Dec 302020


(Holy hell, it has been 10 years. For the 10th year in a row, our friend Johan Huldtgren of the Swedish black metal band Obitus — whose 2017 album Slaves of the Vast Machine (reviewed and premiered here) is their latest release — has again allowed us to share with you his year-end list, which originally appeared on Johan’s own blog.)

This marks the tenth year in a row I get to share a few albums I’ve enjoyed this past year. So as it’s a double-digit anniversary ending in zero I’m going to do something I’ve not done before and expand on my own published list with a couple of very personal albums which I think deserve some added attention. I say personal because these are all made by close friends of many years, but don’t let that deter you, because these are amazing albums in their own right. In alphabetical order: Continue reading »

Dec 292020


(For the 10th (!) year in a row, we asked our old friend SurgicalBrute to weigh in with his year-end list of favorite albums and/or EPs. As expected, his list adds many names that haven’t appeared before in our 2020 Listmania series, and this year there’s a definite lean into black metal.)

If 2020 had a face, I’d punch it.

Yes…deeply profound, I know, but what do you really expect me to say here? There’s really no point in sugar-coating things, because this year has been an absolute trash fire and we all know it. We’re all tired, we’re all pissed off, and we’re all just hoping that when that ball finally drops on December 31st a message doesn’t appear in the sky saying: “Tutorial completed…prepare for level one”.

Despite everything, or maybe because of it, one of the far-too-few few bright points to come out of this whole mess was the huge number of great metal albums that got released… something I’d say was especially true if you’re a black metal fan. That’s not to say there weren’t great albums coming out across all the various subgenres. I found more than enough from everywhere to make me happy, but as a genre that thrives on expressing negative feelings and emotions, black metal was tailor-made for a year like this and I can only assume the artists who create it must have noticed, because they seemed to have stepped up their game accordingly.

As a result, probably more than any other year-end list I’ve done for NCS, I’m going to end up favoring one subgenre more strongly over all the other styles I tend to enjoy… and I’m still only scratching the surface of the stuff from this year that I’d recommend tracking down.

Now with all that out of the way, same rules as always. No tech, no -core, no prog. Production values are optional, and my taste will always be better than yours… so kick back and enjoy the music. \m/ Continue reading »

Dec 292020


(Seb Painchaud, the main man behind the Montréal band Tumbleweed Dealer, has very expansive and very eclectic musical tastes, and a way with words, and so for a fifth year in a row we asked him to share a year-end list with us. As in every other year, his list pulls us off our usual beaten paths by highlighting some favorite releases that are way outside the usual metal lists.)

Throughout this cursed year of plague and idiocy, I kept coming back to one cosmic realization whenever I mass-consumed new albums: ‘Music does not exist in a vacuum’

It took the literal descent into madness that was the last twelve months for me to finally admit this to myself. I had always liked to believe that music is some sort of absolute truth with an exact value that doesn’t fluctuate once you’ve discovered it. But as I used my search for new releases to either escape my reality, to try to understand it, or to seek some way to relate to it, I had to finally admit to myself that whatever music is put out there at any point in time it becomes intertwined with that period in human history. It’s judged against what has come before, it’s used in relation with what is happening right now, and it will impact what has yet to be written. Continue reading »

Dec 282020


(For the 9th year in a row, here’s our friend Vonlughlio’s list of the best brutal death metal albums of the year that’s about to end.)

That time of year has arrived again for the year-rnf list and like every year I start by thanking Islander for letting me share my lists since 2012. As some of you might know (duh!!!) one of my favorite genres is BDM, and even though I listen to other genres as well, I want to focus more on BDM for NCS, since the staff does a great job in covering other genres.

I thought that this year would be different and that I would have an easier time doing my top 25 BDM albums for NCS. but no!!! It has been a difficult task like every other time. I have 30 or so releases that I enjoyed and not all of them would make the list.  Some will like what I’ve named here, and others may hate it, but that is life. Continue reading »

Dec 262020


(Morbidly worrying whether the combined tonnage of words and music might finally sink the site, today we publish the fifth and final Part of DGR’s 2020 year-end list, counting down his personal Top 10 albums, and then adding some “not heavy” favorites and some EPs to wrap things up.)

We made it to the end. I can’t believe it. They haven’t kicked me off the site yet and somehow my hands haven’t fallen off at the wrist. In my best Richard Attenborough voice, “Welcome, to the final ten”….”and a whole bunch of other shit”.

We close out the final ten by going on what I would deem an absolute adventure. There’s no real throughline here, just impressive album after impressive album, all of which come highly recommended. You’ll note a handful of bigger names but there were some serious surprises that hijacked my listening this year and I felt it right that they be rewarded thusly. I really do hope that if you’ve never heard some of these bands before that you’ll check them out, because the final five or so are an absolute cacophony and I loved every second of it.

As usual, because this is the finale of my personal year-end archive and once again there’s no space left in the site’s budget for fireworks, I’ve once again gathered together all of the EPs as well as the ‘not metal’ releases – I elaborate further there – in the hopes that if you’ve made it this far, then some shorter or some more out-of-left-field stuff might be worthy of looking into as well.

If you have made it this far, thank you so much for reading all of this. I say this every year because I both love and hate myself for doing it, but I truly do treasure the ability to just look back at the year and then splatter a tremendous amount of albums on the wall for me to then write about. The final ten await and I hope some surprises sit there for all of you as well. Let’s journey on. Continue reading »

Dec 252020


EDITOR’S NOTE: After a hiatus, we welcome back our old friend Professor D. Grover the XIIIth (founder of The Number of the Blog, whose inspiration helped spawn NCS so many years ago), who again has brought us his year-end lists of favorite releases, both metal and not-metal. Yesterday the focus of Part I was EPs and singles, and today it’s albums. To repeat part of what Grover wrote in yesterday’s introduction:

“As with any of my previous lists, for some familiar with them, there are a few things to bear in mind. First, this list is entirely my own opinion and my favorite releases of the year, regardless of genre. While the majority of what I listen to is metal, not everything is, and my list will reflect that. Second, I listen to and enjoy a lot of music throughout the year, but to include it all on the list would be impractical at best. In years past I’ve included a list of honorable mentions, but those lists always ended up being stupidly long and ain’t no one got time for that.” Continue reading »

Dec 252020


(Today we arrive at Part 4 of the 5-part countdown for DGR’s 2020 year-end list, with the albums he ranked 20-11.)

So, here’s the thing about day four of my personal list (not the site’s list, of which there’s no such thing): This is one of those days where there are some gigantic albums. Not big in brand name, but big in terms of musical stature. This was a year where I was drawn to the ambition of certain groups. If they were making music that seemed much further-reaching than their lineup would suggest, then I was probably there with bells on for a bit.

I think thematically in this installment you have some of the most cerebral and refined acts that I listened to this year. I could also imagine that for a lot of you this segment of my list might resemble a good chunk of your own top tens. I understand that completely because these are albums I was absolutely impressed by, ones I felt proud to have heard and ones I often had to prepare to listen to. There are multiple hour-plus releases in this section, and if you like your ‘variations on a theme’ style of death metal, then except for a couple of oddballs this section of the list makes a grand tour through those styles.

We do go to warp speed for a bit, and I actually had a few black metal releases land with me here, which was a pleasant surprise given how most of the time I feel like I include two or three total in my year-end lists. Number eleven – I think – will feel like a given to a lot of people, but I really do think they earned it.

As I have every day during the rollout of this personal archive, I highly recommend you take the time and give all of these a listen if you get the chance. I’m sure you’ll find something to love here. Continue reading »

Dec 232020


(After a hiatus, we welcome back our old friend Professor D. Grover the XIIIth (founder of The Number of the Blog, which helped spawn NCS so many years ago), who again brings us his year-end lists of favorite releases, both metal and not. Today the focus is EPs and singles, and tomorrow it’s albums.)

Greetings and salutations, friends. It’s been a bit since I’ve done a year-end list, but to be fair 2020 has not been your average year. Now, at this particular moment while I’m writing this introduction, I have not actually decided on my album of the year, which is a rarity for me. Ordinarily there is an album that, at some point during the year, asserts itself as the favorite and maintains that position for the remainder of the year, but in the true spirit of 2020, there hasn’t been a specific release that has distanced itself from the pack.

Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t any releases worthy of the top spot; honestly, there are a number of albums in the list to come that have made a case for number one at various points throughout the year. I assume that by the time I finish this list, I will have decided on one. But we’ll see. Continue reading »

Dec 232020


(We’ve now reached Part 3 of the 5-part countdown for DGR’s 2020 year-end list, with the albums he ranked 30-21.)

After the blistering as hell way I sent out the previous edition of this, I felt that a change of musical pace would be nice. It’s right about at this specific grouping that I think my year-end list can be considered a little more formalized. I tend to refer to everything in the higher numbers as being very fluid and kind of anarchic with rankings popping in and out of existence at random. That’s because I enjoy all of those releases, but it isn’t until you hit the lower numbers that we really land on the albums I was listening to constantly.

Hilarious, given that today marks the first appearance – of a handful – of what I refer to as “Abrasive block”, which is the collection of albums that when all grouped together will likely sand your face down to a very smooth surface by the time you’re done listening to them. On top of that, I found room for some real hopeless and melancholy-filled doom, as well as a little black metal and some impressively tight death metal acts.

I even close things out with one of the few releases I genuinely considered ‘fun’ this year, if only to break up the absolute hammering you’re going to absorb by the time you reach twenty-four through twenty-two. You’ll even catch an appearance by albums that made Andy’s “Great” list so I can pretend to be some sort of refined critic instead of my usual surfing the web lookng for a decent big red honking nose that’ll fit my head.

We’ve only got a few days left and, reliably, things will only get nuttier and the writing more navel-gazy from here on out. Continue reading »

Dec 222020


(Like the title says, we’re now at Part 2 of the countdown for DGR’s 2020 year-end list, with albums in the 40-31 positions.)

Day two is where things start to get a little more varied.

Welcome back to the patented DGR analyzes his next ten albums for interesting patterns and weird quirks section of this writeup. We’re still pretty thick in the midst of some grooving death metal here but there’s a couple of one-off appearances that I think hint at some of the grander themes that carved paths throughout the year. You’ll start seeing some really dark atmospherics take over during this phase of the list, and if some of the music here seems to be nihilistic and bleak, well congrats, that’s been the overarching theme for a lot of the year, and for me it just happened to hit a little early. Shit, I don’t think I ever got the chance to recover from last year. Continue reading »