Andy Synn

May 312023

Recommended for fans of: Junius, Holy Fawn, latter-day Isis

The music of New York trio Spotlights has been described in a lot of different ways over the years, including “Alt-Metal”, “Progressive Sludge”, and “Post-Metal” (with the latter probably being the most commonplace, thought not 100% accurate in my opinion, descriptor).

Personally, however, I happen to prefer the more evocative – and more provocative – “Doomgaze” label, as this pretty niftily sums up the group’s dramatic, dynamic fusion of simmering, doom-laden guitars and shimmering, Shoegaze-inspired atmospherics.

But genre tags are, ultimately, just useful sign-posts, and if you really want to get to know the band then you need to spend more time immersing yourself in their entire back-catalogue… just like I have for this article!

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May 302023

(Andy Synn attempts to atone for our lack of coverage of Moonreich over the years)

While we’ve written about France’s Moonreich here and there before now, the sad truth is that we’ve never fully given them their due (in my opinion, at least).

But the recent release of their truly exceptional new album, Amer offers us an opportunity to make up for this. And I plan to take full advantage of it.

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May 252023

(Come join Andy Synn as he gazes deep into the oculus abyss, set for release tomorrow)

Ever since I first heard Teitan‘s excellent 2021 EP, Vákuum (which you can read a little more about here), I’ve been looking forward to hearing what they would come up with next.

And while it seems like it’s been a long time coming – even though it’s really not – I can attest that the wait was more than worth it.

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May 222023

(Andy Synn dissects the excellent new album from A Constant Knowledge of Death, out this Friday)

There are several cultures in the world who have a similar tradition, wherein their younger members are given a chance to go out and explore the world, to experience different cultures and ways of living, before they have to settle down.

And I can’t help but think that Massachusetts metallers A Constant Knowledge of Death have been on a similar journey over the course of their career so far, having experimented with (in no particular order) poignant Post-Hardcore, poppy Prog-Rock, moody Post-Metal, subtly blackened Sludge, and electronica-inflected dissonance as the years have gone by.

But while the band’s progressive pilgrimage from one genre to the next has certainly produced some fascinating creative results, it was clear (or, at least, it’s clear in hindsight) that they were always searching for something… a sound of their own, and a place to call home… that was always just out of reach.

Which is why I’m so happy to be able to say that on Dissecting a One-Winged Bird it feels like the group have finally, and fully, found themselves.

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May 182023

(Andy Synn presents a double-header of heaviness courtesy of The Acacia Strain)

So here’s the thing… for the longest time I wasn’t really a fan of The Acacia Strain.

I didn’t actively dislike them by any means – I could appreciate their brutish heaviness and understood why people liked them, no question – but they just didn’t do it for me.

But then the oddest thing started to happen. The more popular they got (and there’s no denying they’re pretty damn popular these days) the less populist they seemed to become.

And so I started to pay more attention (I think this was around the time they released Gravebloom, but I may be wrong). And as they began to spend less and less time “playing to the cheap seats” (for want of a better term) the more and more I liked what I was hearing.

Even then, they weren’t always a band I was running to check out on release day – you’ll notice that this is actually my first time writing about them at any length, although I originally intended to drop some words about Slow Decay back in 2020 – but one whom I still had a growing appreciation for all the same.

And now it’s time to put my proverbial money where my metaphorical mouth is and give their recently released double-album, Step Into the LightFailure Will Follow, some proper attention.

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May 162023

(Andy Synn invites you all to experience the auditory horror of Morkera‘s new album, Aggravations)

Let me start by saying that Entangled Excavations, the debut album from Croatia’s Morkera was a truly nasty piece of work (in the best possible way), and although it didn’t make my Top Ten of 2022 it was most definitely one of my favourite new discoveries of the year, and the fact that I didn’t get chance to give it a full write up is still something I deeply regret.

But, lo and behold, I now have a chance to make up for this egregious omission because just last week the band released their second full-length – proving that there really is no rest for the wicked!

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May 152023

(Andy Synn has a few words to share about the new album from Belgium’s Omnerod)

I pontificated a little while ago about what type of year this was going to be… was it going to be a Black Metal or a Death Metal year? Or maybe a Hardcore or Sludge one?

What I didn’t expect was that 2023 might be all about Prog!

The release of genre-b(l)ending, boundary-pushing albums from Hypno5e, Dødheimsgard, The World Is Quiet Here, Nebulae Come Sweetet al, all make the case for this being a proggier year, and if you include even more melodically-rich releases from the likes of Witch Ripper, Klone, Ohhms, etc, then the argument gains even more weight.

And, hell, I haven’t even mentioned some of the absolutely killer new records which you haven’t heard yet, including (but not limited to) outstanding new records from Rannoch, The Anchoret, and Grant The Sun, all of which I plan to cover here at some point soon.

But before we get to those albums we’ve got the outlandish new album from Omnerod to dig into.

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May 102023

(Andy Synn has had a busy year so far, and has largely taken this week off to recharge, but couldn’t resist the urge to write about these three EPs while he recovers)

To my great shame I haven’t written about many short-form releases so far this year.

Why? Well, long story short… which is a phrase whose origins are complicated and rambling… I just haven’t had time.

Ironically, however, it’s this very lack of time which leads me to write about these three EPs today!

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May 042023

(Cattle Decapitation are about to serve up another platter of pain and Andy Synn is here with a gourmand’s take on what to expect)

Now, before we begin, I’m going to say something controversial.

You’re not going to want to hear it, but I think it’s important in order to establish a basis of trust and, hopefully, understanding between us.

Are you ready? Ok… Death Atlas was not as good as you think it was.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a good album overall, and I understand why it was the band’s big “breakthrough” (sure, their star had been on the rise ever since The Harvest Floor, if not before), but in hindsight it’s obvious – to me at least – that the band themselves weren’t quite sure what to do with their newfound fame, which led to at least a handful of tracks feeling as though they were being written more to fit someone else’s formula of what the band “should” be doing now that they were on the road to success.

But we’re not here to talk about their last record, we’re here to learn all about their new one, and the only real reason I mention it is because Terrasite is the album which Death Atlas was trying to be… without even trying.

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May 032023

(Andy Synn catches you upon four meaty underground morsels from April)

Finally accepting that I/we would never cover most – let alone all – of the new releases each month/year was extremely liberating.

It meant that I could feel more comfortable just writing about whatever artists/albums caught my eye/ear, for whatever reason, with the hope that some of my compatriots would catch some of the stuff I missed, and the understanding that certain records are probably going to get enough coverage elsewhere that it won’t make a huge difference if none of us get around to covering them.

Sacrificing quantity for quality also means that you are – hopefully – going to get better, and more insightful, results from each review (something which, let’s be honest, those sites publishing 50+ reviews a week probably aren’t giving you) though I can’t necessarily guarantee that due to lack of time/sleep/mental capacity.

But, I promise, I’m going to try my best, which today means examining four very different albums from four very different bands.

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