Dec 132018


(Andy Synn‘s week-long round-up of metal in 2018 continues with this list of his picks for the year’s ten best albums across a range of metal genres — one of which hasn’t been released yet and is reviewed here.)

It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that any attempt to craft a “Top Ten” list that represents the wide variety and near-infinite density of the modern Extreme Metal scene is doomed to failure. There’s simply too much of it, too many different competing styles and sub-genres, for a mere ten albums to cover.

That doesn’t stop me trying every year though, so what you’re about to read is my latest effort to capture a clean snapshot of the very best of the best from the past twelve months.

Interestingly this list seems to differ significantly from the various other sites and zines I’ve been keeping an eye on, though that’s not by conscious design. It also skews in a surprisingly “progressive” direction overall, which is not something I anticipated when I first began trying to piece it together, with a massive 70% of the albums featured here making use of clean vocals in some form or another.

In demographic terms, this year’s list features two entries from the USA, two entries from Germany, one from Portugal, one from Iceland, and three from the UK – which, again, wasn’t by design – as well as one international collective whose members come from all across Europe.

It also runs the gamut of practically the entire twelve-month period, with the “oldest” album on here having been released all the way back in the first week of January, while the “youngest” entry won’t even be out until the 21st of December! Continue reading »

Nov 032018


(In this week’s edition of Waxing Lyrical, Andy Synn posed the usual questions to Paul Sadler of the U.K. band Spires.)

Hopefully I’ve managed to make it more than clear at this point just how bloody fantastic I think the latest (and greatest) album from Mancunian Prog-Metal quartet Spires really is, and so it probably won’t surprise you to learn that I’m already thinking long and hard as to whether to give it a spot in my annual “Critical Top Ten” list, a list whose purported purpose is to provide a wide and robust overview of the year’s best Metal albums… or, at least, as wide and robust a snapshot of the year’s releases as can be made using only ten albums.

One of the reasons the album is so damn good, in my opinion anyway, is the intense focus and attention to detail which the band have clearly lavished on each and every part of each and every song, up to and including the concept-driven lyrics which ultimately play a major role in helping to tie the whole record together.

So, as way of acknowledging the vital importance of these lyrics to the album’s overall success, I managed to convince the band’s vocalist/guitarist (and main songwriter) Paul Sadler to put together a few words for today’s edition of Waxing Lyrical. Continue reading »

Sep 272018


(In this new edition of Andy Synn‘s occasional series, he reviews new releases by three UK bands — Crippled Black Phoenix, Famyne, and Spires.)

Despite my well-documented griping about how frequently certain sections of the UK scene seem to embrace mediocrity, there’s still a hefty amount of quality music and quality bands coming out of these green and pleasant lands these days, and today’s edition of “The Best of British” rounds up three of them for your aural delectation.

Fair warning, however, the following three albums contain a lot of clean singing so… you’ve been warned! Continue reading »

Dec 122014


(Andy Synn reviews the new second album by Spires from Manchester, England, out now on the Eulogy Media label.)

Well, it’s looking increasingly likely that this is going to be one of my last reviews of 2014, as next week it’s time for the unveiling of my annual list-extravaganza, after which I’ll mainly be playing catch-up wherever I can with albums we’ve unfortunately missed out on so far, as well as preparing for the onslaught of new material that invariably comes at the beginning of each new year.

Still, there was no way I was going to miss out on the opportunity of reviewing this album.

Now, full disclosure – I’ve been a big fan of these guys for quite a while now, having reviewed their debut album Spiral of Ascension back in 2010, and their EP Lucid Abstractions in 2012, and Beyond Grace have played several shows with them in the past (and will hopefully play several more with them in the future).

However, I like to think that I’m capable of being fair and critical enough to review this album objectively, and so I hope you can trust me when I say, without reservation, that this album is an absolutely phenomenal piece of work. Continue reading »

Jan 082013

(Like the title says, Andy Synn wrote this.)

You may have noticed that there are simply so many awesome albums released each year that even the nigh-omnipotent forces of NCS can’t cover them all. So in acknowledgement of this I’m inaugurating a new column, which will be produced whenever the hell I feel like it, in order to sneak in some mini-reviews of releases we’ve otherwise missed, or wouldn’t otherwise get a chance to review in full.

Welcome to “Reviews in Haikus”



Black prog vibrations

Savage sounds, strange atmospheres

Cultivate the seed Continue reading »

Jan 242012

(The UK’s Andy Synn reviews Spiral of Ascension by the UK’s Spires. Say that three times really fast.)

It is always a joy to encounter an album that is so much more than the mere sum of its parts, and Spiral Of Ascension is just one such encounter. Wearing its influences proudly on its sleeves, it showcases a band unafraid to play the ‘progressive’ card right from the off, not content to simply regurgitate  the sounds of their predecessors ad nauseum but instead choosing to walk the more difficult path, taking  the ancestral DNA of their progenitorss and re-moulding them, progressing them if you will, in order to construct an entirely new and distinctive form of musical expression which has evolved to possess a life of its own.

Strands of genetic information from Cynic, Death, and Opeth are perhaps the most obviously expressed in Spires’ genetic make-up, these 3 influences in particular serving to encapsulate the sphere in which they reside, without limiting their sound to one of mere worship and reverence. Although making such comparisons can often be seen as a crutch for reviewers, they also serve to characterise the ‘mode’ in which the album should be listened to. What is key , though, is that for Spiral Of Ascension these connections are rarely made during the listening experience, but more reflectively afterwards when attempting to describe such a pure and rewarding musical experience via the limitations of our inadequate linguistic terms. Continue reading »