Oct 172022

(Today we present an extensive article by Rob Tamplin that’s part interview with Garry Brents of Cara Neir and Gonemage, and part essay on the fantasy worlds that have taken shape through those projects and the techniques used to bring them to life, along with some meditations on the pluses and minuses of nostalgia.)

If I was reluctant to say Cara Neir is the most exciting band in the US metal underground, it’s only because that would mean putting them in a box. Hell, even the word “band” seems like a loose fit, as there is a communal element to the Texas duo absent from most acts.

On Phantasmal, Garry Brents and Chris Francis’s eighth album together, Cara Neir debut five characters submitted by fans via their Bandcamp page. Over the course of the album, the duo encounters these characters on their quest through a horrifying alternate dimension.

See, Phantasmal is a concept album – just like Tommy or Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds. Although it’s about as far from a pompous rock opera as it’s possible to get. The music, which broadly ranges from noise-rock to electronic powerviolence, is glazed with a frosting of rudimentary 8-bit synths, the kind you last heard when you were playing Castlevania at the arcade in your matching acid-wash denim two-piece, cramming the Dungeon Master’s Guide while blasting Master of Puppets on your Walkman. Which could have been today. It’s 2022, you could be doing some, or all, of those things while reading this. Continue reading »

Sep 192022

(We’re joined today by a new NCS contributor, Rob Tamplin, with his review of a new album by Texas-based Gonemage, set for release on September 30th.)

With Handheld Demise, Garry Brents, emerging master of high-concept narrative genre-spanning almost-metal, rounds off a trilogy of albums which started with 2021’s Mythical Extraction.

While it’s difficult to pinpoint the eye of Brents’ particular musical hurricane, the nucleus seems to be Phase Out, Cara Neir’s ongoing trilogy of 8-bit black metal homages to RPGs. The Phase Out cycle is a trilogy of loosely-narrative albums inspired by dungeon crawler games like Neverwinter Nights, Pools of Darkness and Death Knights of Krynn, in which the listener ‘experience[s] a range of bits, bleeps, beats, and buzzing sounds you might hear from 90’s dungeon crawlers and JRPG’s.’

Like its parent project, Handheld Demise presents an entrancing medley of metal and geek culture (the cassette version of Sudden Deluge, the trilogy’s middle-child, came with its own custom printed Magic: The Gathering card). So, If Cara Neir is the main show, then Gonemage is the spin off. Continue reading »

Aug 072022

Someday I’ll finally learn the lesson that predicting in print what I’m going to do at NCS from one day to the next is stupid. On Friday I put together a roundup of new music that I described as a way to lessen the load for the roundup I was going to compile for Saturday. And then of course I wrote nothing on Saturday.

The wreckage of that plan was the result of embarrassing misbehavior on Friday night, so it would be even more stupid for me to share details. Last night’s misbehavior was less ruinous, so I was able to get this usual Sunday column finished. It’s not as extensive as I’d hoped it would be, but at least not another complete failure.

I’ll forecast for you that in choosing the following tracks, I wandered well off the usual beaten paths.

ISKANDR (Netherlands)

In the early fall of last year I had the pleasure of premiering what was then the third full-length by this formidable Dutch duo. Looking back on what I wrote, I was a bit dumbfounded by how many words I spilled by way of introduction. Continue reading »