Mar 062023

Almost exactly two years ago we had the pleasure of premiering Unohdan Sinut, the debut album of the Finnish band Qwälen. As is our habit, we spilled a lot of words introducing it, dropping references along the way to such bands as Young and in the Way and Dödsrit, but also the likes of Darkthrone, Nifelheim, Bathory, and Terveet Kädet. We identified “speed and fury” as perhaps the record’s main hallmarks, but also underscored the gripping harmonies created by the feverish dual-guitar leads:

“They not only vibrantly channel a range of dark and disturbing emotions, they also burrow into the listener’s head with relentless penetrating force, their relative clarity piercing through the raw and ravaging tones of what surrounds them.”

It’s fair to say that Unohdan Sinut was a damn tough act to follow, but these black metal punks were undaunted. They’ve made a second album, Syvä Hiljaisuus, that’s just as fury-filled and emotionally powerful as the debut. Continue reading »

Jan 282023


I’m taking a break from NCS this weekend, so there won’t be a big roundup of recommended new songs and videos today or a SHADES OF BLACK column tomorrow. I’m involved in a big party that’s going to happen tonight, and there are things I need to do to help make it happen. I also know from past experience that I won’t get back to the NCS island HQ until sometime early Sunday morning, and I won’t get back stone-cold sober either.

On top of that I hope to spend a little time trying to figure out which songs to include in the final two days of our Most Infectious Song list next week. (If you don’t know what that is, you can find everything I’ve chosen so far via this link). I’m hoping to figure out some way of doing that without losing my fucking mind, because I’ve still got dozens of songs I’d like to include.

Of course I recoil at the idea of posting anything at NCS without including music, and so although the main point of this post is to keep people from wondering whether a big blank space for this weekend isn’t the result of some personal catastrophe, here’s some music: Continue reading »

Feb 172021


Musicologists have spilled millions of words tracing the twisting and twining path of underground and popular music from R&B to rock ‘n’ roll, punk, metal, and elsewhere. Over time, and in different ways, the connections often seem to snap apart, producing music that seems severed from distant roots, even as the overaching ethos of “outsider” music might remain intact. Blast-beats, for example, diverge sharply from back-beats and d-beats, and the blazing or freezing aggression of tremolo’d riffing seems alien to head-nodding three-chord progressions, just as incomprehensible screaming veers dramatically from a voice that carries a melody.

But even with regard to black metal (perhaps the paragon of severed connections such as those mentioned above), punk was deep down in its early roots, and it’s still alive and well in the music of some segments of black metal who are kicking up sonic storms in the here-and-now. The music of the Finnish quintet Qwälen is one such example, as reveled on their debut album Unohdan Sinut, which is set for release by Time To Kill Records on February 19th, and which we’re premiering in full right now. Continue reading »

Jan 312021


What you have before you is a selection of advance tracks from forthcoming releases and, at the end, the stream of a new EP. If that weren’t enough to occupy you (and it probably is), I have in mind a second part to this column that includes a bunch of complete new releases, most of which I found stupendously unsettling but also fascinating. Since I haven’t put that Part together yet, I can’t confidently say when you’ll see it, but by tomorrow at the latest.

WESENWILLE (Netherlands)

The first track I’ve picked, “The Descent“, exhibits some favorable developments as compared to this Utrecht duo’s first album, which caught our attention in 2018 and is still worth your time. The new song is a scorcher but also adventurous, creating moods that are dismal and twisted, as well as maniacally glorious and chillingly hallucinatory. The tempos and riffing are in constant flux, while the vocals are perpetually unhinged in their fury. The blazing yet bleak finale is downright breathtaking. Continue reading »