Sep 022017

 

(Andy Synn is now lobbying the Oxford English Dictionary for recognition of a new word.)

In case you didn’t know, yesterday saw release of the brand new album by Symphonic Death Metal titans Septic Flesh (yes, I’m still spelling it as two words).

Now while I’m not planning on reviewing it here (that honour will, in all likelihood, fall to DGR), I will say that Codex Omega feels like a big step up from The Great Mass and Titan, the latter of which in particular suffered (in this author’s opinion at least) from a noticeable lack of balance between the “Symphonic” and the “Death Metal” aspects of the band’s sound, with the lion’s share of the effort put into the orchestration, while the drums and riffs (or lack thereof) were treated very much as an afterthought.

And as Codex Omega is such a big improvement on its predecessors in this regard, I felt it might be high time we all got together to discuss the costs/benefits inherent in “symphonisizing” (a word I’ve just invented) your sound.

Feb 132013

(Here we have another installment in UK-based Andy Synn’s occasional series on favorites of his that come in five’s.  Music is included.)

Chance and coincidence are funny little things. One of the various ideas I had noted down for these “Favourite” columns was a short insight into my own collection of non-musical metal materials, specifically the various merch (shirts, etc) I’d picked up over the years.

So when David appeared on the scene with his series of posts on Metal Culture it seemed like the perfect time to actually put this piece together, and hopefully see what items of your ‘metal uniform’ you guys particularly cherish as well!

The funny thing is, I’m actually currently in the process of getting rid of a host of shirts, to various good homes and good people, because I feel like I’ve amassed a rather unnecessary collection, many of which I never/rarely ever wear. So I’ve been winnowing through my wardrobe, selecting the ones I don’t really have a need for, and simultaneously identifying my favourites, all of which plays nicely into this column.

Ok, so we’ll go in some sort of sartorial order, shall we?

Aug 292012

(Our UK correspondent Andy Synn, who is a lucky devil, attended the mammoth BLOODSTOCK festival earlier this month and delivered a report on the performances. You can find his review of the festival’s Friday and Saturday shows at this location, and today we’ve got his write-up about what he saw and heard on BLOODSTOCK’s final day — plus a collection of videos (some of which are full sets) at the end.)

SUNDAY

Unfortunately, the first band to assault my ears on the last day of Bloodstock were the generally uninspired Kobra & The Lotus, a band who the metal media have been trying desperately to ram down our throats for some time now, but who don’t have the songs or presence to justify it. Not the worst band in the world by a long shot, but memorable only for how forgettable they were, and for the singer’s often flat, often forced, vocals.

So it’s a good thing we had Nile! After some admittedly hilarious sound problems (where you could hear the sound guy shouting and swearing at everyone to ‘Fuck off! We’re not ready!” after Nile tried to start their intro a tad early), the quartet finally kicked into a sterling set of challenging death metal mechanics. The new songs are definitely finding their place in the complex algorithm of Nile’s set, while a run-in by members of The Black Dahlia Murder for the climactic chant-along of “Black Seeds of Vengeance” helped add to that special “festival-feeling”.

Speaking of The Black Dahlia Murder, they were up next and also faced the unappealing task of presenting their razor-sharp melodic death metal to a crowd that had seemingly greeted their announcement with either measured ambivalence or outright hostility. But with good natured aplomb, and some hilarious stage banter, the quintet were definitely up to the challenge, packing an impressive number of songs into a short time slot in an effort to win over as many with their music as possible. Kudos for the handling of the naked guy (“Raise him up, I want to see his penis… no wait, keep him away from security… oh no, they got him. Enjoy jail dude!”), and well done on ending the set with more people in the field than they started with.

Dec 292011

(Andy Synn provides an unexpected SYNN REPORT, seizing upon the imminent calendar change to discuss the re-recording of 12 songs by 12 tremendous bands — and of course we’re including the music, which means 24 tracks. Fuck, this would be a mixtape that KILLS.)

So here it is, a surprise Synn Report to finish off the year. Arbitrary though the distinction may well be, the end of the year provides a perfect excuse to attend to a similar theme, the transition from the old to the new – re-workings and re-recordings.

Are they better? That’s an argument for the ages? Are they necessary? Hell, that’s probably an even worse argument to start up…

Primarily, re-recordings serve a twofold purpose – 1. to reinvigorate songs that might otherwise not be getting the set-time they deserve, and 2. – to royally piss off a band’s fan-base. Although there’s a chance that the second isn’t entirely intentional. Still, the re-recorded album courts controversy like almost no other, whether it’s a varied collection of songs that are chosen to receive the treatment, or a full re-recording of an entire album.

The full re-recording of an entire album is clearly the most contentious option, while single track re-recordings are often a much more successful and welcome proposition, most often appearing as b-sides and bonus tracks for the avid collector. The full-album re-recording, however, remains exceptionally and unequivocally divisive, alienating as many old fans as it attracts new ones.

So here’s a list of some of those renewed tracks that I think definitely have something to offer the listener, both old and new. I’m sure I’ll have to turn in my kvlt card after this, for promoting something so new and shiny, but ah well…

Nov 252011

(Stop the presses!  Andy Synn attended Dimmu Borgir’s performance in Nottingham last night and he’s already delivered this concert review, plus two videos he filmed of the show.  Further proof that, like killer whales during their first month of life, Andy does not sleep.)

“An Evening With Dimmu Borgir”, as this occasion was billed, saw the band performing two sets during the course of the evening. The first featured Enthrone Darkness Triumphant performed in its entirety, while the second, subsequent set, saw the group concentrate on its most recent quartet of albums for a more dynamically varied mix of material.

For the first two songs, “Mourning Palace” and “Spellbound (By The Devil)”, the guitars were annoyingly muted, resulting in a mix of heaving bass lines and rumbling drums which, although powerful, lacked much of the clarity and sharpened melody which the songs require to truly breathe their morbid magic.

Thankfully, the sound picked up just near the end of the second song, allowing “In Death’s Embrace” to spread its blackened wings with malevolent grace and majestic glory. With the sound levels thus balanced out and the guitars now slicing through the mix like razor-edged scalpels, the song provided an early high-point to the evening, the 6 members performing as one blasphemously tight unit to produce glorious swathes of blackened riffage and sweeping, evocative keyboard lines.

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 . . .)

Nov 032011

October is over, except for Halloween, which continues to go on and on here at the metallic island that NCS calls home. Your humble editor spent the end of the month and the beginning of this new one grinding away at his fucking day job, which explains why this installment of METAL IN THE FORGE is late. It also explains why it’s more than typically incomplete, but more on that later.

Here’s the deal:  In these posts, we collect news blurbs and press releases we’ve seen over the last month about forthcoming new albums from bands we know and like (including occasional updates about releases we’ve included in previous installments of this series), or from bands that look interesting, even though we don’t know their music yet. In this series, we cut and paste those announcements and compile them in alphabetical order.

Remember — THIS ISN’T A CUMULATIVE LIST. If we found out about a new forthcoming album before September, we wrote about it in previous installments of this series. So, be sure to check the Category link called “Forthcoming Albums” on the right side of this page to see forecasted releases we reported earlier.

This month’s list begins right after the jump. I fell down on the job of monitoring the interhole and press releases to catch news about new albums that looked potentially cool to me, so I know I missed announcements of new releases that should be included here. So, feel free to leave Comments and tell all of us what I missed. Let us know about albums on the way that  you’re stoked about!

Oct 242011

I’m writing this post just to show how much we here at NCS love all of our European brethren and sistern (sistern?) even though we are not ourselves European and even when we also want to hate our European brethren and sistern because of opportunities they have that we lack. Such as this opportunity:

Dimmu Borgir will be playing a series of shows during the month of November at nothing but small clubs in the UK, Ireland, and on the Continent. There will be no support acts. Each performance will consist of two sets. In the first set, the band will play one album in its entirety. It won’t be the latest album. It will be . . . wait for it . . .  1997’s Enthrone Darkness Triumphant. Color me green with envy.

The second set will be a selection of Dimmu “classics” from a variety of other albums in their substantial discography.

After the jump, you can see all the dates and places where Dimmu will be doing this. We’re also including links to places where you can buy tickets, though I suspect tickets will be tough to come by. Good luck. Also after the jump, because I’m now thinking about this, two tracks to stream from Enthrone Darkness Triumphant.

May 312011

(Andy Synn was present for a landmark event in Oslo on May 28 — an exclusive show by Dimmu Borgir with a special, “never-to-be-repeated” setlist with 53 members of KORK (the Norwegian Radio Orchestra) and 30 members of the Schola Cantorum choir, who were musical guests on Abrahadabra. This was Dimmu’s only confirmed worldwide appearance for this summer. We’ve got Andy’s evocative review of the show plus video footage and some excellent photos taken by Per Ole Hagen for the NRK blog.)

I have seen Dimmu Borgir live several times before now, and each experience has been different. Sometimes the show has been great, the band’s enthusiasm and drive adding a different live element which balanced out the obvious limitations of performing such grandiose, symphonic material in the limitations of a live metal show. At others, certain issues seemed insurmountable, even the band’s powerful performance and conviction in their material not serving to elevate the show above “average”. Worse still are the times I have seen the band when internal issues were weakening them massively, meaning that drive and conviction was lost, resulting in a lacklustre performance.

Yet at Saturday’s show I felt like I was finally seeing Dimmu Borgir in the way I was always meant to. The mood, setting and structure of the show all captured the vision and atmosphere of the music perfectly. The fusion of traditional classical elements, with their scintillating, naturalistic scope of sound and the more aggressive, vibrant metallic furore of Dimmu’s particular style of “black metal” was a perfect synthesis of style and substance, sound and fury, which hammered home the clear links between classically influenced metal composition and the true traditional classical elements. (more after the jump . . .)

Apr 292011

(I swear this was a coincidence. I wrote a post that went up earlier today on metal covers based on a single by Anachronaeon we received yesterday, and then our UK contributor Andy Synn delivered this special edition of THE SYNN REPORT about . . . covers. This is the kind of occurrence that sends me back to the dictionary once again to figure out the difference between synchronicity and serenditpity. Or maybe it’s both.)

Covers are a strange breed of song – they’re the equivalent of a parallel universe, an alternate history, a What If? Comic, an adaptation of your favourite book starring an unexpected actor, a Shakespeare play set in an average American high school…

Seriously though, they have a huge amount of potential, both to be intriguingly inventive and woefully horrendous. Their success (or lack thereof) depends on many factors, but mainly on the song-choice itself – is it a natural fit for the band? Do they have the intelligence to re-work it in a distinctive manner? Or is it simply enough to tear through it in their own inimitable style, making few changes, but relying on sheer power to see them through?

I have chosen 15 artists who have produced some of my own personal favourite covers, showcasing a variety of approaches, some fully traditional takes on the original, others totally reworked variations. If there’s one thing that these covers show however, it is the subtle threads that inter-link all different sub-genres of rock and metal, which allow bands to re-work them organically. (more after the jump . . .)

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