May 222019


(TheMadIsraeli re-surfaces at NCS with a group of quick recommendations of recent releases for your earholes.)


Kolossus are a pretty neat Finnish band whose music I couldn’t peg when I first heard them but I’ve settled on calling it melodic death metal. Really good melodic death metal is rare for me these days, but this group’s combination of the playfulness of Into Eternity, Before The Dawn‘s style of morose gothic melody and atmosphere, and  their militant energy and propulsive grooves bring to mind both Byzantine and System of A Down. Continue reading »

May 202019


Wow, 16 days since I posted the last of these new-music round-ups. And that one came 10 days after the one before it. Not a good track record, but my job has been a jealous mistress lately, or more like a starving wolverine hungry for my flesh. It’s unlikely things will improve in the near future, but for different reasons.

In two days, for the 6th year in a row, I’m flying to Baltimore with a bunch of Seattle friends to take in Maryland Deathfest. My NCS comrades Andy Synn and DGR will be there, too, and I doubt they’ll be spending their free time banging out content for NCS either. And then the week after that I’ll be spending a shitload of time helping to put on the third edition of the NCS-sponsored Northwest Terror Fest in Seattle. My day job probably won’t leave me alone over the next two weeks either.

So, it won’t surprise me if another 16 days pass between today’s round-up and the next one. Or maybe I’ll throw together a round-up that just consists of one new song. Or maybe two, if I skip showers and breakfasts. But today I have five, because I woke up at 3 a.m. and couldn’t go back to sleep. Continue reading »

May 042019


I did listen to these songs on a Saturday, but it wasn’t this Saturday. It was a week ago while I was in Houston, but for reasons I explained last weekend I didn’t have either the time or a clear enough head to write anything. And then, as forecast, my day job prevented me from doing anything more than write premieres last week.

So here we are, 10 days since the last round-up of new music I posted. Do I try to catch up with all the new stuff that’s come out over the last week, or just go with what I would have done last weekend if I’d had the time? I decided on the latter plan, because it will probably take me the rest of the day just to figure out what I missed. Maybe some of what’s below will be new to you anyway.


There are some old favorites among the bands I chose for this round-up, beginning with the veteran Kansas City collective, Ares KingdomChuck Keller (guitar), Mike Miller (drums), and Alex Blume (bass, vocals). Their fourth album, By the Light of Their Destruction, will be released on May 15th (CD and vinyl) by Nuclear War Now! Productions, and the song below is a track named “Eighteen Degrees Beneath“. Continue reading »

Apr 282019


… why there is no SHADES OF BLACK column on this Sunday, it’s because I’ve been spending the weekend with a bunch of old friends in Houston, Texas, helping one of them celebrate her 50th birthday.

I’ve had a great time at what has turned into a multi-day non-stop party, except for this morning, when I’ve been incapacitated by all the partying, even after 10 hours of sleep. But there’s been no blog time at all, and almost no time for listening to metal either. And to be brutally honest, the thought of listening to brutal music in my current condition isn’t appealing. Continue reading »

Apr 242019


I didn’t expect to prepare another new-music round-up so soon, since I posted one of these just yesterday, but I found myself with enough free time — just barely enough — to do it. Without further ado:


Yesterday brought us the debut of a track called “The Hardship of the Scots” from the new album by Darkthrone, Old Star. Unsurprisingly, the news of a new Darkthrone song spread like wildfire, and predictably provoked reflexive praise. The thing is, such reflexes have been conditioned by decades of praiseworthy work by this band, and in this instance (more importantly), it really is a hell of a good song — which I have had serious difficulty getting out of my head so I can focus on other things. Continue reading »

Apr 232019


(In what has become an annual tradition, our man from the UK, Andy Synn, attended Inferno Festival on April 18 – 21, 2019, in Oslo. Beginning today we will post his reports on the event, day by day, accompanied by a few of his photos.)

This year’s edition of Inferno Festival was a funny one for me, for a couple of reasons.

For one thing the allure of the headliners simply didn’t seem as great this year (although the undercard definitely provided more than its fair share of gems), with only the highly-anticipated Hypocrisy headline slot on the Friday really standing out to me (which, let me be clear, is no judgement on the festival organisers, or the other bands themselves, and merely a reflection of my own mindset where Dimmu, Bloodbath, and Opeth are concerned).

More importantly, however, this was the first year where I’ve attended the festival and NOT been able to see all the bands I wanted to, as I started to develop a really nasty fever on the Saturday, and ended up spending the next sixteen-or-so hours simultaneously burning up and freezing to death while my body tried desperately to sweat out whatever was poisoning it, and even now I can count the number of hours of sleep I’ve had since then in the single digits.

Still, I can’t complain too much, as I managed to see almost all the bands I really wanted to watch over the course of the weekend, and can only apologise to the ones I missed. Continue reading »

Apr 232019


I’m torn between the desire to back-track and continue to catch up on new advance songs that I failed to notice over the nearly three weeks when I couldn’t devote time to round-ups, and the steady impulse to focus on things “hot off the presses”. This particular collection reflects that schism: There’s a bit of both in here.


The timbre of Gaahl‘s voice dominates the opening of “Carving the Voices“, which Metal Hammer premiered a week ago. Like a prophet who might actually be clairvoyant or an ancient enchanter who has just emerged from a centuries-long imprisonment within a gnarled oak, the deep resonance of his voice conveys the possession of wisdom both profound and full of dread. Continue reading »

Apr 202019

Majestic Downfall – great photo by Luis Roa


I decided to begin this Saturday round-up with a rare news item (because it involves a band that’s a personal favorite) and then get into a bunch of new music. It’s not nearly enough new music to make up for the fact that I only managed one other round-up over the last three weeks, but it’s the best I can do for today. I siphoned off most of the black metal from my selections, and those will appear in the usual Sunday column, which is already shaping up to be a two-parter. Instead of Shades of Black, today’s picks could be called Shades of Death.


Here’s the news item, which is a rarity because we’re really not set up to share the word about new tour announcements, since that would become a full-time job, and I’d rather spend the time writing about new music. But in this instance I made an exception, because it concerns Majestic Downfall, and in particular an excursion by that fine Mexican band into the provinces of The Great White North. Continue reading »

Apr 192019


Just two days ago, in introducing another premiere, I remarked that 2019 was shaping up to be a banner year for medieval black metal. In the forefront of my mind when I wrote that was this extraordinary album by Grylle. It’s not the only example I had in mind, but it stands in front. And perhaps paradoxically, an album that has proven to be one of the best of any genre I’ve heard this year (or likely will hear), in the midst of so much metallic extremity, is one performed almost entirely with acoustic instruments — and very old ones at that.

Les Grandes Compagnies is not stingy in its sharing of marvels either. It presents 11 tracks and more than an hour of music. Becoming immersed in it is quite easy. Leaving it behind 65 minutes later is very difficult. In some ways it’s like a time-traveling journey many centuries into the past, but not exactly like that. Rather than a pathway into a long-gone world that once did exist, it’s perhaps more like being transported into a world of the imagination, an ingenious hybrid of the ancient and the modern that exists only there. Continue reading »

Apr 182019


The last time I posted a round-up of new music (here) was 15 days ago. At the time I had 10 new songs I wanted to recommend, and no logical way to arrange them, given the diversity of the sounds, other than in alphabetical order by band name.  I got through five bands in the A-M range, with every intention of posting a second installment of five in the M-Z range by the next day. That didn’t happen, and I didn’t get it done by the end of that week, or the next week either, and now it’s Thursday of this week. My fucking day job has been killing me lately.

Of course, a ton more songs have been released in the last 15 days, but I’ve decided to stick with my original plan and finish that selection of 10 that I started more than two weeks ago, even though the music is no longer “hot off the presses”. I have made one change, because one of the songs I had chosen for the second group of five (by Misotheist) coincidentally wound up in eiterorm’s guest edition of SHADES OF BLACK last Sunday, so I made a substitution. Continue reading »