Jun 212022


(Here’s Wil Cifer‘s review of a new album by the Los Angeles death metal band Zous, which was released at the end of May by Closed Casket Activities.)

This might seem weird since I am normally the guy who covers the darker more post-punk leaning bands or classic traditional metal. I do like more overtly heavy stuff as well, since during most of my teens I was into hardcore. By hardcore, I mean I saw the Cro-Mags on the “Age of Quarrel” tour while wearing my first pair of combat boots.

This solo project Zous from Nails drummer Taylor Young celebrates various shades of heavy that I love, as they are all nihilistic and dark in their wrathful pummeling. Young wrote, performed, produced, and engineered this entire album. He did enlist his buddies to come in and help out when it is time for the obligatory guitar solo.

This project was intended as old school death metal. It might never chug in the direction of the many Meshuggah worshippers or employ In Flames-inspired guitar harmonies; it does grind and crunch with more of a modern hardcore feel than anything in the zip code of Morbid Angel. Continue reading »

Mar 292022


(Wil Cifer reviews the first new album in a decade by the German post-metal band Sundowning, which is out now via Isolation Records.)

In today’s bleak world I have taken to leaning into that feeling of impending doom. Whatever you resist persists, so in seeking to cocoon myself in sonic darkness as the soundtrack for the road the world is going down I found this German band. Their hymns of hopelessness are a perfect fit.

They meet at the crossroads of doom, sludge and sometimes death metal. Less of the crust-punk recklessness sludge evolved from and a darker, more mournful sound. This sentiment leads them in more of a doom direction most of the time. Guitars weep against the pounding the rest of the band bring, while the vocals stay in more of a hypnotic chant. Though when the instrumentation ebbs back, growled vocals shift the narrative tone. Continue reading »

Mar 142022


(In this post Wil Cifer reviews the sophomore album by Dead Register, which is set for release on May 13th by Seeing Red Records.)

This Atlanta trio has graced a few of my end of the year best of lists. They are known for flirting with various shades of heavy, sludge and doom being the two sub-genres that come closest to describing the darkness thickly emoted from the sonic swathes they summon, using only bass, synths, and drums as the primary instrumentation. Their new album finds the band continuing deeper into the despairing abyss their previous work has gazed into. This time around the grooves are just more refined.

The title track that opens the album carries a sleek industrial stomp. The drumming gives the vocals plenty of room to lament. At times the tension has a shadowy post-punk feel, but with more oppression to its heavy-handed melancholy. Continue reading »

Feb 112022


(This is Wil Cifer‘s review of the new album by California-based Author & Punisher, which is being released by Relapse Records today.)

It would have been easy for Tristan Shone to have just coasted for the rest of his career by being known as the dude who makes music with these machines he built. His early work consisted of very aggressive and dense slabs of industrial steamrolling that droned you into submission.

It was a very powerful-sounding juggernaut. Just creating a sound was something he was content with, and by Women and Children” he added more atmosphere and melody, writing songs that stuck with you and placed him alongside any of his peers. This earned him a spot on my list of most anticipated albums of this year. He has exceeded my expectations with his newest release. It is not likely this album is going to convert you into a fan of industrial music, but will at the least endow fans of heaviness with respect for what is being done here. Continue reading »

Jan 252022


(Wil Cifer made an unexpected discovery when coming across a new album by the New York hardcore band Age of Apocalypse, which was just released by Closed Casket Activities, and he provides an enthusiastic review below.)

This album was on my top 10 most anticipated albums of the year list. Where most albums on the list I had not heard, the stream of this was sitting in my in-box. However I tell record labels this all the time, that I will only listen to a stream a few times. I either review it as I listen or just move on to the next album waiting in the in-box. I need to have an album on my iPod, to provide the soundtrack for my day in order to fully absorb and unlock the creative puzzle of what it is about. Otherwise I am mainly going off my first impressions, which might not be wrong, but are not fully explored or researched if you will.

My first impression of this album was that it could have come out in the ’90s. This is a compliment, for the ’90s were a very awkward decade for metal. While death metal really came into its own, other genres found themselves trying to shed the arena sparkle of the ’80s as they were caught between grunge and a hard place.

Some great albums emerged in that period that were not affected by the collision of the decades, one of them being Life of Agony’s 1993 album The River Runs Red. An album this band would have drawn inspiration from as they share a great deal of common ground with it. Continue reading »

Jan 112022

(Wil Cifer has decided to share a Top 10 list of expected 2022 heavy albums he’s most looking forward to at this point.)

My ouija board told me Islander wanted anticipated album lists so I began tapping at my keyboard.

A few of these on my list are albums I am giving you the heads-up about. The bulk of these are metal or metal-adjacent artists. There are some mopey depressive rock artists I am looking forward to with equal excitement, as Placebo, The Cure, Tears For Fears, and Morrrissey all have albums pending this year. But the top ten list ranked-off here are the harder varieties I am most anxious for. I have also included how confident I am of their release and my faith in the quality of the pending work. Continue reading »

Dec 222021


(Long-time NCS contributor Wil Cifer weighs in here with his picks for the favorite Top 20 metal albums of the year.)

There are voices that cry out against lists such as these, saying music is subjective, and its merit cannot be measured . The obvious flaws with this might include highly derivative artists who are tribute bands trying to pass off songs as originals. The real measuring stick for a great album is songwriting. Do the songs get stuck in your head, finding you returning to them with a craving to hear more? How well music stands up over the course of time is another, though an end of the year list is not the best unit of measure since they have so far only endured 12 months at most.

My Last FM determined how much I actually listened to an album. Writers want our lists to appear as cool as all the other writers because the Corpse Painted Butt Plug demo is on it, but if I only listened to it once how inspiring could it really be? Sounding brutal is the easy part, you only need the right gear and producer, but writing songs is more telling . A rip your face off guitar tone might hold my attention for the first song, then after that the question is … but can you write a song? Continue reading »

Dec 092021


(Here is Wil Cifer‘s review of the new Hypocrisy album, which was released on November 26th by Nuclear Blast.)

This album deserves some love.

As a kid in the ’80s the Devil seemed dangerous to me.When bands like Deicide and Morbid Angel came out the darkness felt more tangible. While what they say about metal being the gateway to Satanism is apparently true, since 36 years later I am even more devoted to the Left Hand Path, and not the Entombed album, I can see where the concept of Ole Scratch has lost the danger it once held. Thus a band like Hypocrisy seems even more vital than they did in the ’90s by releasing an album about conspiracies.

Pentagrams are a fashion statement, government plots involving other-dimensional beings scares a larger audience as if an institution is going to conspire about aliens. What else might they not be truthful about? Thus the lyrical content of Worship gives a heavier feel to the music as a whole. Continue reading »

Dec 072021


(We present Wil Cifer‘s review of the new album by Cynic, which is out now on Season of Mist.)

It was surprising to find Paul Masvidal carrying on the torch of Cynic after the death of both Sean Malone and Sean Reinert. It seems this is how he is coming to terms with it.

The tone of this album suggests he took some DMT and used aliens as his support group for this sonic therapy. Normally lineup changes of this magnitude give me pause when going into an album but a few things regarding this one gave me more reassurance, such as the fact that drummer Matt Lynch who plays on this album was recruited by Masvidal and Malone, before Malone’s death. Rather than replace Malone, the bass lines are played on a bass synth, since his style of playing was untouchable. This picks up closer to where they left off with Traced in Air as it is a return to the heavier sounds that preceded the elf-like prog of Kindly Bent to Free Us. Continue reading »

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 »