“[One interesting thing to note is that] the style that His Hero Is Gone started with their 1998 magnum opus, Monuments to Thieves, somewhat [erased] the boundary between crust and black metal, whether they like it or not.” -Fenriz of Darkthrone
Fenriz may be one of the champions of a pure, raw hatred of subgenres, but really, his quote pertaining to the rather phenomenal His Hero Is Gone album, Monuments To Thieves, is nearly spot on in describing what Neo Crust is as a genre. On one level, it is raw; pure, dark hardcore laid down over a d beat crust base to create some truly punishing and desperate music. It is crust punk that harnesses more of its metallic side, something acts like Discharge were never afraid to do, and uses that metal influence to push the genre further than it could ever go on its own.
However, this is not to say that Neo Crust is just a different form of metalcore, as it is truly its own beast entirely. Where metalcore remain more solidly rooted in hardcore or metal depending on their particular style, Neo Crust bands erase those boundaries, fluctuating and flowing through genre boundaries with ease. Fenriz was right when he claimed that His Hero Is Gone erased the boundaries between black metal and crust, but left out the fact that along with black metal, HHIG also dismantled the boundaries between doom and death metal as well. Neo Crust is the darkest, dirtiest yet most oddly melodic of all hardcore subgenres, and all bands within the style are unafraid to flaunt that. Enter the wonderful world of Neo Crust where your metal leanings cannot escape your crust, and your crust leanings cannot escape your metal.
In Neo Crust, just as in many other subgenres, there is somewhat of a holy trinity of bands that everyone looking to explore the style should know. While His Hero Is Gone is undeniable standard bearer for the genre, it is impossible to deny the profound impact that another Memphis, Tennessee act has had on the development of the genre, with that act being, of course, Tragedy. Tragedy began roughly around the same time as HHIG and harnessed a much more d-beat crust oriented attack than HHIG did, resulting in music that still retained the epic feel of Neo Crust, but more or less so doing so on a healthy dose of crack. This is not to say, however, that Tragedy does not still retain their heavy black metal roots, as it is undeniably heard through out the record in the form of long, drawn out guitar work that would do everyone from Dark Fortress to Weakling proud. Below is the album that many see as the defining Tragedy album, take a listen and begin your dive into the wonderful world of Neo Crust.
At this point, everybody is most likely more than a little sick of hearing about how absolutely ground breaking Fall of Efrafa is from their hipster shit friends, but the band must be mentioned here, as they are the third of the “essential listenings” trilogy mentioned above. With Fall of Efrafa, Neo Crust was shown that it was OK to move beyond simply embracing black and sludge metal, but show that true, drawn out doom riffs had a place in the genre as well. The band created complete monoliths of songs, with most of their discography resting above the 10 minute mark. Despite the immense song lengths, however, Fall of Efrafa never grows boring or seems like a trial to listen to. Every song is unique and feels completely organic; growing and changing paces rapidly, keeping the listener attentive as the band creates harsh new atmospheres for them to explore. Plus, how many other bands can you say you know that mold all of their albums after a children’s book about rabbits (Watership Down) and then use it to explore theology and the nature of man? Not many is the answer (if there are even any others), making Fall of Efrafa an essential listen.
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Sadly, many bands go long before they have finished getting recognized for their staggering musical achievements. Such is the case with Portland, Oregon’s Nux Vomica, who had just signed a deal with Relapse Records and released their self titled album to critical acclaim when they finally decided to call it quits. Nux Vomica was most notably compared to Fall of Efrafa due to the relatively similar timing of the two bands rise to notoriety within in the “hipster” section of the hardcore/crust scene, as well as their somewhat similar sounds, but were also remarkably different. While both build dense, lush atmospheres through impressive integration of post rock, doom metal, and black metal elements, Nux Vomica differed from Fall of Efrafa in that their songs almost always also came with short, sharp bursts of blackened d-beat fury, often employing a jump scare type intensity with their transitions. This is not to say, however, that the songs did not flow well. Nux Vomica understood how to build on what was already present in the song while still not giving away when a sudden change was going to happen. That is to say, Nux Vomica was always very start-stop, but not so in a way that cut off the flow of the song.
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Rounding off this list is Asheville, North Carolina natives Autarch. While they may have not made a huge impact on the scene yet, they show a true talent for the Neo Crust style, and also keep the hope alive that the genre will persist in the future. Black metal riffs in the vein of more melodic bands such as Taake and Dark Fortress abound through out the album, adding an extra layer of intensity to a already ferocious take on d-beat crust. They are one of the better bands currently populating the relatively new Neo Crust tag on bandcamp, and help to spark a hope that the style will continue to gain traction and be somewhat of a rising star genre among extreme music fans in the coming years.
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Oathbreaker – Maelstrom (bandcamp)
Antlers – A Gaze Into the Abyss (bandcamp)
Wildspeaker – Survey the Wreckage (bandcamp)
Absolutist – Traverse (bandcamp)
Left Astray – Confines (bandcamp)
Alpinist – Alpinist/Masakari split (bandcamp)