Mar 072021


I want to thank those of you who have left comments or sent messages expressing sympathy and support for my current day-job misery. I was also surprised, and admittedly a bit disappointed, that a lot of people checked in on yesterday’s post even though I didn’t have the time to write about any of the music — or even listen to it! So I thought, what the hell, let’s do that again.

This column is usually devoted to black metal, and so I’ve started that way but also diverted from it. But yesterday one of our supporters (rodney) left a comment with some recommendations, and I thought I would include some of those here at the end, because he included some enticing descriptions of the bands and their music. Some of that music would seem to fit SHADES OF BLACK and some might not, which is true of my own choices

I again haven’t listened to any of this. As was true yesterday, I’m gambling, but these all seem like good bets. Continue reading »

Mar 052015


Munich-based Thulcandra have been a favorite of this site since we discussed their origin story and reviewed their debut album Fallen Angel’s Dominion back in 2010 (here). Their third album Ascension Lost was released in late January by Napalm Records, and today we’re proud to bring you the premiere of an official video for the album’s seventh song, “The Second Fall”.

The mid-paced song is both hard-rocking and threaded with an icy melody that proves to be as memorable as it is dramatic. The song is highlighted not only by magnetic riffs and a pulse-pounding rhythm section but also by a beautiful extended guitar solo that stands in stark contrast to the skin-flaying vocals of frontman Steffen Kummerer. Continue reading »

Dec 132014


Happy hangover day, aka Saturday. I myself do not have a hangover, though not for lack of trying to sew the seeds for one last night. I can’t really explain the good fortune, but I’ll take it. Having a relatively clear head this morning, I did a bit of catching up on metal news and song premieres and randomly selected the following items for your entertainment and edification. Most of these items include eye-catching artwork, too.


This first piece of news sure caught me by surprise yesterday. It appears that the organizers of the Maryland Deathfest have decided to franchise their operation. They’ve announced a three-day event named California Deathfest that will take place from October 9-11, 2015, at the Oakland Metro Operahouse in Oakland, California. The show on Friday, October 9, will feature grind, punk, and hardcore bands, and the shows on October 10 and 11 will feature death, black, and doom metal bands.

Unlike MDF, there will only be one stage, in a club setting, though if this first California Deathfest proves to be a success I’m guessing it will grow — and given the stellar line-up for this debut event, it will surely succeed. Continue reading »

Mar 132012

Thulcandra is a German band whose 2010 album Fallen Angels Dominion (reviewed here) was an utterly faithful and beautifully rendered homage to Dissection. The band’s 2011 follow-up, Under A Frozen Sun, was also very good and proved that Thulcandra’s talents exceed even what was achieved on the debut, though it was one of many deserving releases I didn’t find time to write about last year.

Thanks to Thulcandra, I recently discovered a new band called Wraithcult. Its members include two Thulcandra participants, the “evil twins”, Sebastian and Tobias Ludwig (guitarist/vocalist and bassist, respectively). Both Sebastian and Tobias were also active for five years in yet a third band, the now-defunct Helfahrt, and two other former Helfahrt members have joined them to complete the line-up in Wraithcult: guitarist Markus Klüpfel and drummer Andreas Mecker.

Wraithcult have recorded a debut album called Gestalt (with Dark Fortress guitarist V. Santura at the helm). When I wrote the original version of this post, two of the album’s songs were available for streaming, and those were the two that convinced me this band is worth following. In doing a quick check for possible updates to this post, I discovered that the entire album is now available for streaming.

I tried listening to the album stream while working my fucking day job (which has become a fucking day-and-night job), because at the moment that’s the only way I have any chance of listening to music, but it didn’t work out very well. Continue reading »

Jun 012011

(Andy Synn had a full, black (metal) weekend (except for the fact that he missed Enslaved on Sunday). Before jumping the ocean waters to visit Oslo for that Dimmu concert he wrote about yesterday, he spent a night with Abigail Williams, Thulcandra, and Iskald in England, and has kindly provided us with a report. You should know that he started that night, not in the audience, but on stage roaring with his band Bloodguard.)

On Friday the 27th of May, my band and I were lucky enough to open the show for three extremely talented black metal acts. Though the crowd was small, they were all passionate about their love of the genre and equally appreciative of all the bands’ efforts. Each of the three bands demonstrated a different facet of the black metal template, be it the proggy, thrashy approach favoured by Iskald, the streamlined melodicism of Thulcandra‘s Dissection-worship, or the tense, introverted catharsis of Abigail Williams.

Openers Iskald played a short, tight set, delving into material from all three of their albums.”Under The Black Moon” off their latest (phenomenal) album was a sumptuous delight of crunchy guitars and awkward, obscure rhythms, while “A Breath Of Apocalypse” pummelled and grooved with a refreshing directness and power. Throughout their set, thrash-style speeds and an at-times death metal aesthetic wrapped around soaring, crystal clear melodies, intelligent, driving drums and rough, propulsive Immortal/Enslaved-style riffage.

Sharp and icy, the band delivered time and time again, with each song bearing a different and distinct flavour. Songs like “Domesdag” (introduced as “a true Norwegian song”) and “Det Stilner Til Storm” brought a fiery passion to match the cold melancholy of their icy melodies, their moody, progressive diversions and impressive, yet restrained, technicality demonstrating exactly why Iskald deserve to be held amongst the elite of modern-day black metal. In particular, their most recent material demonstrates more growth and ambition than most latter-day members of the black fraternity can muster, unafraid to explore different textures and impressive, forward-thinking structures. (more after the jump . . .) Continue reading »

Dec 252010

Merry fucking Christmas.

Wait a minute, that was pretty rude. Let’s start this again.

To all of you who look forward to Christmas and will be celebrating the day with your families in a spirit of cheer and good will to all, Merry Christmas and have a safe and joyous holiday.

To everyone else, Merry fucking Christmas. We have for you a special edition of THAT’S METAL!.

Yes, that blessed day is finally upon us — blessed, in our minds, because it will now be another year before we have to endure all the shitty holiday music and non-stop force-feeding of advertisements for the gifts we should buy family members, whether we want to be in the same family with them or not.

To help you endure the day, we have just a few items, to really help get you in the proper holiday spirit of endurance: A heart-warming story about creativity with beer cans; a couple of videos that really bring the fucking Christmas cheer; and our own, specially selected NCS version of holiday carols (you know what we mean — blasphemous headbanging carols, the kind you won’t hear at the mall or in any church).

Enjoy all our Christmas presents for you . . . after the jump. And don’t eat the yellow snow. Continue reading »

Nov 022010

Another month has passed. Another Halloween has come and gone. Here in Seattle, we are looking forward to what is supposed to be an especially wet, dark, cold, sucktastic winter — which is really saying something, given that all Seattle winters are wet, dark, cold, and sucktastic. If they weren’t, we would have the population of Los Angeles, so there’s a silver lining to that massively dark cloud.

Yes, the seasons come and they go, the great wheel of life rolls forward, and we are all one month closer to our end, whatever it may be. But as time inexorably passes, new things happen. In particular, we find out about new metal gestating in studios around the world, struggling and kicking and yearning to erupt into the air, screaming like a banshee.

And that brings us to another monthly installment of METAL IN THE FORGE, in which we cobble together a list of forthcoming new albums, cribbing like rag-gatherers and lint-pickers from PR releases and metal news sites like Blabbermouth in order to construct a line-up of new music that at least we’re interested in hearing, even if no one else is.

What we do in this series of posts is update the list of forthcoming new albums we first posted on January 1. (All the other updates can be found via the “Forthcoming Albums” category link on the right side of our pages.) After the jump, in alphabetical order, is a list of still more projected new releases we didn’t know about at the time of our previous updates, or new info about some of the previously noted releases. Continue reading »

Jun 242010

C.S. Lewis was a British scholar and author. He was born in Belfast and died on the day of John F. Kennedy’s assassination at the age of 64. He was a prolific essayist whose most profound works dealt with his Christian faith, though he is probably known most widely as the author of The Chronicles of Narnia.

He was an immensely thoughtful, extremely compassionate, constantly questioning man, and a writer of beautiful prose — and pretty decent fiction, too. If I were still a Christian, he would be one of my role models. But that’s probably because I think the world would be a gentler place if there were more doubt and less certitude in matters of religious faith. That way, we could get more of our fill of brutality from metal and less from the daily news. But what the fuck do I know? I’m just a part-time metal blogger and full-time half-wit.

In addition to The Chronicles of Narnia, Lewis also wrote a sci-fi/fantasy trilogy consisting of books called Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength. In part, they tell the story of human encounters with a race of immortal extraterrestrials called the eldila.

One of those aliens rebelled and was imprisoned on Earth (sound familiar?), which cut it off from the eldila on the other planets in our system. And for that reason, in the language of the eldila, Earth was called Thulcandra — the Silent Planet.

There’ s a point to this laborious background story, and the point concerns a German metal band also called Thulcandra, whose members are also involved with Obscura, Helfahrt, and Dark Fortress. Despite the C.S. Lewis connection,Thulcandra is not a Christian band — in fact, they play the kind of melodic black- and death-metal that calls forth the ghost of Dissection. Their story is an unusual one, and their debut album — Fallen Angel’s Dominion — is fucking awesome.  (more after the jump, including a track from that album . . .) Continue reading »

May 012010

We’re now a full four months into 2010, and it’s time for our fourth update to the list of forthcoming new albums we posted on January 1. (See the original list here, the first update here, the second update here, and the third update here.) Below is a list of still more projected new releases that we didn’t know about on January 1 or at the time of our last three updates (or that we’ve found updated information about) — and the new sickness is still spreading in epidemic proportions.

Once again, we’ve cobbled together news blurbs about bands whose past work we’ve liked, or who look interesting for other reasons. Needless to say (but we’ll say it anyway), these are bands that mostly fit the profile of music we cover on this site.

So, in alphabetical order, here’s our list of cut-and-pasted blurbs from various sources since our last update about forthcoming new releases. Look for the bands you like and put reminders on your calendar. Or if you’re old school like us, just get em tattooed someplace you can see without a mirror (because reading stuff backwards is hard).

ABIGAIL WILLIAMS: “Abigail Williams have completed recording of individual performances for their still untitled second full-length. Captured at Conquistador Studios in Cleveland, Ohio, eight new songs were laid down with vocalist/guitarist Ken Sorceron and engineer Cole Martinez controlling the audio takes. The songs are currently being mixed by Peter Tagtgren (Dimmu Borgir, Immortal, Celtic Frost) and are expected to be completed later this month.”

ABYSMAL DAWN: “Los Angeles-based metallers ABYSMAL DAWN will enter Trench Studio in Corona, California in May with producer John Haddad (PHOBIA, INTRONAUT, HIRAX) to begin recording their new album for a tentative fall release via Relapse Records. The follow-up to Programmed To Consume will be mixed by Erik Rutan (HATE ETERNAL, VITAL REMAINS, CANNIBAL CORPSE) at his Mana Recording Studios in St. Petersburg, Florida.”  (the list continues after the jump .  .) Continue reading »

Feb 232010

We’re now almost two months into 2010, and it’s already time for our second update to the list of forthcoming new albums we posted on January 1.  (See the original list here and the first update here.) Below is a list of still more projected new releases that we didn’t know about on January 1 or at the time of our last update about a month ago — and there’s a lot of them.

Once again, we’ve cobbled together news blurbs about bands whose past work we’ve liked, or who look interesting for other reasons. Needless to say (but we’ll say it anyway), these are bands that mostly fit the profile of music we cover on this site.

So, in alphabetical order, here’s our list of cut-and-pasted blurbs from various sources over the last month about forthcoming new releases:

1349: “Prosthetic Records will release the brand new album from Norwegian black metal legends 1349 in North America via an agreement with Indie Recordings. The new CD, which promises ‘a return to the band’s more traditional, raw-yet-technical black metal sound,’ is due on April 13. In support of the yet-to-be-titled record, 1349 will embark on a North American tour in April and May as the support act for CANNIBAL CORPSE (alongside SKELETONWITCH and LECHEROUS NOCTURNE).”

ABACABB: “ABACABB are currently out on the road headlining the Hot Dice On Black Ice Tour featuring Upon A Burning Body!. The tour just hit Texas and will be in California this weekend. Following the tour ABACABB will enter the studio with producer Will Putney at Machine Shop in New Jersey and will have a new album to be released sometime this summer.”

AEON: “Swedish death metallers AEON have set Path Of Fire as the title of their third album, due later in the year via Metal Blade Records. The CD was recorded in September 2009 at Empire Studio in Östersund, Sweden and was mixed the following month at Mana Recording Studios in St, Petersburg, Florida by Erik Rutan (HATE ETERNAL, MORBID ANGEL, CANNIBAL CORPSE). The mastering was handled by Alan Douches at West West Side Music (CONVERGE, HATEBREED, THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN) in New Windsor, New York.”

AMORPHIS: “AMORPHIS will release its first-ever live DVD, Forging The Land Of Thousand Lakes, in early June via Nuclear Blast, in time for the band’s 20th anniversary. The filming took place on November 20, 2009 at Club Teatria in Oulu, Finland, where AMORPHIS was supported by STRATOVARIUS and BEFORE THE DAWN. In addition to the full-length live show, the anniversary DVD will include plenty of bonus material documenting the band’s impressive career.”   (much more after the jump . . . ) Continue reading »