Jul 302021
 


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(Gonzo presents another end-of-month roundup spotlighting releases that have attracted his enthusiastic attention.)

I have, and always will be, a voracious consumer of new music. Though nothing may take the place of how much fun it was to trade tapes with other weirdos in dark corners behind every sweaty beer-stained venue in creation, it’s sure as hell convenient to now find the same variety of under-the-radar bands on Bandcamp and Spotify.

With this installment of my monthly Heavy Roundup, I managed to find a list of bands that span the metal spectrum. I think that’s a testament to how insanely diverse and varied extreme music has become. And, seriously, few things bring me more joy in life than making playlists and sharing new music with people.

Hence, this column was born. Here are the albums and EPs I’ve highlighted from the month of July (and technically, one from June that passed me by until now.) Continue reading »

Jul 262021
 

 

(Our contributor Gonzo wrote this review of the new album by Eternal Valley from Portland, Oregon, which was released earlier this month by Northern Silence Productions.)

While I’ve certainly endured plenty of shit over the past year, as I’m sure all of us have to some degree, the right music can capture the mood and makes the grief a little more bearable. There’s a certain comfort in listening to music that’s been written and played by someone who might be experiencing the same thing you are at the time, and when it’s played so intensely and urgently, it can prove to be downright fucking cathartic.

All of this is what I immediately felt the first time I listened to Kingdom of Misery by the Northwest’s one-man master of the morose, Eternal Valley. Continue reading »

May 252021
 

 

(Our contributor Gonzo returns to us with a trio of reviews, focusing on records released within the last month — by Stone Healer, Dordeduh, and Kataan.)

 

STONE HEALER // CONQUISTADOR

To say “there’s a lot to unpack here” about the latest album from Connecticut duo (!) Stone Healer would only be touching the very tip of an extremely jagged and angular iceberg.

Practically bursting with trailblazing creativity at every turn, Conquistador is a massively satisfying listen. Brothers Matt and Dave Kaminsky manage to compress three or four albums’ worth of ideas into each of the seven songs here, and absolutely none of it sounds rushed or contrived. Just with opening track “One Whisper,” the brothers flex an incredible amount of musical muscle: They go from a light acoustic intro, segueing into a cowbell-laden alternative rock verse, and seamlessly shift into a punishing blast-beat. And that’s not even half the song length. Continue reading »

Apr 282021
 

 

(We present Gonzo’s review of the new album by Bongzilla, which was released on April 20th by Heavy Psych Sounds.)

Unlike a fine wine, weed doesn’t age well. Even if you keep it stored at just the right temperature, it’ll lose its potency and flavor at around six months to a year. This is quite obviously a bummer and just proves you should embrace the moment and roll up that joint you were going to smoke. Do it quick, before you forget what you were gonna d… wait, what were we talking about again?

Ah, right. It’s been 16 years since we’ve heard anything new from stoner metal mainstays Bongzilla, but as they fire up the amps and pack a fresh bowl for Weedsconsin, they’ve proven that they’re far more resilient than the ephemeral shelf-life of their favorite substance. Continue reading »

Mar 122021
 

 

(In this post our contributor Gonzo reviews two wolfish records which were released one week ago — and this dual review would have been published one week ago except for our editor (me) having been brutally distracted by his day job.)

I feel like the onslaught of high-quality albums we’re already seeing in 2021 is a promising sign. Either that or everyone’s going out of their fucking minds without shows, travel, and the requisite level of creative outlets. (Hopefully not for very much longer.) Whatever it is, it’s already March and this month is chock-full of music that sounds urgent as hell, commanding your attention when the rest of the world continues to unfurl from its unending corridor of suck.

Last week, though, we saw the release of new music from Wolf King and Wolfheart. If the old legends are true and there are in fact two wolves that live inside of us all, existing in a perpetual state of conflict over which one gets to wrest control of our collective psyche in some kind of moral struggle for the ages, then… I dunno, maybe they were just really into wolves? My metaphor game is leaving some serious shit to be desired today.

Fortunately, the music released by both wolves today is anything but lacking. Continue reading »

Mar 032021
 

 

(Here’s Gonzo’s review of the new album by the Toronto-based band Sarin, which is out now on Prosthetic Records.)

If you want to consider the future of “post-metal” as a genre, you won’t have to look very far to find the trailblazers showing us the way.

You could look as far back as the mid-’90s, when Neurosis began their transformation from sludgy hardcore into a subgenre-defining behemoth.

You could look at the glory days of ISIS circa 2005, when Aaron Turner and co. dished out slabs of ethereal heaviness that defied explanation.

And now, you can look at bands like Toronto-based Sarin, whose nasty, emotive brand of sonic vitriol is poised to bring post-metal into the present – with a vengeance. Continue reading »

Feb 022021
 

 

(Here’s Gonzo’s review of the unexpected new album by Arizona’s Gatecreeper, which was discharged by Closed Casket Activities on January 13th.)

From the endlessly bizarre timeline in which it’s being released to the sheer out-of-nowhere, smack-you-upside-the-head-and-run surprise of the release itself, I think it’s safe to say nobody saw this album coming.

And maybe that’s the point. After all, bands like Gatecreeper don’t really entertain much in the way of being subtle. Their bludgeoning songwriting, pounding rhythm section, and Chase Mason’s unearthly howl have solidified the band’s sound as instantly recognizable in the death metal underground.

And even though those elements are as present as ever on An Unexpected Reality, this sonic blowtorch falls a little short of the decimation it wants to inflict. Continue reading »

Jan 012021
 

 

(This is Part II of a “Top 20 of 2020” year-end list compiled by NCS writer Gonzo. It counts down from No. 10 through No. 1. You can find Part I here.)

 

As I’m writing this, there’s less than 12 hours left in 2020, and the existential dread of how fucked up life might be through the first half of 2021 is slowly beginning to creep in. If it wasn’t for music and legal weed, I don’t know where the hell I’d be mentally right now.

But, enough of that. We’re here for the music. My top 10 albums of the year did a damn fine job of lifting my spirits when I needed it and were also malleable enough to wallow in grief and despair with me when appropriate.

While we collectively light a match and throw it into the five-alarm dumpster fire of 2020 without even so much as turning back to look at the explosion, may I present to you my soundtrack of choice for the occasion. Continue reading »

Dec 302020
 

 

(This is Part I of a “Top 20 of 2020” year-end list compiled by NCS writer Gonzo. It counts down from No. 20 through No. 11, and in Part II we’ll have the top ten.)

If nothing else, 2020 has proven to us that there’s no force in hell or on earth that can stop the gods and lesser idols of metal from cranking out quality material.

Musically speaking, 2020 surprised the shit out of me. When the world came to a grinding halt in March, I was all but certain that creating a “Top 20” or “Top Anything” list come December would be a depressing exercise. Bands were going to stop touring. Gigs were canceled worldwide. And with everything looking so grim and uncertain, I was bracing myself for a down year in metal.

In this case, I was happy to be wrong: Apparently, quarantine lent itself to creativity in brutality. Paired with the litany of political and socioeconomic issues that dominated headlines during this hellish 12 months, it seems plenty of bands drew from a vast pool of inspiration to churn out some seriously impressive work.

Like everyone else here, I didn’t get a chance to listen to everything I probably should have, but here’s the first half of my top 20 picks from the best of a very weird year. Continue reading »

Dec 042020
 

 

(NCS writer Gonzo turns in a glorious review of a pretty fuckin’ glorious album by Texas-based Eternal Champion, which was released in late November by No Remorse Records.)

I know, I know – we’re all busy making our best-of-2020 lists and doing our best to not lose our collective shit as a result of staying inside all day. But, before the year’s end, I wanted to squeeze another review in, and it’s one that we somehow missed mentioning up to this point.

Sharpen your fucking swords, kids, because if you haven’t heard the marauding onslaught of old-school metallic warfare that Eternal Champion cooked up on Ravening Iron, gather ‘round.

One of the things I love about metal is its unending propensity to not take itself too seriously. To quote a friend from long ago who’s also the vocalist for Orange County outfit Bleed the Sky, “what most people don’t understand about metal is that it’s basically goofy dudes drinking beer and making stupid faces a lot.”

“You know, he’s right,” I remember thinking to myself while sitting in his garage at 3 a.m. drunk off my face on the vile combination of Jager and Rockstar. Oh, to be 23 again.

Those words from my friend echoed in my head when I first saw the artwork for Ravening Iron and read a little about the band in a Decibel interview. I concluded that the band was probably a latter-day incarnation of Manowar. Probably a good listen for a nostalgic chuckle or two, but nothing I’d take seriously. The over-the-top artwork and the fact that vocalist Jason Tarpey forges his own swords (while inherently badass) told me that maybe this is a pet project that was more glam than hammer.

By the might of Thor, was I wrong. Continue reading »