Jan 222021


(Here we have Andy Synn‘s review of the debut album by the multinational avant-garde black metal band Thermohaline, which had its surprise Bandcamp release today.)

Give us a choice between covering a big-name band or a relative unknown and we’ll plump for the latter 99 times out of 100.

That’s just the way we roll, and the way it’s always been.

Granted, we’re not against covering bigger, more well-known acts, particularly if/when we think we’ve got an interesting or unique take to offer, but for the most part our efforts are best focussed on the underdogs, the underrated, and the under-exposed… bands like blackened, avant-garde genre-blenders Thermohaline. Continue reading »

Jan 222021


Last September at NCS Andy Synn devoted the 125th edition of his Synn Report (here) to the discography of Minnesota-based Feral Light, whose music he recommended for fans of  Tombs, Cobalt, and Wolvhammer. In Andy’s words, Feral Light (drummer Andrew Reesen and guitarist/vocalist Andy Schoengrund) “deal in a gritty, gruesomely groovesome brand of Black ‘n’ Roll which has, over the years, also developed an increasingly savage-yet-sombre (not to mention ever-so-slightly proggy) edge to it”.

The latest record in their discography as it existed at the time of Andy’s retrospective was the 2020 album Life Vapor, which he characterized as Feral Light‘s “darkest record yet”, a “more refined and more atmosphere-heavy album than either of its predecessors”, but also “even more focussed and ferocious”: “[F]or what it might lack (or sacrifice) in terms of bombastic hooks and swaggering attitude it more than makes up for in sheer intensity and potent staying-power, making for an overall more fulfilling, and no less thrilling, listening experience from start to finish.”

If you haven’t yet encountered Feral Light, you should definitely check out Life Vapor — but you really couldn’t go wrong with any of their albums. And thankfully, the band continue to forge ahead. On February 26th they will be releasing a new three-song EP named Ceremonial Tower, and today it’s our pleasure to premiere one of those three tracks — “Conjoint Lightlessness“. Continue reading »

Jan 212021


(Here is Andy Synn‘s review of the new album by the Finnish band Aethyrick, which is set for release by Sinister Flame on January 22nd — tomorrow!)

I have to begin this review with a mea culpa.

I clearly remember listening to Aethyrick’s previous album, Gnosis, when it was released last year. I remember enjoying it, I remember making notes about it, I remember fully intending to review it… but somehow, for some reason, it never happened. And that’s no-one’s fault but my own.

However, time heals all wounds – or, at least, gives us an opportunity to atone for them – and the recent release of the prolific Finnish duo’s third album means I’m not going to make the same mistake twice. Continue reading »

Jan 192021


Take a good look at the cover art for Grabunhold’s debut album Heldentod, because it provides a few pertinent clues to the music. In elaborate fashion, the drawing depicts a blending of the supernatural and the medieval. A castle looms in the distance, banners flying in a cloud-cloaked mountain fastness. In the foreground a hellish king, surrounded by ghastly creatures emerging from the earth, gazes over long columns of dread warriors marching toward that distant fortress. And above it all, a crossed sword and mace adorn the ornate lettering of Grabunhold’s name.

Like the fantastical cover art, Grabunhold’s formulation of black metal is itself a blending of the supernatural and the medieval. It is itself cloud-cloaked and majestic, warlike and elaborate. It often rings with the resonance of ancient music, and it reaches spectacular heights, but it is also persistently shadowed by dread and sorrow. It merits the well-worn term “epic”, but there is an earnestness and sense of devotion in the music that prevents it from sounding calculated or “cheesy”. And its multiple facets are so memorable that it’s likely to have staying power over years to come.

Thus it’s with considerable pleasure that we present a full stream of the album in advance of its January 22nd release by Iron Bonehead Productions — preceded (of course) by a bushel of additional words. Continue reading »

Jan 192021


(What follows is Wil Cifer‘s review of the latest album by the Atlanta-area band Prime Mover, which was released near the end of December 2020.)

This band from Atlanta has kicked around the southeastern metal scene since 1997. Their second full-length unfurls the sound of a band fully realizing their sound and have sharpened it into a keen weapon.

Their arsenal of riffs are supported by smart songwriting. They know the value of a hook. Their melodic guitar lines work best when they are not charging full speed ahead. Despite being referenced as a black metal band in some corners of the internet, death metal seems to be their primary influence. Very melodic death metal at that. There is also a hefty dose of thrash in what these guys do. Continue reading »

Jan 182021


(Here’s Todd Manning’s review of the new album by California’s Black Sheep Wall, which will be released on February 26th by Silent Pendulum Records.)

To say that the Sludge and Doom genres are oversaturated might be a bit of an understatement. There’s a lot of good stuff out there, but there’s only so much Sabbath-worship and weed fetish one can listen to before it all starts to blend together. On the other hand, L.A.-based Sludge band Black Sheep Wall have always stood apart, with a sound that pulls from a wide range of influences.

Songs for the Enamel Queen is the group’s first full-length in nearly five years and it’s a motherfucker, there’s just no other way to put. The album depicts a band and a mind on the edge, haunted by depression and addiction, and the 60-minute run time is nothing short of a harrowing journey. Continue reading »

Jan 152021


(This is Andy Synn‘s review of a new EP by the Kansas-based death metal band Fossilized, which was released on the first day of this new year.)

There’s already been quite a bit of digital ink spilled this year about the latest batch of grimy, gravel-throated, grim ‘n’ gritty Death Metal to hit the airwaves courtesy of bands like Frozen Soul and Gatecreeper, and I can understand why.

The former, for example, have built up an impressive amount of buzz, and I for one definitely enjoy the sharper, more spiteful Carcass-isms of their recently-released debut album, while the latter’s new EP suggests that they’re finally ready to step outside of the OSDM ghetto in which they’ve been trapped for a while (but which they’ve now clearly outgrown).

But while all this has been going on Kansas-based killers Fossilized have been quietly chugging (and I do mean chugging) away in the background… although by “quietly” I don’t mean in the literal sense, more in the “he was a quiet guy, kept to himself…” way that you hear right before it’s revealed that they found the remains of multiple murdered transients in your neighbour’s back yard… waiting for the rest of the world to discover the bone-crushingly brutal delights of their new EP, Eat or Be Eaten.

So if you’re in the mood for something dense, dumb, and disgustingly fun (not to mention disgustingly heavy) then get ready to chow down on six songs of pure, primal punishment. Continue reading »

Jan 142021


The EP by Sacrocurse that we’re premiering in full today is a streamlined nuclear missile, a four-track attack that’s just shy of 17 minutes in total. The length seems just about perfect — just long enough to feed a ravenous hunger for incendiary chaos, but stopping short of the point when a listener might go into a seizure, gasping for air, overcome by the speed, the madness, and the eviscerating ferocity of this audio apocalypse.

Supreme Terror is a well-chosen name for the EP, because it is indeed supremely terrorizing. But it won’t take long for you to appreciate that despite the violence and lack of sanity in the music, the technical skill of the performances is jaw-dropping, and the songs aren’t just howling storms. There is structure and dynamism within these outbursts, and more clarity in the production than you might expect from what is fundamentally an exercise in black/death warfare. Continue reading »

Jan 142021


(We welcome Nathan Ferreira, who has been reviewing metal for close to a decade at various locations, including MetalBite, and whose first NCS review focuses on the new album by the Missouri band Gravehuffer, which is set for release by Black Doomba Records on January 15th.)

Remember when shows were a thing? Particularly the dim-lit, greasy dive-bar shows that you and maybe thirty other people attended, including the band members? Sure, some of the bands needed tightening up, or their songs were just unmemorable and all over the place, but there’s a certain personality that unknown locals have that resonates with you for some time. There’s something so endearing about local nobodies spending years together crafting their inaccessible, odd visions, creating something purely for their own love of all things loud and strange. That alone makes you want to like the music more, but I think it also serves as a better incubator to make something unique, free from the demands of the public or the need to satisfy anyone’s desires besides their own.

Gravehuffer is the apex of such scrappy local acts. They look like four dads who’ve been working the same soul-sucking jobs for 20 years, their band the only refuge from a bleak and monotonous reality. They slam genres together with reckless abandon and have a loose, jam-session feel to a lot of their songs, tying moments together with big, meaty riffs and stripping down the structures with crusty, d-beat heavy drums. Their building blocks are simple and you’d never call these guys virtuosos at their respective instruments, but the magic is in how they tie it all together. Continue reading »

Jan 122021


Among almost all die-hard metalheads the phrase “Bay Area thrash” immediately brings to mind a very well-defined and much-loved sound, but one that for many listeners has been done to death, to the point that for many fans clutching their old favorites the chance of finding something new seems hardly worth the time. But while Molten are a Bay Area band and thrash is a vital part of their DNA, their new album Dystopian Syndrome is very much worth all the time you can give it.

As you will discover through our premiere of the entire album stream today in advance of its January 15th release, thrash is the foundation but not the entire edifice of what they’ve constructed. As a function of the band’s varied musical interests, their music is a richly embellished experience that channels changing moods and energies and reveals a taste for instrumentation not usually found in the genre, while also delivering monstrous vocals and the kind of technical performance skill that drops jaws and pops eyes. Continue reading »