Jun 122014

Here are some new things I found over the last 24 hours that I thought were worth sharing around. I’m doing my best to finish a review, so I’m going to atypically attempt to be brief. I know this will cause mass depression among readers, but that’s just the way it has to be.


As previously reported, the next album by Iceland’s Sólstafir is named Ótta and will be released by Season of Mist on August 29 in Europe and September 2 in North America. Today the album became available for pre-order in triple-LP format (here) and the cover art was disclosed (above). I don’t know what thinking is behind the use of this photo or how it relates to the music and/or lyrics, but I like it — such a dramatic setting, and such a fascinating face. Bought it.

Also today Stereogum premiered the new album’s title track. You may not be prepared for it. You may not even think it’s metal. But I think it’s goddamned awesome. It’s icy and adrift, bleak and beautiful, melancholy and memorable. But it has a harsh edge as well, it rocks in its own way, and the soaring of the vocals into a howl near the end are very cool. And is that an electrified mandolin I’m hearing, along with the synth and strings? (Answer:  Nope, it’s a banjo!)

Go HERE to listen.


I’ve written before about the Relapse reissue of the one and only album by Sweden’s God Macabre — a band who’ve frequently been on my mind ever since seeing their magnificent set at Maryland Deathfest XII last month. One of my friends who was there with me surprised the hell out of me a few days ago with a gift of the special MDF edition of the LP. And then yesterday I noticed that the digital version of The Winterlong reissue is now available on Bandcamp. If you haven’t heard it, you should. It has lost nothing in the two decades since its original release. Here it is: Continue reading »

Apr 022014

My close friends and family members will tell you that I’m one of the most gullible people you could ever encounter. I prefer to think of it as an innately trusting nature, but my history of being duped is so long and rich that I can’t really quarrel with their judgment. Even on April 1, when I try to be on guard, I still get suckered like a carnival rube.

There were lots of metal-oriented pranks yesterday that were funny even though they were obvious — such as the 50 reviews that suddenly materialized on Metal-Archives for the ingeniously named Penis Metal by Hades Archer. At least I think that was a prank. Sometimes gullibility can work in reverse.

One prank I fell for, hook, line, and sinker, appears at the top of this post. I have such a hard-on for Oak Pantheon and Amiensus, and their 2013 split Gathering, that I took one look at that flyer — and the appearance of a Seattle date — and started marking my calendar and exclaiming enthusiastically about it on Facebook. I didn’t dwell on the logistical difficulty of a tour that would start on the US East Coast, jump to a bunch of European capitols, and then pick up on the US West Coast, all within the space of a month. I also completely missed the two tiny words in the lower right-hand corner of the flyer. Continue reading »

Jan 252014

Welcome to Part 11 of our list of the year’s most infectious extreme metal songs. For more details about what this list is all about and how it was compiled, read the introductory post via this link. To see the selections that preceded the three I’m announcing today, click here.

That’s right, three songs today instead of two. I have reasons for grouping them together, but not because they’re similar. In fact, the styles of metal are quite different. I’ve put them together in this post because all three bands are relative newcomers, they’re all from the U.S., and they’ve already given us ample cause to expect great things from them in the future — because what they’ve already accomplished is pretty great. Of course, these three songs are also damned infectious.


This Minneapolis-based band will not be a new name for followers of NCS because we’ve been covering them closely since June 2011, when I included them in a feature that focused on a handful of promising bands I’d found who had less than 100 Facebook likes (they’re over 2,000 now). Musically, Oak Pantheon haven’t been standing still since then. Every new release seems to bring surprises — and further proof that their talents are as expansive as their musical interests.

Their latest release was a 2013 split with Amiensus (yet another very promising U.S. band), which I reviewed here. Oak Pantheon’s contribution to the split is a song entitled “A Gathering”. It manages to rock very hard while also being worthy of the label “epic”. I thought the riffs were ridiculously catchy when I first heard it, and time has only confirmed my first impressions — I’ve been drawn back to the song a lot over the last three months. It was a foregone conclusion that “A Gathering” would have a place on this list. Listen: Continue reading »

Dec 222013

(We again invited recording engineer and musician Sean Golyer (Oak Pantheon) to give us his year-end list of personal favorites, and he again agreed.)

As is customary for three years now (wow, really?), my list primarily consists of the albums that got the most spins, as well as a few blasphemous unmetal picks for those willing to explore a bit. This may leave out otherwise very choice albums from a year jam-packed with crazy good metal. Seriously, 2013 has been extraordinary, particularly for those of us with a penchant for the blackened side of things. Unfortunately, as of late I’m just too busy in my personal life to check them all out or give them more time. But these are the albums that stood out to me the most and kept my interest well beyond the first listen.

Caladan Brood – “Echoes of Battle”

What’s there left to say beyond what I’ve already said over at Metal Bandcamp? This album came out of nowhere early in the year and I’ve been listening to it pretty regularly ever since. All the coolest, heaviest parts of Summoning wrapped into a very well-produced and mixed package. One of those few examples that truly live up to the title of “epic”. Feathers might be ruffled, but I enjoyed this release far more than the actual Summoning album that came out this year. This is always how I’ve wanted them to sound, which is purely subjective and selfish on my part, but hey, we’ve all got our own tastes. Continue reading »

Oct 302013

Amiensus and Oak Pantheon are two Minnesota bands we watch closely at this site. Both of them produced debut albums in 2012 that we praised in our reviews — Restoration by Amiensus (reviewed here) and From A Whisper by Oak Pantheon (reviewed here). Both of them can be considered black metal bands, but both of them have incorporated so many other musical elements that diverge from the Scandinavian orthodoxy that one day we will have to concoct a new genre name for what they are doing. “American black metal” isn’t specific enough, and although both bands come far closer to Agalloch than they do Marduk or Taake, “Cascadian black metal” isn’t right either.

While we continue to ponder just what shorthand to use in describing what each of these bands are doing, we can now consider their latest creations, which come conveniently packaged together in a new forthcoming split release entitled Gathering. Before I heard a note, I had a good feeling, because both the main album cover (“The Plains of Heaven”) and the alternate cover (“The Great Day of His Wrath”) were crafted from 1849 paintings by John Martin, and that just exudes good taste, as does the decision to have both tracks mastered by Arsafes (Kartikeya, Above the Earth) (and he mixed the Amiensus track too). Those good feelings proved to be prescient, because both bands’ contributions to the split are stellar. Continue reading »

Feb 042013

Holy hell, get a load of that badass artwork, would you? It’s by Wes Talbott and it accompanies a brand new free single from Minnesota-based Oak Pantheon that just premiered: “Together We Ride”.

Now, if you know the music of Oak Pantheon — and you damned well should — this track will throw you for a loop. It’s a medley of instrumental music that originally appeared in various installments of the Fire Emblem video game series and it was apparently also the series theme in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Not being a gamer, I had to look this up . . . and needless to say, I’d never heard the music before. I just took the Oak Pantheon version as it came.

As the name implies, it’s one hell of a galloping, trampling, epic romp. Yeah, all the cheese will immediately raise your cholesterol level, but I’m going back for seconds and thirds, mainly because I’m hooked on the guitar lead in this baby. And the galloping. I like the galloping, because music like this is as close as I’ll ever get to being on a charging horse with a pennant in one hand, a sword in the other, and the reins between my fuckin’ teeth. Continue reading »

Sep 192012


Here’s a grab bag of things I saw and heard over the last 24 hours that I thought were good enough to pass your way. I saw and heard other things that I’m keeping to myself, for your own protection.


Laboratory testing of animals is a hot-button issue for lots of people. On one side are those who view it as utterly unethical, as a vestige of humanity’s barbarism that should be abandoned as quickly as possible. On the other side are those who argue that animal testing is essential for the development of things like new medicines that will save lives (of course, animals are also used to test products that have nothing to do with human health).

But I suppose there are lots of people who give the issues no serious thought at all, which is unfortunate. Sweden’s Arch Enemy are trying to get more people to think about the treatment of animals in laboratory testing through a video they released today. The video is for “Cruelty Without Beauty”, a song from their latest album, 2011’s Khaos Legions. It effectively mixes disturbing film clips of animal testing with animation — and of course shots of Angela Gossow venting her rage.

I had mixed feelings about the album, because I thought the quality of the songs was a mixed bag. For me, “Cruelty Without Beauty” is one of the stronger tracks, though I should confess that I lean toward the side of the debate that the song represents. Check out the video, which gives a voice to the voiceless, after the jump. Continue reading »

Aug 272012

Our relationship with Oak Pantheon goes back to a post I wrote in June 2011 about three new bands I’d come across who had less than 100 Facebook “likes”, but whose music I thought was really worth hearing. At that time, Oak Pantheon had officially premiered only one song, “In the Dead of Winter Night”, but it made a strong impression. When the band’s first EP, The Void, appeared not long after, it confirmed that “In the Dead of Winter Night” was no fluke; Oak Pantheon were a band to watch closely.

Now Oak Pantheon are less than a month away from release of their debut album, From A Whisper. In short order, it has become one of my favorite releases of 2012. As much as I enjoyed The Void, the album represents a big step up in the quality and sophistication of the songwriting, and the performances of this Minneapolis duo are truly excellent from beginning to end. The music is also quite varied, drawing together multi-faceted strands of metal (and non-metal) into more than 60 minutes of music that resists simplified genre classification.

At the end of this review, we’ll be premiering a song from the album that demonstrates how far Oak Pantheon have come in a very short time. It’s called . . . “It” . . . and like the rest of the album, it’s remarkably good.

The Void drew frequent comparisons with the musical style of Agalloch, and the influence of that band’s fusion of neo-folk and black metal is still in evidence on From A Whisper. The opening track, “Descend Into Winter”, is a prime example. The song combines memorable melodies, carried by layered guitars and piercing leads, with hard-driving rhythms, and this time Oak Pantheon have even incorporated emotionally subdued clean vocals (by Tanner Swenson) in much the way Agalloch do, creating an effective contrast with the harsh, mid-ranged rasps of Sami Sati. Continue reading »

Jul 132012

I’m still in kind of a work-related trash compactor, except it’s my mind and my time that are being compressed. I’ve had just enough time to glance around the interhole to realize that there’s a fuckload of happenings I’d love to share with our readers, but not enough time to package all of them together in a single post. But rather than just give up, I’m going to dash off a post here and then one or two more a bit later — quickly tossing out at least a few of the items that have caught my eye. This post has a black metal theme.


As they’ve done in the past, The Cartoon Network is again providing free new music as part of their “Adult Swim Singles Program”. Surprisingly, the single they released today is more extreme than what we would have expected. It’s a new single called “Hall of the Masters” from Texas-based Absu, a kvlt black metal band that’s well loved around NCS. It’s a hell-ripping thrasher of a song, and you can download it for free by visiting this page.

You can also give it a listen right after the jump. Continue reading »

Mar 192012

When we last checked in with Minneapolis-based Oak Pantheon, they had created a “teaser reel” of rough instrumental mixes for three songs from their next album and had invited fans to vote on which song the band should preview in full before the album drops. This morning they released the chosen track.

It’s an unmastered version of a song called “Aspen” that the band have made available on both their YouTube channel and on Bandcamp. On Bandcamp, the song can be downloaded with a “name your price” option, and all donations will help finance mastering of the entire album.

I got an advance copy of “Aspen” on Saturday, thanks to producer Sean Golyer, and I’ve lost count of how many times I spun it around my head over the weekend. Oak Pantheon’s 2011 album The Void was a stellar debut. Based on “Aspen”, I’d say this is one band who won’t fall prey to the dreaded sophomore slump. Continue reading »