Jan 122021


Editor’s Note: Once upon a time, and for many years in the earlier life of NCS, Seattle-based Joseph Schafer wrote with us under the pseudonym BadWolf. From NCS he went on to become the editor of Invisible Oranges, and since then has written about music and culture for the likes of Decibel, Noisey, Consequence of Sound, Bandcamp, and more, in addition to collaborating on the production of Northwest Terror Fest. But this time of year he sometimes returns to NCS with a year-end list, and has surprised us this year by doing it again. This time his list includes a Top 10 of not-metal selections, a Top 10 of metal selections, and a list of honorable mentions.


My New Year’s resolution has been to drink almond milk instead of half-and-half and as a result the first lesson I’ve learned in 2021 has been: you can’t microwave that particular nut-based creamer. As such, my fingertips are burnt, so let’s keep this brief – and by brief I mean under two thousand words.

First things first: 2020 fucking sucked. Is there any other way to put it? Fuck the last year. Many of my closest comrades lost their jobs and endured quiet personal hells in isolation while white nationalists tried to overturn the country and a literal plague killed our loved ones. Not to mention, no live shows. Yuck. It’s probably not over but at least the worst of it seems behind us – that is, so long as you wash your hands wear a mask and take the damn vaccine. Continue reading »

Dec 242019


(In what used to be an annual tradition, and hopefully will become one again, we present a year-end list of favorite Not-Metal albums by Joseph Schafer (whose NCS moniker was BadWolf). Joseph is a  former NCS writer, ex-Invisible Oranges editor, current contributor to DecibelNoisey, and Consequence of Sound, and a principal co-conspirator in the production of Northwest Terror Fest.)

Sorry it took so long. Last year, the usual hustle and bustle of the holidays totally occupied my time. If you think about it, it’s hard to think of a worse time of year for Listmania than the apex of social and familial pressure that is the end of the year— not to mention the horrid weather that blasts most of the United States as I write this. Regardless, after an abnormally tumultuous 2019, and my decision to skip Listmania the year before, I took the time to outline, as before, my favorite non-metal albums of the year.

Some of these choices should be familiar to anyone who has read my list in years past – I tend to err on the side of my favorites, most of the time. The artists who created five of these choices have turned up on these lists before. Continue reading »

Oct 042018


Two days ago Metal Hammer published an essay entitled “I witnessed the death of genres“, in which the author raved about the live performance he’d recently witnessed by a band named  Scarlxrd, praising the artist’s hybridizing of musical styles from different genres, including metal. The article ended with these words:

“Where else will you find a night of music so indebted to aggressive metal and hip-hop, but unafraid to introduce AC/DC and Oasis into the mix? This is the future of music. Just music. Nobody cares about your arcane genre tags or inexplicably niche sub-genres that only two bands fit into, it’s all just sound, we’re in a genre fluid world and you should embrace it. Music is beautiful and narrow-mindedness is ugly.

“Be part of something, be part of everything.”

This provoked a Facebook status by my NCS colleague Andy Synn. By the time I saw it, it had drawn a large number of comments and exchanges, and one of those dialogues was with our mutual friend and former NCS scribe Joseph Schafer (who now writes for such publications and sites as DECIBEL and Noisey, after a stint as Invisible Oranges‘ editor). Continue reading »

Jan 032018


(In what has become an annual tradition, former NCS writer, ex-Invisible Oranges editor, and current contributor to Decibel and Noisey, Joseph Schafer (whose NCS moniker was BadWolf) brings us a year-end list of favorite Not-Metal albums.)


As in previous years, this is my favorite article to write. There remains something delicious and transgressive about extolling the virtues of mainstream pop music to metal fans on a metal-centric platform. The reason why is no mystery: metal is intended itself to be delicious and transgressive, but too often becomes a stale and staunch conservative vomitorium. Eat the same diet of blast beats, high-gain distortion, and Lucifer sigils, vomit them back up, ingest a new round of the same, repeat.

I like a Roman feast as much as the next guy, but I also know to take myself out to sushi every so often, remaining Fukushima background radiation be damned. And yes I know that’s not what a vomitorum was actually used for but you all gleaned my meaning regardless, and if not what’s wrong with you?

Besides, as any social media window left open too long will tell you: even staunch metal fans love plenty of extra-metallic material. Tom G. Warrior loves David Slyvian. This is no great act of rebellion, this is the simple acknowledgement that metal is pop music, as in art meant for popular consumption. That is no damning admonishment. It describes Mozart, too. Continue reading »

Dec 212017


(Joseph Schafer, the ex-editor of Invisible Oranges and current writer for Decibel, was one of this site’s earliest regular writers under the pseudonym BadWolf and has been a steadfast friend of all of us ever since. This week he returns to NCS once again with a year-end list. This year it comes in two parts. In this Part 2, Joseph lists his Top 10 albums of 2017. Yesterday’s Part 1 (here) named 25 albums that narrowly missed his top slots.)


Picking a ranked selection of ten records to represent the best metal in 2017 presented an unusual challenge. As I outlined in my previous list of runners-up, narrowing in on a single trend or trajectory of the genre proved untenable. Of course, metal globally is at what seems like peak production. Literally every week of the year produced at least one record in the genre worth revisiting.

Moreover, focusing on anything, least of all music, seemed difficult. Much of this has to do with the trouble international and domestic political climate. How are we supposed to appreciate the nuanced aesthetics of a record when for a while there every morning news update seemed like a potential nuclear air raid siren. Metal ought to comment on and illuminate these affairs. At least the best metal of the ’80s and ’90s accomplished that feat while delivering great tunes as well.

Instead, metal seems unable to agree on what its own identity is. Instead of the music reflecting the world at large, the culture around that music exhibits the same symptoms of our global culture’s disease. Partisan dogfighting. An unwillingness to think beyond the short term. A total breakdown in shared moral consideration. Fuck picking a record, how are we supposed to pick one problem to fix first? Or at least to write a song about? Continue reading »

Dec 202017


(Joseph Schafer, who was one of this site’s earliest regular writers under the pseudonym BadWolf and has been a steadfast friend of all of us ever since, returns to NCS once again with a year-end list. This year it comes in two parts. Part 2, which we’ll post tomorrow, is a Top 10 list. In this Part 1, the focus is on 25 albums that narrowly missed Joseph’s top slots.)


This list will mark my return to No Clean Singing after three years editing Invisible Oranges, and now six months as a dedicated freelance writer. I got my start here at NCS and this time of year I always return. The holidays, after all, are about setting a light in the dark and navigating home, if only for a moment. Now as ever, NCS remains a light in the deepening internet dark, and will always be home.

I can think of many ways to summarize 2017. One could call it a year of reconciliation. Storied and well-traveled bands easing into their twenties and thirties did their best to flex and please after 2016’s glut of great new and super-underground acts. To their credit: 2017 has to be the best year for ‘mainstream’ metal in over a decade. The disappointing tripartite belly flop of Emmure, Suicide Silence, and Winds of Plague’s limp new records hopefully put that subgenre in the dirt for the time being, but otherwise the old Big-little labels, Nuclear Blast, Century Media, Metal Blade, and Relapse delivered some polished surprises: Obituary, Suffocation, Cannibal Corpse, Immolation, Satyricon, Dying Fetus, Trivium, Belphegor, Vader, Danzig (what?), Exhumed, The Black Dahlia Murder, and Unsane all released their best albums in years. Special accolades must go to Cradle of Filth, who have somehow come out of their maybe-worst-band-in-metal tailspin and released a front-to-back rager with Cryptoriana – the Seductiveness of Decay. Continue reading »

Jan 182017


(In what has become an annual tradition as we near the finish line for our LISTMANIA series, our good friend and long-time NCS comrade BadWolf (aka Joseph Schafer) takes a break from his responsibilities as editor of Invisible Oranges and brings us his year-end list of top non-metal albums from 2016.)

Three things kept me from turning this list in sooner, one large and fairly insurmountable, the other small and petty but terribly uplifting.

Let’s begin dark, and head upward toward the light, because these albums are, on the whole, not very pretty. Continue reading »

Jan 132016

NCS Best of 2015 graphic


(In what has become an annual tradition as we near the finish line for our LISTMANIA series, our good friend and long-time NCS comrade BadWolf (aka Joseph Schafer) takes a break from his responsibilities at Invisible Oranges and brings us his year-end list of top non-metal albums from 2015.)

My duties as editor of Invisible Oranges keep me from writing on No Clean Singing as much as I’d like (that being, pretty much at all) but this site still feels like home. I think, for the first time, this is the only article I wrote for Islander in the past twelve months. That said, it’s still my favorite piece to write.

If you’re interested in my metal top 10, it lives here at Invisible Oranges. Look at the comment section for a little snark from our beloved Andy Synn. It’s ok, buddy, I don’t like most of the bands on your list, either.

Maybe Synn and I will have more in common outside the realms of metal. That said, some of these records are quite heavy — a couple made it into the metal top 10 lists at Invisible Oranges. I excluded them for the sake of having a more cohesive metal list of my own. Continue reading »

May 042015


(BadWolf reviews the Seattle date of the Decibel Magazine 2015 Tour, accompanied by exclusive photos taken by Madison Leiren, except where noted.)

This is the third of four annual Decibel Magazine tours that I’ve reviewed for No Clean Singing (I missed the third installment, featuring Napalm Death headlining, due to Maryland Deathfest. I’m not sorry). At this point in time, the mechanics of the tour itself — the way it interacts with coverage in the magazine, the way that the lineup is formed over time, and the way it is presented artistically — are becoming apparent to me.

Rather than simply assess the show I saw itself, it’s important to discuss these deeper factors, because Decibel Magazine wields a lot of market power in the United States, and the US remains the biggest music market in the world even though metal remains relatively unpopular here. In that respect, however, the tour is operating in an easy middle ground between what I would call respect for profits and respect for the metal zeitgeist. They do that by locking in headliners that already have clout and draw, but aren’t going to pursue metal as a full-time activity, and slotting openers who intend to make a career out of music. At least that’s how it’s worked for the past two years.

It seems as though 2014 was a prototype and 2015 was the first successful rollout of a set Decibel Tour formula. The recipe is as follows: Continue reading »

Mar 232015

(BadWolf brings us this review of a live performance in Seattle by Enslaved, YOB, Ecstatic Vision, and Bell Witch, with photos by Madison Leiren.)

My Wednesday evening at El Corazon on March the 11th was, in many ways, a redemption shot. I was there to see local Seattle funeral doom merchants Bell Witch, as well as Philadelphia’s uncategorizable Ecstatic Vision, Eugene Oregon’s doom wunderkinds YOB, and Norway’s progressive black metal institution Enslaved.

To begin, here is my list of grievances to be resolved that evening:

First, grievances with myself: Continue reading »