Nov 142013

Welcome brethren and sistren to this morning’s round-up of new music and videos that caught my attention over the last 24 hours. Metal makes everything better.


A day without Finnish metal is like a day without sunshine. And since we will have no actual sunshine here in Seattle today, we must brighten it with this new offering by the Helsinki hellions in MyGrain. Their latest album, Planetary Breathing, was released by Spinefarm in September, and today they’ve showered us with sex, beer, and rock ‘n’ roll via a new video for the song “Waking Up the Damned”.

Okay, to be honest, I didn’t see any actual sex in the video, unless you count some nice tongue action on the beer-drenched keyboard. And everyone else was pretty well drenched in beer as far as I can tell. And there sure as hell is some fine rock ‘n’ roll. Nothing grymm or frostbitten in this here music, just a load of groovy, head-nodding, body-moving, mosh-inducing, virally catchy fun — all captured extremely well in the video you’ll see next. Continue reading »

Sep 052013

Collected in this post are a handful of tours that I decided were worth mentioning, even though only the first one is within my grasp. I’m trying to be less self-centered. This is like trying to levitate, but I should get points for the effort, don’t you think?


Earlier today we posted Old Man Windbreaker’s review of the entire discography of Botanist. And only now I come to find out that Botanist will be here in The Emerald City at Highline along with two other stellar bands in little more than a month (October 13). One is the brain scrambling Behold… the Arcoptus (featuring Colin Marston on Warr Guitar, Mike Lerner on Guitar Guitar, and Weasel Walter on drums), and the other is Seattle’s own Lesbian, who are riding a big wave of entirely justified attention drawn by their latest album Forestelevision.

But this turns out to be just one stop on a brief West Coast tour by BtA. On October 12, Behold…the Arctopus and Botanist will be playing together with Agalloch and Eight Bells at Day 3 of the Fall Into Darkness festival in Portland (OR). And on October 11 BtA and Botanist will be playing Oakland along with a Bay Area band named Burmese. Continue reading »

Apr 292013

Germany’s Heaven Shall Burn have a long history of combining their viscerally ravaging music with a commitment to social justice (and animal rights). They’ve found heroes in many places and dedicated songs to them, most prominently on the trilogy of Iconoclast releases that ended with 2011’s Invictus. Their seventh album Veto — due for North American release tomorrow — follows this theme, with tracks commemorating the works of an African revolutionary named Thomas Sankara (“Land of the Upright Ones”), theologian Walter Schilling (“Antagonized”), and the anti-fascist International Brigades who fought against Franco during the Spanish Civil War (“53 Nations”). But the opening track on Veto is dedicated to perhaps the most unusual of the heroes who have inspired HSB’s music.

Reaching back to the 11th Century, “Godiva” draws lessons from the Anglo-Saxon noblewoman who, according to legend, rode naked through the streets of Coventry, England, to free the common people from oppressive policies instituted by her powerful husband, who ruled the region. Tired of her appeals on behalf of the suffering townspeople, the Earl of Mercer agreed to grant her requests on their behalf if she would ride nude through the town, thinking she would never do this. But of course, she did — or so the legend has it.

Risking embarrassment or personal humiliation to stand up for the rights of others may not be as dramatic as braving bullets or imprisonment, but the lesson about social conscience among the privileged seems no less relevant. As for the song itself, we’ll borrow from our recent review of this killer new album: “The band have never sounded more vital or alive than they do on fantastic opener ‘Godiva’, which builds from an opening of sublime melancholy into a veritable firestorm of scorching vocals and powerhouse riffs, revealing  a band as energetic, as pissed-off, and as driven, as ever.”

After the jump, get your first listen to “Godiva” via our premiere of Heaven Shall Burn’s official lyric video for Veto’s opening song. Continue reading »

Apr 112013

(In this post Andy Synn reviews the new album by Heaven Shall Burn, which will be released on April 30 in North America by Century Media.)

Heaven Shall BurnHeaven Shall Burn… what can I say? After 6 full length albums, countless split-releases, and one phenomenal live DVD, they still seem in no danger of running out of steam or righteous fury.

Heaven Shall Burn are what you get when you force Earth Crisis and Bolt Thrower to conceive a child, and then have that child raised by At The Gates and Carcass, while supplementing their intellectual development with a steady diet of Kant, Marx, and Baudrillard.

Their distinctive mix of death metal brutality, singular hardcore focus, and knack for captivating melody makes the band, to my mind at least, one of the most quintessentially “METAL” of all metal bands, with a foot (or a toe) in almost every sub-genre – yet retaining a sound that is both entirely their own and instantly recognisable.

Devastatingly metallic and furiously hardcore, without falling prey to stumbling cliché (no bone-headed breakdowns or tacked-on clean choruses here, thank you very much), their early work helped define what would become the European “MetalCore” (capitals very much intended) movement while simultaneously stepping beyond it. These days “Melodic Death Metal” or “Melodeath” are the most common terms attributed to the band, but above and beyond that they’re simply Heaven Shall Burn – with a well-defined and singular style all their own. Continue reading »

Mar 202013

I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to go home to Seattle tonight after more than 3 weeks of grueling bullshit for my day job. I even had a couple of hours yesterday to start catching up on all the metal I missed while buried in work. Of course, I found a lot of new things. In this post are a few of the more recent discoveries.


Yesterday, Germany’s Heaven Shall Burn released  a second song from their forthcoming album Veto. Its name is “Die Stürme Rufen Dich”, which means “the storms call you” (according to Google Translate). It’s venomous, heavy-booted music with catchy melodic hooks and Marcus Bischoff’s distinctive vox spraying acid all over everything. In other words, it’s recognizably Heaven Shall Burn.

If you’re a fan of this band, I think you’ll like the song.  It’s up next. Continue reading »

Feb 202013

Heaven Shall Burn’s new album Veto is one of my “most anticipated” releases of 2013. This morning, the band and its label (Century Media) unveiled the album cover, which, as you can see above, makes use of an eye-catching 1898 painting of Lady Godiva by John Collier.

But that’s not all. They also made available for streaming and free download a song from the album entitled “Land of the Upright Ones”. But you have to work for this. They’ve constructed a puzzle that must be solved before you can hear or download the music. This is what the puzzle looks like:

I’ll tell you this much: it isn’t as simple as just dragging and dropping each stone into those spaces in the same order as you see them. Reversing the order doesn’t work either. Continue reading »

Feb 032013

Yesterday I featured four new releases that appeared on Bandcamp on February 1. In this post I’ve collected more kickass new music that I discovered yesterday, plus a news item that excited me when I saw it.


I wrote about this Scottish band last October after seeing the news that they’d been signed by Candlelight Records. In that earlier post I included all of the music from the band that I could then find, including a portion of a track called “The Lion of Scotland”. Sometime between then and now, that fragment disappeared from Soundcloud, but in the last couple of days it has reappeared in all its complete glory — and it is indeed a glorious song — along with the cover art for their Candlelight debut, The Giants of Auld.

I could hardly be more stoked for this debut, and “The Lion of Scotland” is an example of why I’m so eager to hear the album. It’s a genuinely soul-stirring song, with a skirling tremolo melody, an epic keyboard overlay, hard-charging rhythms, and passionate harsh vocals. If this doesn’t get your blood racing and your fist pumping, I’ll be surprised. Listen: Continue reading »

Jul 272012

I watched some of the opening ceremonies from London. Some of it was cool, like the cascade of lights falling from those big gold rings in the sky. But I gave up not long after Mr. Bean accompanied the orchestra on the theme song from Chariots of Fire.

I decided if I was going to watch spectacle, with big throngs of people, lots of lights, and explosions of sound, I should at least watch something with good fuckin’ music going on. So I watched these instead:

Continue reading »

Nov 072011

(Andy Synn ventures outside his usual meat and potatoes with this one. I’m not objective, of course, but this post includes many observations that ring true to me, and maybe will to you as well. Also, this post includes a heavy cargo of highly-worth-watching videos.)

I’ve been looking at doing some shorter pieces on various topics for a while now, spreading myself a little more widely and letting the material do most of the talking for me, and Islander’s sabbatical seems like the perfect opportunity to do so.

So I wanted to bring your attention to a couple of music videos which you may have overlooked, and highlight why I like them and what I think makes them a good example of the video “art-form”. Equally, however, the success (relative or otherwise) of these videos highlights some of the regrettably common failures of most metal videos!

Now bear in mind that most metal videos are a missed opportunity. I’m a fan of a good solid performance video, this is true, be it live footage (purpose-shot or amalgamated) or the traditional warehouse/barren-field performance, as long as it gives you a sense of the intensity and power of a band really getting into their music and their instruments. However, this is where most of them fall down, simply giving us a general shot of “hey look, this is what we look like when we’re playing” rather than any sort of “feel” for the intensity of the experience. And I’m not saying this is easy, far from it.

I do, however, want to highlight the issue that for so many bands (and most recently I’m looking at the plethora of metalcore/deathcore/djent bands) videos become merely a case of being SEEN without actually SAYING anything with the opportunity they’ve been given. Just because you’re moving/jumping/posing does not mean you’re coming across as doing anything more than singing into a hair-brush in front of the mirror.  (more after the jump . . .) Continue reading »

Apr 292011

(I swear this was a coincidence. I wrote a post that went up earlier today on metal covers based on a single by Anachronaeon we received yesterday, and then our UK contributor Andy Synn delivered this special edition of THE SYNN REPORT about . . . covers. This is the kind of occurrence that sends me back to the dictionary once again to figure out the difference between synchronicity and serenditpity. Or maybe it’s both.)

Covers are a strange breed of song – they’re the equivalent of a parallel universe, an alternate history, a What If? Comic, an adaptation of your favourite book starring an unexpected actor, a Shakespeare play set in an average American high school…

Seriously though, they have a huge amount of potential, both to be intriguingly inventive and woefully horrendous. Their success (or lack thereof) depends on many factors, but mainly on the song-choice itself – is it a natural fit for the band? Do they have the intelligence to re-work it in a distinctive manner? Or is it simply enough to tear through it in their own inimitable style, making few changes, but relying on sheer power to see them through?

I have chosen 15 artists who have produced some of my own personal favourite covers, showcasing a variety of approaches, some fully traditional takes on the original, others totally reworked variations. If there’s one thing that these covers show however, it is the subtle threads that inter-link all different sub-genres of rock and metal, which allow bands to re-work them organically. (more after the jump . . .) Continue reading »