Mar 012021


(We present Todd Manning‘s review of the new third album by the New Zealand band Blindfolded and Led to the Woods, which is set for release on March 26th.)

At first glance, one might mistake a band named Blindfolded and Led to the Woods for a brutal, slam-inspired Death Metal group, but while this New Zealand-based quintet is certainly Death Metal, their take on the genre is much more nuanced and complex than their aforementioned brethren.

Blindfolded and Led to the Woods construct a sound based on the dissonance of Gorguts combined with the technical Death-Grind assault of Cephalic Carnage. While they may not be alone in drawing on such influences, what truly sets them apart is their focus on the details of their sound. Continue reading »

Feb 222021


(This is Todd Manning‘s review of the new album by the SoCal band Swampbeast, which was released in mid-February by Translation Loss Records.)

Outsiders may not realize that there are swamps in Los Angeles, but Death Metal trio Swampbeast have arrived to show us what kind of madness lurks in those fetid waters. Their debut, Seven Evils Spawned from Seven Heads, just issued on Translations Lost Records, is a nightmarish journey of blackened Death Metal that threatens to drown the listener in a miasma of filth.

While not exactly revolutionizing their chosen genre, Swampbeast burst out the gates with a sound of their own, surprisingly well-developed given their lack of history. The hammering assault of opener “Orcs Anvil” echoes the bludgeoning of Entombed’s Left Hand Path, but they also check some Morbid Angel and Black Metal boxes as well. Second track, “The Blind God” adds the subterranean mystique of Portal into the mix to great effect. While the speed of the opener remains, a great deal of evil atmosphere works its way in. Continue reading »

Feb 102021


(We present Todd Manning‘s review of the debut EP by the Indiana band Mother of Graves, which was released on January 8th by Wise Blood Records.)

Mother of Graves are not the first band to rise up from tragedy, but the pain and sadness on display on their debut EP, In Somber Dreams, is palpable. The formation of this band came in the wake of the death of a friend and former bandmate, and as founding guitarist Chris Morrison explains, Katatonia’s EP Sounds of Decay became a focal point for channeling his sorrow.

Mother of Graves take their moniker from a Latvian entity that functions as a protector of graves, but much of their inspiration comes from Britain, Katatonia notwithstanding. We are of course referring to the Peaceville 3, i.e., Paradise Lost, Anathema, and My Dying Bride. The early work of these three bands laid the groundwork for the marriage of the violence of Death Metal and the depressive strains of Gothic Rock, and Mother of Graves have learned their lessons well. Continue reading »

Jan 182021


(Here’s Todd Manning’s review of the new album by California’s Black Sheep Wall, which will be released on February 26th by Silent Pendulum Records.)

To say that the Sludge and Doom genres are oversaturated might be a bit of an understatement. There’s a lot of good stuff out there, but there’s only so much Sabbath-worship and weed fetish one can listen to before it all starts to blend together. On the other hand, L.A.-based Sludge band Black Sheep Wall have always stood apart, with a sound that pulls from a wide range of influences.

Songs for the Enamel Queen is the group’s first full-length in nearly five years and it’s a motherfucker, there’s just no other way to put. The album depicts a band and a mind on the edge, haunted by depression and addiction, and the 60-minute run time is nothing short of a harrowing journey. Continue reading »

Dec 172020


(We present a Top 10 year-end list for 2020 by NCS contributor Todd Manning, along with some runners-up and non-metal suggestions.)

Somewhere in a review or two in previous years, I referred to the state of the world as a slow-motion apocalypse, but in 2020, things don’t feel so slow anymore. Nevertheless, we fanatical Metal fans are constantly bombarded with the perfect soundtrack to the world outside our door, even if we don’t get to actually open that door and go outside very much.

My list last year was my weirdest one to date, but I think this year’s is even stranger. And while I said last year that 2019 wasn’t as strong as previous years, 2020’s list is full of absolute rippers. So here is my peculiar taste laid out for the world to see… Continue reading »

Nov 202020


(We present Todd Manning‘s review of the 2016 self-titled debut EP of Texas-based Cognizant, which was given a proper CD release by Selfmadegod Records on November 13th.)

When it comes to Grindcore, there’s always been a split, with some bands falling on the Metal side of the fence while others are more firmly rooted in Hardcore, though even more have staked out their territory somewhere smack in the middle. In the case of Dallas-based five-piece Cognizant, they easily emerge from the fetid swamp of Death Metal and their debut self-titled record, re-released courtesy of Selfmadegod Records, shows why they have become a force to be reckoned with.

In 1997, Floridians Assück dropped one of the best Grind records of all time with Misery Index, and they too were heavily indebted to Death Metal (in their case it was the almighty Suffocation). Cognizant looks to Gorguts for much of their Death Metal influence, and this leads their particular brand of blasting a much more complex and abstract edge. But do not mistake this abstractness for a lack of impact, because this is a paint-peeling assault from start to finish. Continue reading »

Sep 082020


(In this post Todd Manning combines reviews of new albums by Arizona’s Realize (coming on September 25th via Relapse Records) and Oklahoma’s Black Magnet, released on September 4th by 20 Buck Spin.)

It’s easy to look to the past with rose-colored glasses, but the late eighties and early nineties sure do seem like a distant utopia at times. Yet, that time period spawned the unholy marriage of Industrial music and Extreme Metal, which can often produce some of the most nightmare-ish tunes this side of the river Styx.

It’s only fitting that this kind of stuff is making a comeback nowadays as the material seems well-suited to describe the not-so-slow-motion apocalypse we are being forced to live through. Bleakness and relentless tragedy are the order of the day, and Realize and Black Magnet are two bands diving headfirst into this chasm. Continue reading »

Jul 222020


(This is Todd Manning‘s review of the first full-length album by California’s VoidCeremony, which was released by 20 Buck Spin on June 26th.)

While some Death Metal bands try to streamline their sound to have hooks and conventional song structures, others seek to create obscure and challenging material that summons images of alien horrors and oddball geometries of terror. VoidCeremony certainly fall into the latter camp. Their debut full-length, Entropic Reflections Continuum:Dimensions Unravel marries progressive technicality with unrelenting brutality to create an incredibly powerful statement.

Consisting of Garrett Johnson on vocals, lead and rhythm guitar, Jon Reider on rhythm guitar, and Charlie Koryn on drums and engineering, VoidCeremony is full of powerhouse musicians. While plenty impressive on their own, they also enlisted the criminally underrated Damon Good (Stargazer, Black Cauldron Ram, Mournful Congregation) on bass for this album as well. Continue reading »

Jul 062020


(This is Todd Manning‘s review of the debut EP by the UK band Trial, which is set for release on July 10th.)

We might associate the Eighties with some sort of neon-nightmare Glam Metal and New Wave bastardized Pop Music, but there was definitely a strain of post-collapse apocalypticism running through the underground of Metal, Punk and Industrial at the time that seems to capture the dystopian/collapse feeling better than just about anyone, including those of us who now seem to be living out that particular dream. Trial might be of today, but they tap that Eighties eschatological strain as well as anyone.

This music sounds like it was composed in a plastic coffin, one of many strewn across the nuclear wasteland. The guitar summons the feel of primitive Thrash, simple riffs played in a minimalist fashion, almost sounding as if they’ve been ripped from some long-lost cassette demo. These are then juxtaposed against a cold and punishing drum machine and an equally disaffected vocal style that seems smuggled in from a Post-Punk record. The result is both captivating and punishing, often walking a fine-line near the fist-pumping goodness that recalls the Heavy Metal of an earlier time, yet with a layer of noise and abstraction poured over the mix that keeps this from being just a nostalgia trip. Continue reading »

Jun 152020


(This is Todd Manning‘s review of the sophomore album by Aseitas from Portland, Oregon, which will be released on July 10 by Lizard Brain Records and features cover art by Noah Cutter Meihoff.)

Is it me or does today’s Extreme Metal scene seem to be overflowing with a sense of epic ambition and experimentalism? Sure, there are those who always seek to return to Metal’s atavistic roots, but one can’t help but be inspired by the aspirations of so many bands nowadays. That being said, how many of these Avant Garde metallers actually succeed in bringing their vision to life? Aseitas not only possesses ambition in spades, but execute their vision perfectly on their sophomore album False Peace, due out on July 10th via Lizard Brain Records.

The group’s sound is extremely varied and wide-ranging, though at its core they tend to focus quite a bit on a mid-paced Death Metal groove, yet screwed and chopped into challenging new configurations. And there is an intense physicality in this approach, like trying to headbang but realizing your entire body is being pulled in multiple directions at once. Blast beats emerge from time to time, but the relentless mid-paced hammering takes center stage. Continue reading »