Mar 042014

(NCS contributor KevinP somehow convinced Theoharis (above, middle), the guitarist and vocalist of one of my favorite bands, Hail Spirit Noir, to talk to him. Maybe all he had to do was ask? Having read the interview, I’d like to request a round of applause for both of them.)

K:  You, Dim, and Haris are all in Transcending Bizarre?, whose last album was in 2010.  You formed Hail Spirit Noir in 2010 as well.  Is the timing of this a coincidence?

T:  Haris actually had the idea for some time before 2010. What happened was that one of TB?’s members and a really good friend of ours, S.A Akis, died right in the middle of the recordings of the third record.  We completed the record but the whole thing just took a lot out of us. Once we were done with that, Haris presented to Dim and me demos for what would become Pneuma and the whole thing got started.  So, I don’t know if that counts as coincidence.


K:  Transcending Bizarre? is not standard black metal, but I wouldn’t call it “off the wall” by any means.  Hail Spirit Noir is a much further ‘left turn’ compared to what you were doing.  What made you come up with this unique hybrid sound?

T:  Haris wanted to pay tribute to all the prog rock he was listening to and the atmosphere of the 70s horror movies.   But with a more sinister twist and a sound, that despite its roots, being in that era would sound up to date.  In simple terms the original combination was late 60s/70s prog rock+ black metal+ horror movies.  But it all ended up with our combined influences a lot weirder. Continue reading »

Feb 262014

(Guest writer, deluded NY Giants fan, and hard man to please KevinP rejoins us with the first installment of what may become a series.)

 2013 was a high water mark for metal releases. Seemingly it would be hard for 2014 to match up. But we are already off to a damn good start. Here’s a few things that have ‘wet my whistle’ so far.


After carving out their own identity as more than just a “Sweden meets Autopsy” via their A Saunter in the Shroud EP, I was pretty excited for their follow-up sophomore full-length. Much to my surprise, they’ve taken a left turn and kinda gone the route that Tribulation did with The Formulas of Death. A brave move by a young band that’s willing to take chances, stick its neck out, and not just be “another old school death metal band”.

Sweven is out now in Europe and will be released in North America on March 4 by Century Media. Continue reading »

Feb 082014

As you may have noticed, we were pretty light on the content yesterday. I even failed to get another installment of our 2013 Most Infectious Song list up on the site. I blame my fucking day job, which has taken me on the road again, with about 36 hours still to go before I can get back to Seattle. I did do some catching up early this morning, and have prepared this round-up of new and notable things, plus that delayed installment for the song list.

I’ve paired these two bands together on purpose, because musically they seem like kindred spirits. Perhaps you’ll soon understand why I think that.


Last September I wrote about a forthcoming album by a Norwegian band named Sarke (who will also be playing at Maryland Deathfest this May). All I knew at the time was who was in the band, but that was enough to inspire intrigue about the music:

SARKE (Khold, Tulus), bass.
NOCTURNO CULTO (Darkthrone, Gift of Gods), vocals.
ASGEIR MICKELSON (Spiral Architect, God Of Atheists), drums.
ANDERS HUNSTAD (El Caco, Autopulver, Morten Abel), keyboard.
STEINAR GUNDERSEN (Satyricon, Spiral Architect, System: Obscure), guitar. Continue reading »

Dec 282013

Between the time I’ve spent with family and friends over the holidays and pushing out the biggest year-end LISTMANIA series our site has ever published, I’ve been constricted in my ability to listen to new songs and forthcoming releases. But I keep lists. I keep lists like a hoarder of names. Never mind that actually making it through the lists is a frail hope, given that they keep growing, and growing, and growing…

But yesterday, I made a small dent in them and came away with four songs I’m really high on. Two of them are new tracks by bands whose past work I’ve admired, and two of them come from bands who I’d never heard before. Musically, the four songs have very little in common, other than the fact that they are all winners — and they all have darkness in their souls.


Hail Spirit Noir’s first album, Pneuma (reviewed here), was unlike anything else I heard in 2012. It was exceedingly strange and yet brilliant, a splicing together of black metal, 60′s flower-power pop psychedelics, 70′s prog rock, 80′s New Wave dance beats, melodic doom, and even cool jazz. Each song was distinctively different from, though related to, the others, like cousins on a gnarled family tree. Continue reading »

Jan 022013

This is Part 6 of our list of the year’s most infectious extreme metal songs. Each day until the list is finished, I’m posting two songs that made the cut. For more details about what this list is all about and how it was compiled, read the introductory post via this link. To see the selections that preceded the two we’re announcing today, click here.

I was all set to write the introduction to this installment of our list, and then BadWolf did it for me over at Invisible Oranges: 2012 was the year in which often occult-themed classic rock stylings from the 60s and 70s made a big splash in the metal pool. I don’t mean to suggest that there weren’t bands playing that kind of music before 2012 — to the contrary. But it really seemed to take off last year.

I liked quite a bit of what I heard, but I was most partial to the bands who mixed some vocal ugliness into their hook-filled retro stew (I know, what a shocker). And that leads me to our next two additions to this list. Neither of them really quite fits the profile of the bands BadWolf mentions in his IO piece, but they’re related.


On their 2012 debut album Torches Ablaze (which I reviewed here), the Finnish duo known as Arkhamin Kirjasto pulled off a neat trick: combining throwback heavy metal and rock riffs, death metal vocals, atmospheric guitar touches, and Lovecraftian lyrics in a way that was as interesting as it was (and is) irresistible. Continue reading »

Mar 052012

I tend to act on impulse most of the time, but all restraint completely goes up in smoke when I hear music that’s as unusual and original as the debut album by Hail Spirit Noir from Greece. And so it was that after initially intending only to test the waters on Pneuma, I became thoroughly immersed and completely captivated by its idiosyncrasies; all best-laid plans for other NCS projects were shoved aside in favor of this review.

What makes Pneuma so arresting is the brashness with which it combines dramatically disparate styles of music (and instrumental sounds) without completely losing the thread of cohesion. Cohabiting, more or less cooperatively, under a loose framework of black metal aesthetics are everything from 60’s flower-power pop psychedelics to 70’s prog rock to 80’s New Wave dance beats to melodic doom and cool jazz — and let’s not forget about the strings, the mellotron, and the occasional punk chord progressions.

Hail Spirit Noir are not the first band who have combined and juxtaposed elements of black metal with more popular musical styles far outside the genre. I don’t pretend to have made a serious study of the subject, but the first time I can recall hearing anything like this was on Enslaved’s 2008 album, Vertebrae. Perhaps most vividly captured by the opening track “Clouds”, it snapped black metal apart and creatively spliced in elements of psychedelia, prog, and alt-rock, while combining Grutle Kjellson’s harsh rasps and Herbrand Larsen’s clean, clear vocals to good effect.

More recently, Sweden’s Ghost have hit lots of radar screens with a different kind of juxtaposition, combining hook-filled pop-rock melodies and almost exclusively clean tenor vocals with satanic lyricism and just enough fuzzed-out riffage to make you realize (agreeably) that the music really isn’t all that wholesome after all. Continue reading »

Feb 242012

I guess this map won’t surprise many people.  We published more granular statistics about this phenomenon in a post way back in April 2010 called “Geekery In the Discordance”, reporting on the results of a calculation that counted the number of metal bands by country, as listed in Metal Archives, and then divided them by the total population of each country. That count included inactive bands, and so we found a way to sort the data by limiting them to active bands, and the results were very similar. Most active metal bands per million people:

No. 1:  Finland

No. 2:  Sweden

No. 3:  Norway

I haven’t gone back to see if the numbers have changed in the last two years, though I’d be surprised if they have.  Doesn’t look like they have based on the map.  One interesting thing I noticed about that map is that if you look closely, Iceland looks pretty red, too.

Thanks to BlashyrkhBloggen for posting the map on Facebook and to Angry Metal Guy for re-posting it. And speaking of Angry Metal Guy . . . Continue reading »