What a month. Gulch just announced a farewell tour at the height of their popularity (guess the dildos couldn’t keep the lights on?), someone shit in the Turnstile pit, and Nick Hipa decided to finally quit As I Lay Dying on moral grounds after cashing in on a controversial reunion with convicted hopeful wifekiller Tim Lambesis for a few years. What a tool. Anyway, here’s the good stuff that came out in August:
– Calder Dougherty
The Wall of Death
Indistinct – Reign of Silence (progressive deathcore)
I am once again here to remind you that there are more good bands similar to Vildhjarta other than Humanity’s Last Breath. I’ve talked about Elision and Behold the Void on here previously, but today I bring another Nordic band, who are for some reason some of the few who seem to have mastered the art of “thall”…: Indistinct. Yes, this is arguably more progressive metal than anything, but there’s enough rottenness to it that it can be lumped under the deathcore umbrella as well. Speaking of prog, if you were listening to the quality new album from Leprous but found yourself missing their heavier side, this might be a treat for you as well.
Reign of Silence, the sophomore LP from this Finnish two-piece is essentially another take on the sound of Vildhjarta with a mix of harsh and Leprous-like clean vocals. I wouldn’t say he has quite the range of Einar, but the tonal and delivery similarities are unmistakable. If for some reason you’d prefer this sort of music in a purely instrumental package (nerd), they recently made that available on Bandcamp as well. The vocal split definitely leans more towards the harsh side, but the singing is so well done and efficiently distributed that I never found myself wishing for more of one or the other. They offer a nice pensive reprieve from the grittier, stank-face inducing grooves without sacrificing the ominous aura crafted by their instrumentation. The harsh vocals add to the atmosphere with just how damn evil they sound most of the time, working up and down the middle range of a sinister scream-growl not unlike those of Vild.
Instrumentally they certainly don’t shy away from those patented bending black-hole-imploding riffs. Something about that sound and tone pulled off is just colossal. They’re distributed among an array of down-tuned djent chugs, harmonized by ambient minor chords on the higher end that give that unsettling feeling that Nemertines did so well. Atmospherically repetitive chuggy grooves are often accented by faster death metal riffing and blastbeasts, often bouncing back and forth between the two for some contrast. The bounciness of some of the riffs is genuinely fun at times, but it’s like the A24 kind of fun.
Somewhat surprisingly, the album was not produced by Buster Odeholm, but by Indistinct guitarist Joona Muistola at HAW studios. His work is nothing short of impressive here as it nailed the dynamic range necessary to pull off this sound, and it feels incredibly professional and high end. This is definitely a band to keep an eye on. As strong as this album is, there is still room to grow here and more places to explore with this sound, and I can’t wait to hear where they take it next.
MouthBreather – I’m Sorry Mr. Salesman (mathcore, metalcore)
Love it when a band actually lives up to the hype. Such is the case with the Boston-based four-piece MouthBreather, who throw mathcore, hardcore, nu-metal and grind in a blender for a disgustingly tasty treat. This release, finally dropping on August 13th, was shrouded in mystery and confusion for some time. I’m Sorry Mr. Salesman was originally released on vinyl back in June, through what is as far as I’m concerned the best mathcore-specific label out there, Dark Trail Records. However, when the physical releases started being mailed out there was still no digital release and just a few sample tracks, with fans being told the digital release was delayed, and more information would be available soon. Fortunately that delay was for a good reason for the band, as they announced their signing with the much larger label Good Fight Music (END, Within the Ruins, The Contortionist, etc.) in August and finally a digital release. As frustrating and confusing as that several month delay was for us who didn’t jump on the limited wax pressing, the wait was worth it.
Compared to the very well-received 2018 EP Dollmeat, the new LP feels more fleshed out and calculated. Fans of that EP may miss the frenzied, noisey Kurt Ballou production and greater grind influence that is absent to an extent on I’m Sorry Mr. Salesman. Shifting to a younger local producer in Nick Cates (Voidbloom, Circus Trees), the album was given a bolder and tighter feel which brings out some of those nu-metal influences I touched on, especially in the low end. The combination of that punchy bass and guitars that sound like power tools brings a nice balance between the absolute chaos of it all, and that undeniable element of ‘bounce’. It all feels a bit fun and tongue-in-cheek, yet absolutely maniacal.
The unrelenting barrage of sound approach is frequently dialed back, as the songs are given more varied structures allowing their impressive riff writing more room to breathe. In turn, the individual songs themselves are often more memorable, which helped with the delayed release of the full album as the “singles” were given more playtime. I can certainly see why some may be disappointed by the lack of that non-stop slipping-into-insanity of their earlier work, but this feels like them making a statement. And it’s one people are going to want to mosh to.
Burn in Hell – Disavowal of the Creator God (brutal hardcore, powerviolence)
Burn in Hell’s forceful political lyrics would almost be enough to grant them a prominent spot in this month’s roundup, but God be damned if they have the music to back it up as well. The Sydney slammers’ music is every bit as vicious as their bluntly delivered political messages, which include such nuggets as “you’ve given us martyrs we’ll give you a bullet,” “women’s liberation is a necessity” and (my personal favourite) “drown in our justice you racist fuck”.
This music isn’t for the right wing, centrists, nor the faint of heart. It’s a good thing Disavowal of the Creator God is a slim sixteen-minutes, because if it was any longer, we’d probably all be dead. Imagine the likes of Xibalba or Converge at their nastiest, trapped in a room with the gain turned up to twelve, just absolutely laying waste to everything around them, then remember that this is “merely” the debut record from a group of pissed off Australians that have had an absolute gutful.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:
“Death to white nationalism,
Death to colonial Australia,
Death to all racists,
Burn in fucking Hell”
Now, can I get that on a t-shirt please?
Utopia – Stalker (mathcore, tech metal)
Stalker is one of those albums that catches you off guard. With the frankly ridiculous amount of new artists in this scene I subject myself to, this is an impressive feat. I don’t really know what this album is, and honestly it doesn’t seem like Utopia really cares. They call themselves a “technical metal band from the UK” which is factually accurate. The only band and album that really comes to mind as a direct comparison is Journal‘s Unlorja, high praise to say the least. Essentially Utopia write adventurous and experimental mathcore with influence from the general UK tech metal scene, with hints of progressive death metal and jazz.
The lineup structure and roster on this album is pretty extraordinary. Utopia consists primarily of four core members on guitar, vocals, bass, and synths. The drums on Stalker are performed by a joint effort of incredible guest appearances including Billy Rymer (The Dillinger Escape Plan, END), Baard Kolstad (Leprous, a second Leprous mention in our -core column, really?), and Lee Fisher (Fawn Limbs). Some of the best of the best really. Their performances are no doubt a reason to listen to this album alone, but they’re somehow matched by the rest of the band in what is an impressive display of technicality and eclectic creativity. You get the sense they’re playing to the drummer’s style and strengths at times, in what is a very jazz-core album. The tracks tend to break down letting one musician solo and feel out the music themselves, much in the way classic jazz operates.
Utopia have taken their daring, highly chaotic energy and harnessed it into a condensed and perfectly adequate 37-minute run time. The tempo and mood changes here would probably get someone prescribed something, but it’s not too jarring that it hinders its listenability. This is far from an ‘entry-level’ mathcore album, but if you’re familiar with old-school Dillinger it shouldn’t be too off-putting. One of the more pleasant surprises were those death metal elements I hinted at earlier. They come in the form of both Chris’ vocal delivery, and the straight up dissonance and heaviness of their riffs. Influence from Gorguts and other more avant-garde leaning death metal is certainly noticeable. For a band I had never heard of prior to August, Stalker has been one of the best surprises of the year and is a standout in what has been an excellent year of mathcore.
Phinehas – The Fire Itself (Christian metalcore)
California’s Phinehas have been around for the better part of two decades, but none of their releases really ever made my radar until now. For that, I’m probably at fault for not seeking them out earlier considering their ties to other metalcore darlings I’m more familiar with like Silent Planet. Even with that new school pedigree, Phinehas is a band born out of the explosion of early-mid 00s Christian metalcore that went on to define a generation. Considering during their tenure they’ve played sets at Cornerstone, opened for Living Sacrifice, and are currently signed to Solid State Records, Phinehas may be one of the last active groups keeping classic Christian metalcore alive. Thank you for your service, boys.
While direct comparisons can be drawn to acts like War of Ages or August Burns Red, Phinehas are still bringing inspired, high-octane metalcore that bands half their age could only dream of writing. Rolling palm mutes punctuated by hot noodly Guitar Hero leads and a masterful performance by vocalist Sean McCulloch keep the energy up and make the 41 minute runtime feel short through how engaging its contents are. The Fire Itself may technically be pretty standard faire, but Phinehas’ songwriting sensibilities and virtuosity keep the record ripping from start to finish. Title track “The Fire Itself” is a classic metalcore banger with a bonus neoclassical solo, while “Holy Coward” feels like a track co-authored by Maylene and Haste The Day. One of the real standouts is “The Storm in Me”, a stripped back ballad that builds to a crushing, emotional finale à la Underoath, right before dropping you back into the maelstrom of riffing in “Severed by Self Betrayal”.
This is required listening for anyone who can no longer bring themselves to spin As I Lay Dying (and you shouldn’t!) but still longs for that feeling. This is pure, unabashed trad metalcore with a modern twist played at its finest. You don’t want to miss it.
Lorna Shore – …And I Return to Nothingness (brutal symphonic blackened deathcore)
New vocalist Will Ramos is easily the best thing to ever happen to Lorna Shore. The dude is a literal beast behind the microphone, and absolutely brimming with charisma in front of the camera. His addition has taken the band from deathcore deadweights to pack leaders. The three tracks that make up …And I Return To Nothingness are not only the best material the band have released to date, but have set a high bar for the rest of the scene to live up to. At this point, only Brand of Sacrifice seem to be in the running, with even genre titans like Thy Art is Murder having their work cut out for them.
It’s not just the sheer, crushing brutality of the material that makes this EP though. There’s a noticeable step up in songwriting quality across the record that the Warren County crew only ever approached before on “Fvneral Moon”. The title-track’s been getting all the attention, but it’s “Of the Abyss” that should immediately serve as the band’s anthem from now on, with its apocalyptic symphonics and defiant chant of “we are infinite”. The Lewandowski artwork with the Behemoth-style side strip perhaps still singles them out as trend hoppers, but with this release, Lorna Shore have shown that they have more than what it takes to become leaders, not followers, within the deathcore scene.
To Octavia – Somewhere in a World, Not of the Dream (R&B-core, melodic metalcore)
This one came out in June, but I wanted to give it a shout-out anyway. R&B-infected modern metalcore, in the vein of Issues and Vrsty that goes a lot harder than that stuff normally does. These guys are hella young and there’s a lot of immaturity in the band’s sound and image that probably needs to be ironed out somewhere along the way, but as far as first salvos go, Somewhere in a World, Not of the Dream is pretty impressive, with elements of favourites Don Broco and the recently matured Deadlights already seeping through in their sound. Also, the album title is a reference to The Sandman, right?
The Circle Pit
Desolate – The fate of destruction is the joy of rebirth (prog nu-metalcore, neon genesis evangelideathcore)
Dragged Under – We’ll Do it Live (melodic hardcore, pop punk)
Fawn Limbs – Darwin Falls (experimental brutal mathcore)
Raccoon City – For Nobody, Nowhere (post-hardcore, skramz)
Rare Olives – Paper Skin (nu-mathcore, math metal)
Resist The Thought – Renaissance (deathcore)
Rot Away – Nothing Is Good (hardcore punk)
Sun Of The Suns – Tiit (progressive deathcore)
Under Auburn Skies – Invention of Reason (prog metalcore)