Sep 202021


(Todd Manning reviews the third album by Copenhagen’s LLNN, which will be released via Pelagic Records on September 24th.)

Seems like not so long ago “Neur-Isis” was the hottest sub-genre in Metal. It saw vicious Sludge Metal re-purposed into a widespread and cinematic apocalyptic feel, and there were also heaping servings of Post-Rock to set the mood. While Neurosis and Isis put out some of the most fascinating and important Metal albums in recent memory, their legions of imitators did not fair so well.

The aforementioned Post-Rock sections so skillfully employed by those two bands became an overwhelming obsession for many of the imitators and eventually the music lost much of its visceral impact. While Copenhagen’s LLNN certainly fall under the “Neur-Isis” umbrella, they understand that heaviness is the top priority. Their latest full-length, Unmaker, is both epic and crushing. Continue reading »

Jul 222021


(In this article we present Todd Manning‘s review of a new EP by the Czech band Supreme Conception which will be released on August 6th, and our premiere of a track from the EP.)

It’s easy to get Tech-Death wron;, endless flurries of indistinguishable notes make for unremarkable material. It’s a good thing then that Supreme Conception avoid the genre’s pitfalls on their new EP Empire of the Mind. The trio consisting of Michal Kusak (ex-Imperial Foeticide) on vocals, Martin Meyer (Heaving Earth) on guitar, and Aaron Stechauner (ex-Rings of Saturn) on drums, display plenty of instrumental prowess on these five songs, but also manage to create an engaging listening experience as well. Continue reading »

Jun 302021


(Todd Manning returns to NCS with the following review of the new album by Seputus, which is out now on Willowtip Records.)

Originally the brainchild of drummer/guitarist Stephen Schwegler, Seputus has had to take a backseat to real life for far too long. The idea for the group started when he was serving in the Navy, but the growth was slow due to his commitments.

Eventually, Schwegler recruited vocalist Doug Moore and Erik Malave on bass and the project began to take flight. While they managed to release the album Man Does Not Give in 2016, Phantom Indigo, which came out on June 4th via Willowtip Records, feels like the true introduction of the trio to the Metal world at large. Continue reading »

May 062021


(Todd Manning rejoins us with the following review of the debut album by Obsolete, which was released not long ago through Unspeakable Axe Records.)

I don’t know about anyone else, but as time goes on, I find myself more obsessed with groups such as Watchtower, Atheist and Sadus. And now it’s time to add a new name to the list. Riding a fine line between Tech-Thrash and early Death Metal, Animate//Isolate is the stunning debut full-length from Minneapolis-based band Obsolete.

While some bands from the Tech-Thrash movement could create a pretty obscure sound (see Watchtower or Sieges Even’s Steps),  Obsolete never sacrifice immediacy in their quest for mind-bending technicality. The riffs stampede relentlessly, and the harsh vocals are firmly rooted in Death Metal. And while most the beats deconstruct and reassemble classic Thrash workouts, they find opportunities to squeeze in blast beats as well as softer moments. Continue reading »

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 »