Aug 262023

I woke up at 2:30 a.m. this morning. No fucking idea why. I was wiped out last night and fell asleep by 8 p.m., but that still doesn’t explain it. I was thinking 4 a.m. would be the likely waking hour, a solid 8 hours later. Maybe it’s Mariners fever (baseball fans may understand.)

I hope my loss is your gain. The ridiculous waking hour gave me lots of time to catch up on music, and to compile a bigger than average roundup for this Saturday. In organizing this I decided to lead with the most prominent name in the collection, and then move in a more obscure and musically challenging direction before embarking on a pair of anthems and then concluding with nastier notions.


When my compatriot DGR reviewed October Tide‘s last album, 2019’s In Splendor Below, he found it “a very different album from its predecessors,” “one of the fastest-moving albums they’ve created” and with a new emphasis on “death metal atmospherics and groove” — though he noted that the band had not completely abandoned “the beautiful and cold atmospheres” that had become a major part of their hallmark.

The new October Tide album, The Cancer Pledge, is likely to be in a similar vein as that last one. Indeed, guitarist Fredrik Norrman calls it “a direct continuation of the previous album — less doom and more death metal, yet melodic and with more layers”. That’s born out by the album’s first single, “Tapestry of Our End“, which arrived with an engrossing animated lyric video. Continue reading »

Nov 282022

(Andy Synn goes to war once more with the music of Imha Tarikat)

While you’re reading this there’s a good chance I’ll be attending a funeral for one of my oldest, dearest friends.

As you might imagine, feelings have been running high ever since his death, and each of us who knew and loved him have had to find our own way to deal with his loss.

Perhaps unsurprisingly I have been turning to music, even more so than usual, as a conduit for my emotions, and Hearts Unchained – At War With a Passionless World has been one of the albums I have returned to most frequently over the past several weeks.

Of course, I’d like to think that I’d have listened to this record just as much even without this tragedy occurring (after all, I was a huge fan of the group’s previous work and have been looking forward to this one ever since), but sometimes an album hits you at just the right moment, in just the right way, to resonate even more deeply.

And this is one of those times.

Continue reading »

Oct 012022

Imha Tarikat

Last night the Seattle Mariners beat the Texas Rangers with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning, clinching a place in the Major League Baseball playoffs and ending what most of us long-suffering Mariners fans simply referred to as The Drought, i.e., the longest span of years (21 of them) that any team in any U.S. professional sport has had to endure in between playoff appearances.

Along with a few million other Mariners fans in this part of the country, I celebrated the historic event. I might have par-tayed a bit too much. That’s a conclusion one might draw from the fact that I slept for 11 hours, as if in a coma. Well, I had a rough week at my fucking day job too, which produced steam that needed to be blown off last night. But even after dragging my ass out of bed late in the morning I still spent a lot of time continuing to wallow in the glory of that Mariners win, taking in videos, photos, and lots of articles.

But the NCS Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (a specific syndrome now recognized by the American Psychiatric Association) is still a thing, and so I couldn’t bear to leave a complete blank spot on the site this Saturday. Had to daub that spot with at least a few splatters of musical paint. Continue reading »

Jan 042021


Well, here we go again: For the 12th straight year I present my list of the preceding year’s Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs.

I’m going to dispense with repeating the operative definition of what I think makes a song “infectious”; if you’re encountering this series for the first time, go here to see that. But I will remind you what I do to compile the list, and why I currently have no idea how long it will be, or precisely when the rollout will end — which has been true in nearly every other year when I’ve done this. Continue reading »

Oct 112020


Many of us have learned the hard way that it’s prudent to keep both eyes on the horizon, looking ahead in case something’s coming that will tear our heads off. Might give us enough time to dodge and only lose an arm. Good peripheral vision is also a plus. Not every peril is straight ahead. These days especially, self-preservation seems like a full-time job. Hard to know what’s coming next, but whatever it is, it probably won’t be good.

I tend to keep my eyes on the horizon when it comes to music too, albeit for different reasons. Something might be coming that will try to tear my head off, but I usually welcome that with open arms. For reasons I’ve never been able to adequately explain, I also welcome music of hopelessness and pain, of poison and the preternatural.

I wasn’t able to write this column the last two Sundays. In the meantime, the music has piled up like drifts of black snow at my back. I’ve missed recommending a lot, but decided the easiest way forward was to look at what’s coming over the horizon, eyes ahead as usual. That made the selection process a little easier, but to make up for lost time I decided to make this post a two-parter. Continue reading »

Aug 132020



(Andy Synn wrote the following compilation of reviews.)

It seems to me that, over the years, the constant cascade of new albums has swollen into a never-ending, unrelenting, flood, to the point where it often feels like we’re almost drowning in new releases.

The only way to cope, I’ve found, is to simply accept that you’re not going to be able to cover everything. There’s just not enough hours in the day to properly preview, review, analyse, and criticise, all of it, especially if you also want to try and maintain some general standards of quality and insight (which, let’s be honest, isn’t necessarily a concern for everyone…).

That being said, a bit of catch-up coverage never goes amiss, which is why I’m dedicating today’s article to four artists who each dropped their newest record – in one case with little prior warning – last Friday. Continue reading »

Jan 132019


In this second Part of this Sunday’s SHADES OF BLACK column I’ve changed course away from the predominantly atmospheric and sometimes folk-inflected music that dominated Part 1 in moody, mystical, and magnificent strains of sound. The selections in this Part are less easily categorized with broad brush strokes, but I guess I’d venture to say they are mainly more “muscular” and savage than what you’ll find in Part 1.


I’ve been deplorably late in catching up to the third album by this one-man band based in the black metal hot-bed of Bergen, Norway, but under persistent prodding by my Norwegian friend eiterorm, I finally have. That third album, Mot Ein Evig Ruin, will be released on February 16th by the Dutch label Soulseller Records, and now there are two tracks out in the world — “Dra Te’ Helvete“, which surfaced in October, and more recently “Det Gjekk Ein Faen“. Continue reading »

Jul 012018


The black metal band Imha Tarikat, based in Germany, vaulted onto our radar screens last year with a debut EP named Kenoboros (reviewed here). Released by Terratur Possessions, it was a four-song collection of unusual emotional power and unmistakably authentic passion. Since then, Imha Tarikat’s sole creator Ruhsuz Cellât has been joined on drums by a second member who goes by the name Prowler, and together they’ve recorded a debut album, Kara Ihlas.

The music of Kenoboros would have been reason enough to become excited about what this full-length might hold in store, but the album’s fantastic cover art by Cold Poison is exciting all by itself, and it also seems to be an entirely fitting visual representation of both the sound of the music and its inspirations — at least so far as we can tell based on the album track we’re presenting today, the name of which is “Akan Sir“. Continue reading »

Feb 122017


I tend to go overboard with the volume of music in these Shades of Black posts, but this one includes even more minutes of listening than usual. In this one you’ll find streams of two full albums, three full EPs, one single, and advance tracks from two forthcoming releases. And lots of my words, of course. In the middle, I’ve also spliced one very exciting piece of news.

Due to the size of this post, I’ve divided it into two parts. Part 2 is almost finished, but because of the volume of music here in Part 1 and in yesterday’s post, I think I’ll wait until first thing tomorrow to unveil it.


Hetroertzen is a Chilean band now based in Sweden. I first discovered them through the music on their last album, 2014’s Ain Soph Aur (which I reviewed at length here). Their new album, Uprising of the Fallen, is now set for release by their new label Listenable Records on February 24. Continue reading »