May 292019


(We missed our usual Sunday appointment for the SHADES OF BLACK column, but Andy Synn has stepped in to fill that void with this selection of new releases from the black realms.)

Even though we’ve just come off several days of relative quiet here at NCS (due mostly to a certain Deathfest) we’re already at risk of entering another quiet period as Islander (and various others) gets drawn into the day-to-day running of this year’s edition of Northwest Terror Fest.

However, as luck would have it, I’ve got a massive backlog of artists/albums I’ve been meaning to cover, and so have promised that I’ll deliver something new every day this week so that he doesn’t need to worry about juggling both NCS and NWTF at the same time.

So to kick things off I’ve decided to publish my own version of “Shades of Black” to make up for the lack of one this weekend, featuring short reviews of a bunch of bands, taking in a mix of well-known and (reasonably) obscure names, beginning with… Continue reading »

Mar 122019


Between about 1930 and 1945, in an area of Europe that included eastern Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, and the Baltic republics, approximately 14 million innocent people were shot, gassed, or intentionally starved to death. As if in the most grotesque competition imaginable, Stalin and Hitler shared responsibility for the mass slaughter, and more than half of it occurred outside the Nazi gas chambers and death camps, often in more obscure circumstances, in villages and the countryside. Both Jews and non-Jews were shot to death by the millions, simply penned like animals and deprived of food, or otherwise forced into famine. The scale is unimaginable; in Belarus alone, one quarter of its population were killed as a result of the convergence of these two brutal, totalitarian regimes.

The details of these mass  exterminations were gathered together by Yale historian Timothy Snyder in a well-reviewed and award-winning 2010 book named Bloodlands – Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. To write it, he assembled an enormous mass of fresh research on Soviet and Nazi murder, much of it emerging from archives once sealed behind the Iron Curtain, and some of it his own, in order to produce, as one reviewer put it, “something like a final and definitive account” of these terrors. Continue reading »

Sep 102016



On Thursday I mentioned that I was on the verge of leaving Seattle for a trip related to my day job. I’m still on that trip, which has taken me to a mountainous region of Utah for a “retreat” hosted by the company I work for. This happens every year, and it’s always fun. This year may be even more fun than usual, because so far I haven’t subjected myself to alcohol poisoning.

Yesterday and this morning I had time to pull together some new music and one news item. Despite the title of this post, most of the following six bands either straddle the line between black metal and death metal or might be considered all the way over on the black-metal side of the line. But the title wasn’t intended as a straight genre descriptor. There are other reasons for the title, which you’ll discover soon.


I’ve been anxiously awaiting the new album by the Finnish band Krypts, because their 2013 debut full-length, Unending Degradation, was damned good. The name of the new album is Remnants of Expansion, it’s embellished with artwork by Timo Ketola, and it’s coming out on October 28 via Dark Descent. Continue reading »