Welcome back to Rotten to the Core, where we’re playing a bit of catch-up. You see, we had a whole big August issue in the works covering the massive month of July, which was basically an “oh god where did all this grindcore come from where am I supposed to put all this grindcore” situation, among many other hot summer jams. We don’t really need to tell you to listen to Wormrot, right? Then the site went down to a tech stack explosion and to be quite honest, we lost motivation. I certainly did. We really weren’t sure if we’d be coming back anytime soon given the severity of the situation, but thanks to a few extremely generous helping hands and Eden’s banging at the code with a wrench, we made it back. We’re working on a new and improved Heavy Blog that is less prone to such explosions. More info on that soon.
In the meantime, when we recongregated to figure out what to cover, August really didn’t have that much we loved. These things happen. So we’re covering both months a little bit. To be honest, this feels like the calm before the storm because by the time this goes up, we’ll already have new Callous Daoboys, Stray From The Path, and that goddamn END and Cult Leader split, among many, many others. September’s gonna be a banger. For now, catch up on the best releases of the past couple months and stay tuned for more. Oh yeah, and –
REST IN PISS LIZZIE. REPARATIONS FOR ALL. Now let’s get crackin’.
The Wall of Death
Chat Pile – God’s Country (noise rock, post-punk)
Chat Pile’s hardcore leanings are admittedly a little tenuous, but they don’t fit adequately into one box. Noise rock is an obvious choice, as the band have gained comparisons to Daughters and carry an overt Jesus Lizard influence on their sleeves. Their emphasis on groove and e-kit performance also smacks of Godflesh’s industrialized sludge metal, all while the specter of nu-metal comes and goes throughout God’s Country in the form of bouncy Korn riffs. The band’s rhythmic and discordant songwriting have also earned them labels such as post-punk and no wave. Whatever Chat Pile actually are is up to the beholder, but at the end of the day, I think we can all agree that Chat Pile fucking rule.
God’s Country is a seething critique of America’s dichotomy of religiosity and disparity set to a backdrop of depraved metal that is as haunting as it is disturbing. The record is exceedingly dark; lyrics tackling gun violence, suicidality, addiction, and homelessness are delivered in spoken word over lumbering grooves and twisted guitar textures. In my review, I half-jokingly called the band “Dark Mode Talking Heads”, and it’s specific tracks like “Why?” which make those connections fairly evident as we draw some pretty clear lines from “Once In A Lifetime.” In the new wave classic, David Byrne takes inspiration from televangelists in his vocal performance and speaks on the day-to-day doldrums of the suburban middle class in hypnotic pursuit of the American Dream, and maybe if we keep digging, we’ll find it. God’s Country feels like the logical conclusion to the 40+ year-old track as we reach bedrock, with no water to be found. It’s not the same as it ever was; it feels much worse now, doesn’t it? God’s Country is a defiant thrashing against late capitalism and the rising threat of Christian nationalism, and it could be considered a dreadful spin if it weren’t so deeply validating.
Ithaca – They Fear Us (metalcore, post-hardcore)
I still can’t get over this one. Maybe it’s my history with metalcore, being how I truly entered the metal and hardcore spheres just after the turn of the millennium. Ithaca have done one of the best jobs at channeling that era without outright worshiping it and turning into another group of retro wannabes with no original ideas to bring to the music. Thank fuck for that, because we’ve got plenty of those already. No, it’s their keen ear for taking those building blocks and infusing them with just the right amount of pop and soul to create tracks both vicious and spellbinding.
Vocalist Djamila Boden Azzouz has also stepped up in a major way on this release. Her harsh vocals have solidified into a canine shred, and she’s brought the old musical theater training to bear with gorgeous cleans to boot. The lyrics are still a shining star as well, especially on tracks like intro “In the Way”. If you don’t get goosebumps from the delivery of this opening salvo, you need your pulse checked.
It’s not a job, it’s a service
And I get paid in satisfaction
It’s not desire, it’s purpose
Feeding off the chain reaction
I take your calls in the bathroom
So that no one can hear
And wash your blood down the sink
‘Cause we don’t keep souvenirs
Guitarist Sam Chetan-Welsh’s chops have also gotten a tune-up. They Fear Us rides off the back of groovy, acrobatic riffs that would find comfy homes on a Protest The Hero or Misery Signals record, feeling both mischievous and mystical in equal regards. There’s an underlying cheekiness to a lot of this record that I absolutely adore. It’s also got one of the best finales of the year, challenging both Chat Pile and the Daoboys for the title. You be the judge of that one.
Is it the most daring, most complex metalcore record of the year? Certainly not. It is, however, probably the gold standard and most solid front-to-back offering we’ve gotten all year. Ithaca have very plainly set a high bar with They Fear Us, and I’m thrilled to see how they develop from here.
Gospel – MVDM: The Magical Volumes Vol.1: The Magick Volume of Dark Madder or Magic Volume of Dark Matter (progressive post-hardcore)
Not content with giving us an AOTY contender in their extravagant 17-year-comeback record The Loser, screamo legends Gospel have put to tape official documentation of a nearly 20-year-old shapeshifting track that appeared in live sets over the ages. Meant to be a full length but never completed, this 20-minute epic sees Gospel lean into classic prog staples like Yes and Rush with daring synth leads, intricate rhythm sections, and psychedelic guitar textures. Of course, the heart of hardcore and screamo beats as intensely as ever, but honestly, MVDM plays out almost like a post-metal track in its sludgy sprawl and shifting atmospheric vignettes, which is fitting for its involvement of Cult of Luna’s Magnus Lindberg in its mastering and Kurt Ballou on engineering and production. It’s a magical piece of work, and it’s my greatest hope that with The Loser and MVDM out in the world, the Gospel tank isn’t empty for another go in the coming years.
Last – The Sinless Birth (metallic hardcore, speed metal)
What a goddamn ride. There’s seemingly nothing Belgian riff factory Last can’t do on sophomore release The Sinless Birth. You’re ripped off your feet from the moment you hit play, shredding and slamming through every style of fast, heavy, and groovy there is under the sun. Grindcore, metallic hardcore, thrash, neoclassical melodeath, you name it – if it rips, they’re roaring. This is one of the only bands that’s come close to scratching the itch As Eden Burns left behind. In some sort of bizarre cross-continental ritual, track “No Hope” somehow channels both ASE and fellow Texans Power Trip into a thrashy, Gothenburg-by-way-of-Texas barnburner that’ll leave you breathless by its terminus at 2:17 – one of the longer offerings on the record.
Every single one of its eight tracks is a heartpounder. Pulling from the schools of Sepultura as much as Wormrot, its quick runtime is absolutely chock full of style and attitude. Every hardcore and death metal fan in each of their endless symbiotic permutations can find something to love here. Do you like hauling fucking ass listening to sick neckbreaking riffs? How about feeling the blood pounding in your eyeballs? Do you like Nicolas Cage samples? Why are you even still reading this drivel? Just press play already, idiot.
thoughtcrimes – Altered Pasts (mathcore, alt rock)
If you read this column and you haven’t heard of thoughtcrimes, let alone listened to them yet, you really do need our help. It’s okay, that’s what we’re here for. It’s The Dillinger Escape Plan 2: The Billy Rymer Boogaloo. It almost feels like low-hanging fruit making that comparison, but if the shoe fits. Yes, drummer Billy Rymer is back with a new mathcore band and yes, he found a vocalist who has worshiped at the shrine of Greg Puciato – and Chino Moreno. I made another crude analogy in this month’s Editors’ Picks, saying that if you just smashed Dillinger and Deftones together, you’d get thoughtcrimes. An oversimplification of their sound to be sure, but again, you know… shoes.
Though formed in 2019 with an EP under their belts, this is the outfit’s debut full-length. Billy is once again on an absolute tear on this record. To be fair, if he wasn’t hauling ass in odd time signatures I’d be a little worried. It’s the millennial alt-rock and electronica influences that really intrigue me, though. Going full bore through a topsy-turvy section of mathy chaos just to find yourself swimming in gazey delay and haunting, strained cleans is jarring in a very good way. They’ve found the magic formula for approaching both genres with subtlety and style, and it makes for a super dynamic, strangely catchy listen. Give Altered Pasts a spin below and see for yourself.
The Circle Pit
A Knife In The Dark – One Way Needle (hardcore)
Alas – Uusi Vuosi (screamo, emoviolence)
Antigama – Whiteout (grindcore)
Bastions – Majestic Desolation (blackened post-hardcore)
Ether Coven – The Relationship Between the Hammer and The Nail (sludgecore, post-metal)
Funeral Chic – Roman Candle (southern crust)
Hornbill – Half Life (mathcore, pop punk)
Teethgrinder – Dystopia (grindcore)
The God Awful Truth / Under The Pier – Split (mathcore, chaotic hardcore)
Turian – No Longer Human (mathcore, noise rock)
Revaira – Journey (progressive metalcore, djent)