Nov 222018


(We present Andy Synn‘s review of the new second album by A God or an Other, released on November 15th and available now through Bandcamp.)

Continuing along the dark road that this week has driven me down we come to the second album by Olympia, Washington’s own Black Metal mystics A God or an Other, which offers up six tracks of riveting atmosphere and ravenous aggression under the pitiless banner of Chaotic Symbiosis. Continue reading »

Nov 212018


(In this post Andy Synn provides reviews of the two albums released this year by the duo known as Ævangelist.)

For various reasons, some personal, some professional, this week has so far been one headache-inducing shitshow that’s left my mood blacker, and bleaker, than a witches’ frozen teat.

And while some people might respond to this by trying to put on a happy face or jamming their most uplifting musical anthems… sometimes that simply doesn’t work.

Sometimes you just have to feed the beast, fuel the fire, and embrace the darkness… which is why, for the last couple of days I’ve been immersing myself in the dissonant, abstract horrorscapes of Ascaris and Matron Thorn, aka Ævangelist. Continue reading »

Nov 172018


(Andy Synn prepared this essay, with numerous examples of music, about the value that lyrics can contribute to the enjoyment of metal if written and delivered with conviction.)

So in lieu of another edition of Waxing Lyrical (don’t worry, the column’s not going anywhere, it’s just very dependent on the availability of the bands I talk to) I’ve decided to ask you all a very important question:

What’s more important to you, the lyrics or the music… the message or the medium? Continue reading »

Nov 142018


(This is Andy Synn‘s review of the debut album by Azusa, which will be released on November 16 via Solid State Records and Indie Recordings.)

Like many of you I was pretty giddy with excitement when the official Extol Facebook page began teasing some sort of new release earlier this year, only to feel a rather sharp sting of disappointment when it was revealed to be for a brand-new project named Azusa, rather than the hoped-for follow-up to the band’s excellent self-titled comeback album.

As it turns out, however, I shouldn’t have been counting my chickens quite so soon because, for all intents and purposes, Heavy Yoke pretty much IS a new Extol album. Continue reading »

Nov 072018


(This is Andy Synn‘s review of the new album by the Finnish band Devouring Star, which was released on October 26th by Dark Descent (U.S.) and Terratur Possessions (E.U.).)

Whether you call it “Black Metal” or “Blackened Death Metal” (I prefer the former in all honesty, although, given how obnoxiously heavy the band’s sound can be, I suppose I can see the argument for the latter too) it should be obvious that Devouring Star is one of the absolute best at what it does, as both the band’s debut album (Through Lung and Heart) and its similarly blistering companion EP (Antihedron) can already attest.

You probably won’t be surprised then to hear that The Arteries of Heresy continues this tradition of providing some of the best Metal (Black or otherwise) you’re going to hear all year, all delivered without concession or compromise. Continue reading »

Nov 062018


(On November 3rd the Leeds University Union hosted the star-studded 2018 edition of Damnation Festival, and our own Andy Synn was there again, and files this video-adorned report.)

Now, let’s get one thing straight right away – I love Damnation Festival. Alongside Inferno Festival and Maryland Deathfest it’s part of my annual triumvirate of awesome events which I do my absolute best to attend every single year.

One thing that bugs me, however, not about Damnation itself, but about the coverage afforded to the fest (and, by extension, to many other festivals too), is how much of it reads almost like it was written without even attending the event – every band is awesome, every performance is great – with little to no attempt to be critical or to give the reader a sense of the specific flavour and atmosphere beyond generic platitudes which could have been pulled straight from each band’s bio.

So this review isn’t going to be one of those. Because not every band I saw on Saturday evening was awesome, and not every performance was great… and while there were no downright terrible showings, several of the bands put in what I thought was a sub-par effort.

Thankfully, however, the good (and the very good) hugely outweighed the bad, and I think (and hope) you’ll still get a kick out of reading this review and watching the accompanying videos. Continue reading »

Nov 032018


(In this week’s edition of Waxing Lyrical, Andy Synn posed the usual questions to Paul Sadler of the U.K. band Spires.)

Hopefully I’ve managed to make it more than clear at this point just how bloody fantastic I think the latest (and greatest) album from Mancunian Prog-Metal quartet Spires really is, and so it probably won’t surprise you to learn that I’m already thinking long and hard as to whether to give it a spot in my annual “Critical Top Ten” list, a list whose purported purpose is to provide a wide and robust overview of the year’s best Metal albums… or, at least, as wide and robust a snapshot of the year’s releases as can be made using only ten albums.

One of the reasons the album is so damn good, in my opinion anyway, is the intense focus and attention to detail which the band have clearly lavished on each and every part of each and every song, up to and including the concept-driven lyrics which ultimately play a major role in helping to tie the whole record together.

So, as way of acknowledging the vital importance of these lyrics to the album’s overall success, I managed to convince the band’s vocalist/guitarist (and main songwriter) Paul Sadler to put together a few words for today’s edition of Waxing Lyrical. Continue reading »

Nov 022018


(Andy Synn again compiles reviews of new records from the British Isles.)

Just as I said in my previous column (which you can, and should, check out here) the fact that there’s just so much music out there means that it’s impossible for anyone, even someone as smart, debonair, and erudite as myself, to cover all of it.

What this means, at least in regards to my ongoing “Best of British” series, is that if you haven’t seen a band featured here the most likely reason is that I just haven’t heard them yet – either through sheer ignorance, or because of simple time constraints – although there’s always a chance that I honestly didn’t rate them as anything particularly special or worth writing (at) home about.

Today’s feature includes a band who’ve just released their debut album alongside two much more well-established acts (one of whom I’ve only recently taken a shine to), who all deal in weighty, megaton riffage and nuclear-level rage, making this one of the most brutal write-ups I’ve put together all year. Continue reading »

Oct 302018


(Despite what the title of this post says, Andy Synn hasn’t managed to review every fine 2018 album and EP we’ve heretofore failed to write about, but he does catch up with more than two dozen of them.)

While lots of blogs/zines are already (or soon will be) switching their focus away from covering new releases and towards consolidating their annual “Best Of…” lists, here on NCS island we’re still doing our very best to bring as many new (and some not so new) albums/artists to your attention as possible.

Of course the truism that “there’s simply too much music out there” remains as painfully accurate as ever, and it pains me to admit that I/we simply can’t cover all the releases we want to, in the depth we want to, no matter how hard we try.

So consider this article a voluntary mea culpa acknowledging our limitations and a (probably futile) attempt to make amends a little bit to all the bands and artists who we may have missed or ignored over the last several months, as well as to shine a light on a couple of upcoming releases you’ll probably want to keep your eyes/ears open for. Continue reading »

Oct 272018


(Andy Synn provides the following preview of Damnation Fest 2018.)

Exactly one week from today I’ll be back traversing the hallowed halls of Leeds University Union, which is once again playing host to another edition of Damnation Festival.

It’s a little-known fact that Leeds was actually one of my preferred choices when applying to university, but probably more widely-known that Damnation is one of my favourite festival experiences of the year (alongside Inferno and MDF, which suggests that I’m much more of an indoor festival guy) and one which I would recommend to any fan of the heavier side of music, in all its glory and variety.

Once again this year’s festival features a wide array of hand-picked bands drawn from across the Extreme/Alternative spectrum, running the gamut from legendary artists to up-and-coming contenders, so I’d like to use this column to highlight a few of the ones I’m most anticipating. Continue reading »