Jan 262022

(Andy Synn sharpens his knives for this incisive review of the new album from Celeste, out Friday on Nuclear Blast)

We have all long been fans of France’s Celeste here at NCS – myself in particular, as I’ve been an avid follower and collector of their music ever since their first album – and we’re clearly not alone in that, as the band’s profile has risen, slowly but surely, with each new release, culminating in this, their “major” label debut.

Of course, changing labels hasn’t actually changed the band themselves, and you’ll be pleased to know that Assassine(s) is just as aggressive, atmospheric, and addictively abrasive as the rest of their catalogue.

It does, however, raise a familiar quandary… how exactly does one categorise a band like Celeste?

Looking back over their career thus far you can see that they’ve been called a lot of different things over the years – Black Metal, Post Hardcore, Blackened Sludge, Post Metal, and so forth – none of which are necessarily wrong, even if they’re not totally right either.

But, a rose by any other name, right? After all, they’re still the same band, no matter how they’re tagged, and it seems to me that what you choose to call them says a lot more about you, the listener, than it does about them.

And, if that’s the case, then it’ll be interesting to see exactly what this review says about me once I’ve done writing it.

Continue reading »

Jan 262022



(Gonzo returns with his first 2022 end-of-month group of recommended new releases.)

With the craze of Listmania 2021 now in our rearview mirrors and January already on its way out, this edition of my monthly roundup took me by complete surprise for a few reasons:

  1. The unstoppable storm of amazing music we saw in ’21 has not slowed down a single bit
  2. January by itself has blindsided me with a slew of unexpectedly awesome new releases
  3. I was going to do a “things I wish I included in my top 20 of ‘21” post, but the above reasons compelled me to change my plans.

I could’ve made this post way longer, but in the interests of not droning on into a rambling ocean of incoherent enthusiasm, here are five albums that should be on your radar as we jump into a new year of metal. Continue reading »

Jan 252022


We’re about to venture off our usual beaten tracks, lured away from the usual ferocity by music that beckons like ghost lights on the other side of our midnight walls of thorns and vipers. It conjures spells and splendid visions, and it often irresistibly quickens the pulse, but the lights are ephemeral and hopes are dashed where these alluring wraiths reside.

The allure of the new album by Deeper Graves that we’re about to premiere in full is powerful. The Colossal Sleep combines visceral rhythms and mesmerizing soundscapes that shine like moon-lit mists and reach heights of even greater splendor, but it harbors harsher aspects as well, and it doesn’t go too far to say that there is a deep and haunting darkness at its core. It often makes you want to bounce, but the gloom of sorrow persists. Continue reading »

Jan 252022


(Wil Cifer made an unexpected discovery when coming across a new album by the New York hardcore band Age of Apocalypse, which was just released by Closed Casket Activities, and he provides an enthusiastic review below.)

This album was on my top 10 most anticipated albums of the year list. Where most albums on the list I had not heard, the stream of this was sitting in my in-box. However I tell record labels this all the time, that I will only listen to a stream a few times. I either review it as I listen or just move on to the next album waiting in the in-box. I need to have an album on my iPod, to provide the soundtrack for my day in order to fully absorb and unlock the creative puzzle of what it is about. Otherwise I am mainly going off my first impressions, which might not be wrong, but are not fully explored or researched if you will.

My first impression of this album was that it could have come out in the ’90s. This is a compliment, for the ’90s were a very awkward decade for metal. While death metal really came into its own, other genres found themselves trying to shed the arena sparkle of the ’80s as they were caught between grunge and a hard place.

Some great albums emerged in that period that were not affected by the collision of the decades, one of them being Life of Agony’s 1993 album The River Runs Red. An album this band would have drawn inspiration from as they share a great deal of common ground with it. Continue reading »

Jan 232022


After exhausting myself yesterday preparing a 12-song round-up of new music and videos I thought I’d take it easy with NCS today, not completely abandoning the SHADES OF BLACK column but limiting it to about three songs. But after I started working my way through a list of possible choices I succumbed to compulsion. How could I leave this one off, or that one, or that one over there?

At the end of that agony I had 13 pieces of music I wanted to convey, most of them advance tracks from forthcoming records but with two EPs and an album in the mix. I arranged them as best I could and then chopped them into two parts. Here’s Part I (please apologize to your wallet for me).

KVAEN (Sweden)

In December I premiered a play-through video for the title track to Kvaen‘s fine new album, The Great Below. A few days ago a second song emerged, along with a lyric video. Continue reading »

Jan 212022


The Devil’s Looking Glass is an old name for a jagged, vertical rock face that stands about 800 feet above a bend in the Nolichucky River in Unicoi County, northeastern Tennessee. The Nolichucky River is itself called The Devil’s Run or The River of Death because of the number of lives lost in its turbulent waters. The rock face is steeped in frightening and haunting lore. According to one source:

The rock formation locally known as The Devil’s Looking Glass claims its name from Cherokee Indians who could make out a terrible face when the moonlight shined on the rock face from a certain angle. Even in daylight, when the shadows fall just right, an evil face can be discerned. Some say more than one face can be seen. The Cherokee believed the rock face was a window into the netherworld, the abode of the devil, and they could see him looking out, as though he were looking at himself in a mirror…. Some travelers and sportsmen claim to see ghostly apparitions around the rock face or along the river below at night.

Another source reports: “Local folklore tells of cries of agony heard coming from the rocks and tales of an Indian woman who leaped from the top of the cliff upon learning her love had died in battle; she is said to now haunt the base of the cliff…. It’s not a place for the faint at heart”.

Devil’s Looking Glass is also the name taken by a Tennessee band whose album Treacherous Autumnal Wisdom was released by Moonlight Cypress Archetypes last November. I don’t know for a fact that the band took their name for the haunted rock formation discussed above, but in listening to the music it would make sense if they did. Continue reading »

Jan 202022

(Andy Synn provides another well-deserved exception to our usual rules with the new album from SOM)

What with it being a new year, I suppose now is as good a time as any for a little history lesson.

Long story short, back when Islander (and his two collaborators, whose names have long-since been stricken from the records in some sort of pseudo-Stalinist purge) first started this site the name was intended as something of a two-fingered salute to all those bands who, whether pushed into it by their management or simply because they were desperate to be popular, jumped on the “harsh verse, clean chorus” bandwagon.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of people – including our beloved overlord – were pretty pissed off that so many bands were willing to sacrifice their integrity and identity just to fit in with current trends… and so NoCleanSinging was born.

Of course, the name has always been somewhat tongue-in-cheek, and there’s no actual rules about what sorts of vocals that we’re actually allowed (or forbidden) to include… heck, if you take a minute to look at just some of the bands we’ve covered over the years – Chrome Waves, Katatonia, KloneBrutus, Borknagar, Boss KeloidProtest The Hero, A Swarm of the Sun, Junius… – you might even conclude that we actually love clean singing. At least when it’s done well.

And it’s the latter name from that list which leads us into the album I want to talk about today, as while SOM is made up of several ex-Junius members (along with musicians from Caspian and Constants) and shares several sonic similarities with that group, their second album, The Shape of Everything, finds the band stepping out of that particular shadow and fully coming into their own.

Continue reading »

Jan 192022

(photo by Arbre E. Saldana)

The French crust/hardcore/grind band Feral chose their name for a reason that becomes obvious when you listen to their second album Spiritual Void. They attack almost relentlessly, with raw, no-holds-barred intensity — intensity that comes through in both the emotional fuel of the music and in its mauling and pulverizing sonic power. It is musical catharsis of a very high order.

The album is set for release on January 21st through Source Atone Records and Basement Apes Industries. For very good reason they recommend it for fans of All Pigs Must Die, Cursed, Napalm Death, and Trap Them (and we might add Misery Index and Rotten Sound to that list). You’ll understand the basis for those recommendations when you hear our premiere stream of the entire album… a handful of paragraphs from now. Continue reading »

Jan 192022


(Here’s Alex Atkinson‘s review of a new EP by California-based VoidCeremony that was recently fired into the void by 20 Buck Spin.)

California’s tech-death monstrosity VoidCeremony have given us a quaint dose of things to come with their three-track cassette release At the Periphery of Human Realms.  I usually steer away from tech-death, but something about these four members’ ability to navigate a song like a rabid Cujo always pulls me in.  Their all-star crew, pulling from such heavyweights as Incantation, Stargazer, and Atramentus to name a few, should be enough to get even the most annoying dingleberry a-twinkling.

For anyone who lives under a rock and has not heard VoidCeremony’s debut LP Entropic Reflections Continuum:  Dimensional Unravel, check out NCS’s review back in July of 2020 and listen to it as soon as possible.  It is like falling into a waking manic nightmare. Continue reading »

Jan 192022

(Andy Synn would like to enlighten you about the new album from Washington’s Swamp Lantern)

One of the great joys involved in being a music writer – and I’m sure many, if not most, if not all, of my fellows would agree – is discovering a band and then watching them grow into their full potential.

Case in point, when I reviewed Swamp Lantern‘s debut back in 2020 I immediately felt that this was a band who had “it”, even if they didn’t quite have a handle on exactly what “it” was.

Their second album, however, takes that hard-to-define x-factor and improves on it in pretty much every single way, offering up an even more refined and robust version of what was already a pretty riveting sound, with a stronger sense of identity, a clearer creative vision, and a more instinctive grasp of flow and dynamic.

Continue reading »