There are several War and Peaces worth of words strewn about the internet in blogs and interviews and Facebook comments about how misused the term “screamo” has become in our century. Its birth as a term can be traced back to the 1990’s, when, as it was until the mid-2000’s, it meant a subgenre of hardcore punk that borrowed liberally from the meandering, depressed sound of post-hardcore to form a style that was as lyrically inclined to existential rumination as it was to mosh calls. The term, though, began to be applied with greater and greater abandon to any sort of music that was heavy in a manner reminiscent of punk and incorporated any sort of emotion that wasn’t anger, until eventually “screamo” meant Warped Tour metalcore groups like Pierce the Veil or Sleeping With Sirens and not early-aughts juggernauts Orchid or pageninetynine.
I’m not here to tell you which is better, but I am here to tell you which I like more: in what comes as probably zero surprise, it’s the “real” screamo (now referred to as “skramz” by some, to avoid confusion). And man, us fans could not be living in a better moment for it. With bands like Ostraca, .gif from god, and Øjne all rising in the genre’s ranks, as well as the microrevival of the screamo-adjacent “sass” scene with SeeYouSpaceCowboy…, and black nail, the screamo scene is flourishing right now and only getting better by the day with new releases.
Case in point: the quick and nasty split by Crowning and Swallows Nest that I’m happy to bring you the premiere of today. Coming in at around eight and a half minutes, these two bands showcase exactly what it is that screamo has to offer in 2018.
The first song – the track that Swallows Nest brings to the table – takes its time to build a doom-and-gloom introduction into a lurching Goliath of a riff before ripping it into high gear. From here, the song breaks back down into an extended outro that takes any pretense of speed and shreds it to pieces, reveling in its own slowness. Crowning’s side is more straightforward, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s worth passing up at all: the Chicago group spices up the typical screamo fare with chord progressions that feel like they were torn from the post-black metal playbook and hard-hitting breakdowns that give far “heavier” groups a run for their money. Seriously, this is not a split to sleep on in any regards; both bands bring their A-game and this release is as chaotic and nasty as it is concise.
There’s also a music video for Crowning’s track “Old References,” and, if you’re interested, footage of Swallows Nest playing “A Subtle Knife For New Doors” live. If you’re a physical music lover, (which I certainly am as well, so no judgement there), there’s places to pick up the goodies for this release: Zegema Beach Records, IFB Records, Dingleberry, and Time As A Color have brought vinyl of this release into this world, which you can cop on the Zegema Beach storenvy.