Andy Synn

Sep 202021

(Please stand by for an emergency message from Andy Synn)

Attention! Atención! Achtung! This is not a drill.

The dead have risen and are voting Republican feeding on the flesh of the living.

The only way to stop them is to sever the head or destroy the brain.

I repeat: sever the head or destroy the brain.

Evidence shows that the virus spreads through direct contact with the afflicted, but there have also been reports of individuals becoming infected due to exposure to toxic gas, contaminated language, and the new album from Send More Paramedics.

So whatever you do, please, avoid all contact with this album.

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Sep 152021

(Andy Synn sits down to do “the work” with the new album from Rivers of Nihil, scheduled for release on September 24)

There’s a certain type of person – hell, for all I know it may just be the same individual over and over again – who responds to any article about Rivers of Nihil with the cut-and-paste comment “Death Metal’s Pink Floyd!”.

And while I can appreciate their enthusiasm (to a point) not only is it getting a bit tiresome (and also suggests that the commenter(s) in question don’t really know much about Pink Floyd) but it totally misunderstands what the band are trying to do.

Because the Pennsylvania quintet aren’t trying to be “Death Metal’s Pink Floyd”, or even “Death Metal’s King Crimson” (which would, arguably, be slightly more accurate, though still not right).

They’re just trying to be Rivers of Nihil. And each and every album they create is another opportunity for them to further define, refine, and redefine, exactly what that means.

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Sep 132021

(Andy Synn has followed the UK’s Employed to Serve through thick and thin over the years, so we knew he was the only choice to take on their upcoming new album, Conquering, set for release this Friday)

There’s a certain misconception that Metal/Hardcore fans don’t actually like it when the bands they love become successful.

And while I can understand where this misapprehension came from (there’s definitely a small but obnoxious cadre of loudmouths out there who act like this) the truth, as always, is much more nuanced.

It’s not that we don’t like bands becoming successful… it’s just that we’re tired of bands changing their identity, dumbing own their intelligence, and – yes, I’ll say it – selling out, in order to fit into whatever mass-produced, pre-packaged mould that the mainstream seems to think denotes “success”.

The caveat to this, of course, is that when a band manages to be successful on their own terms, doing what they want to do, rather than what others think they should do, we often love them even more, because they’ve shown that you don’t have to give up who you are in order to be make it “big”.

And, let me tell you now, Employed to Serve are exactly that sort of band, and while their new album looks set to raise their profile to a whole new level, they don’t seem to have had to sacrifice one iota of their intensity or integrity – or their core identity – in order to get there.

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Sep 092021

(Andy Synn would like to remind you – albeit a little later than usual – about a quartet of albums from last month he thinks you really should check out)

Is it just me, or was August just ridiculously busy?

Well, to be honest, I know it’s not just me, as I’ve seen/heard/read a lot of other people saying the same thing. And it doesn’t look like September is going to be any more laid-back (it’s only nine-days in and I feel like I’m already two weeks behind).

It doesn’t help, obviously, that I’ve been pretty damn busy myself over the last few weeks (as I’m sure some of you know), meaning that this edition of “Things You May Have Missed” is coming out much later than usual.

Still, its lateness doesn’t lessen the quality of the albums included by any means, which this month features three killer cuts from the blackened/deathly/dissonant end of the spectrum (at least one of which I’m sure will be a brand new name to most of you) along with one much proggier and much more well-known act whose latest album should, hopefully, bring some of their more wayward fans back into the fold.

So, without wasting any more time… let’s begin, shall we?

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Sep 082021

(Andy Synn presents another fully justified exception to our usual rules in the form of the exceptional new album from Pittsburgh’s Chrome Waves)

It is always fascinating, often a little bit thrilling, and even occasionally slightly fulfilling, to watch a band achieving its true/final form.

This is not, in any way, an attempt to downplay the quality or value of said band’s previous work – which, in this case, includes an extremely solid debut in A Grief Observed and an even better (and emotionally deeper) second album in last year’s Where We Live, along with a couple of shorter, but equally intriguing, releases along the way – but an acknowledgement that growth, be it physical, emotional, or musical is an ongoing process whose end point we don’t always know in advance.

Case in point, even the most casual listener, on their first run through The Rain Will Cleanse, the third album in as many years from prolific “Post-Black Metal” group Chrome Waves, will quickly realise that the band have pretty much abandoned… or, perhaps it’s better to say, grown out of… their more blackened influences (the only real remnant being the scattered shrieks strewn here and there throughout cathartic closer “Aspiring Death”) in favour of a sound that favours the more emotive and expansive, Post-Rock, Post-Punk, and Shoegaze-inspired side of their identity.

It’s still recognisably the same band, yes, but is also just as clearly the next step, the next necessary step, in their ongoing evolution.

Call it the beginning of their post “Post-Black Metal” phase.

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Aug 312021

Recommended for fans of: Drudkh, Wolves In The Throne Room, Negură Bunget

While never as (in)famous or flush with accolades and acclaim as their more well-known peers (several of whom I’ve mentioned just above) Netherlands nomads Fluisteraars (“Whisperers”) are very much the connoisseur’s choice when it comes to atmospheric, naturalistic Black Metal which puts a premium on both mood and melody, yet doesn’t skimp on raw energy or riveting intensity in the process.

After producing two albums of immersive atmosphere and brooding fury in quick succession, the group reined in their activities for several years – producing just a short, two-track EP and a lengthy, single-track contribution to a split with Turia in this time – before blooming (pun intended) in their full glory once more with last year’s exceptional Bloem (easily one of the best albums of 2020).

Now operating as a duo, rather than a trio, but still clearly brimming with ideas and momentum, the band have wasted no time capitalising on the excitement and interest generated by their “comeback” (not that they ever entirely went away) and recently released their fourth album, Gegrepen door de Geest der Zielsontluiking, whose stark, simplistic artwork suggests a return to their roots might just be in the cards… but you’ll have to read the rest of the article to find out if that’s true or not.

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Aug 262021

(Andy Synn takes some time out of his busy schedule to lavish praise on the new EP from Nightmarer, out tomorrow via Total Dissonance Worship)

I must admit, I was late to the party with Nightmarer.

I totally missed their first EP, Chasm, and didn’t get a chance to check out their first album, Cacophony of Terror, until well after practically everyone else in the world had long-since done so (and moved on).

So I told myself that, given the chance, I wasn’t going to make the same mistake again… and although I almost ran out of time (this EP actually comes out tomorrow, so we’re down to the wire here) I’m glad that I kept my promise, even if only by the skin of my teeth, as Monolith of Corrosion is easily the band’s best work yet.

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Aug 252021

(Andy Synn would like to remind you all that only Death (Metal) is real)

I was doing an interview recently where I was asked “what makes a good Death Metal band?”

And, you know, for a moment I was stumped.

You see, they weren’t just asking about tuning, or tempo. Nothing so prosaic as that. They wanted something fundamental, something that transcended styles and sub-genres, something beyond technicality or brutality or melody.

But, eventually… it hit me.

It’s not about how fast you can blast, how low you can go, how huge you can groove… it’s all about love.

You heard me right. Underneath it all Death Metal is driven by love. Specifically the love of Death Metal.

And it’s the ability to convey and communicate that love, no matter what forms it takes, how technical or brutal, how melodic or symphonic, how dissonant or discordant or slam-tastic, which makes – or breaks – a band.

So let it be written, and let it be known… these three bands really love Death Metal.

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Aug 192021

(Here’s Andy Synn‘s take on the new album by long-time NCS favourites Woman Is The Earth, whose new album is released tomorrow on Init Records)

They say, whoever “they” are, that bands are supposed to mellow as they get older.

And while, certainly, this is true in many cases (the new Wolves In The Throne Room, for example, which I almost wrote about instead of this one, definitely feels that little bit more reflective and restrained, and all the better for it) it doesn’t seem like anyone bothered to tell Black Hills trio Woman Is The Earth, as their new album – their first full-length release since 2016’s Torch Of Our Final Night, and their first release of any kind since 2017’s Thaw EP – is more than a match for anything they’ve done before, and proof that their last few years spent in the musical wilderness haven’t dampened their inner fire.

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Aug 172021

(Speech Act are a new-ish band from North Carolina, and Andy Synn has fallen pretty hard for their debut album, which was released just last week, despite the fact  that it contravenes our usual rules)

While all of us here at NCS share an abiding love for Metal, there’s definitely certain niches which we each seem to “specialise” in a little more than others.

Islander, of course, tends to stick more to round-ups than reviews, but – either way – if you see something you’ve never heard of, from a band who’ve either only existed for a hot minute or who’ve purposefully hidden themselves away in the shadows for the last several decades, then chances are they’ll be something he’s found and chosen to feature.

DGR, on the other hand, is our go-to guy for Grind, but also often swings the other way (as it were) by providing expert coverage of many of the big (or, at least, big-ish) and/or up-and-coming names from across the scene, and has proven himself a great pinch-hitter in those moments where the rest of us have dropped the ball on something we really should have written something about.

And, of course, then there’s our various (ir)regular contributors (some of whom are very irregular indeed), who each have their own special subjects which they like to focus on.

As for me? Well, while I cover just as much Death Metal and Black Metal (and its many permutations) as the next guy, chances are if you see something here that’s of the proggy or “Post-” variety, or that’s from the Hardcore end of the spectrum, or anything that features a lot of, gasp, clean singing, then it’s probably one of mine… like the album we’re about to discuss.

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