Aug 282012

(Our NCS comrade Andy Synn has recently been making me green with envy by attending summer metal festivals on the other side of the Atlantic, which for me might as well be on the other side of the solar system.  However, gentleman and scholar that he is, he didn’t just go and have a ridiculously good time. He also sent back this review of his jaunt to the UK’s BLOODSTOCK festival on August 10-12, 2012. We’re dividing it into two parts, with Part 2 coming up tomorrow [now posted here].)

Ah, Bloodstock. Always an interesting festival, caught between its early power/trad-metal roots and its steady expansion into a more rounded, extreme/non-mainstream metal festival. This year’s line-up was pretty enticing, but circumstances and finances looked set to prevent my attendance. But fate and serendipity stepped in (thank you Sahil!) and on Friday 10th of August I found myself once more pulling into the festival’s parking lot, with a song in my heart and a shiny guest wristband on my arm.



Carefully timing my arrival to coincide with that of Moonsorrow, I wasn’t disappointed, the band utterly on fire, despite the occasionally washed out sound. It helps that the set-list comprised some of my favourite Moonsorrow tracks, I’ll admit that, but the performance itself was brilliant either way. The only downside is that, due to the length of their material, it always seems like too few songs

Sepultura put on a damn good show, their new drummer certainly doing his best to live up to Igor Cavalera’s enviable legacy, while the triptych of Derrick, Paulo, and Andreas showed again and again why they stuck with the name – they just do it all better. The new material sounded great live, while the quartet give the old stuff, including a brace of Beneath The Remains-era material, new life and vigour. Props as well for the welcome, but unexpected, guest slot from Tim “Ripper” Owens on “Territory”.

Dio Disciples were, in many ways, something of a curiosity for the festival. Essentially Dio’s band with a different singer (and a few guests), it’s hard to judge them on merit alone, as their appearance was due to far more than just an ability to play the songs well. This was a tribute to one of the genre’s legendary figures, and while it would be churlish to say it was simply a well-received cover set (the downright dedication to this band’s slot bordered on the fanatical), one can’t help but be moved by this show of respect, and by being reminded of the sheer quality of the material on display. Continue reading »

Apr 062012

(After a little hiatus, BadWolf rejoins us with a thought-provoking piece and lots of sick music [double entendre intended].)

None of us are angels. In fact, most people commit evil on a daily basis (more often if you’re a politician in America). As Anaal Nathrakh said: hell is empty, and the devils are all here.

I’m willing to forgive most people their sins. In fact, most acts considered ‘wrong” or ‘immoral’ are deemed as such based on the value judgments of hypocritical organizations (what up, Catholic church? Yeah. I went to one of your middle schools. What about it!?). It’s value-judgments all the way down my friends, and as such I’m reluctant to cry (bad)wolf at most people.

Racists are an exception to that rule. I never understood judging people based on race when other factors like economic status factor so heavily into racially charged situations. I mean, which of these makes more sense:

A) some dude robbed you because he is starving, unemployed and addicted to hard drugs from birth


B) some dude robbed you because his skin cells produce more melanin.

…I know, right!? Continue reading »

Dec 152011

(This is the fourth 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, and tomorrow we’ll have his Personal Top 10. Today, we have 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’s the penultimate list of the week, the first of two ranked top-tens. This list will include the albums that I think are the very best of the best, the ones that best combine creativity, artistic ambition, song-writing, and performance. Regardless of my personal feelings and preferences, these are the albums that I think are critically superior to others. Though the ranking of them was difficult (as it always is when trying to compare artists and albums across metallic sub-genres), I’ve tried my best to give a sense about the critical and objective factors that led to each record earning its respective position on this list.

Although the potential candidates for the list were unavoidably influenced by my own listening tastes — I do, after all, only really tend to select the albums that I feel best qualified and most inspired to review – I have done my best to keep personal preference as far away from these judgements as possible, something that I hope will become clear when you see tomorrow how different the list of my top ten “favourite” albums of the year is from today’s list.

So here are the ten releases I think best represent the year critically. The ten that, ultimately, would be my choices to represent the year in metal music for posterity. Some of them have appeared quite commonly on other lists, albeit perhaps weighted differently, while others have largely been ignored by other sources thus far. Enjoy . . . Continue reading »

Jul 012011

June is behind us, July lies ahead. Here in the U.S., we’re about to start the long weekend leading up to Independence Day, when Americans celebrate the birth of the nation by buying explosive ordinance wherever fine explosive ordinance is sold and lighting up the night sky (in addition to blowing the shit out of objects and sometimes themselves). People will also be exposing unsightly parts of their bodies wherever sun can be found and eating large quantities of health food prepared on outdoor grills. Our Founding Fathers would be proud of what they wrought!

Because the last month has ended, that means it’s time for another installment of METAL IN THE FORGE, in which we collect news blurbs and press releases we’ve seen over the last month about forthcoming new albums from bands we know and like (including occasional updates about releases we’ve included in previous installments of this series), or from bands that look interesting, even though we don’t know their music yet. In this series, we cut and paste those announcements and compile them in alphabetical order.

Remember — this isn’t a cumulative list. If we found out about a new album during May or preceding months, we wrote about them in previous installments of this series. So, be sure to check the Category link called “Forthcoming Albums” on the right side of this page to see forecasted releases we reported earlier. This month’s list begins right after the jump. Look for your favorite bands, or get intrigued about some new ones. And feel free to tell us about how we fucked up by omitting releases that we overlooked. 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 »

Mar 032011

(UK contributor Andy Synn is back with a review of the brand new release from Finland’s Moonsorrow.)

One of the greatest, and grandest, of all folk-derived metal acts, the proud men of Moonsorrow have always been consummate storytellers, mining a rich seam of Finnish folk-history in order to weld its themes and melodies onto a more traditional metal backbone of heavy, surging guitars and rampaging drums.

Never a band for catchy choruses per se, the songs on this album instead feature numerous recurring melodic themes which act as character pieces, holding the narrative of each song together via their tasteful deployment and haunting hooks. These variable refrains serve as our guides through the often linear progression of the album, keeping us invested whilst the band ignores the standard trappings of metal composition and song-writing in favour of a more organic approach to story-telling, performed at its own pace and with little regard for the more stock conventions of the modern album as a commercial entity.

The folk elements are perhaps less vibrant this time around, as the subject matter of the album requires a more sombre tone, although there remain moments of uplifting melancholy and heroic themes which rise and swell as the songs dictate. (more after the jump . . .) Continue reading »

Feb 272011

We’re jumping the gun on this post, since the month doesn’t end until tomorrow. Why? Uh, because this post is ready to go and we don’t have anything else finished for today yet. Work and other shit interfered with our grand plans for a Sunday post.  We might still get another one up later today, but for now, feast your eyes on the barrage of metal headed our direction.

What we do with these installments of METAL IN THE FORGE is collect news blurbs and press releases we’ve seen over the last 30 days (or in this case, the last 27 days) about forthcoming new albums from bands we know and like (including updates about releases we’ve included in previous installments of this series), or from bands that look interesting, even though we don’t know them yet. And in this post, we cut and paste the announcements and compile them in alphabetical order.

This isn’t a cumulative list, so be sure to check the Category link called “Forthcoming New Albums” on the right side of this page to see forecasted releases we reported in previous installments. This month’s list begins right after the jump. Look for your favorite bands, or get intrigued about some new ones. There’s some awesome shit on the way. Continue reading »

Feb 152011

That eye-catching piece of art above is the cover for Celestial Completion, the next album by Atlanta’s Becoming the Archetype. The original painting was done by Dan Seagrave with art direction from Ryan Clark at Invisible Creature (if that name sounds familiar, that’s the same Ryan Clark who’s the frontman for Demon Hunter). Looks like, when the rapture comes, there will be some interruptions in shipping traffic.

We thought this band’s 2008 album, Dichotomy, was an interesting dish of progressive death metal. The new single they released in 2009 — “Necrotizing Fasciitis” — in addition to being an inventively named piece of music with an unusual metaphor at the core of its lyrics, was a promise of even more interesting things to come. It turned the brutality dial up more than a few notches and jettisoned most of the prog influences, but still included some nice tech-death flourishes.

Now, as a teaser for the next album, the band have released a single for streaming. It sounds almost nothing like “Necrotizing Fasciitis”, but it’s growing on us. And it’s just the first of three teasers we’ve stapled together in this post.

For our second one, we’ve got a mix of the music from the next release by Finland’s awesome Moonsorrow, and to finish off the post, there’s a clip from the forthcoming DVD by Cannibal Corpse. Hey, you can’t say we don’t bend over backwards to bring you variety in metal. (all this stuff is after the jump . . .) Continue reading »

Dec 132010

There’s no unifying theme to today’s installment in our Finland Tribute Week series — just a line-up of bands that need to be mentioned if we’re to do even half-assed justice to Finnish metal, all three of which are expected to release new albums in 2011. So, without further introductory verbiage, here we go:


Norther, a band often compared (rightly or wrongly) to Children of Bodom, originally started in 1996 as a death-metal band under the name Requiem, then changed their name to Decayed, and then in 2000, after significant line-up changes, to Norther.

From 1996 to 2009, the band was fronted by Petri Lindroos — who has also been the vocalist/guitarist for Ensiferum since 2004. In 2009, he was replaced as Norther’s vocalist by Aleksi Sihvonen — who is also the vocalist for Medicated and former vocalist for the now-defunct Imperanon (whose guitarist Teemu Mäntysaari is now a member of Wintersun). The band also includes bass-player Jukka Koskinen, who is also a member of Wintersun (as is Jari Mäenpää, who used to be a vocalist/guitarist with Ensiferum) and also now plays for Amberian Dawn, as does Norther’s drummer Heikki Saari.

Are you following this? Are we clear? Apparently, the Finns play musical chairs, too.

Norther has produced five albums to date, the last of which was a 2008 release called N. The band has recorded a new album, to be called Circle Regenerated, for an early 2011 release on Century Media Records.  They’ve released a digital single from that album, which features Sihvonen’s vocals and the guitar playing of Daniel Freyberg (Naildown, Source of Demise), who joined the band this year. The single is called “Break Myself Away”, and after the jump we’ll show you how to download it for free, plus we’ll have some older Norther music for you, too. Continue reading »

Apr 232010

On the night of April 21, The Finnish Metal Tour 2010 played Seattle’s El Corazon, and two of your NCS Co-Authors were there to bear witness and file this report — along with a big batch of our amateurish photos.

With the likes of Finntroll, Moonsorrow, and Swallow the Sun on the bill, we expected nothing less than excellence on stage, and that’s what we got. Which brings to mind a question we’ve had before:

How does a country with only 5.4 million people produce so many awesome metal bands? We still don’t know the answer. But whatever the explanation, here’s hoping it doesn’t stop. Judging by the reaction of the full house at El Corazon, we’re not alone in feeling that way.

Before the procession of Finns took the stage, two local bands got the growing crowd nice and warmed up.


This five-piece Seattle band plays Gothenburg-flavored, melodic death metal, driven at a galloping pace by some flashy keyboard and guitar work. They’ve got some good song-writing chops, too. The songs were memorable, and we’ve been drawn to the band’s MySpace page to listen again.

They’re one of those rare bands whose lead vocalist is the guy behind the drum kit, and his evil, death-metal vocals make a nice contrast with the memorable melodies. We were told that the band has finished tracking a debut album, to follow an EP released last year. We definitely want to hear it. A strong start to the night!  (our concert notes continue after the jump, plus lots of photos at the end . . .)

Continue reading »