Dec 262016



(For the third year in a row, we present a year-end list from our Iowa-based guest Ben Smasher.)

Welp, next time we drown in 86 gallons of buffalo vomit, we can think to ourselves, “It’s ok, it’s not as bad as that time we lived through 2016!”

I swear the only reason I didn’t put a bullet in my temple this year was because of all the records that would pile up outside my door in the wake of my departure. Though my rabid interest in metal music had waned somewhat over the last few years, this year I decided to begin a YouTube channel (here) where I talk about my collection and other metal-related topics, and that stoked the fires more than they have been in years.

So I feel that this year I have a more refined list to offer because of how much more time I spent delving into the far reaches of the genre. If you find yourself in the throes of the winter doldrums come January, there is certainly some solace to be found below. Continue reading »

Mar 282016

HammerHeart Ostarablot flyer


(Our guest from the Midwest, Ben Smasher, was fortunate enough to attend the Ostarablot festival organized by HammerHeart Brewing Co. (the brewery and tap house located in Lino Lakes, Minnesota, that’s co-owned by Austin Lunn of Panopticon) and hosted on March 18-19, 2016, at the Triple Rock Social Club in Minneapolis. Here’s Ben’s review of the festival, along with some photos and videos the editor has scrounged from the internet.)


Hammerheart Brewing Company and the amazing people that comprise it consistently put themselves second to their intentions.  Austin once said to me, “I want to make beer that brings people together.”  So, as it would turn out, if you bring the world’s best beer and music under one roof, the best people in North America will join in a two-day celebration of the vernal equinox.

Though 2014’s Winterblot was a pretty remarkable event for bringing UK’s Wodensthrone to the US shores alongside some of America’s finest bands, Ostarablot brought artists from even further reaches to Minnesota.  Vemod traversed all the way from Norway and Germany’s Waldgeflüster came a long way as well. Continue reading »

Dec 222015

NCS Best of 2015 graphic


(For the second year in a row, we present a year-end list from our Iowa-based guest Ben Smasher. This list originally appeared on Ben’s own blog, here.)

2015 was by all accounts a great year for me personally. It has been a year starkly contrasting with years prior, all in good ways.

In the early spring I found myself growing tired of my typical metal fodder but was too preoccupied to seek out something new to satiate it. In the past I’ve successfully explored other genres and enjoyed decent results. I spent some time exploring what had to offer, which led me to a stint enjoying Zeuhl and prog bands of the ’70s and early ’80s. Then Beijing opera music of the early 1900s fell into my lap by way of my significant other, and it immediately scratched my itch in a new way.

I began plowing through time periods, genres, and vast geographies of music from all corners of the globe and it yielded highly entertaining and fascinating results. From the ritual Nat Pwe music of Myanmar, tribal music of the western Congo, ’80s khmer pop music from Cambodia, Thailand, rock of the ’60s — I could go on and on. This had so significantly changed my listening habits that I had to take a step back. Continue reading »

Jan 022015


(Our guest Ben Smasher provides a year-end of favorite releases.)

In the early 2000s or so, metal began to embrace to its fullest extent the importance of utilizing recording, mixing, and mastering styles to further the atmospheric effectiveness of an album. The albums that taught us this were incidentally opportunistic in this fashion, yet their happy accidents became precedent. So bands all became incredibly capable of making records that sounded amazing, yet I feel the genre really got stuck in the mud as far as progression in influences and song writing.

In 2014 I feel like we’ve finally worked through this period and bands are really starting to write great albums again. Albums whose notes and rhythms seem to wrap themselves around each of our veins and alter our being as we take it in. I look for next year to bring this quality to the stage even more.


1) Falls of Rauros – Believe In No Coming Shore

My life is now divided into two chapters: before this album entered my life, and after. Words cower in the presence of this album, so I won’t waste them. Listen to this now. Continue reading »