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 »

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 »