Nov 192021
 

 

In many ways, the album we’re about to present is strikingly different from our usual musical fare at this site. Most obviously, the songs include only singing. Blast-beats are a rarity, and distortion is either completely eschewed or applied to a mild degree. The music often has more in common with prog-rock and hard-rock than heavy metal, and pulls from wells of classic heavy metal when it does venture into metal realms rather than dabbling in the sub-genres of extremity that occupy most of our attention.

And so you might scratch your head about what the album is doing here. Maybe you will wonder less after you’ve heard it. What it lacks in throat-cutting viciousness or mind-scarring abrasiveness it makes up for in so many other ways — in ways that make it utterly captivating. It has visceral “physical” power as well as the power to both channel and alter emotional states in gripping fashion, and it reaches heights of splendor that are breathtaking.

The name of the album is Ideals & Morality, and it’s the debut full-length of Sgàile, the solo project of Scottish multi-instrumentalist and vocalist extraordinaire Tony Dunn, whose resume includes work with such other bands such as Falloch, Cnoc An Tursa, and Saor. It will be released by Avantgarde Music on December 10th. Continue reading »

Oct 162021
 

 

I experienced NCS anxiety again this morning. That’s what comes from having 84 open tabs on my computer for new songs and videos, all of which I opened just since last Saturday. Not lying — 84 of them! To increase the anxiety level, I hadn’t listened to any of them until this morning.

Of course, I didn’t listen to 84 music streams, some of which are complete albums and EPs that were released over the last week, nor to all the other songs on the long list of candidates that I’d made over previous weeks. I did add all 84 to that pre-existing list, so I could stare at the band names and try to figure out what to spend time on. I stared… made choices… and from those choices here’s what I decided to share:

PHRENELITH (Denmark)

Nice to have these Danish death metal heavyweights back, with a jaw-dropping song named “Awakening Titans“. That’s what the music sounds like too, mystical and ringing at first, and then furiously slaughtering, packed with electrifying drumwork, unhinged, venomous riffing, jolting grooves, gargantuan growls, and maddened howls. Continue reading »

Oct 142021
 

(Andy Synn would like to introduce you to the debut album from Hippotraktor, out tomorrow on Pelagic Records, and invites you to leave your prejudices and preconceptions at the door)

I know that the post-Meshuggah breed of Metal bands can provoke some pretty divisive reactions around these parts. And I understand why.

After all, what initially seemed to be fresh and fertile soil for creativity and experimentation quickly became over-saturated with copycats and soundalikes whose music only seemed to grow increasingly sanitised, simplified, and mass-produced for mass-appeal with each successive generation.

But, let’s be honest, that’s the case for most, if not all, styles of music, to one extent or another, and just because the veritable deluge of Djent, Post-Djent, Proto-Djent, and Pseudo-Djent bands reached its saturation point in practically record time doesn’t mean you should dismiss any and all groups who elect to take inspiration from the works of Thordendal, Haake, et al.

I mean, it’s entirely up to you if you want to do that, sure, but you’re potentially robbing yourself of the chance to discover and enjoy a whole plethora of bands whose love of polyrhythmic groove and atmospheric melody transcends the trite tricks and tropes of their more djeneric peers.

Which brings us nicely to Meridian, the debut album from Belgium’s Hippotraktor.

Continue reading »

Oct 032021
 

 

And now to conclude the big round-up of new songs and videos I started here earlier today. I’m continuing to arrange everything in alphabetical order by band name, picking up where Part 1 ended, and continuing to add only scattered comments instead of more effusive verbiage.

LOCK UP (Sweden)

Last weekend I started a round-up with the same cover art you see above, though at that time there was no music. Now there is, along with a video made by Chariot of Black Moth. The song is from Lock Up‘s new album The Dregs of Hades (November 26, Listenable Records), and includes vocals from Kevin Sharp (Venomous Concept, ex-Brutal Truth) was well as Tomas Lindberg (At the Gates). Prepare for screaming, scathing, hammering death/grind madness. Continue reading »

Oct 032021
 

 

I’m playing catch-up, as usual. I had hoped to get this humongous round-up of new songs and videos (and one news item) posted yesterday, but the day didn’t work out as planned. Should you choose to go through everything (and you damned well should), it will take a while, because there are 15 items here, divided into two parts. And on top of that I still hope to pull together a SHADES OF BLACK post.

I’ve again alphabetized the selections by band name. There is singing to be found, especially in Part 2, as well as many candidates for my year-end list of Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs. To get this done I’ve again limited my own verbiage to just brief scattered comments, without artwork and missing some of the usual pre-order links.

AQUILUS (Australia)

I don’t have any music to share for this first band, merely the long-awaited news (and yes, a 10-year gap between albums qualifies as “long-awaited”) that Horace Rosenqvist has a new Aquilus album named Bellum I set for release in early December by Blood Music. That’s so exciting that I thought it was worth including the news, which I usually never do when there’s no music yet. Also, the cover art by Julius von Klever is great. Continue reading »

Oct 012021
 


Unto Others

(NCS contributor Gonzo returns with another end-of-month roundup of music that caught his ears.)

There are a few bittersweet observations I’ve come to realize in the past month, related both to music and to the endless hellscape that is the human condition:

As of this writing, 2022 is just three months away and I’m still processing whether 2020 was even real. This means that while I survived the endlessly overwhelming shitstorm of that year, it does beg the question of how much worse this planet could get for humans over the next decade.

While live music is back and I’ve been reveling in the joy of sweaty venues and the sleep deprivation that comes with festivals again, I was just notified that Judas Priest is postponing the rest of their tour due to Richie Faulkner’s heart condition.

The next date would’ve been where I would see them (for the first time, no less) here in Denver.

Fuck.

The good news? Sabaton, who opened for Priest on this tour, is still playing a show in Denver, and by the time this piece goes to print, I’ll have seen the show and will post a full review in the coming days.

In the meantime, I’m at least somewhat distracted by the troves of amazing heavy music that keep blasting out of the darkest corners of the netherverse as of late.

Join me as I take you through some unfettered heaviness and savagery that’s emerged in the past month and kept me sane as we descend into 2021’s final few months. This month, I’ve got two albums and three singles for you to delve into. Continue reading »

Sep 122021
 

 

Due to me frittering away my time with lazy and inconsequential pursuits, Part 2 of this weekend roundup of new songs and videos is like Part 1 — generally bereft of artwork, the usual links, and my own descriptive commentary. Nonetheless, it does reflect the exercise of my own (possibly addled) judgment about what is worth your time, plus a desire to provide variety.

As explained in Part 1, I alphabetized 16 choices by band name before dividing them into two segments. Here we pick up with “M” and make it to “W”.

MASTODON (U.S.)

I’m getting memories of Crack the Skye from this new Mastodon song, which is a very good thing (at least it is to me). The well-made video is mysterious, and ultimately disturbing. The new album is Hushed and Grim, due for release on October 29th by Reprise Records. Continue reading »

Sep 122021
 

 

Yesterday a combination of factors prevented me from posting the usual Saturday round-up of new songs and videos that appeared during the week. I did spend a big block of time surveying the field and making selections, but by the time I finished doing that it was mid-day and I decided to fuck off instead of beginning to write.

It has become clear to me that I can’t do the usual writing today either, if I’m to have any hope of preparing a SHADES OF BLACK post today. So I’m resorting to the format of just throwing all this stuff at you without artwork, or most of the usual links, or my usual commentary, just a few scattered notes.

But trust me, I did exercise some judgment about what I thought was worth sharing. It’s just that I thought A LOT was worth sharing — 16 songs and videos, to be precise. I alphabetized the collection by band name and then divided it into two parts.

ANOMALIE (Austria)

This is a very welcome return after a four-year hiatus between albums. The new full-length features Nornagest of Belgium’s Enthroned on harsh vocals. The new album, Tranceformation, is coming on November 5th from AOP Records. Continue reading »

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.

Continue reading »

Aug 222021
 

 

I’m going to dispense with an introduction to today’s column, other than to say that what I’ve chosen is going to give you a strange trip from beginning to end.

LIGHT OF THE MORNING STAR (UK)

I was quite taken by both of this band’s first two releases, a 2016 EP named Cemetery Glow, and a 2017 debut full-length named Nocta, both of which were released by Iron Bonehead. Now there’s another album headed our way, via the band’s new label Debemur Morti Productions. DMP describes the new one in these words:

“Potently blending cinematic Deathrock, ghoulish Doom, heavy Post-Punk and atmospheric Black Metal, Charnel Noir is a hook-ridden exploration of the necromantic Undead which captures the restraint, tension and dark romanticism present in the great canonical Gothic works”. Continue reading »