Sep 062013


(photo by Brandon Hunt)

What I’m about to say won’t come as a complete shock to those of you who read NCS regularly, but it may still be a challenge to wrap your mind around it:  Nick Vasallo, lead vocalist and songwriter for the excellent technical death metal band Oblivion, has a Ph.D. in Music, is a professor at Cal State Polytechnic University (Pomona), and is a composer of classical music whose works have been performed internationally.

But even if you knew all that, you may not know that one of Vassalo’s compositions, and the one that earned him his Ph.D., represents a collision of heavy metal and classical music, and then ultimately a synthesis of the two. The name of the piece is Black Swan Events, and later in this post you’re going to see and hear the premiere of a video of its performance in Berkeley, California, on August 17, 2013.

The integration of metal and classical music in this concerto goes well beyond the fact that it was written for electric guitar, drum set, and orchestra. The integration occurs at a much deeper level, as I’ll do my best to explain in a moment. But first, it may help to know where the title of the work comes from.

Jul 292013

We’ve already let loose a string of posts about new song and video premieres today, but we have one more. The first is a new video from . . .

OBLIVION

Not long ago we reported that this Bay Area band who we’ve written about frequently (writings collected here) had signed with the Unique Leader label, and that Unique Leader plans to re-issue the band’s self-released debut album, Called To Rise, on October 15 (check our review of it here). Today we got the new official video for the album’s final track, “Omniverse”. It’s one of my favorite songs on the album, a mix of heart-racing death metal performed with technical flare and eerie atmospherics.

That eerie quality that drifts through the song is captured in the visual effects and animation in the cool new video by Brandon Hunt. Check it out next:

Jul 232013

The last few days I’ve fallen down on the job of watching for, and writing about, new music and news, because the old fucking day job has had me in one of those armlocks the cops use (used to use?) to choke out unruly citizens. But I’m at least going to make time to report on exciting new developments from two “old friends”.

BLODSGARD

Thanks to sharp-eyed NCS supporter Austin S-K, I found out that Blodsgard have posted to YouTube a “teaser reel” of song excerpts from their forthcoming album, Monument.

Back in mid-June I provided some updates about that forthcoming full-length debut (including the killer album cover by Mark Cooper of Mindrape Art), and that post is a good place to go if you want to find out more about the band and their previous demo releases. At that time, the band had posted on their website separate excerpts from each of the tracks on Monument, but as of today they’ve now packed them into a single “medley” clip that you can hear straight through.

Apr 172013

In September 2012 we published what I think was the first review of Called To Rise, the debut album by Bay Area death metal heavyweights Oblivion. It was so early that the album hadn’t yet been released, so early that no release date had even been set. Since then, of course, the album has debuted, and Oblivion have earned themselves quite a following. One of the things the band have had going for them since the beginning was a lot of instrumental talent, plus the significant songwriting contributions of a guy (vocalist/bassist Nick Vasallo) who happens to be an accomplished classical composer.

Vasallo’s classical training and interests shine through in different ways on Called To Rise, but most clearly on the song “Canon 1 in E Minor”. As Vasallo has explained, the song was “a conscious effort to bridge the worlds of Metal and Classical music”:

“A canon is a compositional technique that requires strict repetition in all musical voices. This is also an example of triple counterpoint–a very old contrapuntal device that is rarely (if ever) used in modern popular music, especially anything branching from rock and roll. There are essentially three different lines: the middle guitar (Alto) begins, then the high guitar (Soprano) answers, and finally the low guitar and bass enter (Tenor and Bass). All voices play the same line in 3 different positions so that the melody exists as the top voice, middle voice, and bottom voice. The trick is getting all the voices to work melodically, harmonically, and functionally.”

Today Oblivion released a music video for this song, with the three guitar parts performed by Vasallo, Ted O’Neill, and Victor Dods and the bass part played by Ben Orum. And what’s extra cool is that the performance was staged as you would expect to see if the piece had been performed by a chamber music ensemble.

Jan 282013

(In this post, guest writer Graffiti Petey provides a look back at California’s Antagony.)

Metalhead A: “Suicide Silence. White Chapel. All Shall Perish. Job for a Cowboy.” 
Metalhead B: “Yup, heard of all these bands.” 
A: “How about Despised Icon? Animosity?” 
B: “Yeah, I think I remember them.”
A: “Okay, what about ANTAGONY?”
B: “Who???”

Chances are if you are reading this you have never heard about the seminal Bay Area-based metal band–Antagony (circa 1999-2009). Their story is a tragic account of bad timing and bad luck. Why is this band still relevant? Well, it’s been almost 4 years since they disbanded but their loyal fanbase is still passionate about what they did and what they could have been. To put it simply: Antagony mixed elements of Death/Grind and Hardcore before all of the aforementioned bands. Now you know this. If you are familiar with Hollywood tragedies, a good analogy would be River Phoenix: an experienced actor who influenced his generation but never quite hit stardom. After his untimely death–fellow actors like Leonardo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp, Keanu Reeves, and his brother Joaquin have gone on to super-stardom. This is the pattern we’ll see with Antagony.

Reading over Antagony’s past members is like reading a who’s who in the modern metal scene. The thirteen former members of Antagony have gone on to such bands as Oblivion, All Shall Perish, Hacksaw to the Throat, Suffokate, Oblige, Misericordiam, and more. You may be asking yourselves—how did all of these bands gain more recognition than their originator? The answer to that is a fateful combination of bad luck and bad timing, as we’ll discuss during the chronological analysis of the band history.

Dec 222012

I’ve been distracted for days and consequently have fallen behind in taking note of new music and videos. The catching up begins now. So does the sonic slaughtering, with three ear-grabbing and eye-catching new videos.

FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE

This Italian band is one of our site’s true favorites, and their 2011 album Agony was a big hit around here, as it was just about anywhere else you might have looked in the world of metal last year. 2011 was a breakout year for FA. Extensive touring was one reason for the band’s sky-rocketing profile, but their fantastic official video for “The Violation” had a lot to do with that, too.

As of this morning, we now have a second official video for Agony. This time the song is “The Forsaken”. The video was again directed by Salvatore Perrone, and it’s another winner. It’s ingeniously conceived and beautifully filmed, and it captures the quasi-gothic, neo-classical drama of the song, which is one of Agony’s best. It’s right after the jump.

Dec 122012

This has proven to be an interesting morning for news. Here’s what I saw that made an impression. There’s some music at the end, too.

ALL SHALL PERISH –> OBLIVION

All Shall Perish were one of the originators of the deathcore genre, and in this writer’s humble opinion they remain one of the best bands to be found in that now-thoroughly-saturated space. This morning, All Shall Perish guitarist Ben Orum announced that he is leaving the band. As he explained in a statement I saw on Facebook, his responsibilities to his family have made it too difficult for him to continue touring.

But although he is withdrawing from All Shall Perish, Orum further announced that he is joining a band of whom we at NCS have become quite fond: Oblivion. The connection that led to this new partnership is an interesting one. As Ben Orum explained in his statement:

While I am done with touring, I will never stop writing music. I am joining the extreme metal band OBLIVION as a bassist and contributing songwriter. OBLIVION’s debut album will be released on January 1st, 2013. We are beyond excited to unleash it onto the metal world. I’ve always been into death metal and extreme music, this is my return to TRUE Death Metal. What makes OBLIVION unique and sets us apart from the pack is the fact that our primary songwriter is a world-renown classical composer and professor of music, Dr. Nick Vasallo. His voice gives the music a subtle refinement with the craftsmanship of the compositions.

Dec 092012

In no particular order, here are things I saw and heard this morning that I thought were worth tossing your way.

SKELETAL SPECTRE

I really fuckin’ enjoyed this multi-national band’s last album, 2011’s Occult Spawned Premonitions (reviewed here). The band includes an extraordinary extreme vocalist named Vanessa Nocera as well as Roger “Rogga” Johansson of Ribspreader and Bonegnawer fame. I’ve been watching Skeletal Spectre pretty closely as they move forward toward the release of their next album, Voodoo Dawn. This morning I saw the unveiling of the finished cover artwork by Adam Geyer, which is up above. Very nice.

I’m still blasting “Bone Dust”, the one song from Voodoo Dawn that has surfaced to date. In case you missed it the first time it was featured at NCS, here it is again; the album is due out in early 2013 from Pulverised Records.

Nov 132012

(We’re pleased to present another guest review by veteran guitarist Ted O’Neill of  California’s Oblivion, whose new album we reviewed here.)

When brutal death metal is done to perfection it comes off as a beautifully orchestrated cacophony of violence, mayhem, and musicianship. While it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, there is a certain elegance about it. Enter Italy’s Antropofagus and their 2012 release Architecture of Lust. This is not an album with much crossover appeal to those who aren’t fans of the genre.  This is the REAL stuff, pure, undistilled, untainted, and unrelenting.  Just a titanic slab of absolute bone-crushing, spine-jarring death metal.

Although they have been compared to fellow countrymen Hour of Penance, I’d more aptly compare them to Aeon. No disrespect to either of the aforementioned (I really like both of those bands), but Antropofagus bring a whole different intensity to the table.  This album gets right to the point, and it is pretty clear what you are in for with the opener, which is the title track. No one is going to get in touch with their inner child or sensitive side here . . . you’re in for a big time ass-kicking.  Architecture of Lust is a heavy, heavy offering, clocking in at just under 35 minutes, which may seem a little short but in reality is about perfect considering the density of the material.

These guys play at insane tempos, spearheaded by the precise attack of Davide “Brutal Dave” Davilla, with Jacopo on bass and “Meatgrinder” handling the incredible guitar riffing.  Vocalist Tya is the perfect fit for the chaos with his incredibly heavy mid- to low-range vocals.  The playing on this album is incredibly tight yet still organic sounding, unlike the trend to overproduce the crap out of most modern metal albums.  My only complaint with the production would be to prefer maybe a little more attention to the bass, but all in all these guys are captured in their frenetic glory.

Oct 232012

(We’re stoked to present the following guest review by veteran guitarist Ted O’Neill of that most excellent California band Oblivion, whose new album we reviewed here.)

I was very pleased when the powers that be at NCS asked me to write a “guest” review for the site. I’m not a professional writer, which will become evident shortly, so let’s not get too excited about grammatical errors and the like.  Not being a writer by trade also frees me from the self-imposed burden of some of the pseudo-intellectual bloggers who try their best to pick apart and find flaws when they do get their hands on a stellar new release. Fortunately, I’m reviewing Hideous Divinity’s debut album Obeisance Rising, an album which leaves little room for criticism. Before I tell you why this is an album that is more than worthy of your money, let’s introduce the band.

Hideous Divinity is a band hailing from Italy, originally started in 2007 by Enrico Schettino, Mauro Mercurio (both ex-Hour of Penance), and Synder Mastantuono (Eyeconoclast). After composing and recording some material the band was silent until a new line-up took form in 2009 with Enrico H. DiLorenzo (vocals), Enrico Schettino and Fabio Bartoletti (guitars), Flavio Cardozo (bass), and Mizio Montagna (drums). At the time of this writing the band has parted ways with Flavio and Mizio, replacing them with Stefano Franceschini (bass) and Giulio Galati (drums).

For everyone who is not Italian, please re-read that paragraph as we are going to have a quiz here in a minute. OK, ready…go!

So why am I reviewing an album that came out 6 months ago? Well, simply put, this band needs more support. Somehow it seems that Obeisance Rising flew under almost everyone’s radar. This needs to be fixed and fixed NOW because in a sea of crappy generi-core modern metal, Hideous Divinity is an absolute juggernaut top-flight death metal band. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say these guys are a “real” death metal band, as this is death metal done the way it is supposed to be done.

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