Aug 062014

(Here’s another installment of Andy Synn’s irregular series devoted to his favorite things that come in fives. As always when he does these things, please feel free to share your own list in the Comments — in this case, your favorite bands you’ve never seen live.)

It’s been a while since I’ve written one of these random little columns. I bet you were beginning to think I’d forgotten about them, hadn’t you?

Well, my strange predilection for numerical lists of my favourite things has reared its ugly head again, and this time we’re dealing with the mournful issue of bands I’ve never (for a variety of reasons) managed to see live!

EXTOL

Let’s start with a big one, shall we? I love Extol. They are one, if not the biggest, of my favourite bands. Their dissolution back in 2007 seemingly put paid to my chance of ever seeing them live, but now they’re back with an amazing new album and are playing a few select live shows… well, let’s just say that there are few things I wouldn’t do for a chance to see and hear them perform!

Jul 122014

It was a rare Friday night for your humble editor, in that your humble editor didn’t get completely shit-faced. This means that I was able to listen to music on this Saturday morning without experiencing severe brain pain and heaving waves of nausea. I made my way through a long list of new songs and videos I had collected over the last few days, from which I’ve sifted a still pretty long list of things I commend to your ears and eyes, presented in alphabetical order with a minimum of words. But before getting to those, here’s a piece of somewhat older news I only discovered recently.

DAWN

Over the years since I began getting into metal I’ve done a lot of deep diving back into music that was released before I wised up, but I didn’t know about Dawn until just a few days ago. They were formed circa 1990 by guitarist Fredrik Söderberg (Cranium) and recorded a smattering of demos plus two albums (1994′s Nær Sólen Gar Niþer For Evogher and 1998′s Slaughtersun (Crown of the Triarchy)) before disbanding for nearly a decade. They’ve reactivated, and the line-up now includes, in addition to Söderberg, original vocalist Henke Forss (Retaliation) plus drummer Tomas Asklund (Gorgoroth, ex-Dissection, ex-Dark Funeral) and bass player Philip von Segebaden (ex-Afflicted, ex-Cranium). That’s a hell of a line-up.

Beginning in April, Century Media has reissued the band’s discography from the 1990s on vinyl, and Dawn have also been working on a new album. A “semi-official rehearsal track” has been up on YouTube for a while, though the song title apparently isn’t correct. Here it is, followed by a full stream of Slaughtersun:

Jan 162014

Welcome to Part 6 of our list of the year’s most infectious extreme metal songs. For more details about what this list is all about and how it was compiled, read the introductory post via this link. To see the selections that preceded the three I’m announcing today, click here.

You can think of this latest group of songs as the “comeback” edition of the series. All three songs come from bands who made incredibly exciting returns to the metal scene during 2013 after extended absences, ranging from to 8 years to 17 years. Their 2013 albums surely must rank among the strongest comebacks in metal history, and they have also been widely recognized as three of the best albums of last year. They’re presented here in alphabetical order.

CARCASS

Did any metal album of 2013 draw more attention than Surgical Steel (reviewed by us here)?  It was so highly anticipated that if it had been merely good, massive disappointment would have been the inevitable result. Yet Jeff Walker, Bill Steer, and Dan Wilding pulled off a tour de force that left all but the most hide-bound doubters smiling.

Oct 172013

Most metalheads I know are good-hearted people (maybe because I steer clear of the assholes). Most metalheads I know also live from paycheck to paycheck — if they’ve got a paycheck. So when someone asks metalheads to spend money on a charitable cause, there needs to be an extra incentive; worthy causes are almost endless, but disposable income is in short supply. Offering something tangible that people are going to be tempted to buy anyway — and then donating all the proceeds to a good cause — that’s the kind of idea that should succeed. And that’s what Norway’s Extol and their record label have just done.

I assume you know who Extol are — but if not, they’re a progressive death metal band who’ve made one of this year’s standout albums (self-titled, and glorified in this NCS review). What they and their label Facedown Records have done is to make a special shirt available for sale, with all profits donated to New Life Mission Aid for use in helping homeless children in Kenya. As the band’s Peter Espevoll explains in a video for this project, New Life Mission Aid is a Norwegian charitable organization dedicated to providing food, shelter, and education to homeless kids in Kenya.

The shirt, as you can see, is badass. The design was created by Dave Quiggle. It’s dedicated to the new album’s opening song “Betrayal”, which in itself was inspired by the plight of those homeless children.

Aug 072013

Metal has a weird streak a mile wide. If you’re honest with yourself, that’ s a big reason you like it so much. But yesterday I saw a new level of oddity. It was a premiere of a new song by Dream Theater. That’s a band I’ve never gotten into, so the news about the premiere of a new Dream Theater song wouldn’t have made me pause — except for where it premiered. If you didn’t already see the news, I could give you 100 guesses, and I’d bet a stack of money the height of your colon, if unraveled and nailed to a telephone pole, that you couldn’t pick the right answer.

Don’t waste your time. I’m telling you, you’d lose, even if you guessed the Kazakhstan Death Metal Observer and Livestock Market Journal. “The Enemy Inside” premiered at USA Today.

That’s right, that full-color organ of shallow American journalism made for people who don’t like to read much, found in printed form in motel rooms and airplane seat-backs across the length and breadth of Our Great Land. This is the same underground publication whose last story about metal was a report about a Black Sabbath concert in Bristow, Virginia, that began with this lively prose:

“The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees (Class of 2006) took the stage here to flashing red lights and the sound of sirens, thundering drums and a devilish laugh — “Ha, ha, ha!” — emitted unmistakably by frontman Ozzy Osbourne.”

Ha, ha, ha! Yes, the kind of sound that only Ozzy Osborne could make unmistakably, that’s the sound I made when I thought about what this means.

Jul 232013

(Guest contributor Old Man Windbreaker finds a perhaps not-so-obvious connection among the latest albums by Gojira and a group of other bands, and includes some bonus items at the end.)

A little more than a year ago, we read a piece by Andy Synn titled Gojiralternatives, describing music by half a dozen bands as an alternative of sorts for those who are not that into Gojira’s music. Old Man Windbreaker decided to catch up to the bands featured in that list, since most of them have released a new album since the date of that article. But, Old Man Windbreaker is lazy. Hence, you have a review of the albums a full 2 months after the release of the latest album on this playlist. By the way, here are the albums on this playlist, in chronological order:

  •  L’Enfant Sauvage by Gojira
  •  Meliora by Eryn Non Dae.
  •  Vertikal by Cult of Luna
  •  Possession by Benea Reach
  •  Back to Where You’ve Never Been by Hacride

You might notice that Burst and Oceans of Sadness are not in this playlist. That is because they both split up; before the publishing of the original ‘Gojiralternatives‘ article, I might add. So, they will not be revisited, despite having produced amazing music. You might also notice that Eryn Non Dae. is here on this list. That is because of Double Panda. One happened to be playing Double Panda while listening to the album the first time, and One thought they sounded somewhat like Gojira at the time. This eventually led to One revisiting the other Gojiralternatives as well.

Jun 262013

(Andy Synn reviews the spectacular new come-back album by Norway’s Extol.)

So, all my cards on the table… I approached this album with an equal mix of awe and trepidation. This band mean a huge amount to me, and as much as I had been hoping for a reunion there’s always the fear that things simply might not be the same after so long.

Let me just say then that this album fulfils, and exceeds, all of my hopes and expectations. It is a truly phenomenal record which both reinstates the band’s legendary reputation and also primes them for a new era, and a new audience, recapturing the irrepressible spirit and raw passion of their earlier efforts, alongside an even greater sense of maturity and refined intelligence.

Now, to my fellow Extol acolytes, that should be all they need to hear. But what can I say that will entice the unfamiliar listener? How can I best describe the album’s (and the band’s) sound to a new potential audience?

Though the band’s distinctive sound is difficult to classify (if you read the SYNN REPORT I did about the band, you’ll see I chose to recommend each album separately, such was the variety on offer), the group could most closely be associated with progressive death metal – with the death metal elements drawing more from the post-Schuldiner school of thought rather than the Floridian corpse-yards. For a band that I feel often don’t get their due, their influence is surprisingly pervasive and far-reaching. In fact, if you want to know where The Faceless learned their Autotheistic chops, then Extol is a good place to start!

Jun 112013

Within the last 24 hours two of our favorite bands have released new videos. Norway’s Extol have premiered a video for “A Gift Beyond Human Reach”, a song from their forthcoming self-titled album, which is due for release in a couple weeks (the album can be ordered here). It’s a cool song and a cool video to watch — a different kind of performance clip, as you’ll see.

And Taiwan’s Chthonic have released a third video in support of their new album, Bú-Tik, which will be released in North America via Spinefarm Records US digitally on June 18 and on CD June 25 (for pre-orders, go here). The new video is for “Supreme Pain For the Tyrant”. In teh words of the band: “Metalheads travel back in time to 1930s to disrupt a party between Nazis and KMT! Check out the incredible Martial arts, modern dance, debauchery, and Oriental Metal!!”

Both videos are definitely worth seeing and hearing, so go do that righty after the jump.

May 282013

DGR and I are collaborating on this little round-up of recent discoveries. The first item comes from moi, and the last two from him.

EXTOL (by Islander)

As previously reported (here), Norway’s Extol will soon be releasing their first new album in more than eight years — on June 21 in Norway, Germany, and Austria, and on June 24 everywhere else in Europe via Indie Recordings, and on June 25 in North America via Facedown Records. Pre-orders in a variety of formats and bundles can be placed here, and we’ve already featured the album’s first single, “Open the Gates” in that post linked above.

Today’s news is that Extol have released a new album teaser that collects excerpts from all the album’s songs. Man, it’s really a rich smorgasbord of diverse sounds — all of which sound very tantalizing. We have had high expectations for this album, and based on these excerpts, I think it’s likely they will be met in spades. Here’s the teaser reel:

Apr 232013

Today Norway’s Extol released their first new music in more than eight years. The single “Open the Gates” appears on the band’s self-titled fifth album, which will be released by Indie Recordings on June 21 in Norway, Germany, and Austria, and on June 24 everywhere else in Europe, and by Facedown Records on June 25 in North America. Pre-orders in a variety of formats and bundles can now be placed here. Today the band also unveiled the album’s cover art, shown above, by the renowned Travis Smith.

For fans of this band, the wait has been a long one. In 2007, after six studio-releases, a Norwegian Grammy award nomination, worldwide touring with bands such as Mastodon and Opeth, critical praise, and the amassing of devoted legions of fans across the globe, Extol seemingly disappeared without any explanation. Cryptic hints began appearing in 2012 on an unheralded web site which suggested that a film might be in the works — and indeed, it turns out that a documentary film about Extol is indeed in production. And then it became clear that the band was working on new music. (To find out more about all these events, check out our October 2012 interview with Extol’s Peter Espevoll at this location).

We probably have some readers who weren’t even listening to metal during Extol’s hey-day. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the band, check out Andy Synn’s January 2011 SYNN REPORT on Extol, which includes a review of their entire discography plus sample songs. You can find that via this link.

But enough with the background . . . let’s move on to “Open the Gates”.

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