Apr 202023

Painting by Paolo Girardi (for Voracious Lunacy, a 2022 split release by Heresy and Exorcizphobia)

These days a lot of people are expelling a lot of hot and cold air and a tremendous volume of written words about Artificial Intelligence (AI).  There’s no consensus about whether AI will be a boon to human life or a dire peril, but everyone paying any attention to the phenomenon seems to agree that the technology will bring about stunning changes — and damned fast, so fast that our slow meat brains won’t be able to react quickly enough to tame the wild dangers it could unleash.

Those of us who’ve been life-long consumers of science fiction already have vivid visions of both the utopian and the dystopian futures that AI could produce, but what used to be only visions are rapidly becoming realities. The scale isn’t yet vast, but in small ways and large, we’re getting there, and for most of us there’s not much we can do about it, for better or worse. Anyone who thinks unregulated markets can be trusted to prevent AI-spawned damage haven’t thought hard enough, but anyone who thinks government regulators can find workable and timely answers is probably equally oblivious.

Small ways and large… In the grand scheme of things, what AI will do to entertainment, and more specifically to the creation of music, ranks on the smaller end of the scale. But in that niche the changes wrought by AI may occur as fast as anywhere else. As we shall see, the changes have already begun. Although those changes don’t yet seem to have made a noticeable impact in the micro-niches of extreme metal, the possibility provides food for thought. My own thought is that the risks to the kind of music we pay attention to at this site are likely to remain low (though I admit this might be wishful thinking). Continue reading »

Jul 012020


In the space of the last week or so, I have posted articles, one of which I wrote, that promoted the music of bands with past connections to labels with strong ties to white supremacist bands, or whose music has itself, at least in the past, incorporated lyrical themes that can be understood to espouse white nationalism. In the case of the article I wrote, I was unaware of any such history. In the other case, I just wasn’t paying close enough attention. But that’s no excuse. I fucked up, and I have to own up to and apologize for that.

(Just so we’re clear, I’m writing this in the first person because none of the other writers at NCS had anything to do with these mistakes and were quite unhappy about them.)

Posting the music of such bands was not intended to be any kind of “dog whistle”, or to reflect the principles of this site. We have no interest in promoting the music of bands who espouse or associate themselves with racism, anti-Semitism, or other similarly toxic belief systems. I want to make that as clear and explicit as I can. I’ve written that before, but I’ve undermined the message through my own actions. Continue reading »

May 082020

Facing Mediocrity by John Ransom


(Andy Synn wrote the following opinion piece.)

By good fortune I’ve got a rare day off from work today, which means I’ve finally got a little bit of time to dedicate to writing about something that’s been on my mind quite a bit recently.

So bear with me, if you will, and have those flaming pitchforks at the ready, as I go off on one of my signature rants… Continue reading »

Feb 262019


(The following article was written by Tør, a self-professed metalhead, data nerd, and ex-academic, who is also a contributing writer and photographer for a number of online metal publications. The article, and the accompanying interactive maps, are based on his work on a Ph.D. doctoral dissertation.)

Metal historians and researchers often explain the proliferation of metal music in terms of early tape-trading and local scene formation. The story is a familiar one: a small group of young metalheads get together and listen to a few tapes, trade tapes with other metalheads, and get inspired to make their own music. Indeed, the early spread of metal music and culture occurred in large part due to the human networks formed by individuals in local scenes. However, there is an emerging debate about the way in which metal has spread across the globe and what that process entails in the digital age. Continue reading »

Feb 232019


I’m going to regret this. Hell, I already regret it, mainly because the critique I’m about to present will drive more clicks to the article I’m criticizing (whose main purpose was obviously to attract clicks in the first place), but also because the full back-story leading to the points I want to make is only slightly shorter than War and Peace; tedium might be the only victor in this exercise.

So why am I writing this despite those regrets? I’ll come back to the reason in due course. But first, the back story, which I’ve slightly condensed in an effort to combat tedium-induced catatonia. Continue reading »

Feb 162019


(Andy Synn is the author of the following opinion piece, which we will not attempt to summarize here and risk spoilers… so please read on….)

I’m not sure if you’ve all noticed, but a LOT of people have been VERY angry online over the last few weeks.

Whether it’s furore over the upcoming release of the (frankly rather terrible looking) Lords of Chaos movie, the apoplexy inspired by a certain festival headliner announcement, or the excessive sniping, ignorant sexism, and self-congratulatory back-patting inspired by the purposefully click-baity title of a recent (and otherwise extremely well-written) article, there’s been a ridiculous level of rage on display across the interweb recently, something that only seems to have further fostered and widened the inherent divisions within our disparate community.

And while I don’t have time to dive into all of these issues, there’s one in particular I’d like to share a few thoughts and feelings about. Continue reading »

Nov 172018


(Andy Synn prepared this essay, with numerous examples of music, about the value that lyrics can contribute to the enjoyment of metal if written and delivered with conviction.)

So in lieu of another edition of Waxing Lyrical (don’t worry, the column’s not going anywhere, it’s just very dependent on the availability of the bands I talk to) I’ve decided to ask you all a very important question:

What’s more important to you, the lyrics or the music… the message or the medium? Continue reading »

Oct 042018


Two days ago Metal Hammer published an essay entitled “I witnessed the death of genres“, in which the author raved about the live performance he’d recently witnessed by a band named  Scarlxrd, praising the artist’s hybridizing of musical styles from different genres, including metal. The article ended with these words:

“Where else will you find a night of music so indebted to aggressive metal and hip-hop, but unafraid to introduce AC/DC and Oasis into the mix? This is the future of music. Just music. Nobody cares about your arcane genre tags or inexplicably niche sub-genres that only two bands fit into, it’s all just sound, we’re in a genre fluid world and you should embrace it. Music is beautiful and narrow-mindedness is ugly.

“Be part of something, be part of everything.”

This provoked a Facebook status by my NCS colleague Andy Synn. By the time I saw it, it had drawn a large number of comments and exchanges, and one of those dialogues was with our mutual friend and former NCS scribe Joseph Schafer (who now writes for such publications and sites as DECIBEL and Noisey, after a stint as Invisible Oranges‘ editor). Continue reading »

Aug 202018


(Here’s an opinion piece by Andy Synn.)

…of the good. Or so we’re so often told. And a chance encounter on Twitter this weekend only reaffirmed this particular factoid to me.

Allow me to set the scene a little. As part of my duties monitoring and managing the Beyond Grace twitter account, one of the bands I frequently interact with is Allfather (whose new album you can read about here), as I like their music, their ideology, and their general outlook on life (although I do sometimes question their taste in beer), and have enjoyed several productive discussions about music, politics, and other related topics, with them as a result.

Cut to yesterday, when I see that they’ve become involved in a thread about how anti-fascism is now becoming the “in” thing for a lot of bands, with the original poster asking for more recommendations of artists who are consciously and explicitly rejecting the current geo-political shift towards authoritarianism, while also asserting that, if we want this to be more than just a passing trend, we need to really get behind and support the movement.

So far, so good, right? Continue reading »

Jun 252018


(In this post Andy Synn discusses the phenomenon of metal bands releasing remastered or re-recorded versions of older albums, and recommends two recent examples of the practice, by Vader and Hetroertzen.)

For all that we’re supposedly in another “Golden Age” of television, I know there are quite a few people out there (thousands upon thousands of them) who are becoming a little tired of the seemingly constant stream of reboots and remakes of supposedly “classic” (and some not-so-classic) shows from previous eras, under the assumption that some sort of ingrained sense of nostalgia will help sell them more than something like, say, quality writing or a new, interesting premise, would.

Don’t get me wrong. Some of these new versions of older shows are absolutely fantastic, and benefit greatly not only from the new and improved technology of today, but also a greater freedom to reimagine things which comes from a more modern idea of what television can be, when given the chance to do more than simply entertain. It’s just that, as you might expect, the number of lazy remakes vastly outweighs the more creative ones.

The same sort of thing goes on in the music world too, particularly in the Rock/Metal world, where artists with long-running, wide-ranging careers often feel the need to at least remaster, if not entirely re-record, material from their early days, if only because they feel that the technology or budget available to them at the time simply wasn’t sufficient to allow them to properly capture what they were really trying to convey.

And, let me tell you… I’m not entirely against this process. Continue reading »