Sep 182017


(Wil Cifer reviews the new album by Chelsea Wolfe, which will be released by Sargent House on September 22.)

With a Burzum cover early in her career Chelsea Wolfe gained a solid following in the metal community. Her brand of gloomy folk rock was dark enough to keep them listening. Gradually this darkness grew denser and began to cross over into a more metal-influenced sound on Abyss. Her newest album takes it even a step further into metal.

On her last album the bass was fuzzed enough to give it a doom-like heft. Now the guitar is assuming a more metallic role. Production-wise, this recalls her older work, in the sense that her voice is mixed with ghostly effects against the guitar. Tempo-wise, it is very much in a doom/sludge direction.

“16 Psyche” finds the guitars kicking the door down, then backing off for her to sing, then it comes back around to the verses. “Vex” summons up more intensity in the drive of the song and finds Aaron Turner’s growled vocals coming into the background toward the end of the song.

Sep 122017


(Wil Cifer review the new album by Ufomammut, set for relase on September 22 by Neurot Recordings.)

When I am searching for doom I want something that is just Black Sabbath worship. I’ve listened to those albums for over 35 years and can pull them off the shelf at any moment to revisit as needed… So it gets me excited to hear a band like these men from from Italy who must set bongs aflame across the world with their super psyche-filled doom.

Ufomammut take you out into the cosmos with a fuzzed-out density that is obscured by clouds of trippy haze. The vocals feel more Pink Floyd-like to me than carrying any kind of an Ozzy influence. Each song takes you further into the depths of their warped rabbit hole.

Jul 242017


(Wil Cifer wrote this review of the new album by Atriarch from Portland, Oregon, coming in August via Relapse Records.)

The Portland band returns with a new full-length that finds the newest incarnation of the band exploring yet another path to heavy.

The gloom is more visceral in the ritualistic pulse of “Inferno”, which opens the album. Singer Lenny Smith shouts out commanding declarations of his spiraling emotional state. Right from the first song they waste no time using an array of vocal colors, from a death rock croon to a black metal howl.

More often than not they creep along at more of a doom pace, yet the darkness they paint these songs with would appeal to fans of black metal. When they do choose to pick up the pace, they do so without using blast beats as an easy way out.

Jul 072017


(NCS contributor Wil Cifer has compiled this list of his 10 favorite releases from the first half of 2017.)

Where has 2017 gone? It seems like the year has passed us by in a cloud of internet hatred and bickering. So with that comes the need for heavy music. Now that we are over halfway through 2017 here’s a look at which albums have stuck with me thus far this year.

I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that it doesn’t matter how much hype an album gets if the music doesn’t inspire me to listen to it more than once. Black Metal, Doom, Death Metal, and Thrash are all represented to some extent in this list. The Number One slot was determined by what Last Fm said I listened to the most. So far, only the top five still maintain their spots in my Ipod, though that is not to say I won’t go back and give the others more listens. You should give all of these albums a listen if you have yet to check them out.

Jun 082017


(Wil Cifer reviews the new album by Atlanta’s Death of Kings.)

In the past I never felt the other recorded efforts by this Atlanta band were accurate representations of what they really do on stage. The vocals on previous releases often had a lower, more throaty husk to them, like old Mastodon. In other releases the guitar tone was recorded to give a false death metal density. I think anything that doesn’t properly paint these guys as a thrash band is misleading.

But with their new album we are getting what I have heard come from the monitors. The screechy vocals that sound like a more feral version of Overkill. The more razor-sharp guitar tone, one that feels more natural when it comes to the mid-paced gallop on “Sojurn”, which appeared on their 2015 demo.  The double-bass gets heavier on the chorus and muddies the mix a bit, but I think the biggest takeaway is how they have matured as songwriters, and it’s not just about finding cool riffs. Even with the tempestuous drumming, all the moving parts just seem to lock in better to tell the story.

Apr 262017


(Here’s Wil Cifer’s review of the new album by Ragana from Oakland, California.)

With the tone of recent world events providing the inspiration for their new album You Take Nothing, the Oakland two-piece have returned with a feral vision of their brand of blackened crust.

The album opens with a deliberate crunch before it turns toward placing more emphasis on atmosphere. Where they part ways with many American black metal bands is in the concise nature of their songwriting. It never feels like you have lost your place in a bloated drone of tremolo picking, and the blast beats always feel as if they are wisely implemented.

Apr 142017


(We present Wil Cifer’s review of the new album by Ides of Gemini.)

The changes on Ides of Gemini’s newest offering Women seem tailored to suit my own personal tastes, as it is a perfect blend of goth rock and metal. By goth rock I mean Siouxsie and the Banshees, 45 Grave, etc., and not the type of Hot Topic cheese that came out of Finland in the early ’00s.

Sera Timms has put down the bass to find her voice. This adds a dimension that is more colorful and energetic. While the Siouxsie influence is there. it is not just limited to that; she has a reasonable sense of who she is.

Apr 032017


(Wil Cifer reviews the new album by Royal Thunder.)

This Georgia band have never actually been metaI. They have toured with metal bands, some of their members have been in metal bands, and they certainly came pretty close on Crooked Doors. I really loved Crooked Doors. I wore it out. This means the bar is held pretty high here.

Going into the album there was uncertainty when hit with the slow droning riff that accompanies the more circular chant of the first song. They don’t come out swinging like they did on the previous album. I went back and gave this song another listen after hearing the entire album, and it made a little more sense, but didn’t really grab me.

Mar 212017

Photo by Samantha Marble

(Wil Cifer delivers to us this interview of Chris Grigg — founder, vocalist, and guitarist of Woe, whose new album Hope Attrition has just been released by Vendetta Records.)


Woe is one of my favorite American Black Metal bands, right along side Liturgy and Nachtmystium, though Woe stuck closer to more conventional metal, even after their move to Brooklyn. With their fourth full-length Hope Attrition, the band continues to plow into fierce territory, blending in flourishes of death metal and hardcore. I recently caught up with main man Chris Grigg to discuss the new album and the state of black metal in America, and the results went something like this.


I heard that in the process of making this album you guys scrapped almost an entire album’s worth of songs in order to settle on what became the final product. What determined what made the cut?

It might not have been a whole album, but pretty close. We got rid of everything that sucked. We just kept reworking the songs and if there was a transition that felt forced, a riff that didn’t feel just right, we scrapped it. We demoed this intensely, so at the end of the day what would be left going into the studio were the best that they could be.

Feb 272017


(Wil Cifer wrote this review of the long-awaited new album by Norway’s Slagmaur.)

This band from Norway have found their own dark path to stomp down with a grandiosity that elevates them over many of their peers.

They often find themselves chugging into more death-metal-like waters while holding the guitar textures with enough darkness to earn them the label of blackened death metal. At the end of the day, sub-genres be damned, it’s clear these songs are crafted with the understanding that no matter how heavy you are, the songs have to come first.

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