Sep 252020


(In this post Andy Synn reviews three albums being released today or in the near future — by Deftones, Enslaved, and The Ocean.)

As anyone who’s been following this site for, ooh, more than five minutes, will know, we tend to aim our collective focus at the more underground and/or underappreciated albums and artists out there.

Not because we have to. Not because we think it makes us “cool” (trust me, we’re not cool). Not even because we’re trying to make some sort of point or big statement. It’s just because we want to, and because it’s generally more fun to write about these sorts of bands than it is to regurgitate the same generic platitudes you can see/read everywhere else about bands who already have more than enough exposure.

That being said, sometimes we like to turn our attention to some bigger game, and bigger names, because… well… because we feel like it, basically. Which is why you’re about to read my short, but sharp, take on three artists/albums who’ve already received a fair bit of praise elsewhere but whom I think deserve a slightly more critical (dare I even say, objective?) assessment.

Think of it as my attempt to restore some balance to the force, as it were. Continue reading »

Sep 232020



(Here’s another edition of Andy Synn‘s continuing series focused on the review of records recently released by bands from his native land.)

Isn’t it great when things just kind of… line up on their own?

Case in point, just last week I was thinking that it was about time to put together another edition of “The Best of British”, especially with new albums from both Scordatura and Svalbard on the horizon.

But, here’s the rub, I didn’t have a third band lined up to round out the article. That is until a passing comment clued me into the fact that Scottish Post-Sludge trio Bosphorus were also set to release their long-gestating debut album this Friday, making for a killer triumvirate of new records all scheduled to come out on the same day.

Like I said at the start – isn’t it great when stuff just falls into place? Continue reading »

Sep 212020


(Here’s Andy Synn‘s review of the new album from Anaal Nathrakh, which is set for release on October 2nd by Metal Blade.)

They say (whoever “they” are) that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

But when that dog has been outfighting, outfoxing, and outfucking the competition, cleanly and consistently, for pretty much the last twenty years, then why would you want to mess with success?

That’s the position that the two-headed rabid pit-bull named Anaal Nathrakh find themselves in right now, as while the band’s modus operandi may have evolved and mutated a fair bit since their Total Fucking Necro days, the underlying formula for their sound [grinding velocity x blackened venom + voracious hooks] remains practically unaltered.

The problem with this sort of approach, of course, is that at some point you’re going to run straight into the creative (and commercial) roadblock that is “the law of diminishing returns”, where just doing the same thing over and over again has less and less impact each time.

So, with the release of their eleventh album right around the corner, the big question now is… do Anaal Nathrakh have anything new to offer the world, or is it time to take them out back and put them out of their misery? Continue reading »

Sep 172020


(We present Andy Synn‘s review of the new album by the Danish black metal band Sunken, set for a September 18 release by Vendetta Records.)

The term “categorical perception” refers to a psychological phenomena whereby human beings tend to separate stimuli – sounds, colours, etc – on a continuum into discrete, distinct categories, as well as how the learning of these categorisations influences our ability to perceive them as we grow up.

It’s a fascinating area, and one I can’t go into fully here (for obvious reasons), but let’s just say that CP is why you sometimes hear people from different countries struggling to differentiate between |r| and |l| sounds, and why different cultures sometimes even see colour differently.

As the smart ones among you might already have guessed, this phenomenon is pretty active in music too, especially when it comes to genre classifications.

For example, where you draw the line between Death Metal that’s “technical” and so-called Technical Death Metal, where you decide that something becomes brutal enough to be called Brutal Death Metal, etc, may be an individual choice on the surface, but it’s also heavily influenced by what you’ve learned, what you’ve been taught by others, and what you’ve been exposed to.

It’s particularly noticeable on the Black Metal spectrum, especially when it comes to asking people to define at what point Black Metal becomes Atmospheric Black Metal becomes Post-Black Metal… with the usual answer being defined more by personal preference than any actual sonic or stylistic properties of the music itself.

But there are always artists/albums who transcend or defy easy categorisation, and whether you like your Black Metal to be “Atmospheric”, “Post-” or pure as the driven snow, Livslede is likely to be exactly what you’re looking for. Continue reading »

Sep 152020


(We present Andy Synn‘s review of the new album by Berlin-based Ancst, which will be released on September 18th via Lifeforce Records and the band’s own label Yehonala tapes.)

Evolution is a strange thing. For the most part it’s such a glacially slow process that its effects are almost invisible, except in hindsight. Yet it’s also extremely unpredictable, sometimes progressing in random fits and starts, or even the occasional dramatic leap, in a manner that seems to defy understanding.

Musical evolution is no different. Different bands evolve at different rates, and in different ways, especially as new members – and new musical DNA – are introduced.

But, you know what they say, “the more things change, the more they stay the same”, because while Blackened Metallic Crust-Punk crew Ancst may have cycled through quite a few members over the years (with stalwart mainman Tom S. as the band’s constant linchpin) as well as a few different sounds (their alternate, drone-based material is also well worth a listen) their third album (which is something like their 20th release overall, not counting demos and compilations) finds their sound largely unchanged and their modus operandi – big riffs, big blastbeats, and even bigger vocals – still just as intense, and just as effective, as ever. Continue reading »

Sep 112020



(Andy Synn wrote the following six brief reviews, and of course speaks solely for himself in the first sentence despite the breadth of the claim.)

I have a confession to make, on behalf of all of us here at NCS… we’re not perfect.

I know, I know, this admission has probably come as a serious shock to some of you, but it’s true. Sometimes, despite our general all-round awesomeness, we miss things.

But the silver lining to that, of course, is that it gives us a chance to play catch-up now and then and to bring you not one, not two, but six different bands/albums which you might otherwise have missed out on too! 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 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 042020


(Andy Synn introduces our premiere of a new cover song by the German band Phantom Winter.)

This site’s history with German sludgemongers Phantom Winter goes back a number of years now.

In fact we’ve been fans of the band ever since their debut back in 2015, and just last year I selected their stunning second album, Sundown Pleasures as one of the best records of the entire decade.

So when the band got in touch to ask me to help them premiere their impressively ugly and abrasive take on Bananarama’s “Cruel Summer” – all in service of a good cause – I couldn’t say no! 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 »