Sep 132020


As you can see, I’ve planned a two-part column today. This part includes too-brief reviews of three albums and comments about an advance track from a forthcoming record. In Part 2 I’ve gathered some splits and another advance track. I haven’t written all of Part 2 yet and am not sure I’ll get it done today, because the Seahawks are playing their opening game of this weird NFL season, and I’m not going to miss it. So, maybe Part 2 comes tomorrow…


I’ve taken my sweet time writing about Barghest’s new album, not for lack of desire but because of one diversion after another. But it’s an album that I can neglect no longer, because I’ve continued to listen to it off and on since before its mid-July release. And as someone who’s constantly flitting from new thing to new thing, that fact alone is meaningful. Continue reading »

Jul 082015


Into Weeping Firmament, the new EP by Barghest from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is simply overpowering. From the obliterating drum assault in the opening seconds of the first song it seizes the listener’s throat in an iron grip and never lets go. All sorts of other metaphors come to mind — and I’ll probably use all of them — but what they have in common is the sense of being caught up by some force of nature that you’re far too small and frail to withstand — or to resist. But even though the music strikes with the force of a hurricane, there’s more to it than simply shock and awe — as I’ll explain after a digression.

We live in an age when black metal has become a diffuse genre of music. There are certainly fans and musicians who believe that black metal must be defined by the specific spiritual beliefs that inspire it and by the communion (or chaos) that it must help bring about: If it is not a genuine means of practicing Luciferian and Promethean ideals, then it does not merit the name — it is instead some kind of fraudulent posturing.

But many more people don’t embrace (or perhaps don’t understand) such rigid criteria. Instead, they define black metal by the presence of certain specific musical elements and/or by a certain emotional resonance that those ingredients produce. So many bands have borrowed those aspects of the sound (or some of them) and joined them together with other musical styles that “black metal” (or “blackened metal”), as I think most people understand the terms, has evolved into perhaps the most diverse and multi-faceted of all the genres of extreme metal. What accounts for this phenomenon? Continue reading »

Oct 292014


About 10 days ago two Louisiana bands released a two-song split on Bandcamp which proves again that some of the best music these days is flying under the radar on the wings of short, unheralded releases.

One of the two bands is a new name to me, Withering Light from Hammond, Louisiana. Their song is named “Lantern”, and it’s a shining example of post-black metal done very well.

At the beginning, and returning again at the end, guitar notes ring out like the pealing of alien bells over a heavy, grinding low end. That reverberating melody proves to be very seductive, but so is the rest of the song, which features jabbing, start-stop riffs, acrobatic drumwork, tumbling bass licks, and a very nice dual-guitar harmony, as well as inflamed, scarring vocals. Continue reading »

Jul 212014

Adam Bartlett and Thou — photo by Shane Stornanti

Part 1 of this report is here; Part 2 is here.

Yesterday was the third and final session of the GILEAD FEST at the Masonic Center in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and it proved to be a day of megaton doom bombing mixed with strafing runs of blackened hellfire. It also featured two of the most emotionally searing moments of the entire festival and a final encore at the end of the night that was both surprising and eminently appropriate — and a whole helluva lot of fun.

Once again, the event was blessed with a beautiful day. Once again, the event planners and volunteer staff pulled everything off smoothly. Once again, all the bands I saw were wonderful — though I’m sorry to say that I spent so long toiling over yesterday’s report that I missed the first two groups, Northless and Alraune. We arrived not long before Seidr took the stage…


Seidr’s massive double album Ginnungagap was released by Bindrune last fall. It was the first of the band’s music I had heard, but it was enough — the chance to hear Seidr live was one of the paramount reasons why I made the trip to Oshkosh. Continue reading »

May 162014

Lots of new songs appeared today. I picked six to play for you, despite the fact that I could maintain alliteration for only two groups of them. In a rare display of concision, I will be concise. If you don’t find at least one thing to like in here, there may be no hope for you.


I’m borrowing Axl Rosenberg’s introduction to the new Vader song at Metal Sucks because it made me laugh:

Vader have released a new song, “Triumph of Death,” which you can stream below. It’s a visceral track which, believe it or not, may make you tear up a bit, as its subject matter is one to which we all relate: a metalhead is forced against his will to go see the (Hed)P.E. and SOiL tour, but he ultimately manages a bittersweet victory when he kills himself mid-show by inhaling next to a guy in a Primer 55 shirt, thereby attaining sweet release. The metal community has lost too many good men and women that way, and I commend Vader for calling attention to these tragedies.

Continue reading »

Dec 172013

Before this morning I was already excited about something coming our way in 2014 from Gilead Media, that oh-so-tasteful little label run by Adam Bartlett in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. I’m talking, of course, about the 2014 GILEAD FEST coming next July 18-20. I’m planning to go, in part because one of my favorite co-workers is actually a native of Oshkosh and seems interested in attending the show even though he’s not a metalhead (though he has an amazing array of other musical tastes, with that one glaring omission). I’ll remind you after the jump who is scheduled to play at that festival.

But the point of this post is to provide additional reasons to be excited, because today Adam provided a full rundown of the Gilead release schedule for 2014. And man, there are a lot of gems on the line-up. For example, on February 25, Gilead will be release Heathen, the fourth album from doom titans Thou. And on the same day, Gilead will be releasing a self-titled 12″ from Geryon, the bass-and-drum death metal project of Nick McMaster and Lev Weinstein (which I’ve already had the pleasure of hearing, and it’s great). You can see the cover art for both of those after the jump.

And there’s more. Here’s the rest of the Gilead release schedule following those two lead-offs for 2014, along with Adam Bartlett’s notes about each one: Continue reading »

Jul 212012

“U.S. Black Metal” isn’t a true genre term, because what American black metal bands have been doing in recent years with the basic Northern European template is too diverse. Some stick close to  the Scandinavian blueprint, of course, but others have spun out some really creative variations on the theme. The subjects of this post are two of the USBM scene’s rising stars.

False is a Minnesota band who turned a lot of heads last year with their Untitled 12″, released by Gilead Media and Howling Mine (for example, it took the No. 14 spot on DECIBEL’s 40 Best Albums of 2011). It consisted of two 12-minute songs that were a mixture of hate-fueled, punk-influenced mayhem and epic wall-of-guitar jams.

Louisiana’s Barghest are another band who hit lots of radar screens last year (including ours) with their self-titled debut album (also released by Gilead and Howling Mine). It had an old-school lo-fi vibe, and no bass, but it packed in some crushing groove along with the haze of tremolo picking and percussive blasting.

Thanks to NCS reader Ørsaeth, I’ve discovered that on August 21 Gilead Media will be releasing a new False-Barghest split (12″ vinyl only) and that the split’s contents are now streaming within the internest. It’s strong music that will only fortify the growing reputation of these two bands. Continue reading »

Jul 242011

Slowed down by two weeks of work-related travel, I’m now in the middle of a bunch of catch-up projects for NCS, none of which are finished. So what have I been doing this morning? In typically ass-backwards fashion, I’ve been listening to a bunch of random tracks thrown my way by NCS contributors and readers.

I have no idea whether this goes on in other genres of music, but one of the great things about metal is how people pass around tracks they’ve discovered (thank you, YouTube). We’ve all got bands we love and follow, and the bands we like are collectively cranking out music at a torrential pace, almost beyond our ability to consume, but we still want to find new music from new bands. Of course, that’s a big part of our mission here — to pass around what we’re hearing and liking.

So, this is a really random collection of stuff I heard just this morning, courtesy of the people whose names I’ll credit as we get to each song. And the line-up is . . . Jamey Jasta (U.S.), M.A.N. (Sweden), Barghest (U.S.), Haemorrhage (Spain), and Sifar (India). Lots of music all across the map of metal genres (actually, Sifar is right off the map), so I’ll keep the verbiage short.


Yes, that Jamey Jasta — Hatebreed, Kingdom of Sorrow, Icepick, and who knows what else. To be honest, I lost interest in Hatebreed a while back (though I used to be a big fan in their early days), and I didn’t find much to like in Kingdom of Sorrow’s albums, so I was going to take a pass on Jasta’s solo album, which is scheduled for release this week. But NCS writer Israel Flanders told me I really needed to give this solo album a chance.

I’ve listened to three songs that Israel recommended, and I gotta say I’m very pleasantly surprised. There’s some quasi-clean singing on the songs that’s quite good, though that wouldn’t be a big attraction for me. The big attraction is that the songs are HEAVY AS FUCK, and include some seriously headbangable riffs. So, I’ll tell you what Israel told me — give this shit a chance. The song I liked the most follows right after the jump. Continue reading »