Apr 202018
 

 

(Andy Synn returns to his irregular series devoted to things that come in five’s, the focus of this one being metal album art.)

The phrase “never judge a book by its cover” was obviously uttered by someone who’d never found themselves stranded in a busy bookshop and frozen by indecision over which of the many, many options to spend their hard-earned cash on.

Of course while I agree with the sentiment in principle – style is no substitute for substance after all, and a shiny package is no guarantee of superior contents – the truth is that human beings are very visual creatures, and an eye-catching cover, one which hints at the themes and manifest delights contained within, can be the difference between finding a new reader and being consigned to the bottom of the bargain bin at the end of the month.

The same obviously applies when we’re talking about albums too. Yes, the move towards a primarily digital market has had an impact on the means and methodology behind how new albums are accessed and presented (though apparently physical sales have been rebounding quite a bit recently), but the importance of good album art still shouldn’t be understated. Continue reading »

Mar 272013
 

 (I wish I had thought of this cool idea for a post. But BadWolf beat me to it — and this is his piece.)

It’s not news to anyone reading this ( I hope) that heavy metal culture has an elitist streak. In fact, read enough comment threads on this blog and others, and you will notice a tiered system of elitism, false barricades that we, as fans, erect to keep ourselves distanced from a perceived wasteland that is ‘the mainstream.’ By virtue of reading a metal blog, I’d wager you’re already a step or two up on the elitism pyramid. By definition, as a metal blogger, I am MORE than a few steps up on the elitism pyramid. But I’m not far enough up to lose my sense of perspective.

There is an appropriate amount of ironic self-distancing when appreciating art. The top of the elitist pyramid? Probably black metal purists, and look how even the mainstream lambasts the true corpsepaint-set as clowns. Those folks would do well to remember that most of the Norwegian attack bands abandoned the strict black metal template quite rapidly. Ihsahn is in a prog band now. Mayhem put electronica all up in their second album.

But at the same time, from where I stand, the lowest rung of elitism is abjectly deserving of ridicule as well. And what constitutes that bottommost rung? Probably the bias against breakdown-centric bands. You can even see it on No Clean Singing—we’re covering a lot more black metal than deathcore these days. Continue reading »

Aug 112012
 

As much as I like working on this blog, it has changed my listening habits. One of our missions is to stay abreast of song and video premieres and new albums, sifting through the flood of new metal to find things we believe are worth recommending and reviewing. So I spend almost all my listening time nowadays checking out metal I’ve never heard before. The cost, unfortunately, is that I rarely listen to what’s in the library of albums I’ve accumulated over the years. No more “oldies but goodies” for me.

But yesterday, on a whim, I decided that I’d spend the time walking to and from my job listening to what was on my iPod already, and I used Shuffle to pick what I heard. My iPod Classic is full. It has 22,331 songs on it, and almost all of the shit is metal. To put a new album on there requires that I delete another one, which is horribly painful to do. That process has made the library more top-heavy with newer music over time, which may explain why most of the Shuffle choices turned out to be of relatively recent vintage.

Anyway, it turned out to be a blast, because the first five songs that Shuffle picked were all really good and really beastly. The next couple weren’t as killer, so I decided to just go with the first five in this post. Oddly, two of the five turned out to be from Japanese bands.

DISMEMBER

Fuckin’ Dismember! What an auspicious way to start the Shuffle medley! I didn’t need reminding about how completely amazing Like An Ever Flowing Stream was — and still is — but it’s been a couple of years since I’ve listened to “Skin Her Alive”. What a thoroughly skin-flaying, meat-grinding experience. Continue reading »

Apr 152011
 

(Today we’re happy to feature another guest post. This one came to us from NCS reader Rob K., and includes thoughts about some of his recent discoveries among bands both new and not-so-new — plus music, of course.)

When it comes to hobbies, people look for fulfillment. Something that centers you, relieves stress, provides mental clarity and peace of mind. A place you can escape to where no one else can bother you.

Everyone has their niche, be it wine connoisseurs, beer enthusiasts, foodies, stamp and/or coin collectors, Star Wars collectors, what have you. Don’t get me wrong, I love all the aforementioned things (save for maybe the Star Wars memorabilia and stamp collecting). For me, it’s music. More specifically metal.

“But Rob,” you say, “how does metal bring about peace of mind and mental clarity when it’s all over the place?” Well friend, it’s all in your perception. It’s controlled chaos. It’s not for everyone, no doubt, but there’s a level of challenge to this music that appeals to people like us. Metal culture is also notorious for it’s trolling and general flaming, mano a mano, directed against bands whose genre ends in “-core”, for example. But I digress. It’s also a HUGE, pulsing underground community where you’ll see a strong bond of brotherhood, sharing, and the occasional grab-assing and bad hair cuts.

Star Wars pr0n anyone?

From the lyrics to the thundering double bass and faster-than-light guitar solos, there’s an art in metal. It’s about anti-culture, facing the world head-on, against the grain. Metal rarely gets enough limelight to be considered mainstream. Yet it thrives in the underground. Negate all the stupid scene kids and retarded fashions, and dig deep to the hardcore fans of EVERYTHING metal. disregarding the suffixes of “core” or whatever the fuck “shoegaze” is.

One of my favorite things to do is to scour the interwebs for new/old, exciting, unheard of (even in the relatively small community of metalheads) bands. By searching, I stumble across some really obscure and occasionally EXTREMELY talented bands that I may not have otherwise heard, plus some not-so-obscure bands who are new to me. Check them out after the bump (that is, if you’re still reading this).

Continue reading »

Apr 062010
 

In “Leviathan,” the philosopher Thomas Hobbes famously wrote that the life of man is “nasty, brutish, and short.” And that pretty much sums up the new LP from Austin’s Mammoth Grinder. Extinction of Humanity is 21 minutes of  distorted, stripped-down, feedback-accented, in-your-face, slash-and-sludge mayhem.

If you knew nothing about the band other than its name and that awesome, smoking, skull-faced, album cover above, you’d prudently prepare yourself for some ass-kicking, and you’d be right. Mammoth Grinder has thrown an unusual grab-bag of ingredients into the blender — garage-punk drum rhythms, a mash-up of grindcore pacing and sludgy trudging, harsh vocals somewhere between a hardcore howl and a death-metal growl, and a smorgasboard of heavy, fuzzed-out guitar stylings.

The resulting concoction is massively intoxicating. If you could really drink this venomous brew, it would lead you on the kind of romping binge that leaves you wondering at daylight what the hell you’d done the night before and where all that blood on your hands came from.

To find an analogue to what Extinction of Humanity delivers, scroll back through your catalogue and listen to Wolverine Blues (1993) from Entombed or (not quite as close a fit) Dismember‘s Like An Ever Flowing Stream (1991). Extinction is not strictly old-school death metal, but more like old-school, Swedish-style death ‘n’ roll — except maybe even more visceral in its appeal.  (read more after the jump, and listen to a song . . .) Continue reading »