Feb 172020


Crystalline notes echo across incorporeal spheres, soulful arpeggios ring out and reverberate, back-beats rock from the kit as a vibrant bass punches the pulse, the melody soars like an anthem, dour vocals present a gothic haunting gloom and turn to scarred howls, and spiraling guitar solos scintillate the senses. “Fyre” is a compulsive rocker, irresistible in its rhythms, but in its ethereal, chiming melodies it seems like a musical spell woven with threads made of light.

Fyre” is the first song presented on the debut EP of the Berlin-based band, Pyre of Descent, and it makes for an enthralling introduction to Peaks Of Eternal Light, which will be released on February 24th by the Italian label Terror From Hell Records. But as compelling as that song is, the remaining three tracks are equally seductive, and equally aimed at transcendental goals — as you shall discover through our stream of the entire EP today.

Not for naught does TFH Records describe it as “31 minutes of enigmatic grace paired with sorrowful tension”, and not for naught do Pyre of Descent introduce their creations in these words: Continue reading »

Feb 142020


On Valentine’s Day 2011 (here) I provided a 600-word history of the holiday going back to the Roman celebration of Lupercalia, interspersed with efforts to explain why Valentine’s Day is metal. Re-reading it this morning, I nearly passed out from the tedium.

On Valentine’s Day 2012 (here) I posted an NCS “lonely hearts” column in which I answered a variety of e-mails from women offering to video-chat with me (soapy and fresh out of the shower), people trying to sell me products that would give me “robust bone-ons”, others who wanted to have my children (I proposed to send ampules of love juice and suggested names for the kiddos), and a few broken-hearted people looking for help (I told them to just go ahead and kill themselves). The Comments were funnier than what I wrote. I’m more grown-up than that now (yeah, right).

As far as I can tell, I haven’t made an effort since then to organize any kind of holiday-related theme for the music I’ve posted on Valentine’s Day, though I’ve usually make some kind of (usually snarky) comment about the day, typically related to how commercialized the holiday is. In case you were wondering, this year the National Retail Federation reports that those celebrating Valentine’s Day in the U.S. plan to spend a record average of $196.31, up 21 percent over last year’s previous record of $161.96, and that total spending is expected to total $27.4 billion, up 32 percent from last year’s record of $20.7 billion.

Isn’t that heart-warming? Continue reading »

Feb 142020


(Here’s another one of Andy Synn‘s tripartite review columns devoted to recent releases by bands from the Emerald Isles.)

I’m sure I had some sort of cool, edgy, non sequitur of an intro in mind when I first started thinking about this column… but burn my eyes if I can remember what it was.

So let’s just get right down to it, shall we?

Here are three fine-fettered examples of “the Best of British” that I think you’ll all enjoy, two of which are actually only just being released today! Continue reading »

Feb 102020


Haissem is a melodic black metal band started by Ukrainian musician and vocalist Andrey Tollock in Donetsk in 2014. With him working as the sole performer, Haissem released albums in 2016 (Maze of Perverted Fantasies), 2018 (Panacea for a Cursed Race), and 2019 (Demonotone), as well as a pair of EPs in 2017 and 2019. Over the course of those releases, Haissem’s creativity has expanded from a stylistic affinity for melodic black metal rooted in the ’90s into music of greater variety and more diverse stylistic influence.

Haissem’s newest output is an album named Kuhaghan Tyyn (which means “The Evil Spirit”) that will be released by the band’s new label Satanath Records on March 22nd. As compared to previous records, this one includes a greater use of synthesizers (though they are still subtle) as well as guest performers on specific tracks, including female vocalist Alyona Malytsa, harpist D. Vander, and cellist Alexandra Zima — the latter of whom makes an appearance on the song we’re premiering today , “Black Tide Dominion“. Continue reading »

Feb 052020


Undoubtedly, when metal fans first learn about the line-up of the Roman band INNO they will be attracted by the names of other bands on the members’ resumes — such names as Fleshgod Apocalypse, Hour of Penance, Coffin Birth, and Novembre. In addition to kindling interest, those other names will likely spawn certain expectations about INNO’s sound. And what fans will then discover upon exploring the music is that INNO’s veteran members have chosen to pursue different interests in this project, and have turned their music in different directions.

Led by the commanding voice of Elisabetta Marchetti (ex-Stormlord, ex-Riti Occulti), INNO characterize their music as “dark metal” — an amalgam that includes ingredients of doom, gothic, and progressive metal — and they make comparative references to the likes of Katatonia, The Gathering, Amorphis, and Porcupine Tree. Their debut album is named The Rain Under, and it’s set for worldwide release by Time To Kill Records on February 20th.

What we have for you today is the exclusive premiere of a music video for the album’s third track, “Pale Dead Sky“. Continue reading »

Feb 042020


(This is Todd Manning‘s review of the third album by Psalm Zero, which will be released by Last Things Records on February 24th.)

Like many of their NYC brethren, Psalm Zero walk a tightrope of genre-splicing madness, and their latest release Sparta  is another success spurred from that scene. Including such bands as Kayo Dot, Vaura, and Stern, these groups utilize an alchemy which pulls from Metal, ’80s Art Music, Jazz, and Avant Garde among others. While all these groups are excellent at what they do, Psalm Zero might be the most Metal sounding at this point in their career.

Sparta is their third album, their first without guitarist Andrew Hock, and also the first not to appear on Profound Lore. Instead, the record will come out on band leader Charlie Looker’s own Last Things Records. Looker now handles guitar, vocals, synths, and programming and is joined by Ron Varod on bass and the formidable Keith Abrams on drums. With a combined resume that includes work in pretty much all the aforementioned bands and more, Psalm Zero bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to Sparta. Continue reading »

Jan 292020


Coincidentally, while thinking about how to introduce our premiere of Ainsoph‘s debut album (which will be released by Wolves Of Hades on February 2nd), I paused to finish an essay I had been reading about the great American songwriter Cole Porter. It ended with this paragraph:

“All art aspires to the condition of music, Walter Pater wrote; within music itself, all music dreams of becoming another kind of music. Art songs dream of becoming pop songs and pop songs dream of becoming folk songs, too familiar to need an author. We hear Porter now without knowing that it’s Porter we’re hearing. Like Stephen Foster, he sublimated his suffering into his songs, until the songs are all we have, thereby achieving every artist’s dream, to cease to be a suffering self and become just one of those things we share.”

What does this have to do with Ainsoph and their album Ω – V? I don’t want to push the connections too strongly, but some of the phrases in what I just quoted seemed relevant to what I was thinking about this album.

Ideas about the emptiness of human existence, about the endless void that will consume us all, and perhaps abut the search for meaning, or at least the embrace of endlessness, seem to have played a role in inspiring the album. In its own way, it seems a sublimation of suffering into music, both expressing it and transcending it. And in its own way, it’s also music that seems to dream of becoming another kind of music. Continue reading »

Jan 282020



On January 31st Bindrune Recordings will release two album-length splits, one by Panopticon and Aerial Ruin, and the other by Panopticon and Nechochwen. Today, Bindrune has made both albums available for streaming, and in addition to presenting streams of both albums we’re also sharing interviews we did with all three bands after we had a chance to spend some time with the music.

In this post we talked with Austin Lunn of Panopticon and Erik Moggridge of Aerial Ruin about the music on their split, which is entirely acoustic music that presents a very introspective and personal journey for both musicians. On the Panopticon side, Austin Lunn recorded two original songs and also covered country songs by Blaze Foley and Chris Knight. On the Aerial Ruin side, Erik Moggridge unveils five new original songs.

The album, in a word, is spellbinding. It features artwork by Austin Lunn and is available for pre-order on vinyl HERE, and digitally HERE.

And now, let’s turn to the interview: Continue reading »

Jan 252020


If past is prologue, some newcomer will see this post and go, “LOL — there’s clean singing in these songs!”, ignorant of the fact that from the very beginning of the site more than 10 years ago we’ve made exceptions to the “rule” in the site’s title where the exception is well-earned — and these three songs earn it.

Know-it-all newcomers may also point out, as if I didn’t know, that these songs aren’t really “extreme metal” either. But as these annual lists have gone on, also for 10 years, I’ve allowed myself some flexibility in my adherence to the title I chose for the them, in part as a way of providing a bit more breadth in the scope of the list as a vehicle for remembering all the good things that the preceding year brought us.

Of course I’ll quickly add that this Part of the list is just that — an exception in both respects, as you’ll understand if you check out all the preceding Parts (which you’ll find collected here). I’ll further add that it probably won’t be the last exception before I finish the list this year.

And with those observations behind me, let’s venture forth into the grand halls of doom…. Continue reading »

Dec 312019

Akos Fulop cracks his whip during the New Year’s Eve celebrations in Kecskemet, Hungary, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019 when shepherds, horseherds and story-tellers wave farewell to the year 2019 with singing and whipcracking. (photo by Sandor Ujvari/MTI via AP)


Ii won’t say this is becoming a tradition because I can’t remember if I did it before last year at this time and I’m too fuckin’ lazy to find out and who knows if I’ll still be alive this time next year? But anyway, for at least the second annum in a row I’ve decided to end the NCS year with a playlist of music and then roll into the New Year with another one tomorrow.

I feel pretty comfortable that I’ll be able to write the one for New Year’s Day in the morning because, once again, I’m planning a quiet new Year’s Eve at home with my wife. After more than a few decades of severe misbehavior, the idea of a quiet night and a New Year’s Day without a cataclysmic hangover has become very appealing. No more January 1 mornings wondering, “Is the blood on my shirt mine?”, “Whose room is this?”, and “Where did I leave my pants?”

For these SEEN AND HEARD round-ups I usually pick from the songs I’ve added most recently to the list of new music to check out (a list I update nearly every day). But this time I decided to do something different. Continue reading »