Sep 062021


(Here’s Wil Cifer‘s review of the new Iron Maiden album, which was released three days ago.)

The unholy trinity of Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden spawned all metal since their influence trickled down to Metallica, Slayer, Bathory, and pretty much anyone wearing a bullet belt since then. Now with album 17, Iron Maiden comes back stronger than ever after a six-year hiatus from the studio. I assumed The Book of Souls was going to be their last album, and even after hearing the single for “The Writing on the Wall“ I was not expecting a double-album worth of material.

When I press play on any Maiden album since Brave New World my immediate worry is what shape is Bruce‘s voice going to be in? Now that he’s at age 63 this is an even more legitimate concern given the fact that his leather-lunged voice is a defining staple of their sound. This is put to rest after hearing how Bruce belts it out on the title track that opens the album. Given that the producer was Kevin Shirley, who worked with Rush, Dream Theater and Journey, another surprise is how beefy the guitar tone is — though Steve Harris co-produced, so I am sure breathing over his shoulder every step of the way. “Stratego” that follows is even more of an urgent headbanger and has its boot firmly on the monitor. Continue reading »

Aug 022021


(Wil Cifer reviews the new third album by the California death metal band Ruin, which will see release on August 27th on 12” vinyl by Nameless Grave Records, on cassette through Nero One Records and Death Metal Cult, and on CD through Goat Throne Records.)

Death metal should be the sonic equivalent of the kind of aggression that possessed Charles Manson’s hippie love slaves when they carved the baby from Sharon Tate’s womb. That is the same vibe I hear when listening to this album. There is not a bunch of pulp horror posturing but real violence from the hateful heart.

This cult of deviants is back with a nastier and grimmer offering, which is impressive, as I really loved Human Annihilation. These miscreants deliver the kind of dense heaviness they are known for, but this time around the songwriting has more attention to detail and the playing is more musical with actual guitar melodies wallowing in the murk. Continue reading »

Jul 222021


(This is Wil Cifer‘s review of the second album by the Australian band Crypt Crawler, which which was first released in June 2021 (digital and CD), with a vinyl release set for August 6th via Bitter Loss.)

Death metal often worships at the altar of era. Roots in the genre’s beginnings give a needed reverence when creating new offerings, though this should not lead to a slavish devotion that creates cover bands.

This Australian band set themselves apart right from the bass riff leading into the opening song (“The Mouth of Death”). They also avoid creating a sonic monochrome of hyper aggression. This track might warrant the label progressive death metal, if the term goes beyond a tendency to obsess over wanky mathematics. The more adventurous side of their songwriting is at times subtle and their aggression rooted more in a taut thrashing. Continue reading »

Jul 192021


(This is Wil Cifer‘s review of the new album by San Francisco-based King Woman, which will be released on July 30 by Relapse Records.)

Unlike the interviews of the average metal band Kristina Esfandiari does not say this album is going in a much heavier direction than our first one, she just does it. The band’s first full-length, Created in the Image of Suffering, was heavy only by the sheer magnitude of melancholy churned from the sludgey blues it summoned. This new album, Celestial Blues, not only bears a greater emotional weight but carries a more metallic malice.

Sure many of the riffs are depressing at times, which I of course love since darkness and sonic heaviness are what I seek out in music. They lure you in with the introspective title track, teasing a few punchy dynamics. Then slowly the aggression begins to leak from the cracks of the songs. Continue reading »

Mar 292021


(What is old is new again. Wil Cifer reviews a come-back EP by the Texas crossover band Angkor Wat, who first made their deep marks with albums released in 1989 and ’90.)

Once upon a time bands were discovered in zines, Maximum Rocknroll, or on college radio, and yeah I am not counting MTV, it was bullshit. In those golden years you would find bands that seemed like your little secret. Maybe you might get one of your friends into them, but they were a deserted island for your ears otherwise. This Texas band was one of those.

When Corpus Christi came out in 1990 it was light years ahead of its time, though both of Angkor Wat‘s albums held up over the years. They remained marginally active after 1990, with a few small tours here and there. When I stumbled across this EP Worst Enemy released on their website with zero fanfare, it was a wonderful surprise. Continue reading »

Jan 192021


(What follows is Wil Cifer‘s review of the latest album by the Atlanta-area band Prime Mover, which was released near the end of December 2020.)

This band from Atlanta has kicked around the southeastern metal scene since 1997. Their second full-length unfurls the sound of a band fully realizing their sound and have sharpened it into a keen weapon.

Their arsenal of riffs are supported by smart songwriting. They know the value of a hook. Their melodic guitar lines work best when they are not charging full speed ahead. Despite being referenced as a black metal band in some corners of the internet, death metal seems to be their primary influence. Very melodic death metal at that. There is also a hefty dose of thrash in what these guys do. Continue reading »

Dec 152020


(Today we present a Top 20 year-end list from long-time NCS contributor Wil Cifer.)

I am sure you have already read enough intros to lists this year where everyone commiserates about how we have made it through 2020 and things are going to be better soon. I am here to offer you no such hope. Whatever you resist persists.

If you read what I typically write you know I am consistent in extolling the virtues of leaning into the darkness, if not hinting that I may or may not worship it. My favorite albums this year supported the grim reality that wishful thinking does nothing. The lack of power metal should not be surprising. I have never wanted to hear metal that has anything to do with happiness, and this year I feel stronger about this sentiment. This is not a list of the albums I felt were coolest so I could get virtual high-fives from my peers. These albums are the best because they inspired me to listen to them the most. Continue reading »

Nov 112020


(This is Wil Cifer‘s review of the new album by Tombs, which will be released by Season of Mist on November 20th.)

I am going to assume that since Mike Hill has been pumping it out with this project for 13 years you know what Tombs is about. If you have read my reviews before, then you know darkness is what I am listening for when it comes to any genre of music. Hill delivers darkness in full here.

Flanked by the same line up that played on the Monarchy of Shadows EP, the band open with the almost thrash-tinged Swedish touch to black metal. In the first song alone (“Bone Furnace”) there are almost all the staples of their sound. A more overt metal chugging powers “Void Constellation”. The songs have a more focused and hooky bite than what I remember coming from the Monarchy of Shadows EP. They have certainly retained the dense guitar sound they have had since The Grand Annihilation. Continue reading »

Nov 042020

photo by Jeremy Miller


(Wil Cifer, who usually contributes reviews to our site, brought us this new interview with Jarrett Pritchard of the death/doom band Pulchra Morte, whose second full-length, Ex Rosa Ceremonia, will be released on November 6th by Transcending Records.)

I caught up with Jarrett Pritchard guitarist of Pulchra Morte (also in Eulogy, Brutality) to discuss the making of and inspiration behind their new album Ex Rosa Ceremonia and making music in these pre-apocalyptic times. The band’s line-up also includes Adam Clemans (Skeletonwitch, Wolvhammer), John Porada (Wolvhammer, Abigail Williams), Clayton Gore (Eulogy, Harkonin), and Jeffrey Breden (Leagues Below)


The new album drops in a few days, on the 6th. I know you have two new members for this album. Did this occur before or after the writing process for the album was under way?

After framed out. Jeff the other guitarist is our riff machine. He posts them on a server for Clay and I to structure. From there we throw it back and forth . So they came in with this canvas under way. We did not want talking heads, and wanted them to of course write their own parts to it. Continue reading »

Oct 232020


(This is Wil Cifer‘s review of the new album by Pallbearer, which is being released today by Nuclear Blast.)

“This is going to be our heaviest album yet” or “We just wanted to strip things down and get back to our roots” are stock answers for many metal bands when asked about their next records. So much so they have become tropes. Yet that is what has happened on Pallbearer’s fourth album, which is their first for Nuclear Blast.

The title track that opens the album is even more Sabbathy than anything from Sorrow and Extinction, which of the three previous albums has the most in common with this one. Some of this is due to the rawer production. The vocals are mixed to sit back more in the guitars, bringing out the heft of the guitars. Continue reading »