Sep 232019
 

 

(This is Andy Synn‘s review of the new album by the French band Klone, which was released on September 20.)

It appears that some people have developed a few misconceptions about this site, so perhaps it’s time to clarify some things.

Firstly, we don’t make any money from NCS. We don’t run ads. We don’t take any money from labels or PR firms. None of us get paid for this. We do it for the love of music, and as a way of expressing ourselves. And, maybe if we’re lucky, what we write makes a connection with someone else along the way.

We also don’t do this for notoriety, or clicks, and while we’re aware that certain opinions or ideas might be controversial we don’t write anything for the specific purpose of courting controversy (despite a few recent examples which might suggest otherwise).

Not only that, but we also don’t have any formal structure for the way we work. No-one is “assigned” anything. No-one is given a specific field or remit or genre to focus on. We just each write about whatever grabs us or inspires us and try to keep everyone else informed so we avoid stepping on each other’s toes as best we can.

We’re also not totally opposed to clean singing, even if the site name suggests otherwise. In fact we were originally going to be called “No Clean Singing That’s Shoehorned In Purely For the Purposes of Increasing Sales or Radio Play” but that was ruled to be maybe a tiny bit too long.

Anyway, now that’s all cleared up, on to Klone. Continue reading »

Sep 182019
 

 

(This is Wil Cifer‘s review of the new album by Chelsea Wolfe, which is out now on the Sargent House label.)

Metal is a sound. Heavy is a feeling. There are plenty of bands that on paper are metal, but when played are not heavy. There are some entire genres of metal that might be suited for the Friday night D&D game or drinking mead with your mates, but are not heavy. Then there are artists who are not metal, but given their sense of darkness, despair, or pure sonic gravity, are heavier than a great number of metal bands. Artists like Swans, Diamanda Galas, and The Birthday Party come to mind. Chelsea Wolfe is also one of those.

Her Burzum cover brought her to the attention of metal fans early in her career before she caught the ear of the indie rock crowd. I have obviously covered her here before, since I tend to prefer sonic heaviness and melancholic heaviness over metallic heaviness. This album falls more under melancholic heaviness and is less sonically heavy than her past three albums. Continue reading »

Sep 022019
 

 

(This is Andy Synn‘s review of the new album by the German progressive metal band Disllusion, which will be released on September 6th by Prophecy Productions.)

As we’re all aware, music isn’t a competition. But it’s hard, dare I even say impossible at times, not to compare and contrast artists/albums and pit them against one another, weighing up their relative merits, in order to conclude, subjectively at least, which is somehow “better”.

Consider, for example, the comeback album from German Prog-Metal sensations Disillusion.

For those unfamiliar with the band, over the course of these seven tracks you’ll encounter echoes of the cinematic style of Devin Townsend, the epic riffage of Insomnium, the moody melancholy of In Mourning, and the intricate songwriting of Opeth, all interwoven in a way that’s not only far more cohesive and coherent than the most recent release by the former, but which suggests that the latter three will have to produce something truly special in the next few months if they’re not going to be outdone.

For those who already know Disillusion, however… all I really need to say is that The Liberation isn’t just the long-awaited follow-up to their semi-legendary debut (sorry Gloria fans) but might just be even better. Continue reading »

Aug 232019
 

 

I’m posting this Friday round-up on my way to Sea-Tac airport, where I hope to depart the area for a mini-vacation in Wyoming with a bunch of other miscreants, returning Monday night. I’m not sure how much else I’ll be able to write for NCS between now and then, and I’ve been scurrying even to get this round-up completed before I disappear into the wild blue yonder.

A ton of new music has appeared over the last 24 hours, much of it from bigger names in the metal cosmos. I’ve included some of that here, but not all of it. There is, for example, a video released today for a new Insomnium song called “Valediction” (here) from the album Heart Like A Grave, out on October 4th, that I haven’t included. I assume it’s proving to be a crowd-pleaser. I’ve only listened to it once, and it did get its hooks in my noggin, but I also have some mixed feelings about it. And anyway, I wanted to make room for a couple of more obscure names in addition to the big ones below.

ALCEST

I’m beginning with a video for a new song by Alcest named “Protection“, from their new album Spiritual Instinct. Here’s what vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Neige had to say about it: Continue reading »

Aug 152019
 

 

(This is Andy Synn‘s review of the third album by the Russian band Shokran, which was released in February of this year.)

There are a couple of reasons I selected the third album from Russian quartet Shokran as my second review of the week.

Firstly, switching out the grimness and grime of Shadow Tentacles in favour of the polished, melodically-stylised sounds of Ethereal makes for some welcome contrast, both for me and (hopefully) for the reader, and forces me to switch up my writing a little in a way that that doesn’t just involve googling additional synonyms for “dark” and “brooding”.

Secondly, it’s been a while since I threw a major curveball at the site, and the amount of gleaming, hyper-emotive clean-sung melody scattered liberally across the length and breadth of this record certainly makes it a bit different in that regard! Continue reading »

Aug 152019
 

 

By last night I had accumulated 63 new songs or complete releases that I wanted to check out, almost all of which had surfaced over just the previous 48 hours. Ridiculous, but that’s the rate at which new music is arriving these days. It would be easier to keep up if my tastes weren’t so wide-ranging, but it would be tough even if I were solely focused on just one micro-genre.

Obviously, I didn’t listen to all 63 of the items on my list. I was more interested in some items than others, and then just kind of randomly skipped around until stumbling to bed, bewildered. It happened that some of what I decided to listen to wasn’t metal, or it was only metal in part. That doesn’t happen very often, because I try to stay focused on the genres that NCS focuses on. But curiosity got the better of me, and I eventually decided to group together some of those off-the-beaten-path selections for this post.

Some of this is really waaaay off our usual beaten paths, but don’t despair if you’d rather just stick with extreme metal. I have another grouping of stuff that’s more in our wheelhouse, though I probably won’t get that other round-up written until tomorrow.

LIGHTNING BOLT

Lightning Bolt have a truly fascinating history, and an equally fascinating artistic bent (if it’s a new name to you, check out what The Font of All Human Knowledge has to say about ’em. I know I’ve dabbled in their music in the past, and I’m not sure I can explain (even to myself) why I’ve only dabbled. I decided to dabble again after seeing a friend link to this first song on Facebook along with a story about how they played in a street near downtown Seattle when too many people showed up to fit into the tiny art space where the show was scheduled. The flock of people blocked streets in all directions, 10 cop cars showed up and just waited for the show to end… different times for sure. Continue reading »

Aug 032019
 

 

In a rare showing of restraint, I didn’t slaughter millions of brain cells last night in celebrating the end of the work week. Consequently, I woke early this morning without feeling like I’d contracted the plague while asleep, and spent a block of time making my way through many new songs that had come my way over the last couple of days. From those I picked this collection.

Today, in addition to emphasizing stylistic diversity, I decided to focus even more on lesser-known names than usual, though it’s always our standard practice to make sure we’re not just writing about what everyone else in the metalverse is writing about. Having said that, I couldn’t resist beginning with a name that’s undoubtedly been on the lips of vast throngs since yesterday’s song reveal. And that name is…

BORKNAGAR

In his review of 2016’s Winter Thrice, my friend Andy remarked that “it only takes a quick glance at the Membership Timeline on the band’s Wikipedia page to see how many different members and line-ups the group have gone through over the years, while somehow still retaining the same creative drive and overarching musical identity that first brought the band together”. That list will become longer now, with the impending release of Borknagar’s 11th album, True North, which features new drummer Bjørn Dugstad Rønnow and new lead guitarist Jostein Thomassen. Missing this time around are Vintersorg, Jens Ryland, and drummer Baard Kolstad, who had made his first appearance on Winter Thrice.

On the other hand… Continue reading »

Jul 152019
 

 

(This is Andy Synn‘s review of the 7th album by the solo project Arctic Sleep from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which was released on July 12th. It is a significant exception to our “rule” about singing. The cover art was created by Jennifer Weiler.)

Some of our readers may not be aware of this, but the Metal blogosphere (of which we are but a small part) is kind of like its own separate ecosystem, with all the various sites and zines and writers sharing and interacting within the same digital space, by turns feeding, and being fed upon, and occasionally coming together to copulate, exchange information, and (hopefully) create something new.

This doesn’t mean we’re all “in cahoots”, by any means. I’ve questioned and criticised the work of others just as much as I’ve been questioned and criticised in turn. But it does mean that, sometimes at least, the circle of life – or the circle of riffs, as it were – moves us all in similar ways.

Case in point, I have to give full credit to those brave lavatorial adventurers at The Toilet ov Hell for introducing me to the music of Arctic Sleep, whose latest album I’ve been listening to pretty much non-stop over the weekend. Continue reading »

Jul 062019
 

 

In pawing through new music yesterday, like the digital-age version of what I used to do in record stores, I found myself thinking that the music of the following four bands belonged together. I wouldn’t know how to label them if I put them together in a section of the record store in my head, because their musical styles are different. Maybe “DOOMY METAL, BUT OTHER THINGS GOING ON”. Or maybe just “HEAVINESS (AND OCCASIONAL HEAVENLINESS)”.

MADDER MORTEM

The first song I’ve selected is a big exception to our Rule about singing, all the way up until near the end, when Agnete M. Kirkevaag does something shocking with her voice. Until then, as always, she’s bewitching.

But before we get to the song, I should share some important details about the new Madder Mortem album that includes it. Continue reading »

Jul 042019
 

 

I have mixed feelings about the Fourth of July, especially this year, and I’m not the only American who’s feeling torn today. While there are migrants in the midst of a humanitarian crisis on the southern border, the country’s most famous Independence Day celebration has been turned into a taxpayer-funded militaristic political rally for a man who not only could care less about what’s happening to people in Texas detention camps, but actively tries to score extra political points among his supporters by doubling down on the prisoners’ misery. And that’s just today’s most visible one-two punch to the nation’s ideals. There will be more battering tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that.

On the other hand, I still feel fortunate to have been born here, and still take pride in much of what the country has achieved, and in much of what it stands for when it’s at its best. I also recognize that even though I’m not feeling particularly celebratory today, the Fourth is for many Americans a day of joy, even if it’s just because the day is a good excuse to be in the company of good friends or family, to gorge on comfort food and too much beer and booze, and to watch pretty explosions in the night sky. To all those people, I wish them a fantastic fucking day. Continue reading »