On November 21, 2009, I made the first post at this blog. On the 21st day of every November since then, I’ve made a post celebrating our birthday — except this year, when I completely forgot to do it. No one else who writes here or visits here seems to have remembered either, or maybe they remembered and were just quietly laughing at my brain fart. This year November 21 was a Sunday, and my spouse and I had house guests at the time, so I offer that as an excuse.
But this year the lapse isn’t as bad as it could have been, because by happenstance I remembered our anniversary today, which is Thanksgiving Day here in the U.S., and that works out well because giving thanks is ultimately what these annual birthday posts are really all about.
In these annual posts I usually explain how I had no ambitions or expectations when I started the blog 12 years ago, nor any training or experience as a music writer, and that the sum total of my motivation was to create an enjoyable diversion for myself from the grind of daily life, and to indulge my burgeoning interest in heavy music. And there, I just did it again, albeit in fewer words than usual.
In these annual observances I also tend to reminisce about how many things about NCS have changed from the early days, and about how surprising it is to me that we’re still here. Some of you remember the early days, because you were here with us then and haven’t left. Others who have begun checking in here more recently might yawn if I indulged in that kind of nostalgia, so let’s just skip that.
As for why we’re still here and why our audience has grown, the most important reason (still) 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 12 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 for me, my friendship with them and with others who eventually joined our ranks has become the most important blessing to me of all for having done this. 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 again enormously thankful.
Another old-timer, TheMadIsraeli, still surfaces when life’s travails allow it, and he has again been subjected to recent travails that have made that difficult, but he still checks in with a review as life allows. (A search of our posts shows that his first NCS review (of an album by The Interbeing) was published on May 11, 2011),
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, Karina Noctum, and Neill Jameson. We also continue to benefit from the contributions of Gonzo, once of Seattle and now ensconced in Colorado, as well as Tör, DJ Jet, and other newcomers who made their first NCS appearance this year.
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. Perhaps needless to say, we have a special love for people who leave comments, even if infrequently.
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.
Earlier I said I wasn’t going to indulge my usual tendencies to talk about what has changed for NCS and the underground music “scene” since we started 12 years ago, but I think I will call out a couple of changes.
The first is that, especially in the last two years, I’ve tried a lot harder to avoid writing about bands whose racist and fascist ideologies and associations are toxic to the health of humanity, and to its stumbling progress toward a life of decency and mutual respect.
Most of those bands tend to play black metal, which is unfortunate because I love black metal. It would be easier if I just swore off the genre, and especially its European adherents, but instead I’ve tried to be more careful and exhaustive in my research, which is tedious but necessary, and unfortunately I have still probably made mistakes (that’s on me, and no one else at NCS).
It would also be easier if I banished entire labels from our pages rather than taking the music on a band-by-band basis. Without trumpeting the fact, I have banished some entire labels. I may become convinced to add more to the no-fly list.
The other huge change since 2019 has of course been the virus. Over the last year it has continued to plague life in general and live music in particular. It has also caused delays in releases and interfered with the recording of new albums, but the surprising fact is that these interferences have been relatively modest. And it seems obvious that this is because musical creativity is irrepressible. New metal continues to come in a flood, every fucking week, and by my lights a lot of it continues to be extremely good.
It also seems that living through the disruptions of the plague has provided new inspirations and insights to musicians, and, perhaps because of the dearth of live performance opportunities, a new-felt freedom to experiment and to collaborate with other creative types in ways that might not have happened otherwise.
The world is obviously not even close to moving on beyond the pandemic. It seems quite clear that it will continue to disrupt life (and cost lives) well into 2022. In our little musical corner of the world, live shows, tours, and fests are being booked again, and hopefully all those plans will pan out, but it’s not a sure thing. All we can do is hope, and do our own part to try to keep the virus in check.
And now for the annual round-up of boring statistics!
Since we launched NCS twelve years ago, we’ve published 13,337 posts, including this one — and 987 of those have appeared in the 12 months (and a few days) since our last birthday, which is five fewer than we posted in the 11th year of our existence and averages out to 2.67 posts per day, including weekends.
At this writing, we’ve received 83,151 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 still 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 359,015 active individual users over the last 12 months from all over the world (about 3,000 fewer than the year before). Roughly in keeping with data from past years, over the last 12 months less than half of those users (39.17%) live in the U.S., even though NCS is based in the U.S., with 6.55% coming from the UK, 4.83% from Canada, and the balance from more than 100 other countries around the world, with China, Germany, France, Australia, Italy, Sweden, and Netherlands rounding out the top 10, in that order over the last 12 months (which coincidentally is the same order as the last time I reported these stats a year ago — except that China has vaulted high into that group for reasons I don’t understand, though a couple of NCS posts about Chinese metal by Ryan Dyer may have had something to do with that).
Since this time last year we’ve had 1,329,076 page views, which is a decrease of about 160,000 from last year, and perhaps at least partially 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 a few more people have decided that we suck.
Speaking of Facebook, the number of “likes” for our Facebook page has grown from 42,598 on our birthday last year to 44,750 today, which is an increase (net of people who stopped following us) of 2,152 — compared to a net increase of 2,063 in the preceding year. I think most experts would classify that growth rate as “piddling”. Since we don’t advertise on FB and don’t try to make any money from NCS I’m not surprised and don’t really care. Let’s just say that following us on FB isn’t a very good way to learn when we add content to NCS.
As we now begin our glorious 13th year of survival, I’ll once again paraphrase from 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 13th year, with the virus subdued and shows to go to again, and I hope you’ll still be here with us. It’s been a hell of a trip so far, and all of us here at NCS are excited about continuing the ride.
Stay safe, and don’t let the bastards get you down.
Happy Birthday NCS. Among the many reasons I love and respect the site are, chiefly because, I’ve been pointed to so much music I’ve grown to enjoy and love. But , as alluded to above, what NCS doesn’t do is also important, namely, not featuring music you don’t enjoy, just to tear it down. Nor do you feature tabloid style fluff about musicians, and I think these approaches add further authenticity to what NCS does choose to cover. To paraphrase, life is too short to listen to bad music. Here’s to another 12 years. Sláinte!
I so agree with Paul here. Thanks NCS so much for increasing my life quality! Skål!
Happy birthday, NCS – and many thanks to you, Islander, and to Andy, DGR, and your other partners in crime for the community and content. Has particularly meant a lot over the past roughly two long years. Looking forward to another great year from you all!
NCS has helped me turn my enjoyment of heavy music into a full on obsession! Every week I can count on finding at least a few excellent things on here. And the positivity deserves to be praised, again. I really appreciate the vibe here. Keep up the excellent work, congratulations!
Happy Birthday! This is one of the better sites that I’ve found. Invisible Oranges is another although I don’t check that one as much. Keep it up.
Happy birthday, NCS. I’m so glad I’ve found your site some years ago. Thanks to you, my metal problems have shifted from desperately looking für the good stuff to being overwhelmed by the amount of great stuff you present to us every day. I really enjoy supporting all those bands, who share my love for sick but tasteful, brutal but beautiful, freaked out but thought through music. My bandcamp download folder just keeps filling up and CDs from all over the world land in my mail box, some enriched with nice personal messages.
Please keep up the great work and maintain the old school RSS-feed. It’s just the best way not to miss a single post and store the best for me and my friends.
I wish you and your fellow contributors all the best for now and the future. Let’s make it another 12 years. I will be with you.
Twelve years? Weird to look back and realize how much time has actually passed since I stumbled onto this site, but congratulations to you guys on one more year…keep it up
Happy Birthday to you, NCS and thanks to all who contribute on this site. I’m sure many will agree that this site is probably the most dedicated provider of up-and-coming undergound/extreme music and is a welcome break from the strife we call reality! Keep up the great work!
Happy birthday guys! Thanks for bringing us so much great music. Here’s to a hundred more!
Thank you for your writing. Discovered some great bands through your site. Loving the Ophis album that I’ve only seen written about here for example.
Happy Birthday! NCS has, over the last few years, become my go-to site for new music. Great stuff!
“And DGR’s first post was a series of year-end lists on December 28, 2011.”
🙂 Well, I could be wrong, but that’s as far back as my feeble mind can carry me in my burrowing through the back end of our site. (And now I can hear Beevis and Butthead sniggering, “He said back end.”)
I’ve never commented here, but near as I can tell, have been reading as close to your inception date (by accident) as possible. I’m extremely grateful for what you all have done. So many albums have I purchased because I’ve caught a word or a link through NCS. Truly, my appreciation is vast. Salute!
A major thanks to the crew keeping the influx of high-quality, high-octane music high, and the levels of chaff very low.
My list of 60+ albums I found worthwhile on NCS this year presents me with the daunting task of going through it all and deciding what to put up for the readers’ Listmania articles…
Keep doing what you’re doing, it’s awesome!
Happy Birthday NCS! I’m a “silent follower” and I rarely comment. But let me tell you, you have become a major part of my musical life. I owe you so many great discoveries. The tone of your articles is always top-notch. Keep up the good work and thank you for everything. Here is to 12 more years (raises glass).
NCS rules. So many metal music discoveries offered every day. Happy birthday, and many more.
Interesting that China is in the top 10 for viewers to this website. If a non-N. American, non-European country were to make it into the top 10, I’d have thought it would be a South American country, not an Asian one. I wonder if its from Chinese people, or from foreign expats in China? I dont think the Chinese metal scene is very big, relative to the population. Talk about underground. Check out Ancestor (thrash band from Beijing). But there are some surprisingly big metal scenes in some other Asian countries (well, a couple 1000 people anyway!), especially Malaysia and Indonesia.
For a very long time, if I recall correctly, malaysia/indonesia and their respective corners of the world were actually the top of the countries out of that region that would visit us. I also found China appearing in that list interesting on a statistics front considering that I think the total number of bands from that area we’ve covered isn’t particularly high – though we’re making efforts to get more representation for groups all over the globe – and I think I only had one, which was Mvltifission earlier in the year (which if you like some gurgling death metal may be a good recommendation)
It’s a very strange development. I’m no expert, but like you, my perception is that the Chinese extreme metal scene is very tiny as a proportion of the country’s vast population. From our small sampling of Chinese music here at NCS, there’s a lot of talent within that small pocket of musicians. But there’s an obvious language impediment to residents of China who might come here– again, I’m no expert, but my sense is that far fewer Chinese citizens capably read English than people in the other countries that make up out Top 10 list of readers. It might actually be a comparable percentage if we just focus on fans of extreme metal, but I sure as hell don’t know. All I can do is welcome the change while being perplexed by it.
12 Goddamn years! Time flies, man. I’m so happy that NCS is still here and thriving!
Fucking good pancake and 808 burgers for everyone!
I was hoping you would speak up! You have been with us for SUCH A LONG TIME. It makes me so happy to know you are still out there, even though you didn’t say GOATWHORE. I hope all is well with you and your family. I’m endlessly thankful that after so much time you still check in with us.
All is well. I’m still running an electrical contracting business and I’m a Papaw twice over now. Though life has me busier than ever, I still check in here a couple of times a week and will as long as you keep it going!
Oh, and I just figured that GOATWHORE!!! was implied 😉
I want to jump in here on this Saturday afternoon and thank everyone who made time to give us their good wishes, and especially those of you who haven’t commented before but instead have simply paid attention to what we’ve done. I said it in what I wrote, but I can guarantee that none of us who have collaborated to keep this going would have hung in there except for the fact that people pay attention, and have continued paying attention.
I love reading comments, but I also understand why people check in, listen, read, and don’t say anything. I do the same thing with a few sites besides our own that I visit. There’s no rule that says anyone who goes anywhere on the internet needs to raise their hand. In fact, I’ve grown increasingly hesitant about raising my hand.
So, I’m rambling, but my main point is that everyone who left comments here should fully realize that you’ve given all of us who labor here a lot of joy with your words, and we are thankful.
Almost a rowdy teen! Happy b-day NCS!
It’s good to finally be out of diapers.
I’m late to the party, as usual. I enjoy this site and if it’s worth you guys writing about, I’ll take a listen. I stopped drinking, so I have far fewer bandcamp binges than I used tom unfortunately. But, the wishlist is stocked with bands from this site, just waiting for a moment of fiscal weakness on my part.
I don’t remember what year it was, but I was trying to branch out musically, and I googled “Metal with no clean singing” and I got to this site. I visited infrequently until maybe three years ago when I check it out daily. There have been so many bands I enjoy that I wouldn’t have found without you and your fellow writers. I’m very grateful you put out the effort.
Thanks!! happy birthday!
Happy Birthday, and thanks for giving my bi-polar goth ass another outlet to spread my thoughts, in my low swing it gives me a purpose to bring my dark quirky sonic corners to the surface… obviously a momentous occasion for me to break my no comment silence, I deeply appreciate you my friend
Thank you Wil! It’s been a great run. Looking forward to having you with us again in 2022. Your first appearance with NCS was a November 26, 2014 review of “Arisen Upon Oblivion” by Unfathomed of Abyss. Seven years and counting….