This month, we’re just highlighting a few records that really stood out in December. Check back soon for our aggregate end of year list featuring all the best core releases 2020 had to offer! Stay safe, moshers.
– Calder Dougherty
Dead End Tragedy – Anti Life Anti You
German assbeaters Dead End Tragedy are back with their third full length to pick 2020 up by the throat and slam it into the concrete. Written in large part following their frontman’s tenure in an inpatient facility, Anti Life Anti You is thirty minutes of unfiltered, unfettered, devastating fury. Mental health has become such an important issue in a world that threatens to swallow us at any moment, and finding balance seems almost impossible. 2020 in particular hit everyone hard, especially those already struggling to survive. It’s easy to become jaded and filled with justified rancor through it all, and Dead End Tragedy have captured that fight to stay afloat beautifully with Anti Life Anti You.
Relentlessly aggressive from the jump, tracks like “No Peace” and the eponymous “Anti Life Anti You” relocate the prime meridian of tough guy hardcore. From now on, you have to be at least this hard to compete, and Dead End Tragedy dare you to try track after punishing track. Existential rage is a palpable, beating heart throughout the album, bleeding into every second start to finish.
It’s a shame they didn’t release Anti Life Anti You earlier in the year. It’s the perfect (and I say that without a shred of hyperbole) beatdown record, and given more time to seep into the bones of the public sphere, would have undoubtedly ended up on some year end lists. Careful not to punch any holes in nearby walls when you spin this one.
Hatebreed – Weight of the False Self
Yes, I know this record technically dropped last month, but here I am writing about it because it fell right at the tail end. Hardcore has and forever will be part of my blood. It doesn’t matter what the record or band is, this wave of energy and feeling invincible washes over me (that quickly leaves once the record is over unfortunately). But for that brief period, it is nice to just forget the troubles of the real world. What better band to dig us out of 2020 than Hatebreed?
The Conneticut hardcore/metal crossover act has been going strong for over 25 years and this record is proof they aren’t slowing down. From the moment you hit play the band wastes no time just pummeling you with riffs. Yes, the band can be faulted for remaining fairly stagnant throughout their career and this record isn’t going to change the minds of those who jumped ship years before. The argument could be made that you could go back to their sophomore full length, Perseverance, and get the same record with a tighter sound and a younger, more vibrant Jamey. This is true, but listening to Hatebreed is like visiting an old friend you haven’t seen for a while: all the memories and good times flood right back in. The pummeling, chugging riffs coupled with Jasta’s bark and lyrics that make you want to tear down any obstacle set before you are empowering. Sticking with his lyrics, Jamey has done better and he tends to just repeat the same line over a recycled riff. Look no further than the title track. The success of Satisfaction is the Death of Desire is its short run time. There is a reason it’s the highest selling hardcore record of all time.
Hardcore’s success is being short and to the point. As you will soon see this album did not make the aggregate list. It had the monumental task of going up against some pretty heavy hitters in the “core” realm. That, coupled with the band not evolving much at all in their long career. With that all being said, Hatebreed are that old friend that I can always visit with and it never gets old. I will be spinning this record long into 2021 when I am feeling down or lost in the world. 2020 was brutal for me in more ways than one and I know I am not alone when I say I am ready to kick down the walls that held me down. “Cling to life, reach for the light!!!”
– Nate Johnson
Yashira – Fail to Be
Simultaneously some of the heaviest metalcore and sludge of the year, Yashira’s Fail To Be came crashing in to ruin your Album of the Year list this December. A worthy follow-up to their highly touted 2018 debut Shrines, Fail To Be finds them growing off their dark, atmospheric sludge metal approach to a more dissonant and aggressive sound taking further influence from metalcore and mathcore. This album also marked a tough, emotional bounce-back for the band following the sudden death of their drummer Seth Howard in 2018 from a car crash. Fail To Be serves as a tribute to the memory of Seth, and is certainly one they should be proud of.
The increased mathcore influence is what separates this from other hardcore sludge I’ve heard this year. Slashes of dissonant panic chords crack across the ocean of brooding low end sludge. It paints a dark foreboding picture that feels both timeless and modern. This is certainly an album fueled by an introspective rage. Often you can feel the anger in the vocalist growing and boiling over through the course of one song. His pissed off delivery frequently fluctuates between a more classic sludge metal sound like a Mastodon, to a harsher Jacob Bannon or Portrayal of Guilt’s slightly blackened metalcore approach. Whichever style he leans into is always delivered with a huge amount of power.
From a song writing standpoint, the album flirts with a more ethereal post-metal sound, but primarily is driven by a mix of old-school metalcore riffs and crushing doom chugs reminiscent of Old Man Gloom, accented by these technically impressive progressive sludge flourishes. These lighter moments provide a reprieve from the heaviness, but also serves to bring more deviation in the tempo which can get a little samey in the heavier moments. Yashira have once again delivered a satisfying chunk of sludgy -core fused rage to close out an abysmal year, proving you really need to wait till Dec 31st to finalize your year-end list.
– Trent Bos