Jan 302023


We’re getting down to the wire for this list. I’ve used that expression many times in many contexts without knowing precisely what it means or where it came from, but having checked the dictionary today I find that it’s an apt expression here. It means an outcome that’s unclear and unsettled until the last minute, the very end, and thus also means “full of suspense”.

Another source reports: “This term comes from horseracing, where it was long the practice to stretch a wire across and above the track at the finish line. It was extended to figurative use about 1900.”

With only tomorrow left to bring this list to an end, I feel suspenseful myself, because I have no fucking idea how to end it. Well, tomorrow is another day. Today I picked these three songs: Continue reading »

Oct 052022


The heart is a pump. It drives the pulse. It sets the beat. Whether it slowly thumps or hammers in your throat, it’s the body’s rhythm section. When music makes us move, isn’t it because it connects to those primal grooves that keep us alive? (Anthropologists and other scientists have probably proven this, but at the moment we can’t be bothered to hunt for the proof.)

But the fact that the reaction is reflexive means that it’s easy for even mediocre musicians to lay down songs that make listeners move. Even extreme heavy metal bands do that all the time, easily triggering the headbang reflex, even though other groups obviously believe that putting too much groove in their music cheapens their “artistry” or clashes with their “ethos”. And indeed, taking the easy way out is rarely the basis for respect.

Which brings us to Black Royal, and what has made — and still makes — their deathly sludge ‘n’ roll so special. It’s undeniable (or at least your reptile brain won’t deny it) that in both their music and their vocal phrasings these Finns know how to lock in with the beat of your heart, and make it both slowly pump and hammer like a well-fueled piston.

But their expertise in doing that isn’t the sole basis for the allure of their music, and in the case of their new album Earthbound, which will be released on October 21st by M-Theory Audio, a strong case can be made that it’s the artistry and ethos of everything else they do which makes the album stand out. Continue reading »

Aug 242022


Maybe you noticed that I posted no round-ups last weekend, neither the usual Saturday SEEN AND HEARD nor the usual Sunday SHADES OF BLACK. An annual two-day event connected to my day job proved to be too disruptive, even though it was a shitload of fun. So, the grab-bag of new music has swollen, continuing to fill since the weekend. I kind of blindly stabbed into the bag this morning until my hands filled up, and here’s what I chose from those handfuls.

I imagine these selections will cause people to feel like they’ve been blindfolded, spun around a dozen times, and then let loose to stumble about and run into hard objects at every turn. It’s a fun thing to think about.


Okay, I fibbed a little. It wasn’t blind groping that led me to this first song and video but a surprising press release and a torrent of “Holy Shit!” from assorted friends online. About what you’d expect when you get the first new song in 20 years from an influential and much-beloved band like Botch (especially beloved up here in the U.S. Pacific Northwest where they originated). Continue reading »

Jun 112022

Panzerfaust – photo by Samantha Carcasole

I got an unreasonably early start on the day. On the plus side, that gave me the time to pull together the following large roundup of new discoveries before too much daylight burned. All these songs and videos came out since the first of June.

Fair warning: I have equally exorbitant plans for tomorrow’s SHADES OF BLACK column.


When I saw Panzerfaust at this year’s Maryland Deathfest I wrote this on my FB page: “A wizard of a drummer seated in a garden of cymbals and using all of them; a man-mountain of a frontman who by his mere presence enhances the frightfulness of the music; a pair of axe-slingers who play their instruments near-upright; the creation of an aura of ritual but with visceral thrusts: an amalgam of hallucination and hammering. Well, I’ve missed a lot of sets at MDF but the one by Panzerfaust tonight is the best of the bunch so far and it isn’t close.” Continue reading »

Jan 102022


The theme of this fourth installment of the list is… groove! To be sure, there are other themes and ingredients in today’s trio of tracks, because they are significantly different from each other in just about every other way. But these songs will get you moving, and because they’re all so damned infectious they’ll likely get quickly stuck in your head if you’re encountering them for the first time.

If you’re stumbling into this series for the first time, you’ll find the preceding Parts (and an explanation of what this list is all about) through THIS LINK.


This is the first of two bands in today’s installment whose 2021 records I paid attention to as a result of my colleague Andy Synn‘s enthusiastic recommendations. In the case of Thundering Hooves‘ debut album Vestiges he praised not only the band’s name but also anointed this precocious duo as “the UK’s answer to Necrophobic“. And yes, that got my attention. He further wrote: Continue reading »

Jun 092021


Last night I had time to bounce around among the links I had saved to new songs, but still only scratched the surface. I decided to select these six recent tracks, five of which come with videos, in anticipation that they will bounce you around too.

ERDVE (Lithuania)

My friend Rennie exclaimed this on starkweather’s FB page about the first item in today’s collection: “Erdve and Season of Mist have launched another video attack. ‘Sugretinimas‘ is obscenely heavy. Something like Cop era Swans crossed with a death metal guitar tone pushed to Endon levels of noise. Jesus fucking Christ.” Continue reading »

Jan 112021


For obvious reasons, I couldn’t resist putting these three songs together for Part 6 of this list. They were all going to be on the list at some point, but the band names just cried out for combining them.

And the combination is especially delicious because the sounds are so distinct from each other despite the commonality of that one word.

I’ll also mention, for those who might be encountering this series for the first time, that you can find the songs that have preceded these on the list by clicking this link.

Continue reading »

Jul 262020


The last 10 days have been rough. I mentioned last weekend that the virus had claimed the life of someone I was very close to, and my day job has simultaneously become very demanding. The combined impact has stressed my work at NCS. Just haven’t had the time or mental health necessary to plow through all the new music that is somehow still managing to come out.

For the first time in an unusually long time, I did do some updating of my out-of-control listening list yesterday, and checked out some of the more recent entries that I thought might be suitable for this column. I also re-listened to a few things I’d intended to write about before calamity struck. From those excursions I made selections that I’ve divided into two parts. The way I divided the groupings makes musical sense to me, but who knows if it will make sense to anyone else. Part 1 includes individual songs and videos; there are a bunch of full album streams in Part 2.


My memory is spotty at the best of times, but I’m pretty sure that at least once before here at NCS I’ve mentioned that Rotting Christ were the first band who opened my eyes to black metal. That was about 13 years ago. Before that I’d dabbled a bit in the genre but wasn’t hooked, and then I discovered Theogonia, and the rest is history. Speaking of history, after being wowed by Theogonia I traveled further back and listened to some of RC‘s earlier output, including 1994’s Non Serviam, whose opening track was a song named “The Fifth Illusion“. Continue reading »

Feb 262020


(Andy Synn reviews the new album by Finland’s Black Royal, which was released by Suicide Records on February 14th.)

Maybe it’s just me (I don’t think it is, but you never know) but it seems like the last several years have seen quite a lot of bands, both old and new, turning back to the “old school” for inspiration.

And while there are lots of speculative, pseudo-psychological reasons for why this might be so (there’s certainly something to be said for the idea that during unsettling or uncertain times we’re more likely to cling to what’s familiar), I honestly think that the best explanation for this recent “old school” resurgence is that quite a lot of bands have simply grown dissatisfied with what more modern trends have to offer them (and, in turn, demand from them).

Of course, this isn’t necessarily anything all that new. Metal has, after all, often been quite an insular scene, with a large fixation on its own history, and practically every year sees the emergence of yet another wave of “retro” groups trying to recapture the spirit and the sound of Metal’s “golden age”… mostly without really adding anything to it.

But, of late, I’ve really taken note of how many bands have been trying to do more than just imitate the classics by taking and twisting them into fresh new shapes, repurposing clichéd ideas for new purposes, and by mixing and matching “timeless” elements in ways which would once have been unthinkable.

I’m sure we can all think of lots of current/recent examples of this (Chapel of Disease immediately spring to mind). But the one I want to bring your attention to today is the brilliant second album from Finnish riffmongers Black Royal. Continue reading »

Feb 122020


One week has passed since I posted the last of these round-ups, and dozens of new songs have emerged since then that I’d happily throw your way, in addition to the many dozens I haven’t foisted upon you from preceding weeks. However, it turns out that I had overlooked new tracks from some of my favorite bands, discovering those only two days ago. I can’t resist including them here, along with a few newer discoveries.


We seem to have fallen off the radar screen of Century Media, because we haven’t received a single press release about the new album by Heaven Shall Burn, whose many previous releases we’ve covered with religious fervor. Even worse, none of my NCS compatriots breathed a word to me about the fact that three songs from the new album have debuted for public consumption. I had to find out about them yesterday via a YouTube side-bar. What is the world coming to? Well, I know it’s going to shit, I just didn’t know it was this shitty. Continue reading »