Oct 172020


I haven’t done this in a long time, so long that I had to research when the last time was — and it was in May, if you don’t count a post I made in July soon after the Covid death of a man who was an influential mentor and father-figure in my life. But I was stunned to see a map and accompanying data this morning, which made me think it was time again to invite people to share their thoughts about what has been happening to them and their communities during the pandemic. As usual, I’ve included some new metal for people who don’t feel like doing that.

That map I saw is the same one you can see at the top of this post. It was accompanied by this chart:



This shows that at least 909 new coronavirus deaths and 70,451 new cases were reported in the United States on October 16th. Over the past week, there have been an average of 56,040 cases per day, an increase of 29 percent from the average two weeks earlier. As of Saturday morning, more than 8,090,500 people in the United States have been infected with the coronavirus and at least 218,400 have died, according to a database maintained by The New York Times, which is where I found this dismal news (here).

That 70,451 number is eye-popping because it’s close to the all-time daily high of 73,523 on July 24th. In other words, here in the U.S. we’re in the vicinity of a new peak that would rival the worst days of the outbreak over the summer.

This trend isn’t unique to the U.S., of course. According to this Associated Press article from two days ago:

“Coronavirus cases around the world have climbed to all-time highs of more than 330,000 per day as the scourge comes storming back across Europe and spreads with renewed speed in the U.S., forcing many places to reimpose tough restrictions eased just months ago.

“Well after Europe seemed to have largely tamed the virus that proved so lethal last spring, newly confirmed infections are reaching unprecedented levels in Germany, the Czech Republic, Italy and Poland. Most of the rest of the continent is seeing similar danger signs.

“France announced a 9 p.m. curfew in Paris and other big cities. Londoners face new restrictions on meeting with people indoors. The Netherlands closed bars and restaurants this week. The Czech Republic and Northern Ireland shut schools. Poland limited restaurant hours and closed gyms and pools.”

Here are the global data tables and a global map of national hot spots from this morning’s on-line edition of The New York Times (here):




Apart from the illnesses, the hospitalizations, and the deaths these numbers portend, what they also portend (to my way of thinking) is that I’m going to continue being stuck inside my home for many months to come, just as I have been for the last 7 months. And that fucking sucks.

Which is the segue to me doing what I’m inviting you to do in the Comments, if you feel like it, which is to share what’s happening in your life during the pandemic now that we’re approaching winter in the northern hemisphere and summer in the south.


For me, I still count myself fortunate that I have a job I can do from home. My employer’s offices in downtown Seattle are still closed. Permission is required for anyone to work there, under severe restrictions about how many will be allowed and prohibitions on any personal interaction among the few who are permitted. There’s really no reason to even ask for permission unless you’ve got little kids at home who are driving you to the brink of insanity. I have cats instead of kids, and they help keep me sane, so no thanks. (As for the loris horde that I guard against, their efforts to escape their compound and wreak havoc on humanity have diminished — they chuckle in their fiendish way, realizing what an outstanding job humanity is doing to destroy itself without help).

I guess I’ve adjusted to working where I live, about as well as I’m able, but I don’t love it. I miss the people I work with. Zoom get-togethers for work and socializing are a poor substitute. I miss tons of other things too. Facebook is giving me near-daily reminders of things I used to do for fun, most recently showing me videos I posted four years ago of live performances at California Deathfest. I really fucking miss going to shows and festivals.

Even in the good old days there weren’t many clubs in Seattle that featured metal bands. There are even fewer now. The tiny number who haven’t closed permanently are hanging on by their fingernails, begging like many other music venues for meaningful government assistance, which hasn’t been forthcoming. I have no doubt the same thing is happening everywhere else in the U.S. Even when touring becomes a possibility, where are touring bands going to play? Basement shows across the country aren’t going to cut it.

I also despair that there won’t be a resumption of fests in the U.S. next year. We postponed the fourth edition of Northwest Terror Fest from late-May/early-June 2020 to June 3-5, 2021. We’re crossing our fingers that it will be possible, but it’s way too soon to know at this point. And even if it’s safe to do it next June, what about the bands who were planning to tour through to perform at the fest, or the ones who were going to fly in from other countries? Who the hell knows.


It’s not just metal shows I’m missing. I still don’t leave my house much more often than I did last spring. There are a couple of restaurants on the Puget Sound island where my wife and I live that have socially distanced indoor seating, and we feel comfortable enough to go to one of them about once a week. We’ve made a couple of weekend driving trips with friends in our social bubble, and those turned out to be safe. Beyond that, it’s only occasional trips to the grocery store and the pet store. I just don’t feel like taking any chances, given my relatively advanced age and extensive history as a smoker.

I’ve tried to go for walks more often, but without much success. During the summer I made an effort to shed the covid 19 pounds I’d gained during the spring, cutting back on the oceans of alcohol and mountains of fattening comfort food I’d been consuming. I got about halfway back to where I used to be before my waistline ballooned, but over the last month I’ve been going back in the other direction. I made improvements in my mental and emotional health over the summer too, mainly due to nice weather (barring the week when the Seattle area was suffocating in a toxic miasma of wildfire smoke) and having to throw myself more intensely into work. That improvement is now being reversed too.

It has sunk in to me that we’re going to be stuck with this pandemic and every rotten thing it has done to daily life for a very long time to come, and life isn’t going to improve until proven safe and effective vaccines are developed and widely administered — because we as a country are incapable of “flattening the curve”. There are just too many morons and con-men (and women) in positions of “leadership”, and too many idiots everywhere else. As for hopes of safe and effective vaccines, widely administered, that ain’t happening in what’s left of this year, and I’ll be surprised if it happens by next summer. That’s a discouraging realization.

We’ve also got a fairly important election here in the U.S. 17 days from now. Anxiety over that also has something to do with my own deteriorating physical and mental condition. Since 1991, Washington State has mailed ballots to every registered voter. My ballot for the November 3 election should hit my mailbox today or Monday. I’m going to fill it out the day it arrives and drop it in an official curbside ballot box about a five-minute drive from my house, and then hold my breath for about two more weeks to find out what happens. I’m glad I don’t have to stand in line on election day, though I guess that wouldn’t be terrible, even though it would be less safe: In a very real way, it would be doing something courageous, and we need more acts of courage in this fucking country rather than acts of connivance and cowardice.

Maybe needless to say, I’m grateful for NCS and the people who write with me and the people who choose to spend some of their time here. It may not be a cure for everything that ails me, but it’s a damned good treatment.

Well, I’ve rambled on far longer than I anticipated. Time for me to turn the forum over to you. So if you feel like it, tell us what has been happening to you over the last weeks and months. What’s now happening in the community where you live? Are you still shut in or moving around more? Are you out of work or still working? And how do you feel about the current situation and about the future?



If you don’t feel like sharing, or even if you do, then check out the song below, which is just a tiny fraction of music that emerged over the past week, much of which I just didn’t have time to investigate due to my fucking day job. Hope you like it, and by all means, feel free to share whatever music has been juicing you up recently.

This particular song, “Fluid Earth Delusions“, is by the Greek band Vacantfield. It’s a blazing, ravishing spectacle of sound — which then changes in many unexpected and equally glorious ways, both instrumentally and vocally. As riotous as the song often is, it’s spellbinding as well as mind-boggling, frightening as well as exhilarating. It’s so fascinating, so inventive, and so persistently surprising, that I haven’t been able to stay away from it for long at a time.

The song first appeared on a Vacantfield EP named Idle that was independently released in May of this year as a digital download. I know from previous experience how good this band is, and so I’m kicking myself for not paying attention to Idle when it was first released. I paid attention to it this morning because it’s one of 12 tracks on a label sampler digitally released by Oslo-based Duplicate Records just a couple of days ago. As you might guess from that fact, Duplicate is going to release a CD version of Idle — on October 30th. It’s available for pre-order here:


I’ll be back tomorrow with the usual Sunday SHADES OF BLACK column. Until then, wear your mask, wash your hands, and stay far away from morons. AND ENJOY VACANTFIELD!




  1. Hi Islander,
    You’re doing good work here, providing an escape for many – from the new reality we are all forced to confront. None of us know when this will end or the full cost. If you’re not worried about the disease, you should be – the majority of us do not have pots of gold stashed away and very few jobs are guaranteed rock-solid after a prolonged economic battering. The UK is, like most countries, subject to a second wave and yet we seem unable to learn and I witness complacency and blatant stupidity all around.
    Keep doing what you’re doing (and have done so well for so long) – new music is always welcome and is so cathartic in this bizarre era!

    • Thank you Gaz. I read about what is happening in the UK too. It seems beset by many of the same phenomena that have made our own response to the pandemic such an abject failure. Hang in there. We’ll keep doing our thing here – for us too it’s one of a few life rafts in a stormy sea that haven’t sprung a leak.

  2. Happy to hear you’re doing well, or as well as can be expected. Idaho is a cesspool of virus deniers and morons complaining about how mask mandates violate their personal liberties. My soon to be two year old’s daycare has shut down four times since “reopening” in May, this most recent time a mandatory two week quarantine after a fucking INFANT tested positive for covid (thankfully my son did not have any contact with the other child, but it’s heartbreaking nonetheless). I am routinely the only one on my construction sites wearing a mask, and it’s gotten to the point where I’m just thankful that I work outside, which research suggests mitigates the risk of spread somewhat. I’m also grateful that my wife, who is five-ish months pregnant, gets to work from home, and that we have a large yard in a rural setting so we can go outside (now that the smoke has dissipated).

    All in all, I know that we are luckier than a lot of people, but the fact that this crisis is stretching into its ninth month with no end in sight due to the absolutely negligent and braindead response of the current administration is definitely taking its toll.

    Thanks for all the posts, and all the music. To end on a positive note, the new Wayfarer is fucking awesome.

    Be well, dude.

    • I’m with you on the new Wayfarer, and on everything else. I think I’m luckier than you, living where I do, where it’s rare to see anyone without a mask when we go out. My guess is that the presidential election on this island will go about 85-15 for Biden. I hope to hell there will be a chance to see you at a fest next year, but with a newborn due in your family in four-ish months that probably won’t be happening. But exciting that you will have another life in your family! As Jeff Goldblum said, it does find a way, even in these hazardous times.

      • You should, or maybe should not, head out to Snohomish county. Lots of people here are not wearing masks. Eastside everyone is.

        You know, the facts are we have no idea how effective masks are or are not, its a silly pointless redundant argument. Everyone has there mind made up anyway. What is relevant is that it is JUST A PIECE OF FREAKING CLOTH!! To make that the hill you die on is a whole other level of stupid. I don’t feel like a hero for wearing one, or a traitor to my country if I forget slipping into a store, nor is there any “liberty” or some nonsense being taken away. I just don’t get what the big deal is. Literally people are comparing themselves to freedom fighters for not wearing a piece of cloth…the stupidity is astounding and while I agree that we should definitely be worried about Covid, we should also be terrified over how stupid this country has gotten!

        Sorry for the rant a bit stoned haha!

  3. Hey there. Here in Colorado, cases are very high recently, and my county recently cut back the gathering size from 25 to 10, along with some other minor things. I feel helpless to do anything to cut back on my interactions. I have been teaching after-school camps for kids who need to be somewhere else after their at-home learning. So every day I am in a fairly crowded building, and there’s nothing to be done about that. Trying to keep track of what all the different school districts are doing is impossible, but it’s not great at any of them. My co-workers have become my ‘pod’, or whatever, since we are all in the shit together anyway. Their friendship has been hugely helpful. I try not to think about how long it will be like this.

    Still got two incomes, at least. Really appreciate having this site to help me get through the weeks. And I agree with Durf, new Wayfarer kicks ass.

    • Well, it makes me nervous to read about you being in a fairly crowded building during your workdays, but probably not as nervous as it makes you, though it’s good that your co-workers are friends and supportive. I’m hoping you will continue to be well. Thanks for spending as much time as you do leaving us comments.

  4. I think because of work I am not feeling it like you are feeling it. Really right now my life is not vastly different outside of not being able to go to concerts, and really that is only every two or three months or so anyway. My clinic was closed for a few days because we were playing it safe when a clinic was closed, and that was kind of annoying, but that is really it. I really only see a handful of friends once or so a month anyway, so really, not much is different.

    Hope you are spending plenty of time walking outside! Especially if you are home anyway, this is the time to be doing it.

    • I really should be walking more, especially because there are so many beautiful places to do that nearby. And now that the rainy season is beginning, when it won’t be as much fun, I’m kicking myself for not doing more of it over the summer.

  5. Glad you’re good, Islander. My personal situation is pretty much the same as last time I chimed in. Work has slowed some as lower priced new homes have slowed selling rates although the higher end homes are selling pretty well. My largest client builds ‘affordable’ homes and has slowed due to sitting inventory.

    As for the virus, this area’s numbers are going up again. I guess I’ll just never understand people who don’t listen to science and can’t follow basic instruction. I am fed up with them prolonging our torment.

    Stay healthy, VOTE and praise goddamn motherfuckin’ GOATWHORE!!!

    • Good to hear from you man. Your area seems to be in the news every day (or at least the news that I read and watch), not only because of the virus but also because it looks to be such an unexpected electoral battleground. And yes, definitely, PRAISE GOATWHORE.

  6. Hey Islander, thank you for the invitation to join in and share. I’m from Melbourne, and we recently came out of curfew and now have the next set of restrictions removed, we can now travel up to 25kms from home (up to now it was only 5kms). We had a horrible surge as you probably know, it really affected aged care, most of the 800 or so people who died during the surge were elderly. But now we are down to just a few cases per day.
    My family are very privileged, my partner and I both work from home, we have a very supportive community, and there is no issue with wearing masks in Melbourne (and very little anywhere in Australia). I’ve had to battle anxiety, keep depression away, but I’m getting on top of it.
    I’ve visited NCS and read reviews / listened to new albums and songs featured just about every day/night over the past six months, together with Invisible Oranges, Last Rites, Angry Metal Guy, Heavy Blog is Heavy and RABM reddit. Your reviews Islander are so unique, I feel like a young kid (despite being the ‘wrong’ side of 50) when I see new posts, eagerly wanting to listen and read to discover which acts I will next fall in love with, which albums resonate and enable a space for my emotions. What you do Islander is so, so kind, out of your own commitment, passion and determination – thank you. Rodney

    • Thank you so much for this beautiful note. I’m glad you’re keeping on top of the problems, and very happy that what we do here is brought you some joy, as it does me. (I’m on the “wrong” side of 50 myself.)

  7. Keep hanging in there, Islander – as, you are right, the slog will be long. And continued thanks to you and the crew for keeping us engaged and informed. The little things – routines and communities – matter so much right now. One foot in front of the other – staying engaged and finding some joy in it all. NCS really does help – at least me – with that. I have been happy to read you and Ms Islander are getting out of the house and even off the island – you have to! You got to do it safely and intelligently, but you can’t live in a cocoon for another 9 months, one year, however long it is – we will all go nuts.

    Be well and, seriously, many thanks for this website!

    • Thank you JR. My wife has been preaching at me for months that we need to get our of our cocoon. She goes out a lot more than I do, for walks with friends several times a week and to grocery shop almost every day, just to have some human contact other than me. And those two trips really did prove to be a great change of scene.

  8. Here in Moscow most people seem to be ignoring the whole COVID thing as if it does not and can not affect them. I am talking about not even bothering to wear a mask in buses or shops – that level of stupidity. Yes, right now the government is tightening the restrictions again, but it doesn’t look like it has much of an effect other than cashiers in shops demanding you actually put your mask on.

    My job can not be done remotely, so I have to go to work. That’s ok – we are (mostly) able to keep our distance, plus I get to walk for an hour through a park each way, which I am sure contributes to the fact I am no more crazy than I used to be, or if I am, I can’t tell, tee hee hee.

    I am fairly asocial anyway, so sitting at home wouldn’t bother me at all, apart from the whole “not getting paid for it” thing.

    Anyway, that’s me sharing. Thank you for asking, and thank you for your work providing me with new stuff to listen to! Stay safe.

    • Great to see your message — these comments are really spanning the globe. I’m sorry people where you are have been so idiotic about being safe and considerate to others. I hope it doesn’t adversely affect you.

  9. Lucky to work from home. It’s been lonely since March. I help out my elderly parents so I have to avoid risks/exposure opportunities and not see any friends really for months. If I did anything that meant I got it and passed it to them and killed them I’d not handle it well. For the rest of my life. In places like the USA, I know this is not uncommon. Especially due to a lack of healthcare.

    Music and positivity keep us all afloat. Thanks for all you do!

  10. I’ve realised that one of the effects of working from home (9 months and counting now) and spending it all behind a computer is that I do a lot less casual surfing now. So I’ve checked in on NCS and other sites, but no where near as frequent as before. Haven’t forgotten about you guys and gals though.

    I hope everyone stays safe and healthy, I think the very best thing to do right now (unless you’re in USA, then the best thing is to vote Trump out) is to try to strengthen your mental resolve because this shit ain’t going away by next summer or even the whole of 2021. We’re playing the long-game now, and resiliance is the key.

    Things are fairly calm here in Sweden after a horrible spring, but there’s a worrying increased trend in parts of the country so we’ll see what happens.

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.