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 »

Mar 092020


(We present Todd Manning‘s review of the 2019 debut demo by Germany’s Torpëdo, which was reissued last month by Gates of Hell Records.)

Gates of Hell Records is a subsidiary of Cruz Del Sur Music dedicated to bringing the best of Old School Heavy Metal to the world, and they’ve certainly found a prime candidate in the form of Germany’s Torpëdo. The label reissued the band’s demo Mechanic Tyrants on February 21st, complete with new cover art that captures the spirit of the Speed Metal vibes contained within.

The first thing that is apparent when “Maniac” comes ripping out of the speakers is the band’s ability to successfully blend the raucous sound of early Motörhead with Kill’em All-era Metallica. The album was recorded by the band themselves in a basement and it even captures the sound of that bygone time perfectly. Gritty but clear and powerful. Continue reading »

Feb 252020


(This is Todd Manning‘s review of the new EP by the UK-based progressive black/doom band Lychgate, which will soon be released by Debemur Morti Productions.)

It’s getting hard to ignore Lychgate, not that anyone should be trying. This UK based Extreme Metal band continue to push their awe-inspiring blend of Black Metal, Death, and Doom into more progressive and experimental realms with each release, and their latest EP is a case in point. Also sprach Futura is due out on Debemur Morti Productions on March 13th and illustrates beyond any doubt that Lychgate is one of the most exciting bands going right now. Continue reading »

Jan 152020


(Here’s Todd Manning‘s review of the new EP by Gnaw, which is set for release on January 31st via Sleeping Giant Glossolalia.)

New York-based Gnaw produce the kind of brutalizing listening experience that just can’t be achieved without coloring outside the lines of genre rules. They’ve been producing their Metal/Industrial/Noise mash-up since 2009, and their latest EP, Barking Orders, shows they definitely have not lost their edge.

For most Metal bands, the music comes first and the vocals often seem to default to the style that best matches what the instruments are doing. This isn’t the case with Gnaw, who are fronted by scene veteran Alan Dubin, whose unique vocal style has been at the forefront of such acts as O.L.D. and Khanate. “Unsettling” doesn’t even begin to describe the brutal screeches, yells, and bellows emanating from him. Perhaps the most notable part of his style, though, is the clarity with which he delivers the lyrics, despite the means he uses to deliver them. With Gnaw, the band seem to construct their sounds to complrment his powerful and unique style, utilizing whatever sort of cacophony best accompanies his voice and the harrowing lyrics it conveys. Continue reading »

Dec 262019


(NCS contributor Todd Manning shares a diverse year-end list of top metal albums (15 of them), and a list of recommended not-metal too.)

This is my fourth year reviewing for No Clean Singing, and I found 2019 to be a bit of a mixed bag. Not that there wasn’t good Metal releases this year, but nothing that would’ve beaten out my top two from last year, Imperial Triumphant and Horrendous. Still though, lots of good albums and even a few great ones graced my ears.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for me in coming up with this list was trying to rate albums that were vastly different in character from one another. Over here you have paint-peeling Grindcore, over there some pastoral Black Metal, maybe a little bit of vile and filthy Sludge for good measure. I really enjoyed the variety, but it’s definitely a case of comparing apples to oranges. Even though my 2018 list certainly possessed some variety in material, it still, to me at least, possessed a bit more thematic consistency. Nevertheless, here goes trying to sort out my best of 2019. Continue reading »