Sep 102020


(In this post TheMadIsraeli provides a detailed review of the new album by Baltimore-based Exist, which was released on August 28th by Prosthetic Records.)

You ever hear a band that has remarkably talented musicians, some definite top-tier songwriting chops, and unique sound elements to distinguish them, but you felt like they themselves were their own worst enemy in achieving the pinnacle of what they could do?

That was Exist for me.

Exist’s last full-length So True, So Bound was a good album, but I found this band extremely difficult to talk about or even quantify and I found that record, while good, to be inconsistent.  This mainly came down to Exist getting stuck in a rut, in too much of a focus on atmospherics and passive sorts of grooves.  These guys really want to be Cynic 3.0 in the worst way, and that’s not meant to be a knock in any way shape or form.  Except unlike Cynic, they don’t forget their death metal roots, which leads to a progressive experience that kind of mixes the best aspects of newer Cynic combined with the primal emotion and intensity of albums like Focus, Death’s latter-era work, or even Atheist’s commitment to discernable nonsense. Continue reading »

Sep 092020

The Infernal Sea


(Andy Synn again focuses on the music of bands from his homeland, this time leaning into black metal with reviews of three new albums.)

As the sole British member of the NCS crew (and therefore the only one who can actually write worth a damn… kidding!) it’s my responsibility, and my privilege, to use the platform afforded me here to highlight some of the best and brightest bands who hail from these green and pleasant lands.

Of course, that responsibility is kind of a double-edged sword.

If I’m too critical of a band or album there’s always someone more than happy to attack me for “not supporting the scene”.

But if I’m too positive about someone/something then I’ll inevitably get accused of being biased because I’m a part of the scene.

Hell, it’s actually a blade that cuts three ways when you think about it, because even when I don’t write anything at all about a band’s new record it inevitably leads to people to assume I have something against it/them… it’s a classic lose/lose/lose situation!

Still, as masochistic as it may seem, none of that’s going to stop me from continuing to separate the wheat from the chaff, and today’s column features a bountiful harvest of British Black Metal for your ears only. Continue reading »

Sep 082020


(In this post Todd Manning combines reviews of new albums by Arizona’s Realize (coming on September 25th via Relapse Records) and Oklahoma’s Black Magnet, released on September 4th by 20 Buck Spin.)

It’s easy to look to the past with rose-colored glasses, but the late eighties and early nineties sure do seem like a distant utopia at times. Yet, that time period spawned the unholy marriage of Industrial music and Extreme Metal, which can often produce some of the most nightmare-ish tunes this side of the river Styx.

It’s only fitting that this kind of stuff is making a comeback nowadays as the material seems well-suited to describe the not-so-slow-motion apocalypse we are being forced to live through. Bleakness and relentless tragedy are the order of the day, and Realize and Black Magnet are two bands diving headfirst into this chasm. Continue reading »

Sep 042020


(This is Andy Synn‘s review of an expanded EP by the Detroit band Jesus Wept, released by Redefining Darkness Records on August 21st.)

Let’s make one thing clear. Apartheid Redux is, as you might have guessed from its name, not a totally new release, even though this is the first time it’s being featured here.

As a matter of fact four of these six tracks (glossing over, for now, the fun but disposable WASP cover which appears on some editions) were first heard on Jesus Wept’s appropriately crush-tastic and catchy-as-hell debut EP, Crushing Apartheid.

But, thanks to Redefining Darkness Records, who recently decided they’d be the ones to pluck the group from relative obscurity, the music from that record, along with two additional (and similarly killer) tracks is finally getting a much-needed and well-deserved wider release. Continue reading »

Sep 032020

Necrot (photo by Chris Johnston)


(Andy Synn wrote the three following reviews of recently released albums by bands who have in common… well… a letter of the alphabet.)

Oh my stars and garters, there is a lot of music out there at the moment isn’t there?

I know this feels like a familiar refrain (and it is), but it bears repeating. There’s simply too much music, and too much Metal, being released, week after week, to stay on top of it all.

Still, we try our best to cover what we can, and today I’d like to direct your attention to three recently released albums from Nansis (Switzerland), Necrot (USA), and Núll (Iceland). Continue reading »

Sep 032020


(Here’s Vonlughlio’s review of the latest album, released this past spring by Amputated Vein Records, by the Italian slamming brutal death metal band Gangrenectomy.)

The Italian metal scene is responsible for giving us great bands such as Devangelic, PutridityVulvectomy, Hour of Penance, Blasphemer, and Hideous Divinity, just to name a few (that I love).  And this time around I would like to take the opportunity to speak about one more, an underground project named Gangrenectomy that I recently discovered this year.

I  have to say that at first I was a little bit hesitant to check them out since their music is BDM that leans toward the slam side, and there are a lot of bands in that vein that just don’t do anything for me. Regardless, I decided to go with an open mind and checked out their second album, Cannibalistic Criteria of the Mantis, which was released early this year via Amputated Vein Records. Continue reading »

Sep 022020


Of the eight tracks on Vermisst‘s new album Zmierzch Stalowej Ciemności (which Signal Rex will release on September 4th, on vinyl and digitally), five of them first appeared as an EP bearing the same title as this album, released in a CD edition in January 2020. The other three are bonuses — new original tracks recorded last December which expand the EP to 40 minutes.

For those readers who may have overlooked the EP over the last eight months, it’s quite an arresting and often elaborate experience, one that featured not only the performances of Vermisst‘s core members Belath (guitar), Vorghast (vocals), and Kvalvaag (keys) but also impressive session work by Vlambré (bass), Bloodwhip (guitar), and Vulgrim (drums). The bonus tracks, created solely by Belath (guitars) and Vorghast (vocals, drums), are very different in important respects, but arresting in their own harrowing way. Continue reading »

Sep 022020


(TheMadIsraeli prepared this review of the latest album by the long-running Australian band Alarum, which was released in June by Dinner For Wolves.)

The very idea of progressive metal in modern metal is trapped in a weird state of limbo.  We have a problem lately with labeling things progressive that are, frankly, not at all.  They meet none of the requirements for the style, but the songs are over seven minutes long so we think surely that’s the qualifier.  As someone who appreciates the eccentricity in progressive metal of any sort enthralling, it’s a bit insulting to me that “our” standard has dropped so low that we consider bands like Black Crown Initiate to be progressive.  They are, no doubt, an excellent band, one of modern extreme metal’s best current acts, and fantastic musicians, but their music is not progressive.

When I think of metal that is progressive, I think envelope-pushing, I think weird fusion ideas or the ability to write a comprehensively diverse album that hits an insanely wide array of peaks and valleys while maintaining a cohesive core sound.  A group could do this based on a “gimmick”, of course, and could have an objective, perhaps oriented around jazz for example, and that’s fair as long as the music you’re writing actually tries to push and incorporate jazz into your metal in such a way that the spirit of jazz is in no way diluted. Continue reading »

Sep 012020


(On August 28th Fysisk Format released the second album by the Norwegian duo Hymn, and Andy Synn gives it an enthsusiastic review below.)

Being human is, I’m sure we’ll all agree, a strange experience. One which, ultimately, we all experience differently.

Even though we have so much in common, and encounter the world through the same five senses, the same underlying mental architecture, if I were to try to convey to you exactly what I experience when I feel pain, or pleasure, or any number of other sensations, I wouldn’t be able to do so.

Oh sure, we have language to describe what pain “is”, what pleasure “is”, but the truth is that human language just isn’t equipped to describe the subjective qualia of reality.

Quite simply, you can’t feel what I feel.

This is one reason why we often fall back on comparisons and shared points of reference when describing things to one another, especially (to the chagrin of many) when talking about music.

So, like it or not, please be aware that when I say that Norwegian duo Hymn sound like the bastard offspring of Cult of Luna, Crowbar, and Celtic Frost I do so with good reason, as you’re about to find out. Continue reading »

Sep 012020


(Vonlughlio prepared this review of the new third album by the Ohio death metal band TON, which was released in August by Ungodly Ruins Productions.)

The Ohio death metal project called TON have been around since 1993. They released a handful of demos leading up to their full-length debut Plague in 1999. After that they went on a hiatus of sorts until 2015 when they released their sophomore album, Bow Down to Extinction, and that is when I learned of their existence (late to the party, I suppose).

I enjoyed their second release quite a bit, including the kind of natural production that allowed each of the instruments be heard as a collaborative force, instead of some being buried in the mix. The riffs were quite entertaining, providing the driving force leading the way in each of the eight songs which proved to be an engaging 32-minute experience. Continue reading »