May 252020


(Seattle-based NCS contributor Gonzo has provided the following review of the new album by the multi-national band Sojourner, which is out now on Napalm Records.)

In all its forms and mutations, you could use a lot of adjectives to describe metal: Brutal. Powerful. Aggressive. Loud. Dynamic. Technical. And dare I say: Beautiful?

Some bands dabble in a “pretty” side at times, and it might work for them as a temporary gimmick or when forcing it into the occasional power ballad. But avid listeners are gonna know when you’re phoning it in, and as a result, the “beautiful” side gets buried under layers of the aforementioned adjectives. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with sheer, unabashed brutality (we ARE metalheads, for fuck’s sake), bands that succeed in combining the beautiful with the brutal can wield an almost overwhelming amount of power when they use it to write songs.

This brings us to Sojourner, a six-piece multi-national atmospheric black metal band, and their monumental new album Premonitions. Continue reading »

Apr 302020


(Seattle-based NCS contributor Gonzo wrote the following review of the debut album by the Swedish named Sweven, which was released on March 20 by Ván Records.)

When I found out Swedish weirdos Morbus Chron had called it quits after releasing one of the best albums of 2014, Sweven, it was disappointing news. Blending a smorgasbord of musical elements ranging from the throaty assault of Horrendous and the tempered patience of Opeth to ’70s psychedelia, Sweven showcased a band that was positioned to carve their own path through a saturated metallic universe.

Six years after Sweven’s release, that path has taken an unexpected detour. Morbus Chron frontman, guitarist, and songwriter Robert Andersson has unveiled The Eternal Resonance, the debut album from his newest band, Sweven. Continue reading »

Apr 202020


(Andy Synn recently wrote a three-line haiku of the new album by Irist, but now we have a second (and lengthier) opinion by Seattle-based writer Gonzo. The album is out now via Nuclear Blast.)

Atlanta sludge/prog unit Irist may be only one album into their young careers, but one listen to their ferocious debut Order of the Mind would have you believe otherwise. Both satisfyingly brutal and tastefully melodic throughout, the album displays the precise technicality of Mastodon and Gojira mixed with the savagery of early Soulfly. The result is something that scratches an itch you might not even realize you had.

Boasting thunderous riffs, head-nodding grooves, vocals that blast like sandpaper on balsa wood, and a rhythm section that sounds determined to use your head as a snare drum, Order of the Mind pummels its way through its 10-track length like it has something to prove. Given that it’s a major-label debut, maybe that was intentional. What it proves, though, is something bigger — it sees Irist obviously paying homage to the influences of the aforementioned bands, but it adds a layer of originality that’s markedly harder to pull off. Continue reading »

Apr 132020


(Seattle-based writer Gonzo returns to NCS with this review of a new album by the star-studded Old Man Gloom, whose release day was accelerated by the band and Profound Lore Records and is out now.)

Never the types to be conventional, post-hardcore/sludge superheroes Old Man Gloom have again released not one, but two, new albums: Seminar VIII: The Lightness of Meaning, and Seminar IX: The Darkness of Being. Originally not scheduled to be released until May 22, the band decided to stagger the double effort with a surprise release of Seminar IX back in late March. Seminar VIII will keep its original release date of May 22.

To limit any head-spinning confusion, this review covers Seminar IX.

Confused yet? Good, me too. Continue reading »

Feb 252020


(Seattle-based NCS contributor Gonzo brings us this review of the the fifth studio album by U.S. progressive metal pioneers Psychotic Waltz, and their first music in 23 years, released on February 14th by InsideOutMusic.)

Maybe it’s just me, but I love it when a criminally underrated band emerges from the ether after years of radio silence and releases some of their best work. Since that seems to be the trend lately for metal bands, reformed prog metal gurus Psychotic Waltz have decided to follow suit, surprising the world with the release of their newest album, The God-Shaped Void. Continue reading »

Dec 312019


(This year we were joined by a Seattle-based writer who goes by the nickname Gonzo. He has contributed both lively concert reviews and equally lively album reviews, and today he brings us Part 2 of a year-end list that sings the praises of 20 albums — the top 10 of them today, and you can read about the first 10 here.)

The top 10 was a tough one this year, but whittling it down to the final product turned out to be a helluva fun time. The theme of the year seemed to be “pushing boundaries,” and I think my #1 choice did that better than any other crazy genre-defying piece of music I heard all year.

While I go smoke the rest of this joint, go read the rest of my list. Continue reading »

Dec 302019


(This year we were joined by a Seattle-based writer who goes by the nickname Gonzo. He has contributed both lively concert reviews and equally lively album reviews, and today he brings us Part 1 of a year-end list that sings the praises of 20 albums — 10 of them today and 10 more tomorrow.)

Well, here we are — another year of music in the books, and another unnecessarily long stretch of time spent agonizing over which albums I felt worthy of compiling into another year-end list.

I won’t lie — 2019 made things crazily difficult. There were some truly bat-shit releases that laughed in the face of genre typecasting and raised the bar. Conversely, there were some albums that stuck to a particular mold and ended up kicking unholy amounts of ass while doing it. Truth be told, I haven’t had this much fun discovering new music in the better part of a decade

With that, I’ll stop blabbing. Here’s my list. Hope you have as much fun reading it as I did writing it. Continue reading »

Nov 052019


(Seattle-based NCS contributor Gonzo has delivered this review of the new album by the Swedish hardcore punk legends Refused, which is out now via Spinefarm Records.)

Few album titles in 2019 have been as well-suited as War Music, the latest slab of anti-capitalist post-punk from Swedish icons Refused.

Never ones to shy away from politically charged subject matter, the Swedes have only seemed to build on the energy of their phenomenal 2015 comeback album, Freedom, and channeled it into a compact 10 songs of vitriolic angst that’s just waiting to be the soundtrack to the next time a protester throws a Molotov cocktail at a government building. Continue reading »

Sep 102019


(Our Seattle-based contributor Gonzo re-joins us with another lively concert review, this time reporting on Iron Maiden‘s performance in Tacoma, Washington, on September 5, 2019.)

“It’s only gonna get better from here,” bellows a spry Bruce Dickinson, addressing the Tacoma Dome crowd while standing under a replica Spitfire plane. Dickinson and his band of merry men in Iron Maiden had just torn through iconic opener “Aces High,” complete with said plane dangling from the top of the stage like a marionette during the song’s entirety. This alone would be an impressive spectacle for any live act to pull off, but for Iron Maiden, it’s the warmup.

At this point in the band’s storied career, to expect anything less than this from Iron Maiden would be silly. At 61, Dickinson is as energetic as someone half his age, and Steve Harris and the rest of his bandmates in the indispensable UK metal crew aren’t far behind. Not surprisingly, then, would the band’s 2019 Legacy of the Beast tour be anything less than spectacular? Continue reading »

Aug 272019


(In this post NCS contributor Gonzo reviews the new album by Killswitch Engage, which is out now via Metal Blade Records.)

Perhaps no band in modern American metal has been able to pull off what Killswitch Engage have in their 20-year career: Ascend to the Billboard charts with one vocalist (Jesse Leach), then weather the storm of his departure with a serviceable replacement (Howard Jones), then weather the storm of his departure with the return of Leach, all while never relinquishing their crown as one of the genre’s stalwart kings.

With Atonement, released on August 16th, the band have shown no sign of slowing down. This is the third installment in Leach’s return, and the combination of its blazing riffs, masterful songwriting, and standout individual performances on every instrument might make it the best of the three. Continue reading »