Mar 082018
 

 

(An NCS fan who we’ll call Barbarian Mike turned in this guest review of the presentation of DECIBEL Magazine’s 2018 tour in Seattle, Washington, on March 6, 2018.)

Whether you consider yourself a fan or not, it’s impossible to deny the status and reverence Enslaved has earned within the community of heavy music. Over a span of 27-years and 14 studio albums – barring live-show DVD’s, splits, and demos – it’s hard to imagine any band as capable as this one in maintaining a passionate fan base and consistently sold-out live performances.

In spite of this success, Enslaved are a band who don’t rest on their laurels, or coast on their hits of yesteryear. In fact, they appear to be continually invigorated by the challenge of creating something new, to pursue new ideas and sounds. It only makes sense that they would headline one of the bigger tours within heavy music – the DECIBEL Magazine 2018 Tour. Needless to say, I was excited to attend the event at Seattle’s own El Corazon. Continue reading »

Jan 302018
 

 

We’re coming down to the wire, and I’m in a frantic state of mind. I’ve now firmly decided to end this list on January 31, but I realized this morning that January 31 IS TOMORROW!!!

I spent hours yesterday afternoon and last night listening to many of the remaining candidates for the list, and reached the conclusion that I have to double-down on these posts. In other words, there will be two installments of this list today and two more tomorrow, and each one is going to include a lot of songs.

This one, as forecast by the title of the post, is devoted to Exceptions to Our Rule (the one in the site’s title). I’ve done this before in previous years, and have already named a few songs to the list this year that include clean vocals. There are some beautiful voices in this post, and a lot of highly addictive music as well (of course). Continue reading »

Nov 272017
 

 

(Andy Synn continues to make his way down to London to witness shows that make his States-side friends violently jealous, but probably isn’t driven to do so solely, or even at all, by the prospect of that effect. Probably.  We have here his words and videos from the latest excursion.)

So last Friday, for the second time in as many weeks, I found myself back down in London at the Islington Assembly Hall to catch another of Norway’s finest musical exports, the nine-worlds-renowned Enslaved.

Now originally I had planned on seeing the Norse quintet in Nottingham the weekend before as part of their tour supporting Opeth but, due to still feeling like crap, I ended up not being able to make that show, resulting in me making the five-hour round-trip down South instead.

But, truth be told, given the option, I’d much rather see an Enslaved headlining show than an Opeth one, as the latter tend to be a little hit-or-miss live in my opinion, whereas I’ve never not had a fantastic time at seeing the former, so maybe things worked out for the best in the end? Continue reading »

Oct 062017
 

 

(This is Andy Synn’s review of the new album by Norwegian icons Enslaved, which will be released by Nuclear Blast on October 13.)

Whereas the popular vision of the Vikings is one of horn-helmeted, heavily bearded barbarians, with an axe in one hand and a drinking horn in the other, the truth of the matter is that the Norsemen (and women) of old were more than just pirates and plunderers. They were a culture of scholars and seers, inventors and explorers, whose lust for life and adventure led them to traverse the farthest reaches of the known world.

It’s only fitting then that their descendants in Enslaved seem to have inherited this same pioneering spirit, and that their career so far has been one of almost constant exploration and reinvention, a potent mix of myth and metaphysics which has seen them always looking towards new horizons, while never losing touch with their roots.

And perhaps nowhere is this more evident than on their fourteenth(!) album, the free-spirited E, which is not only the band’s most shamelessly progressive and indulgently introspective release since Vertebrae, but which also draws influence and inspiration from all eras of their history, from the medieval majesty of Vikingligr Veldi to the cosmic contemplation of Below the Lights, resulting in what is probably their most confident and creatively ambitious album in years. Continue reading »

Aug 072017
 

 

You might have noticed that I didn’t post a SHADES OF BLACK article yesterday — or anything else, for that matter. I was in Wyoming with my spouse from Thursday through Saturday attending a wedding, and spent Sunday getting home. On the airplane rides there and back I plowed through the NCS in-box and did some other web surfing. Found a ton of new stuff I wanted to listen to, and managed to find a couple of hours here and there over the weekend when I did do some listening, just enough to find the selections I’ve collected here, though not enough time to write anything.

The music below is a mix of full new releases and advance tracks from forthcoming albums… and I’ve included one song stream that isn’t black metal… or maybe even metal at all… except in its spirit. But I’m beginning with a news item hot off the presses.

ENSLAVED

In early July I gleefully reported the news that Jens Bogren had finished mixing and mastering the new 14th studio album by Enslaved, an album that Grutle Kjellson described as “a little re-boot, a fresh start so to speak”. Today the album art (above, hand-painted by the Norwegian artist Truls Espedal) was unveiled, and we received more details about the album, which I’ll quote here from the press release: Continue reading »

Jul 042017
 

 

This is the delayed completion of a collection of metal from blackened realms that I began on Sunday. As usual, I’ve added a few items to it that came to my attention during that delay.

I’m impaired in my ability to write as much as I would like about the music because of a headache that has battered me today, most likely the result of a battering I gave myself two nights ago when I bounced my head against concrete and put an inches-long gash in my scalp. The less said about the causes, the better. Oddly, when I saw a doctor yesterday to get the wound tended to, I had no headache or other obvious signs of a concussion. But I guess headaches can come on later, and get worse, as mine has.

Anyway, I would like to express my feelings about the music more fully, but I’ve decided not to delay the completion of this post any more.

ENSLAVED

To begin, I have a news item. This is a statement that appeared today on the Facebook page of Enslaved, which I’ll provide without comment, other than the echo of the squeeeeee sound I made when first reading it:

*** Update from the studio: Mix and mastering of our 14th studio album is now finished! ***

It is accomplished! We have finished the recording process of our 14th full-length and in the renowned Fascination Street Studios, Jens Bogren polished this new raw diamond with his mixing and mastering skills. Continue reading »

Nov 132016
 

Rearview Mirror

 

(Andy Synn wrote this Sunday’s edition of our regular look-back at metal’s earlier days.)

2016 marks Enslaved’s 25th anniversary as a band, and 22 years since they released their first album, Vikingligr Veldi, which is the subject of today’s post.

Originally released on the now-defunct Deathlike Silence Productions (which was founded by original, and now deceased, Mayhem vocalist Øystein Aarseth, a.k.a. Euronymous, to whom the album is also dedicated), Vikingligr Veldi has recently been given a fresh coat of paint and a spiffy new remaster for its long-awaited release on vinyl.

And although the original version still sounds pretty damn good for its age (yes, it’s a little buzzy in places, and occasionally the keys can get a little overbearing, but there’s a pleasing amount of clarity and depth to the overall sound, and each instrument, including the oft-neglected bass guitar, is given a good amount of room and space to breathe), the remaster just gives the album that extra bit of polish and shine, without detracting from the raw energy or rough and ready sensibilities of the album as a whole. Continue reading »

Nov 082016
 

julie-christmas-cult-of-luna

 

(Our man in the UK, Andy Synn, attended Damnation Festival 2016 in Leeds on November 5, and provides this report along with videos he made.)

Oh Damnation Festival how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

Whereas too many other events seem content to book the same big-name crowd-pleasers, year in and year out, buttressed by an interchangeable selection of generic sound-alikes and contrived gimmicks – all carefully selected purely for their mundane mass-appeal – the Damnation team seem to operate on an unwavering ethos of only booking the bands they truly like, bands (big and small) that they truly believe in, who have something unique or special to offer.

This is how every edition of the festival features an array of bands from multiple different styles, from Death to Prog to Doom to Hardcore to Sludge (and beyond), from across the length and breadth of the underground Metal scene coexisting under one roof and why, over the years, Damnation has seen everyone from Ahab to Asphyx, Carcass to Katatonia, Mono to My Dying Bride, playing to the sort of packed crowds that are a regular occurrence in Europe, but which only rarely seem to be achievable here in the UK.

This helps make Damnation Festival’s line-up a much more interesting affair than many of their peers, as the organisers seem to operate on the principal of “if you build it, they will come”, putting their faith in the belief that the UK scene doesn’t just want to be fed the same old bands and the same old performances, time and time again. And this year was no different, with a wide variety of different acts, of different styles, on display, coupled with a bunch of exclusive performances which practically justified the ticket price on their own! Continue reading »

Aug 072016
 

Alcest-Kodama

 

Just as yesterday’s Seen and Heard round-up was much shorter than usual, so too is this Sunday’s edition of Shades of Black. I got back to Seattle last night from that four-day wedding festivity in Vegas I’ve mentioned before, but between the two premieres I’ve posted since then and a backlog of personal stuff to deal with, I haven’t had time to write about everything I wanted to include in this post. I’m hoping to supplement it during the coming week before going off to Migration Fest on Thursday, when our site’s content will probably diminish again.

With so many songs and full releases on my list of Shades to choose from, I picked the following four items to recommend, without much rhyme or reason. The bands are less obscure than usual for these posts, until you get to the end.

ALCEST

I suspect I will always consider Alcest to be a shade of black even if Neige and Winterhalter decide to start playing bluegrass — though that hasn’t happened yet. The fifth Alcest album is named Kodama, which we’re told is the Japanese word for “tree spirit” and also refers to the process of sounds reverberating across mountains, valleys, and forests that’s often attributed to these spirits. Continue reading »

Jan 132016
 

Skuggsja-A Piece For Mind and Mirror
cover art by Costin Chioreanu

On May 17, 1814, the Norwegian Constituent Assembly at Eidsvoll signed the Constitution of Norway, which remains one of the oldest in the world. Inspired by the 200th anniversary of that event, Ivar Bjørnson of Enslaved and Einar Selvik of Wardruna joined forces to compose and perform a concert piece called Skuggsjá, which means “mirror” or “reflection” in the Norse language. Skuggsjá was first performed at the Eidsivablot festival in Eidsvoll on September 13, 2014, to commemorate the anniversary. But Bjørnson and Selvik decided that the Skuggsjá project should live on and be expanded.

Last fall the duo signed with Season of Mist, taking Skuggsjá as the project’s name. On March 11, 2016, Season of Mist will release their debut album, entitled A Piece For Mind and Mirror. Today we bring you the premiere of a song from the album named “Vitkispá“. Continue reading »