Sep 222022


(Our editor Islander [that would be me] wrote the following concert review and took all the photos that accompany it.)

The literature of anthropological evolution (in which I’m a dabbler rather than an expert) makes a convincing case that much of our behavior is rooted in instincts that evolved over a vast span of time, instincts geared toward the survival of the species. Unfortunately, it’s also pretty clear that in the “modern age” those instincts no longer function very well as instruments of preservation and advancement. Instead, they lead to behavior that’s just plain dumb, or worse yet self-destructive, or still worse yet, dangerous to the survival of the species as a whole.

Unlike almost all other creatures on the planet, our big sophisticated brains give us the ability to override instinct for the better. Sometimes we actually behave in genuinely altruistic ways. Sometimes we’re able to extricate ourselves from dangerous predicaments through the exercise of reason when instinct alone would fail. We just don’t do any of that as often as we should, and there’s a case to be made that time is running out.

These thoughts bubbled to the surface as I reflected on the performance of Heilung I was lucky enough to witness in Seattle on the night of September 20th. On the one hand, the intense primal attraction of the show was a vivid reminder that “primitive man” still dwells within us. On the other hand, it was a testament to the willed creativity of which we’re capable, and the capacity to create beauty and magic. Continue reading »

Sep 212022

(Andy Synn takes a look behind the mask with Gaerea‘s new album, Mirage, out on Friday)

What’s in a name, anyway?

Well, according to some people… not a lot. And according to others… a great deal. Especially when it comes to genres.

Case in point, there are some people – by no means a majority, I should point out right away, though often the loudest and/or most obnoxious – who would balk at the very suggestion that Gaerea are a “true” (or “trve”) Black Metal band due to the fact that their sound is too “polished”, their visual aesthetic too “clean”, and so on.

And yet, for every one of them (I think of them as the Black Metal equivalent of the Amish – zealously convinced that a certain time period was the only “righteous” one, and that any progress beyond that should be shunned) there’s at least a dozen more for whom the very idea of questioning the band’s right to “belong” to the genre (of which they are so clearly and obviously a part) is patently ridiculous.

But the thing is… while much digital ink (and the occasional bit of non-digital blood) has been spilled over this argument, and many like it over the years… it’s obvious that Gaerea themselves don’t really care what you call them. They know who they are. And it’s the music, and not the labels which others put on it, which defines them.

Continue reading »

Sep 202022

Many much-beloved metal albums, both very old and much newer, follow a straight and narrow path, charting a consistent stylistic course and staying in the lane, without much interest shown in the openings that lead off elsewhere into the thorny brambles and dark woods on either side. They work because the bands are so good at what they chose to do, and make their trails wander just enough to keep the eyes and ears of listeners alert.

On the other hand, some bands only seem to have eyes for the paths that twist and turn, the more tangled and unpredictable the better, and they relish the chance to dart off into side-openings whenever the opportunity presents itself. Some of those bands get lost, and lose listeners along the way, but others succeed in making their less-traveled paths more exciting than the straight and narrow.

The Loom of Time‘s new album Grand False Karass is certainly a vivid example of the latter, and an even more surprising one in light of the bamboozling (and dangerous) new adventures it offers by comparison to the band’s debut. Continue reading »

Sep 202022

(We present DGR‘s review of a new album by the UK’s Strigoi, which will be coming out on September 30th on the Season of Mist label. Photos by Hal Sinden.)

It is a wonder how we always cycle back around to the start musically, isn’t it?

Although at this point Vallenfyre has been a long-retired project, with founding member and mainstay Gregor Mackintosh instead launching Strigoi a year and a half after the previous band’s final album, the group’s influence throughout releases has been hard to deny. For many, Strigoi is a natural continuation of the prior project – mainly another outlet for Greg to unleash his varied tastes for death and doom metal alongside new cohorts, so much so that the line between the two projects is often blurred.

When Vallenfyre‘s debut A Fragile King was released, it was a densely packed and thundering take on the hybrid death-and-doom genre. Vallenfyre‘s later two releases would travel in different directions from that initial launch, adding in a heap of crust punk and grind influence, resulting in a project that got much faster and little bit more traditionally vicious over the course of its three-release career.

Strigoi picked up the baton in that relay, adding even more elements to the fire, and Greg – now joined by Chris Casket – would release a grungier take on those first three albums with 2019’s Abandon All Faith. Which is what makes things interesting for Strigoi‘s sophomore album Viscera – their first for Season Of Mist – because it seems that even though the group is now reinforced with drummer Guido Zima and guitarist Ben Ash, the initial influence of that first solo project release has never fully left. Viscera has cycled back around, and Strigoi once again returns to the realm of dense, slow-crawling dirge, death, and doom. Continue reading »

Sep 192022

(We’re joined today by a new NCS contributor, Rob Tamplin, with his review of a new album by Texas-based Gonemage, set for release on September 30th.)

With Handheld Demise, Garry Brents, emerging master of high-concept narrative genre-spanning almost-metal, rounds off a trilogy of albums which started with 2021’s Mythical Extraction.

While it’s difficult to pinpoint the eye of Brents’ particular musical hurricane, the nucleus seems to be Phase Out, Cara Neir’s ongoing trilogy of 8-bit black metal homages to RPGs. The Phase Out cycle is a trilogy of loosely-narrative albums inspired by dungeon crawler games like Neverwinter Nights, Pools of Darkness and Death Knights of Krynn, in which the listener ‘experience[s] a range of bits, bleeps, beats, and buzzing sounds you might hear from 90’s dungeon crawlers and JRPG’s.’

Like its parent project, Handheld Demise presents an entrancing medley of metal and geek culture (the cassette version of Sudden Deluge, the trilogy’s middle-child, came with its own custom printed Magic: The Gathering card). So, If Cara Neir is the main show, then Gonemage is the spin off. Continue reading »

Sep 192022

If you’re not fluent in Italian and feel the urge to resort to google translate, we’ll save you that step: Un feto schiacciato senza tre falangi, the name of Scheletro‘s new album, means “A crushed fetus without three phalanges”.

That’s a grim and gruesome image to contemplate, but it’s just a hint of the traumatic nature of the album concept as a whole, which is described as a narrative “in which rebellion against patriarchy ends in suicide, social emancipation is humiliated by sexual blackmail, revenge is swept away by repression, and perversion is sublimated into necrophilia”.

How Scheletro tell this harrowing tale through their music is a tale all its own, one in which the group bring together ingredients of traditional Italian old-school hardcore, D-beat crust punk, and strands of old school death metal and thrash. The results are bleak, punishing, and emotionally moving, but also explosively wild and exhilarating. Continue reading »

Sep 192022

(Earlier this month Bloodbath released their sixth album, and their first on Napalm Records, and today DGR has some thoughts to share with you about it.)

The thing reiterated with Bloodbath time and time again is how the group have always existed as partial tribute act, partial throwback, and definite lovers of the phrase “playing for the cheap seats”.

They were formed in a time when the wave of death metal throwback wasn’t yet even a cogent idea to a lot of people, with some of the groups that Bloodbath sought to emulate only just hanging their hats up to go quiet for a decade or so — only to return as the old school death metal revival hit full swing. At the time it made logical sense since they became a bastion of old school chainsaw guitar and ethos, likely exposing waves of people to the genre for the first time, boosted by the popularity of its various members’ other projects. It would feel like a lie to say that the gateway to Bloodbath at that time for a lot of people wasn’t a starting point with Opeth and Katatonia.

What’s been interesting for Bloodbath is that they’re in a weird spot now, as the revival and throwback movements have now long been factors within the genre, which means they’ve no longer the flag-bearers for a style that has waned in popularity. Instead, they’re now at the forefront of an active movement within death metal and one that often asks the question, “well how hard can you throw us backward in time?” Continue reading »

Sep 172022

Eternal Helcaraxe

Oh shit look what I’ve done. I learned the hard way that I should never call one of these weekend round-ups “Part 1” when Part 2 is still just an idea. Too many times in the past, I never got around to writing Part 2, even when I was damn sure I could. So I vowed to myself I’d stop doing the Parts thing. If I got another Part done, it would just be a surprise instead of the culmination of an announced plan.

You know what makes the situation even riskier (i.e., stupider) today? I have ideas not just for Part 2 but also for Part 3! I could spell out those ideas right now. But there’s  a limit to how dumb I’m willing to be. I’ll just say that if they come to pass they won’t both be a continuation of choices from among fairly recent songs and videos. Continue reading »

Sep 152022

(This is Todd Manning‘s review of the fourth LP by San Francisco-based death/crust metal act Acephalix, which is set for release by 20 Buck Spin on September 30th.)

Five years is too long to wait for a new Acephalix record but that’s how long it’s been. And what a five years it’s been. Their new record, Theothanatology due out on September 30th via 20 Buck Spin, explores the idea of the death of god, an understandable train of thought where the daily news is nothing more than an autopsy of our dying civilization. The album oozes with all the pent-up anger, frustration, and anxiety of our modern world and channels it into the group’s trademark brand of atavistic, mongrel death metal. Continue reading »

Sep 142022

(We welcome the return of NCS contributor Hope Gould and her review a new EP by the Oregonian black/death band Diabolic Oath, out now on the Sentient Ruin label.)

Something evil haunts the Pacific Northwest. Beneath the quaintness of the moss and ferns lies a sickly, insidious rot. In recent years, the PNW’s underground has siphoned the contaminated soil of its foul minerals and tirelessly cultivates some seriously evil metal – and the soil is rich. This year alone has seen evil, grimy releases from the likes of Triumvir Foul, Hissing and Grave Infestation to name a few. Portland’s Diabolic Oath were cultivated from the very same soil, festered in it, and have again proven themselves to be a most odious force with their new EP, Aischrolatreia.

Diabolic Oath emerged conspicuously from the Oregon mire with their first full-length, 2020’s Profane Death Exodus. Setting them apart was their masterful use of fretless guitar and fretless bass to craft a warped soundscape over unconventional compositions. Aischrolatreia revisits this sound but takes on an even more hostile and raw approach. Bestial devotees are likely to find themselves being sucked into the aural filth while others who have not yet heard the call may find it a jarring journey. Continue reading »