On November 21, 2009, I made the first post at this blog, which, with tongue partially in cheek, I had decided to name NO CLEAN SINGING. I started it on a lark. I had no training or experience as a music writer. I had only scattered bits of knowledge about the long history of metal, because until recently I had spent my decades of time on earth mainly listening to other kinds of music. What I did have was a burgeoning attraction to heavy music and a lot of curiosity. Back in those early days of the blogging phenomenon, you really didn’t need much more than that to start out. Probably still don’t.
Of course, the intensity of my own interest and the ease of starting up didn’t mean that anyone would pay attention to NCS — and I didn’t expect that or need it. NCS existed as a hobby, for want of a better word, that I hoped would be an enjoyable diversion for me from the grind of daily life. That was the sum total of my motivation. If you had told me back then that I’d still be doing it 10 years later, and that NCS would achieve a certain level of global notoriety, I would have laughed so hard that I’d have been left gasping for air.
On this milestone birthday, I’ve thought about why, unexpectedly, we’re still here, and what has changed from those earliest of days.
One big reason why we’re still here, and probably the most important one, is that I was eventually joined by a group of other writers who seemed to care about the music as much or more than I did, and who completely bought into the guiding principles that I had adopted in starting NCS, the most important of which was that we would spend our time recommending music we believed in, and would simply ignore the music that we didn’t like or that we thought wasn’t very good, rather than tearing it down or making fun of the people responsible for it.
Many writers have drifted in and out of our cadre over these 10 years, some of whom have gone on to write for other publications or to focus on family and careers, and have remained good friends. A few hardy souls have hung in there almost as long as I have, and have become particularly close friends. And so, as usual, I’ll call them out to take a bow.
Andy Synn’s first post was a review of Dimmu Borgir’s Abrahadabra on September 23, 2010. And DGR’s first post was a series of year-end lists on December 28, 2011. They are very fine people, and their steadfastness in continuing to write for NCS without pay and despite being buffeted by the usual vicissitudes of life over so many years is something I greatly admire, and for which I’m enormously thankful.
Another old-timer, TheMadIsraeli, still surfaces when life’s travails allow it, and he has been particularly active in the last few months, for which I’m again very grateful.
As I look back over the last year, thanks are also in order for the contributions of many other fine folks who have also been helping us for years — among them Comrade Aleks, Wil Cifer, Vonlughlio, Todd Manning, and Karina Noctum. This year we’ve also welcomed a talented newcomer from Seattle who goes by the pen-name Gonzo and one from Atlanta whose nom de plume is Tör (and who is also a hell of a great photographer). Big thanks to them and to all other contributors who have shared their show reviews, their interviews, and their musical recommendations at our site.
Another big reason why we’re still here is you, and others like you — people who find some value in our recommendations, people who enjoy the writing, and/or people who actually seem to care what we think about the releases that continue coming in a flood every week. Even though we make no effort to make any money from NCS, I think it’s fair to say that none of us would have continued to do this if no one cared, or paid attention, or gave us any feedback. It’s a lot of work, and we might all have concluded that it’s time better spent in other ways if we were just yelling into a great void.
Of course, we’re also still here because an ever-increasing stream of bands, labels, and publicists exhort us to give their music a shot, and because we still get a lot of joy out of the process of exploring new music, and a lot of satisfaction out of helping spread the word about what we find that gets us excited.
As for what has changed since the early days, well, a whole lot has changed. Music has changed significantly. Even though we continue to experience different kinds of old-school revivals, and even though a lot of bands who were strong 10 years ago are still going strong, creative fires have been burning hot all over the world, and today there are new formulations of extreme metal you would not have found 10 years ago. I think it’s fair to say that our tastes in music have changed too. I know mine have, pulling me deeper into more extreme forms of underground metal as the years have passed.
We’ve also grown significantly, compared to 10 years ago, both in terms of readership and (I think) in terms of influence. With those changes has come a feeling of increased responsibility. At least in my case, it has driven me to do even more to try to search out deserving bands and to spread the word about as many of them as I can. And at least as compared to the kind of stuff I was writing in the early years, I think I’ve become more serious in what I’m writing now. Not sure that has been a welcome change for everyone, and even I miss some of the features I used to write that weren’t single-mindedly devoted to the propagation of heavy music (e.g., That’s Metal! But It’s Not Music), but it is what it is.
I also think (though I’m not objective) that all of us on the writing staff have gotten better at what we do. Practice doesn’t really make perfect, contrary to the old adage, but the repeated practice of our self-taught craft has led to greater confidence and, in my non-objective opinion, to better writing and better “curation” of the music we choose to cover.
So, a lot of things have changed in ten years, but the fundamentals of NCS haven’t: We still only write about music we enjoy and honestly want to recommend; we still don’t take money from anyone for anything; we still don’t take ourselves too seriously; and we still have a knowledgable, respectful, and almost completely troll-free community of readers and commenters.
And now for the annual round-up of boring statistics!
Since we launched NCS ten years ago, we’ve published 11,303 posts, including this one — and 992 of those have appeared in the 12 months since our last birthday, which is a somewhat smaller number than we posted in our ninth year of existence but still averages out to 2.7 posts a day, including weekends.
At this writing, we’ve received 82,272 comments since NCS began on this day in 2009, not counting spam and not counting the very, very few I’ve deleted because their toxicity exceeded even my usual hands-off attitude about comments. I don’t reply to comments as often as I used to, but I read every one of them, and continue to be grateful for the insights, the recommendations, the humor, and the support — and for the fact that our commenters have almost always been civil to us and to each other, which continues to be a relative rarity in the realm of metal blogdom.
According to Google Analytics, as of yesterday we’ve had 361,908 individual users over the last 12 months from all over the world. In keeping with data from past years, over the last 12 months less than half of those users (39.55%) live in the U.S., even though NCS is based in the U.S., with 6.50% coming from the UK, 5.30% from Canada, and the balance from more than 100 other countries around the world, with Germany, France, Australia, Italy, Sweden, Netherlands, and Poland rounding out the top 10, in that order over the last 12 months.
Since this time last year we’ve had 1,514,100 page views, which is a decrease from last year, and perhaps at least partially a result of the decline in the number of posts we made this year compared to the one before, or perhaps also a result of Facebook continuing to tweak their algorithm so that a miniscule percentage of our FB followers see the posts we make about new articles appearing on the site, or perhaps because more people have decided that we suck.
Speaking of Facebook, the number of “likes” for our Facebook page has grown from 38,551 at this time last year to 40,535 today, which is an increase of 1,984 — compared to an increase of 2,403 in the preceding year. Like the reduction in the reach of our FB posts, this continued slowing in our growth rate is most likely the result of Facebook’s continuing efforts to squeeze us for advertising dollars, still not having figured out that it’s like trying to get blood from a stone.
As we now begin our glorious 11th year of survival, I’ll once again paraphrase Blade Runner: I don’t know how long we’ll have together… Who does? I hope we’ll still be here at this time next year to celebrate the end of our 11th year, and I hope you’ll still be here with us. It’s been a hell of a trip so far.
awsome! happy day!
Love you buddy. Here’s to ten more years!
Love you too! I am a lucky man indeed to have a friend such as you.
Congratulations! NCS means so much because of the ethos apparent in every piece. It is mind-boggling how you lovely people keep cranking it out day by day. And damn me to a liminal of unheard jewels, but I’ve found here some glorious music accompanied with the best writing any fan or artist could ask for. Cheers and to the next decade of putrescence!
Happy 10th birthday! This blog has had a significant impact on my life over the past seven years (sorry for not being around for the first three), by introducing me to a lot of excellent and expertly curated music. As you know I’ve made sure not to miss a single post, so you just have to face it: you’re not getting rid of me!
Thank you for all your support over so many years, and for all the great recommendations. Glad I have finally gotten to spend some time with you in the flesh.
Hey, just gotta say I found this blog back in 2012 or so, when my love of metal was rekindled by discovering Amon Amarth. That sentence is sort of embarrassing in it’s own right, but your blog has remained my most faithful source of metal discoveries for the past seven years. I hope that never changes.
Took a bit but here’s a link to the FP:
Thank you Aaron. I shudder to think how much time it must have taken to find that first post. 🙂
Happy Birthday, No Clean Singing!
I still take great pride in the fact that I contributed a couple pieces to this excellent blog. No other metal blog comes close to the quality and level of integrity that is NCS, and I’m grateful to have been a small part of it’s history.
SO grateful to you for so many years of steadfast support, and for your contributions (and your music).
Happy birthday, NCS!
Or was NCS hatched? Summoned? Spawned? Regurgitated? Molded out of toenail clippings?
Anyway, whatever the true origin, here’s to many more.
What a nice surprise to see your name again — a true “old timer” for sure. I hope you have been well.
Happy Birthday! Bardo Methodology today posted a condensed version of their interview with Y.K. of NWN, and mentioned that he recently told them the NWN Forum won’t be back. If that’s true, it will only make NCS even more important going forward, as one of the few no-BS sites out there for learning about extreme Metal. Cheers!
Congrats and here is to ten more years!
Congratulations and thanks for all the good times! Here’s to many many more years!
I didn’t get you anything
It’s the thought that counts (says everyone who never got any presents and are bitter about it).
Happy birthday big brother.
Thank you Max!
I feel like I deserve a lifetime achievement award for still posting here after all these years
You probably do. I checked, and your first comment was on December 4, 2010, providing a slew of Finnish bands to look into in response to a post in which I asked for ideas for a week-long series I was planning to do about Finnish metal (which went on for far longer than a single week). Glad you’re still here after a solid 9 years.
You know you’ve done something right when you have repeat customers. I am one of those and I look forward to each day when I load this site. Yes, my bank account does scream whenever a discovery from here is turned into a purchase but I am overwritten by the golden line: “treat yo self”.
Thanks for the good work and happy 10th!
LOL. I’m sure your bank account is not the only one screaming. I do worry sometimes that we overload people with the volume of music we’re constantly foisting on people, but obviously we don’t worry about it too much. 🙂
Happy Birthday NCS!
This means I’ve spent right at 22% of my days on Earth reading this site and it’s still the best metal site on the web.
This is one of the reasons I love these birthday posts — because I get to hear from you! (And a few other REAL old-timers). It’s great to know you’re still out there, and still dropping in. Hope you and your family are all well.
Happy Birthday NCS! You truly are a reference to us extreme metal aficionados!
NCS has been part of my morning ritual for many years now. Congratulations. I am looking forward to the next 10.
Oh my ncs! Im always in debt to you guys for turning me onto the best metal out there. Been hovering around the ncs comment section since 2012. Wrote perhaps my first article here towards the end of that year. One glorious decade down another one awaits. Onwards!!!
So great to hear from you! And your memory is correct — I found your first comment, back in July 2012:
And in case you were wondering, my database tells me you have left 589 more comments since then!
You rule \nn/ a d we all greatly appreciate you, your team and everything you have all done for me, my band and all of us in the community. Keep killing it!
Thank you man!
Ten years… an eternity for the blogosphere. Congratulations!
I think I started to frequent late 2011, I found some comments from August 2012 forward.
That means NCS has been my primary source for new music for 8 years now… and it still feels so fresh every time I read an article. Thanks Islander and the lot, for enriching my life on countless occasions.
Here’s to ten more years of awesome writing about awesome music!
Thank you miLord. Eight years of visiting us and commenting is an impressive achievement, and a welcome one.
I love the site and I love the people who put it together and continually bring great music to our attention. Keep it going forever!
Many thanks. One of the great benefits of doing this has been to see it become a vehicle for making contact with people who have become good friends. It seems highly unlikely that you and I would have ever met were it not for NCS, and I’m so glad we did.
I can’t remember exactly when i started reading NCS or what was the reason i came here for the first time but it’s always been my favourite out of all the metal blogs. Out of all of them, NCS is one that i still read pretty regularly still. I don’t know what it is about this site that keeps me coming back (it’s probably the piles of red skulls in the background, obviously!) but it seems be all the kickass obscure bands that you’ve introduced me to over the years. So, thanks for that!
P.S. – I always enjoyed the “That’s metal! but not music” posts. I remember when they were a weekly thing every Sunday. I’m hoping they’ll make a return at some point but i won’t hold my breath!
Thank you! As I mentioned in the post, I really do miss putting together the THAT’S METAL! posts every Sunday. At some point I obviously further succumbed to my obsession about sharing music, and the SHADES OF BLACK column crowded it out. At one point I made a calendar entry to remind me to make a THAT’S METAL post on the first Sunday of each month, hoping that just doing it once a month might be feasible. That obviously didn’t work.
Happy birthday! I know I am way late to the party. I have been around the site for a while… I don’t know about all ten years, but pretty close. I still come here at least a few times a week. I still love the fact you guys don’t do negative coverage. If an album is being reviewed here, I know it’s good. I am looking forward to “Listmania” fully kicking into gear soon. Here’s to at least 10 more years!
It’s hard to believe that we’re into Listmania season again, for the 10th time. It’s a fun time of year, though also a crazy time of year. Thanks for so many years of support.
Happy Birthday Islander and Crew! Thanks, as always, for all of your hard work.
Thanks for all the hard work, I appreciate all of posts. Every stream is worth a listen because of the obvious passion behind the writer’s efforts.
Once I reached grown up status in stupid real life my music interest had diminished, and I was super lame.
A few years ago, I started coming back to the site irregularly and now I read it every day and am super metal again. Keep going strong!
Congratulations NCS! You are undoubtedly an Institution (note the capital I) in the metal world. Your hard work is greatly appreciated. Long may it continue!
I haven’t yet finished replying to everyone who has left their birthday wishes, and might not be able to, so I at least wanted to leave this thanks to everyone who took the time to leave a comment here, and who keep us going from day to day.
I am breaking my unholy rule of not commenting or responding to them to say HAPPY FUCKING BIRTHDAY!
I also do not typically use those swear words, but birthdays inspire that
I think I started coming to NCS about 5 years ago, about the time my interest in metal was re-invigorated after a lapse of some years in the wilderness. I have 3 main metal blogs/websites that I regularly read, and this is one of them. I always look forward to opening NCS and thr good vibe present here. I am also amazed at how prolific you guys are; we readers are lucky to have you. NCS has introduced me to so much great metal. Thanks and happy 10th.
What an amazing decade, both for NCS and for metal. It feels like ten years ago the metal world was really starting to branch out, you had bedroom musicians like Cloudkicker coming out and experimenting with different approaches, and it felt like people had learned the lessons of Napster and were starting to appreciate that artists need payment to continue making music, and differently platforms were just starting on the scene to enable that to happen and bypass the standard filter of music labels (of which obviously bandcamp has ended up the king as far as metal goes). Still, there’s plenty of healthy little music labels around putting out releases from more experimental and unpopular bands that we love here at NCS. To me looking back it seems like ten years of unbridled enthusiasm and the metal scene just continues to leap forward and stay ever interesting.
For NCS itself – I’m not even sure when I first discovered NCS but it must be somewhere around 2010-12 (yeah I just left myself a three year leeway, because my memory is like that!), but I’m so glad it’s still here, still going strong and still sticking to the ethos of being such a great place to visit and hang out. You’re right that this is a relatively troll-free little dark corner of the interweb. I think a lot of that is down to the tone and example set by you Islander, but would also like to extend thanks to all the readers here that make it a positive place to be too 🙂
I can’t even begin to count how many releases are in my music collection thanks to an NCS recommendation, including many of the albums I would now rate among my all time favourites. Can’t thank you enough for that \m/
Thank you for this wonderful message. You have been a great friend and supporter of NCS for so long… And to aid your memory, your first of 820 Comments at our site (as of today) was on August 19, 2011 — on this post:
You were probably visiting even before that. So that’s more than 8 years of loyalty!