Sep 192023

(This is Wil Cifer‘s review of Common Suffering, the new album by Chicago’s Harm’s Way which will be released by Metal Blade on September 28th.)

Here is a band I was reluctant to give a chance due to the whole straight-edge thing. Given my personal beliefs and lifestyle choices, the straight-edge sub-genre feels conflicting in the same way that causes me to avoid Christian bands.

I was lured into being more open-minded thanks to King Woman’s Kristina Esfandiari guesting on the single “Undertow”. The simmering darkness and willingness to explore eerie melodies set the Chicago band apart from the tough-guy hardcore I expected from them. Thus began my descent into their fifth full-length Common Suffering.

Their second album for Metal Blade carries a great deal of crossover appeal, though from a different angle than their previous release Posthuman, and I felt inspired enough by this album to dig back into their catalog and visit that as well. Continue reading »

Aug 082023

(On September 15th Chaos Records will release the second album by the California band Tideless, and today we’ve got Wil Cifer‘s impressions of the music to share with you.)

2023 has so far become an impressive year for death metal .Many bands continue to sharpen the blade forged in Tampa, others make conscious attempts to wander their own path. California band Tideless set themselves further apart from the status quo with their sophomore release Eye of Water.

The aggression is dialed back as they lean in a post-rock direction with a cinematic sonic scope. At just under seven minutes the opening track is the shortest song on this album, as the songs seem to require extended track lengths to lay the groundwork for the breadth of the dynamics they are building toward. Continue reading »

Jul 262023

(We present Wil Cifer‘s review of Godthrymm‘s new album, which is set for release on August 18th by Profound Lore Records.)

Doom does not feel like summer music to me. The heat normally makes me want to listen to death metal. I am on the other side of the bridge from Tampa, the birthplace of classic death metal, so it’s not until the storms roll in over the bay that I am in the mood for the kind of doom this gloomy British band churns out.

Despite having ex-members of My Dying Bride and Anathema in the band they are not weighed down by trying to capture the Peaceville sound. They further separate themselves from a great deal of modern doom by chugging forward with melodic purpose rather than getting lost in the meandering around a droning sprawl of sound.

Continue reading »

May 122023

(What follows is Wil Cifer‘s review of Black Flame Eternal, the new album by Cloak which will be released on May 26th by Season of Mist.)

The Atlanta metal scene exists within a 9-mile radius of hipster filth pits. During my time in Atlanta I found myself woven into the fabric of this PBR-stained seediness. From that vantage point I watched Cloak claw their way past the battle vests and IPAs to become the gloomy black metal band capable of writing anthemic symphonies of shadow found on their third album Black Flame Eternal.

The praise I bestow on these guys is hard-fought, as I have warmed up to them a little more with each album, due to me being a huge Watain fan. Rather than win me over with the sonic similarities, it made me ask why should I listen to this when I own everything by both Watain and Dissection? Continue reading »

Apr 242023

(Here’s Wil Cifer‘s review of Texan outfit Portrayal of Guilt‘s new album, which is out now via via Run For Cover Records.)

Uncompromising and confrontational are two words that should be used when describing artists who use heavy music as their medium. You read that right. An artist, not a band. The best-case scenario is a band of artists, but when you are talking about a project that takes the kind of sonic risks Portrayal of Guilt does, the conversation turns to an art form.

These Texans do not play by the rules of heavy music, nor do they care. They make cathartic darkness, which is why they are one of my favorite new heavy vehicles of chaos for my ears. Their new album conforms when they feel like it. They used atmosphere and jarring dissonance to paint hellish portraits of inner pain externalized. Continue reading »

Apr 042023

(Arizona doom/sludge quartet UGLY will release their new album Autograph via Satanik Royalty Records on May 5th, and below you’ll find Wil Cifer‘s review.)

Since the ’90s sludge has branched out from crust punk to meld the apocalyptic rumblings passed down from bands like Swans and Killing Joke. This band from Arizona carries all the foreboding of the genre’s forefathers in their sound. They know the value of atmosphere as a tool to empower the aggression of their riffs. The guitars chug with crushing vitriol. One of this album’s strengths is the use of samples to set the mood, in a manner we have not heard since the glory days of Neurosis.

The vocals of the first song are an exercise in raw larynx-scraping  They are recorded in a very dry fashion with scant use of effects. Just a crazed man screaming into a mic.

This crazed man is not alone. He is joined by Krysta Curry from Landmine Marathon, who not only shares vocal duties but also helps out with synths, samples, and additional percussion, though her vocal presence is not really felt ’til the second song, which finds an odd syncopation embracing a weird, more grandiose arrangement. Continue reading »

Feb 062023


(Here’s Wil Cifer‘s review of the new album by Ohio-based Sanguisugabogg, released on February 3rd by Century Media Records.)

Normally this brand of death metal is not my thing. Early Cannibal Corpse was once my go-to for this kind of thing, which these days often gets labeled as gore-grind. These guys are clearly tired of being tied to such labels, and aside from the low guttural vocals, they have set themselves apart from being another spawn of Cannibal Corpse’s mutilated womb with their fetish for grooves. There is a pungent whiff of hardcore to some of their riffs, which have the breakdown feel.

Normally when it comes to a band that knocks my headphones back due to the sheer density of their sound, my first concern becomes, can they write songs? The first two here earned a thumbs up in this department. Thus the challenge for a band who lives off brutality for the sake of brutality was to keep interest. Which they did with their evershifting flow of groove-drenched riffs. Continue reading »

Jan 172023

(This is Wil Cifer‘s review of the new album by Obituary, just released on January 13th by Relapse Records.)

In 1989 I first heard “Slowly We Rot” on a college radio station that played metal at midnight every Friday night. What struck me about Obituary was the deliberate grind of guitars and John Tardy‘s emotive yowl that separated them from the other death metal and thrash bands at the time. Their sound owed more to Celtic Frost than Slayer or Venom.

Those kinds of Celtic Frost like groove do not play as defining a role in their new album Dying of Everything, however I was also not expecting the thrashing ass-kicking the opening track unleashes. Any concerns regarding this album living up to their established legacy were squashed. The more Slayer-like attack is balanced out by Tardy‘s distinctive voice reminding you that this is Obituary. They bring back the headbanging grooves on “Without a Conscience”, and Tardy‘s sneer is given time to articulate the agony. Continue reading »

Dec 192022

(Long-time NCS contributor Wil Cifer weighs in here with his picks for the favorite Top 20 metal albums of the year.)

Making end of the year lists for me is more than just creating content, it is a celebration of the music that helped me make it through another year. I pound these out for a variety of blogs I write for but this one is close to my heart as it celebrates one of my favorite genres of music… metal. Of course I am always pushing metal to the forefront no matter who I write for, but some publications pigeonhole me as the goth guy or the punk dude, which are both genres I am into and their influence crosses over into some of the albums listed below, but with this list my sole focus is metal.

I am always thankful for Islander for giving me a voice here as my tastes often fall on the fringes of what is normally covered here. My tastes were shaped by growing up listening to Iron Maiden, Ozzy and King Diamond, along with my fetish for post-punk and goth that Cvlt Nation is normally my platform to discuss, though when it comes to metal I normally gravitate to sonically darker and dynamically melodic sounds. .
This year I tightened my definition of metal for this particular list. There might be a few hardcore-leaning albums on here, but they are metallic enough to satisfy the scrutiny of my jaded ears. In doing this I sacrifice albums I was partial to such as the new ones from Messa and Hangman’s Chair, but you can find me giving them praises in other corners of the internet. Similar can be said of albums by bands gracing many other lists on many other blogs . Bands like Chat Pile, Callous Daoboys, Dead Cross, Brutus, KEN Mode, and City of Caterpillar. All made wonderful albums I enjoyed, but they are all noise rock, post-hardcore and screamo, once again not belonging on a METAL list. However if you are into those genres, I highly recommend all of those artists. Continue reading »

Oct 242022

(Here we present Wil Cifer‘s review of the new album by the New York City black metal collective Black Anvil, which is due out on November 4th via Season of Mist.)

Not unlike many American Black Metal bands, Black Anvil did not evolve from a LARPing past littered with Manowar cassettes and 20-sided dice, but from the punk scene.

The band’s founding members paid their dues in the hardcore band Kill You Idols. Where many hardcore scensters felt the next cool bandwagon to jump upon would be black metal, whose European counterparts shared a similar DIY aesthetic, for Black Anvil the common ground was aggressive emotional outburst, which the band continue to refine into a sound that is just as legit as any essemblege of Scandinavian headbangers. Continue reading »