Jan 262022



(Gonzo returns with his first 2022 end-of-month group of recommended new releases.)

With the craze of Listmania 2021 now in our rearview mirrors and January already on its way out, this edition of my monthly roundup took me by complete surprise for a few reasons:

  1. The unstoppable storm of amazing music we saw in ’21 has not slowed down a single bit
  2. January by itself has blindsided me with a slew of unexpectedly awesome new releases
  3. I was going to do a “things I wish I included in my top 20 of ‘21” post, but the above reasons compelled me to change my plans.

I could’ve made this post way longer, but in the interests of not droning on into a rambling ocean of incoherent enthusiasm, here are five albums that should be on your radar as we jump into a new year of metal. Continue reading »

Dec 302021


(In this essay NCS contributor Gonzo brings his 3-part YE lists to a close with a Top 10 ranking of favorite albums.)

I could write an intro here, but with this being my third and final installment into this series, the thought of being so redundant fills me with untold amounts of existential dread.

In the interests of avoiding that (because there’s already enough existential dread in this godforsaken world), this list is #1 to 10 of my favorite releases from 2021. Continue reading »

Dec 292021


(Yesterday we posted Gonzo‘s year-end list of Top 10 EPs and album honorable mentions, and today we begin his list of Top 20 albums for 2021, divided into two parts.)

Now that I’ve gotten the EPs and honorable album mentions out of the way, it’s time to start cranking out a list that I’ve spent far too much time organizing (and agonizing over) in my head: My top 20 full-length releases of 2021.

Before we get into this, can we just take a second to stare in complete awe at the towering monolith of head-spinning amazement that was heavy music in 2021? Just off the top of my head, it was a banner year for subgenres like tech-death, sludge, post-metal, and seemingly everything in between. It was also a great time for labels like 20 Buck Spin and Relapse. Some of this was the injection of new blood into the mix, as there were some truly noteworthy debuts and breakouts. The old guard showed up in force, too, with some surprising out-of-nowhere returns to form. And my personal favorite: Getting my fucking subatomic particles rearranged by discovering a new band that simply blows my doors off.

All of that happened this year and then some. Even with the inclusion of my honorable mentions, the actual list of releases I enjoyed this year is way more than what I’ll be talking about here. But in the interests of brevity (as well as staying on top of my day job), here’s the first half of the vaunted top 20. Continue reading »

Dec 022021

Kayo Dot

(Here are Gonzo’s album recommendations from among those released during November 2021.)

And just like that, November came and went.

While most of us are probably still unpacking the bullshit that 2020 brought, it’s hard to believe that we’re only a month away from 2022. Follow me for more proof that we’re living in a simulation.

Though November was a flash in the pan in the big scheme of things, the music that was released during those 30 days have sent my year-end list plans into a tailspin. Too much good stuff, not enough time to listen to it all.

That said, the stuff I did get around to spending time with was damn good. Four albums in particular have made the cut this month. Continue reading »

Nov 012021

Light of the Morning Star


(October has ended, Halloween has concluded, and so it’s time for Gonzo to spotlight four of his favorite releases from the month.)

We’re officially at that point in the year when I’m taking stock of my favorite music that’s been released, subtly preparing to create a monster best-of list by the time December rolls around.

The trouble with this is good heavy music is still being released with impunity, which complicates everything in ways that I welcome. October hasn’t made this any easier. My fellow NCS scribes have uncovered some seriously bowel-shaking heaviness in recent months, and I am more fulfilled for having paid attention.

And that brings us to right now. Because I’m about to get on a plane to Iceland in a few hours, this intro (and column) may be a little shorter than usual, but I am nothing if not verbose when it comes to describing music (and most everything else). Let’s bang this out while my liver still functions, shall we?

Let’s go. Continue reading »

Oct 122021


(Our Denver-based friend Gonzo had the good fortune to witness a recent performance by the multinational European collective Heilung at the extraordinary Red Rocks amphitheater in Colorado, and he sent us the following impassioned review plus photos that he took.)

There aren’t many words in the English language that describe what it’s like to watch Heilung perform their ritual in a live setting.

Captivating? Yes.

Immersive? Also yes.

Spellbinding? Definitely.

But just as their self-proclaimed moniker of “amplified history” seems to imply, you’d almost have to come up with new expressions to adequately describe their show to someone who’s never seen it, let alone heard of the band at all.

How else could you describe the thunderous booms of massive drums made from deer skin and painted with human blood? The hypnotic throat singing of Kai Uwe-Faust? The piercing siren songs of Maria Franz? And the modern-day portrayal of an ancient Iron Age ritual that features about 15 other performers, dancers, singers, actors, and enough ambience and atmosphere to be one of the most memorable live shows you’ve ever seen?

I have no idea, but it’s more than worth a try. Continue reading »

Oct 012021

Unto Others

(NCS contributor Gonzo returns with another end-of-month roundup of music that caught his ears.)

There are a few bittersweet observations I’ve come to realize in the past month, related both to music and to the endless hellscape that is the human condition:

As of this writing, 2022 is just three months away and I’m still processing whether 2020 was even real. This means that while I survived the endlessly overwhelming shitstorm of that year, it does beg the question of how much worse this planet could get for humans over the next decade.

While live music is back and I’ve been reveling in the joy of sweaty venues and the sleep deprivation that comes with festivals again, I was just notified that Judas Priest is postponing the rest of their tour due to Richie Faulkner’s heart condition.

The next date would’ve been where I would see them (for the first time, no less) here in Denver.


The good news? Sabaton, who opened for Priest on this tour, is still playing a show in Denver, and by the time this piece goes to print, I’ll have seen the show and will post a full review in the coming days.

In the meantime, I’m at least somewhat distracted by the troves of amazing heavy music that keep blasting out of the darkest corners of the netherverse as of late.

Join me as I take you through some unfettered heaviness and savagery that’s emerged in the past month and kept me sane as we descend into 2021’s final few months. This month, I’ve got two albums and three singles for you to delve into. Continue reading »

Sep 222021


(This is Gonzo’s review of the new album by Finland’s Shadecrown, which was released on September 17th by Inverse Records.)

If you’re reading this, I’m not going to tell you anything new by saying Finland is home to some of the world’s darkest, heaviest, and most depressing music. From the booze-drenched misery of Sentenced to the heartbreaking brutality of Insomnium, Finland’s storied history of sonic angst has transcended time and continues to reinvent itself – even with its best-known export in Children of Bodom being no more.

Part of that continuous reinvention is the emergence of up-and-coming heavy hitters, and one band from the tiny village of Viitasaari has just released an album that will most assuredly add them to that list: Shadecrown. Continue reading »

Sep 022021


(We’ve been enjoying the hell out of our friend Gonzo‘s reports on the 2021 edition of Psycho Fest in Las Vegas a couple weekends ago, and hope you have too. Today we present his third and final write-up, concerning his adventures on the fest’s last day.)


“The possibility of physical and mental collapse is now very real. No sympathy for the Devil, keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride.”

Hunter S. Thompson

Those words from the good doctor rang out in my brain the moment I opened my eyes on Sunday morning. My ears were still ringing in spite of wearing earplugs for the majority of Saturday, but like so much else, Vegas cannot be bothered with your feeble attempts at self-care. Continue reading »

Aug 312021


(Denver-based NCS contributor Gonzo was in Vegas two weekends ago for the 2021 edition of Psycho Fest, and has been sending us some great write-ups of what he witnessed. His journal for Day 1 is here, and this is his report on Day 2.)

Vegas is a devourer of good intentions.

Its only purpose in this existence is to rob you of your sobriety, your bank account, your dignity, and your sanity. It cares nothing for your early-morning lamentations of the bad decisions you made the night before. The endless air-conditioned hallways of cigarette-crusted casinos and overpriced restaurants and tourist traps will be there the next day, waiting for that inevitable moment when you’ve become inebriated enough to shrug and once again say “what the hell, why not.”

The likelihood of you succumbing to this seemingly innocent urge increases with each passing hour on any given point during a weekend in Vegas. I knew from the moment I rose out of bed on day 2 of Psycho Fest that this would be the case, and the day would soon stretch beyond an ordinary festival and into an endurance contest. The schedule of bands we had carefully crafted ahead of time would either prove untenable or test the limits of how hard we could party in one day. Or maybe both.

At around 11 a.m., we left the tranquility of our Excalibur hotel room and sauntered once more into the soulless void. Today’s main attractions? Cannibal Corpse, Poison the Well, Dying Fetus, Cult of Fire, and a whole helluva lot more. Continue reading »