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 »

Oct 012019



(NCS scribe DGR continues to catch up on reviews after a long hiatus with a multi-part collection, of which this is the third of three parts.)

There’s something to be said for comfort food in music and there’s something to be said for the weird looks I receive when I say that tech-death has become something of a comfort food. I recognize fully that I will always be somewhat wowed by the musical equivalent of dangling shiny keys in front of me, but my god is that a lot of keys and boy howdy, they sure are shiny.

The tech-death explosion over the years has led to a large amorphous mass that can often lean a little too heavy in both the technical or the -core direction, often making bands seem like expert musicians that just jammed a massive ton of breakdowns in between, making the musical adventurism and haughtiness feel somewhat unearned. 2019 has of course seen a massive number of additions to the genre as groups push and pull at its boundaries to see what else they can do with it or find ways to stick out in an increasingly crowded field.

Some of those releases came from some now pretty-established names. Such was the case with the following three, where my familiarity with the groups’ extended discographies led me to have them on constant play — even when the latter two hit in the first half of the year and we’re now at the point where as writers we’re panicking to try and get as many of the groups as we’ve listened to out there, so we can start focusing on the craziness that is the year-end release schedule. Of course, none of this pile-up was helped by what was previously alluded to as real life rearing up and kicking yours truly right in the head — much as this music has done over the past few months. Continue reading »

Sep 252019


(NCS scribe DGR is catching up on reviews after a long hiatus with a multi-part collection, of which this is the second of three parts.)

This was not intended to be the Australia segment of this roundup when I started. In fact, as I found myself bouncing around this whole archive of intended reviews, the ones I cut out to send off to the teeth machine that is this website kept lowering these down while I was adding to them, until I had the three resting on top of each other, much in the same way a puzzle game will collapse pieces on top of each other in unplanned fashion.

While I mentioned earlier that this archive has found itself both swelling and shrinking in size as the year has gone by, and even as some other writers were kind enough to pick up some of the releases I had been hoping the site would cover, these three managed to stay pretty firm in their places while we waited for their release dates to hit.

For the most part, they were always on the radar screen. It just so happened that two of them would release in close proximity to one another toward the later part of the year and the third is one of those that is strictly in this writer’s wheelhouse and basically found itself spoken for before anyone else could even get the chance to call it. Continue reading »

Sep 242019

Murder Made God


(NCS scribe DGR is catching up after a long hiatus, with a multi-part collection of reviews of 2019 releases, beginning with this one.)

At one point I half-joked with myself that I’d call this column ‘with apologies’. This is due in part to the happening-more-often-than-not real life occurrences taking over my internet-writing time and resulting in missed self-imposed deadline after self-imposed deadline. In fact what you’re seeing right now is only ‘part one’ of this review roundup rather than everything at once, to protect the sanity of both your beloved writer and our beloved editor.

I keep a long running list of albums I’ve been meaning to review, stuff to look at, stuff I think our readers will find interesting, and so-forth, but as mentioned, there was a whole lot of falling behind as life just seemed to cascade one unfortunate event after another in an attempt to crush me. Long story short, by the end of the crushing I wound up with one fewer pet and became a new homeowner, with a whole bunch of bullshit in between. And so in that sense, I feel like there are apologies due not only for the lateness but also for the multiple re-writes that happened behind the scenes as I attempted to shake the rust off of what was essentially two months of exile.

That doesn’t mean music discovery and listening stopped. In fact that was an ongoing activity, and so this archive in all of its Parts covers a wide swath of the year, from January right up to stuff that came out just a few days ago. The same goes for genres and locations, because if there’s anything I do enjoy it’s traveling the world of heavy metal. The world doesn’t stop and wait for us to play catch-up, though, and right now is just as good a time as any to begin again, so if you’ll indulge me doing much shorter reviews than usual, here we go…. Continue reading »

Sep 192019


(Here’s DGR’s review of the new album by the Italian black metal band Darkend, which was released by Dark Essence Records on September 13th.)

This website’s fascination with Italian black metal group Darkend began in 2016 with the release of their cameo-packed third album The Canticle Of Shadows. It made a handful of our year-end lists and even landed a song on the 2016 Most Infectious list when that time came around. Admittedly, we have not been the most up to date with the band as of late, and in fact the last time we really posted about the group’s newly released album Spiritual Resonance was way back in June in a news roundup that included amongst its various bands Blood Red Throne, themselves ahaving received a recent writeup here as well.

The three-year gap between Darkend’s previous album The Canticle Of Shadows and the new one has seen the band gain a few more eyes on them, so Spiritual Resonance arrives with some steam behind it. It’s an interesting disc in comparison to its predecessor, less reliant than before on immediate star-power to grab eyes, and also a shorter disc than before – something that has been a trend for the band, since Canticle itself slimmed down to under an hour versus its older sibling’s hefty hour-and-twelve minutes.

Though one track and about seven minutes shorter than Canticle, Spiritual Resonance retains that previous album’s lofty ambitions (which is clearly a Darkend trademark), with its initially deceiving six tracks each clocking in between six and eight minutes. Wrapped within is a swirling mass of black metal that makes a heavy play for the atmospheric and spiritualistic, while also displaying the group’s knack for grand and sweeping theatrics within each song. Continue reading »