Aug 242022


Maybe you noticed that I posted no round-ups last weekend, neither the usual Saturday SEEN AND HEARD nor the usual Sunday SHADES OF BLACK. An annual two-day event connected to my day job proved to be too disruptive, even though it was a shitload of fun. So, the grab-bag of new music has swollen, continuing to fill since the weekend. I kind of blindly stabbed into the bag this morning until my hands filled up, and here’s what I chose from those handfuls.

I imagine these selections will cause people to feel like they’ve been blindfolded, spun around a dozen times, and then let loose to stumble about and run into hard objects at every turn. It’s a fun thing to think about.


Okay, I fibbed a little. It wasn’t blind groping that led me to this first song and video but a surprising press release and a torrent of “Holy Shit!” from assorted friends online. About what you’d expect when you get the first new song in 20 years from an influential and much-beloved band like Botch (especially beloved up here in the U.S. Pacific Northwest where they originated). Continue reading »

Aug 132022


This makes three days in a row where I found enough time to compile a roundup of new music and videos. I can’t remember the last time that happened, but it was surely long ago. And not only was I able to do this three days in a row, but time also allowed me to pack an extravagant amount of music into this third compilation.

I also think it’s fair to say that what I picked ranges far and wide — and I’m not just talking about the bands’ global locations. I suppose it’s possible there’s someone out there who won’t find one damn thing to like among these seven songs, but I’d be surprised if that were true.


I don’t usually lead off these collections with an unknown band’s very first published song, but this one dropped my jaw. I became so enthusiastic about such a welcome surprise that I would have been ashamed at myself if I hadn’t put it in the starting position. Continue reading »

Jul 272022

Of all the genres of heavy metal our site covers, power metal is the one least-noticed by far. One glance at our site’s name suggests a reason, though that’s not the only one. However, we’re about to prove that there’s a way to present power metal that even attracts scoffing extremists such as ourselves, and we have Denver, Colorado’s Celestial Wizard to thank for that.

Should you happen to be familiar with this band’s 2018 debut album A Sinister Awakening, it must be said up-front that their second one, Winds of the Cosmos (just released on July 15th), reveals significant changes in their sound (plus the addition of drummer Tim Gillman to the line-up). Where the debut featured healthy doses of strings, choirs, and symphonic synthesizers to accompany their fantasy-inspired narratives, the new one places a big emphasis on hard-charging riffs — and extremely tasty ones at that — albeit without wholly abandoning their previous ingredients.

The band have continued to deploy death metal vocals (and other ingredients of melodic death metal), as well as the kind of singing familiar to power metal addicts, and that juxtaposition is certainly a big reason why this band’s hybrid sound has become appealing in dark corners such as ours. But those tasty riffs have a lot to do with the appeal as well, and the song “Revenant” is a fierce example of that. No wonder, then, that we happily agreed to premiere a guitar-playthrough video for that song today. Continue reading »

Jul 152022

Last year the Russian band Abysslooker put out a single called “Maneater“, and it sounded like one. Hell, it was so heavy and hammering it felt like a mountain-eater.

The band combined that titanic pounding with riffing that relentlessly built feelings of tension and misery, plus an amalgam of spine-tingling vocals, which ranged from scraped-raw screams to ghostly crooning, abyssal growls, and maniacal laughter. Unexpectedly, the song also included an interlude of dancing acoustic guitar, mammoth bass grumbling, and gothic singing. A gripping guitar solo led the transition from there back into punishing heaviness.

Turns out that thoroughly riveting song was a prelude to Abysslooker‘s second album Dramaturgy, which is now set for release on July 31st by Symbol Of Domination. Turns out that “Maneater” isn’t the only heavier-than-hell track on that album, but the heaviness comes in different guises, as you’ll learn for yourselves through our premiere today of another one. Continue reading »

Jul 052022


I’m still in post-Northwest Terror Fest catch-up mode for the new songs and videos I missed over the last 5 days, which is kind of like a Dachshund trying to catch up with a Bugatti that’s moving at top speed. The chase will fail, but still can’t be resisted, so here’s a few more picks to go along with the two I chose yesterday. These three all happen to be recently released complete records — of very different kinds — and I have greedily bought all of them.


To begin, I chose an album named Metempiric that was released by this Tennessee band on June 24th. It’s their second full-length, following 2021’s Interstice. It includes 13 tracks, most of them short, building to an 8-minute closer named “Tome”.

And this is where I tell you to take some big gulps of air before you begin, because you will definitely need the extra oxygen. Continue reading »

Jun 102022

Begrime Exemious

In the olden days I was able to put together a couple of new music roundups every work-week. Nowadays I’m usually able to do it only once, on Saturdays, when the NCS audience tends to dwindle. I do miss those old days, but to return to them, something else would have to give way, something related to what else I do for the site (e.g., all the daily premieres) or something related to the rest of my life (e.g., speaking to my wife).

As you can see, however, I did manage to find a small margin of time for a round-up today, so small that I nearly didn’t even bother. But the thought of shaving even three worthy songs off the gigantic list I’ll be staring at when contemplating tomorrow’s Saturday S&H seemed worthwhile. So here we go…. Continue reading »

Jun 022022

(Andy Synn makes another well-deserved “exception to the rule” for the new album by Astronoid)

Before we get started with this review, allow me to take you on a quick trip down memory lane.

To say that the dreamy, yearning vocals, euphoric, soaring melodies, and irrepressible, irresistible energy of Astronoid‘s debut full-length were “a breath of fresh air” (pun intended) would be an understatement.

Not only did it quickly become my favourite album of the year but it’s also remained one of my “go to” records for whenever I’ve needed a quick pick-me-up and a jolt of refreshing energy ever since.

Sadly, as has been previously documented here, the band’s self-titled seemed to abandon much of what made their previous album so unique, in favour of a more familiar and – barring a few stand-out tracks – largely forgettable take on the predictable Post-Rock formula.

As you might imagine then, I approached the release of Radiant Bloom (which is set to come out on 3DOT Recordings this Friday) with a fair bit of trepidation.

Would it be able to recapture that same lighting-in-a-bottle magic as Air, or would it follow in the faded footsteps of its eponymous predecessor?

Well, let’s find out.

Continue reading »

May 222022

Among the many little tortures that afflict those of us who write for NCS (and no doubt other metal writers, or at least those who don’t work by assignment) is the failure to cover all the releases we really enjoy. Despite our most ardent intentions, we just don’t always follow through. Time is scarce and time is fleeting, and sometimes the impulse to keep moving forward to the next new thing means that we leave something else behind.

You’ll notice that some of us find ways to play catch-up, at least briefly turning our gaze away from the future horizons to recommend records that have been out in the world for a while. Sometimes those are records we overlooked, but sometimes they’re records we meant to write about and for whatever reason failed to do so.

And so I decided to play a bit of catch-up today, focusing on two DIY records released in March (one an album and the other a split) that I meant to write about much earlier. At least in the case of the first record, I took some significant liberties with the usual focus of this Shades of Black column, though I think our usual Sunday visitors will still leave feeling satisfied.


The name of Aerial Ruin‘s latest album forecasts the moods of the music. It moves in the shadows of sorrow, in search of fires or rays of sun that will light the way. It seems to provide encouragement in that quest, but also seems to acknowledge that desire is fragile and that fires will burn as well as provide illumination. Arrows and wings may arc upward, but their arc inevitably will descend. Continue reading »

May 202022

When I woke up this morning I had planned to do a big round-up of 8 new songs and videos that I’d picked during a listening/viewing session yesterday afternoon. Bleary-eyed, I found messages from Mr. Synn telling me about four other new songs and videos that had popped up overnight from bands we all favor. What to do?

What I decided to do was go with those four newer ones today, plus one of the 8 I picked yesterday, and push the others I found yesterday into another round-up tomorrow. Trust me, even with the slight delay those others will be well worth your time on Saturday.


“Atmospheres awash with mysterious origins. Sacred rites of passage and formidable knowledge lead to marvels of engineering. Funnelling the mass into a finite horizon all roads travel in duality. Blurred is the line between real and illusion as the last scream of truth is destroyed by evil so grotesque. It transforms into a lone rider traveling into the forbidden darkness…”

Those are the words proffered by Imperial Triumphant for “Maximalist Scream“, the first advance track from their new album Spirit of Ecstasy, which comes with this intriguing cover art: Continue reading »

May 092022


(We welcome a new writer to our putrid site, one who goes by the name fetusghost, and we’ll let him explain his particular interests in his own words.)

Hello, friends, and welcome to the first of hopefully many Bong Metal Round-ups. Bong metal, of course, is heavy metal from bands who have ‘bong’ in the name (eg, Bongzilla, Bongripper, Belzebong, etc). If pornogrind can be a genre, then why not bong metal? The round-up part comes from the fact that getting high leads to missed deadlines, so everything covered here has already been released and awaits your ears and hard-earned dough.

On another heavy metal website, staffed by fine and handsome writers, on the twentieth day of the fourth month of the (very shitty) year of 2020, I wrote a Bong Metal Primer. Having taken a hiatus and switched teams since then, it’s now back to the bongs for this dumb writer. I chose to focus on the underground (ie, I didn’t cover Weedsconsin, which is not Bongzilla’s best, but it’s still an excellent album and we should all be delighted that they are active again), and highlight each band’s most recent release.

As a final note before we do the damn thing, I would like to humbly request your suggestions and recommendations on all things bong metal/stoner metal/weird metal/etc. Holler at me in the comments, or send your electronic mail to, and gimme those sweet streaming links! Bong metal bands take precedence of course, but sharing awesome underground metal is my love language.

Now pack a bowl/hit the vape/roll a fatty, and join me on a Bong Metal Journey! Continue reading »