Welcome back to Starter Kit, a weekly feature on Heavy Blog Is Heavy. In it, we’ll explore a different subgenre or sound, and list three releases that are the best places to start, as well as absolute essentials, in the subgenre of choice. So far, in order of oldest to newest, we’ve covered Sludgewave, Slam, and Screamo, and today, we’re taking a peek through the looking glass of odd time signatures and breakdowns at one of my personal favorite subgenres: OG Progressive Deathcore.
It must be said, this genre has incredibly apt nomenclature, which is easily shown by breaking down the three words that make up its title. When thinking of OG in metal, what comes to mind is a style of raw production, back when a genre was still finding its proper studio sound. The term “progressive” fits here perfectly, as well: full of wonky time signatures, weird grooves, and written by people with a very forward-thinking mentality, these bands aren’t entirely dissimilar in ways from the foremost groups of the progressive rock and metal scenes. And, of course, last but not least, deathcore! This genre combines a love of prog tendencies with the typical deathcore sound: tremolo-picked riffing, chugs that sound like a roid-raging freight train, and, of course, the omnipresent and driving force that is the deathcore breakdown.
Menacing, heavy, and incredibly raw, OG progressive deathcore is extremely different from the modern deathcore scene in a lot of ways (thanks, djent). It’s a wild beast, thrashing and destroying everything in its way on a polyphonic killing spree. Check out these three fantastic albums, all of which are excellent places within the genre to start. The best way to go through would be down the list, but either of these three are good spots to begin familiarizing yourself with the genre.
The precursor to Planetary Duality, a landmark album in modern technical death metal, Akeldama is the most overtly progressive of these three albums (but don’t let that fool you into thinking that either of the other choices are anything but its peers in their progressive nature). Diminished sweeps and blazingly fast solos are hallmarks of this record, but that doesn’t diminish (hur hur hur) the power of this album’s “true” deathcore bits. The Faceless throw in some crushingly heavy breakdowns and intelligently-written melodic bits that contrast with their technical tendencies to form a perfect harmony of brutality. There’s no downtime in this record: across all 33 minutes, Akeldama never slows or delays for even a second. Of these choices, this one is the least true to the classic deathcore formula, but exclusively in a way that works to its advantage.
The only proper term to use for Marc Okubo’s early songwriting in Veil of Maya is “riff salad”. Hectic and unpredictable, early Veil of Maya tracks turn on the drop of a hat to deliver their signature off-kilter riffing and mathy breakdowns. Shining through is the band’s signature usage of huge, melodic chords, creating a light and airy sense of texturing within the chaotic deathcore. The Common Man’s Collapse is full of top-notch writing through and through: Marc Okubo can do no wrong, it seems, when it comes to his deathcore riffs, and nothing proves that better than VoM’s sophomore release.
You wanna see crazy? Give this album a spin. Arsonists Get All The Girls’ bizarre, frantic brand of progressive deathcore is squarely on the fucking insane end of the deathcore spectrum, and it doesn’t help that, essentially, every album they’ve done has been more sonically off-the-wall and inaccessible than the last. Their undisputed masterpiece, 2007’s The Game Of Life, is the best example of their oddball, grindy stylings. Combining a heavy dosage of polyphonic chug riffing and over-the-top keyboards into a strangely addicting combination, AGATG always has something unexpected and totally new up their collective sleeves. Definitely the hardest album on this list to wrap one’s head around, especially in the first listen, but easily the most rewarding of the three once the brain has penetrated its outer layer of ridiculousness.