Sep 272022

(Andy Synn delivers a Death Metal-centric edition of The Best of British)

The UK Death Metal scene is a fertile place, no doubt about it.

Of course, such a bountiful harvest does sometimes make it hard to separate the wheat from the chaff (here’s a little bit of advice – stringing together a few generic grooves and mediocre, mid-paced blastbeats does not make you “the next Bolt Thrower”) but that’s just the price you pay for living in such interesting times.

One thing that separates these bands from the rest of the pack – in my opinion – is that they don’t play it safe. Sure, they’re standing on the shoulders of giants (aren’t we all?) but they’re taking risks – some big, some small – and pushing themselves in an attempt to climb even higher, demonstrating a level of ambition that, honestly, I wish more bands had instead of just settling for being just another fish in an increasingly over-crowded pond.

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Sep 272022

(On September 16th Unique Leader Records released a new album by the Swiss death metal band Omophagia, and DGR takes a deep dive into it in the following review.)

The day that Omophagia put out an album where the first song isn’t called “Intro” is going to feel like a period of mourning isn’t it? Other than a clockwork two-to-three-year release schedule, there are fewer long-standing patterns out there that one can rely on quite like a band being four albums in and the first song still being called “Intro”. One more album and Omophagia will be able to release an “Intro” song EP.

It is good to see this crew still going though, as the Switzerland-based bruisers are one of the more severely underrated tech-death bands out there. Perhaps due to the unassuming nature of the band or just a general sense of how consistently ‘good’ they have remained throughout their three releases up to their latest one, Rebirth In Black, it seems like Omophagia constantly get the undersell.

What you can say about Omophagia is that despite the appearance of five dudes just making complicated death metal imagery, every one of their releases has sounded different from the one before it. You’ll note the natural evolution in song-writing and just how much Omophagia like a good jackhammer-groove, but that also comes not so much with a move forward but a complete leap somewhere else on the musical explosion map, just to keep things different on the fringes. Rebirth In Black continues that trend. Continue reading »

Sep 262022

Some fans of extreme music are also fans of interesting album concepts and well-written lyrics, perhaps because such things are so few and far between in the great and continuing flood of new releases, like finding a scattering of diamonds in your sock drawer. Other fans could really care less about that, focusing instead on the music and the vocals (where the words are rarely decipherable anyway). But today we’re going to begin with concept and words, and perhaps you’ll soon understand why.

The inspiration for Ascension Beyond Kokytus, the debut album by the Costa Rican band VoidOath, was deeply rooted in the lore created by John W. Campbell Jr. through his 1938 science fiction novella Who goes there? and the novel-length version of that story, Frozen Hell, which was discovered and published after Campbell‘s death, as well as the 1982 film The Thing, John Carpenter’s classic adaptation/remake of the Campbell story. Continue reading »

Sep 262022

(As you’ll see in DGR‘s review below, Mæntra‘s debut album has been perched on his shoulders for a long time, and while it might be easier at this point just to dispense with a write-up, the album wouldn’t allow that.)

I feel that every year I must commend my fellow writers around the hovel that is the NCS office space for having a sense of when to just cut things off and accept that you won’t be able to get around to it in time. It takes a strength of character that, frankly, I just don’t have.

Every year there will be two or three albums that I feel like I have to write about, even as the review backlog grows larger and larger with new discoveries and bigger releases. These releases rest on my shoulders for what seems like forever until I either find the time or finally, shoulders slumped in defeat, admit that yes, I too will not get around to something and the time to shit or get off the pot has long since passed.

Hell, I still occasionally toy with the idea of reviewing a release that came out in January of last year now that I’ve found an easy-to-listen-to copy of it. On the opposite end though, goddamn does it feel good to finally free yourself of the need to speak of a release, when you can find that gap to do so and let the world be damned if they have anything to say about it. Continue reading »

Sep 232022

(On October 14th Wise Blood Records will release the debut album of Indianapolis-based Mother of Graves, an album mastered by Dan Swanö and with cover art by Paolo Girardi, and below you’ll find Todd Manning‘s review of this new opus.)

Mother of Graves has picked the perfect time to drop their debut full-length, Where the Shadows Adorn. First of all, anyone who heard their excellent EP, In Somber Dreams, has been dying to get their hands on more material from this great band. In addition, there is something about this particular brand of death/doom that just seems to herald the changing of the seasons. The music feels autumnal, or even winter-ish. Like black metal, this type of forlorn music feels connected to the seasons. 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.

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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 »