Jul 222021

(Andy Synn once again presents you with his take on three upcoming albums from the UK Metal underground – come for the awesome artwork, stay for the magnificent music)

One of the most depressing things to observe as a Metal writer is how, every year, it seems like there’s less and less room for nuance in the way we talk about new albums – everything is either “absolute garbage” or “absolutely perfect”, and this polarisation is then amplified by a media landscape which increasingly favours only the loudest, most obnoxious voices and harshest, most extreme viewpoints.

This issue is then exacerbated by the fact that, because there’s just so many different sites/zines out there now whose lack of ethics (or quality control) means they’ll basically throw a 10/10 at anything, it seems like some bands (and their fans) have been actively conditioned to expect fawning praise whenever they release something, and often react quite badly to even the mildest criticism.

The thing is… no band or album is perfect. There’s always room for improvement in everything, and it doesn’t do “the scene” any good when those who write about it are more interested in brown-nosing and boot-licking in order to burnish their own “brand” than they are actually offering up an honest opinion.

So let me be clear – while I fully recommend all these albums, each of which represents a slightly different facet of the fertile UK underground, I’m also going to be offering some constructive criticism where I see fit.

And, if you can’t accept that then, well, maybe this isn’t the site for you.

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Jul 202021

(Andy Synn discovers that an old dog can learn new tricks, courtesy of the brand new album from Lantlôs, set for release on 30 July via Prophecy Productions)

There’s an ongoing (and rather interesting) debate happening in certain corners of the Metal-sphere (yes, I know spheres don’t have corners – work with me here) about how much of an influence Pop music, and pop-culture, should have over here in the more “Extreme” part of the music world.

The problem with this debate is that, as usual, it’s mostly the loudest, most obnoxious voices dominating the conversation – from the reactionary “defenders of the faith” on one side, so committed to the idea of Metal’s inherent superiority that to even suggest it could learn anything from other genres is tantamount to blasphemy, to the weirdly self-conscious and shamefaced “pseudo-fans” on the other, who seem to spend more time apologising for Metal’s perceived failings, insisting that it needs to start emulating whatever’s popular and successful instead, than they do celebrating it on its own terms.

What both sides seem to be unaware, or wilfully ignorant, of is the fact that Metal has always taken influence from across the Pop landscape, it’s just that there’s a big difference between simply doing it… and doing it well.

And, oh my, does this album do it very, very well indeed.

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Jul 152021

(Andy Synn travels to Russia once more and returns with one of his favourite albums of the year)

I know I’ve said it before, but it probably needs reiterating – June was so packed with releases that I feel like it’s going to take me all of July just to catch up with everything I/we missed.

Of course, that means that I’ll have to spend August catching up on July, and September catching up on August, so… maybe some hard decisions are going to have to be made regarding what does and what doesn’t get written about just so I don’t fall even further behind.

But there was absolutely zero chance that I wasn’t going to write about this one, as Present Serpent – the debut album from one-man “Blackened Dream Sludge” outfit Moanhand (aka Moscow-based multi-instrumentalist Roman Filatov) – has swiftly become, for me at least, one of the defining albums of 2021.

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Jul 132021

(Andy Synn goes fishing in the Tech Death scene and comes back with a hell of a catch)

If there’s one common theme which unites these three albums – you know, apart from the fact that they’re all brand new additions to the ever-expanding Tech Death canon – it’s that each of them finds the band in question working hard, struggling some might say (though certainly not in vain), to carve out a space, a niche, an identity, for themselves in an already saturated scene.

Let’s face it, there’s no shortage of super-speed shredmasters out there all vying to be the fastest, the most complex, the most ridiculous, and this year alone has already delivered a bumper crop of both killer and filler releases running the gamut from the heaviest to the most histrionic (and everything in between).

One thing that I think we can all agree on though – and which, to a greater or lesser extent, all of today’s selections clearly demonstrate – is that technical talent is nothing without the songwriting skill to match it, because once the initial dopamine rush of being bombarded with a thousand notes a second wears off it’s the structural hooks, the infectious melodies, the subtle repetitions, that trigger the brain’s innate pattern recognition algorithms and ensure that what you’ve just heard gets filed away in your long-term memory, rather than just flying in one ear and out the other.

So let’s see if this particular trio have what it takes to make a lasting impression, shall we?

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Jul 102021

Ageless Oblivion - photo by Adam Pegg

(Andy Synn brings us another episode in his series about lyrics in Metal, and today the responses come from Stephen Jones, vocalist and lyricist of the UK Death Metal band Ageless Oblivion, whose latest album is out now via Apocalyptic Witchcraft Recordings)

Anyone who knows me… hell, anyone who’s been reading NCS for any significant amount of time… will be able to tell you how much I love the work of Progressive/Post-Death Metal maestros Ageless Oblivion.

In particular, I’ve gone on record, multiple times, about how highly I rate their second album, Penthos, whose signature blend of mechanical precision, organic biorhythms, and claustrophobic atmosphere is a big part of what makes it, in my opinion at least, one of the best (and most underrated) albums of the last decade.

So it shouldn’t really surprise anyone, especially in light of the rave review I gave their recent “comeback” album, Suspended Between Earth and Sky, that I was eager to bring the band onboard for an edition of Waxing Lyrical, if only to satisfy my own curiosity about what it is that influences, informs, and drives this particular aspect of their sound.

Thankfully they were extremely amenable to my overtures, and sent forth their vocalist Stephen Jones (who has performed on all three of the band’s albums thus far) to offer up some insight on the group’s past, present and future, as seen through the prism of their lyrics.

So, without further ado… Continue reading »

Jul 092021

(Andy Synn offers us a chance to catch up with a quartet of albums you may have overlooked)

Is it just me, or was June an insanely busy period for music?

Honestly, despite doing my best to cover as many new releases as possible, and despite the best efforts of my NCS cohorts to do the same, it feels like we missed out on a lot of records this month.

This, of course, made it pretty difficult to pick just 4 artists/albums for this article, and at one point there was a version of this column that was all Death Metal (including Diabolizer, Noctambulant, and Cathexis, if memory serves) until I realised that maybe, just maybe, that didn’t give the broadest picture of the last 30 days (but you should still check out all three of those bands/albums if you haven’t already).

Don’t worry, there’s still some serious brutality on offer, but I’ve managed to widen the scope a little since then so that today’s article – which features four, count ‘em, four debut albums – should have the potential to appeal to a slightly broader cross-section of our readers than just those who like to have their eardrums perforated by the musical equivalent of a turbo-charged jackhammer.

And, speaking of…

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Jul 062021

(Andy Synn gazes once more into the void… and finds the new album from Sallow Moth gazing back!)

I know I’ve said this before, but it still bears repeating – one of the (many, many) great things about writing for NCS is that we don’t have to stick to anyone’s schedule but our own.

Oh, sure, if we agree to host a premiere or some such then we’re bound by our word to stick to that date/time, but the fact that we don’t have any print deadlines to meet, no advertisers to placate, and no pressure from above to produce a certain number of articles or reviews every day/week/month means that we can be a lot more flexible with what we write about, and when we write about it.

Case in point, when lepidopterous Death Metal dreamer Sallow Moth surprise-released their new album, Stasis Cocoon, at the end of last week, I was able to quickly pivot and switch up my writing/reviewing schedule in response, ensuring that – hopefully – this succulent little slab of metallic sci-fi mayhem receives at least some of the attention it deserves.

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Jul 032021

(In this new edition of Andy Synn‘s interview series devoted to lyrics in metal, he got input from Bryce Seditz of the Ohio band Plaguewielder.)

We – and that’s the collective we, not the royal we – have been big fans and followers of Ohio Blackened Sludge-bringers Plaguewielder for quite some time now.

You may even recall that we were lucky enough to host the premiere of their latest (and greatest) album, Covenant Death, back in March – and I can confidently say that it’s still one of my favourite albums of the year so far.

So, for this particular edition of Waxing Lyrical I/we thought it was high time we caught up with Plaguewielder vocalist/guitarist Bryce Seditz to find out exactly what it is that fuels the band’s thematic fire. Continue reading »

Jul 012021

Recommended for fans of: Witchery, Goatwhore, The Crown

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… and again… and again… choosing the right, or wrong, genre tag(s) can make or break a review.

After all, we Metal folk can be a touchy, tribalist bunch at times, prone to writing off artists if/when they start to drift into sounds/styles we don’t approve of, and frequently guilty of pre-judging a band simply because they’re associated with the “wrong” kind of genre(s).

The thing about Virginia’s The Day of the Beast, however, is that no matter what you call them – deathly Black Thrash, thrashy Blackened Death, blackened Death Thrash – it’s difficult, borderline impossible, not to love them… they’re simply so ridiculously fun.

Don’t take that to mean “frivolous” though, as TDotB are no joke, as each of their four albums (the most recent of which was released just a few weeks ago) goes well out of their way to prove by way of a veritable orgy of ravaging riffs, galloping grooves, and vicious, venom-spitting vocals.

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Jun 292021

(Andy Synn once again graces us with reviews of three more bands from his beloved homeland)

So I should probably begin this article with a quick mea culpa.

After making such a big deal about how the last edition of “The Best of British” was the first one in a worryingly long time, I had originally intended for the follow-up to hit the site within a week. Two at the most.

But, as you can guess, life got in the way, and my best laid plans went “aglay”, as the great poet once said.

Still, better late than never, right?

After all, I’m of the opinion that each of these albums – warts and all – fully deserves some coverage here at NCS, and since it’s unlikely that anyone else from the crew is going to be able to fit them in, it looks like it once more falls to me to tell you why you should check out the new albums from Axecatcher, Bossk, and Urne.

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