As I write this, the US Senate has just confirmed Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s third Supreme Court justice, a mere week before he is expected to lose reelection. The only thing remotely ‘supreme’ about Barrett is her supremely short and dubious career as a judge, with most agreeing she is by far the least qualified person ever appointed to our highest judicial seat. This is, of course, par for the course. Given that Supreme Court justices hold lifetime appointments, her confirmation cements a 6-3 conservative majority for generations. A president packing the court like this within a single term is both grossly opportunistic and absolutely unprecedented in American history. There’s another word for it, too.
Don’t get me wrong. I think ol’ Donny boy is an absolute buffoon on a four year power trip. The machinations of the court packing, along with every other major decision within the administration’s sphere over the past four years, have been surgically implanted by Mitch McConnell and the real power behind the Republican party. Trump has been the perfect figurehead to scapegoat. The public has been busy vilifying a snake oil salesman while the career politicians with corporate backing engineer a much different America, with naught but a wrist-slap from Democrats, who have done what they do best: cower, acquiesce, and cry foul. Make no mistake — the Democratic party leadership is a class in solidarity with those they claim to oppose. There is but a single ruling party in this country, and it’s money.
So what are we to do in the face of a boot stepping ever closer to our necks? Educate, organize, and stay vigilant in our anger. Here’s what helped facilitate October’s aggression:
The Wall of Death
Tallah – Matriphagy
What a year. We get a new Deftones album from Loathe, Bring Me The Horizon harnessing Linkin Park, and now the best Korn album since 1999’s Issues? Incredible. Mild sarcasm aside, Tallah’s debut LP Matriphagy is one of the best takes at the nu-metal revival that’s grown over the past decade. This trend has mostly grown out of the modern “nu-metalcore” sound, going back to groups like Sworn In, Yuth Forever, and Ocean Grove, and further popularized more recently by the likes of Cane Hill and VEIN. A lot of this scene has taken a fairly unambitious route of incorporating mild industrial elements or rap verses, but never has a nu-metalcore album checked so many boxes as Matriphagy. It really is exemplary of how modern nu-metal should be written: recognizing the ethos of what first made it great, while leveraging modern production and new trends in underground music and channelling it through your own identity.
It’s difficult to start anywhere other than the vocals. Justin Bonitz has delivered one of the most insanely dramatic, uniquely diverse, and probably polarizing vocal performances of the year. The Jonathan Davis (Korn) comparison is the first that comes to mind, as he even takes on a bit of his infamous scatting. But there’s also some angsty borderline rapping reminiscent of Three Dolla Bill, Y’all era Fred Durst. “Placenta” is a great example of some of Justin’s vocal range and diversity, as we get more melodic singing in a higher range that mimics some of Davis’ talent. There’s even some pig-squeals later on in the track. The chorus of “We, The Sad” feels like a happy place between Chester Bennington and Davis’ singing approaches. In a video he put out with vocal tips recently he expressed the performative aspect of his delivery really is mostly just that – a performance. It lets him project an image of intensity that elevates the authenticity of the manic delivery. Overall the vocal theatrics may be a bit much for some, but if you can let yourself soak in it as part of the experience it’s definitely something special.
The drumming (by Max Portnoy, son of who you’re thinking) is more than you’d expect from most 90s-00s nu-metal, as it flourishes with influence from the “extreme” areas of metal much more frequently. More double-kick and spastic blast beats retain an intensity that was mostly only utilized by the likes of early Slipknot among the old-school nu-metal crowd. The guitar and bass work is a bit more understated, but there’s a healthy blend of Borland and Welch inspired riffage mixed with mosh-worthy crossover elements and some Myspace-era mathcore chords. Most of all the two-guitarists and bassist do their best at keeping the intoxicating energy flowing as evidenced in their recent full-album hate5six performance. I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the disc-scratching, lowkey one of the things I’ve missed the most amongst the revival scene. Controversial as it is, Tallah employs a pretty liberal use of it which adds that extra nostalgic kick of chaos. Matriphagy is a worthy ode to the classics that retains a furious, authentic brutality, sure to appease –core and nu- fans alike.
Violent Life Violent Death – The Color of Bone
I already had another feature written for a different band that I immediately scrapped upon hearing the new EP from Charlotte metalcore conjurers Violent Life Violent Death. I am rarely so blown away on a first listen that I stop what I’m doing in a panic to reach out to others and make sure they’ve heard it too. In fact, I don’t think I’ve had such a visceral reaction to a single other release this year (save for the new Wombripper, which came out the same week.)
Just like the renaissance of old school death metal happening right now, metalcore has seen a huge revival of its traditional sound in the past few years. Even through some of its best practitioners like SeeYouSpaceCowboy… and Renounced, metalcore revival sounds exactly as described — a revivalist version, with a veneer of “new” painted over traditional sounds and structures. It sounds similar enough to be identified and enjoyed by adherents of the old sound while still drawing the attention of a newer generation of listeners, which is a balancing act those bands perform well. It’s a different feat altogether to write and produce something so pure that it doesn’t just harken back to the “old”, but manages to transcend space and time entirely and deliver you back to a vivid recollection of your past as if it had just been released. This is exactly what happened as I was transported back to the mid-2000s and dumped into a hazy memory of being drenched in sweat, bouncing off the side wall of the pit, completely delirious with joy and catharsis as a current of music carried me through the motions of a mosh routine. The Color of Bone just dropped last week, but I swear to you, it was the soundtrack to that memory from fifteen years ago. It’s literally given me déjà vu.
Landing somewhere between Bless The Martyr-era Norma Jean, Goodbye to the Gallows-era Emmure, and Frail Words Collapse-era As I Lay Dying, VLVD have conjured 17 straight, unrelenting minutes of panic-chorded, throat-ripping, fight-riffing nostalgia that I cannot stop listening to. Even the mix sounds like it’s straight out of 2004 without sacrificing the polish of modern production. The whole EP induces that very specific cocktail of anxiety, anticipation, and adrenaline you feel just before a breakdown hits and you know chaos is about rain down around you. The Color of Bone is high-quality pit music summoned directly from the post-9/11, pre-Myspace golden age of core kingdom. Fuck with it.
Bring Me The Horizon – POST HUMAN: SURVIVAL HORROR
Most people are on the fence about BMTH’s new “alt-metal” style, but I for one am absolutely here for it. amo was one of the best albums of 2019 for a number of reasons, but blowing their sound and style wide open was the biggest contributing factor. BMTH have reigned it in a bit with this release, shedding the poppier elements and doubling down on the alt-rock influence. Even that description barely does the sound justice, as it’s a squarely unique blend of genres that would best find its home on a Matrix soundtrack.
Featuring some high profile guests like YUNGBLUD and Amy Lee of Evanescence, nothing quite distills POST HUMAN: SURVIVAL HORROR like “Kingslayer” — a collaboration featuring Su-metal of BABYMETAL (who dropped the hardest track of the year this month) that has been a long time in the making. The song itself is probably the closest thing we’ll get to true nightcore in the world, and for that, they deserve credit where credit is due.
Fox Lake – Silence & Violence
Hardcore and hip-hop have grown up side by side, often finding themselves intermingled in urban communities. The surge of mainstream rappers touring and collaborating with nu-metal bands in the late 90s/early 2000s and perennial crossover acts like Body Count have had an enormous impact on bands arriving in the scene today. Denver newcomers Fox Lake are clearly adherents to that musical ethos, and their debut full length is a major swing for the fences.
Silence & Violence is equal parts arf-arf Knocked Loose worship, Crimewave bars, and Chocolate Starfish swagger. That on its own should warrant a play, but Fox Lake back it up with an excellent ear for song structure and killer production to drive it all home. Guaranteed to have you kicking furniture over on first spin.
Fists of Fury – New Age of Dread
Everything is bigger in Texas: hats, food, and especially riffs. Fists of Fury is a new crossover project out of Dallas-Fort Worth paying homage to the late and greats of the scene — Bitter End, Iron Age, and of course, Power Trip. Rest in power, Riley.
New Age of Dread is pure barnburning riff lording front to back, offering no break from the aggression in its furious 22-minute runtime. And in true Texas heavyweight solidarity, expect features from acts like I Am and Vulgar Display to cement FoF’s lonestar hardcore pedigree. Come prepared to bang your fucking head off or get the fuck out of the way.
Raging Speedhorn – Hard To Kill
Speaking of big-ass Southern crossover, Raging Speedhorn is here to keep the party going. The UK veterans may not be from the dirty south, but Hard To Kill will have you wondering which swamp you’re being dragged through chained to the back of a truck.
Whether you’re a fan of southern hardcore, good old heavy metal, or setting the controls to the heart of the doom machine, this album is an absolute filthy romp. If you’ve ever wondered what it feels like to drive drunk… this is 100% it. (Please don’t though. Be responsible. Just hit play below.)
The Sound That Ends Creation – Memes, Dreams, and Flying Machines
It’s no secret we love silly, brutal, completely unhinged mathcore around here. We also love friendship, and the Heavy Blog community is full of the friendliest, most disarmingly talented people you’ll meet. Chris Dearing’s one-man-band The Sound That Ends Creation is a project beloved by many for its insane zany blend of jazzgrind and ballistic mathcore, a spiritual successor to bands like The Number Twelve Looks Like You, See You Next Tuesday, and yes, Between The Buried and Me. 2007 has never felt closer.
Releasing an album every year for five years running, Chris has reached nirvana with Memes, Dreams, and Flying Machines. It’s exactly what you’d expect from a musician who has spent this long building a prolific catalog, and every second of its 18-minute runtime is pure ecstatic mania. I don’t want to fall into the beaten-horse trope of dubbing it “the kind of music we need in 2020”, but I think we can all admit to feeling the specific brand of ‘absolutely losing it’ this album has in spades. Give him your money. Right now.
Chamber – Cost of Sacrifice
Nashville darlings Chamber have finally dropped their debut full length, and the wait was well worth it. Garnering massive hype off last year’s acclaimed EP Ripping / Pulling / Tearing, Chamber’s star has been on a meteoric rise in the core community, quickly becoming some of the foremost practitioners of trad metalcore revival.
Cost of Sacrifice picks up right where the EP left off, continuing to rip, pull, and tear through vicious riffs, panicked breakdowns, and disorienting passages that Misery Signals and Gojira would be proud to call theirs. With such a solid and definitive debut as this, expect Chamber to have staying power and a long, successful career ahead of them.
The God Awful Truth – Memory Palace
Named after a Fear Before The March of Flames song, The God Awful Truth might be my nominee for 2020’s “breakout artist”. With noticeable influences from Dillinger and Daughters alike, their new album Memory Palace is one of the standout mathcore releases of the year and does everything you want from the genre. Angular squealing guitars, charismatic and frenzied vocal deliveries, unpredictable song structures and experimentation – there’s not much not to love. From the get go the album kicks into gear with the first single released from the album, “You’ve Got Red On You” an unrelentingly in your face track that’s perfect for a lifting playlist.
As aggressive as this album is, it does a great job of leaving space and atmosphere to build tension and suspense. One of the album standouts, “Multiple Miggs” is a great example of this as it builds over repeated vocal lines before finally exploding into a dissonant breakdown. Vocalist Jordan Laferney harnesses his inner Alexis of Daughters on this track with distraught semi-spoken word phrases that remind of the descending-into-madness vibe on You Won’t Get What You Want. While undeniably chaotic and off-kilter, the Texas trio ensure a level of catchiness and youthful “fun” that provides great replay value. The hints of southern twangs in the vocals and riff choices go a long way to help that too. Memory Palace just might be this year’s Die on Mars (The Callous Daoboys) in the way it flirts with obvious influences from the classics, while having enough of its own identity to make you not just revert back to them.
Desolate Blight – Nostalgic Dread
Melody, in my deathcore? There was a time when deathcore had more in common with At The Gates than beatdown, when riffs were just as if not more important as the breakdown. If any of this makes you nostalgic for the mid-to-late 00s, or you’re new to the genre and want to hear more than Gojira worship with more chugs, Desolate Blight might be the band for you. All Shall Perish-esque melodic guitar solos can also be found throughout, and a surprising amount of post-hardcore/post-rock fused atmosphere like in the single “Constellation”. Vocally, he takes me back to bands like Conducting From the Grave and Salt The Wound with that mid-to-high range he operates in, but there’s a handful of times where it would have been nice to just let the instrumentation and atmosphere resonate stronger without his unrelenting presence.
As the album goes on the breadth of their songwriting acumen becomes increasingly apparent. Tracks like “Intrinsic” bring a fittingly early The Contortionist vibe, while the downtempo shoegaze-influenced “Happy Colored Pills” provides a nice reprieve. This album manages to capture and/or pay homage to so many of my favourite bands to come out of the genre. Put on your brightly coloured graphic band tee and jump in the Delorean for a ride back to the best years of deathcore with some Nostalgic Dread.
Torrential Downpour – Twentytwentytwenty
Ever listen to Car Bomb and think to yourself, hmm, could this even… more? You probably haven’t, but now that I have your attention – listen to Torrential Downpour. The new album Twentytwentytwenty first caught wider attention earlier this year with the release of their single “Apperceptive Mass”, featuring a guest performance from renown keyboardist Jordan Rudess of Dream Theater. While that contribution is largely just a stretched out classical solo, they do a great job of building off of it into this grandiose Devin Townsend type outro that odds an oddly epic feel to otherwise groovy mathcore track. This sound is a bit of an ode back to their “space metal” routes of their self-titled debut back in 2009.
From here the five-track album continues at a frantic pace with complex time signatures, strange vocal and tone manipulation, yet unquestionable groove. The vocals pace menacingly along with discordant riffs and hyper-fast sections of terrorizing guitar sounds, electronic swells with almost a Jens Kidman like syncopated vocal delivery. Room-filling drumming throughout navigates the chaos with surgical precision, playing off the six-string bass work masterfully. The prominent clank of that down-tuned bass really comes through in some of the slowed down djent-ier breakdowns which are a nice contrast from the blistering technicality. Almost too math for prog metal, but too prog for mathcore, Twentytwentytwenty is a devastating brain scramble of a listen.
Bloom – In Passing
My favourite thing about melodic hardcore is when it finds the ability to add atmosphere into the hardcore-punk sound to augment the emotional impact. In Passing, the new EP from Sydney outfit Bloom hits this box perfectly in just five tracks. The typical up-beat punky riffs and more in your face breakdowns are accented by occasional clean vocal passages and more melancholic post-hardcore and post-rock influenced instrumentation. The weight of the emotion is largely driven by the powerful vocal performance, falling in the popular for the genre sound somewhere between a raspy shout and mid-scream where much of the lyrics are discernable. Think Napoleon, Counterparts, Climates, or most bands you’ll find on Dreambound.
That emotional heaviness is carried even further through the lyrics, which are built around the subjects of loss, death, and grieving – specifically of a family member. If you’ve recently experienced the loss of a loved one, I don’t know whether to recommend this or not. It’s an incredibly honest and earnest exploration of these feelings, but wow it hits Touche Amore levels of hard. If cathartic release of shared pain is what you need right now, it’s hard to get better than this.
Distant – Dawn of Corruption
Deathcore, as a genre, ran a pretty quick race, burning brightly but quickly from about 2005–2012 before the subgenre’s bigwigs started pulling away from the genre and branching out into more eclectic territories. Of those that remain, only the most efficiently punishing stand a chance of rising to the fore. It’s no longer enough to simply throw together some punishing riffs and most brutal beatdowns. If you’re going to play deathcore in 2020 and you aren’t going to be bringing anything else to the table then you damn sure better play it well; which is where Rotterdam sextet Distant step in.
Dawn of Corruption is yet another remarkably solid release from Unique Leader, which doesn’t waste time trying to reinvent its given genre and simply goes about playing it better than anyone else is at the moment. The band blend the kinetic push and pull of modern Thy Art is Murder with the traditional tech-death brutality of classic Despised Icon to come up with something that feels fresh, even if you’ve heard it all before. The album’s eighteen-minute run-time is one of its strongest assets. A longer album filled with roughly the same material would have well-overstayed its welcome but Distant’s sharpness and efficacy help them stand out from the rest.
Alpha Wolf – A Quiet Place to Die
At the other end of the deathcore spectrum, Australia’s Alpha Wolf have delivered one of the strongest deathcore releases in recent memory by injecting ample amounts of nu-metal, tech-metal and emotional angst into the genre. A Quiet Place to Die is far and above the best thing the band have yet put their name to, proving that new vocalist Lochie Keogh and guitarist Sabian Lynch (who was way ahead of the curb when it came to the whole mask-wearing thing) have what it takes to take this thing to the big show.
A Quiet Place to Die hits harder and heavier than any other nu-deathcore album you care to put it up against and has a few other tricks up its sleeve as well. Most of the lyrics are still straight out of the nu-metal “you better watch out because I’m so crazy” playbook, but also feel far more genuine and personally revealing than, like, Emmure or whatever (serious content warning for suicide, if that’s something you’re sensitive about). There’s also some DJ scratching on “Acid Romance” which is fun, before the track builds to a crushing, dissonant climax, reminiscent of recent Meshuggah (who are, after all, responsible for the best nu-metal song of the last decade). “Bleed 4 You” brings in some melodic, female vocals, without losing any of the heaviness, before the rest of the brutality leads up to the Misery Signals-esque emotional outpouring of “Don’t Ask…”.
A Quiet Place to Die is a much deeper album than you might expect from a nu-deathcore band but, if you’re just looking for something to break stuff to, there’s also nothing better. …except for maybe that Violent Life, Violent Death EP.
The Circle Pit
FALSET – We Follow or Lead The Way (metalcore, post-hardcore)
Every Hour Kills – re:Awaken (progressive metalcore, djent)
Absurdist/A Million Dead Birds Laughing – Split (grindcore, technical deathcore)
Venom Prison – Primeval (death metal, metallic hardcore)
Ghostemane – ANTI-ICON (trap, industrial nu-metal)
LIMBS – Only The Lonely Know (post-hardcore, metalcore)
Eighteen Visions – Inferno (metalcore)
The Worst Case Scenario – Drowning in Insanity (deathcore)
Bloodbather – Silence (metalcore, mathcore)
Enemy AC130 Above – The Center of Celestial Existence (progressive deathcore)
Sideshow Cinema – Sideshow Cinema (mathcore)
Herjaza – Herjaza (powerviolence, metalcore)
Kingdom of Giants – Passenger (melodic metalcore)
No Ghost – Gloom (nu-metalcore)
War On Women – Wonderful Hell (punk, post-hardcore)