Nov 232021

(Bloodmoon: I, the new collaborative album created by Converge alongside Chelsea Wolfe, her bandmate/writing partner Ben Chisholm, and Cave In vocalist/guitarist Stephen Brodsky, is out now on CD and across all streaming platforms via Epitaph Records, with a vinyl edition coming next year. Wil Cifer provides the following review.)

When one of my favorite artists releases an album, you might assume I listen to it for the first time in a blissful state gushing how they can do no wrong. Perhaps this is what neuro-normative people do. I am not one of those. Instead, my expectations are so high that I go into it anxious that they are going to let me down and tarnish their pristine legacy. Why am I explaining this to you?

One, this is not merely one of my favorite artists but a collaboration between two of them. I have been listening to Converge since the ’90s so we have more history, but Chelsea Wolfe‘s career I have championed for over a decade now. One friend of mine sent me a link to their earliest collaboration at the Roadburn Festival where this collaboration first spawned from and said:

“Chelsea Wolfe jamming with Converge is one of the most Wil things ever”. Continue reading »

Nov 032021

(Here’s Wil Cifer‘s review of the new album by Austin, Texas-based Glassing, which will be released on November 5th by Brutal Panda Records.)

At first you think …ok, this is a sludge album with a great deal of post-rock atmosphere, not an uncommon sub-genre these days. While that might be in play on the opener, there is a great deal of powerful heaviness that hits you outside the sonic scope of sludge. Angular twists and turns as well as sections that pound at you like an angry hardcore band, or I suppose screamo, since that tends to blend its sonic texture more in this direction. The scathing scream of the vocals meets somewhere between black metal and screamo.

When the kind of spastic chaos is expressed in say grindcore, the results are more abrasive. Here everything flows very smoothly. That is not to say that Glassing aren’t at times hyper-aggressive. This is a very heavy album, just heavy sonically. It falls outside the meaty chugs and blast beats most of the bands we cover here deal in, yet I am sure Islander will agree that my niche here is bringing bands on the fringe of metal into the spotlight. Continue reading »

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 »