Sep 022017


(Andy Synn is now lobbying the Oxford English Dictionary for recognition of a new word.)

In case you didn’t know, yesterday saw release of the brand new album by Symphonic Death Metal titans Septic Flesh (yes, I’m still spelling it as two words).

Now while I’m not planning on reviewing it here (that honour will, in all likelihood, fall to DGR), I will say that Codex Omega feels like a big step up from The Great Mass and Titan, the latter of which in particular suffered (in this author’s opinion at least) from a noticeable lack of balance between the “Symphonic” and the “Death Metal” aspects of the band’s sound, with the lion’s share of the effort put into the orchestration, while the drums and riffs (or lack thereof) were treated very much as an afterthought.

And as Codex Omega is such a big improvement on its predecessors in this regard, I felt it might be high time we all got together to discuss the costs/benefits inherent in “symphonisizing” (a word I’ve just invented) your sound. Continue reading »

Aug 202017


I’m still in Wyoming with a bunch of good friends, now one day away from the total eclipse of the sun that we came here to witness together. Last night was another late session of stargazing, boozing, and the kind of unpredictable conversation that boozing under the shine of the Milky Way can produce.

Much earlier in the day NCS contributor Grant Skelton had sent me a link to a song that I had decided to include in today’s SHADES OF BLACK column (which I haven’t even started writing, but will write, I promise — though I might not post it until eclipse day tomorrow). And the name of the band reminded me of something I hadn’t thought about in years, and that provoked one of the most interesting conversations under the stars last night. Continue reading »

Jul 152017


(Andy Synn’s band Beyond Grace released their debut album, Seekers, one week ago, and almost immediately it became available for download on pirate music sites. In this post, Andy shares some reactions to those events and questions what to do about it.)

As some of you may be aware, my band recently released our debut album (I’ll stop going on about it eventually, I promise).
What you might not be aware of is that fact that the album leaked online for illegal download the same day it was released… something which, let’s be honest, isn’t exactly an uncommon occurrence these days.

The thing is, I’m really not sure how to respond to this unfortunate turn of events. There’s several options available to me/us right now, but I’m just not certain what the right move is. Continue reading »

Jun 102017

Daniele Valeriani: “Vexilla Regis Prodeunt Inferni” (2017)


(Andy Synn wrote this thought piece — and provides some musical recommendations at the end.)


As part of a new initiative here at NCS, designed to give Islander some time off over the weekend (as well as serve as an intervention for his crippling blog addiction), I’m planning to put together a little something every Saturday – be it a review, an interview, or an opinion piece – to help tide over our readers until the inevitable Monday (editor’s intrusion: and Sunday!) rush of content comes back around.

So here goes nothing… Continue reading »

May 292017

Oranssi Pazuzu


As regular visitors will have noticed, we haven’t posted very much since last Wednesday. That was the day when three of us here at NCS and a group of other friends made our way to Baltimore for the 2017 edition of Maryland Deathfest — which turned out to be a blast once again, from the set by Baltimore’s Destroyer of Man that launched the pre-fest show straight through to the drum solo by Pete Sandoval that ended Terrorizer’s closing set at Soundstage last night.

In past years I’ve written a day-by-day recap of MDF, with photos and sometimes with videos, usually pulling those together on the morning after each day. This year I decided just to enjoy the event and not worry about writing it up while it was happening. Continue reading »

May 242017


(Andy Synn (and other fiends here at NCS) is attending Maryland Deathfest XV, which begins a bit later this week, and here he names the five bands whose performances are highest on his list.)

In case you hadn’t heard, there’s a little event called “Maryland Deathfest” happening this week, and I’m lucky enough to be attending for the second year in a row.

As a result, my contributions to NCS are going to be somewhat… minimal… until next week (though I do have a little something blast-tastic lined up for Friday for you all), while I do my best to develop and nurse a cumulative five-day hangover/bangover.

In recognition of this momentous occasion, however, I thought I’d put together a quick list of the five bands I’m most looking forward to seeing at MDF this year – although thinning it down to only five definitely wasn’t easy! Continue reading »

Feb 112017


(Andy Synn wrote the following bovine-themed opinion piece.)

Phew, for a group of people often characterised as “rebellious” and “anti-religious”… we metalheads sure do hold more than our fair share of things as sacred and inviolable, don’t we?

Case in point, a certain article last year (which will, for the moment, remain unnamed) dared to question and criticise a particularly famous and highly-regarded album, which of course led to the expected backlash from the sort of knee-jerk reactionaries who like to say things like “this proves you’re a hipster” or “if you don’t like [x] then you don’t like Metal!”

Now while I don’t want this article to develop into a similar bitchfest (again, for such a supposedly “macho” genre, we can certainly be a catty group when something ruffles our petticoats), I do have to say that I thought the article was well-written, and made some cogent points.

I didn’t necessarily agree with its conclusion, but then nor do I think it was wrong to write it, or that the author was just trying to troll people.

Because it is important, sometimes, to go against the grain. To challenge the prevailing orthodoxy and to try to make people think not just about what they like… but about why they like it in the first place.

Sometimes the sacred cow needs to be slaughtered. Or, at least, lightly stabbed. Continue reading »

Nov 212016



(Here we have an opinion piece by Andy Synn, and as always we welcome your comments.)

As most of you should know by now, I generally love Black Metal. Of course I don’t love every band or every particular sub-species of the style, but overall there’s just something about the music and the ethos of the genre – an intensity, an atmosphere, a sense of stubborn individuality — that really speaks to me.

I also particularly love the fact that Black Metal, although denigrated by many for being too insular and restrictive (and, in fact, also celebrated by many for the former), is actually one of the most musically open and creative genres in Metal when you really dig into it.

From the most Avant-Garde to the most Punk, from the most Melodic to the most harshly Industrial, from the Post/Progressive/Atmospheric side of things, to the punishing panzer-style of pure blasting blasphemy… and more… to my mind the core essence of Black Metal is a refusal to be restricted or defined by the expectations of others. It’s about freedom and the ability to “do what thou wilt…”

But, of course, that itself raises some problems. Continue reading »

Oct 212016



(Andy Synn wrote the following opinion piece.)

The initial title for this column was “The Law of the Average”, as its overall focus was initially supposed to be on how easy it is for bands to settle for just being average… often without even realizing it.

But, as I was writing it — and, as usual, my thoughts were racing ahead of my typing — I realized that although my musings on the curse of being merely “average” was definitely still a big part of the piece, the main focus had shifted somewhat. I was no longer writing about how it must feel to realize (or, even more frequently, not realize) that your band may not ever rise above being simply “average” in the grand scheme of things… I was writing about how and about why I think this happens. Which is a subtle but important distinction.

And, ultimately, I decided (though I don’t really know if “decided” is the right word) to zero in on one fact in particular.

The importance of influences and how they shape you, as a band, as a musician, and as a person in general. Continue reading »

Sep 282016



I haven’t written about this subject in a while, but a recent private exchange of messages on Facebook got me thinking about it again.  The subject concerns music created by bands (or at least parts of bands) who embrace Nazi ideology or other similar racist ideologies and beliefs.

These thoughts are my own, not necessarily those of anyone else associated with our site. The issue may come closer to my consciousness than other writers here because I tend to write more about underground black metal and certain offshoots of it, which have tended to be a more fertile breeding ground for this kind of thing than other metal genres. Continue reading »