Jan 222014

(Andy Synn reviews the new album by Norway’s Iskald, which just may be the best of their storied career.)

Majestic. Masterful. Malevolent.

Passionate. Progressive. Powerful.

No, those aren’t the taglines to this year’s latest Oscar-baiting epic, they’re the words that immediately came to mind whilst enjoying my first listen to Iskald’s fourth album Nedom Og Nord.

Now Black Metal, for all its evocative imagery and striking musical palette, can sometimes be a difficult genre to talk about… at least in a fresh way.

That’s not because it’s become completely swamped by cliché (like all genres, there are those who go beyond it, and those who sink beneath it…) but because there’s a particular vocabulary so closely tied to how we talk about the genre.

“Chilling”, “Frostbitten”, “Grim”… all words that evoke the cold, frozen heart of the genre, and all words which crop up (in various permutations) throughout any discussion of it and its myriad forms, from its most basic, to its most esoteric.

And there’s a feeling that Iskald know this, because this time around they’ve pulled out all the stops to make this album truly definitive. Continue reading »

Dec 102013

The pace of metal is molten, as in the pace of a pyroclastic flow. So much news and noteworthy new music erupts each day that I can barely keep up with it even when I’m paying attention. And over the last two weeks while on vacation, I wasn’t paying attention, or at least not much. Trying to catch up with everything that happened while I was away would be foolhardy — because while digging back through even two weeks’ worth of events I’d be missing a lot of what will happen over the next two weeks.

Having said that, I do want to make at least a partial stab at catching up, based in part on messages I received from my NCS co-writers and in part on a few random forays of my own while on vacation. There’s a high likelihood that many of you already know about what I’ve chosen to feature in this multi-part “Catching Up” series, but some may not, so I’m forging ahead. In this first part of the series I’m collecting release information plus new songs or videos by three excellent bands, in alphabetical order.


These Polish titans have a new album entitled The Satanist that will be released by Nuclear Blast on February 3 in the UK, February 4 in North America and Poland, February 5 in Japan, and February 7 in the rest of Europe and the world; it’s now available for pre-order in Europe here. While I was gone, the talented artist Denis Forkas Kostromitin revealed the album’s cover art, which you can see above. It’s a piece entitled “Chalice of Severance” and is described as “acrylics, gilding and blood on linen” — the blood being that of Behemoth’s frontman Nergal. Continue reading »

Apr 032013

(NCS writer Andy Synn has returned from Oslo’s Inferno Festival, held on March 27-30, 2013, and brings us a multi-part report of what he saw and heard, along with photos. Check out his Opening Day report here.)

Kicking off the festival-proper at the early time of 17:30 Horned Almighty were like a veritable boot to the face of the assembled audience. Nasty, brutal, and brimming with feral punk aggression, the group come across as a bad-boy version of the Misfits, raised on black metal nihilism and death metal misanthropy, and kick up a hell of a racket, with a truly demolition-strength guitar tone. Material from across their four albums bulked out the set, with the strongest focus being on Contaminating The Divine and Necro Spirituals.

Frontman S. didn’t let the fact that the band were opening the festival proper intimidate him, spitting necrosadistic venom at the crowd with his spiteful, belligerent snarl, while the aptly-named Carnage on bass was a stalking, twisting revelation of spindly fingers and malevolent contortions. Give these guys a longer set and a bigger stage someone! Continue reading »

Dec 052012

(NCS writer Andy Synn pauses after the 30th installment of THE SYNN REPORT to take a look back at the first two years of the series.)

Ok, so we’ve now had 30 ‘official’ entries in The Synn Report. I hope that a good number of you have discovered new bands and gone out and shown your support for them, buying music, merch, gig tickets, etc.

I thought, since the year (and the world!!!) is coming to an end, it might be a good time to provide a quick one-stop summation of all the previous entries, for those of you who maybe missed a couple, or for new devotees of the site who have yet to encounter the earlier editions and the bands contained therein.

Did you know that the genesis for The Synn Report was not entirely down to me? There’s a post that I consider ‘The Synn Report: Year Zero” which was written by Islander himself, in response to my recommendation of a particular band. That post is included here, as I think it’s an important foundation stone in the genesis of The Synn Report, and because I think the band in question are utterly phenomenal.

So there we go, after the jump there’s a tiny entry on each band from each edition of The Synn Report, with a short genre description and a re-iteration of the “Recommended for fans of:” section. Which ones did you miss? Which ones should you give another shot to? Click each one to be linked to the appropriate article, where you’ll find the full write-ups and sample songs from each release! Continue reading »

Dec 162011

(This is the last installment in Andy Synn’s week-long series of posts looking back at albums released this year. Andy previously provided his lists of the year’s Great albumsthe Good ones, and the most Disappointing ones, as well as his list of “The Critical Top 10″. For more explanation of what all this means, plus Andy’s picks for the year’s best EPs, visit this location.)

So here we are, the last list of Andy Synn Week (maybe not the official title, but give me something here guys). Here you will find the ten albums that have made the biggest impact on me personally, the ones which make the most frequent appearance on my playlist. Rarely a day goes by without me listening to at least one of these albums, often several times.

You will note that, in contrast to last year, all my favourite albums this year are drawn from my “Great” list. For once, this is definitely coincidental; it just so happens that as I was paring down my overall list of favourite albums to a mere ten entries, I was left solely with albums that I believe are personally, as well as critically, my absolute favourites. It also covers a whole spectrum of albums, some released right back at the very beginning of the year, reaching all the way up to extremely recent releases, so it also serves as a reasonably comprehensive list in terms of the time-frame it covers!

There’s some minor cross-over with yesterday’s list, as some albums were always bound to be both critically and personally fulfilling, but largely you’ll find here a cross-section of my musical preferences from the year. Each album comes with a short explanation of why I love it; not necessarily why it’s the “Best” album of the year, but just why it clicks with me personally. Continue reading »

Oct 172011

Here’s the second part of a post I started earlier today featuring a divergent assortment of new music and videos I heard and saw over the weekend. In Part 2, I’ve got a new song (and video) from Eryn Non Dae. (France), a recent live video from Iskald (Norway), and a new song from Dischordia (U.S.-Oklahoma).


In 2010, we published no fewer than four posts about this band from Toulouse, France. Those posts included a review of the band’s 2009 album Hydra Lernaïa, an interview with the band, and two updates that included videos of live performances. The last post, from June 2010, includes links to all the others. And then we’ve posted about them twice this year (here) and (here). Do you think we’re overdoing it? Obviously, I don’t think so. I think they’re worth all the attention, and then some. They’re one of the growing number of bands from France who have put that country on the worldwide map of great current metal.

The cause for today’s attention is a new song (yippee!) from a new album (ki-yay-motherfucker!) that’s in the works and planned for release next year. The song is called “Scarlet Rising”, and the band was caught on film performing it at the Impetus festival in Montbéliard, France this past April. (more after the jump . . .) Continue reading »

Jun 012011

(Andy Synn had a full, black (metal) weekend (except for the fact that he missed Enslaved on Sunday). Before jumping the ocean waters to visit Oslo for that Dimmu concert he wrote about yesterday, he spent a night with Abigail Williams, Thulcandra, and Iskald in England, and has kindly provided us with a report. You should know that he started that night, not in the audience, but on stage roaring with his band Bloodguard.)

On Friday the 27th of May, my band and I were lucky enough to open the show for three extremely talented black metal acts. Though the crowd was small, they were all passionate about their love of the genre and equally appreciative of all the bands’ efforts. Each of the three bands demonstrated a different facet of the black metal template, be it the proggy, thrashy approach favoured by Iskald, the streamlined melodicism of Thulcandra‘s Dissection-worship, or the tense, introverted catharsis of Abigail Williams.

Openers Iskald played a short, tight set, delving into material from all three of their albums.”Under The Black Moon” off their latest (phenomenal) album was a sumptuous delight of crunchy guitars and awkward, obscure rhythms, while “A Breath Of Apocalypse” pummelled and grooved with a refreshing directness and power. Throughout their set, thrash-style speeds and an at-times death metal aesthetic wrapped around soaring, crystal clear melodies, intelligent, driving drums and rough, propulsive Immortal/Enslaved-style riffage.

Sharp and icy, the band delivered time and time again, with each song bearing a different and distinct flavour. Songs like “Domesdag” (introduced as “a true Norwegian song”) and “Det Stilner Til Storm” brought a fiery passion to match the cold melancholy of their icy melodies, their moody, progressive diversions and impressive, yet restrained, technicality demonstrating exactly why Iskald deserve to be held amongst the elite of modern-day black metal. In particular, their most recent material demonstrates more growth and ambition than most latter-day members of the black fraternity can muster, unafraid to explore different textures and impressive, forward-thinking structures. (more after the jump . . .) Continue reading »

Feb 102011

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Our UK contributor Andy Synn returns with another edition of The Synn Report. This edition serves as part retrospective and part review of Iskald’s newest CD, The Sun I Carried Alone, which has just been released.)

Primarily described as a Black/Thrash hybrid, Iskald is the brainchild of Simon Larsen (Vocals, Guitars, Bass and Keyboards) and Aage André Krekling (drums and vocals) whose progressive, open take on furious yet melodic black metal is like a scalpel to death metal’s sledgehammer, vicious and precise but no less lethal in intent.

With lyrics in both English and Norwegian, the band maintains a keen grasp of its own cultural heritage, informed by a wider world view than can be attributed to many of their peers. Thematically, the lyrics cover a lot of bleak and epic ground, addressing the mystery of forbidden secrets and cataclysmic ruin, but also dip into darkly romantic waters similar to what one might expect of My Dying Bride and Katatonia.

The use of keys is subtle and interesting, neither overtly symphonic and overwhelming or poorly produced and underwhelming (as can so often be the case).  The drums provide more than just standard blast-heavy backing beats, performing quick and capable fills and tempo changes as part of an overall technically impressive display, while the bass remains a key component in the band’s sound. The duo’s real strength however is their ability to effortlessly reel off an endless supply of quality riffs, accented by intricate drum work and progressively inclined song-structures. (more after the jump, including songs from the band’s discography . . .) Continue reading »