Those of us who form the core staff at NCS have recently been reconsidering lots of the things we do here and how we do them. To be more precise, much of the discussion has involved what I do here and how I do them. A lot of the discussion boils down to being more selective in what we publish, and more willing to publish fewer posts every day if that’s necessary to make greater scrutiny possible.
One likely outcome of those discussions is that I will accept fewer premieres. For a while now I’ve been writing two or more premieres every day. I only agree to premiere music that I like and that I think fits the musical focus of the site, but that still leads to lots of premieres. I admit that I have a hard time saying no. One consequence of so many premieres is that I have much less time to write about music that I find on my own, including round-ups of new music and stand-alone reviews of records that we’re not premiering.
Because I’ve put myself in the position of not being able to write round-ups as often as I’d like, the backlogs grow to gargantuan proportions. I resort to gigantic Overflowing Streams collections in an effort to work through the backlogs, but even that format (in which I cut back on my own verbiage) takes time to put together, and so I wind up not even publishing those kinds of collections more than once a week (if I can even manage that).
This process of discussion and self-reflection has led me to realize another problem I’ve created for myself.
When I have such a great volume of music that I’d like to write about and not enough time in which to do it, I realize that I become paralyzed. I can’t write about everything I want to write about, and I’m daunted by the challenge of picking just a few things to focus on. I can’t figure out how to make such painful choices, and so I just kick the can down the road and hope to find a block of time when I can write about more rather than less. Of course, that doesn’t solve the problem at all. It just makes it worse, because in the meantime the backlog has continued to grow.
Cutting back on the number of premieres and trying to be more selective in the other posts we publish will help me deal with that problem, but I’ve also realized that I’ve got to break through that self-paralysis. I need to train myself not to overthink things and to accept that I’m never going to be able to feature all the music I’d like to recommend from the searching that I’ve done. It’s better to recommend a very few things, and to do that more often, than to let a week go by and fail to recommend anything at all other than the premieres I’ve agreed to do.
This strategy doesn’t mean that I’ll be picking the best of the best. Trying to do that kind of winnowing would again induce self-paralysis. It’s just too damned hard for me to take 20 or 30 new songs I like and then rank them and winnow them down to just two or three. You could probably do that, but I can’t. Hell, I can’t even make a year-end list of best albums. That would take forever, if it were even possible. And I certainly don’t have the time to attempt something like that a couple times a week. I just have to accept that the choices I make will truly be random — just like the category tag for these round-ups says.
To be clear, I’m still going to post Overflowing Streams collections when I can, or even longer versions of these Seen and Heard posts when time permits. But I’m going to try my best not to wait for the time when I can do those, and instead do more of what I’ve done in this post — except without 8 paragraphs of introductory text.
One final note; If you were to go back to the earliest years of this site, when I was doing it largely by myself, you would see more posts like this one, when I wrote about a single song or two, and did that almost every day. That was a time when NCS felt more like a lark and less like an increasingly burdensome responsibility. And honestly, it was more fun, at least for me.
The first song I’ve chosen for today, which was released on Sunday, is “Ja Viimein On Yö” by the tremendously good Finnish band Havukruunu. It’s off their new album Uinuos Syömein Sota (Languish, thy war of my heart), which will be released by Naturmacht Productions on August 14th.
The song is a breathtaking mythic spectacle of brazen fury and blazing glory. Imagine witnessing a stampede of wild stallions — as viewed from the vantage point of being strapped to the belly of a racing horse. Everything about the song is electrifying, from the unchained drumming to the whirling, darting, and soaring riffs, the crazed ferocity of the vocals, and the absolutely glorious guitar solo. There’s an ancient resonance to the melody — which becomes even more pronounced when the band take a digression into a brief acoustic guitar instrumental. This is the kind of song that’s capable of breathing new life into the dead.
(will be announced on July 17th, along with a full stream of the album)
I received multiple messages from various sources about this next song, “Conjuring Traces“. The band is a Belgian/Dutch/French black metal quartet named Silver Knife, whose members come from the ranks of such groups as Cult of Erinyes, Hypothermia, Laster, and Nusquama. The track is off their debut album Unyielding / Unseeing, which will be released by Amor Fati Productions and Entropic Recordings on August 18th (the mastering was done by Mare Cognitum’s Jake Buczarski).
I thought the song would make a fine follow-on to Havukruunu’s track. It too is an extravagant experience. It’s fast and furious, rocketing forward on an engine of hammering and neck-popping drums and a bass that gets its own chance to shine. Speaking of shining, the surround-sound riffing and keyboard work has a brilliantly gleaming sheen that creates a sense of awe-inspiring wonder as it envelops the senses. The wraith-like vocals, distant reverberating screams that don’t sound human, add a different kind of intensity to the experience.
The song does also digress from the sky-on-fire grandeur with a softer and more introspective and haunting instrumental that’s quite mesmerizing. And then we’re swept again high into the skies, our hearts in our throats and eyes wide. The melodic refrain is transfixing, and so is the feeling that we’ve encountered something much greater than ourselves.
I’ve been following and writing about this band from my original hometown of Austin, Texas for the last five years, beginning with their first demo Endless (released in August 2014), back when the band was the solo project of Casey Hurd. They’ve come a long way since then, to the point that their new EP Death Of The Cosmic will be released by none other than Napalm Records. That EP includes cover art by Travis Smith and it will be out on August 28th.
The first advance track, which arrived into the world yesterday via a music video, is “Cold Conception”, and it features the late Nature Ganganbaigal of Tengger Cavalry performing the horsehead fiddle known as Morin Khuur. The feeling of wonder and glory that were signal features of the first two songs in today’s collection also plays a role in the melodic swells and fire-bright soloing that elevate this song.
But the track is also a jolting, hard-hitting affair, and instead of screams we have Johan Hegg-like growls. And, this being Hinayana, the song also brings into play the melancholy of doom, channeling heart-ache and despair as well as grandeur. (It’s also a recipe for sore-neck syndrome.)
As I’ve said in private, no point doing this if it’s not fun. It’s a labour of love, after all, not one we get rewarded or remunerated for, and once it stops being fun you can easily fall out of love with it!
And, always remember, less is more. That’s just science.
For what it is worth, I think this is the best metal site on the internet, and it’s my go to. So, do what you need to do, but just know it’s appreciated.
I agree wholeheartedly with Jason. This is the best metal site on the internet. I come here every day.
I will say one thing though. I suffer, as I am sure many of your ardent followers do, from FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Wanting to find my new favourite band drives me to listen to every band that you post. It can be overwhelming. Especially the Overflowing Streams posts. Sometimes I do wish that there were fewer posts. That way I can read and listen to them all and still have the time to do the job that I get paid to do. However, this is just me. If you keep posting at the same volume, then I will just have to keep up.
So, as Jason said, do what you have to do. Life is short. You need to do what makes you happy.
Thanks to both of you (Jason and Bruce). Truthfully, comments like these over the years are a big part of what motivates me to continue doing this. I do think the idea of making fewer posts and not so many musical floods is a good one, but that idea is always going to war with my compulsions to be as exhaustive as I can. 🙂
Great that you’re being so open about this Ilias. My two cents, just thoughts. I hope it doesn’t come across as supercilious – the editor inside me just can’t help it.
If you can’t make choices in what you do, make choices in how you do it: do premieres of albums, but don’t do premieres on video’s or singles anmore.
Keep the features (like Seen & Heard) strictly formatted: 80 words per song, no more. Or something like that.
Separate (and this point is one of my pet peeves) reviews from premieres. That way it becomes more clear what you’re working on and it makes it easier to sift. Can you premiere it? Don’t review it, and vice versa. (This also makes for a more journalistic review).
Don’t let the releases dictate your schedule, do it other way around. If you want to do three S&H’s a week, that’s it. And they’re all 4 songs max. The rest is out.
Anyway, again, just thoughts. I really appreciate what you’ve been doing all these years and I hope you can keep it fun for yourself. Like Andy said, that’s the most important thing. Rock on!
Thank you very much for these suggestions (your last one makes particular sense to me). One reason I’ve always accepted individual song premieres is because they are easier for me to write about than album premieres, which take much longer because I include reviews. Which brings into focus your point about separating premieres from reviews. If I’m understanding you correctly, you’re suggesting that reviews which aren’t tethered to premieres may be seen as more objective than “promotional”. I can see why people might assume that, and maybe at some subconscious level for me, that’s true. But I tend to be enthusiastic about everything I review, whether I pick it myself or it comes my way via a premiere invitation. And I don’t consciously bend my writing because it is a premiere, because I only premiere what I genuinely want to recommend.
You guys are on a roll today though! Havukruunu are excellent (“Kelle Surut Soi” is a spectacular album, and I’m kicking myself that I discovered them so late). “Ja Viimein On Yö” is getting pre-ordered for sure.
The Worsen album is also amazing, one of my (if not _the_) top pick 2019 for me.
Btw, Ayr also released a new album (same dudes as Worsen more or less, basically both bands are just Young and in the Way minus the singer).
Thank you (and nice to hear from you Fredrik!). I’m definitely checking out that Ayr album.
Havukruunu is back again! lovely track
And I agree with the overwhelming amount of work and also with the recent conversation we had on Facebook regarding the same. And I perfectly understand that. One of the few reasons why I no longer try to start back up my own site. Also is the amount of background work that one’s got to do. Checking for new singles that sound great, designating fellow writers with work or what they come up with, putting digital PR lines in order and whatnot but so much of that easily slips into being a chore.
The time and commitment involved in this is too much and paralysis of not being able to cover all the ground that you’d want to that accompanies, you nailed it there, is palpable. I completely agree with the idea with one of the earlier comments here on the separation of the premiere and the review. And frankly I tend to find more goodies in much smaller bites of new music (like in this article) and also dig the larger overflowing streams and seen and heard stuff. This is because say, I know for a fact that you exercise a lot more editorial labour in carefully crafting these very same songs.
I second pretty much all the above – NCS has been a stalwart site in the metal scene for over a decade now, and I’m enormously grateful to you and the rest of the NCS staff for pointing me in the direction of so much good music. You guys don’t even get paid, and I haven’t even bought you a single beer! (the shame).
I’d be happy with a less is more strategy. I do find it hard to even listen to everything on NCS, let alone find the time afterwards to sleep around with other sites 😉 Or just randomly peruse bandcamp. I completely understand the FOMO; just try to do whatever sparks joy.. or head-banging epiphanies.. hell we don’t want to Marie Kondo this. Anyway, now I’m ranting, so once again, thanks for all the goodness and bring back the early days if that’s what it takes.