that the genesis for The Synn Report was not entirely down to me? There’s a post that I consider ‘The Synn Report: Year Zero” which was written by Islander himself, in response to my recommendation of a particular band. That post is included here, as I think it’s an important foundation stone in the genesis of The Synn Report, and because I think the band in question are utterly phenomenal.

So there we go, after the jump there’s a tiny entry on each band from each edition of The Synn Report, with a short genre description and a re-iteration of the “Recommended for fans of:” section. Which ones did you miss? Which ones should you give another shot to? Click each one to be linked to the appropriate article, where you’ll find the full write-ups and sample songs from each release!

Sep 192012

I already wrote one of these round-up posts early this morning, but hours have passed since then and I’ve found more new things worth sharing.

FORGOTTEN TOMB

This Italian band is one whose name I’ve heard or seen before but whose music I don’t recall ever delving into. I gather from my reading that their sound has evolved over the course of five albums, the last of which was Under Saturn Retrograde (2011), starting out as fast black metal, moving to depressive, doom-oriented black metal with a lyrical focus on suicide, and then eventually settling into a kind of blackened goth-oriented mix of metal and rock with clean production and a predominance of clean vocals.

The band have a new album slated for release by Agonia Records on October 30 in Europe and November 6 in North America. Its title is …And Don’t Deliver Us From Evil…, and today Agonia started streaming a new song from the album called “Deprived”, which will be released separately as a 7″ single with a second acoustic track.

I don’t know how well this song represents the rest of the album, but it’s really good.

Sep 112012

(Andy Synn is the author of this review of the new album by Becoming the Archetype, with music from the album at the end.)

Five albums. That’s a pretty good legacy for any band, particularly when they’ve managed to progress with each release, from the unconventional prog-core of Terminate Damnation, through the more esoteric and Extol-infused The Physics Of Fire, the more conceptual and song-oriented approach of Dichotomy, and rounded off with the more stylistically varied Celestial Completion. Through it all though, regardless of several line-up shifts, they’ve retained a core identity that gives the name Becoming The Archetype both its power and its continued relevance.

That being said, let me give you a quick heads up – while I Am continues the tradition of progressing the band’s sound with each release, particularly in this case as a darker, heavier album much of the time, this is not the Becoming The Archetype you’re used to, and almost certainly not the Becoming The Archetype you may be expecting.

 

“The Ocean Walker” (not an Arrested Development reference, as far as I can tell) immediately sets the stage with its unexpected Periphery style leads and semi-Meshuggah-ised riffs. Thankfully it’s more than an uninspired imitation (it remains distinctively BTA throughout), but the shift in sonic priorities is initially startling. That being said, Chris McCain’s vocals manage to reference enough hints of Jason Wisdom early on to establish continuity, before dropping into a more guttural roar, upping the brutality and paired with a thunderous, chugging riff.

This is followed by two particularly aggressive tracks that recall the more “-core” oriented material of Terminate Damnation. The “Timebender” has a great off-kilter central riff, a warped and dissonant lead refrain, and an almost mechanised sense of rhythm that isn’t far from that perfected by Living Sacrifice. “The Eyes Of The Storm” employs a similarly neck-snapping, rhythmic approach, though the two songs are clearly distinctive entities. The chiming keyboard presence and lightning-fast lead motif draw a line back to the precision compositions of Dichotomy, but with an uncompromising heaviness and visceral vocal intensity that harkens back to the band’s earliest days.

Mar 262012

Earlier this month, Andy Synn passed his 18-month anniversary as a writer for NCS. His first post was a review of Dimmu Borgir’s Abrahadabra album. In all that time, Andy has rarely mentioned that in addition to writing about metal, he is also the vocalist for a UK metal band called Bloodguard. Maybe it’s that famous British reserve, or perhaps it’s because Andy is a gentleman and a scholar in addition to being a writer and a howler. I, however, am not limited by good manners or any sense of humility, and I have some news about Bloodguard that needs to be spread like the plague.

First, the band have now set the official track-listing for their debut album, Patterns In The Infinite, and this is it:

1. Eye Of The Paradox
2. Vanguard
3. Footsteps (Of The Dead)
4. Our Lady Of The Flood
5. Black Math Ritual
6. Panopticon
7. Final Prayer
8. Bridgeburner

After the jump, you’ll find an album preview video that will give you a taste of what the songs sound like in their unmixed form, although the order of the samples in the video doesn’t match the track-listing. But first, there’s even bigger news, because I’ve discovered from Andy the identities of five guests whose talents will be enhancing Bloodguard’s new album — and it’s quite an exciting list: Arthur von Nagle (Cormorant), Michiel Dekker and Ivo Hilgenkamp (The Monolith Deathcult), Seth Hecox (Becoming the Archetype), and Demonstealer (Demonic Resurrection).

Nov 252011

(In late October, Becoming the Archetype and Bloodguard embarked on an NCS co-sponsored mini-tour of England called BEARDING THE UK.  Bloodguard’s Andy Synn recorded portions of the tour for posterity, and we’ve got his tour video after the jump, along with this diary of the experience.)

Well, the short tour with Becoming The Archetype (plus one extra date with Abgott, just for some drastic contrast) was both remarkably eventful and extremely good fun.

We knew it would be a good time when, having collected our awesome van (christened the Guard-Van for the duration of the tour) from Cambridge we realised, approximately 20 minutes down the road, that we had in fact accepted the keys and driven away with the vehicle without actually… paying for it. It’s always good to start a tour with a bit of accidental automotive theft!

Anyway, we did eventually organise leaving the necessary hire fee for the van, precluding the involvement of the police, and Ed and I set out to collect BTA from Liverpool airport. Simple enough right?

Well after almost an hour of waiting after their flight had landed and disembarked there was still no sign of the band. But then I received a phone call… from the immigration authorities. Who were refusing to let the band enter the country in the fear that they’d be taking hard-earned cash from the pockets of good British metal bands. However, some quick talking by yours truly, coupled with a very pleasant and helpful representative on the other end of the line, saw the band released and allowed to enter their ancestral homeland.

Nov 072011

(Andy Synn ventures outside his usual meat and potatoes with this one. I’m not objective, of course, but this post includes many observations that ring true to me, and maybe will to you as well. Also, this post includes a heavy cargo of highly-worth-watching videos.)

I’ve been looking at doing some shorter pieces on various topics for a while now, spreading myself a little more widely and letting the material do most of the talking for me, and Islander’s sabbatical seems like the perfect opportunity to do so.

So I wanted to bring your attention to a couple of music videos which you may have overlooked, and highlight why I like them and what I think makes them a good example of the video “art-form”. Equally, however, the success (relative or otherwise) of these videos highlights some of the regrettably common failures of most metal videos!

Now bear in mind that most metal videos are a missed opportunity. I’m a fan of a good solid performance video, this is true, be it live footage (purpose-shot or amalgamated) or the traditional warehouse/barren-field performance, as long as it gives you a sense of the intensity and power of a band really getting into their music and their instruments. However, this is where most of them fall down, simply giving us a general shot of “hey look, this is what we look like when we’re playing” rather than any sort of “feel” for the intensity of the experience. And I’m not saying this is easy, far from it.

I do, however, want to highlight the issue that for so many bands (and most recently I’m looking at the plethora of metalcore/deathcore/djent bands) videos become merely a case of being SEEN without actually SAYING anything with the opportunity they’ve been given. Just because you’re moving/jumping/posing does not mean you’re coming across as doing anything more than singing into a hair-brush in front of the mirror.  (more after the jump . . .)

Oct 122011

Is that not the most awesomest thing you’ve ever seen? Or at least the most awesomest thing you’ve seen in the last 5 minutes? And unlike the last thing musical event we presented, this one happens to be real, and there are two other real, related events in addition to this one.

Becoming The Archetype have announced an October/November European headlining tour in support of their latest album, Celestial Completion , which was released earlier this summer on Solid State Records and reviewed at NCS here. As part of that BEARDING EUROPE 2011 tour, the band will be playing three four dates in the UK, with support from a stellar line-up of UK metal bands, and we’re doing our part to help spread the word by co-sponsoring this BEARDING THE UK TOUR. The only band playing with BTA on all three dates is Bloodguard, who are fronted by our very own Andy Synn (congrats to Andy and the whole band for scoring these gigs).

On October 24, BTA will play Birmingham at The Actress & Bishop with Bloodguard and Haerken.. Tickets are £4. On October 25, BTA will be playing Manchester’s Roadhouse with Bloodguard and Bisonhammer. Tickets are £7 in advance from http://www.theroadhouselive.co.uk/. On October 26, BTA will be hitting  The Maze in Nottingham, with Bloodguard, Daor, and Incinery; advance tickets on sale HERE. And then on October 27, BTA will wreck Camden’s Purple Turtle with Talanas, Bloodguard, Chapters, and Ruins of Earth. Advance tickets are available for a paltry £7 here: http://www.wegottickets.com/event/137045

And by the way, you can find out more about Talanas by reading Andy’s review of their new album HERE , and you can get an introduction to Chapters via TheMadIsraeli’s write-up HERE. After the jump, check out the other UK tour posters with our humble name appearing on the top and see BTA’s entire European tour schedule, with support from Immortal Souls and Beyond the Dust after leaving the UK.

Jul 192011

Becoming the Archetype is a band who qualify as one of our Exceptions to the Rule: We like dem even wit all dat clean singing. Andy Synn expressed our common admiration for the band’s latest album, Celestial Completion, in this review, published here in April. For Andy, the highlight of the album was a song called “Breathing Light”.

Yesterday, Noisecreep premiered BtA’s video for that very song. It’s a Metalocalypse-style animated story, with the band members appearing as themselves, except . . . uh . . . somewhat physically enhanced and clad in Viking skins. Beardo Vikings ftw! Returning from space to Planet Earth, the boys encounter all manner of vicious minions in the service of dictatorial Lord Todd (including tentacled minions — Phro, take note) and engage in all manner of to-the-death combat with them. The outcome is in doubt until the appearance of . . . well, I don’t want to spoil the ending.

David Prindle did the video, and it’s a nice change of pace from standard metallo video fare. And the song is still catchy as hemorrhagic fever. Check it out after the jump.

Apr 192011

(Today, our UK contributor Andy Synn follows yesterday’s retrospective on Becoming the Archetype with a review of the band’s new album, Celestial Completion.)

Perhaps Becoming The Archetype’s most ambitious album yet begins with the strange, symphonic introduction of “The Resonant Frequency Of Flesh”. Haunting choral voices and a sweeping Danny-Elfman-aping score backed by pounding drums and punchy slabs of guitar, which segues seamlessly into “The Magnetic Sky”, juxtaposing Jason Wisdom‘s familiar, powerful roar with a stunning clean vocal refrain, the first incidence of prominent clean vocals since The Physics Of Fire. The oceanic rise and fall of crushing heaviness and sinuous guitar work showcases the band’s joyous song-writing talents, indulging both their love of metallic force and bright, shining melody.

Internal Illumination” is perhaps the most purely death metal track the band has done on an album since their Terminate Damnation days, replete with hellishly low gutturals, gripping blast-beat sections and an utterly crushing ending slowdown that drags the listener’s ears through a mire of sludgy riffing and dragging drum fills. It also employs the newly developed blackened screams which are now part of the band’s vocal arsenal, adding further variety to their multi-faceted, expressive vocal arrangements.  (more after the jump . . .)

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