Feb 282024

(February ends today — oh wait! there’s a leap day tomorrow! — but we’re close enough that Gonzo has returned with another end-of-month collection of recommended albums, six of them, with streams and his reviews below.)

Maybe it’s just me being overly cynical, but does anything good ever happen in February? Why does it occasionally have an extra day every few years? Why is it always shorter? Who comes up with this shit?

Perhaps I’m once again shouting into my void of choice, but that might be because I’m recovering from five days of being on my ass thanks to some kind of plague I contracted last week. It feels good to be functional enough to write coherently (well, somewhat) and I’m relishing every moment in which I no longer feel like a vat of nuclear waste.

Musically speaking, there was an overwhelming amount of quality releases that saw the light of day in January, and by the time you’re reading this, long-awaited new albums from both Job for a Cowboy and Darkest Hour will be out and reviewed by our own Andy Synn. What year is it?!

There’s also no shortage of heavy hitters in this column; some of which have graced us with a new album after several years of dormancy. Some names you’ll recognize, some you won’t. Who doesn’t love a good comeback, though? Continue reading »

Feb 242024


It’s nice to begin a Saturday roundup of new songs and videos without bitching about my day job. Hard to bitch when I’ve had enough time to pull together roundups like this one for three days in a row. The cat’s away, so this mouse will play.

My spouse is away too. Has been since early last week, off visiting a sister in Nevada, so that’s another cat away. She’ll be back tonight, hopefully with her claws retracted, but the annoying state of air travel these days makes that unlikely.

Still, being annoyed by all the hassles is better than having part of the fuselage blow out at 16,000 feet. Fingers crossed that won’t happen on this trip, even though she’s flying the same airline, which will forever remember this video.

Anyway, my fellow mice, I hope you enjoy some or all of what follows. Continue reading »

Feb 172024

Oh look! I made a round-up of new songs and videos! Make the motion for slapping me on the back from afar, or at least patting my pointy head.

Yeah, it’s been a long damned time since I pulled one of these things together. Beginning in late January I kept thinking my life would get back to normal after 6 or 7 weeks of being ruthlessly pounded by my day job, but the pounding unexpectedly continued.

I’m at the point of doubting everything, but now it really does seem like my long dark night of the soul has ended, and I can resume what passes for normal activity around the ruined halls of NCS. Continue reading »

Dec 242023

For reasons explained yesterday, this is likely to be the last Shades of Black column until we reach Sunday, January 21st, when I hope I can then resume.

I barely have time for this one before the iron hand of commerce rudely forces my nose down to the grindstone again, even though the nose is already ground down to a nub. So let’s get right to it.

P.S. If you don’t see something here you wish I had included, see yesterday’s explanation and then feel free to mention the release in a comment and share a stream link. Continue reading »

Feb 022020


As predicted at the end of yesterday’s penultimate segment of this list, I spent hours agonizing about what to include in this final Part. And in the end, despite the internal misery occasioned by having to make a final choice among so many strong remaining candidates, it’s still a largely random outcome — even though this final episode includes a LOT more songs than usual. Basically, I went with my gut, slightly aided by my brain, which thought this sequence of tracks might be a fitting conclusion. At a minimum, it’s more directly in line with the title of this list than yesterday’s choices.

The first three songs are guitar spectacles, the fourth and fifth ones keep the savage energy in the red zone in different ways, the sixth moves into malevolent brutishness (with serious risk of sore-neck syndrome), and then we shift gears into downright epic territory with the last two stirring and marvelously multi-faceted songs, which seemed the right way, in farewell, to express how glorious metal was in 2019.


I first stumbled across the Swiss band Matterhorn in the spring of 2018 when they had two songs up for streaming in advance of Iron Bonehead‘s CD release of their debut album, Crass Cleansing, and I came away very impressed. I had a tough time categorizing the music, describing it then as a stew of extremity that included elements of thrash, speed metal, punk, black metal, and death metal — and the overall impact was electrifying. Continue reading »

Aug 032019


In a rare showing of restraint, I didn’t slaughter millions of brain cells last night in celebrating the end of the work week. Consequently, I woke early this morning without feeling like I’d contracted the plague while asleep, and spent a block of time making my way through many new songs that had come my way over the last couple of days. From those I picked this collection.

Today, in addition to emphasizing stylistic diversity, I decided to focus even more on lesser-known names than usual, though it’s always our standard practice to make sure we’re not just writing about what everyone else in the metalverse is writing about. Having said that, I couldn’t resist beginning with a name that’s undoubtedly been on the lips of vast throngs since yesterday’s song reveal. And that name is…


In his review of 2016’s Winter Thrice, my friend Andy remarked that “it only takes a quick glance at the Membership Timeline on the band’s Wikipedia page to see how many different members and line-ups the group have gone through over the years, while somehow still retaining the same creative drive and overarching musical identity that first brought the band together”. That list will become longer now, with the impending release of Borknagar’s 11th album, True North, which features new drummer Bjørn Dugstad Rønnow and new lead guitarist Jostein Thomassen. Missing this time around are Vintersorg, Jens Ryland, and drummer Baard Kolstad, who had made his first appearance on Winter Thrice.

On the other hand… Continue reading »

Jan 302017


We’re down to the penultimate day for the rollout of our 2016 Most Infectious Song list. I’m in a bit of a panic, because I’m having so much trouble deciding how to end it. There are still so many songs that I feel are deserving of a place on the list, but it also seems awkward to continue a 2016 list of any kind past the first month of the new year.

And I suppose I should remind you that because I have so much difficulty as a list-maker, I didn’t have the list completed when I began the rollout, and to an extent, I’ve been making it up as I go along. That’s why tomorrow’s ending is arbitrary, and why there is a degree of randomness in what’s on the list and what isn’t. What’s not random is my conviction that all the songs I’ve picked are worthy of the awards.


I ask you, if you can’t make an exception to our Rule about singing for the likes of Andreas “Vintersorg” Hedlund, Simen “ICS Vortex” Hestnaes, and Kristoffer Rygg, then who could justify an exception? Continue reading »

Jan 062016

Borknagar-Winter Thrice


(Andy Synn reviews the new tenth studio album by Borknagar.)

Show of hands, how many of you have heard of Theseus’ paradox? A few of you? Good to know.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, it refers to questions of identity and continuity, and whether an object can be considered to be the same entity even after all its component parts have been steadily replaced over time, piece by piece.

Now, obviously, there are some parallels here with how bands work. I can tick off a number of names in my head of some of my favourite bands who no longer have any original members left and yet are still, in some ephemeral fashion, the same band.

Prog-Metal overlords Borknagar, of course, have something of an advantage in this area in that their existence has always been anchored (to stretch the nautical metaphor a little further) by the presence of mastermind Øystein G. Brun, but it only takes a quick glance at the Membership Timeline on the band’s Wikipedia page to see how many different members and line-ups the group have gone through over the years, while somehow still retaining the same creative drive and overarching musical identity that first brought the band together.

So perhaps it’s fitting that the line-up featured on Winter Thrice represents perhaps more distinct incarnations of the band at one time than ever before… reaching right back to their earliest days, while still forging boldly, progressively forward. Continue reading »

Nov 252015

Witchcraft - Nucleus


(Grant Skelton wrote this round-up of recommended new music.)


On top of what’s been an already amazing year for doom releases, 2016 brings with it the release of Witchcraft’s new album Nucleus, which will be available January 15 on Nuclear Blast Records. In advance of the album’s release, the first single “The Outcast” is available for streaming below. Continue reading »

Apr 042013

(NCS writer Andy Synn has returned from Oslo’s Inferno Festival, held on March 27-30, 2013, and brings us a multi-part report of what he saw and heard, along with photos. Check out the previous installments here and here.)

Day 2 of the festival had fewer bands I was particularly dying to see, so I decided to check out some different acts I’d never seen before, so as to make better use of my time and to fulfil my journalistic pretensions a bit more.

We decided to have a later start to the day, arriving in time to see Aeternus hit the stage and introduce the crowd (if any introduction was needed) to their twisted take on the darker side of the black/death metal aesthetic. Drawing liberally from all the various spheres of the metallic spectrum, the group performed like a well-drilled musical machine, though their focus on slippery shifts between styles meant that their live stage presence was a little more unassuming than most.

Though the band last played here 11 years ago, there was very little rust to be found on them, as they bled their instruments dry of every hypnotic riff and spiralling, dissonant lead they could wring out of them. Continue reading »