Dec 022022
 


Elder

(Our friend Gonzo returns to NCS with another monthly round-up of recommended albums, this one focusing on releases during November.)

Well, here I go, slacking off again.

Truth be told, it’s been a busier than usual time in the life of this NCS contributor, with frequent travel and a day job that seems intent on demanding all my attention. It doesn’t help that that job is also in writing, so writing about a subject I’m more passionate about (heavy music, in case you’re new here) can be draining when it should be pleasurable.

There’s lots to look forward to in the coming months, though – Decibel Metal and Beer Fest, Denver starts this weekend (Dec 2-3) and I’ll be there for all of it, and Amon Amarth will be stomping into town a few days after that. And then, of course, there’s our favorite time of year here at NCS with Listmania.

So, my friends, this will be my final monthly roundup of 2022, but the releases I cover here are some of the best I’ve written about all year. Join me, won’t you? Continue reading »

Nov 292022
 

Lo and behold, even though we’re two days past the Thanksgiving break my fucking day job is still mostly leaving me alone, so I’ve got time for a quick round-up of new songs and videos this Tuesday. Given the song I picked as the opener, it’s an outlier from my usual proclivities, but don’t worry, it gets a lot more subterranean after that, and then ends with a rebellious song that qualifies as a well-earned exception to our rule about singing.

METALLICA (U.S.)

A good argument could be made that Metallica is the biggest name in metal, and therefore a name very unlikely to appear at this site, where we tend to focus our attention on bands who need (and deserve) more exposure. Even just listening to their new song “Lux Æterna” wasn’t high on my list of things to do. It felt like I’d just be joining a surging crowd of lemmings and wondering just how big a cliff I’d be falling off of.

And then I began to see comments from assorted friends on social media who aren’t given to mindless fawning, even though, unlike me, they spent their formative years listening to Metallica during the band’s best years. One of them thought Metallica were channeling Motörhead. Another wrote that it sounded like a lost Diamond Head cover from Garage Inc. But everyone seemed to be liking it, even if maybe it was pushing slightly different buttons from person to person. So, I gave in and gave the song a shot. Continue reading »

Nov 262022
 


Skarntyde

Since yesterday was a Bandcamp Friday [actually, it wasn’t, as Nic pointed out in a comment below] I wish I could have spent more time recommending more music than I did, but at least I got a full handful of choices out there. Now my hands are full again, and when I open them these things will fly like moths to your flame, or I hope they will.

This new collection was the result of lots of surfing the effluent that continually floods the interhole, searching for nuggets that aren’t the kind you’d find in a septic tank. I found them, an octet of them (including three complete EPs), but I must confess that in the course of the sifting I fell into a strange trip. Dark moods descended, and occasionally lifted, but not entirely. I encountered nostalgia too, and found a pair of curveballs to throw at you for the finale, which is always fun, especially for those of you who have no idea about baseball.

But of course, although these trips are mainly about what pleases me, I always hope (fervently) that some or all of it will please you too. Continue reading »

Nov 112022
 

At this site we spend much more of our time trying to unearth underground gems and to push rising stars whose music deserves a push than we do acclaiming bands who are already household names, with big labels and robust PR machineries behind them. That’s not “virtue signaling”, it’s just a fact.

Does this mean we’re elitists who turn up our noses at the music of “big names”? Not at all. Though we pride ourselves on not fawning over those names even when they trip and release music that’s more likely to provoke yawns than excitement, we’re not immune to their allure — after all, most of them got big for a reason, and some are capable of reminding us why, at least until the well of inspiration runs dry.

It so happens that this week produced new songs and videos from a lot of big names, some of whom are returning after long absences. I’ve collected five of them in this round-up. It kind of clears the way for me to spend tomorrow focusing exclusively on names more obscure. Be forewarned: there’s lots of singing here today.

OBITUARY (U.S.)

Six years after the release of their last (self-titled) album Obituary will be releasing a new one in January named Dying of Everything. Founders John and Donald Tardy and Trevor Peres are still in harness, and bassist Terry Butler and lead guitarist Kenny Andrews are back for another round too. Continue reading »

Oct 292022
 


…And Oceans

I mentioned last Sunday (and again on Monday) that I wasn’t feeling well, as an explanation for why I didn’t get very much done for NCS last weekend. I also mentioned that I spent that weekend in southern California at a gathering of co-workers from different cities. Within days of everyone getting back home, a half-dozen people reported testing positive for covid, all of whom were fully vaccinated.

I had tested before going on that trip, took another test while I was there, and tested again five days after my last close contact with those people — all the tests were negative. But I’m still feeling sub-par, still congested, sniffling, and lethargic, for the second week in a row.

I don’t know what the hell I have, but there’s obviously a lot of respiratory virus blooming in the country besides covid, with different strains of cold and flu making a triumphant comeback after a couple of years of masking and quarantine restrictions left them lonely. You can take your own lessons from this, but I’d advise you to be careful.

It might be my hopeful imagination, but I think I’m marginally better today than before, or at least feeling well enough to go exploring new music and videos again. Here’s some of what I found (I ticked off a lot of genre boxes with this compilation, plus a couple of elliptical band names): Continue reading »

Oct 272022
 


photo by Claire Dao

(In this extensive new interview Comrade Aleks connected with guitarist Saint Stéphane from the French doom cult Barabbas, who have a new album headed our way in December.)

I joined the pious congregation of the French band Barabbas after I heard them for the first time on the Doom Metal Front compilation. Their self-titled track from the EP Libérez Barabbas! (2011) was catchy, heavy, and loud. Powerful riffs and expressive vocals by Saint Rodolphe (who sang in French) made me wait for more, and the full-length Messe pour un chien (2014) didn’t disappoint the doom fanatic in me.

But then… eight years with no news from a studio! Et mince! Barabbas took part in both big festivals and smaller shows but, damn, there was nothing new besides one track recorded for a Cathedral tribute! But we, people of strong faith, shouldn’t lose it in any situation! Our patience is to be rewarded with the band’s second full-length La mort appelle tous les vivants which will see the light of day on December 9th through Sleeping Church Records.

I’ve heard a few things from this album and it kills! Join our messe and learn more from this interview with Barabbas’ guitar master Saint Stéphane. Continue reading »

Oct 102022
 

 

If you haven’t yet tumbled to the marvelous talents of the Italian one-man band Xanathar, today is a good day to do that. Prior to today Xanathar had released two EPs (Darkmoon and The Towers), both of them emerging last year, but today there’s a third one and it’s an eye-opener too.

What made the two previous EPs such great experiences was Xanathar‘s skill in interweaving classic ’80s doom and epic heavy metal with raw black metal and dungeon synth. It was quite evident from those releases that Xanathar really loves all those divergent stylistic influences. But just because you love a bunch of disparate kinds of music doesn’t mean they’ll work together well if you try to mash ’em up or even stand them side-by-side. Making it work requires a lot more than affection.

Xanathar made it work in those first two outings, so much so that I included a song named “The Test of Fate” on my list of 2021’s Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs. And as you’ll discover through our premiere stream today, it works again on Gold, Black and Crimson. Continue reading »

Oct 032022
 


Arallu

As I forecast in Part 1 of this column yesterday, Part 2 takes us off in some unusual directions. Much of the time black metal is still in the mix, but in most of the songs featured here it’s more of a jumping-off point to other wide-ranging experiences than it is the rigid core of the music — or it’s not present at all, except perhaps as a sinister spirit that hovers on the edges.

This excursion will be welcomed by some of you, and some of the songs will probably disgruntle others. But there’s only one way to find out, and that’s to expose yourself to the music. I hope you’ll do that with all the tracks here, all of which are from forthcoming albums or EPs.

ARALLU (Israel)

This long-running Israeli band, whose roots are in the late ’90s, will be releasing a new album (their 8th one overall) in November. With the imposing title of Death Covenant, it follows up the excellent En Olam from three years ago. I’ve already written here about one of the new album’s advance tracks, “Desert Shadows Will Rise“, and now we have another one. Continue reading »

Sep 292022
 

In the broad domain of Doom its musical denizens often dwell in subterranean caverns, moldering crypts, or dingy weed-steeped squats. But others, like Amaurot, make their home in ancient gothic halls, elaborately embellished and richly furnished, even if still swathed in darkness and with catacombs beneath that lead to perilous caves where beasts growl their laments.

To lead you on a grand tour of their haunted dwelling, this Sweden and Germany-based group have recorded a debut album named …To Tread the Ancient Waters, which will be released tomorrow by Obelisk Polaris Productions. They welcome you to their bleak but fascinating abode with these words: Continue reading »

Sep 032022
 

A meteor didn’t hit my house, fast zombies didn’t attack, and I didn’t prostrate myself before the demon alcohol last night, so I was able to prepare this roundup of new songs and videos.

There’s obviously a lot to take in here, but after an opening trio of death metal malignancy and malevolence the music goes in lots of other directions, some of which I think you’ll find surprising. Lots of cool cover art too.

IMPRECATION (U.S.)

The opening of this first song creates an eerie and queasy mood, in keeping with its title. The main part of “Bringer of Sickness” also channels disease through its dense, writhing and roiling riffs, palpitating drums, and malignant growls. But Imprecation also administer savage, primitive slug-fests and disemboweling gouging, and bring in both supernatural organs and wraith-like soloing to make the experience even more hideously chilling. Continue reading »