Welcome back to Rotten to the Core, where the riffs don’t quit unless they’re yielding for some dumbass kid starting a fight in the pit. God, I miss shows. Let’s just get into the good stuff, huh?
– Calder Dougherty
The Wall of Death
Devil Sold His Soul – Loss (post-hardcore, melodic metalcore)
London post-hardcore darlings Devil Sold His Soul are back with their fifth release, this time on perennial label giant Nuclear Blast. Loss marks the official return of original vocalist Ed Gibbs, now sharing duties with his 2013 replacement, Paul Green of The Arusha Accord. The pair play perfectly off each other, creating one of the best dual vocal dynamics I’ve heard in ages. Their range and emotional delivery form a gorgeous symbiosis, building exaltant harmonies and heartrending harsh vocals in their heavier moments.
While post-hardcore is becoming a fairly catch-all umbrella term for heavier music that leans on melody and catchier sensibilities without going full radio rock, Devil Sold His Soul still abide by the original post- ethos. Ambient atmosphere, slower tempos, and haunting, triumphant leads drive much of the record. Comparisons can easily be drawn to acts like Astronoid, We Never Learned To Live, Amia Venera Landscape, and even Underoath in their more straightforward breakdown sections. It’s big, epic, and cathartic in all the ways you want your post-hardcore to hit. Tracks like “Witness Marks”, which opens on a very Katatonia note, lead you on an 8-minute build to harmonized hopelessness while “The Narcissist” stands alone as the hardest track on the album, dropping nuclear midtempo two-steps and doomlike devastation.
Loss is one of the most replayable records I’ve heard this year, good for everything from a background listen while you work to crying in the shower. And really, what good is music if you can’t do both to it?
Bridge Burner – Disempath (mathcore, blackened sludge)
Bridge Burner first appeared on my radar back in 2018 with their excellent debut Null Apostle, with backing from the always excellent Art As Catharsis records. It was one of the premiere grindy old-school metalcore albums of that year, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting a follow-up. Back three years later, the New Zealand 5-piece have returned with much of the same sludgy death metal fused blackened hardcore, but with even more chaotic mathcore flair.
One of my favourite aspects of this release is its relentless energy. It’s like speed running a blackened sludge album. Where it loses some of that glacial grinding of the mantle heaviness of more downtempo sludge, it makes up for it in it’s volcanic eruption level explosiveness. This is aided by it’s intrepid mathcore influence. The riffs are frantic and panicked, yet carry a sense of assured terror. The upbeat ferocity across Disempath certainly gives it a strong black metal leaning, but the angular and dissonant riffs and viscous guitar tone make for this hard not to call a mathcore album. In a way, Bridge Burner are to mathcore what Serpent Column are to black metal in how they would sit on that spectrum. As soon as you feel like it deserves some criticism for its unrelenting nature lending to a lack of dynamics, it mixes things up with a sludgy breakdown, or moments like the slow drum and vocal intro to “Dull Knives to Deaf Ears”.
There’s enough emotional outpouring to appeal to the -core side and comparisons can be made to more modern releases like Pupil Slicer, but where most of the bands in this scene are milking the sassy MySpace sound, this opts for more Gorguts or Entombed influence. Death metal is definitely something I’d love to see explored further by mathcore bands, especially with the burgeoning popularity of the dissonant death metal scene. With all these influences from across the metal and hardcore world, Bridge Burner is a band that should appeal to many, and might just fit in that sweet-spot that eclectic fans are dying for.
– Trent Bos
Ghost Iris – Comatose (djent, melodic metalcore)
I was really stoked on Ghost Iris’s first album Anecdotes of Science & Soul, when it came out in 2015. Although the band weren’t doing anything particularly new with the by-then truly trodden tech-metal sound. They managed to execute the style to a far higher and more memorable standard than any new band of their ilk had in a long while, setting themselves up as leaders of the genre’s third wave. It was rather disappointing then, when the record’s two previous follow-ups, Blind World (2017) and Apple of Discord (2019), while both solid efforts in their own right, leant away from the heavier aspects of the band’s debut that I had enjoyed so much, in favour of a more melodic and simplified sound. I’m happy to report, however, that I’m fully back on board following the release of their fourth album, Comatose, which is not only the heaviest, but also the best record the Danish djensters have put their name to thus far.
What’s this album doing in a hardcore column you ask? Well, quite simply, Ghost Iris have upped the heft and quality of their sound by adding a ton of modern metalcore into their sound, which has helped both beef-up and streamline their assault. The massive build of intro track “3815935” into the call of “Grant them blissful abortion!!” that kicks off “Desert Dread” is one of my favourite musical moments of the year to date, and the drop into the second verse and sudden appearance of Chimaira’s Mark Hunter is close behind. Hunter’s presence has been sorely missed by these ears, and he sounds just as malevolent and menacing than when he left off with Chimaira in 2013. His presence has clearly rubbed off on vocalist Jesper Gün who delivers a much gruffer performance throughout Comatose than he has on any of Ghost Iris’s previous records, which works well atop the album’s heavier tapestry and also really makes the clean vocals pop a lot more when they do show up.
With Comatose, Ghost Iris have transitioned from a band who sought to stand alongside modern Tesseract to one that fits far more comfortably beside the likes of Erra, Heart of A Coward, Polaris and even Fear Factory. It’s also the most concise and consistent record they’ve come out with. Even Anecdotes of Science & Soul had a tendency to overstay its welcome, but Comatose doesn’t waste a single second of its thirty-seven minute runtime and is likely to leave you wanting more when it’s all over. This is an album all about moving your body, not your brain, and few have done a better job of tapping into djent’s inherent kinetic energy than Ghost Iris do here. For that reason, this (along with the new While She Sleeps record, which you can read more about in my full review) is my favourite -core release of the past month, and one of the most welcome surprises of 2021 so far.
– Joshua Bulleid
Left To Suffer – ON DEATH (deathcore)
I’ve always been pretty picky when it comes to deathcore. The more melodic bands like All Shall Perish and Salt the Wound first got me into it from my melodeath background, then Exoplanet sent me down a massive prog-deathcore wormhole. But lately, I’ve finally been coming around to the more modern straight-forward, pissed off sound. Left To Suffer write some of the best deathcore of that style that I’ve heard this year, fusing creative nu-metal influences with terrifying vocals and a healthy amount of bounce. The nu-metal influences are comparable to how Northlane incorporate them in that they’re more subtle. Spooky spoken word/clean vocals, electronic touches, some industrial elements, and the scratchy dial-up tone to breakdown in “EVENT” is a nice touch too.
For not necessarily befitting a ‘technical’ or ‘progressive’ sub-moniker, this album does a lot within its confines to keep from getting repetitive. The three guest vocalists (Ryo Kinoshita of Crystal Lake, Lochie Keogh of Alpha Wolf, and Tom Barber of Chelsea Grin) each have pretty distinctly different vocal deliveries that makes their inclusion worthwhile and keeps things fresh. The 21-minute run-time is short and tight enough that the intensity never waivers, and at best you’re satisfied and at worst, craving more.
Nice To Eat You – The Void (melodic metalcore)
The Void, the new EP from Swiss group Nice To Eat You is an interesting case study into how fairly straight-forward metalcore can be augmented simply by the addition of an atypical instrument for the genre. In this case, the violin. To not a huge surprise, violin is a pretty versatile instrument, it works really well. The easy comparison here would be to call NTEY a metalcore Ne Obliviscaris. While not as progressive or ambitious as Ne O, this isn’t too big of stretch as their use of violin is fairly similar in the way it often fills the role of “lead guitar”, adding more melody and virtuous solos over the more rhythm focused guitar playing. There’s an odd bit of Behemoth that comes out in some of the guitar riffs, but otherwise it’s fairly standard chug-focused and not much to write home about. On the other hand, the drumming brings a lot to this release with its more in-your-face deathcore/death metal energy. The prominence of the violin on top of that almost makes this feel like an Eluveitie-esque melodic death metal album, but I can appreciate them reigning things into the metalcore mold for the simple fact that it’s something I’ve never heard before.
While only one track is available on Bandcamp, the full self-released EP is available on all streaming platforms.
Bushido Code – The Ronin (crossover thrash, metallic hardcore)
I’ll probably end up writing more about this for the next Into the Pit post, but Bushido Code’s Ronin is one of the best hardcore-leaning crossover records I’ve heard in a while. Nothing too fancy, just an onslaught of pummelling, half-timed riffs that never overstay their welcome. There’s something really brooding about Bushido Code’s approach to crossover on this record, that will often have you slowly swaggering around the pit, rather than two-stepping all over the place. It’s a refreshing change of pace for the genre and every single time Ronin starts to lose my interest or feel like it’s run its course, the band throw in another little twist that keeps things moving along and makes sure they never get too stale.
The control Bushido Code display over their craft is the result of the members’ having honed their skills in a slew of hardcore bands, including Fury of V, Choose Your Weapon and xRepresentx and their pedigree certainly shows. Ronin isn’t a revolutionary record, by any stretch of the imagination, but if you’re looking for something to simultaneously throwdown or snap your neck to then this baby’s got you covered, and then some. Blending Slayer riffs and beatdowns amid samurai imagery is a tried and true hardcore tradition, but – off the back of this record –Bushido Code are well and truly the style’s current reigning champions.
The Circle Pit
Bone Cutter – Bone Cutter (mathcore, metalcore, sass)
CAPRA – In Transmission (metallic hardcore, metalcore)
Crown Magnetar – The Codex of Flesh (slamming tech deathcore)
Cruelty – There’s No God Where I Am (metallic hardcore, metalcore)
From Sorrow To Serenity – Trifecta (progressive metalcore)
Hail the Sun – New Age Filth (progressive post-hardcore)
Karkait – Yevul (blackened mathgrind)
Koningsor – Koningsor (mathcore)
Monasteries – Silence (progressive deathcore)
Purgatory – Lawless to Grave (hardcore)
Rejoice – Damnation No Longer Hurts (metallic hardcore, metalcore)
Silent Verdict – Condemned (old school metalcore, crossover thrash)
The Undertaking! – Funeral Psalms (southern metalcore, chaotic hardcore)
Vatican – Become A New God (metalcore)
Vientre – Estado de Imago (progressive post-hardcore, math rock)
Working Through Rust – Words About the End (hardcore punk, metalcore)
Zao – The Crimson Corridor (metalcore)