Mastiff: The Hard Behind The Core

Not everyone wants blast beats, sludgy guitars and completely detuned bass strings that vibrate more intensely than their nan’s underwear drawer. Mastiff, however, definitely want blasts, sludge, and slack, ragged bass strings; they also want to pound your face into the dirt with unfiltered malice. Mighty kind of them. The crusty so and so’s from your new favourite UK sludgecore (this is definitely a thing) band took some time to pick and choose five of their favourite hardcore bands, and if you’re wise enough to take the time to check out their music, you’ll feel the same kind of appreciation for noise and terror that I do when I stick on this dirty bunch.

Before we get to it – Mastiff’s new LP Plague is one of the filthiest, fiercest batches of subterranean/swampy hardcore you’d ever expect to be cooked up in the UK’s current home of brutal, beardy bastards – Hull. The town is slowly building a hefty reputation for birthing some truly unholy tunes and while we may not know what is causing it. we should be thankful. Their appreciation of sonic assault turns their humble British hardcore into something resembling Primitive Man but way busier and, somehow, filled with even more hostility. I genuinely didn’t think it possible, but there we go.

I had to pinch myself to double check that I hadn’t fallen asleep and written these blurbs myself, because these are five of my favourite bands too. Go figure. Before we go, make sure you check out Plague – a sneaky, sneaky peek of it can be found right under this. Their new video for “Brainbleed” will, eh, make your brain, eh… bleed. Strap in for that devastating album closer by the way. It’ll push forward your next trip to the dentist after it rattles the fillings right out of your poor, soiled skull.

Converge

It’s impossible to overstate how important to the entirety of extreme music Converge are. Their early albums helped to define metalcore/noisecore, and everything they’ve released from Jane Doe onward could be easily described as a masterpiece with very little room for discourse. Their sound has evolved over the years to incorporate crust punk, grindcore, doom, post-metal, death metal – you name it, Converge have probably figured some way to fold it into their sound without ever losing what it is that makes them so unique. And then there’s all of their extra-curricular activity – Jake Bannon’s art defined an entire era of metallic hardcore albums, Kurt Ballou has had a hand in producing about 90% of all the important hardcore records in the last 20 years, and Nate Newton and Ben Koller between them are in enough other amazing bands (Doomriders, Old Man Gloom, All Pigs Must Die, Mutoid Man, etc) that we could easily have written this list from just their side projects. Legends in their time, Converge will be the benchmark for all noisy hardcore bands for the foreseeable future and beyond.

Nails

Don’t stop reading, we promise we can justify this. Nails are without question one of the most controversial bands in the world of metal and hardcore, and seem to cause more trouble with the things they say and do outside of their actual music than they could ever hope to onstage. That said, since 2010’s Unsilent Death onward, Nails have been the absolute epitome of unrelenting, dizzying brutality, and their grind-laden hardcore is without question the most aggressive you could care to find anywhere. Whatever you think about his actions, you’d have to be a pretty jaded fool to dismiss the HM-2-soaked riff machine that is Todd Jones. The dude has probably done more for getting younger kids into grind in the last decade than the next ten candidates put together. And, what’s that you say? Kurt Ballou produces their albums? Well then.

Cult Leader

Gaza were a fucking awesome band, and their final album, No Absolutes In Human Suffering is one of the nastiest pieces of work in the last decade, so it was a huge shame when they disbanded not long after said album was released, due to some pretty serious allegations of physical and sexual abuse that were thrown at their lead singer. That awful mess of a situation was turned around a few years later, however, when ¾ of the band reformed under the name Cult Leader, with previous bass player Anthony Lucero stepping into the vacant vocalist position. Their first EP, Nothing For Us Here, took the blueprint that Gaza left behind, and sharpened it further, stripping away much of the bloat to leave behind a more concise, refined version of what that band was. Since then, they’ve made two genre-defining albums that blur the lines between sludge, grindcore, discordant hardcore, and even post-rock, and are absolutely the most savage and inspiring band around right now. Their first full-length, Lightless Walk, was on heavy rotation when Mastiff began writing our new album Plague, and if you dig around a little bit you can probably tell. Did we mention that Kurt Ballou produces their albums? No. Well then.

Trap Them

The first of two sadly-defunct bands that made the cut, Trap Them were almost single-handedly responsible for the glut of bands that appeared towards the late 00’s that leaned so hard on the classic Boss HM-2 sound that the term ‘Entombedcore’ was born. Now, were Trap Them the first hardcore band to borrow a few tricks from 80’s/90’s Swedish Death Metal? No, probably not. But they were absolutely the pinnacle of that movement, and are one of the few bands that really defined their own sound. Brian Izzi’s riffs might have owed some sonic debt to Left Hand Path, but he twisted them into something uniquely his, and in Ryan McKenney they had one of the most energetic, intimidating and downright terrifying frontment hardcore has ever seen. Mastiff might not share a heap sonically with the band, but they’re definitely a huge reason as to why there’s at least one HM-2 sat within the band’s arsenal of pedals. Also, for those trivia fiends, you’ll be amazed to know that Kurt Ballou produced their albums.

Cursed

The most blistering hardcore band of the last 20 years. Though Converge might topple them in terms of varied output and overall influence on the greater hardcore scene, there wasn’t another band as vicious, relentless and purely, genuinely pissed off as Cursed. Though Chris Colohan had already fronted a bunch of revered bands (Left For Dead, The Swarm), and would go on to serve in even more afterwards (Burning Love, the totally awesome SECT), it was with Cursed that he will be forever remembered, and that’s just fine with us. The band only made three albums and a smattering of EPs, but every single thing they released was a perfect distillation of human bitterness in its purest form, set to the gnarliest, darkest riffs known to man. There will never be an angrier record made than Architects Of Troubled Sleep. Believe us, we’ve tried. Shockingly, even more so considering the band were long associated with Deathwish Inc, Cursed NEVER recorded with Kurt Ballou (!?), though Burning Love and SECT did so it still kinda counts.

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