May 162019


I was chatting with DGR recently (yes, we do in fact keep in touch outside of the site) and we both agreed that we’ve now reached that point of the year (and it comes every year) where our list of potential/possible reviews has become so massive and unwieldy that we’re just going to have to cut our losses, accept that some of the stuff we’d dearly love to write about isn’t going to get covered, and focus instead on doing our best for those artists/albums which we do get a chance to write about.

So, in that spirit, here are three new albums, one from an old favourite, one from a current favourite, and one from a potential new favourite, all of whom are well worth checking out if you haven’t done so already. Continue reading »

May 152019


It’s not uncommon for bands and labels to re-release older records. It’s less common, but still not unheard-of, for bands to re-record older songs in a way that burnishes their sound or updates them in other ways. Sometimes these things work, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes die-hard fans will grab up re-releases and re-recordings for the sake of having a complete collection, or because they’re so die-hard that they’ll reflexively seize on anything their idols might do, even if the music sounds like a relic of a lost age. For more discerning and less slavish listeners, whether such projects are worth the time (and money) depends on how well the music has held up over the passing years.

The Bay Area band Antagony, who carved their place in the history books of metal over the decade from 1999 to 2009, have embarked on just such a revival project. Older, wiser, and (it must be said) more skilled as performers, the original line-up has come back together again after a decade spent in other projects since Antagony’s disbanding. On their new album Ashes, they’ve re-recorded a selection of tracks that all date back to demos and EPs released from 1998-2000, plus one new song that shares the title of the album. Having listened to the album (which will be released on May 24th), the verdict for this writer isn’t a close call: This is one of those revival projects that is an extravagant success. Continue reading »

May 152019


(This is DGR’s review of Amon Amarth‘s 11th album, which was released by Metal Blade Records on May 3rd.)

Amon Amarth are fun when Amon Amarth get “weird” around the fringes of their music.

Well, let’s walk that back a bit, since there’s a lot of power in those quotation marks around weird. It’s not weird in the usual sense, as Amon Amarth remain fairly conventional, and hew pretty closely to all of the traits that make them recognizable, on their latest album Berserker. They are one of the trope vanguards of the term ‘shuffle band’, in that their music has found such a consistent bar of quality that you don’t really need to do full-album runs any more. You can throw their whole discography onto a playlist, shuffle it up, and still have a good time.

That happens to a lot of bands when they strike upon a sound that they then make their own, and Amon Amarth did that sooo long ago — about the time of Fate Of Norns and With Oden On Our Side — and since then their discography has felt like iterations upon that particular formula. Huge and epic for Twilight Of The Thundergod, surprisingly death metal for Surtur Rising, weirdly experimental on the fringes of their sound on Deceiver Of The Gods, and a big old block of a lot of the ‘same’ on the concept album – about Vikings – that was Berserker’s immediate predecessor, Jomsviking. Continue reading »

May 142019


(Here’s DGR’s review of the new album by Abnormality, which was released by Metal Blade Records on May 10th.)

The blindingly-fast, whirlwind death metal crew Abnormality’s newest album Sociopathic Constructs starts off on an interesting note if you’re a longtime fan, with an opening song entitled “Monarch Alpha” — recalling the days of the group’s song “Monarch Omega”, which began the album Contaminating The Hivemind way back in the yonder days of 2012.

That earlier song could easily bore its way into your skull due to the repeated “MONARCH OMEGA” roar that tore its way through the track. Bringing up the spectre of that song and starting the new one in a very similar manner of going zero-to-one-hundred in the span of .5 seconds (not unlike other releases this year) makes it so that the two are tied in together. In much the same way that Massachusetts-based Abnormality have mastered the art of the frighteningly technical/caveman-stupid branch of death metal, so too does “Monarch Alpha”, an addition to an already vast collection of headspinningly-fast death metal songs. Continue reading »

May 132019


Gustaf Fröding, who died in 1911, is considered “one of the greatest poets of verse that Sweden has ever produced”. In his own life he struggled with alcoholism and mental illness, and according to the same source just quoted, “His poetry combines formal virtuosity with a sympathy for the ordinary, the neglected and the down-trodden, sometimes written with his own dialect. It is highly musical and lends itself to musical setting….”

While musical adaptations of Fröding’s verse have been wide-ranging, the range is even wider now because the Swedish death metal band Mordbrand have made two of Fröding’s poems the lyrical subject of songs that will be released digitally and in a 7″ vinyl format on May 15th, via De:Nihil Records — and today it’s our pleasure to present streams of both tracks: “Döden” and “Efter Döden“. Continue reading »

May 132019


(Here’s Andy Synn‘s review of the new album by Ulver, which they released two days ago)

A long time ago, in the distant land of Norway, a band was born.

Their name was Ulver, and though they made their start (and their mark) in the Black Metal scene it was clear very early on that they were a little different from their brothers.

No one at the time, of course, could have predicted the weird and wonderful places that their career would take them, but one thing has always been certain about the band’s music… no matter what they turn their minds towards it always results in something fascinating taking shape.

And it’s this endless fascination with their work – always compelling, sometimes frustrating, yet never quite what it seems to be – which keeps us here at NCS listening to and writing about Ulver regardless of how far their sound has strayed from our usual remit.

As long as they keep making music which inspires us to write about it, we’re going to keep doing so. Continue reading »

May 102019


With this review I’m making amends as well as a recommendation. Every year I encounter dozens of new records I wish I had time to write about, and often even intend to write about, but nevertheless fail to mention. In 2016 one of those was a self-titled EP by the Irish duo Gourd, a mountainously heavy and monumentally disturbing creation whose substantial run-time not only called into question Gourd’s classification of the release as an EP but also threatened the long-term well-being of anyone who listened to it.

I intended to write about Gourd, and should have, but Cursed Monk Records‘ impending release of a new Gourd EP, Moldering Aberrations, affords a chance for personal redemption. In one fell swoop I get to insist that you listen to that 2016 record AND that you check out this new one at the earliest opportunity, especially if there’s just too damned much happiness in your life. Continue reading »

May 102019


(Andy Synn delivers his third compilation of reviews this week which focus on new records by UK bands, and again presents three of them in this latest installment.)

The third (and final) of this week’s series of “Best of British” posts deals with three bands who are collectively becoming (or have already become) a fair bit more well-known and more famous (or infamous) than those artists from the previous two editions. Continue reading »

May 102019


Much could be written (and has been written) about Ungoliant, the dark spider queen “from before the world” who played a role in J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Silmarillion and was mentioned in The Lord of the Rings. Also known as Gloomweaver (because she was capable of generating impenetrable darkness), she gave birth to a race of giant spiders, and her own unremitting hunger was so great that she consumed herself.

With that bit of background, it becomes apparent from the music of the Ukrainian symphonic black metal band Ungoliantha why they based their name on that giant dark spider. One might find other clues to the music from the spooky cover art of their new EP, The Howl in the Waste — a collage of black cats, skulls, and Gothic spires. There is indeed an atmosphere of supernatural horror and terrible grandeur that pervades the EP, manifested in different ways across its five tracks — all of which we’re streaming today in this exclusive premiere. Continue reading »

May 082019


(Sooner than anticipated, Andy Synn brings us yet another installment of this series, which focuses on reviews of new records by UK bands — and you’ll find three of those here.)

Remember how I said I had enough collected material for three separate “Best of British” columns (including the one I/we published on Monday)?

Well, I wasn’t lying, and today’s edition features three bands who, in all likelihood, should drum up a lot of interest from our readers.

In fact I’m hopeful that, if you like one of these bands, you’ll like the other two as well! Continue reading »