Nov 132013

Sales of music CDs in the US are in a state of “terminal decline”, and are projected to continue dropping by an average annual rate of 13% from now through 2017 and will probably never see “any kind of sales increase again”. Ironically, as some believe, they could be saved from complete extinction only by consumers who come to see them as a “nostalgia niche product”.

Maybe a day will come, far off in the future, when history will repeat itself and CDs will experience the resurgence that vinyl sales have been experiencing recently. But even with vinyl sales growing, the total physical market for music in the US is already dwarfed by digital sales, and the disparity is only going to get worse. The same trends are happening globally as well.

As physical sales of music have dropped, some observers have worried that album art would also become less and less significant, both as an art form and as a draw for consumers. I used to be one of those people. But I’ve changed my mind. I don’t base my optimism on any hard data, just my own observations, and so maybe I’m guilty of wishful thinking. But at least in the world of metal, it sure seems that fans still care about quality album art, and that striking album art draws fans into music they would otherwise never discover — even if they’re only buying digital downloads. Continue reading »

May 092013

I’m getting a late start on the day and didn’t write a post last night that would be ready to start things off this morning. I stopped at my favorite watering hole at the end of the work day and lions got me. I shouldn’t call my friends lions, but once I used the term “watering hole”, images of prey animals being mauled in the savannah immediately came to mind. I felt well and truly mauled by the time I fell into bed late last night.

While I recover from too much drink and smoke, I thought I’d give you something to gaze upon. This is a collection of recent artwork completed by various artists for forthcoming metal albums or merch. We’ve featured the work of most of these artists before, and I follow what they’re up to, because they kick ass, figuratively speaking of course. There will be new music accompanying some of the art, too.

The first piece, above, is by Japanese master Toshihiro Egawa. It’s something he did for a Russian band I’m pretty high on, 7 H.Target. They’ve now finished a second album, Psy Slam Damage, which is coming out May 16 via Coyote Records. But Egawa’s artwork isn’t for that album. It’s an illustration for the next album . . . 0.00 Apocalypse . . . which will feature vocals by Mirus (ex-Katalepsy) and will be released by Sevared Records sometime later this year. Mark Cooper has also created artwork for the album, and this post will include something by him, too. Continue reading »

Nov 202012

I stayed home from work yesterday. I picked a bad day to do that. Yesterday afternoon we lost power on our island due to a really nasty day-long storm that raged through the Puget Sound area. We got the generator going, but the DSL service in our area went down at the same time the power did, and it didn’t come back before I went to bed. This morning, the power and the DSL were both back.

The experience vividly demonstrated how obsessive I’ve become about this fucking blog. Being disconnected from the internet for about 12 hours prevented me from keeping up with what was happening in the world of metal. I experienced feelings of anxiety and intense frustration. I didn’t know what to do with myself.

It got so bad that I drove in the darkness  through the driving wind and rain to the ferry terminal, where the power was on and an internet connection was available. I sat there for about 30 minutes, getting this morning’s first post ready to appear automatically and doing a bit of web surfing, and then decided I shouldn’t leave my wife alone in our powerless house any longer and went home. Fucking sick, that’s what I am. I need help of some kind.

This morning I spent hours catching up on what I missed while the net connection was down. I found dozens of interesting-looking things. Even after winnowing out the ones that turned out to be less interesting than they first appeared to be, I still have more shit to share than would manageably fit in one post, so I’m dividing them into three posts, of which this is the first. I’m going to cover the new music and videos in alphabetical order.

But before diving in, here’s one piece of breaking news: Year-end listmania is almost upon us, and it begins with DECIBEL magazine selecting All We Love We Leave Behind by Converge as its Album of the Year. Here’s the proof, as it appeared on the Converge Facebook page: Continue reading »

Sep 082012

Introducing people to new music from the underground and eye-catching cover art are two of the things we enjoy most at this site, and today we get to do both. Acrania are a band from southeast UK who are on the verge of releasing a split (Galactic Infections) with California’s Blue Waffle, and today we give you the exclusive premiere of Acrania’s contribution to the split: “Susceptible To Retinal Based Reprogrammability”.

Yes, that song title is a mouthful. The music is also a brutish slug in the mouth — and a flurry of heavy-booted kicks to the head. Acrania inflict severe bodily damage with slamming rhythms, a seething hive of buzzing riffage, rapid-fire percussion, and vocals that span the range from grisly gurgling to unhinged shrieking. It’s brutal, but it’s also groovy. You may feel inclined to bust up your abode while you listen, but you can bang your head while you take the sledgehammer to your walls.

As you can see, Acrania and Blue Waffle also have good taste in art. The cover for their new split is graced by the grisly renderings of Ken Sarafin of Sarafin Concepts, whose work we’ve featured at NCS more than once (check out these posts, for example). Acrania also have a debut EP in the works that will feature cover art by NCS favorite Pär Olofsson, and you can take a look at that after the jump.

But first, get some demolition tools ready and check out “Susceptible To Retinal Based Reprogrammability” . . . Continue reading »

Aug 282012

One thing leads to another. In late July, I came across an awesome album cover by Denver-based artist Ken Sarafin (Sarafin Concepts) for a death metal project created by Sarafin called Bunch (and posted about that here). Though it isn’t available yet, the album will be titled Otero.

Then yesterday I saw the amazing artwork you see above, which appeared on the Bunch Facebook page. It’s an alternate cover for Otero (Bunch will eventually have three alternate covers for the album, with the third one coming from Mark Cooper of Mindrape Art — and one day I’ll devote a post to him, too). The artist is Sam Nelson, who’s also in Denver and calls his graphics business Stigma Art.

Well, having seen that killer Otero cover, I had to find more of Sam Nelson’s work, which I did — and holy hell, is he good. Some of his most striking recent works turn out to be covers for forthcoming albums by metal bands whose names were new to me. So of course I had to find some of their music, and it turns out to be worth sharing — and voilà, this post came together!

So, after the jump, feast your eyes on Sam Nelson’s cover art for Stoic Dissention and Kitezh, listen to some of their past music, and also check out a couple tracks from a music project between Nelson and Sarafin called Handsel (yeah, it’s really annoying that these dudes also have musical talent in addition to being fine artists), plus a few more examples of Sam Nelson’s creativity. Continue reading »

Jul 312012

Here are things I saw and heard today.


I saw a temperature gauge at high noon here in The Emerald City: 63°F. And the sun is shining. All of you poor fuckers who are broiling like burgers on a charcoal grill everywhere east of the Pacific Coast can hate me now, and along about January you can remind me that I made this obnoxious crack at your expense.


I saw that awesomely phantasmagoric piece of artwork up above. It’s by Ken Sarafin of Sarafin Concepts. It’s for a death metal project called Bunch, of which Sarafin seems to be a member — one of many. Here’s this description from the Bunch FB page: “Bunch is a band formed from 28 different members, each playing one note a song. Occasionally during recording, a member might repeat a note several times. If that happens, a break with cookies is required afterwards. Bunch likes cookies.”

There are a bunch of Bunch demo tracks at this location. I picked one to stream after the jump. Continue reading »

Jan 192012

A couple days ago TheMadIsraeli sent me a link to DECIBEL’s online site, and what should greet my eyes upon landing there but THAT piece of arresting artwork up. I was so struck by the colors and the imagery that I almost forgot there was supposed to be a song on that page, too.

The song is a new single called “Lairs of the Ascending Masters” by a Nashville band signed to Sumerian called Enfold Darkness. It’s an interesting blackened take on tech metal, with spidery riffing, swarmy soloing, spit-fire drumming, and vocals that vault from growly lows to torture-victim shrieks of pain — all of it rushing along well above the speed limit. If that sounds attractive, hop over to DECIBEL and let “Lairs” give your head a good scouring.

Since I’ve heard the song several times, what I want to do is talk more about the artwork. It was created by Ken Sarafin, who happens to be the vocalist for a Denver-based band named Vale of Pnath. Vale of Pnath released a self-titled EP in 2009 and then a debut album last August on Willowtip Records called The Prodigal Empire. I haven’t heard the whole album, though I’ve seen good things written about the band in comments here at NCS as well as elsewhere, and I was certainly intrigued enough by the artwork of Vale’s vocalist to finally dip a toe in the water. As noted, I also took a deeper dive into Ken Sarafin’s art. Continue reading »