Aug 032021


With their forthcoming sixth album, Revenant, the formidable and fearsome Australian black metal band Pestilential Shadows immerse themselves in death, while imagining an end that brings no rest. Inspired by the riddle “What is dead that doesn’t die?, “the album offers many sonic/spiritual pathways of death, decay, pestilence, and putrefaction” (so says the PR material accompanying the album, and the music leaves no doubt about its truth), but the album’s title signifies that in the band’s conception, what may follow the swinging scythe of the grim reaper are horrors unbounded.

In other words, the darkness in the new album is pitch-black, and shrouded by the supernatural. But what founding vocalist/guitarist Balam and his bandmates have achieved on Revenant goes beyond sensations of bodily degradation and mental terror. The music is even more powerfully haunting because it so powerfully resonates with the core of what it means to be human — the curse of knowing life and knowing that it won’t last, with all the dread, the fear, and the sorrow that can come with that knowledge.

For example, the song we’re premiering today, “Twilight Congregation“, might be experienced as a channeling of the awful gloom and anger of a soul brought back from the grave to dwell in an endless afterlife of torment. But to the ears of this writer, it can also be received as a manifestation of the kind of shattering heartbreak we have all known or will know. Continue reading »

Jul 032021


Here in the US we’re in the midst of a big weekend holiday, the biggest of the summer in normal times, and in this time also a celebration of release from covid bondage, though whether it’s anything more than a temporary furlough remains to be seen. But here at NCS I pride myself on observing no holidays, only hangovers. And since I don’t have one today I decided to get a head start on what has turned out to be a two-part edition of this column.

What I’ve chosen for Part 1 are four songs from forthcoming albums, and one from an album that’s been out for five months. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of them. Though Part 2 isn’t written yet, what I have in mind is a selection of recent new full releases. Barring a hangover, it will arrive in the usual spot on Sunday.

GOTMOOR (Belgium)

To begin, I decided to celebrate a different incidence of independence than the one our holiday here commemorates. To explain, I’ll summarize the historical background, which I learned from investigating the Dutch lyrics to this opening song, “Verheft het Vaandel” (“Raise the Banner” in English), by the Flemish band Gotmoor. Continue reading »