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Rotten to the Core // November 2023

Wrapping up the best of -core from October, including Dreamwell, END, Svalbard, and more!

8 months ago

October was yet another banner month for the greater -core spectrum of genres, offering quality everywhere you look. Particularly in the heavier, more metallic, weird and esoteric corners of the genre. Mathcore and screamo in particular continue to have amazing years, but this revival of 00s metalcore, and metallic hardcore is feeling even more noticeable. If that sort of thing tickles your fancy, well we've got some goods in store for you.

-Trent Bos

The Wall of Death

Dreamwell - In My Saddest Dreams, I Am Beside You (screamo, post-hardcore)

Rhode Island’s Dreamwell are like a hardcore jack-of-all-trades. Within the opening moments of their third LP and Prosthetic Records debut In My Saddest Dreams, I Am Beside You, we’re treated to twinkling and propulsive post-rock and intense screamo. If this is your first impression of Dreamwell, it’s a deceptive one; as the album continues to roll through in uninterrupted playback, Dreamwell take detours into post-hardcore, blackgaze, noise rock, and hints of chaotic mathcore, and if there are genres in between, you can bet they hit those along the way. 

Take early highlight “Lord Have MRSA on My Soul,” which opens as an emo-pop anthem before devolving into a flurry of blasts and panic chords before eventually landing on some histrionic sasscore. Later on, “Blighttown Type Beat” serves as a modest proposal for Dreamwell’s potential place on a tour with Chat Pile with the way it offers unhinged and hypnotic noise rock. The one-minute barnburner “Body Fountain” is nearly straight up emoviolence. With how high the record soared in its early moments, it’s a blast to hear Dreamwell eventually drive the vibes straight into the dirt. That fall is very much the journey and core charm of In My Saddest Dreams, I Am Beside You.

2021’s Modern Grotesque was by no means a joyous tale of whimsy, but In My Saddest Dreams offers a stark contrast in how absolutely bleak, devastating, and driven by chaos it wound up being. Whether or not that’s better for you depends on what you come into the screamo genre for; if you were taken by the contemplative ambiance of Modern Grotesque, In My Saddest Dreams may hit a few too many sour notes. As for us, well… our name is Heavy Blog, and if this record is anything, it’s the band’s heaviest (and most versatile) outing to date.

-Jimmy Rowe

END - The Sin of Human Frailty (metalcore)

While From The Unforgiving Arms of God was a properly potent introduction to the pummeling predilections of END, the full-length debut that followed in 2020, Splinters from an Ever-Changing Face, did not quite deliver the goods that the initial EP promised. However, with The Sin of Human Frailty, END has released a forward-thinking album that folds elements of industrial into their already devastating mix of nihilistic metalcore, hardcore, and grindcore.

 END is often referred to as a supergroup, most notably featuring Counterparts vocalist Brendan Murphy and all-star metalcore producer and Fit For An Autopsy guitarist Will Putney. Considering that Putney produced Harm’s Way’s similarly industrial-influenced 2018 album Posthuman, it wouldn’t be out of bounds to speculate that that album was particularly influential on the writing for The Sin of Human Frailty.

 While The Sins of Human Frailty still very much falls within the combustible concoction of extreme music that the band has specialized in since its inception, the industrial elements add a cold, mechanical layer that has been missing from earlier releases. While “cold” and “mechanical” might sound like negative attributes when applied to most music, those elements serve to emphasize the nihilistic soundscape that is so vital to END’s musical identity.   

 The industrial elements also manifest in ways that give a leaner quality to the music. Whereas the band’s previous work was often more musically complex and contained many more high-octane tempos, The Sin of Human Frailty has pared back the complexity and reduced the tempos significantly. That’s not to say that the music here is a lot slower or simpler, but the focus is more on pummeling the listener with a sledgehammer rather than ripping through them with a knife.

 Nonetheless, there are still faster, more complex moments on the album, but they aren’t as numerous as they were on previous material. Opener “A Predator Yourself”, whether intentionally or not, serves as an appropriate (and short) bridge from their earlier material before transitioning to the spacious, stomping opening of “Gaping Wounds of Earth”. The album’s center point “Embodiment of Grief” likewise harkens back to the band’s earlier material with its hardcore gallop that eventually devolves into a more traditional metalcore breakdown.

  “Thaw” is not only one of the highlights of the album, but it is also the song that arguably best showcases the band’s newfound flirtations with industrial music. The song begins with an ominous, oscillating guitar, which conjures the image of an industrial-sized fan gradually creeping toward you while you are tied down without a way to escape. Almost as soon as the rest of the instrumentation enters the scene, almost all of it drops out again to what can only be described as a drum battle between electronic drum beats and an actual physical drummer before yet another transition. While that description may suggest that this song is scatterbrained, it very much flows like the polluted river of an industrial wasteland. That polluted river leads to a particularly disgusting breakdown at the end of the track, featuring dissonant guitar squelches between the punctuated pounding of the drums and guitars. But perhaps the most surprising element in the song is a piano melody played at the beginning and end of the song. While not out of place, it was an unanticipated addition to a song that already demonstrates END flexing their creative muscles.

 As demonstrated on tracks like “Thaw”, END’s integration of industrial music presents numerous creative avenues for future material. Considering these are not well-tread avenues in the world of metalcore, END is in a position to lead the genre into some interesting industrial waste-filled territory. If this is the beginning of a new END, then let the end begin.

-JD

Svalbard - The Weight of the Mask (post-hardcore, blackgaze)

It’s hard to find a band over the past decade who has combined emotion-stirring lyricism with equally emotive song-writing better than Svalbard. Every song in their now fairly lengthy catalogue will have you feeling empowered and seen, in tears, or wanting to give lead vocalist and guitarist Serena Cherry a big consensual hug. The UK four-piece first gained notoriety through the appropriately discontinued Holy Roar records, churning out banger after banger of neo-crust, screamo, and blackgaze influenced post-hardcore. It wasn't until their previous album in 2020 where they really broke out internationally however, leaning into the blackgaze influence more than ever before. A fusion of sounds that has really seemed to captivate audiences from a wide spectrum of backgrounds. We find this sound continuing on their new and arguably best album to date, The Weight of the Mask, refining around the edges as well as getting a little more post-metal. The biggest change for the band wasn’t on the music side of things, but moving from an indie label to the monolith that is Nuclear Blast Records. 

Often this shift to a major label can be accompanied by subtle, or even major shifts in sounds. Fortunately this shift did nothing to detract from their established sound, as it really feels like the natural progression from 2020’s When I Die, Will I Get Better?. If anything there's a slight shift from the more D-beat punk style of their earlier work to a more melodic focus. And holy shit the guitar melodies. A more post-hardcore MOL comes to mind. They shift from soaring and triumphant, to bittersweet melancholy on a whim. Creating dynamic mood shifts to go with shifts in tempo and tone for a flowing and eclectic listen. 

Vocally, Serena is as good as ever and overflowing with passion. You can feel the anger, the frustration, the desperation, the fucking spite in every bite of her delivery. Comparisons could be made to groups like Birds in Row, Oathbreaker, or Dreamwell in the way they bear everything they have on every song. Like you can sense she’s absolutely spent by the end of it, and that a weight has been lifted off her shoulders. And I hope that’s the case, if you dig into the subject manner of her lyrics. Mental health struggles, depression and loss are the main focus this time around. They don’t beat around the bush too much with grand metaphors, but get right to their own direct, woefully relatable pain and truths. This battle is not insignificant. All you can do is carry on. And all you can do is keep on fighting. It’s hard not to appreciate what Svalbard is doing, bridging subgenres to create some refreshing and original art that truly has something important to say.  

-TB

The Crowdkillers

The Callous Daoboys - God Smiles Upon The Callous Daoboys (mathcore, alt metal) 

If you ask me (nobody did), The Callous Daoboys are the best thing to come out of post-Dillinger Escape Plan’s mathcore scene, and last year’s powerhouse breakout Celebrity Therapist is the contemporary Miss Machine we all needed. Wasting no time, the Daoboys have dropped a three-track check-in on where they’ve been developing their sound lately, and it’s shaping up to be incredible. I’m absolutely taken by the overt nu-metal influences, with the band teaming up with pulses. to take “Designer Shroud of Turin” through hip-hop, salsa, and jazz. It’s got to be heard to be believed. Chop-chop on LP3 Daoboys, and please get me a repress of that debut if you can.

-JR

Euclid C Finder - The Mirror, My Weapon, I Love You (mathcore)

After dropping a couple of EPs way back in 2018, Baltimore’s unapologetically unhinged mathcore power trio Euclid C Finder have finally unveiled their debut full-length through Dark Trail Records, and it’s a hell of a ride. It’s sixteen (or so) minutes of the finest false grind to grace us this year. The maths are mathing, the sass is sassy, and the rhythms are absolutely precarious. This thing is manic, irreverent, chaotic, frenetic. The Mirror, My Weapon, I Love You will light your synapses on fire. This album is a cognitohazard – a memetic nightmare, even. Fans of that weird shit, get in here. Expeditiously. 

-JR

A Mourning Star - A Reminder Of The Wound Unhealed (oldschool melodic metalcore)

All eras and brands of metalcore are worthy and have their place, but damn is it nice to still have bands delivering that mid -00s gothenburg-core essence to us. Metalcore that only uses one or two breakdowns a song and they actually feel earned and built up to. And riffs, remember riffs? Nah of course modern metalcore can still be riffy, but that simple melodeath style just hits different than the djenty, chug-accented ones ever present today.  A Mourning Star’s new EP A Reminder Of The Wound Unhealed is yet again another slamdunk from DAZE, bringing some At the Gates meets Poison the Well energy from up in Vancouver, Canada. The melodic metalcore clean choruses could use some work, but they satisfy the songwriting and offer even more nostalgia points. Nothing is reinventing the wheel here, but this is another damn impressive debut, that along with the likes of Balmora and Adrienne are showing the 00's aren’t dead and gone.

-TB

The Voynich Code - Insomnia (progressive deathcore)

Portugal’s The Voynich Code have quietly been pumping out some quality progressive deathcore for a good part of the last decade. They emerged during that era of groove-centric, synth-laden, quasi-djent deathcore during the mid-2010s influenced by early Born of Osiris, along with Nexilva, Xehanort and other former Subliminal Groove Records bands (shoutout). A decade into their existence, and now signed to Unique Leader, that formula has remained unchanged on their new album Insomnia, and the quality is still very much there. It’s heavy, it’s technical, there’s some pretty interesting melodies throughout, it’s hard to find much to complain about here if you’re into this style of deathcore. The synths are never really too overbearing, and could arguably be even more in the mix for a change. The production is tight and polished in a way you can expect from Unique Leader tech death bands. Vocally he has a great brutal low voice and doesn’t stray much from there. This is just a really solid deathcore album from a tried and true formula, and honestly one of the better takes at this sound that you’ll find this year. 

-TB

The Circle Pit (Best of the Rest)

Beastplague - A Different Animal (deathgrind)

New Forms - As Dust Collects (screamo, emoviolence)

Year of the Knife - No Love Lost (metalcore, hardcore)

CarnifexNecromanteum (deathcore)

CapraErrors (metalcore, hardcore punk)

MonosphereSentience (post-metalcore, prog metal)

Bloodred Hourglass - How's the Heart? (melodic metalcore, melodeath)

Mouth For War - Bleed Yourself (metalcore, groove metal)

Apherist - Это начнется заново // ТВОЙРУТ (metalcore)

Nailwound - An Ode to Misery (metalcore, beatdown)

Never Pray – Hermeticon (deathcore, slam)

Tethra- Endure (metalcore, djent)

Rile – Pessimist (sludgecore, mathcore)

Heavy Blog

Published 8 months ago