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 »

May 232018

airplane window view (it don’t look flat to me)


The little tracking map on my laptop says the airplane is somewhere over Wisconsin as I start writing this post. Supposedly, said airplane will land in Baltimore 2 house and 17 minutes from now. A few hours after that, I’ll start my Maryland Deathfest 2018 experience with a visit to the pre-fest show. And there will be a steady diet of metal from then through Sunday.

I’m not the only NCS slave who will be at MDF. Andy Synn and DGR will be there, too, along with assorted other miscreants (and a few saints) whom we are proud to call our friends. The likely outcome of this revelry is that the usual volume of NCS posts will dwindle to a trickle until next week… but it won’t disappear. Continue reading »

Apr 302018


Like everything your bleary eyes perceive on a desktop computer or a portable device, No Clean Singing resides on a machine. We rent space on said machine from a web host, initially on a server we shared with strangers and eventually on one dedicated exclusively to our own putrid creations. Over time, the database that stored those creations became clogged with digital gunk, the kind of gunk that caused the machine to lose its mind from time to time, resulting in outages until the mind could (temporarily) regain some clarity.

In addition, the theme we’ve used since Day One, i.e., the software residing in our machine home that provides for the “look and feel” of the site, was abandoned by its developer. Even before that, I resisted updates to the theme software due to anxiety over the possibility that the updates would result in unwanted changes to the appearance and functionality of the site, which I had so painstakingly customized. This created a ticking time bomb, destined to go off on an unknown future day when some update to the WordPress software that’s fundamental to the existence of this blog would break the theme into tiny non-functioning pieces. And there were other problems.

Unfortunately, although I’m the guy who created the site and is responsible for its day-to-day care and feeding, I’m self-taught when it comes to its “back end” operation. I know just enough to be a danger to myself and others, and don’t know nearly enough computer science to solve any of the problems identified or alluded to above. So, after eventually getting tired of living anxiously with my fingers crossed, I finally did something smart. I hired an expert. Continue reading »

Jan 032018


(In what has become an annual tradition, former NCS writer, ex-Invisible Oranges editor, and current contributor to Decibel and Noisey, Joseph Schafer (whose NCS moniker was BadWolf) brings us a year-end list of favorite Not-Metal albums.)


As in previous years, this is my favorite article to write. There remains something delicious and transgressive about extolling the virtues of mainstream pop music to metal fans on a metal-centric platform. The reason why is no mystery: metal is intended itself to be delicious and transgressive, but too often becomes a stale and staunch conservative vomitorium. Eat the same diet of blast beats, high-gain distortion, and Lucifer sigils, vomit them back up, ingest a new round of the same, repeat.

I like a Roman feast as much as the next guy, but I also know to take myself out to sushi every so often, remaining Fukushima background radiation be damned. And yes I know that’s not what a vomitorum was actually used for but you all gleaned my meaning regardless, and if not what’s wrong with you?

Besides, as any social media window left open too long will tell you: even staunch metal fans love plenty of extra-metallic material. Tom G. Warrior loves David Slyvian. This is no great act of rebellion, this is the simple acknowledgement that metal is pop music, as in art meant for popular consumption. That is no damning admonishment. It describes Mozart, too. Continue reading »

Nov 212017


We have survived another year, and yes, I still count mere survival as a kind of triumph in the precarious realms of metal blogdom. We are a whopping eight years old today — we made our first post on November 21, 2009.

Measured according to other time scales, eight years seems like the blink of an eye. But measured by the lifespan of your average metal blog (or even by some large commercial metal sites), we’re… kind of mature. Not in our behavior, of course.

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 haven’t yet gotten fed up and purged us from their lives. Continue reading »

Jul 072017


(We have a little-used category of posts that, for want of a better term, we call “Off Topic”. This is one of those “not metal” posts. But it also fits in another category of posts — “That’s Music — But It’s Not Metal” — which is too complicated to explain in detail, but basically refers to music that isn’t metal, but also kind of is “metal”. I’ll shut up now and let Grant Skelton take it from here.)

I used to loathe country music. Going to college near Nashville, the Mecca of country music, probably didn’t help. Metal was all I wanted to hear. That is, until I discovered late greats like Johnny Cash and Townes Van Zandt.

Whole libraries have been written on each of those two. And even among metal fans, Cash and Van Zandt seem to occupy something of a sacred place. Late last year, Islander gushed over Panzerfaust’s cover of Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down,” referring to Cash as, “the most black metal country singer you can find.” Neurot Recordings has released two compilations (Volume I and Volume II) of Townes Van Zandt covers by Scott Kelly, Wino, Mike Scheidt, and Steve Von Till. Dorthia Cottrell of Windhand recorded her creepy rendition of Van Zandt’s song “Rake” for her self-titled 2015 solo album The much-hyped upcoming outlaw country cover album from DevilDriver (whether you hate that idea or love it) further underscores my point.

Don’t get me wrong, the country music you’ll hear on the radio is nothing more than the foul ordure of red-state identity politics. The songs aren’t songs, they’re lists of ideals and symbols that perpetuate a mythical, illusory way of life. But this article isn’t about that. It’s about artists whose music, while not metal in the slightest, I believe will still be meaningful and enjoyable to readers of our site. On my honor, here you will find no songs about girls in trucks. Continue reading »