Nov 162021


By the time most of you read this I will have begun the trip back to the Pacific Northwest from Reykjavík. Counting the early show-up time at Keflavik Airport, the long flight, the exit process at Sea-Tac Airport, and the eventual ferry ride home, my best guess is that it will take about 14 hours, not counting a pair of cab rides. With luck, I’ll be in bed between 4 and 5 a.m. tomorrow, Reykjavík time. But every minute and every mile will have been worth it.

If you had the patience to read Part 1 and Part 2 of this report on Ascension Festival Iceland MMXXI, you already know how much I loved it. I found something to enjoy in the performances of nearly every band, despite how varied the music turned to to be — indeed, because of that — and I only missed two of those bands over four action-packed days. Continue reading »

Nov 152021


The preamble to Part 2 of this report on the just-completed Ascension Festival Iceland won’t be quite as long as the intro to Part 1 (which you can find here), though I can’t resist including one episode I omitted yesterday.

As forecast, this Part of my report mainly includes commentary about the music and photos from the third and fourth days of the festival. As before, I’ve pretty much just copy/pasted things I posted on Facebook while the event was in progress.

Part Three, whenever I can get to it, will be some kind of wrap-up. Continue reading »

Nov 142021


Ascension Festival Iceland MMXXI come to a glorious end last night, surmounting what seemed like a non-stop swarm of perils to provide a fantastic experience for all who attended. I was lucky to be there from beginning to end, for all four days and nights.

Both for myself and for many others, it was the first live music we had witnessed since March 2020 or earlier. That gave the experience both an extra poignancy and an extra shot of energy. I can hardly imagine a better way to have a taste of “normalcy” after so long, though of course “normal” is now a highly relative term.

Of course the music was only part of what made this covid-delayed edition of Ascension so memorable. It was a reunion of old friends and the good fortune of making new ones.  I’ll remember the people and the conversations as much as the music. Continue reading »

Nov 012021

(Andy Synn reports back from a recent show – remember those? – he was lucky enough to attend)

I was going to start out this article with a comment on how it feels like things are finally getting back to “normal”… but, to be honest, that’s not really true.

Of course, this is neither the time nor the place to discuss all the ways in which the world is still in an incredibly weird and uncertain place, so instead I’d just like to say how lucky I feel to have been able to enjoy a gig like this, when so many others can’t, and that I hope you guys get the chance to do so yourselves soon too.

Continue reading »

Oct 122021


(Our Denver-based friend Gonzo had the good fortune to witness a recent performance by the multinational European collective Heilung at the extraordinary Red Rocks amphitheater in Colorado, and he sent us the following impassioned review plus photos that he took.)

There aren’t many words in the English language that describe what it’s like to watch Heilung perform their ritual in a live setting.

Captivating? Yes.

Immersive? Also yes.

Spellbinding? Definitely.

But just as their self-proclaimed moniker of “amplified history” seems to imply, you’d almost have to come up with new expressions to adequately describe their show to someone who’s never seen it, let alone heard of the band at all.

How else could you describe the thunderous booms of massive drums made from deer skin and painted with human blood? The hypnotic throat singing of Kai Uwe-Faust? The piercing siren songs of Maria Franz? And the modern-day portrayal of an ancient Iron Age ritual that features about 15 other performers, dancers, singers, actors, and enough ambience and atmosphere to be one of the most memorable live shows you’ve ever seen?

I have no idea, but it’s more than worth a try. Continue reading »

Sep 022021


(We’ve been enjoying the hell out of our friend Gonzo‘s reports on the 2021 edition of Psycho Fest in Las Vegas a couple weekends ago, and hope you have too. Today we present his third and final write-up, concerning his adventures on the fest’s last day.)


“The possibility of physical and mental collapse is now very real. No sympathy for the Devil, keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride.”

Hunter S. Thompson

Those words from the good doctor rang out in my brain the moment I opened my eyes on Sunday morning. My ears were still ringing in spite of wearing earplugs for the majority of Saturday, but like so much else, Vegas cannot be bothered with your feeble attempts at self-care. Continue reading »

Aug 312021


(Denver-based NCS contributor Gonzo was in Vegas two weekends ago for the 2021 edition of Psycho Fest, and has been sending us some great write-ups of what he witnessed. His journal for Day 1 is here, and this is his report on Day 2.)

Vegas is a devourer of good intentions.

Its only purpose in this existence is to rob you of your sobriety, your bank account, your dignity, and your sanity. It cares nothing for your early-morning lamentations of the bad decisions you made the night before. The endless air-conditioned hallways of cigarette-crusted casinos and overpriced restaurants and tourist traps will be there the next day, waiting for that inevitable moment when you’ve become inebriated enough to shrug and once again say “what the hell, why not.”

The likelihood of you succumbing to this seemingly innocent urge increases with each passing hour on any given point during a weekend in Vegas. I knew from the moment I rose out of bed on day 2 of Psycho Fest that this would be the case, and the day would soon stretch beyond an ordinary festival and into an endurance contest. The schedule of bands we had carefully crafted ahead of time would either prove untenable or test the limits of how hard we could party in one day. Or maybe both.

At around 11 a.m., we left the tranquility of our Excalibur hotel room and sauntered once more into the soulless void. Today’s main attractions? Cannibal Corpse, Poison the Well, Dying Fetus, Cult of Fire, and a whole helluva lot more. Continue reading »

Aug 302021


(Our pal Gonzo took in the 2021 edition of Psycho Fest in Las Vegas and returned to Denver fortunately symptom-free, other than what happened to his head over the three days of the fest, and he has provided a synopsis of the experiences, beginning with the following report on Day 1. We expect reports on the next two days as well)


There is no source of frustration quite like being forcibly stuck in an airport for any length of time longer than absolutely necessary.

I was reminded of this grim reality two Fridays ago when my arrival at Denver International Airport coincided with one of the airport’s underground trains catastrophically breaking down. Ensuing damage and delays had forced the airport to close all but one terminal. The scene was absolute chaos – security queues wrapped around entire terminals, people screaming at TSA agents, confusion, madness, panic… one woman ended up in handcuffs after going into a terrifying rage and sobbing. It was looking like the 10:15 a.m. landing at my final destination, Psycho Fest 2021 in Las Vegas, was slowly slipping out of my grasp.

By the grace of Thor, the one terminal that stayed open ended up being the one we were flying out of. The flight was delayed by an hour or two, but we were somehow able to board and land safely and without any further unexpected pandemonium. Vegas would have plenty of that in the days to come anyway. Continue reading »

Mar 022020


(On March 1, 2020, Andy Synn witnessed the performances of Harrowed, Calligram, and Geist at the Chameleon Bar in Nottingham, UK, and provides this review of the show, accompanied by videos that he made.)

It’s a little-known fact, but Hardcore was my “first love” when it comes to “alternative” music.

In fact, bands like Earth Crisis, Shai Hulud, and Vision of Disorder weren’t just some of my earliest encounters with music outside of “the mainstream”, but were my gateway into Metal too.

And while my tastes have definitely moved on since then, I’ve still retained a lot of love for the more metallic side of Hardcore, especially when/where it collides with other, even heavier, genres (last year’s Fuming Mouth and Totaled albums being prime examples).

My attendance at this evening’s gig was, therefore, pretty much mandatory, as all three of the bands on the bill (all of whom I’ve written about here before) have, over the course of the past couple of years, developed a well-deserved reputation as some of the best proponents of Metallic Hardcore that the UK has to offer.

And how was I going to say no to the opportunity to see them all together in a small local venue no more than twenty minutes from my house? Continue reading »

Jan 312020



(Andy Synn turned in this review of the performances by Leeched, Geist, and Tuskar in Nottingham, England last night — January 30th — with some of his own video documentation of the experience.)

Sometimes, despite all our best intentions, things just don’t work out quite the way we want them to.

That was certainly the case this evening, as, for various reasons which I won’t go into here, I ended up being massively delayed getting to this show, and therefore missed both the local openers Pemphigoid and Underdark.

This was actually doubly-unfortunate too – firstly because while I’ve never been the biggest fan of the latter, the last few times I’ve seen them it’s felt like they’re finally starting to live up to (at least some of) the hype , so I was hoping to see if this trend continued, and secondly because I’ve not yet managed to catch the former band live, and this was going to be my first chance to do so.

Still, putting aside these regrets and recriminations for the moment, I suppose you’re all wondering how the rest of the show went? Continue reading »