Sep 162020


(This is Wil Cifer‘s review of the new album by Chrome Waves, which is set for release on September 25th by Disorder Recordings.)

So far in 2020 there have not been more than a handful of black metal releases that have inspired me to put them in heavy rotation. The sub-genre of depressive black metal has become even more scarce in terms of quality. I find this odd because 2020 has begged for bleaker, darker music. I know I can plug DSBM into the search bar of Bandcamp and find an abundance of poorly programmed drum machines under thin over-processed guitar tones.

This is what makes Chrome Waves‘ new album such a treasure. It sounds great and is as dark and melancholy as I might want when I am taking my meds. Continue reading »

Aug 112020


(This is Wil Cifer‘s review of the new album by Portland’s UADA. The album will be released by Eisenwald on September 25th. Kris Verwimp created the cover art.)

After falling for an exchange in the comments on a Facebook post comparing this album to the likes of Alkaline Trio and New Model Army, my dark heart was sparked to check it out. Yes, this album might be more melodic than what I remember this Portland band doing before, but you can put away the cloves as it is still very solidly black metal.

I think the misunderstood excitement of my Facebook friends was based on them becoming content with lazy bands who stick close to the pack, doing little to set themselves apart as individuals. Ironic, considering black metal is the outsider genre. On this album UADA expand their sonic arsenal with new tones to create some cool, powerful metal riffs. Continue reading »

Aug 042020


(This is Wil Cifer‘s review of Sel de Pierre, the new album by the French band Vous Autres, which will be released on September 25th by Season of Mist Underground Activists.)

The French seem to have a history of creating black metal not afraid to stray from the blast-beaten path. On their sophomore album this duo continues the tradition. Their debut album was one of 2019’s best black metal releases. This one might not be as blatantly heavy, but it makes up for this in the expansive array of sonic colors they paint these songs with.

While this album is much more atmospheric than their first, I would not label them “post” anything. Sonically, are there elements in the same zip code as post-rock? Yes, but they are gracefully ugly with chilling dissonance. The album’s third track even has an instrumental interlude that would not be out of place on a Nine Inch Nails record. Where most atmospheric black metal takes on a droning meditative quality, here it’s used in the same unnerving way that horror movies manipulate you with their scores. Continue reading »

Jun 112020


(This is Wil Cifer‘s review of the new album by San Diego’s -(16)-, which was released by Relapse Records on June 5th.)

With anger as the universal language and the Apocalypse looming, sludge is a fitting soundtrack.

This band continues to stand out from the pack. They are not a Neurosis tribute and more Anger closely aligned with noise rock than doom. Hardcore influence can be heard in their more explosive moments, and I like the effects on the vocals. Lyrically it reminds me of the Melvins in their chaotic musings. Continue reading »

May 052020


(This is Wil Cifer‘s review of the debut album by Umbra Vitae, which was released on May 1st by Deathwish Inc.)

Converge is one of my favorite bands. Yeah, I know they are not metal. Even their singer Jacob Bannon admits this and calls his band hyper-aggressive. But they are very influenced by metal, and on albums like Petitioning the Empty Sky you can hear Slayer dripping from the riffs.

Jacob might perform in a hardcore band, but he has a love for death metal that inspired him to put Umbra Vitae together. He enlisted guitarists from Hatebreed and The Red Chord, along with the ex- drummer from Job For a Cowboy and the bassist from The Red Chord.

So I went into this album with Converge as the bar by which I was going to be measuring it. It did not disappoint. This is not a love letter to Morbid Angel, though you can hear their influence in places. I would have been let down if this had been a color-by-numbers death metal album. Continue reading »

Mar 232020


The half-witted editor of this site (that would be me) didn’t realize until this past weekend that Wil Cifer had sent in this review a week ago. And thus it is purely a coincidence, and a very sad one, that it’s now being posted the day after we learned that Chuck and Tiffany Billy and members of Testament’s crew have tested positive for COVID-19, apparently contracted during the band’s recently completed European tour. Members of their tour-mates Death Angel and Exodus have also tested positive for the virus. We wish them all the best under these unfortunate circumstances. Titans of Creation will be released on April 3rd by Nuclear Blast. And now, on to Wil’s review…


Testament lurk just outside of the “Big 4 “ but, The Ritual aside, they have held their own against Slayer over the years when it has come to putting out quality heaviness. The New Order might have been the metal album of 1988. That year had some tough competition, so at least in the top five. The first song on this album, “Children of the Next Level”, feels like it is fueled with the same fire that propelled their glory days. Continue reading »

Feb 282020


(This is Wil Cifer‘s review of the new album by Demons & Wizards, which unites the talents of Jon Schaffer (Iced Earth) and Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian) and was released by Century Media on February 21st.)

Fifteen years later and this project has returned.

Before we get into the meat of the metal here it should be said that I am pretty picky when it comes to power metal. This might surprise some since I grew up listening to the bands that influenced power metal. Even when Helloween came out with Keeper of the Seven Keys pt 2, I was still on board. The only problem was the bands who took inspiration from that album were too happy for me. Continue reading »

Feb 052020


(This is Wil Cifer‘s review of the new album by the Norwegian band Kvelertak. The album will be released by Rise Records on February 14th.)

The third album from these Norwegian punks is not only more refined, it is also their first with new vocalist Ivar Nikolaisen. The youthful attitude in his snarl gives more weight to the punk slant of this album.

When punk is referred to here, think more of a ’90s European direction like Refused. Punk is also only one side of the equation, as they also offer a large dose of rock ‘n’ roll with guitar harmonies that have a warm Thin Lizzy-like tone. Not that any of these elements are coming out of left field. They have all been hinted at on the previous albums, but have now been brought further into center stage. Continue reading »

Dec 242019


(NCS contributor Wil Cifer returns with another year-end list. His lists are always eclectic, and not the usual picks you’ll see at many other places, and this year is no exception.)

There goes 2019 with all its cats at the tables, baby Yodas and Thanos memes. As people become angrier at the world around them the need for darker and heavier metal increases. Yeah, Blood Incantation put out a pretty good one, but was it something I really wore out?

I could pick all the cool albums and throw on here or I can pick the albums I acutally listened to more than a handful of times The one thing that is consistent is every time I make these there are grumbles about how I forgot your mom’s favorite tech death band or why would I choose a band that paid to go into a studio and record songs when Inverted Nun Dildo farted blast beats into a tin can?

The answer to those questions is: Every morning I wake up to a few dozen promos in my in-box from record labels, PR companies, and Satan himself. I automatically delete anything in the headline that says technical, slam, bestial, or raw. Because I know it will sound like all the other bands whose albums I could only get two songs into. Then I look for things hinting that they may be dark, have melody, and perhaps do something different than all the other bands. I normally end up deleting those too, after pressing play and hearing that it should have been described as a bestial slamfest. Yes, I hear Necro Abortion Technical Institute and yes, it was deleted.

You might have read my reviews throughout the course of the year here and other places, so the spoilers have been alerted, and some of these should come as no surprise. Four of these bands I have been a long time fan of, others I clicked the right places at the right times. All of these are in my iPod being listened to, and that is what matters. Continue reading »

Nov 082019


(We present Wil Cifer‘s review of the new album by the British doom lords Esoteric, which is being released on November 8th by Season of Mist, along with a complete stream of the album.)

What I love about this band is their ability to take doom to places that have little to do with Black Sabbath. Nothing against Geezer and the boys, but I don’t need a genre of impersonators. I want the kind of sonic despair a band like Esoteric are capable of delivering. Eight years after Paragon of Dissonance, which is pretty much a perfect album. expectations are high. What is a band to do after such an achievement?

In the case of Esoteric, they decide to open the album with an almost 28-minute song. To put this in perspective, that is the length of the entire Reign in Blood album. Granted, Slayer were moving at the speed of punk, and these guys are a slow trudge through the apocalypse. With a song of this length I tend to approach it as if it is a symphonic work, written in movements rather than the compact verse-chorus formula. Continue reading »