Dec 122019


Here’s another entry in the part of our annual LISTMANIA orgy where we re-post lists of metal from “big platform” web sites and print zines — the kind of places that get a lot more eyeballs on them than festering little metal-only hovels like ours.

Rolling Stone magazine should need no introduction, so I’m not going to provide one. Not long ago they published their list of The 50 Best Albums of 2019. The sub-headline for the article reads as follows:  “From ‘Lover’ to ‘Cuz I Love You,’ ‘Death Race to Love,’ and beyond, here are the records that defined the year”. The list didn’t exactly define the year for metal. In fact, I didn’t spot even one metal album on that list. Not one.

However, more recently Rolling Stone published a separate list of The 10 Best Metal Albums of 2019 (presented by Mercedes-Benz, because of course that’s the brand preferred by most metal bands when they’re throwing around their big piles of cash). Continue reading »

Dec 092019


Stereogum easily qualifies as one of the “big platform” web sites whose year-end lists of metal we perennially include in our LISTMANIA series. Of course, the site appeals to an audience of music fans much larger than devoted metalheads (they have, for example, a list of the “50 Best Albums of 2019“ across many musical genres — which includes only two albums that I think would qualify as metal), but its staff includes a talented and tasteful group of metal writers who among other things are responsible for the site’s monthly “The Black Market” column, which has been a great source of discovery for extreme music for seven years running now.

It follows that Stereogum‘s annual metal list is one I especially look forward to seeing every year, and the 2019 edition appeared last Friday. It consists of only 10 entries, collectively assembled by Ian Chainey, Aaron Lariviere, and Wyatt Marshall (and perhaps the ghost of Michael Nelson). Continue reading »

Dec 062019


(This is the last installment in Andy Synn‘s week-long series of essays about metal in 2019, closing with a Top 10 list of personal favorites.)

In many ways today’s article, the last one of my seasonal “Listmania” (which is a lot like Hulkamania, only with better hair), is the easiest one to write.

After all, it’s not making any big claims about being “the best” albums of the year, nor is it trying to achieve any similarly lofty goal like my “Critical Top Ten” was. It’s just a list of the ten albums I’ve listened to most and/or which have connected with me most strongly, over the last twelve months.

But precisely because this is such a personal and subjective list, it’s been the one most constantly in flux, with the positioning and ordering of what bands/albums were included switching and changing right up until the wire.

Still, I think (I hope) a lot of you are going to discover (or rediscover) some cool new artists and albums here. Continue reading »

Dec 052019


(Andy Synn‘s week-long round-up of metal in 2019 continues with this list of his picks for the year’s “Critical Top Ten” across a range of metal genres.)

Let’s be honest, most “Best Of…” lists aren’t really about identifying the “best” albums of the year.

Most of the time they’re either just a single writer’s personal favourites or, in the case of the major magazines, a wholly predictable round-up, written by committee, designed to confirm and reinforce the expectations of their readership and sell future ad space.

And, you know what? I get it. That’s fine. But I’ve always felt that it’s possible to do better, which is why I came up with the idea for the “Critical Top Ten” in the first place.

Rather than presenting these ten albums as a strict, authoritative list of the “best” albums of the year, the purpose of this article is to provide a representative sample of both the brilliance and variety of the underground Metal scene in 2019, at least as it stands from my perspective.

This year’s selection includes three albums from the USA, two from Germany, two from Spain, and one each from Australia, Switzerland, and the Ukraine. The earliest release is from February, the latest from just last month, and at least three of these records are making an appearance here at NCS for the very first time, so, hopefully, there’s still a few surprises in store for all of you! Continue reading »

Dec 042019


(This is the third part of Andy Synn‘s five-part reflections on the year in metal that’s about to end.)

Today’s list collates those artists and albums which I felt represented the top tier of this year’s metallic output, drawn from a variety of styles and sub-genres, and a multitude of different countries.

Certainly there’s some variance in their quality too, from absolute game-changers to albums which some of you might argue belong more on yesterday’s list (and vice versa), but these records are honestly the ones which I think deserve the highest praise (for various reasons) this year.

Of course if you don’t see something here, and can’t find it on yesterday’s list, then that just means I didn’t get a chance to listen to it.

In fact, I can tell you now that, despite my best efforts and best intentions, I never got round to listening to the new albums from Mayhem, Spirit Adrift, Falls of Rauros, Wilderun, The Drowning, Devourment, or Ossuarium, so sadly you won’t be seeing any of them appearing in the list below. I do hope they were everything you wanted them to be though.

Anyway, that’s enough rambling from me, let’s get to it, shall we? Continue reading »

Dec 032019


(We dom’t publish a single “official” NCS year-end list of best releases. Instead, each of our staff members compiles his own individual list.Andy Synn‘s week-long series of personal year-end lists continues today with his list of 2019’s “Good” albums.)


It’s important to clarify, right now, that both today’s list and tomorrow’s are NOT in any way an attempt to rank (at least not in any detail) the various albums which I’ve listened to this year.

The purpose of these two lists, today’s “Good” and tomorrow’s “Great”, is simply to provide a round-up of the various new releases which have found their way into my eardrums this year.

Of course, even these two lists (which together total somewhere approaching 300 albums) don’t provide a comprehensive account of everything that’s been released in 2019, but I sincerely hope that every one of you reading this right now comes away from this article with at least a handful of new bands/albums to check out.

As always I’ve broken things up into various categories to make the reading easier/fun, and (where possible) I’ve included a Bandcamp link to the album in the full list at the end of the article. Continue reading »

Dec 022019


We have now entered the final month of 2019, and that begins the final countdown to the end of the year. In the world of metal, this month we’ll also start seeing more and more lists of the year’s best releases. In fact, today we began rolling out some lists of our own.

Back in 2009, when this site was just a few days old, I wrote a post about year-end lists and why people bother with them. The best reason still seems to be this: Reading someone else’s list of the albums they thought were best is a good way to discover music you missed and might like.

We don’t do an “official” NCS year-end “best albums” list. However, we publish the picks of each of our regular staff writers as well as a group of invited guest writers, in addition to lists that we re-post from a few print zines and “big platform” online sites.

Every year we also invite our readers to share their lists and we’re doing that again right here, right now.

If you’ve been pondering what you’ve heard this year and have made your own list of the albums, EPs, or splits released in 2019 that you think are the best of what you’ve heard, we invite you to share it with everyone in the Comments section to this post. And if you haven’t made a list yet but want to, there’s still plenty of time (read below). Continue reading »

Dec 022019


(We do not publish a single “official” NCS year-end list of best releases.  Instead, each of our staff members compiles his own individual list. A week earlier than we did this last year, today we’re beginning the roll-out of Andy Synn‘s five-part series of year-end lists. As usual, we’re starting with an installment that veers off our usual theme of focusing on music we enthusiastically recommend. Feel free to disagree — some of us here may disagree as well — but also feel free to share in the Comments your own thoughts about 2019 albums that disappointed you.)

Normally I’d wait until a little deeper into December before writing/publishing my End of the Year lists, but various circumstances (including a short run of dates supporting Hour of Penance next week) mean that I’m going to be pretty busy for the rest of this month (though hopefully not too busy to do at least a little bit of writing for NCS), so you lucky people are getting the benefit of my yearly round-up a little early this time around.

As usual I’m going to kick things off with a short (shorter than usual, in fact) piece on the most “Disappointing” albums from the last twelve months, which this year contains a mix of big names, over-hyped newcomers, and, sadly, some of my personal favourite bands.

And because some of you might be a little unfamiliar with the format of this particular piece, I’m going to quote from our friends over at Last Rites, who I think summed it up nicely in a recent piece:

The idea of this feature isn’t just to bash bands or records — it’s ultimately more about us, as fans, lamenting the releases that disappointed us the most. And, of course, disappointment implies some heightened level of hope that a release might be, y’know… good.” Continue reading »

Nov 272019


As part of our annual NCS LISTMANIA extravaganza we re-publish lists of the year’s best metal that appear on web sites which appeal to vastly larger numbers of readers than we do — not because we believe those readers or the writers have better taste in metal than our community does, but more from a morbid curiosity about what the great unpoisoned masses are being told is best for them. It’s like opening a window that affords an insight into the way the rest of the world outside our own disease-ridden nooks and crannies perceives the music that is our daily sustenance.

One of those sites is PopMatters. It has been in existence since 1999. In its own words the site “is an international magazine of cultural criticism and analysis” with a scope that “is broadly cast on all things pop culture”, including “music, television, films, books, video games, sports, theatre, the visual arts, travel, and the Internet”. PopMatters claims that it is “the largest site that bridges academic and popular writing in the world”. Continue reading »

Nov 262019


As part of our annual LISTMANIA series we re-publish “best album” lists from some of the the few surviving print publications that cover metal, and from a handful of “big platform” sites that include metal in their coverage, along with a range of other music genres and other aspects of popular culture.

Of course, as soon as you see the words “popular culture” you know there’s not going to be too much attention devoted to the kind of music we cover at NCS. But it’s still amusing, and sometimes even edifying, to get a glimpse of what the above-ground world is seeing acclaimed as metal’s best releases.

Yesterday (or maybe the day before) Revolver magazine published their list of “The 25 Best Albums of 2019” on-line (a reduction from 30 in 2018). Revolver claims that “millions of passionate consumers” visit their website and view their videos across desktop and mobile; that the print edition is the “biggest hard-rock and metal magazine in North America,” with a subscriber base that’s three times larger than the “next biggest U.S. metal print publication”; and that they have a “highly engaged social following with over 1B impressions per month across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.” Continue reading »