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 »

Oct 312019
 

 

(This is Wil Cifer‘s review of the new album by Atlanta’s Cloak, which was released by Season of Mist on October 25th and includes cover art by Adam Burke.)

Cloak’s 2017 album To Venomous Depths showed a great deal of potential. I wanted to hear more of who they were than who they aspired to be. The album was dark and melodic enough for me to invest the time in their sophomore album.

This new album finds the band giving me what I originally wanted from their debut. They are still more committed to sounding Swedish than devoting themselves to black metal, and I am fine with this. After all, there are 100 blast-beaters sitting in my emails every morning. I want something fresh, not warmed up, even if it’s warmed in the fires of hell. Continue reading »

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 »