Jan 082014

Welcome to Part 2 of my list of the year’s most infectious extreme metal songs. Each day (more or less) until the list is finished, I’m posting at least two songs that made the cut. 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 two I’m announcing today, click here.

VREID

Vreid’s 2013 album Welcome Farewell made Andy Synn’s list of the year’s Great Albums as well as his Personal Top 10. It was one of my favorites as well. In Andy’s words: “This is music that deserves to be conquering arenas around the world. Still black as pitch, but with song-writing that goes above and beyond the call of duty, it grooves with grim intent, soars with bleak majesty, and blasts away with freezing, fractured ferocity. Insidiously catchy and ruthlessly aggressive, it thunders away with perfectly focussed, primal force.”

“The Reap” is the catchiest song on Welcome Farewell, and one of the most infectious of the year in my humble opinion. And it was also the subject of one of the year’s best music videos, animated by the wonderful Kim Holm. Enjoy it all over again next, as we add “The Reap” to this list.

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?

Feb 112013

In our review of Vreid’s new album Welcome Farewell, Andy Synn compared the listening experience to sex. He said some other things, too, but that’s the part I remember. I remember the music, too. Welcome Farewell is dynamite, and destined to be on year-end lists of all right-thinking metalheads.

I think my favorite song on the album is “The Reap”. It’s massively infectious, with wonderful guitar melodies wrapped around a swinging rhythm, but still black at its core. It’s pretty much guaranteed to be on a certain year-end list I’ll be making 10 or 11 months from now. I’m so happy that the band chose this song for their first official video from Welcome Farewell.

I’m also really fuckin’ happy with the video, especially because it includes animation by Kim Holm, a Norwegian cartoonist who (among other things) created the separate pieces of artwork for each song on  Sólstafir’s 2011 album Svartir Sandar (I collected all of those creations in this post). I’d also like to applaud the video’s director Einar Loftesnes for making something that visually captures the spirit of the music so well.

Check out the video next; the album is due for release by Indie Recordings on March 5.

Feb 062013

(Below, Andy Synn reviews the forthcoming sixth album by Norway’s Vreid.)

To me a new Vreid album is a very… sexual experience…

First we have the announcement that a new album is in the works, the enticing promise of something special to come, a reward for being good boys and girls…

Then comes the build of anticipation, the flirting glimpses of the artwork, the teasing interviews where the band stoke our ardour with their verbal prowess and come-hither eyes…

Then there’s the foreplay, the premiere of a song, the release date announcement, the booking of tours, all designed to get you all primed up and ready to go…

Then, finally, you get to the main event. The album is released and all that pent up frustration and energy finally reaches… climax.

Sorry everyone, I got a bit worked up there.

Anyway, Welcome Farewell is an awesome record, it really is.

Jan 252013

Thanks to tips from DGR, I learned about two attention-grabbing developments this morning — new details about the forthcoming albums by Sweden’s Hypocrisy and October Tide plus new songs from each of them. And then on my very own I found a new single from the next album by Norway’s Vreid. It is a good day to be alive.

HYPOCRISY

Here’s how I progressed toward the new Hypocrisy song: First, I saw the cover art for the new album, End of Disclosure, which was created by Wes Benscoter (Slayer, Kreator, Nile, Vader, and more). I found it pleasing. Kind of a Zen demon. Also, many skulls. Second, I read, and was intrigued by, this quote by Hyporcisy’s main man Peter Tägtgren in the Nuclear Blast write-up on the album:

“This time I wanted to go back to basic, felt like we lost it for the last couple of albums , it’s straight to the point, it’s more Hypocrisy than ever, the fast, the heavy, the epic.. Enjoy!”

And then I listened to an edited version of the album’s title track, “End of Disclosure” — which you are about to hear, too, and which is available for free download.

Nov 282012

In my daily ramble through the interhole yesterday probably nothing made my eyes bug out quite as much as the sight of The Acacia Strain’s overturned van, which will force them to pull out of their tour with Veil of Maya but fortunately (and amazingly) left the band with only minor injuries. But a couple of other items were close seconds in the eye-popping competition. I’m including those in this post — new album art for the next releases by Vreid (Norway) and The Botanist (U.S.). I’ve also got for you a brand new song from Vreid and a new song by Maveth (Finland) from their forthcoming album.

VREID

Vreid’s last album, V, was extremely good. It made a number of the year-end lists we posted at the close of 2011, including our own Andy Synn’s list of “The Great Albums of 2011″. Summing up his thoughts, Andy called V “a stunningly dynamic series of songs that filter the thrashy energy and classical aspirations of Ride The Lightning-era Metallica through a blackened prism of primal fury.”

So my eyes went wide yesterday when I saw the album art for Vreid’s sixth album, Welcome Farewell, and the news that it will be released by Indie Recordings on February 26 in Europe, February 22 in Germany/Austria, and March 5 in North America. Yesterday Terrorizer also premiered a track from the new album named “The Reap”. I gotta be honest — it surprised me.

Dec 152011

This is the fourth and final part of a multi-part post about up-and-coming Norwegian bands. The first part is HERE, the second part is HERE, and Part 3 is HERE.  And below is an abbreviated version of the full explanation, which appears long-form in Part 1. But first, since I’m on the subject of Norwegian metal, here’s a bit of breaking news:

The Spellemann Awards are the Norwegian equivalent of the Grammy’s here in the U.S. The first Spellemannprisen were awarded in 1973 for albums released in 1972, so if my math is correct, we’re approaching the 40th annual awards show, and today the Spellemann nominees were announced. In the category of Best Metal Album, the following bands and albums were nominated (and we’ve featured four of the five nominees here at NCS):

INSENSE BURN IN BEAUTIFUL FIRE
SHINING LIVE BLACKJAZZ
TAAKE NOREGS VAAPEN
VREID V
ÅRABROT SOLAR ANUS

And now, onward to the explanation about the rest of this post: “Pyro” is the name of a radio program on one of the radio channels (P3) operated by NRK, the state-owned Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. The NRK P3 radio channel is mainly aimed at younger listeners, and Pyro is the program that focuses mainly on metal and hard rock.

Dec 152011

(This is the fourth in Andy Synn’s week-long series of posts looking back at albums released this year. Andy previously provided his lists of the year’s Great albumsthe Good ones, and the most Disappointing ones, and tomorrow we’ll have his Personal Top 10. Today, we have his list of “The Critical Top 10″. For more explanation of what all this means, plus Andy’s picks for the year’s best EPs, visit this location.)

So here’s the penultimate list of the week, the first of two ranked top-tens. This list will include the albums that I think are the very best of the best, the ones that best combine creativity, artistic ambition, song-writing, and performance. Regardless of my personal feelings and preferences, these are the albums that I think are critically superior to others. Though the ranking of them was difficult (as it always is when trying to compare artists and albums across metallic sub-genres), I’ve tried my best to give a sense about the critical and objective factors that led to each record earning its respective position on this list.

Although the potential candidates for the list were unavoidably influenced by my own listening tastes — I do, after all, only really tend to select the albums that I feel best qualified and most inspired to review – I have done my best to keep personal preference as far away from these judgements as possible, something that I hope will become clear when you see tomorrow how different the list of my top ten “favourite” albums of the year is from today’s list.

So here are the ten releases I think best represent the year critically. The ten that, ultimately, would be my choices to represent the year in metal music for posterity. Some of them have appeared quite commonly on other lists, albeit perhaps weighted differently, while others have largely been ignored by other sources thus far. Enjoy . . .

Nov 222011

(Andy Synn wrote the following opinion piece.  If we don’t get some comments on this one, I’ll be quite surprised. Andy’s got some questions at the end, and we’d love to hear your answers.)

Here’s a question that’s been on my mind for a while now; what do we do when our heroes let us down? What happens when the bands we love go off the boil, make weird creative decisions, or just simply move away from playing the music for which we fell in love with them?

Music is an intensely emotional topic, and one which promotes a peculiar kind of loyalty to develop in those of us who love it deeply. As metal fans in particular, we seem to embody the very extremes of this trait; treat us well and we will die for you, cross us and our wrath and enmity shall be eternal. Indeed, once a certain line is crossed it’s very common to see a band written off as “dead” by any number of their former fans.

Most recently, however, I’ve been trying to take positive steps when confronted with this situation. Rather than entering into either a) a defensive flame war on behalf of our fallen heroes, or b) seizing on the opportunity in order to heap my own well-earned scorn on the victims of this public derision, I have instead been taking the fall of our chosen heroes to promote potential successors who are ready and waiting to step up and take on the mantle.

This does, however, raise one further issue: to what extent we, as metal fans, are willing to accept our heroes being replaced and (if that is the case) do we actually always have one eye out for the Next Big Thing – not the one who’ll necessarily sell the records and get the airplay, but the one who will step into the well-worn shoes of our heroes once they have gone to the sacred feasting halls of Valhalla?

Now 3 particular albums/events inspired these thoughts recently…

Jul 072011

OK, time to court some (albeit minor) controversy. To compare and contrast with the “Wintermoon Wednesday” piece on post-millennial black metal by Tr00 Nate (unseen at the time of this writing) over at TheNumberOfTheBlog, I’ve decided to list my own picks for the prize.

I’ve left out the obvious choices, so no Satyricon or 1349 – even though the former have transformed themselves post-2000 very successfully, courting both success and controversy in equal measure, while the latter have pushed their hyper-blast style beyond the breaking point, only to discover a new lease on life through their exploration of gnarled, twisted atmospherics.

No Rotting Christ? Or Samael? Nope. I love both of them, but they both had long pre-millennial careers and spent much of the post-2000 stage of their careers exploring less focussed, less black metal sounds — although both have recently released masterful examples of their own focussed and distinctive brands of black metal.

I have left out records which are perhaps less “purely” black metal — records for which a strong case can be put forward that they belong more as “blackened” examples of another genre — so there’s no place for Altar Of Plagues or Withered, both great bands in their own right. No Akercocke either, the sheer weight of their crushing death metal heft disqualifying them for this list.

I have also by choice left out artists/albums I have covered recently. Therefore, no Iskald (though The Sun I Carried Alone IS one of the best black metal albums of the last ten years), or Elite (see HERE for my thoughts) or The Axis Of Perdition (HERE), even though I’d argue that each of them has at least one example under their belt of near perfect post-millennial black metal.

So who have I chosen? Well look upon my choices dear reader, and despair…

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