Dec 202019


(We have reached the end of DGR’s week-long roll-out of his Top 50 year-end list, with this segment devoted to the Top 10. All the preceding installments can be found behind this link.)

The final ten of this year’s year-end list is special to me. That coud be easily stated for every year, but 2019 is one of those years that just went absolutely crazy — in fits and starts of course, there’s a lot of April and September representation here — and it brought on a massive torrent of metal that not only pushed out the boundaries of the genre but also twisted, mutated, and contorted it into all-new forms. You also had fantastic releases from groups who are already working within well-established blueprints and finding ways to keep things interesting.

While I could go on an endless screed about 2019 as a whole, keep in mind that although I have fifty releases on the list that I particularly enjoyed — an admittedly ridiculous number —  I listened to and generally got a kick out of so many more. A lot of those are popping up at NCS, on other writers’ lists and on users’ lists, and even on the occasional big website list when they’re not seeing just how much prose they can dedicate to Blood Incantation or showing off that they’re hip with the kids by nominating every teenager’s favorite new and hip band Tool (and I love Tool). Continue reading »

Dec 192019


(We continue a week-long rollout of a 2019 Top 50 list by NCS scribe DGR, counting down in groups of 10 each day. In this fourth installment we’ve got Nos. 20 through 11.)

When you reach the final twenty or so of your year-end list – as ridiculous as it may have gotten *cough* – you start to develop some sort of a mission statement. I can’t really say that I’ve accomplished that this time around, I’ve just continued to notice really small trends within each grouping. Last time I noticed that I wound up bookending the list with black metal and this time I found that the groups at top and bottom were deathgrind bands. In between there was a smattering of all sorts of different genres, including two albums that I can’t quite pin down to any one specific style, other than what could politely be described as “complete madness”.

2019 was an adventure musically, and I think part of that is reflected in some of the longer running times of the albums present on here as well. I discovered I was really open to the idea of exploring a whole bunch of massive soundscapes – which again is hilarious, given that the records at positions 20 and 11 are the punchiest of the no-bullshit style deathgrind bands out there. We’ve also got some of the earliest and some of the latest 2019 releases packed in here, as well as September continuing its hot streak for having been a fantastic month for music.

We’re only one day away now from the super-shiny, absolutely-unfuckwithable, proof that DGR has his finger on the pulse of the world of heavy metal, final ten of the year. So let’s enjoy this latest smattering of bands and see how many of you can still walk after being put through the wringer by this group. Continue reading »

Dec 182019


(We continue a week-long rollout of a 2019 Top 50 list by NCS scribe DGR, counting down in groups of 10 each day. In this third installment we’ve got Nos. 30 through 21.)

Absent for a little while in this collective, what passes for black metal in my realm makes a return in part three of this year-end adventure. I think that I actually bookended this collection with that very thing this time around, because now is when rankings actually start to crystalize a little bit.

It still applies here, but usually when I do these it isn’t until I hit the final fifteen or so that you actually have a meaningful empirical ranking of shit that I’ve enjoyed this year. Everything else tends to be in flux, with some movements more drastic than others. Like the creation of a planetary system, all of these albums acrete around a solid gravitational pull, but the materials knock into each other all the time and either force each other into new orbits or they merge into new beings. Thus, when you reach thirty or so is when you really start coming across the albums that got a shit-ton of play from me this year.

Some were very late-in-the-year entries and others were so constant that they were the subject of the ‘oh shit did that actually come out this year or has it always been with me‘ existential panic that happens every year with this list. At the very least I haven’t revealed any of the 2020 promos we’ve gotten yet, so I’m going to take my small victories where I can get them.

There’s some fun ones in this collection next to the moodier black metal kids, and I think this one also has the start of a small subset of bands that I think contributed to the feeling that heavy metal lost its goddamned mind in 2019. Or it’s always been in the midst of a manic episode and this is the first year when I really noticed. Continue reading »

Dec 172019


(We continue a week-long rollout of a 2019 Top 50 list by NCS scribe DGR, counting down in groups of 10 each day, and in this installment we’ve got Nos. 40 through 31.)

By day two it is fun seeing what patterns start to form in these lists. Barring the predictable decay of my writing ability over the course of fifty albums — because seriously, who actually does these at a reasonable pace and doesn’t just procrastinate and do it all at once? — this edition of my year-end archive starts to see the appearances of the hyperblasting death metal crews from Italy, a whole block of tech-death, and even some bands whom I’m normally used to posting much higher by year’s end.

2019 was a wild year for metal. It seemed to move in fits and starts, but each transmission in the heavy metal release schedule seemed to be a massive one. For instance: I started to notice that I have a surprising amount of albums that hit in September on here (this collection includes a small handful of them). Earlier on, there were huge blocks of releases in the last few weeks of January and the opening of February.

On top of all that, I found that this specific subset is also very Europe-oriented. That’s pretty predictable, given Metal’s long-lasting appeal over on that continent, but usually I find they’re spread out more across my list. Maybe it’s because I have two of the death metal blasting crews here? Either way, the rest of these aren’t going to write themselves, and I’m still looking forward to shouting at you about underrated deathgrind discs at some point — as is my custom — so let’s continue this death march through this 2019 collection together. Continue reading »

Dec 162019


(Today we begin a week-long rollout of a 2019 Top 50 list by NCS scribe DGR, counting down in groups of 10 each day this week — or at least that’s the plan.)

These year-end archives — I’ve ceased any pretense of them being a list other than by the most basic description until the final ’10’ — are always a blast to write. They provide me an opportunity to be my most verbose while also touching base with everyhting that I enjoyed this year, including the many others I wound up bubbling out in my quest to finally have a ‘neat’ top 50 without a bunch of qualifiers.

This year was especially difficult on a personal front — which I’ve made small mention of, but there’s no need to have me dump that upon you in detail — and it resulted in a about a three-month period this year during which I wound up having to check out of heavy metal entirely. Turns out a musical genre that prides itself on being a sort of explosive catharsis isn’t exactly what one might need when going through massive life changes. So, part of 2019 has been me playing a very fucked-up and bizarre form of catch-up while also keeping in mind that I was going to do one of these before the year wrapped up and desperately wanted to dance around any sort of recency bias. Continue reading »

Nov 202019


(Here’s DGR’s review of a new two-song EP by the Greek band Human Serpent, which was released on November 18th.)

It wouldn’t be a black metal release if it didn’t have a flair for the dramatic, and the duo behind Greece’s Human Serpent are no different, describing their latest release — a two song EP entitled The Vacuity — as having been written during “the last days” of’ 2016 and 2018, and recorded at various points in “autumntime of 2017” and “wintertime of 2019”. It’s a simple turn of phrase that can easily be read as “the music for this was written during the last week of….”, but because it is black metal and in the case of Human Serpent, fiery and high-speed black metal, “the last days of…” begins to sound suitably apocalyptic, as if the world ended at the end of each of those two years.

Going by Human Serpent‘s prior discography the group would be more than happy to provide the soundtrack to such events. Continue reading »

Nov 192019


(On November 22nd Nuclear Blast will release the debut album of the British band Strigoi, and today we presentt DGR’s review of the album.)

Gregor Mackintosh‘s newest project Strigoi is an interesting proposition: Even though his previous project Vallenfyre exists no more, having released three excellent albums and then neatly wrapping things up, Strigoi sees Greg Mackintosh once again reuniting with one of his Vallenfyre friends in order to release more doom-infused death metal, fully divorced from the gothic melodrama of Paradise Lost.

Abandon All Faith comes packed with music, weighing in at eleven songs and an intro track and all of it some of the weightiest and sometimes dirtiest death metal that the group could muster. If there were an award for crushing by sonic weight via guitar tone, Strigoi could easily find itself in the running, as the whole album is filled with cacophonous bellowing and hefty guitar riffs that make every song feel astronomically heavier than they otherwise would have been.

Ostensibly launched as a project for the crew to explore more facets of heavy metal music than what they felt they were able to do in Vallenfyre, Strigoi still keeps it pretty close to home on Abandon All Faith. It’s a huge album wherein the experimentation comes largely in the different atmosphere the band try to portray across their twelve songs, and although there is a strain of familiarity that runs throughout Abandon All Faith, hearing the group still manage to create a suffocatingly heavy brick of death metal remains an exciting experience. Continue reading »

Nov 072019


(We present DGR’s review of the new third album by the Italian technical death metal band Order Ov Riven Cathedrals, which will be released at the end of this month.)

The last time we checked in with the mysterious duo behind hyperspeed death metal band Order Ov Riven Cathedrals was as recently as last year, with their second full-length album Gobekli Tepe. That album arrived a little under a year after the group’s debut record, The Discontinuity’s Interlude, which is one hell of a creative pace to try and up-keep, and in some ways Gobekli Tepe reflected that, at times feeling like the duo were stretching themselves a little too thin.

That disc sought to expand upon the musical themes found within its predecessor and saw the group’s sound doing so as well, making usage of multiple samples, a myriad of electronics and synths working their way behind the group’s frenetic pace, about fourteen more minutes’ worth of music, and a new-found obsession with nuclear reactions that has become even more obvious with the group’s newest album – this time with a little more time in the hopper, close to a year and a half.

Thermonvclear Scvlptvres Blackness  – a title befitting the Dimmu Borgir school of “three awesome words as album title” method – seeks to pick up right where its predecessor left off and mostly does just that, with the band’s chosen tempo applying not only to their music but apparently to the release schedule as well. Continue reading »

Oct 092019


(This is the third and final subpart of a fourth installment in DGR’s effort to catch up on reviews of 2019 releases he wants to recommend, with this 3-part fourth post devoted to melodic death metal. Today the subject is the third full-length by the Swedish band To Dust, which was released in March of this year.)


The presence here of To Dust comes courtesy of the random-band button at Metal-Archives, which has provided me with quite a few gems and discoveries over the years. I’ve gained a habit of just slamming on that button while on lunch break at work, with the endless flood of metal bands providing multiple cocked eyebrows in the form of ‘that looks interesting’ to ‘holy shit, are you kidding me? that qualifies here?’. To Dust were very much the former — even though their profile photo on that site is hilariously out of date.

For some reason the title of their latest album, False God Of Death, caught my eye, and the simply stated cover art somewhat sealed the deal, though I’d be bullshitting you if I denied that their being a melodeath band didn’t help give the group a boost. As stated before, although tech-death has become a comfort food, melodeath has become my bread-and-butter genre to enjoy.

False God Of Death was released all the way back at the tail end of March and bears a lot of the hallmarks of the melodeath genre: grand keyboard swells, hefty two-step-driven guitar work, and a snarling vocalist hovering in the mid-high range whose vocal delivery is as percussive as their drummer is. Continue reading »

Oct 072019


(DGR turned in a surprise 4th installment in his effort to catch up with reviews of 2019 releases after a personal hiatus. The first 3 installments are here, here, and here. However, our beleaguered editor (me) decided to cut this 4th installment into 3 parts, focusing on one album per day, beginning with this review of the comeback album by Archons.)

Hey, did you guys catch when the previous collection of these reviews was referred to as part three of three?

Ha. Oops.

In all seriousness this last piece is it. After this, I’m caught up, and for that some thanks are in order. Even though life derailed me hard for a moment and this review archive for the longest time held a title of ‘Review Archive Jan-Feb’, ever-expanding and at one point holding twenty-two releases that I had hoped to look at, I was finally able to get this done thanks in large part to the other writers on this site being understanding enough to pick up some of my slack, including reviewing releases that are pretty firmly in the ‘DGR wheelhouse’.

This collection absorbed releases throughout the year, and thanks to the rest of the crew for picking up on bigger releases that I would’ve wanted to talk about like Wormed or Hate, I was able to knuckle up and tackle these lesser-known bands and finally be done.

Just in time for stuff like In Mourning and Insomnium to hit…whoops. Continue reading »