Of all the extreme music subgenres I’ve been tasked with defending to unimpressed friends and family members, crafting a convincing argument for the qualities of noise has by far been my toughest endeavor. Whereas ambient and drone have alluring, relaxing qualities that some outside listeners can appreciate, noise often just sounds…
Just two years after their debut, Cathedral pumped up the tempo and incorporated a slew of influences stretching beyond their solid, but somewhat limited, doom metal sound on Forest of Equilibrium. Shades of sludge à la Black Flag and The Melvins are most apparent, but the band reaches further beyond the low-and-slow realm to pull in influences from hard rock, heavy metal and progressive rock. Most importantly, the band’s vibrant personality sheds its skin entirely and reveals its true colors, thanks in large part by an unhinged, dynamic vocal performance from Lee Dorrian. It’s an exceptional combination that slightly edges out the band’s initial groundbreaking efforts. Whereas several bands contributed to the sound developed in part by Cathedral on Forest of Equilibrium, there’s never really been an album that sounds quite like The Ethereal Mirror, and it remains a multifaceted album with reverberations felt in music from the likes of Baroness, Pallbearer and a decent chunk of modern stoner metal.
Thanks to the spoiler-obsessed tendencies of the internet, you probably already saw that Converge are releasing a “surprise” EP today. The legendary metalcore quartet’s latest release drops less than a year after their acclaimed ninth album The Dusk In Us, which landed sixth among our Top 25 Albums of 2017. And honestly, there’s not much more to say than that; the declaration of “new Converge” will prompt fans and detractors to act accordingly, just like they always do when the band drops new material. But if you count yourself a member of the “fan” group, then Beautiful Ruin is a four-track treat of the band doing what they do best: scorching, multifaceted metalcore that’s as engaging as it is punishing.
Welcome to Kvlt Kolvmn, “Is This Even Black Metal?!” Edition. We hope you’ve had a frosty, satan-blessed month. But, I mean, let’s be real. Such exclamations are couched in the traditional, stereotypical norms of a community that has built and staked its reputation on an allegiance to popularly assumed constructs…
The thing about old hardcore bands is that they kind of never really die. There is inevitably some festival or other, especially these days, that will invite X or Y legendary hardcore band to get the kids to circle pit and stage-dive one more time all while pointing to the sky and shouting along unintelligibly to, usually, lyrics about how important it is to stand on your own two feet, rise above some aspect or another of society, and be true to yourself. There is a reason for this, though, and it’s because of a certain timelessness to the cliches that present themselves in what we think of when we call something “hardcore”.
Modern hardcore, in its most traditional strain, stems directly from the likes of Black Flag but exists now through a twisted evolution that people like me have attempted to label with absurd titles like emoviolence, powerviolence, and any number of “-core” affixed descriptors. However, one of the main common themes that can be found when listening to or discovering newer variants is a critical nucleus consisting of compact, ferociously brief songs that maintain a rapidfire pace just shy of grind, at least to these ears. Sometimes these include (extremely) brief breakdowns or mid-tempo breathers before flying off the handle again in a manic explosion of righteous vengeance and furious anger.
One band that hits all of those elements and goes hard as fuck on their new EP is Entry out of Los Angeles, CA.
Metalcore wasn’t always the poppy, hair-flipping, Jonas Brothers-ass affair that it turned into during the early to mid 2000s. Metal and punk have always had an interesting dynamic and when the two cross over it has almost always resulted in compelling music. Black Flag showed their love for Black Sabbath on My War and the first thrash records of the early 80s are seriously indebted to hardcore punk and crust punk. In the 1990s, metalcore was one of the many punk-metal amalgams thriving. It combined the sludgy, downtuned, groovy metal of the day with the politics, angst, and breakdowns of hardcore punk. One of the originators of this fusion, Integrity, gained their popularity off their highly influential debut album, Those Who Fear Tomorrow, a thundering record that still holds up today. Unlike many of the bands in that early metalcore scene, Integrity hasn’t gone away since their legendary early release. On the contrary, the band is still firmly plugged into the current metal-punk world and makes some of the most interesting metalcore available. Their newest album, Howling, for the Nightmare Shall Consume, continues their long streak of successes.
We’ve covered a fair bit of ground with our Starter Kit series, where we select a handful of key records that highlight a niche musical style or penetrate the prolific status of a staple genre. Unfortunately, this format doesn’t lend itself to covering proto-genres—microcosms of musical history comprised of a specific set of albums released in a fixed period of time. But these movements are crucial to the evolution of our favorite genres, particularly when it comes to the trajectory of sludge metal. What’s become a multifaceted and often refined style was once a disparate lineage of bands from different genres who all applied the “sludge factor” in different measures. While you won’t find a dedicated section for proto-sludge at your preferred music store, the following albums an artists laid the framework for the modern sludge landscape. So whether your sludge purveyors of choice come from the atmospheric, blackened or progressive sects of he genre, they’re all indebted to the groundbreaking statements these albums made.
Sometimes a band can be so schizophrenic stylistically that it’s hard to pin them down. Other times that particular wide range of tweaks and twangs helps to keep that band a moving target which means it’s much harder for a sound to get stale. Of course, merely observing a band…
Some artists are iconic because of record sales or bigger than life personalities but a lot of the time they reach that hallowed status because of the influence they wind up having on others and their ability to stay humble in the face of praise. A lot of the time it’s because they have their own guiding philosophy that keeps them contributing long after others have come and gone. The latter can operate in the spaces between traditional measures of success much of the time. Some even deflect the praise onto those they’ve worked with instead of keeping the recognition to themselves.