Andy Synn

Sep 272022

(Andy Synn delivers a Death Metal-centric edition of The Best of British)

The UK Death Metal scene is a fertile place, no doubt about it.

Of course, such a bountiful harvest does sometimes make it hard to separate the wheat from the chaff (here’s a little bit of advice – stringing together a few generic grooves and mediocre, mid-paced blastbeats does not make you “the next Bolt Thrower”) but that’s just the price you pay for living in such interesting times.

One thing that separates these bands from the rest of the pack – in my opinion – is that they don’t play it safe. Sure, they’re standing on the shoulders of giants (aren’t we all?) but they’re taking risks – some big, some small – and pushing themselves in an attempt to climb even higher, demonstrating a level of ambition that, honestly, I wish more bands had instead of just settling for being just another fish in an increasingly over-crowded pond.

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Sep 212022

(Andy Synn takes a look behind the mask with Gaerea‘s new album, Mirage, out on Friday)

What’s in a name, anyway?

Well, according to some people… not a lot. And according to others… a great deal. Especially when it comes to genres.

Case in point, there are some people – by no means a majority, I should point out right away, though often the loudest and/or most obnoxious – who would balk at the very suggestion that Gaerea are a “true” (or “trve”) Black Metal band due to the fact that their sound is too “polished”, their visual aesthetic too “clean”, and so on.

And yet, for every one of them (I think of them as the Black Metal equivalent of the Amish – zealously convinced that a certain time period was the only “righteous” one, and that any progress beyond that should be shunned) there’s at least a dozen more for whom the very idea of questioning the band’s right to “belong” to the genre (of which they are so clearly and obviously a part) is patently ridiculous.

But the thing is… while much digital ink (and the occasional bit of non-digital blood) has been spilled over this argument, and many like it over the years… it’s obvious that Gaerea themselves don’t really care what you call them. They know who they are. And it’s the music, and not the labels which others put on it, which defines them.

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Sep 142022

(Andy Synn offers up three bite-sized yet blistering chunks of British Metal)

The eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed that I’ve not written about many EPs so far this year, instead choosing to focus my increasingly limited time on getting as many full-length albums written about as possible each month (and, even then, I’ve still fallen woefully behind on my “to do” list).

It’s a real shame, as the humble EP so often gets overlooked already, despite the fact that the format is where a lot of bands do their best work.

Today, however, I get to make up for this oversight – at least a little bit – while also adding yet another string of excellent releases to my ongoing “Best of British” series in the form of a triptych of terrific EPs from Grief RitualIron Tomb, and Peasant.

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Sep 132022

(Andy Synn presents his thoughts on three titanic slabs of Death Metal, all due for release this Friday)

If last week was a big one for fans of the more “techy” side of the Death Metal spectrum, then this one is at least as big a deal for those whose tastes run towards the grittier, riffier side of things that one might, if one were so inclined, refer to as “Old School”.

And yet I’d rather not put too much emphasis on that particular term, as while each of these three bands/albums is obviously following a path laid down by the genre’s “Old School” originators, they’re also taking steps – some small, some large – to push things forward in their own way (something which, let’s be honest, can’t always be said about a lot of the OSDM “revival” scene).

But even if you don’t agree with the above statement I think you’ll still find a lot to love within this article, because every one of these bands kicks a significant amount of ass.

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Sep 082022

(Andy Synn lavishes praise on the new album from Sweden’s An Abstract Illusion)

This Friday is a big day for Death Metal fans, especially fans of the more Prog/Tech side(s) of the scene.

We’ve got new records from Fallujah (an even flashier version of The Flesh Prevails, for better or worse), Warforged (a much more coherent and consistently rewarding record than their debut, albeit one which still doesn’t feel like the band’s “final” form) and Revocation (which… I already reviewed and, spoiler alert, it’s great), as well as several more which I don’t even have time to mention here, let alone review.

But one album I feel compelled to write about is Woe, the upcoming second album from ultra-talented Swedish trio An Abstract Illusion.

Because while other bands might be getting the lion’s share of they hype and headlines this week, these guys could (and should) very well steal the show.

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Sep 062022

(What albums did you miss last month? Andy Synn is here to tell you about a few of them)

August was… a pretty shitty month for me, all in all. For a variety of different reasons.

That’s probably why today’s edition of Things You May Have Missed is such a dark one – sometimes you just need a dose of darkness to help put things in perspective.

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Aug 312022

Recommended for fans of: Dragged Into Sunlight, Celeste, This Gift Is A Curse

Heed this warning: Danish dynamos Hexis are… not exactly easy listening, let’s just say that.

In fact, their abrasive amalgam of Black Metal and Hardcore – liberally dosed with enough sickeningly sludgy moments to ensure that the listener never becomes too comfortable or complacent – has, if anything, only gotten harsher, heavier, and just generally nastier, as the years have gone by… as you’re about to discover.

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Aug 292022

(Andy Synn gets to grips with the new album from Revocation, due out 09 September on Metal Blade)

It’s always seemed odd to me that some people seem to equate “being a fan” of a band with “never, ever criticising or questioning what they do”.

Maybe it’s because they’ve invested so much of their identity into their fandom (which is never healthy), or maybe it’s because that’s just what they’ve been told by “the internet” and don’t want to rock the boat, but some folks act as though even entertaining the mildest of criticisms about a band is tantamount to a full-blown betrayal.

That’s obviously not the case, of course, and I’d argue that it’s not at all helpful for a band’s fans to just blindly praise them, since honest feedback from their audience potentially provides one of the best ways for an artist to learn and improve (but that’s an issue for a whole other article).

Case in point, while I think most would agree that Revocation have at least two top-tier classics under their belt(s) – namely 2011’s tech-tacular Chaos of Forms and 2014’s bombastically burly Deathless – it’s worth acknowledging that not every one of their seven (soon to be eight) albums hits quite the same heights (the self-titled in particular is a real clunker), and the band definitely aren’t perfect (nor do I think they’d claim to be).

But if all that has you worried about what I’m going to tell you about their newest album… don’t be, because this preamble has actually just been a clever bait-and-switch, since Netherheaven is easily on par with the band’s very best, and might even be the new standard by which all their work will be judged going forwards.

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Aug 232022

(Andy Synn has words to share about the new album from Germany’s Ab·est, out now on Monument of Collapse Records)

Here’s a little fact that “they” don’t want you to know… all the very best Sludge/Post-Metal bands (a distinction which, at the apex of both sub-genres, largely dissolves into nothing) are Hardcore bands at their core root.

That’s right, in a scene awash with pretentious Post-Rock pretenders (most of whom seem to think that buying a distortion pedal and learning a few dischords makes them “the future of Metal”) it’s at the uglier, uncompromising end of the spectrum where you’ll mostly find the real gems… and Ab·est are more uncompromising than most.

So strap yourselves in, my friends, this is not going to be an easy ride.

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Aug 222022

(The highly-anticipated debut album from Native American Black Metal artist Blackbraid is set for release this Friday, and our very own Andy Synn has some deep thoughts to share about it)

Hype… whether it’s the organic, grass-roots, free-range variety, or the artificial, astro-turfed, paid-for by your parents, kind… is a major part of today’s media landscape, whether we like it or not.

It’s not always a bad thing, by any means, but it sometimes becomes a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy where, once a narrative about a band is established by an author or an outlet (or, increasingly, someone with sufficient twitter influence), that becomes the only story that gets any traction.

Case in point, Blackbraid I is not – as some have claimed, and even more have amplified – the “best Black Metal album of the year”, but it is a very good, occasionally unabashedly great, example of how Black Metal can serve as the perfect medium for anyone with a strong enough vision to express themselves.

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