Dec 042013

(In this post, guest writer This Is The News hands out some personal awards for the best metal album cover art of 2013. Please leave your thoughts — including your own favorite cover art of the year — in the Comments.)

It’s time again for year end lists, which boils down to two things for most of us:

  1. No surprises. Decibel, Revolver, and Metal Sucks will publish lists that we probably could have predicted back in June.
  2. We will want to argue with their choices anyway.

As much fun as that is, let’s take it a step further with a look at some of the best album cover art of 2013. Good artwork can be the incentive to hear an unknown artist, or a small consolation to a disappointing album. Even if you’re bummed out that the new Avantasia album isn’t actually about gnome wizards, at least you still have a fun bit of fantasy art to admire. So look, argue, give your own list of favorites. You know the drill. Continue reading »

Aug 132013

Here are a few things I saw and heard last night that I thought might be of interest.


We’ve been following Pennsylvania’s Rivers of Nihil since all the way back in January 2012. Last December we reported that they had signed to Metal Blade Records and would be recording their full-length debut for the label with Erik Rutan (Hate Eternal) at Mana Recording Studios in March. We also streamed a demo version of a new song that will appear on the album named “Rain Eater”.

Yesterday we got a good look at the album’s cover by veteran metal artist Dan Seagrave, and it’s quite the eye-catcher, don’t you think? We also got the album’s name (The Conscious Seed of Light) and the release date: October 15.

On July22 , the band played one of the new tracks — “A Fertile Altar” — live at Saint Vitus in Brooklyn, and it was caught on video. The sound quality is good and the song rocks hard. Check it out next. Continue reading »

May 252012

Almost five years have passed since Entombed released their last album, Serpent Saints – The Ten Amendments. Two days ago, the band finally released a new recording in Sweden, and it’s available for download as of today in the U.S. And what have the band given us after five years of creative hibernation? A re-recording of a song from Serpent Saints called “Amok”.

This “new” single is the result of a collaboration between Entombed and Ninetone Records, a Swedish rock/metal label that has released albums by Soreption, Corroded, and a bunch of other bands whose names I don’t recognize. I don’t know know whether Entombed and Ninetone have plans for something more than the “Amok” single — such as a new album or EP. I guess we’ll find out in due course.

The artwork for the new single is sort of a re-issue as well. It’s a stylized painting of a moth called “Instar” that was created by the super-talented Dan Seagrave (and still seems to be available here as a limited edition print if you’ve got $95 you don’t know what else to do with). As used for the sleeve of this single, it bears a resemblance to the cover of a 1995 album — also called Amok — by the now-defunct but highly influential Finnish band Sentenced. (who were the lead subject of an NCS feature during our Finland Tribute Week series in late 2010). Based on a post by Entombed on their Facebook page, this appears to be coincidental — but man, what a coincidence.

As mentioned, the new single is a re-recording. I haven’t yet found any explanation of why Entombed picked “Amok”, among all the previous songs they could have chosen, for a new recording. it’s a puzzle, especially since the band’s membership hasn’t really changed significantly since they recorded “Amok” for Serpent Saints (bassist Victor Brandt has joined the ranks since then, with former bassist Nico Elgstrand moving to guitars).

Whatever the reason, it’s definitely a different take on the song. Continue reading »

Feb 192012

Since leaving Scar Symmetry in 2008, Christian Älvestam has become a one-man cottage industry. Actually, it may be more accurate to say that he and Finnish multi-instrumentalist Jani Stefanović have operated as a two-man cottage industry. Their results have ranged from okay to superior.

Both of them have joined forces in three bands: Solution .45 (okay), Miseration (very good), and The Few Against Many (superior). It won’t surprise anyone to know that my highly subjective one-word quality rankings increase in exuberance in direct relationship to the changing extremity of the music.

Solution .45’s last album, For Aeons Past (2010), is the closest of the three to the soundscape of Scar Symmetry — lyrical, melodic, slower-paced than the works of the other two bands, and featuring a roughly even mix of clean and harsh vocals. I gave it an “okay” rating simply because those aren’t the qualities I’m usually after.

Miseration, on the other hand, is almost dead center in my sweet spot. I reviewed the last album, The Mirroring Shadow (2010), here. I didn’t think it was ground-breaking, mold-shattering work, but I sure as hell enjoyed its marriage of big, fast, vicious, technical death metal, clawing tremolo-picked guitars, heavy groove, and razor-sharp production. Foregoing any semblance of clean singing, Älvestam instead gave his magnificent harsh vocals an album-length workout.

What I didn’t know about until yesterday (thanks to an e-mail from TheMadIsraeli) was the third post-Scar Symmetry project that Älvestam, Stefanović, and their bandmates have cooked up — The Few Against Many. For reasons I’ll explain after the jump, it’s the cream of the crop.

Now here’s what gives this recap some currency: As I learned from poking around Facebook yesterday, Älvestam and Stefanović are either writing or beginning to record new albums for all three bands, more or less at the same time! Continue reading »

Feb 032012

Dan Seagrave is a god among men, at least when it comes to pens, pencils, and paint. I’ve slobbered over his artwork before — for example, in this review of Wretched’s Beyond the Gate in 2010, which included many examples of his album art at the end. But I got a fresh reminder this morning when Rev. Will sent me a link to that stunner up above.

I had to do some net sleuthing to find out what it was. Turns out it’s the cover art to a 2011 album called Facet of Aberration by a thrash band from the Bay Area called Invection. I hadn’t heard of them before, but I’m throwing in some of their music after the jump.

As for Mr. Seagrave’s artwork, there’s a fan-sponsored page on Facebook, the creator of which has been adding album art — without any band logos or album titles to obscure the sheer brutal goodness of the artwork. As of a few minutes ago, that page included 65 pieces of album art. You can gaze upon all of that via this link. And after the jump, you can see a few more examples I haven’t previously posted at NCS.

Dan Seagrave has a merch store here and a personal Facebook page here. Continue reading »

Aug 092010

Just when we were beginning to think it was a law that all metal bands from North Carolina south to the Florida border had to sound like Mastodon or Baroness, we discovered Wretched and their new album Beyond the Gate (with that very cool Dan Seagrave album cover). Not that we have anything against Mastodon or Baroness. In fact, we’re fans. But Wretched ain’t cut from that cloth, not by a long shot.

Instead, in their new album on Victory Records, North Carolina’s Wretched are wearing the mantle of melodic, technical death metal with some interesting progressive threads woven into the fabric. Think about bands like The Faceless, Veil of Maya, and Black Dahlia Murder, and you’ll start to get close to Wretched’s musical territory. But there are also some big surprises in store.

Seven of the album’s 11 songs are fast-paced and feature shuddering rhythms with jolting staccato bass lines and weaponlike drumming, intricate math-metal riffs, and fire-breathing guitar leads and solos. The vocals are predominantly mid-range growlers, but they occasionally drop lower or vault higher into cutting shrieks.

But those seven songs aren’t simply exhibits in a case of “let me prove how fast I can play.” They’re actual songs, with structure and melody, that happen to be executed with a lot of fancy fretwork and blazing double-kicks. Wretched also spices up a few of those songs with some attention-grabbing surprises, like the brief extract from a Cuban folk song at the end of “Birthing Sloth” or the cello-and-guitar outro at the conclusion of “The Talisman”.

But there are four songs left to be discussed. They’re all instrumentals, and they’re not at all what you would expect from the musical style of the other seven.  (more after the jump, including a sample track and more examples of Dan Seagrave’s eye-catching album covers . . .) Continue reading »