I can already see the comments flowing: “Modern Mathcore? The fuck is that?”
Yes, in a sense, modern mathcore is not a genre, but rather describes a specific time in the history of mathcore, much like the new waves of British and American Heavy Metal (1970-80’s and 2000’s-present, respectively). It’s something that we at Heavy Blog have made up to separate some of the bigger, founding bands of the mathcore genre (i.e. The Dillinger Escape Plan, Botch, Converge, etc.) from newer bands. For this list’s sake, we’ll be sticking to releases from about 2010 onwards, and with albums from acts that are/have redefining what we think of the genre.
Daughters—Daughters (2010, Hydra Head)
It might redundant to say, but vocals can make or break any album regardless of genre. Fortunately, in Daughters’s case, it’s the former. Alexis Marshall gives what might be some of the most ridiculous singing ever heard on a metal album. I won’t lie—when I first heard this album, it was with mixed reaction. Marshall, like some metal Tom Waits, can be pretty inaccessible on first listen; I personally needed time to really get my mind around the vocals. The first singer that comes to mind in to describe Alexis Marshall is Glenn Danzig; he employs a warm, Elvis-like approach to vocals, that at times border on spoken word.
On paper, this album’s success should make no sense. Heavy metal Elvis? That sounds like a blasphemy for more than one reason. Yet it works; Daughters bring what is considered their best work to date (though there’s hopefully more coming—the band reformed in 2013), with guitar that is like Big Black meeting Dillinger Escape Plan and tight, precise writing that doesn’t give you an inch of wiggle room when listening—you can only strap yourself in and let the band take you for a ride you won’t soon forget.
Gaza—No Absolutes In Human Suffering (2012, Black Market Activities)
Gaza deserves to be on this list solely for their fusing of mathcore with elements of noise rock, sludge metal, and, on tracks like “The Truth Weighs Nothing,” even a little grindcore. Gaza doesn’t mind using a lot of speed, but makes sure to use it sparingly. While “All The Hope in the World” is a bit faster in tempo, the title track remains at a slow, sludgy pace, creating a nice variance between tracks. Nonetheless, though, each song has a bludgeoning feel to it, and is dovetailed nicely by the riotous album cover picked out by the band. Let’s not forget that No Absolutes is produced by none other than Kurt Ballou of Converge fame (who has in his own right become a well-respected producer over the last decade or so), who definitely makes sure that all the guitar tones have that beautiful, dirty hardcore buzz to them.
Although it’s a shame that Gaza is no more (the band broke up not too long after the release of No Absolutes), it’s nice to know that they won’t be forgotten anytime soon, what with most of the members reforming as Cult Leader and releasing the seminal Lightless Walk last year.
Statues—Together We’re Alone (2015, Self Released)
I’ll admit it: I’m biased when it comes to Statues. This album was probably my favorite hardcore release of 2015, with the possible exception of The Great American Ghosts’s Everyone Leaves. Statues—an Australian band featuring guitarist Scott Kay of progressive metal band Voyager—is as wild and solid as you can get in good mathcore without having to go to the big names like Dillinger or Converge. Statues isn’t afraid to play around with different sounds or genres—“I Want Peace” is literally just a blues song, with only a light clap to keep time—but usually sticks to a frenetic style of hardcore that is ready to rip the skin off of faces like some sort of hardcore Hannibal Lecter.
Some could consider the band to be more hardcore than mathcore, but it doesn’t really matter considering the way Together We’re Alone plays. Alex Shom’s vocals are razor-edged and relentless in their delivery, while the instrumentation is clear and precise. All in all, this is a band to look out for. They might not be the biggest or most popular band out there—and with their DIY stance, that probably won’t change—but they do what they love, and it shows.
There are obviously tons of other mathcore acts out there that are worth mentioning, so if you’re so inclined, feel free to check out these bands as well:
- Cult Leader
- The Armed
- KEN Mode
- Rolo Tomassi
- The Crinn
- The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza