Let’s start fresh, shall we? As the first official drop of the 2022 musical calendar, we have a lot to cover and only so much of your attention span. We appreciate you taking time out of dying on stream playing Elden Ring to come peruse our wares. Really — we’re trying to get back to watching you. But did y’all realize we haven’t had a proper sit-down since the infamous Deathcore Day of 2022? And that feels like so long ago! Hello, we have things to discuss!
As always, we aim to cover a wide variety of offerings throughout the greater -core arena, with more hidden gems at the end we couldn’t get to. And if you want to find out what we’re listening to all week or send me passive-aggressive messages to include your preferred band next column, join our Discord and let’s fight about it. Love you.
The Wall of Death
Underoath – Voyeurist (metalcore)
Tampa metalcore gods Underoath have hit a new stride two decades into their career. If 2018’s Erase Me was the awkward rebuilding period after announcing they were no longer a Christian band, Voyeurist is the culmination of years of clearheaded soul-searching and regenerated creativity for the group. Taking the stripped, more modern sound they developed on Erase Me and imbuing it with shades of their best work (the three classics they released between ‘04 – ‘08), the gang have found the perfect balance that once again sounds distinctly Underoath, but with a contemporary approach.
Even as a faith-based group, Underoath have always excelled at writing big, existential bangers that tug that thread barely holding back all your fears. Now Without God™, Spencer’s subconscious nihilism is finally out in full force, lamenting the pointlessness of existence and pondering how to find happiness and meaning without faith. Especially given his past as an addict, these revelations feel earnest and transformatively positive, despite how they come off on paper. My two favorite tracks are probably the ones that highlight this theme explicitly – “Cycle” featuring alt-rapper Ghostemane and “We’re All Gonna Die”. “Cycle” in particular delivers some of the bleakest lyrics Chamberlain has ever written, with an absolutely heartbreaking chorus:
‘Stuck in my head, it’s a goddamn maze
Carve out my eyes, I can’t see anyway
Darker than heaven, empty as God
There is nothing to live for
I guess you were right about everything
Carve out my tongue, I got nothing to say
Darker than heaven, empty as God
There is nothing to live for’
Like… fuck. You know? We’ve all probably been there at some point, and as someone who’s remained mired in that sort of headspace for extended periods of time, this song hits like a brick.
The rest of the record rings with classic pseudo-blues riffs delivered in groovy fits and starts, as is their MO. It revels in them, as if the band has stepped back into the sun after being gone too long, feeling good to just be themselves again. As a longtime listener, it feels like home – and I can’t think of a better superlative than that when it comes to absorbing an album. If Erase Me left a bad taste in your mouth, Voyeurist is exactly what you were hoping that album would be. Step into the light.
Rolo Tomassi – Where Myth Becomes Memory (post-metal, mathcore)
While firmly rooted in the mathcore scene, Rolo Tomassi have evolved into something of a genre-enigma over the past two albums and that’s carried into their 2022 release Where Myth Becomes Memory. Have they shed the mathcore label and are just a post-metal band now? Do the soft moments make them post-hardcore? It’s not really worth trying to pidgeon-hole them under one of such monikers, but it’s worth mentioning as a framework for how unique and diverse their sound has become. On a personal note, their 2015 work Grievances and 2018’s Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It remain two of my favourite releases of the past decade, so it’s safe to say I went into this album with high expectations – which I’m pleased to say, were mostly met.
Stylistically this album isn’t too unlike their previous release. They once again start the album off with one of the softer, poppier songs in “Almost Always” to ease you into the album. But it’s the glowing atmosphere of this track that sets the tone for the album, one which permeates across the rest of the release. They don’t mess around for long however, as their single “Cloaked” quickly gets things moving fast, and we find vocalist Eva Korman once again at the top of her game. Her floaty cleans mirror the dreamy shoegaze textures, while her blackened, sinister screams cut into your insides as hard as their breakdowns.
There’s a meticulousness to everything here, such as the ever-so-quietly layered synth melodies under the walls of distortion, or the sudden injection of a meatier, buzzsaw of a guitar tone in “Labyrinthian”. Their music relies a lot on this use of layering and mood-building atmosphere, however it brings even more out of their dynamic shifts to either the soft and delicate, or dissonant and violent. Rolo’s serious range is on display throughout, as it might be both their softest album, yet contain their heaviest moments to date.
The production has a welcoming organic feel to it, which really shines on the melancholic piano interlude “Stumbling” in which you can actually hear the piano hammers being struck. This instrument is prominent throughout, as they seem to have mastered the art of subtle piano harmonies as a tool for augmenting the emotional weight of their music, borrowing from many contemporary post-rock groups.
Where Myth Becomes Memory is likely their most accessible album to date and seems to be drawing in new fans, however the continued minimizing of their mathcore origins, as well as the replacement of former drummer Tom Pitts does seem to be isolating some of their old guard. But at their core, they’re the same Rolo Tomassi. While they might rely more on post-rock crescendos and delicate pop expressions, they haven’t abandoned that ability to evoke striking bouts of emotional catharsis through violent anguish in a way that’s unparalleled in today’s -core scene.
Fit For An Autopsy – Oh What the Future Holds (progressive deathcore)
Fit For An Autopsy have steadily risen to become one of the most respected and forward-thinking names in modern extreme metal, and for good reason! Each of the band’s albums have maintained a compelling core of hard-hitting modern deathcore—bolstered by Will Putney’s guitar playing in addition to his ubiquitous and genre-defining production—while continually prodding at the limitations of the genre and often setting the tone and standard for the genre until their next album comes along. Oh What the Future Holds not only continues that trend but absolutely blows it out of the water, serving as yet another irrefutable testament that Fit For an Autopsy are one of the best and most vital bands in extreme metal.
Just when you thought The Great Collapse (2017) was cemented in their discography as their best and most influential record, along comes Oh What the Future Holds, taking the progressive tinge that defined that record and its celebrated successor The Sea of Tragic Beasts and elevates it beyond anything they or any of their peers have done before. While it might not be as overtly “progressive” as something like the last Whitechapel record, Oh What the Future Holds’ true mastery lies in the way all of its elements are seamlessly integrated. This is an undeniably progressive record, but also a definitively deathcore one, proving that you don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater in order to push the genre to new heights (although that would be pretty brutal).
Oh What the Future Holds goes from strength to strength and, although it perhaps peaks with the mid-album run of “In Shadows”, “Two Towers” and “Higher Level of Hate” it’s never short of breathtaking in its blend of progressive songwriting with sheer, unrelenting brutality. I don’t know if a band have ever come out of the gates as hard as Fit for An Autopsy have with this album this year. When the worst thing I can say about an album is that it really should have a comma in its title (or just drop the “Oh” altogether), I know I’ve got a real contender on my hands and I fully expect to be gushing about this album again in twelve months’ time. Oh What the Future Holds is a genuine album of the year contender and an album I’m sure I and many others will be talking about for years to come.
Comeback Kid – Heavy Steps (hardcore, crossover)
Everybody’s favourite Canadian hardcore crew are back in fine form following the slight misstep of 2017’s Outsider. Whereas that album saw the band unevenly branching out into melodic alt-rock, pop punk and ill-fitting Devin Townsend cameos, Heavy Steps sees them doubling down on what they’ve always been great at: heavy-hitting hardcore with huge choruses and a devastating penchant for crossover thrash.
Heavy Steps stays true to its name, picking more or less exactly where 2014’s now-definitive Die Knowing left off and blending that albums’ darker, more metallic edge with the sort of anthemic choruses previously found on fellow modern classics Symptoms and Cures (2010) and Wake the Dead (2005). The unexpected guitar guest spot from Gojira’s Joe Duplantier on “Crossed” continues Comeback Kid’s affair with modern progressive metal while being far more subtle and better incorporated than the Devin Townsend spot before it, although the band prove they can be every bit as devastating on their own, through tracks like “Dead on the Fence”, which is perfectly capable of leveling your surrounds all on its own.
In fact, the Duplantier spot actually exacerbates the one major downside of Heavy Steps, which is the NFT campaign that accompanied the album’s release. Not only is it incredibly disappointing to see a band as seemingly genuine as Comeback Kid getting involved in crypto scams, but their devastating environmental impacts—the specific brand of cryptocurrency used in the album campaign using “about as much energy as the entire country of Libya”—stand in direct opposition to the environmental campaign that accompanied Gojira’s latest release. It’s a disappointing and unnecessary mar on what is otherwise a remarkable release from one of the genre’s most respected bands, although there is perhaps some comfort in the fact that the campaign seems to have been a bit of a flop, with three of the album’s twenty-five NFTs still unclaimed over a month since the record’s release and two of them already resold for a whopping $22, which—let’s not forget—is over twice what you can buy the actual record for on bandcamp. So, “do yourself a favour” (eh!) along with the band and the environment and maybe pick that up instead yeah? I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Slowbleed – The Blazing Sun, A Fiery Dawn (hardcore, death metal)
When it comes to California’s Slowbleed, I don’t quite know what I’m hearing or know how to reconcile with the genre limitations we’ve imposed on ourselves. Is it hardcore? Is it death metal? I certainly wouldn’t call it deathcore, and metalcore seems strangely dismissive of the kind of music that Slowbleed performs. I suppose we could break out the “metallic hardcore” label that we’ve put away under the cupboard. Whatever you call it, this shit rules.
Slowbleed’s debut album The Blazing Sun, A Fiery Dawn is immediately arresting and ultimately satisfying. The brief opener “Aurora” is not the unnecessary ambient album intro it makes itself out to be, and after the low hum of a synth drone settles, a dramatic and shredding guitar solo bleeds into “Ice Cold Odyssey,” which shuffles from grooving hardcore beatdowns, speed-metal’s excess and intensity, and death metal brutality. Within the first two minutes of the record, it’s clear in both name and aesthetic that The Blazing Sun, A Fiery Dawn is as anthemic as it is sinister.
The record doesn’t slouch beyond there, either. Tempos drop and rise, guitars shred, and breakdowns crush. Some further tonal versatility is exercised on the late-album track “Driven By Fire,” which employs some clear Pantera influence, but in the “Cemetery Gates” kind of way. An unexpected detour, but a welcome one to be sure. In all, Slowbleed is a fresh and exciting addition within the lineage of other recent genre-agnostic -core acts like Gulch, Fuming Mouth, and Xibalba, and The Blazing Sun, A Fiery Dawn is one hell of a first impression, coming out swinging in 2022 as an early highlight that will likely stay in rotation.
Foreign Hands – Bleed The Dream (old school metalcore)
I’ve been getting pretty burnt out on metalcore revival, which really sucks because that’s a big reason I even got into metal. Early-to-mid 2000s emotive metalcore is foundational to me in a lot of ways, and it requires a delicate balance that a ton of young bands have tried and failed at achieving. Thankfully, Foreign Hands is decidedly not among that pack. Perfectly channeling acts like From Autumn To Ashes, Poison The Well, and Misery Signals, Foreign Hands have produced an EP out of time, both in style and production. If you told me this came out in 2004, I wouldn’t bat an eyelash and go check to see if they were signed to Ferret.
I’d also pick a favorite track, but the fifteen minute runtime flies by so fast, I find myself just listening to the whole thing over and over and over again. It’s a fever dream of flailing arms, bitter memories, and soft spoken bridges lambasted by panic chords and china crashes. Honest to god, this EP might be better than a lot of the seminal records it draws breath from, and I say that as someone who goes back to those exact records often. It’s absolutely phenomenal at what it was written to accomplish, and puts the rest of the revivalcore in the dirt without a second glance. Also, can we talk about the throwback cover art à la Finch and Glassjaw? C’est magnifique. 10/10 for full commitment, if the music didn’t already speak for itself. I need a full record of this yesterday, please.
Lasiodora – Molt (progressive hardcore, sludgecore)
Tuscon’s hardcore three-piece Lasiodora pull from a wide array of influences on their debut album Molt, making it quite an engaging experience that never stops shifting forms. Opening track “Comanche Banshee” rips the album to life with Mastodon-ian riff worship and eventually crashes into the kind of snarling, lumbering sludgecore that Black Sheep Wall are known for. The album’s nine-minute title track is appropriately dynamic, opening with darting guitar lines and moving through sections of marshy sludge and excessive prog that brings to mind acts like East of the Wall or Elder.
“Royal Jelly” conjures the jazz-fusion laced post-hardcore of early The Mars Volta, particularly in the furiously technical drumming, textured guitar performances, and bombastic clean vocal style. “Pulse Train” is much more chaotic, and often strays into territory occupied by the likes of The Number Twelve Looks Like You. “Always So Blue” brightens the atmosphere with plinky math rock before dropping the tempo and playing around with psychedelic keyboards.
The way that Lasiodora manages to pull these strange influences together is fascinating to hear, and the act is uniquely poised for greatness in the future. I’d be lying if I said they’ve perfectly nailed their sound on Molt, but as an exploration of their influences and a statement of intent, it’s absolutely a wonderful experiment.
p.s.you’redead – Sugar Rot (progressive mathcore, danceviolence)
I don’t know what the hell self-described ‘danceviolence’ Buffalo trio p.s.you’redead are doing and I love every goddamn second of it. I guess… danceviolence? My mind is grasping at straws to find specific comparisons, and each time it’s an electric sword being dropped into my body screaming things like Clown Core or Showbread or The Number Twelve Looks Like You. Even though this is just their debut album, there is a maturity and tastefulness to their sound, whether intentional or not, that belies veteranship far beyond their years and absolutely blows me away.
Incorporating elements of hyperpop (like title track “Sugar Rot”) and free jazz into an eclectic, noisy, proggy arsenal gives p.s.you’redead their signature sound, which is already more distinct and refined than many of their contemporaries. It’s also a good sign to me, personally, when I see a Carson Pace feature on a record. Getting the stamp of approval from the lead Callous Daoboy is a badge of honor in this new wave of sassy weirdocore bands, and I agree that Sugar Rot wholeheartedly deserves it. Some favorites would have to be the Genghis Tron-y “Raspberry Belly, Strawberry Supermoon”, the eerie, complex “Oh No! I’m Trapped Inside a David Lynch Directed Cologne Commercial”, and weirdly sentimental closer, “Michael Myres Said I’ll See You In Court”. Despite its name, this album sticks to your bones like a good, hearty meal when you need it most.
Shadow of Intent – Elegy (symphonic melodeath, deathcore)
How much Shadow of Intent have to do with hardcore these days is debatable. Their recent, breakthrough records have continued to accentuate a melodic death metal side of their sound to the point that it’s become their defining feature and, though they share a heritage with deathcore—much like The Black Dahlia Murder before them—this recontextualisation of their sound has also brought into stark focus just how much of this melodeath framework was always there from the beginning. Whatever genre Shadow of Intent are or arguably always have been, though, one thing’s for sure, Elegy absolutely rips!
Shadow of Intent really honed their sound on their previous release, 2019’s Melancholy which first brought the symphonics and melodeath riffing to the fore, but it’s Elegy that signals its perfection. The Connecticut quartet’s fourth full-length outing takes everything realised on Melancholy and pushes it even further to deliver another landmark release in the burgeoning symphonic deathcore scene. What sets Elegy apart from other albums of its ilk, as well as those in the band’s back catalogue is its distinctively European influence. Mid-period Dimmu Borgir are by far the album’s biggest influence and the record also sets itself apart from similarly symphonic and blackened acts like Lorna Shore through its prominent melodeath and even power metal riffing. The jaunty, keyboard-driven “Of Fury” is the most obvious incarnation of this European influence, but it remains constant throughout the record, which feels like the full realisation of what Winds of Plague were trying to achieve over a decade ago with the ambitious but inconsistent Great Stone War (2009). The riffing on this record is unrelenting, but it’s the masterful way Shadow of Intent weave it all together that sets Elegy apart from its predecessors and positions Shadow of Intent a step above their contemporaries.
Enterprise Earth – The Chosen (progressive deathcore)
Another deathcore-adjacent act to have taken a huge step forward are Washington’s Enterprise Earth. Although their ties to deathcore remain far more prominent than Shadow of Intent’s, The Chosen signals somewhat of a step away from the genre’s core (hah!) sound through its welcome injection of progressive, melodic and even groove metal elements. These new influences are apparent from the moment the record kicks in with the absolutely colossal opening track “Where Dreams Are Broken,” which boasts a distinctly Slipknot-ian main riff, bolstered and a raspy clean chorus á la Hypocrisy. Unlike Shadow of Intent’s Elegy, which was released on the same day, The Chosen remains a distinctly American affair, with even its most Euro-centric moments, such as the power-metal inflected “Unleash Hell” invariably run through a filter of mid-period Whitechapel, which keeps things chugging along nicely. If that band aren’t going to do the djenty, downbeat groove thing anymore then songs like “Reanimate/Disintegrate” are certainly a worthy substitute, while songs like “Unhallowed Path” and “They Have No Honor” even nod toward the thrashy modern metalcore of acts like Bleed From Within (who, I know, are Scottish).
Despite the unprecedented leap in quality and exciting new blend of genres it contains, The Chosen isn’t quite the triumph that Elegy or Oh What the Future Holds are. There is absolutely no reason why this album needs to be over an hour along, especially when the outstanding and utterly apocalyptic “Legends Never Die” provides the perfect climax for the record around the forty-seven-minute mark. The following four songs are by no means sub-par, especially the eight-and-a-half-minute title-track which might just be the best of The Chosen’s elongated, progressive offerings, but it’s certainly superfluous and its axing or even earlier incorporation into the record would have made for a stronger overall package. The Chosen isn’t a perfect record but it’s an exciting one which proves Enterprise Earth aren’t simply “another deathcore band.” This album is more that worthy of all the hype it received in the lead-up to its release, and if this is their Melancholy, I can’t wait to see what their Elegy has in store.
Worm Shepherd – Ritual Hymns (blackened deathcore)
While certainly overshadowed by some of their contemporaries mentioned above all dropping albums on what could only be described as “deathcore day” (FFAA, Enterprise Earth, Shadow of Intent), the early 2022 deathcore release to both surprise and impress me the most so far is Worm Shepherd‘s Ritual Hymns. The Connecticut based four-piece debuted back in 2020, and are back already with their sophomore full-length. Deathcore that draws from symphonic black metal is certainly not a new thing by any means, and is even a trope that’s arguably plagued the sub-genre: that “blackened deathcore” bands rarely incorporate any side of black metal other than the Dimmu Borgir style symphonics. Worm Shepherd aren’t totally exempt from that critique with regard to their black metal influences, but they shine in their execution and balance.
As this is a deathcore release, I’m required by law to mention that the vocals are in fact, brutal. But on a serious note, vocalist Devin Duarte genuinely does put on a terrifying display of range and power here that I won’t say carries the album, but it certainly wouldn’t be the same without him. They channel into some of the blistering up-tempo sections with really impressive pacing that mesh with the black metal wickedly. Some of the vocals on “Blood Kingdom” honestly sound like Gollum muttering some sort of death spell. They blend higher shrieks and low-gutturals throughout, on multiple occasions bending their vocal tone across the course of a verse, twisting into a more sinister almost Orc-ish delivery. It brings out even more of an epic dark-fantasy adventure vibe that the keys at times portray.
But the real thing setting this album apart is the riffs. They refreshingly don’t rely too heavily on breakdowns in their song-writing, opting for a lot of more black metal style swelling melodies, fast paced shredding and metalcore riffs. That’s not to say the breakdowns don’t hit like a thunder-clap, but in the rather thick production some of the low-end leaves a bit to be desired. Ritual Hymns is one of the better entries into the blackened symphonic-deathcore world you can find of late, and Worm Shepherd are the real deal.
Old Poetry – 10 (post-hardcore, emo)
On the lighter side of the -core spectrum, one EP has stood out above the rest so far that really came out of nowhere, Old Poetry‘s debut 10. I was first made aware of Old Poetry from post-hardcore-turned-blues rock group Trophy Scars drummer Brian Ferrara who tracked drums on this. Self-proclaimed as “dad emo,” the group draws from emotional post-hardcore acts like La Dispute, with a bit of the poetic flair of A Lot Like Birds, especially in the vocals, and the post-rock influenced post-hardcore of older Pianos Become the Teeth.
For a relatively short package, there’s a lot going on here. It’s a pretty dense writing approach, with piano layered throughout over multiple guitar tracks, and at times two vocal-tracks harmonizing over each other. The vocalist has a pained desperation in his delivery that really grabs hold of you and demands your attention. It’s emotionally striking and heart wrenching, but at the same time, kind of fun, engaging and undeniably catchy? Basically everything I want from a heavier emo-adjacent release. My only complaint is that three tracks is far from enough, but hey I’ll take what I can get. Here’s hoping for more …new Old Poetry soon, because they’ve certainly tapped into something special here.
Bite – Sounds of Agony (beatdown hardcore)
It’s cool to see the ethos of a small, dedicated genre become focused and refined. Bite is undeniably Kublai Khan TX worship, insistent on carving out a special space for this brand of beatdown with a larger focus on vocal intensity and brutal mosh-pit soundtracks. Sounds of Agony is a debut release filled with a handful of short beatdown tracks that come with a crisp coat of polish, destructive guitar tones, and the raspy vocals of an usurper.
Many beatdown aficionados will be all too familiar with the way this EP sounds. The irreverent mosh call outs between bouts of disgustingly low chugs and slams. Anthems practically designed in a lab for a flow of pitting and mic grabs. A style that harks back to old Hatebreed and Merauder. — except here it’s airtight and angrier than ever. This is what the kids want; angsty lines sung by a rudimentary vocalist with simple, punishing riffs and drum beats. It’s an elementary style of music, but that’s entirely by design. It wants you to laugh at how dumb it is. You can feel your fists clench between every bout of palm-muted open notes — you can’t help it. Instead of incomprehensible screaming, every word is enunciated and easy to learn, and a few rinses of this EP will have you calling and answering between every bar along with the vocalist. Instead of being accented along with the songwriting, the expletive lyricism is punctuated by it. In fact, these songs are ruled by that call and answer, balanced on the razor’s edge of genuine angst and cartoonish anger.
While Sounds of Agony may be entirely derivative of Kublai Khan TX’s brand of beatdown, it isn’t some two-bit interpretation — it’s a comprehensive extension of a deceptively simple and undeniably effective formula. Sparse two-step parts. No nu-metal riffs. One part slam and two parts breakdown. Songs not long enough to break a sweat to. Just enough to get a deadlift rep in. And as knuckle-dragging and elementary as these songs are, every moment is weaponized. Not even a second’s worth of fat that needs trimming. Sounds of Agony is absolutely cutthroat. Check it out.
The Circle Pit
The Awful Din – Anachronisms (mathcore, avant-garde metal)
Great American Ghost – Torture World (metalcore, hardcore)
headcave – 3 (prog metalcore)
Heavy Meta – Mana Regnata (mathcore, prog metal)
HRFTR – Spectre (prog metalcore, djent)
In Angles – Cardinal (progressive post-hardcore, pop punk)
The Korea – Vorratokon (prog deathcore, djent)
Life’s Ill – As I Watch From Above (metallic hardcore)
Lifesick – Misanthropy (metallic hardcore)
Modern Error – Victim of a Modern Age (melodic metalcore, alt-metal)
ScumFuck – Ruthless Aggression (brutal deathcore, sludge grind)
Trenches – Reckoner (sludgy metalcore)
VRSTY – Welcome Home (R&B, metalcore)
Yearning – MMXXII (screamo, emoviolence)