Welcome back to Rotten to the Core, pit fiends. We've got another big double issue on our hands, covering releases from way back in February (time is telescoping for you too, right?) on through the end of March. There is simply too much music coming out at all times. In the event that I perish trying to crawl out from under the massive weight of it all, just throw me out back and use me for compost. You're in charge of my peppers now. Hope you like hot sauce.
We've also got the official Heavy Blog debut of Jonah Robertson, our new staff writer joining us in this column and elsewhere around the site. Say hi, Jonah! (Hi, Jonah!) Let's give him a warm welcome and get into it. Thanks for being here, gang. Love you.
The Wall of Death
Hoy Es Siempre Todavía - El Mapa de Mi Albedrío (post-hardcore)
The past few years have felt like something of a renaissance for post-hardcore. Amazing bands have been dropping albums left and right and it’s showing no signs of stopping. Enter Hoy Es Siempre Todavía, a Spanish post-hardcore band full to the brim with energy and emotion in the way that makes bands in the genre really shine. Couple this with a few unique elements to their music and you’ve got a band that is absolutely worth attention from any genre fans.
Opener “Carente” does an excellent job of setting the stage, as it opens with an ambient intro of beautiful sustained guitar chords, before diving directly into one of the things that makes this band really stand out: the clean vocals. In contrast to the common thin, tenor vocals that are a bit over-saturated in the post-hardcore scene, Hoy Es Siempre Todavía instead lean into a post-punk influenced style with much deeper, and at times nearly spoken, vocals that provide a fascinating contrast to the harsher vocals. The harsh vocals themselves are visceral and emotionally charged, full to the brim with palpable pain and anger.
Not to be outdone by the vocals, the instrumental performances are all equally stellar, with the guitars providing a melodic backdrop to the harsher vocal moments, while the bass and the drums both creating a driving rhythmic force that carries the songs forwards with a momentum that is always perfectly appropriate to the moment in the song.
The production is a bit muddy at times, with especially the bass getting lost in the mix, however this also helps contribute to the raw sound that the album has, and while a bit more clarity would be beneficial, the overall sound quality is stellar. For those who are fans of post-hardcore and are starving for more, or those who haven’t quite had the genre click for them yet and want something a bit different, Hoy Es Siempre Todavía are a stellar band and well worth the time to listen.
Judiciary – Flesh + Blood (metallic hardcore, crossover)
Flesh + Blood picks up where hard-hitting records from last year, like Malevolence’s Malicious Intent and Get the Shot’s Merciless Destruction left off. It’s not quite as world-shattering as either of those albums, but it’s still set the bar for punishing, thrash-infused crossover hardcore extremely high in 2023. We’ve hit a point where Arthur Rizk produced Power Trip alone isn’t enough to garner excitement (more on that when the new Enforced album drops, maybe…). When it’s done this well, however, the combination is still undeniable. Judiciary lean as much on classic Sepultura, Slayer and early Machine Head as they do early-mid-period Hatebreed, delivering a package of riffs and beatdowns sure to get your head banging while demolishing anything and everything else in their path. Whirlwind at your own risk.
Lotus Eater Machine - Prisoner to Seven Demons (deathgrind, mathcore)
February spoiled us as far as great throwback-sounding mathgrind goes. Somehow on the same day that See You Next Tuesday dropped their long-awaited comeback album, they had a bit of their thunder stolen by another band bringing a similar yet distinct take at this sound. I’m of course referring to the (technically) debut release of the Boston-based project known as Lotus Eater Machine. Now this band, or its members at least, are no rookies. The group operated under the name Geisterfaher up until this year, releasing a few EPs and a well received full-length Demolition Fetish back in 2018. The reasons for the name change, as stated by the band on social media, stemmed from them feeling like they had finally found their sound, combined with the struggle of having to spell out the German word and promoters frequently getting it wrong. Whatever the reasons, Prisoner to Seven Demons is an exciting evolution of their sassy TN12LLY-playing-deathgrind sound which fans of new and old should be thrilled with.
Some of the greatness of this genre stems from its relentless intensity and aggression, and that’s considerably on display here. They’re not afraid to embrace some deathcore and The Red Chord breakdowns, and it’s always done with a raw, dark brutality. The instrumentation feels like it exists in some mutated state in between mechanical and organic, with almost Dismember-inspired production and at times riffs on guitar. This is of course structured with plenty of dazzling Danza technicality, efficiently balancing memorability and chaos. Prisoner to Seven Demons feels like a Marvel Venom-like entity born out of a lab in its amorphous and vicious qualities, with all of the sassy snark of its personality. Put bluntly, this kicks a lot of ass and is just what I want from something bringing together a number of my favourite extreme music niches.
The frantic, chopped up rhythms are immediately engaging and grabbing in their other-worldliness. Bringing that alien-sounding tapping and how-are-they-making-guitars-sound-like-this tones and riffs to an equally death metal approach, this is heavy and brilliant in so many ways. The vocals share a hoarse grinding delivery that matches the instrumentation and fleshes out a visceral and dense album spanning 34-minutes over 13-tracks. While most of those are your appropriately grindy 2-min or less barrages, they stretch it out at the end with some grindy atmospheric sludge. All together, Lotus Eater Machine have put together some highly impressive mathgrind, knocking on the doors of the classics of the genre.
Model/Actriz - Dogsbody (noise rock, industrial, dance punk)
The rising tide of noise rock supremacy continues in 2023 as music nerds the world over latch onto Brooklyn four-piece Model/Actriz and their new album Dogsbody. It’s already ranked number 5 among Rate Your Music’s constantly evolving Best of 2023 charts, and for good reason. Dogsbody is sexy and unnerving, pulling some pretty overt cues from the Nine Inch Nails discography, pitting danceable grooves against dissonant waves of noisy guitar effects and frequently unhinged vocal performances.
It’s difficult to avoid the Daughters comparisons in the genre, but given that You Won’t Get What You Want laid the blueprint for contemporary noise rock with its representations of anxiety, Dogsbody elaborates upon the formula and leans further into dance punk and industrial for their own spin that seems perfect for the moment in contrast to sludgy acts like Chat Pile and KEN Mode. Dogsbody plays like a soundtrack for a bad trip at a rave. “Slate” is a perfect representation of the band’s modus operandi; a dynamic track propelled by pumping bass grooves and staccato guitar plucks that build in tension and intensity until they explode into distortion and noise. Frontman Cole Haden’s half-spoken lyrics become more psychotic as he explodes into a scream amidst the chaos.
My quick elevator pitch is this: imagine With Teeth single “Only” with Pretty Hate Machine style intensity and production, reinterpreted by The Jesus Lizard. You’re in the ballpark of Model/Actriz at that point, but an album like Dogsbody has to be experienced for what it is. It’s an early highlight for 2023 that will most assuredly remain in the conversation as the pages turn on the calendar.
Telos - Delude (blackened hardcore, mathsludge)
Few albums in recent memory have truly picked me up and swept me away on first listen like Delude did. If you’ve never heard of Telos, the Danish supergroup boasts members of Eyes, LLNN, Demersal, and Regarding Ambiguity, and all those approaches converge in a grim nexus of scorching blackened hardcore and bleak, sludgy mathcore akin to acts like Hexis, rotting in dirt, and Cross Bringer. To say this is extremely my shit would be the understatement of the year. The gritty, desperate atmosphere and fatal heft of their low end is enough to outclass most others in this column, but the keen veteran songwriting in such an extreme niche is the real crowning jewel of Delude.
The album’s centerpiece “I Accept / I Receive” is close to what I’d consider a ‘perfect’ piece of music; a seven-plus minute meditation that undulates and unsettles as it builds to break and build again. Real emotional sludge hours. Following it up, “I’ve Been Gone For So Long” revs up the panicked mathcore lasers to shoot directly into your cochlea and fry your equilibrium. Delude is chock full of these kinds of moments where, on any other record, you’d think “this is it; the entire album was written around this idea”, but to Telos, it’s just riff number four. The dynamism and memorability of each track betrays that supergroup pedigree; when you bring nothing but all-star ideas to the table, every song is inevitably going to shine.
The Faith Hills Have Eyes - The Riffth Element (hardcore, groove metal)
Wisconsin band The Faith Hills Have Eyes want you to know two things up front. One, they’re a little silly, as evidenced by such song names as “Low Blood Sugar Sex Magik” and “Juggalo Wild Wings”, and two, they’re absolutely chock full of manic songwriting energy. Their debut album The Riffth Element might have a name that made me cringe a bit at first glance, but the music stopped me in my tracks. Sounding like a fusion of Every Time I Die and something more akin to Pantera, every single song is a deluge of riffs and shrieks bound to have you headbanging along.
While all of this would make for an already engaging listening experience, this is further built upon with the occasional break into new genres completely out of left field, as the second track, “Obamas and the Papas” does with a short acid jazz break near the end of the song. Add onto this clean vocals which sound like a weird fusion of Mastodon’s Troy Sanders and Brent Hinds, and you’ve got a band that may certainly not be for everyone, but provided an absolutely fascinating listen for me, and well warrants attention for any future releases.
.gif from god - Digital Red (sassy old mathcore)
It’s been forever in music years since 2019’s full-length Approximation_of_a_human, so it feels bittersweet to have new .gif from god to talk about. On the sweet side, it’s a much welcomed release from a band generally regarded as one of the best purveyors of that crunchy, sassy classic 2000’s chaotic metalcore sound. Their dominion over that approach is unquestionable. The bitter part is that after the boom of old school metalcore revival that happened right around the time of their last release, that sound has become pretty oversaturated, much like how djenty modern metalcore has similarly worn out its welcome (though that new Invent Animate goes insane).
Digital Red doesn’t exactly flip the experimentation switch to try and break out of that mold they’ve set for themselves, and there’s nothing wrong with that. All things considered, it’s a solid release. If you’ve been itching for more of that patented, extremely nailed down chaotic sound since Approximation, you’ll love Digital Red. However, if you’re tired of bands writing the same record from 2005 all over again, go ahead and skip this one, player – you’re not missing anything you haven’t already heard.
Thin - Dusk (mathgrind)
Thin’s star has got to be on the rise by now, right? Direct follow-up to 2020’s debut full-length Dawn, Dusk is fourteen tracks of sassy, screamo-tinged mathgrind as playful and wacky as it is dark and brooding. There are few groups who can summon the kind of sound they make as a trio, with thin’s dissonance acting as the crux of their charm – and Colin Marston’s mixing. Tracks like “Foliage” could just be straight up cutting-room floor dissodeath experiments, combining their eerie atonal plucking with full-send grinding and a dual vocal assault that employs brutal slam gutturals in a genre that normally eschews them.
There are highlights abound throughout Dusk’s brisk sub-fifteen minute runtime. Each track contains a perfect seed nestled in a tangle of thorns and barbed wire – if you can manage to glimpse it once the group’s whirlwind carousel gets going. Between their two full lengths and a handful of splits over the past few years, Thin are becoming a prolific force to be reckoned with in the grind world. If you’re still sleeping, you have been put on notice.
To the Grave – Director’s Cuts (brutal deathcore)
I was second guessing myself a bit when I chose Director’s Cuts as my Top Pick for the Release Day Roundup. On one hand, it’s “just” another deathcore album. On the other, it’s also a really good one. There’s nothing new here, but the fact that what To the Grave have concocted is of a substantially higher quality than the overwhelming majority of those in their genre shouldn’t go unnoticed or uncelebrated. Director’s Cuts has all the hallmarks of modern, hyper brutal deathcore without becoming overbearing in the way more acclaimed acts like Lorna Shore or even Brand of Sacrifice can be. Their groove-first approach is more reminiscent of the band’s countrymen in Thy Art is Murder than most of the new guard and the added emphasis on “Sumerian-core”-style tech riffing gives them an edge that comes across as both modern and nostalgic. The savage guest spot from Antagonist A.D.’s Sam Crocker on “Protest and Sever” is also a nice touch. I’ve been really surprised how often I’ve gone back to this record since its release and even more pleased with how well it holds up each time. Whether or not deathcore’s development has stalled or not remains to be seen, but if Director’s Cuts is anything to go by, then it seems like the genre is in for another banner year.
Viscera - Carcinogenesis (deathcore)
Carcinogenesis is the second full-length release from rising British deathcore group Viscera. Fronted by Jamie Graham (formerly of Heart Of a Coward and Sylosis among others) and steadied by former drummer of Martyr Defiled, Alex Micklewright, Viscera play an exciting brand of modern deathcore with a grand and triumphant nature. Influenced by melodic death metal and occasionally the modern tech death of their labelmates on Unique Leader, comparisons could be made to Fit For An Autopsy and a Shadow of Intent with a bit less theatrical symphonics. This band feels like the perfect landing spot for Jamie’s vocals, as his raw aggression and power fits both the inspiring, soaring melodies and complex-groove-laden brutality of their sound. His tone and delivery hasn’t wavered at all from his strong performances with HOAC, and his range is still as impressive.
This is far from a vocal-driven album however, as the instrumentation is arguably what continued to surprise and impress about this album. This honestly has some of the cooler riffs I’ve heard in deathcore in a while, especially the Within the Ruins-style bouncy leads really on display on “Resolver” and “Omnipotence”. Their most listened track and lead single “Sungazer” brings some progressive technicality not out of place from an early Sumerian Records release. Whenever we can talk about deathcore being refreshing and fun these days is a good time, and Carcinogenesis is a really good time.
Wanderer - Indulgence of the Unreal (metallic hardcore, sludge)
When we premiered “Pure Human Despair”, the EP’s opener that features a bassoon breakdown, I was already hooked. Minneapolis’ Wanderer scored a spot on my 2021 AOTY list with Liberation From A Brutalist Existence, and their snowball of brutality continues to gain speed and mass at an alarming rate on follow-up Indulgence of the Unreal, where experimentation is key to expanding upon their brand of creepy, sludgy metallic hardcore.
Indulgence of the Unreal is markedly thicker and doomier than Liberation, replacing a lot of the hardcore onus to play hard and fast with sections of deliberate, brute force plodding that hang an anchor around your neck and force you to bang along. “When We Stopped Asking Why” expertly drives this approach home with its bruiser of an intro, using an extended low range to secure the riff safely in your solar plexus and really make you wonder if you’re going to soil yourself or not. This isn’t some ‘we’re getting older and wanna play slower’ situation; the fight riffs are still very much present, just sprinkled in with a little more nuance and care.
With Indulgence of the Unreal, Wanderer continue to prove why they’re one of the many talented acts tentpoling the Minneapolis scene as the midwest’s best. Give it a spin below.
xWeaponx/World of Pleasure - Weapon of Pleasure (hardcore)
xWeaponx is the straight edge offshoot of Kentucky titans Knocked Loose, while World of Pleasure originated as a side project of Mortality Rate and now boasts members from acts like Regional Justice Center, too. I’m gonna keep it real here. I love this split. It’s probably the best display of straight up traditional hardcore I’ve heard in years, not to mention a solid collab that sees both bands’ styles and vocalists perfectly aligned. Weapon of Pleasure is ten minutes of platonically ideal hardcore written by respected scene veterans – and borders on hate speech the entire time.
Taking a look at the lyrics won’t reveal anything you wouldn’t find on a record as old as youth crew itself. Violent, militant straight edge and vegan creeds are par for the course. However, the total lack of self-awareness and mindless aping of tired, condescending calls to arms against fellow peers for ideological impurity is, at this point, just parroting neoconservative culture war bullshit. It’s 2023, y’all. If you think you’re better than anyone for choosing to follow what has historically been a cringy, macho ideology that constantly punches down at (and literally assaults!) vulnerable demographics, you’re a self righteous bully at best. Hardcore has never in its existence truly been the inclusive community of punks and outcasts it touts itself to be. Hardcore has always been this – vacuous platitudes performed with transparent contempt over status quo, impotent, white supremacist rage.
This split is truly hardcore personified.