I normally like to include at least three bands in every edition of Rotten To The Core/Grind My Gears, but this week’s inclusions are so damn important in this year of releases that I felt they deserved more words and more of my time. So you’re only getting two. Deal with it. At complete opposite ends of the ‘core’ spectrum, and separated by a couple of thousand miles, the two bands I’m gushing over will be sat knocking contenders away from their spots atop my year-end podium. I say that a lot but I’m fickle, so again, deal with it. I won’t waste any more of your time. On with the sh0w.
The Dallas Cowboys Don’t Live On Earth
Yes. I should have already covered The Callous Daoboys by now, but here it is, so shut it. The Georgians have been appearing in every second online metal publication either side of the Atlantic, and now it’s my turn to wax lyrical about Die On Mars. I’ve seen thirty different bands tagged in “For Fans Off” comments trying to place the whirlwind bedlam of this mathcore melting pot, most of which I agree with, some I don’t get, and some I don’t recognise because I only spent a little time on MySpace before Facebook became the omniscient power in social platforms. To this point though, I haven’t seen one comparison to Panic At The Disco, and I’m here to change that.
Now, The Callous Daoboys are definitely much closer to Dillinger or The Sawtooth Grin than PATD, but I can’t help shake this feeling. Brendon Urie’s music is wildly expressive and covers more styles and sounds than most of your favourite mathcore bands, but maybe not quite as many as you’ll find in Die On Mars. Soft instrumental interludes (“Die On Mars (Side Story)”) and fourth-wall breaking messages to the bands’ fans (“Contrail Crucifix”) show off these young musos disregard for anything approaching traditional. Whether it’s the structure of their plate-shifting, dancing-on-hot-coals math metal that leaps from time signature to time signature, or the greasy, slicked-back hardcore riffing so carefully applied on “Blackberry Delorean”, the Daoboys still find time to throw in wild, looping shots from the edge of play; more often than not thanks to an orgy of octave shifts and violin screeches.
“Pure Shlock” could genuinely be the product of a Urie/Daryl Palumbo/Keith Buckley supergroup – the track rammed full of snarky lyrics, Hot Damn! era breakdowns, and distorted, wild screams that spit piss and shit vinegar. That’s just one of the examples I can pull out of my ass that reminds me of so many of my favourite acts. Die On Mars hits just about every single note I need out of hardcore, mathcore, and the zany metalcore that SeeYouSpaceCowboy and Wristmeetrazor are dishing out right now – and many, many more. No one other than Mike Patton could fit so much music into thirty-five minutes without it all turning into a bleeding, shitty smear of noise.
This Blackened Gift Is A Hardcore Curse
“Now Matt,” I hear you ask, “there aren’t any breakdowns, gang vocals, or whammy screeches in this record, so what’s it doing in here?”. Great question. One I don’t need to answer because this is my feature and I make the fucking rules. I was late to the party with This Gift Is A Curse, only discovering their sublime 2015 release All Hail The Swinelord late last year, so I’m covering the band’s new release A Throne Of Ash today. Equal parts blackened hellviolence and sludgy doomcore, there isn’t a more bleak and punishing album out this summer. Again, it’s my feature, so don’t come at me with suggestions. Thank me after.
A Throne Of Ash is a forty-plus minute exercise in diabolical blasting and hellish scene-setting. Imagine the dirtiest swamp possible, one teeming with plants and animals that want to pull you down into the mire and crush you, then imagine the blanket of thick gas that covers this whole area – dense, oppressive, and corrosive. That’s the kind of scene This Gift Is A Curse set with this record. “Thresholds” and “Monuments for Dead Gods” are ruthless examples of black metal blasting, with the distorted, twisted hardcore vocals layering even more filth on top of already murky strings. You might be hard up trying to find individual riffs in this festering pot of sludge, but that’s kind of the charm. Shrill harmonics cut through the end of “Wolvking”, a rare moment of high-end attack from the guitars that reminds you that you’re listening to humans playing instruments; the subtle, demonic synths and keys in “Gate Dweller” having much the same effect.
This is not a sound for everyone. Chances are regulars to this column might find it way too bleak, but I could, and will listen to A Throne Of Ash on repeat all day, getting myself lost and tangled up in the occult offerings from these Swedes. Other bands playing this type of Scandinasty goodness like Hexis, LLNN, and Mireplaner all operate somewhere in the realm of sludge and post-metal, but This Gift Is A Curse are without a doubt the band closest to weaponising their violent, vehement music. There’s hardly a chance to get a whiff of air until the final moments of the superb closer “Wormwood Star” – where the smog lifts JUST enough for the light of the sun (or the star) to cut through, maybe hinting at a turn for the positive? Nah. I doubt it. All roads lead to the next record being just as, but probably way more thunderous than the last.