Dec 262020


(Morbidly worrying whether the combined tonnage of words and music might finally sink the site, today we publish the fifth and final Part of DGR’s 2020 year-end list, counting down his personal Top 10 albums, and then adding some “not heavy” favorites and some EPs to wrap things up.)

We made it to the end. I can’t believe it. They haven’t kicked me off the site yet and somehow my hands haven’t fallen off at the wrist. In my best Richard Attenborough voice, “Welcome, to the final ten”….”and a whole bunch of other shit”.

We close out the final ten by going on what I would deem an absolute adventure. There’s no real throughline here, just impressive album after impressive album, all of which come highly recommended. You’ll note a handful of bigger names but there were some serious surprises that hijacked my listening this year and I felt it right that they be rewarded thusly. I really do hope that if you’ve never heard some of these bands before that you’ll check them out, because the final five or so are an absolute cacophony and I loved every second of it.

As usual, because this is the finale of my personal year-end archive and once again there’s no space left in the site’s budget for fireworks, I’ve once again gathered together all of the EPs as well as the ‘not metal’ releases – I elaborate further there – in the hopes that if you’ve made it this far, then some shorter or some more out-of-left-field stuff might be worthy of looking into as well.

If you have made it this far, thank you so much for reading all of this. I say this every year because I both love and hate myself for doing it, but I truly do treasure the ability to just look back at the year and then splatter a tremendous amount of albums on the wall for me to then write about. The final ten await and I hope some surprises sit there for all of you as well. Let’s journey on. Continue reading »

Dec 252020


(Today we arrive at Part 4 of the 5-part countdown for DGR’s 2020 year-end list, with the albums he ranked 20-11.)

So, here’s the thing about day four of my personal list (not the site’s list, of which there’s no such thing): This is one of those days where there are some gigantic albums. Not big in brand name, but big in terms of musical stature. This was a year where I was drawn to the ambition of certain groups. If they were making music that seemed much further-reaching than their lineup would suggest, then I was probably there with bells on for a bit.

I think thematically in this installment you have some of the most cerebral and refined acts that I listened to this year. I could also imagine that for a lot of you this segment of my list might resemble a good chunk of your own top tens. I understand that completely because these are albums I was absolutely impressed by, ones I felt proud to have heard and ones I often had to prepare to listen to. There are multiple hour-plus releases in this section, and if you like your ‘variations on a theme’ style of death metal, then except for a couple of oddballs this section of the list makes a grand tour through those styles.

We do go to warp speed for a bit, and I actually had a few black metal releases land with me here, which was a pleasant surprise given how most of the time I feel like I include two or three total in my year-end lists. Number eleven – I think – will feel like a given to a lot of people, but I really do think they earned it.

As I have every day during the rollout of this personal archive, I highly recommend you take the time and give all of these a listen if you get the chance. I’m sure you’ll find something to love here. Continue reading »

Dec 232020


(We’ve now reached Part 3 of the 5-part countdown for DGR’s 2020 year-end list, with the albums he ranked 30-21.)

After the blistering as hell way I sent out the previous edition of this, I felt that a change of musical pace would be nice. It’s right about at this specific grouping that I think my year-end list can be considered a little more formalized. I tend to refer to everything in the higher numbers as being very fluid and kind of anarchic with rankings popping in and out of existence at random. That’s because I enjoy all of those releases, but it isn’t until you hit the lower numbers that we really land on the albums I was listening to constantly.

Hilarious, given that today marks the first appearance – of a handful – of what I refer to as “Abrasive block”, which is the collection of albums that when all grouped together will likely sand your face down to a very smooth surface by the time you’re done listening to them. On top of that, I found room for some real hopeless and melancholy-filled doom, as well as a little black metal and some impressively tight death metal acts.

I even close things out with one of the few releases I genuinely considered ‘fun’ this year, if only to break up the absolute hammering you’re going to absorb by the time you reach twenty-four through twenty-two. You’ll even catch an appearance by albums that made Andy’s “Great” list so I can pretend to be some sort of refined critic instead of my usual surfing the web lookng for a decent big red honking nose that’ll fit my head.

We’ve only got a few days left and, reliably, things will only get nuttier and the writing more navel-gazy from here on out. Continue reading »

Dec 222020


(Like the title says, we’re now at Part 2 of the countdown for DGR’s 2020 year-end list, with albums in the 40-31 positions.)

Day two is where things start to get a little more varied.

Welcome back to the patented DGR analyzes his next ten albums for interesting patterns and weird quirks section of this writeup. We’re still pretty thick in the midst of some grooving death metal here but there’s a couple of one-off appearances that I think hint at some of the grander themes that carved paths throughout the year. You’ll start seeing some really dark atmospherics take over during this phase of the list, and if some of the music here seems to be nihilistic and bleak, well congrats, that’s been the overarching theme for a lot of the year, and for me it just happened to hit a little early. Shit, I don’t think I ever got the chance to recover from last year. Continue reading »

Dec 212020


(Today we begin counting down NCS staffer DGR’s year-end list, with records “on the bubble” and then numbers 50 – 41.)

Every year I find myself making the same problem for myself. I love doing it, but kicking out these gigantic lists will take a lot out of you and in a year where there wasn’t a lot to be taken, this one truly felt like a work of passion. It took me a bit, but coming to slowly hammer away at this year-end list was something of a comfort. I got to look back at the year as a whole and kick myself in the head multiple times for outright forgetting releases. And I’m not going to lie, the yearly panic attack of ‘oh shit, did that come out in 2019?’ is always good enough to keep me awake for a few hours.

2020 proved to be an interesting year overall and it saw an absolute flood of releases once it became clear that there fucking wasn’t going to be much else going on for music. Cities around the world fucking failed their live venues and have let many close, effectively murdering any sort of live scene and a potential reason to live within those cities’ bounds. At first when we were all hopeful this would blow over in about three to four months, because we were relying on people to ‘do the right thing’ ™, we rescheduled all our shows for fall or early 2021. Boy, that was cute, wasn’t it? Continue reading »

Nov 052020


(This is the final installment in a seven-record review orgy by our man DGR, who is attempting to free his mind for year-end season by clearing away a backlog of write-ups for albums he has enjoyed in 2020. Today’s subject is a new EP by the German band Abhorrent Castigation, which was released in late August.)

It has been a little while since I’ve found a band by falling into the social media vortex of going from band to band to band, exploring who was playing shows with whom, who is showing up in various band recommendation segments, etc., and Germany’s Abhorrent Castigation were a result of such an adventure.

I’ve mused a few times in reviews this year about groups that I feel get slid across my metaphorical desk because someone listened to them and went ‘oh, I know exactly who to give that to’. Well, the opposite happened with Abhorrent Castigation. I listened to their new EP and knew that had it not crossed my desk, they would’ve eventually found their way on here anyway because they have appeared on this very site before – granted, way back in the yonder days of 2014, but still. It’s a good bet that eventually they would’ve appeared fully formed out of the mist once again, bringing their hybrid of brutal death, grind, and slam as all hell. Continue reading »

Nov 042020


(This is the sixth installment in a seven-album review orgy by our man DGR, who is attempting to free his mind for year-end season by clearing away a backlog of write-ups for albums he has enjoyed in 2020. With one exception we’ve been running these on consecutive days, and today’s subject is the latest album by the Dutch metal band Carach Angren, released in June by Season of Mist.)

Carach Angren armed with a budget is proving to be a dangerous thing indeed.

I can’t claim to have gotten in on the ground floor with these ghouls, but I can say that I showed up pretty damned close to it and have been following the group since then. It’s been fun to watch as they’ve grown in stature and advanced their career while at the same time maintaining a fair share of ‘camp’ in their music. Continue reading »

Nov 032020


(This is the fifth installment in a seven-album review orgy by our man DGR, who is attempting to free his mind for year-end season by clearing away a backlog of write-ups for albums he has enjoyed in 2020. With one exception we’ve been running these on consecutive days, and today’s subject is the third album by the Egyptian death metal band Scarab, released last spring by ViciSolum Productions.)

It isn’t the most intuitive thing in the world, but I could’ve sworn that I learned about Scarab’s early-2020 disc Martyrs Of The Storm via ViciSolum Productions at this very site. We’d covered them previously so the Egyptian death metal group were already on my radar. But this specific album is one where I’m swearing up and down that we already wrote about it here – so much so that I’m somewhat scared that I may already be stepping on someone else’s turf by writing about it again.

That’s especially true when you consider that an album like Martyrs Of The Storm will generally find a solid foothold around these parts – partially my fault – because it’s a giant fifty-minute bear of a disc that plays well within the realm of the low and hammering brutal death traditions. Continue reading »

Nov 022020


(This is the fourth installment in a seven-album review orgy by our man DGR, who is attempting to free his mind for year-end season by clearing away a backlog of write-ups for albums he has enjoyed in 2020. We’ve been running these on consecutive days — except we missed Friday — and today’s subject is a debut album released last spring via Nuclear Blast by the Spanish band White Stones.)

The March 13, 2020 album Kuarahy by the band White Stones is such a fascinating release for a number of reasons. This far out from its release, it’s been interesting to see how things have played out for the group’s debut release via Nuclear Blast. On the homefront, we covered the music videos in the lead-up to the debut of this project led by Martin Mendez (of Opeth bassist fame), but upon full release it kind of full off the site’s radar. We’ll rectify that here.

This is a record I’ve listened to a multitude of times since its release, and by the end of multiple listening sections and a seven-month writing delay it remains stubbornly ‘interesting’, in part because what keeps grabbing me seems to nebulous. Every time I think I have a hold on it, it wriggles away and moves just slightly out of vision again. It’s a bizarre creature that seems to exist permanently ‘elsewhere’, even though  at first glance it never seems to garner much more than ‘that’s some prog-death music alright’. Continue reading »

Oct 292020


(This is the third installment in a seven-album review orgy by our man DGR, who is attempting to free his mind for year-end season by clearing away a backlog of write-ups for albums he has enjoyed in 2020. Today’s subject is the newest album by the long-running Swedish death metal band Demonical, which was released on October 23rd by Agonia Records.)

Even though Demonical have been around for six albums and a swath of material in between, it’s been interesting to watch how the band have wound up unintentionally re-contextualized alongside bassist Martin Schulman‘s other works, like Centinex. The two groups share common DNA through Demonical’s initial founding around a core of former Centinex crew and the timing of their releases being so close to each other. It makes it seem as if the two are playing off of each other.

Whereas Centinex is rooted firmly in a classic Swede-death sound and all the rock-striking-boulder thump that is contained therein, Demonical are the other side of that death metal coin, a more modern-sounding project that sidles up perfectly alongside the distorted chainsaw riff and blasting drums of today. Both groups have also maintained very fluid lineups, with both gaining new vocalists in place of October Tide‘s multi-talented – and at one point very prolific – Alexander Högbom. Demonical have been a little more steady in comparison to Centinex’s full refresh, but the additions of Christofer Säterdal on vocals and returning drummer Ronnie Bergerstäl in the time between Chaos Manifesto and the group’s newest album World Domination has certainly kept things interesting. Continue reading »