Aug 072015


NeO London flyer


(Andy Synn reviews the performance in London on August 5 by Ne Obliviscaris, Xerath, and Brutai).

This weekend it’s Bloodstock Festival here in the UK, and this is the first year in a long time I’m not attending (not even for a day), simply because the overall line-up just hasn’t grabbed me this time around.

That’s no criticism against the festival mind you, but simply an acknowledgement that the chosen headliners this year just don’t really do anything for me (though, to be fair, following on from Immortal and Emperor in previous years would be difficult for any bands). And while the undercard does have a solid handful of bands I absolutely love — Enslaved, 1349, Agalloch, Ihsahn, Ne Obliviscaris – I’ve already seen the first two bands put on career-defining performances at Inferno Festival this year, and I don’t expect an 11 am outdoor slot to do the sound for Agalloch any favours either (particularly not in comparison to their own stunning performance at Inferno last year).

So really it’s only Ihsahn and Ne Obliviscaris I feel like I’m missing out on.

Except I’m not… because two nights ago I got the chance to see NeO put on an absolutely mindblowing performance in London. Continue reading »

Nov 262014


For four days I’ve been on the other side of the country from my home in the Seattle area, and I’ll be working here for 10 more days. It’s one of those projects that engulfs me periodically, a night-and-day kind of thing that squeezes my blog time down to acorn size. I did make room late last night for some exploring and found the following new music I thought you might like. I sure as fuck did. Presented in alphabetical order by band name.


The German black metal band Dysangelium have a new album on the way from W.T.C. Productions. The title is Thánatos Áskēsis, it’s due for release on December 24, and it’s available for order here. I haven’t yet listened to the entire album, but I did catch Decibel’s premiere of one of the new songs yesterday, and have really been enjoying it. Continue reading »

Oct 232014


(DGR reviews the new third album by Xerath.)

Allow me to start this review by stating this fact; I am so happy that Xerath got the chance to record another album because Xerath records discs like music is going out of style. They are one of the few bands out there who rank incredibly high on the under-appreciated-to-ambition index, because every album the band have put out, despite their inauspicious album titles, have been massive slabs of music. I think they should deserve multiple opportunities in the future to do so based on their cover of “Speed Demon” by Michael Jackson, because it confirmed that I was not the only one who heard that bassline in the song and went, “There’s a metal song in this.”

Nobody really does the “bang for your buck” routine quite like Xerath do. They remind me of the time when a friend of mine ordered one of those gimmicky massive burgers that restaurants come out with, and when the waitress brought it out, we laughed at it because our simpleton minds could not comprehend the reality of this huge slab of meat sitting in front of us, we paid for it, boxed it, and left.

Xerath make no compromises in their music, and I absolutely love the fact that the FIRST SONG of this album is over seven minutes long, because for a group who should be earning a massive fan base, they love to put barriers to entry the size of the Berlin Wall at the front of their albums. In those seven minutes the band pack every single thing that has ever defined Xerath into one song: a huge blast of orchestration, a giant-sized serving of mid-tempo-focused groove riffs, super-high screaming and occasional clean singing. and complicated drumming. It’s like they were told III was going to be a one-song album.

But III is not a one-song trip. In fact, III has fourteen songs on it, and like its brethren I and II, the album includes long, arduous journeys through multiple landscapes — seemingly guided tours of a beautiful apocalypse, and you really have to be prepared for what you are about to undertake. III, also like its brothers, is a great album, but also shares in some of the issues that hampered them a bit as well. It’s a huge disc that needs to be approached as you would a thousand-mile journey, one step at a time. Continue reading »

Jun 282014

Happy Saturday to one and all, and if you happen not to be happy on this Saturday, we offer our condolences. Perhaps some of the new sounds in the following collection will cheer you up. They sure as hell put a smile on my face.


A couple days ago Candlelight Records announced that it will release the third album by UK-based Xerath on September 16 in North American (September 15 for Europe). The title is III, and it was produced by Jacob Hansen (Volbeat, Epica). The album is a mammoth one, with 14 songs and a run time of almost 70 minutes, and the cover art was again created by Colin Marks. The album also marks the appearance of new guitarist Conor McGouran, who has replaced the formidable Owain Williams. Also appearing on the album will be a live string quartet and classically trained alto and soprano vocalists.

I really enjoyed this band’s first two albums and have had high hopes for the new one. We got a first taste of the album in late April when Candlelight released a sampler that I wrote about here. The sampler included a previously unreleased Xerath song named “Sentinels”, and although I didn’t know it at the time, that turns out to be the seventh track on III. And then two days ago, a teaser of additional new music appeared on YouTube. Continue reading »

Oct 142012

Just yesterday I was raving about the performance of Sweden’s Grave at the Seattle stop of their current tour with Morbid Angel and Dark Funeral, and what should greet my bloodshot eyes this morning than a video of the band killing it on stage. I’m not sure where this performance was filmed (it’s not from the Seattle show), but it’s damned cool.

Grave bassist Mika Lagrén attached one of those tiny cameras to the head stock of his bass and let it roll. You can see and hear frontman Ola Lindgren in the background and you can hear that nasty snare tone from the drum kit that I was talking about in the Seattle review. You might get a crick in your neck from watching this, but for me it brought back some very sweet recent memories of an awesome night of metal.

This morning, thanks to a message from TheMadIsraeli, I also caught up with the latest official music video from UK juggernauts Xerath, which debuted last week. The song is “Machine Insurgency” from the band’s most recent album, II (reviewed here). That was one of our favorite discs from 2011, and the song is a real ass-kicker. Continue reading »

Jan 312012

(Xerath’s 2011 album “II” was one of our favorites last year — check out TheMadIsraeli’s review of it here. Recently, he caught up with the band’s stellar guitarist Owain Williams for this real-time interview conducted via Facebook chat — a conversation to be continued at a later date.)

TheMadIsraeli: Hey Owain, totally random ass question…

Owain: Fire away

TheMadIsraeli: interested in doing an on the spot interview right now?

Owain: I’m game

TheMadIsraeli: Xerath. How did it start and why?

Owain: It was actually the brainchild of Andy Phillips, the old Xerath guitarist. Myself and Michael Pitman were merely there to facilitate his ideas. His vision was to marry classical music to technical heavy metal. All Mike, Rich and I have done (as well as recruiting Chris) is understand and realise that goal and try our hardest to make it our own and achieve it. While Andy’s no longer in the band, I think we were in agreement in the first place about how the band should sound

TheMadIsraeli: And Andy was on “I” and you were on bass at the time. So in a sense you’ve kind of taken the helm of a band you were just assisting along in its goal originally. How does that feel?

Owain:  I was credited as bass/guitar for “I”, so there are some songs that Andy or I would call our own. “Alterra” for instance was all Andy, “Right to Exist” was me, some we played about 50/50 guitar.  We’re such a multi-instrumental band, it’s hard to put a finger on who’s responsible for what anymore. For example I think the first song we ever wrote together was me showing Andy how you could have different tiny Polymeters on drums over different limbs which ended up as “Intrenity”. Rich (vocals) wrote a LOT of riffs on “II”, like “Sworn to Sacrifice” (my favourite!), and Mike (drums) wrote probably the most technical “guitar-wise”, “The Call to Arms”. Continue reading »

Jan 182012

(Slowly but surely, TheMadIsraeli is reviewing or re-reviewing his picks for 2011’s best albums. Today, the pick is Xerath’s second full-length.)

Few bands have impacted me in the last year more than Xerath has.  Combining the regalness of Vader, the rhythmic mind-fuckery of Meshuggah, and the bone-grinding groove of Pantera, and smothering it in grand, romantic-era orchestral overlays, they’ve been at the forefront of what appears to be a rash of extreme orchestral metal.

Other bands such as Fleshgod Apocalypse, Septic Flesh, and Gromth are also proving that the classical music of old and the metal of now are really not all that incompatible by bringing forth a style in which the metal and the orchestral are joined as one, constantly weaving in and out of each other.  It could be argued that this is the synthesis of the two most legitimate styles of music ever created, the ultimate product.

Maybe I’m being overly grandiose or overstating the importance of what’s going on here, but Xerath and other bands who are fully incorporating orchestration are hitting me the right way, breathing new life into heavy music for me.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that I have a feeling this orchestral extreme metal thing is going to become extremely prominent in the future, and I think that’s for the betterment of metal as a whole. Continue reading »

Dec 282011

This is Part 3 of our list of the most infectious extreme metal songs released this year. Each day until the list is finished, I’m posting two songs that made the cut. For more details about what this list is all about and how it was compiled, read the Introduction via this link. To see the selections that preceded this one, click the Category link on the right side of the page called MOST INFECTIOUS SONGS-2011.

The first song in today’s feature comes from Deathstar Rising, the 2011 album released by Finland’s Before the Dawn. The band was started in 1999 by the prolific Tuomas Saukkonen (also a member of Black Sun Aeon, Dawn of Solace, and RoutaSielu), and that 2011 album is their sixth. Although I reviewed the band’s immediately preceding album, Soundscape of Silence (2008), I neglected Deathstar Rising on this site. Actually, I believe that qualifies as criminal neglect, because I enjoyed the fuck out of that record. As punishment, I’m hoping for probation instead of hard time.

Before the Dawn’s success comes down to two principal factors, which are fully displayed on Deathstar Rising: skilled song-writing that effectively combines hard-driving riffs and rhythms with dark, beautiful, hook-filled melodies; and, on the last four albums, an amazing one-two vocal punch delivered by Saukkonen (whose harsh delivery is killer) and bass player Lars Eikind, whose clean vocals are just as remarkable. (Yes, this band is one of our Exceptions To the Rule.) Continue reading »

Aug 152011

Are you like me? Do you often fantasize about scaling the fence at a commercial airport, dashing out onto the tarmac, leaping up behind a big plane, and sticking your head in the back end of a jet engine just as the aircraft takes off? Yeah, you’re right: Everyone dreams about that, so why am I talking about something so commonplace?

Well, listening to “Reform III”, one of the songs from Xerath’s 2011 album, II, helps make the dream more vivid. You can almost feel the skin being peeled back from your face and all your hair being ripped out by the roots from the blast effect. Awesome.

Xerath have just released an official music video to accompany “Reform III”, which I watched this morning. My biggest problem with the video is that it doesn’t involve full-head-immersion at the backwash end of a jet engine. What was the director thinking? Instead, we have a tale about trusting your instincts and not trusting your co-workers, at least if your co-workers are killers. Who wear eye-liner. Watch it after the jump. Continue reading »

Jul 012011

(NCS writer Israel Flanders bravely sticks his neck out with his list of the best albums released during the second quarter of 2011 — April, May, and June.)

So I’m back. Been out of it for the last week or so and just decided it was time to take some lazy days, but it’s time to get back to the fuckin’ metal and the fuckin’ headbanging action. It’s now the end of the second quarter of 2011 and I figured I would continue my top ten of every quarter series, which I started at The Metal Register. So, just for refreshers sake, let’s take a look at what I picked for Q1. In no particular order I had…

SylosisEdge Of The Earth
EradicationDreams Of Reality
Born Of OsirisThe Discovery
Rotten SoundCursed
Amon AmarthSurtur Rising
CrowbarSever The Wicked Hand
Paul WardinghamAssimilate/Regenerate
Times Of GraceHymn Of A Broken Man
DeicideTo Hell With God

So now we move on to the list for Q2. I know people are going to complain, bitch, moan, and otherwise cry at me through the comments on how often I didn’t pick your favorite tech-death band that sounds like rejected Psycroptic demos, but if I haven’t heard it, I’m not gonna pick it. Now let’s get to the albums shall we?  (after the jump . . .) Continue reading »