Apr 112018


I’ve been away from home since last Friday morning, mainly working on the things I do when I’m not throwing music at your heads at NCS, but having some fun here and there. I shudder to think what havoc the loris horde have wrecked at the NCS compound while I’ve been gone. I’ll find out tonight; I’ll be leaving for the Philadelphia airport, bound for Seattle, as soon as I post this hurried collection.

The huge list of new songs I had created before leaving Seattle torments me; I’ve grown more tormented looking at what popped up in my e-mail and web-surfing last night and this morning. Just too damned much intriguing metal being vomited forth every day. This is a tiny fraction of what I found most recently.


White Noise and Black Metal is the name of the new album by the long-running Swedish black metal cult Craft, their first one in seven years. The release date, through Season of Mist, is June 22nd. Continue reading »

May 202016

Surrounding the Earth logo


Long-time followers of our site will be familiar with Nick Vasallo, but for newcomers in the audience, he is the lead vocalist and songwriter for the excellent technical death metal band Oblivion — and he has a Ph.D. in Music, he is the Director of Music Industry Studies at Diablo Valley College and Artistic Director for Composers, Inc., and he is a composer of contemporary classical music whose works have been performed internationally.

When last we featured him in these pages (here), the subject was a video for an experimental composition named “Inches From Freedom” performed by the guitar-and-drum duo known as The Living Earth Show (Travis Andrews and Andrew Meyerson) and two clarinetists — John McCowen and Gleb Kanasevich (yes, THE death metal clarinet cover guy).

Since then Vasallo (vocals/guitar) and those same four other musicians have formed a new project called Surrounding the Earth, and what we have for you today is a video for a 13-minute opus composed by Vasallo and performed by Surrounding the Earth called “Part I“. Continue reading »

Feb 252015


I’m way behind on plans to collect new discoveries for our usual round-ups, but I thought I would leave just this one new disorienting thing for your listening and viewing pleasure before calling it quits for this Wednesday.

The architect of the video you’ll find at the end of this post is Nick Vasallo, the lead vocalist and songwriter for the excellent technical death metal band Oblivion – who also happens to be assistant professor in the Music Department at Cal State Polytechnic University (Pomona) and a composer of contemporary classical music whose works have been performed internationally.

For this piece, which is entitled “Inches From Freedom”, Dr. Vasallo conducted an experiment, using the talents of five performers scattered around the globe. Here’s how he describes what you’re about to see and hear: Continue reading »

Aug 142014

Long-time followers of our site will be familiar with Nick Vasallo, but for any newcomers in the audience, he is the lead vocalist and songwriter for the excellent technical death metal band Oblivion — and he has a Ph.D. in Music, he is an assistant professor at Cal State Polytechnic University (Pomona), and he is a composer of contemporary classical music whose works have been performed internationally.

When last we featured him in these pages (here), the subject was the composition that earned him his Ph.D., a unique collision of heavy metal and classical music entitled Black Swan Events. Now we’re delighted to bring you the on-line premiere of another composition that incorporates elements of both musical genres.

The title of this new work is “Ozymandias”, and it comes in the form of a remarkable music video. Accompanying the video we also have a brief interview of Nick Vasallo in which he discusses the music and the way in which it has been presented in the video.

As the name suggests, the music was inspired by Percy Bysshe Shelley’s famous poem “Ozymandias”, an allegory for the impermanence of empires, and at a deeper level, of most human achievements; perhaps only art survives, the poem suggests, and even then in a state of gradual decay. The music is an unpredictable work — sometimes dissonant, distorted, and disturbing, sometimes quite head-bangable, and sometimes dramatically powerful. And it ends with the sound of singing bowls! Continue reading »

Sep 062013

(photo by Brandon Hunt)

What I’m about to say won’t come as a complete shock to those of you who read NCS regularly, but it may still be a challenge to wrap your mind around it:  Nick Vasallo, lead vocalist and songwriter for the excellent technical death metal band Oblivion, has a Ph.D. in Music, is a professor at Cal State Polytechnic University (Pomona), and is a composer of classical music whose works have been performed internationally.

But even if you knew all that, you may not know that one of Vassalo’s compositions, and the one that earned him his Ph.D., represents a collision of heavy metal and classical music, and then ultimately a synthesis of the two. The name of the piece is Black Swan Events, and later in this post you’re going to see and hear the premiere of a video of its performance in Berkeley, California, on August 17, 2013.

The integration of metal and classical music in this concerto goes well beyond the fact that it was written for electric guitar, drum set, and orchestra. The integration occurs at a much deeper level, as I’ll do my best to explain in a moment. But first, it may help to know where the title of the work comes from. Continue reading »

Sep 242012

(In this feature, TheMadIsraeli conducts an extended video interview of Nick Vasallo and Ted O’Neill of new Bay Area death metal heavyweights Oblivion.  Also be sure to check out TheMadIsraeli’s review of Oblivion’s forthcoming debut album, Called To Rise.)

So, here it is my first video interview. I have to say, I was a bit nervous about how this was going to go. I’d never done this before, the method sounded iffy (a Skype call recorded using Camtasia), and I had an up-and-coming band who were unfortunately the guinea pigs of an experiment that could’ve gone horribly wrong.

Fortunately, thankfully, and awesomely enough, however, Oblivion and I got what I feel to be a kickass interview, especially for a first time try at it. Nick and Ted are awesome dudes (as you’ll see in this video), and I really enjoyed doing this.

I need you NCS readers though to be heavy on the feedback about this. Did you like it? Do you like the idea? Would you like to see more? Cause if so, I’m pretty sure I know a few people who’d be willing and eager to jump at the chance.

Enjoy the interview. It’s long, detailed, and kind of insane. Continue reading »

Aug 302012

(In this post TheMadIsraeli brings us a fascinating change of pace, with a review of classical music composed by Nick Vasallo.)

Today we aren’t reviewing a metal album.  Today we’re reviewing a classical album.  We at NCS are classy men anyhow, so why not?

Though in all seriousness, classical music has been (dare I say it) the foundation of metal (not rock) as we know it.  Yes, there is no doubt that Blues was as integral to metal’s development, but I think classical is an even bigger part of the equation.  You can take even brutal tech-death like Cryptopsy or Suffocation and find a way to draw parallels with baroque, classical, or even romantic-era music.  This shit flows through the veins of the most brutal of music, so in my mind it actually seems entirely relevant that this kind of music should be reviewed here.

Of course, I didn’t just go and pick something out of the blue; this album is even more related to metal than most of its genre.  Why?  Because the Vasallo in question is Nick Vasallo — one-third of up-and-coming tech-deathers Oblivion (whose three-song demo I reviewed in February — it fucking owned).  I was quite surprised to find out that he’s a classical composer and that this is actually his musical forté (maybe even over metal?), although it’s quite obvious in his work that he tries to incorporate his love of metal into this niche, as well as both Western and Asian classical music.

This creates an interesting dynamic.  Usually we humans take the old, the established, and try to find ways to keep them fresh, yet grounded in convention.  Vasallo does the opposite, taking a tried and true ancient form of music that brought us some of the greatest masterpieces ever written and breathing new life into it by reversing the roles, where the orchestral instrumentation is made a student of the metal.  I realize that sentence sounds garbled as fuck, it may not even make much sense, but it’s the best I can do at the moment.

So, in essence, what does metal have to bring to this table?  I suppose it should be noted that in my dialogues with Vasallo, death metal seems to really be his thing.  So, to rephrase the question, what does death metal offer?  What does it capture that’s relevant to these compositions? Continue reading »