Dec 082022

The cover art for The Gauntlet‘s debut album Dark Steel and Fire portrays a hell-raising synthesis of motorcycles and epic fantasy with a distinctly warlike and demonic cast. What you might guess about the music, based on that portrayal is, well, anyone’s guess.

The Gauntlet‘s 2020 debut EP War and Guilt spawned such descriptors as pounding black metal, rocking death, or more jokingly as “stadium Bathory“, and the new record is forecast as an amalgam of influences from the past that include Bathory, Venom, and Celtic Frost.

But let’s quit guessing and find out first-hand what The Gauntlet‘s sole creator Ace Meggido has cooked up this time, and what better way to do that then to check out the debut album’s title track. Continue reading »

Dec 082022

The Ottawa-based duo They Grieve (Gary Thibert and Deniz Güvenç) made their advent with the EP I Made My Sacrifice Accordingly in late 2016, and now, a substantial number of years later, they’re moving toward the release of their first full-length, To Which I Bore Witness, which they recorded at Apartment 2 with Topon Das of Fuck the Facts. The band readily acknowledge that this new music is a departure from what you might have heard on the EP, and thus should be considered in its own right, standing alone. As Deniz explains:

“This album, both lyrically and musically, tries to capture the uncomfortable juxtaposition between weakness and weight. We are constantly trying to express the ways in which the ugliness and decay we see in the world sets itself down and plants its roots inside of us—how the weight of the world transforms into our own weakness once it has done so. We try to capture this feeling of juxtaposition and tension within the music itself by oscillating between ambient, textural drones and heavy, doom-laden riffs.”

As a sign of the changes, what we have for you today is the new album’s title track, which is paired with a video that’s as mysterious and as interesting to watch as the song is to hear. Continue reading »

Dec 082022

The best of intentions often fall like wheat before the scythe of life. No plan survives contact with the enemy. The best laid plans o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley. And other hoary maxims.

I thought I would get one of these round-ups done before now this week, but events conspired against it. I barely have time to squeeze this one in. It’s shorter than I would like — this week was filled with good new releases, of which these are only a precious few — but it will give you a lot of stylistic twists and turns. I’ll have to try to pick up the list this weekend.

LAERE (Germany)

In hunting for new music I’m often the beneficiary of recommendations from other people, and I’m beginning with Laere‘s stunning new EP because it was the subject of lots of those from internet pen-pals whose opinions I respect. And, well, I also got a Bandcamp alert about it because I bought the band’s debut EP Solve in 2020 (and wrote about it too). Continue reading »

Dec 072022

Everyone who visits NCS regularly knows full well that when I come across music that really electrifies me I have a pronounced tendency to get carried away with words as the music carries me away. I was reminded of that when I re-read what I wrote about Plague Hymns, the 2020 EP by Sacramento-based Sarcoptes:

In the most brutally shorthand way of describing these two songs, they’re a fashioning of blackened thrash, but that label really under-represents how remarkable they are. They do indeed blaze like hellfire driven by gale-force winds, but they also feature beautifully chosen symphonic accents as well as the kind of glorious guitar-work that brings to mind bands from the forefront of classic heavy metal.

And from there the words went on and on and on, with references to the music as “black magic alchemy — sinister and vicious, ecstatically wild, a breathtaking, turbocharged thrill-ride through sulfurous, fire-bright nether-regions”, “diabolical harmonies and the skittering voracious sensation of demonic feeding frenzies in the midst of possessed screams”, “head-spinning dementia leavened with a panoply of sorcerous leads and the shine of supernatural, phosphorescent majesty”, and the kind of “crazed, darting ebullience” that made the music “sound like bats on after-burners, flying with abandon from caverns lit by the blaze of burning souls”.

And there was more, but you get the idea. And it’s about to happen again, because Sarcoptes now have a second album (Prayers to Oblivion) set for release by Transcending Obscurity Records on
February 24th. Continue reading »

Dec 072022

(Andy Synn dedicates what may be his last review of 2022 to our old friends in Dødsengel)

Let’s face it, I may not be great at predicting what bands are going to become big and successful… but I’m pretty good at predicting which bands are going to become great.

Of course, by the time I discovered Dødsengel they were already great – I might even go so far as to call their titanic 2012 album Imperator a “masterpiece” if only that word hadn’t been bastardised beyond repair – but I’d be lying if I said that a part of me wasn’t always hoping to see them achieve the same level of acclaim and appreciation that bands like Batushka and/or Zeal & Ardor have received in their stead.

That was, honestly, never going to happen though. Dødsengel have always been a little too weird, a little too out-there (despite their increasingly melodic, borderline gothic, tendencies and uncanny vocal charisma) to ever achieve that sort of cross-over success. But that hasn’t stopped them continuing to be great, even if they’ve had to do it in (relative) obscurity.

Continue reading »

Dec 062022

Last spring we had the fiendish pleasure of premiering a song from Triptych, the startling new album by Dischordia, which is out now on Transcending Obscurity Records. As we discovered then, and as the label accurately reported in its PR materials, this Oklahoma City crew’s latest full-length is a bone-smashing, mind-boggling hybrid of technical and brutal death metal with a healthy flavoring of dissonance and an impressive degree of adventurousness that matches the virtuosity of the performances.

As we’ve written before, the sound quality of the music is itself very interesting. The guitars have a mangling, mauling, and detonating quality that’s dense, heavy, and brutally distorted, and yet the obliterating drums and the mercurial bass come through vividly, as do the bizarre and often unearthly lead-guitar machinations and the wild howling and roaring vocals.

Moreover, the music is packed with stops and starts, twists and turns, and sudden variations in tempo, and this sonic balance makes it possible to pick out and appreciate even more what’s happening — while still feeling like you’re being scathed and steamrolled into submission.

Many of you have already discovered the disconcerting wonders of Triptych, but you’ll still enjoy and appreciate the full-band playthrough video we’re about to premiere, and for those of you who haven’t been exposed to the album, this should provide a jaw-dropping introduction. Continue reading »

Dec 062022

What we have for you today is the premiere of a song whose soul-stirring and soul-stricken passions are unmistakable — music of both torment and tragic beauty, rendered in a way that’s unsettling but in equal measure completely immersive and enthralling.

The name of the song is “Windspiel” (“wind chime”), and as the name signifies, the music rings, and continues ringing in the mind even after it ends. For that, we have Nidare to thank, a Berlin-based black metal band whose members came together from post metal, screamo, and hardcore outlets such as Ancst, Henry Fonda, Ast, Chambers, Afterlife Kids, rýr, and Youth Cult, and who took their name from the old German word “nidar”, which means “below”. Continue reading »

Dec 062022

Photo by Stefan Heileman

(At last the leviathan Ahab has risen again from the watery depths with a new album that will be released by Napalm Records on January 13th, and we are most happy today to present Comrade Aleks‘ extensive interview with Ahab co-founder Daniel Dorste.)

It’s hard to believe but Ahab was founded 18 years ago. Back then the trio from Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg consisting of Daniel Dorste (vocals, guitars, keyboards), Christian Hector (guitars) and Stephan Adolph (bass) tried to make funeral doom a bit more exciting and added strong nautical lines in their lyrics and, partly, in their music. So naturally their first album The Call of the Wretched Sea (2006) based on Herman Melville’s 1851 novel Moby Dick was labelled as “nautical doom”.

Ahab strengthened their positions with the second album The Divinity of Oceans (2009), retelling this time the true story of the Whale-Ship Essex, which in November 1820 was sunk in an attack by a sperm whale before the men resorted to cannibalism in order to survive. Such a grim fate… and yet you can’t play funeral doom and develop the same theme eternally, and so the band turned in a more progressive and atmospheric direction with the next album The Giant (2012).

This time Ahab adapted the mysterious novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket written by Edgar Allan Poe, and the plot itself demanded another approach. The Boats of the Glen Carrig (2015) took the band even further to the shores unknown just as it was in William Hope Hodgson‘s novel of the same name.

But then the band sunk to the bottom of the sonic ocean just like some weird fantastic submarine. Seven years have passed and Ahab now returns with The Coral Tombs album, which will see the light of day on the 13th of January through Napalm Records. The band’s sound seems to adopt new influences, even as Ahab’s crew has remained the same since 2008: the band’s founders Christian and Daniel, Cornelius Althammer (drums), and Stephan Wandernoth (bass). It is Daniel who joined our discussion. Continue reading »

Dec 052022

Not long ago, November 25th to be precise, the Canadian band Alienatör from Thunder Bay, Ontario, released their second album, Regrets. It’s the kind of album, coming in the late fall from a largely unheralded group, that easily could have flown under the radar. That might have been good for radar screens, which otherwise would have been fractured from the impact, but not so good for listeners, who might have missed a strikingly multi-faceted and emotionally raw and uncompromising experience.

“Sludge metal” might be one label for what you’ll find on Regrets, but that descriptor is too confining, because it doesn’t capture the music’s other ingredients, which range from punk and hardcore to noise rock, or the acid-drenched knife-storm of the lead vocals, which would make most black metal bands proud. Not for naught has the album been recommended for fans of Unsane, Converge, Cursed, Botch, and Jesus Lizard, but those references probably don’t do Regrets complete justice either.

It’s fair to say that Regrets reflects a dark and chaotic time in history, “exploring personal themes, as well as racism, and abuse of power in Canada and the erosion of truth we’ve seen in modern times” (as the band say), but there’s as much fight in the music as there is disgust and despair, and glimpses of self-reflection and o beauty that seem like a window to better times that might come, even if that now seems like a fool’s bet.

In a nutshell, even here in the year’s dwindling days, this is a free-wheeling and cathartic album that’s worth attention. The more people who her Regrets, the more fans it will earn, and to help give it a push we’re premiering a video for the title track today. Continue reading »

Dec 052022

I discovered the Spanish black metal band Ouija last year, thanks to their EP Selenophile Impia, which left me moonstruck (as I wrote in a review here). That was not Ouija‘s first recording. In fact, they released their first album in 1997 and a second one in 2013. From those dates you can deduce that Ouija don’t hurry things, and so their forthcoming third album comes nine years after the second one, though it follows fairly quickly on the heels of that fantastic 2021 EP.

The title of the third album is Fathomless Hysteros and its release date is December 26th. Arriving on that particular date, so late in the year, it will elude the attention of year-end list makers, and maybe many other listeners. That would be a tragic outcome — for listeners — because this album is a triumphant achievement, one of the best this writer has heard in 2022, and one that shows all signs of becoming a long-lasting favorite. I’ll try to explain why. Continue reading »