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 »

Nov 042020

photo by Jeremy Miller


(Wil Cifer, who usually contributes reviews to our site, brought us this new interview with Jarrett Pritchard of the death/doom band Pulchra Morte, whose second full-length, Ex Rosa Ceremonia, will be released on November 6th by Transcending Records.)

I caught up with Jarrett Pritchard guitarist of Pulchra Morte (also in Eulogy, Brutality) to discuss the making of and inspiration behind their new album Ex Rosa Ceremonia and making music in these pre-apocalyptic times. The band’s line-up also includes Adam Clemans (Skeletonwitch, Wolvhammer), John Porada (Wolvhammer, Abigail Williams), Clayton Gore (Eulogy, Harkonin), and Jeffrey Breden (Leagues Below)


The new album drops in a few days, on the 6th. I know you have two new members for this album. Did this occur before or after the writing process for the album was under way?

After framed out. Jeff the other guitarist is our riff machine. He posts them on a server for Clay and I to structure. From there we throw it back and forth . So they came in with this canvas under way. We did not want talking heads, and wanted them to of course write their own parts to it. Continue reading »

Oct 232020


(This is Wil Cifer‘s review of the new album by Pallbearer, which is being released today by Nuclear Blast.)

“This is going to be our heaviest album yet” or “We just wanted to strip things down and get back to our roots” are stock answers for many metal bands when asked about their next records. So much so they have become tropes. Yet that is what has happened on Pallbearer’s fourth album, which is their first for Nuclear Blast.

The title track that opens the album is even more Sabbathy than anything from Sorrow and Extinction, which of the three previous albums has the most in common with this one. Some of this is due to the rawer production. The vocals are mixed to sit back more in the guitars, bringing out the heft of the guitars. Continue reading »

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 »