Dec 312018


(DGR is actually turning NCS into a coffee table book, but slowly, one day at a time, from now through Friday.)

About halfway through the year I actually thought I was going to make it through the year-end with a solid Top 30 list and nothing more. For a good chunk of the year, 2018 seemed to move in fits and starts — there would be large batches of album releases and then a couple of quiet weeks, then another small collection, and so on. A lot of the more consistent older guard were on something of an “off year” too, so at first I wasn’t expecting to see a large cast of repeats from two years ago making themselves known. I’ve gotten used to a two-to-three year album cycle, so I half-expected stuff to start pointing towards a real loaded front-half of 2019.

But alas, instead the back-half of 2018 turned out to a be a flood. Not just in bands that I’ve consistently enjoyed either, but a whole bunch of new faces that have either been hammering it out over the years and put out some genuine surprises, or people with some absolutely stunning first-time exposures on my end. Not only that, but who would’ve expected an actually pretty solid -core resurgence, with a lot of groups that had thought to hang it up deciding 2018 would be a good year to resurface and put out some stunningly good releases (at least in some cases).

As a result, 2018 proved to be an absolutely massive year. In some ways I think people’s year-end lists are reflecting just how vibrant the year was for our specific subsection of the musical sphere. While people lament that rock ‘n’ roll is dying or has become lame, heavy metal seems perfectly content to just be the constantly angry and forever roiling collective of music — as if it has found a sort of equilibrium in comparison to the mainstream world outside. Which is how you wind up with stupid shit like this, where I once again have FIFTY (warning ahead of time: if you think this introduction is getting verbose, do I have a surprise for you) albums to talk about in wrapping up this tire fire of a year. Continue reading »

Jan 292018


(This is Andy Synn’s review of the new album by the California band Ion, which is now available on Bandcamp.)


To say that I have been anticipating the release of this particular album would be a rather glaring understatement. The band’s self-titled debut was so good that I declared it to be my number one album of 2014, and while things have been relatively quiet for the Californian triptych since then (barring a series of irregular live appearances), its manifold metallic delights have remained in steady rotation ever since.

You can therefore possibly imagine my shock to find that their sophomore album, A Path Unknown, was released suddenly and without fanfare on Bandcamp yesterday. Continue reading »

Mar 112016

Death Fortress-Deathless March


(From time to time Andy Synn posts lists of things that come in five’s… and today he writes about five forthcoming albums that have peaked his interest.)

We’re only just over two months into 2016 now, and yet already we’ve seen the release of a host of stellar albums from across the metallic spectrum, including several (Wildernessking and Borknagar, to name but two) which easily ranked amongst my most eagerly anticipated releases of the year.

So now seems like as good a time as any to pick out five other albums which I’ve been waiting on with (not literally) baited breath.

Obviously this isn’t a comprehensive list. In fact I’ve specifically left out any upcoming albums I’ve already heard (Cult of Luna, for example) or which we’ve covered here at NCS recently (Mithras, Schammasch, etc), in favour of five selections a little more personal to me. Continue reading »

Jun 272014

(Andy Synn delivers another installment of his irregular series of album reviews in haiku. Two more reviews come after the jump. With music, of course.)

So it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these columns, as my productivity on NCS has been particularly dire recently. While I’m working to correct that though, I thought I might as well use the format of this particular column to try and catch up on a few things we’ve missed out on.

As part of that I’ve decided to shake things up slightly, and give each of these albums a small introduction preceding each haiku. It’s a good time to bring it in, too, as each of these albums fits vaguely under the “Post/Atmospheric Black Metal” banner, so are all somewhat disparately united under a common theme, despite all hailing from different countries around the globe.

Anyway, enough of that blather, on to the poetry! (that sounded way more metal in my head)


A Post/Ambient Black Metal three-piece from San Francisco, Ion released their self-titled debut in April this year and I was immediately blown away. This is a brilliant, mesmerising album of blackened blast beats and gleaming celestial melody, based around a vibrant core of feverish riffs and soaring leads, that gets better and better with each listen. It completely renews my faith in this style of music every time I hear it. Continue reading »