May 302020


Until this morning I didn’t realize that 7 weeks had passed since the last time I invited people to share their thoughts about what was happening to them and their communities during the pandemic. I didn’t think that much time had passed. On the other hand, when I think back to what was going on during the second week in April and what has happened since then, it seems like seven months ago. I guess we’ve all experienced the distortions in our sense of time that the virus lockdowns have produced. I sure as hell have.

So here we are almost at the beginning of June, the start of summer in the northern hemisphere. Lots of communities are beginning to “open up”, though of course things are still far from normal. Some people are worrying that more frequent social interaction will lead to a “second wave” or at least a “second peak”. It’s becoming apparent that there won’t be any quick rebound in economies around the world. And even if we get through the summer without any dramatic surges in infections or deaths, is the virus (or some mutation of it) going to return with a vengeance in the fall?

It seems to me that even 7 weeks down the road from the last time I wrote one of these posts, the future is still as uncertain as it was then. There are so many unknowns. One of the few certainties is that 7 weeks from now life will not have returned to “normal”. Maybe we’re going to have to get used to a “new normal” that’s radically different from life as it existed just four months ago. Actually, no “maybe” about it. Continue reading »

Apr 112020

foggy morning where I live


On another Saturday three weeks ago (here) I invited visitors to our site, whether old-timers or newcomers, to talk with us and each other about what was happening to them and their communities in this time of the virus and how they were feeling about it. Time has seemed disjointed and hard to track since then, and even before then. For some people it might seem to have slowed down or sped up, but I suspect for most of us it has simply stopped, or become like a directionless soup of events.

Looking back at the previous version of this invitation three weeks ago, I thought of all the things that have changed dramatically in the outer world since then, but also how little they have changed in terms of my own daily existence, mostly bottled up here inside my home with my wife and two cat-children. On the other hand, I can’t say I’ve successfully adapted to this strange new world of isolation and invisible threat. I think others have done a good job of adapting, and others have gone steeply downhill. But I suspect that even the most naturally reclusive types have missed human contact — real face-to-face contact.

We are social animals, and swapping stories over the internet isn’t really an adequate substitute for the physical interaction that’s gone missing. But it may be therapeutic at some level, and entertaining at another one (the previous version of this post certainly generated a lot of interesting comments), and so I’d like to repeat what I did three weeks ago and invite whoever happens to encounter this post to do some sharing of their lives and thoughts. The suggestions are the same as before: Continue reading »

Mar 212020

downtown Seattle yesterday


Like hundreds of millions of people around the world, I have a lot more time on my hands than I did even a week ago. I spend a lot of that new-found time reading the news every day. This hasn’t been good for my mental health, but I haven’t stopped. I began today by reading this global survey by the Associated Press of what”s happening with Covid-19 around the globe. It reports that, as of now, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University in the U.S., more than 275,000 cases have been confirmed globally, including over 11,000 deaths — but at least 88,000 people have recovered. In Italy, the country now being hit the hardest, 5,986 new cases and 627 new deaths were reported on Friday alone, bringing their total to at least 47,021 cases and 4,032 dead.

To varying degrees, people in the U.S. (where I live) are staying at home more than they used to. Governors in California, New York, and Illinois — home to 70 million people — have ordered their citizens to stay at home unless they have vital reasons to go out. Other state governors will surely follow suit within days. In my state (Washington), it hasn’t come to that yet, but the governor has ordered the closure of schools and most businesses and restricted gatherings of people to relatively small numbers, and has pleaded with everyone to stay home even without being ordered to do so. That may change. As of yesterday, there were 1,524 confirmed cases of the virus in Washington and 83 deaths, most of all those in the Seattle area where I live.

The economic toll of all these preventive measures has already been extraordinary, and will get much worse (on that subject, this Washington Post article today is sobering, to put it very mildly). The unemployment rate in the U.S. is spiking, soaring toward levels not seen since the Great Depression. Tons of small businesses have closed, and many will probably never reopen. Giant corporations are begging the government for stupendous sums of money. Vital medical supplies, hospital beds, and trained health-care workers are running short in most metropolitan areas, and the expected tsunami of Covid-19 hospitalizations hasn’t even hit yet. It’s all very depressing, and worrying.

I do intend to pull together a round-up of new metal later today, but since a large percentage of us are basically shut in now, with only limited face-to-face contact with other people (or no contact), I thought I’d start this Saturday by giving our visitors, both old-timers and newcomers, a chance to talk with us and each other here. This is what I suggest: Continue reading »

Dec 242019


(In what used to be an annual tradition, and hopefully will become one again, we present a year-end list of favorite Not-Metal albums by Joseph Schafer (whose NCS moniker was BadWolf). Joseph is a  former NCS writer, ex-Invisible Oranges editor, current contributor to DecibelNoisey, and Consequence of Sound, and a principal co-conspirator in the production of Northwest Terror Fest.)

Sorry it took so long. Last year, the usual hustle and bustle of the holidays totally occupied my time. If you think about it, it’s hard to think of a worse time of year for Listmania than the apex of social and familial pressure that is the end of the year— not to mention the horrid weather that blasts most of the United States as I write this. Regardless, after an abnormally tumultuous 2019, and my decision to skip Listmania the year before, I took the time to outline, as before, my favorite non-metal albums of the year.

Some of these choices should be familiar to anyone who has read my list in years past – I tend to err on the side of my favorites, most of the time. The artists who created five of these choices have turned up on these lists before. Continue reading »

Nov 212019


On November 21, 2009, I made the first post at this blog, which, with tongue partially in cheek, I had decided to name NO CLEAN SINGING. I started it on a lark. I had no training or experience as a music writer. I had only scattered bits of knowledge about the long history of metal, because until recently I had spent my decades of time on earth mainly listening to other kinds of music. What I did have was a burgeoning attraction to heavy music and a lot of curiosity. Back in those early days of the blogging phenomenon, you really didn’t need much more than that to start out. Probably still don’t.

Of course, the intensity of my own interest and the ease of starting up didn’t mean that anyone would pay attention to NCS — and I didn’t expect that or need it. NCS existed as a hobby, for want of a better word, that I hoped would be an enjoyable diversion for me from the grind of daily life. That was the sum total of my motivation. If you had told me back then that I’d still be doing it 10 years later, and that NCS would achieve a certain level of global notoriety, I would have laughed so hard that I’d have been left gasping for air.

On this milestone birthday, I’ve thought about why, unexpectedly, we’re still here, and what has changed from those earliest of days. Continue reading »

May 122019

artwork by Sylwia Smerdel


With deep regret, I must disclose that I will not be able to post a SHADES OF BLACK column on this Sunday, just as I was unable to post a SEEN AND HEARD round-up yesterday. My day job has run me ragged not only for most of last week but straight through this weekend. I don’t think tomorrow will be any better, so I doubt I’ll be able to catch up. I’m posting this notice because I know some of you look forward to the black metal features every Sunday. Sorry to let you down.

Dec 082018


UPDATE:  The grinding gears of our horrible machine appear to be rotating again. Thank you for your patience.

For about the last 24 hours our site has been experiencing technical difficulties. For a while, NCS was completely inaccessible. Now, it seems that people are able to reach the main page, but can’t connect to individual articles — which is why there’s no “jump” in what you’re reading now to anything longer. Everything in this post should be view-able on the main page.

I (islander) have a rudimentary understanding of what the problem is (though I hasten to add that I still may not be grasping the issue correctly): It seems that URLs for individual articles at the site are pointing to IP addresses for remote servers that we used to use to help propagate our content around the world and speed up access, but which we’re no longer using (because we thought another service we were using rendered it redundant), rather than to the main dedicated server at our web-host that houses everything connected to the site. The same problem has disabled our access to e-mails sent to NCS (nothing sent to us over the last 24 hours has arrived at the e-mail server provided by our web host).

There is a way to fix these issues, but it’s beyond my own technical skill. We have an IT consultant who has been helping us, and I’m hoping he will figure out the solution soon, and by Monday at the latest.

As I write this, I’m on my way back to Seattle from a two-week vacation, and had plans for us to get back to normal beginning Monday, and to continue with our year-end LISTMANIA series with the continuation of Andy Synn‘s 6-part list that we began on Friday. I still hope that will happen. In the meantime, I’m trying not to let my frustration with our current fucked-up situation eat me up from the inside out, and I hope you’ll be more patient than I’m feeling at the moment.

Nov 252018


Over the next two weeks you’re probably going to notice a diminution in the number of posts at NCS, compared to what you’ve become accustomed to. Rest assured that it’s not a sign of some awful catastrophe that has befallen us, or an indication that we’re getting tired of what we do. To banish any such concerns, I’m writing now to explain that I (Islander) will just be on vacation.

Of course, it’s likely that the rest of the NCS staff and contributors will continue to send reviews and interviews to me for publication at their usual pace, but because I tend to write most of the daily posts, things will probably slow down a bit. Continue reading »

Nov 212018


Measured within the span of a human life, nine years old is still childhood. In metal blog years it’s more like middle age. A few others out there are older than NCS, but not many, and a lot of our former peers have died and turned to dust. Mere stubborn survival continues to be some kind of triumph, and so once again I’m celebrating another milestone: We’re nine years old today, having posted our first article on November 21, 2009.

I continue to be amazed and thankful that we’re still here, that so many good friends are still devoting themselves to writing for NCS on a purely volunteer basis, and that so many readers are still willing to pay attention to what we’re saying and streaming. As usual at this time of year, I want to begin by thanking some of those friends who have been here the longest, keeping the grinding gears of our gruesome machine in motion. Continue reading »

Jun 262018


We’re going well off our usual beaten paths with this premiere, and onto a kind of parallel path, running alongside in a different musical dimension. For this writer, it provided the opportunity for exploration and discovery. Merely curious at first, I found myself more than tantalized by the end and therefore concluded this would be worth sharing with you as well.

This side trip begins with Kosmogyr, a contemporary black metal band consisting of two people divided between Shanghai and Prague. Their marvelous debut album Eviternity was released earlier this year, and we had the pleasure of premiering its title track. But Kosmogyr have now launched that album into a different musical world, collaborating with nine producers around the world to present Eviternally: The Remixes, which will be released on July 13th. And that’s what Eviternally consists of — remixes of the original songs by other artists who’ve give the music very different shapes. Continue reading »