Jul 032020

Ars Magna Umbrae


This is a great day for metal fans to support bands with their money. It’s a harrowing day for metal bloggers like myself.

It’s a great day because Bandcamp is again waiving its share of revenues from sales on its site, which means more money generated from purchases and donations goes directly to bands and labels, some of whom are in turn donating proceeds to charitable causes.

It’s a harrowing day because bands and labels have been releasing a HUMONGOUS AMOUNT OF MUSIC to take advantage of the occasion. Beginning yesterday and continuing today, my in-box has exploded with Bandcamp alerts and press releases, and that’s on top of the usual flood of other new music appearing earlier in the week. There’s no way I can sample all of it. But I’ve sampled some of it, and you see the results in this post — or at least some of them.

What I’ve done here is to collect individual songs and videos for new releases (and a few older ones), arranged in alphabetical order by band name. Many of those releases, but not all, can be purchased or pre-ordered on Bandcamp to take advantage of the revenue-share waiver. In Part 2 I’ll quickly throw out recommendations for complete new releases that would also be good candidates for your Bandcamp purchases. Continue reading »

Jul 042019


I have mixed feelings about the Fourth of July, especially this year, and I’m not the only American who’s feeling torn today. While there are migrants in the midst of a humanitarian crisis on the southern border, the country’s most famous Independence Day celebration has been turned into a taxpayer-funded militaristic political rally for a man who not only could care less about what’s happening to people in Texas detention camps, but actively tries to score extra political points among his supporters by doubling down on the prisoners’ misery. And that’s just today’s most visible one-two punch to the nation’s ideals. There will be more battering tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that.

On the other hand, I still feel fortunate to have been born here, and still take pride in much of what the country has achieved, and in much of what it stands for when it’s at its best. I also recognize that even though I’m not feeling particularly celebratory today, the Fourth is for many Americans a day of joy, even if it’s just because the day is a good excuse to be in the company of good friends or family, to gorge on comfort food and too much beer and booze, and to watch pretty explosions in the night sky. To all those people, I wish them a fantastic fucking day. Continue reading »

Oct 232018


As explained on Sunday, the surprise release of the new Kriegsmaschine album de-railed my plans for the regular SHADES OF BLACK column, causing me to move the music I’d originally picked into the second part of what had suddenly become a two-part post. And for other reasons I won’t both you with, I couldn’t finish Part 2 on Sunday. Once the whirlwind of Monday began, I couldn’t finish it for yesterday either.

There was a lot of new music I had planned for Part 2, including three full releases — and I still haven’t finished writing about those, given the volume of premieres I’ve been writing about yesterday and today. Rather than delay further, I’m just going to include the individual tracks and videos from Part 2 here and come back to the full albums as soon as I can.


My interest in folk metal, which many years ago was once eager, became nearly moribund when I felt like I was hearing very similar Celtic melodies over and over again, regardless of what country they were coming from. Granted, the original Celts spread their culture over a wide swath of Europe, from what we’d now call “The British Isles” to what we now call Turkey. Still, the sameness of the music began to grow tiresome, or maybe I just wasn’t exploring as much as I should have. I still prize ethnic melodies when they’re less familiar to my ears, but in general I’m at the point when I’m hard to win over. Continue reading »

Mar 292018


Here we are just past hump day for this week, and I have a big mountainous hump of music to choose from for this round-up. Much has been left on the cutting room floor, but this particular collection of recent songs and videos by seven bands felt like a good musical trip, one with changing moods and varied forms of intensity, and of course I quite enjoyed all of it. If you find just one thing that gets you excited, then my time here will have been well spent.


Who Is The Konsortium?” That was the title of a post I wrote back in May of 2011 after coming across a striking track named “Lik Ulven” by a mysterious Norwegian group whose line-up included guitarist Teloch (from Mayhem and Nigingr) but was otherwise masked and shrouded in secrecy. I still didn’t know who was in the band when I reviewed their self-titled debut album the following month, but the music spoke for itself in quite charismatic tones.

Roughly a year later, still masked, The Konsortium played Inferno Fest in Oslo, and yesterday I enjoyed re-reading Andy Synn’s comments about their performance: Continue reading »

Jan 262018


This is the last installment of a three-part post I began on Wednesday, focusing on new and recently discovered metal in a blackened vein. I packed a lot of music into this tripartite post — including a pair of video premieres today — in part because I failed to get a SHADES OF BLACK column finished in time to post in its usual place last Sunday, but also because I won’t get one done for this coming Sunday either. The weekend is going to be an unusually busy one for me, and if I can manage to get anything done at all for NCS, it will be a continuation of our Most Infectious Song list… because time is rapidly running out on that.

When I started this post two days ago I had a list that I alphabetized by band name before dividing it into thirds. I did say that I might discover something else to add that would screw up the alphabetic ordering, and so I have.


Stormbane (from Melbourne, Australia) have explained that they recorded their debut album Eldritch Devotion in 2014 but only released it on January 1 of this year “due to explosive bowel movements and disagreements”. It also appears to be a posthumous release — Metal Archives now classifies the band as “Split-up”. Too bad. But at least the band decided to discharge this explosive movement before they themselves exploded. Continue reading »

Jan 252017


(KevinP returns to NCS with a new episode of his short-interview series, and this time talks with Achilleas Kalantzis, guitarist of the mind-bending Greek black metal band Aenaon — whose new album Hypnosophy was released late last year — as well as Katavasia and Varathron.)

K: You’ve had some lineup changes for Hypnosophy. What was the impetus and did this affect the sound/direction of the new material?

A: Indeed. Unfortunately it was really hard for Thyragon (bass) to keep up with the band’s schedule and Anax (guitars) had to join the obligatory army service, so we recorded without him (he is still a member now though). On the other hand Orestis was already playing the Sax for us since Extance, so becoming a permanent member wasn’t a big change. Astrous (vocals) and I are usually building the first demos of the songs, so the core of the creational process was the same (no matter the final arrangements). What made a big difference to me was that I also composed and performed the bass guitar. That gave me as a composer the ability to use it in a more prominent way, leading to groovier arrangements. Continue reading »

Oct 042015

Varathron-The Confessional


With a career that stretches back to 1988 and a panoply of stellar releases over that span of time, Varathron have cemented their place in the pantheon of Greek black metal, despite the fact that vocalist Stefan Necroabyssious has been the only constant in the band’s line-up. And yet, perhaps against the odds, the band have only continued to grow in creativity and power as the years have passed. Their last album, 2014’s Untrodden Corridors of Hades, was a landmark achievement, and while some might expect that their new “EP” The Confessional of the Black Penitents is simply a placeholder in between full-length releases, it is in fact yet another remarkable sign that Varathron are scaling new heights rather than resting on their laurels.

I put the acronym EP in quotes because this release includes roughly 40 minutes of music. It is probably being labeled as such because only three of its seven tracks are new songs, with the others consisting of live performances of songs from previous albums. But don’t think that those live tracks are some kind of filler — they are amazing to hear; they would be worth having even if The Confessional… included no new songs at all. And they make this “EP” a great jumping-off point for new fans who are just discovering the band, providing a musical retrospective on where the band have been as well as an electrifying statement of where they are today. Continue reading »

Sep 232015

Varathron-The Confessional


This is one of those mornings where I’ve accumulated a lot of music over the last couple of days that I’d like to tell you about, but I don’t have enough time to do all the telling. So I’ve picked only three new things, which is what I have time for, and I picked this grouping because they provide variety, which someone said is the spice of life. Because time is short, I will also have to hold my own descriptive verbiage to a minimum.


One item of exciting news that appeared in recent days was the announcement that the Greek black metal titans in Varathron have a new, seven-track EP named The Confessional Of The Black Penitents that will be released by Agonia Records on October 23. Apart from the prospect of new music from this excellent band, I also enjoyed the cover art, since it happens to be a painting by Swiss painter and printmaker Carlos Schwabe (1866-1926) that I’ve used before as one of the daily art posts on the NCS Facebook page.

In addition to the news about the EP, Agonia began streaming a new track named “Sinister Recollections”. It’s one of three new songs on the EP — the other four are previously released songs recorded live in Larisa, Greece, on May 16, 2015. Continue reading »

Nov 042014


Untrodden Corridors of Hades is the new album by the long-running, influential Greek black metal band Varathron, their first since 2009’s Stygian Forces of Scorn. In September we featured the album’s first advance track, “Realm of Obscure”, and followed that (here) with the lyric video for “Arcane Conjuring”. Now we bring you the premiere of a third song — which is the album’s opening track — “Kabalistic Invocation of Solomon”.

In this new long song Varathron gradually build an atmosphere thick with the potent vapors of the occult, drawing the listener ever deeper into the mysteries of a dark ritual. At the beginning and again later, a choral chant echoes as if being sung within a catacomb, accompanied by the massive booming of drums and the slow rumbling of the bass. Continue reading »

Sep 232014


I sometimes play fast and loose with that “Shades of Black” title, but this time it genuinely fits the music I’ve collected here. The song streams represent many different shades and phases of black metal, and regardless of your preferences within the genre, I suspect you will find something to like before you reach the end. Of course, I like all of it.


The long-running Greek black metal band Varathron will be releasing their fifth album, Untrodden Corridors of Hades, later this fall.  It comes five years after their last full-length, but based on the strength of the new album’s first advance track, this is one of those cases where I’m inclined to say, “It was worth the wait!”

“Realm of the Obscure” is thoroughly galvanizing, a non-stop rush of multi-faceted riffs that writhe like serpents, stab like knives, and hammer like mallet blows. The acrobatic and often pyrotechnic drumwork is equally varied and matches up beautifully with the varied movements of this long song, and the vocals are thoroughly ravenous. It’s the kind of music that’s voracious and malignant but with a highly seductive melody and an aura of imperial might. Really excellent. Continue reading »