Sep 182019
 

 

(This is Wil Cifer‘s review of the new album by Chelsea Wolfe, which is out now on the Sargent House label.)

Metal is a sound. Heavy is a feeling. There are plenty of bands that on paper are metal, but when played are not heavy. There are some entire genres of metal that might be suited for the Friday night D&D game or drinking mead with your mates, but are not heavy. Then there are artists who are not metal, but given their sense of darkness, despair, or pure sonic gravity, are heavier than a great number of metal bands. Artists like Swans, Diamanda Galas, and The Birthday Party come to mind. Chelsea Wolfe is also one of those.

Her Burzum cover brought her to the attention of metal fans early in her career before she caught the ear of the indie rock crowd. I have obviously covered her here before, since I tend to prefer sonic heaviness and melancholic heaviness over metallic heaviness. This album falls more under melancholic heaviness and is less sonically heavy than her past three albums. Continue reading »

Sep 122019
 

 

(This is Wil Cifer‘s review of the new album by Japan’s Coffins, which is due for release on September 20 by Relapse Records.)

2019 has been a really strong year for death metal. Here is an album that continues the trend.

Not the biggest fan of these guys going into this album, but familiar with their work. There is still some rough around the edges grit, but here their sound is much more dialed in. When they lock into a more palm-muted chug you can really hear the difference. It’s their fifth album in 20 years, and this sounds like the one they have taken the most time with. There are more sparse touches of punk. They are more deliberate on songs like “The Tranquil End”, but not jumping on this year’s death-doom bandwagon by any means. Continue reading »

Jul 312019
 

 

(Wil Cifer conducted the following interview of Jay Gambit, the principal creative force behind the genre-bending band Crowhurst, whose latest album III was released earlier this year by Prophecy Productions.)

Earlier this year I reviewed the latest album from this experimental black metal project, which was the third part in a trilogy. I recently managed to find the time to catch up with Jay Gambit, the main man behind this project, to discuss his creative process behind this album.

 

There seems to be a theme of working with different personnel for each record you make. Is there a reason behind this?

I view lineups as more of an assembly of musicians I think will benefit the record. Andy [Andrew Curtis-Brignell] was the backbone, no doubt about it – but there’s a lot more musicians on III like Ethan from Primitive Man and other folk whose sonic signature was distinct and complementary to various recordings. What keeps this from being a solo project is that I feel every musician brings their own presence, and by playing around with different formulas each record – you can get some spectacular and unique results. Continue reading »

Jun 042019
 

 

(Wil Cifer reviews GastiR – Ghosts Invited, the new album by Gaahls Wyrd, which is out now via Season of Mist.)

Gaahl is an iconoclast. For him black metal is not something he simply paints onto his face. Black metal is something he expresses himself through with an honest anger. While you might not feel that hate coming at you through the speakers like his work with Gorgoroth, you can feel the darkness. He does not settle for the mediocrity of sounding like everyone else.

His first song is spoken in a Gollum-like voice. They are not just hitting you with blast beats, but with dissonance, creepiness, and haunting melodies. There are blast beats on “Ghosts Invited” but they take you on an immersive journey with more thrashing sections and some groove. In places Gaahl uses sung baritone vocals to off-set the din. They slow down into a more elegant and melodic pulse with “Carving the Voices”. If this is hurting your feelings because it doesn’t sound just like Gorgoroth, well go listen to Gorgoroth. Yes, he is singing more, but I imagine if he was just rehashing what he did in Gorgoroth, he would bore himself to death. Continue reading »

Apr 082019
 

 

(Wil Cifer wrote this review of the new album by Crowhurst, which was released on April 5th by Prophecy Productions.)

This project of Jay Gambit and friends has always been a favorite of mine when it comes to American black metal as they are willing to deviate from what everyone else is doing, which is typically adhering to a steady diet of blast-beats. Though the opening song, sticks closer to a more traditional form of black metal, blast beats are used more as an accent than as a rule of thumb.

Its on “ Self Portrait with Halo and Snake” that things get interesting. Their sound begins to take on a more post-punk feel. Low baritone vocals carry a haunting melody. The guitar has a more indie-rock angle to it. The song does swell into harsh vocals, but everything is very smooth. Continue reading »

Feb 282019
 

 

(By now, surely every metalhead knows about the Lords of Chaos movie directed by Jonas Åkerlund, and written by Åkerlund and Dennis Magnusson based on the 1998 book of the same name, focusing on the Norwegian black metal scene of the early ’90s. In the following post, Wil Cifer shares his reactions to the movie — and we welcome your own in the Comments if you’ve seen it.)

I know it’s a vulgar concept, but let’s pretend for a moment that movies are pure entertainment. There are some filmmakers like David Lynch and Lars Von Tier who transcend the fluff of your typical popcorn sellers, but they are the exception to the rule.

If you are looking mindless fun, draped in corpse paint, then your expectations of Lords of Chaos might be reasonable. If you are looking for the definitive history of Norwegian Black Metal, then you might be better off with the 2010 documentary Until the Light Takes Us. Continue reading »

Feb 122019
 

 

(Wil Cifer prepared this review of the new album by Pensées Nocturnes, which was released on February 1st by Les Acteurs de L’Ombre Productions.)

This French band’s last album was an eccentric mix of black metal and chaotic cabaret jazz. This time they are fully committing to a Circus theme. Seeing this report, I assumed this album was bound to sound like Mr. Bungle. In some ways, they don’t prove me wrong.

Where Mr. Bungle hinged heavily on the vocal power of Mike Patton, these guys instead invest more in setting the stage of a place back in time. The vocals are more of a chattering narrative and swing back and forth from operatic singing to growls of anguish. Blast beats are thrown in, against a sway of an angular waltz. This time around the sounds are more layered. It is this layering that paints the exotic sonic pictures. Continue reading »

Jan 232019
 

 

(Wil Cifer reviews the 14th album by Arizona’s Flotsam and Jetsam, which was released on January 18 by AFM Records.)

When it comes to bands I grew up on there is a tightrope balancing act they must brave. One part chasing the dragon to recapture the sound I fell in love with, versus becoming a tired parade of nostalgia.

Even though Flotsam and Jetsam‘s new album sounds like they are picking up where they left off on 1988’s No Place For Disgrac., the production gives this a heavy enough density for jaded eardrums that have grown calloused by higher tolerance for heavy over the years.

As a teen I liked When the Storm Comes Down (1990), but something about the album was a bit off. Looking back, it’s more evident that the production was steering their sound in more of an And Justice For All… direction. Continue reading »

Dec 172018
 

 

(Our year-end LISTMANIA series continues this week, beginning with NCS contributor Wil Cifer‘s Top 20 list.)

Yes, you can re-read the title: It says the top 20 “heavy” albums, not the top 20 “Metal” albums. I prefer for music to be heavy sonically and emotionally, more than I demand that they be metal. I think the more open-minded metal head can certainly appreciate heaviness in many forms, though those represented here are more often metal than not, since I have other platforms on which to rant about post-punk or shoegaze, and albums by Nothing or Marissa Nadler don’t belong in a conversation about heavy music even as good as those albums might be.

In 13 out 20 of these albums, screamed, growled, or otherwise tortured vocalizations are the primary method of delivery. Melody comes in many forms, for me the darker the better. No one sub-genre stole the show here; I think doom and black metal are neck-and-neck; there are also a couple of more hardcore albums, and some with a progressive leaning. The one unifying point is the dark and emotive current that runs through the bulk of these albums, which reflects the fact that I grew up a poor goth child, who was too metal for the clove smokers and too goth for the denim and PBR crowd (however, selling weed in the early ’90s made the most die-hard Cannibal Corpse fans tolerate my Type O Negative). Continue reading »

Nov 132018
 

 

(On November 16th Candlelight/Spinefarm will release the new (11th) album by the Japanese band Sigh, an album about madness and the blurring line between sanity and insanity, with 90% of the lyrics in Japanese and cover art by Eliran Kantor. What follows are Wil Cifer‘s thoughts about it.)

The term progressive metal can bring to mind some cringe-worthy images, among them Berklee dropouts making long sprawling songs with obtuse riffs written with one thing in mind — “How will this sound if I solo over it?“ What sets Sigh apart from such bands, aside from their black metal past, is that their sound actually progresses. It is not stagnant wanking. You know only to expect organized chaos when you go into one of their albums. So I should have not been surprised by the opening track of Heir To Despair (“Aletheia”) sounding like a space-age take on Jethro Tull as a metal band; it makes perfect sense. Continue reading »