The best from January 2024 in grinding, shrieking, chaos.

2 months ago

The new year has kicked off just as strongly as 2023 finished, with already a number of standout releases dropping from the whole spectrum of -core related genres. It's always a challenge come December at comparing these January releases to newer albums that you've only had weeks or a month to digest, yet I think it's fair to say I wouldn't be surprised to see a few of these stand the test to make some end of year lists. The -core side of metal is thriving and showing no sides of slowing down, and neither will we.

-Trent Bos

The Wall of Death

Knoll - As Spoken (blackened deathgrind) 

Tennessee's grindcore ambassadors Knoll have been an underground favorite since making waves with their 2021 debut Interstice, finding a cross section of deathcore, mathcore, and noise sure to sate the appetite of the most unhinged and chronically antisocial among us. In the years since – through critical acclaim, positive word of mouth, and a viral run of t-shirts featuring the Queen of Tennessee herself Dolly Parton holding a shotgun – Knoll have become veritable darlings in grind and math circles, however niche they may be, all the while upping the ante on their already harrowing style to include a broader array of abrasive and otherwise challenging aesthetics. The band have been floating the phrase “funeral grind” around as a descriptor of their sound, which is fitting enough; Knoll have been known to drop tempos into sludge territories, and frequently do as their third full-length LP As Spoken gets comfortable. 

As Spoken sets a new high-water mark for Knoll, who make great strides in the evolution of their sound. Across As Spoken, there’s a very prominent black metal influence; as it turns out, screeching vocals, blastbeats, and tremolo-picked guitars are more versatile than it would appear on paper. Further, the band continue to elaborate on avant garde influences, as on the six-minute “Revile of Light” which incidentally meanders into some truly precarious and lumbering sludge, elevated by horns and some cinematic noise. Speaking of cinematic, “Utterance” plays out like the score of a horror film, with snarling vocals emanating out of shapeless noise and eerie ambiance. 

Allegations of Knoll reaching into the ever-growing and fertile field of dissonant death metal are absolutely valid. Tracks like the hyper-technical “Guardian Bind” and the chaotic squalls within “Fettered Oath” can bring comparisons to acts like Portal and Imperial Triumphant. At their heart though, Knoll extol the virtues of grind and its ability to fuck up its surroundings in a myriad of inventive ways. As Spoken is downright frightening and uniquely dynamic for grind, sure to find success in its expanded coalition of fans across the extreme metal spectrum. 

-Jimmy Rowe

Infant Island - Obsidian Wreath (screamo, blackgaze)

Firmly rooted in the screamo genre, Infant Island have been gradually blending with blackgaze and post-metal for a sound comparable to Ostraca’s standout release Disaster in 2023. Obsidian Wreath rivals it in quality as well. This is not only their best album to date, but one of the best realized expressions of this screamo fusion you can find, cementing itself near the top of early album of the year lists. Comparatively, their sound embraces a much more ethereal tone, flowing from moments of sorrowed longing to euphoric passion. The shifting atmospheres take on lush shoegaze tones with a soft tenderness beneath Daniel Kost’s relentlessly cathartic screams. From start to finish this album is beaming with emotion, brought out compellingly through thoughtful and effective songwriting. 

Screamo has a long-standing tried and tested relationship with the textural soundscapes of tremolo picked post-rock riffs from classic acts like Envy and City of Caterpillar. Obsidian Wreath is an evolution of that formula, often taking a heavier, more aggressive and reverb-dense approach. Hell, there’s even some gutturals from a killer guest appearance from .gif from god’s Andrew Schwartz on the outstanding album opener “Another Cycle.” The other guest appearance is from a band much more on the shoegaze side of things from Logan and Harper of Greet Death on “Kindling”, a track evocative of the unsettling delicate beauty of Holy Fawn before growing into something closer to Alcest. This album is defined by this balance of ethereal grace, and dissonant, emotive fury, both in that flow between the two of them, but also in how they manage to make both work at the same time. The result is an album that can continually catch you off guard, but you can still get lost in throughout its digestible 36-minute run-time. 



The Crowdkillers

AK//47 - Menari Dalam Abu Algoritma (grindcore)

While January often serves as a rather slow month for new metal albums after the release rush of the last few months of the previous year, it’s safe to say that there is already a contender for one of the best, and already sure to be one of the most underrated, grindcore releases of 2024 with Menari Dalam Abu Algoritma from the long-running AK//47

AK//47 is led by guitarist, vocalist, and sole constant member Garna Raditya, who relocated from Indonesia to Oakland, California. Without being able to find much information on the band, one may assume that’s where Raditya connected with current AK//47 bassist Mike Calvert (Waking Hour) and drummer Gregg Deadface (Choke, xHostagex). Despite AK//47 being a 25-year-old project, the band has only put out four albums without having put out any EPs or splits, the latter especially being an incredible feat for a grindcore band (eat your heart out, Agathocles). Considering that Menari Dalam Abu Algoritma clocks in at just over 14 minutes and this is the band’s first album in six years, it’s clear that the band is employing one particular mode of grindcore: delivering quality over quantity.

The tracks on Menari Dalam Abu Algoritma whip back and forth between introspective searching and visceral pummeling. Tracks such as the opener “Dengarkan Yang Muda”, album mid-point “Budak Algoritma”, and closer “Alam Marah Besar” demonstrate this dichotomy as Raditya often employs sustained, wistful-inducing open-string chords and ninth chords while Deadface maintains the momentum by blasting right through everything in his path. At the same time, the band is not afraid of simpler, stomping grooves, such as those in the in the middle of “Memeluk Pohon” and “Marah Kepada Pemerintah”. 

Menari Dalam Abu Algoritma is one of those grindcore albums that strikes a delicate balance between different musical and production elements that this writer finds most appealing in the realm of grindcore. This includes a musically tight performance, especially (and crucially for grindcore) from the drummer. Even with the precise performances, the production avoids sounding overpolished or mechanical, giving the sound quality an appropriate level of being rough around the edges. Finally, as alluded to before, there are a variety of musical ideas that are presented that sometimes include an emergent, if understated, sense of melody. 

Throughout Menari Dalam Abu Algoritma’s short running time, there is always a sense that a substantial amount of time and energy went into the composition and practice of the album’s 10 succinct tracks. It’s that compositional thoughtfulness, along with the various balanced musical and production aspects described above, that make Menari Dalam Abu Algoritma one of the early contenders for grindcore album of the year.


Kaonashi - The 3 Faces Of Beauty: A Violent Misinterpretation of Morgan Montgomery (mathcore, sasscore)

I’m not sure if there’s a more polarizing band right now in the metalcore scene than Kaonashi. Well, maybe Sleep Token, but with Kaonashi, that make-or-break for people seems to come 99% down to Peter Rono’s unique approach to vocals. The instrumentation is pretty universally praised, and for good reason. They bring together elements of mathcore, progressive post-hardcore, and increasingly on this new EP, older melodic metalcore that itself draws from 00s melodeath. The 3 Faces of Beauty is likely their heaviest release to date, with less zany swancore and more “the same riff, but slower” as seen executed brilliantly on opener “Humiliation Ritual”. Peter leans into this allowing their vocals to grow increasingly unhinged. As much as I can praise and defend them, I can't deny they sometimes sound as if Elmo was pushed to his absolute breaking point and was about to put Sesame Street on lockdown. But at the end of the day, this is a vocalist who is unleashing everything they have into the microphone. The pure emotion and passion he puts into the performance is undeniable, and I can't ask for anything else. Finally I’ll note the Sikth comparisons are growing increasingly apt as more djent seeps into their sound, and it’s no surprise they’ve tweeted about wanting a tour with them to happen. Please make that happen.  


Underneath - From the Gut of Gaia (deathcore, metalcore)

Underneath’s debut full-length From the Gut of Gaia is one of the best straight-forward modern deathcore releases I’ve heard in some time. There’s no gimmicks, nothing really flashy or groundbreaking, it’s just punishing, well produced deathcore that delivers exactly what you want from this sound. Put broadly, it’s as if Fit For An Autopsy had less Gojira influence. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is probably up to you, but it’s hard not to hear them especially in the vocals. For deathcore, it’s heavier on the -core than death-, and overall it feels more rooted in 00s metallic hardcore, bringing a fresh fusion of new and old into something fairly original for the genre. Lines could also be drawn to the latest deathcore offering from The Acacia Strain with their sludgy, hate-fuelled approach. Deathcore is finding its footing again of late and 2024 is off to a good start with From the Gut of Gaia.   


Lockslip - Lockslip (metallic hardcore, mathcore) 

And now for something a little more underground and out of nowhere, the shockingly good self-titled debut EP from LA-based mathcore band Lockslip. This is some clearly Converge and Dillinger coded metalcore with an emphasis on abrasive, frenzied anguish. Everything about it is just hard-hitting, but there’s refreshing care for a bit of melody behind the mosh-inducing heaviness. Fans of last year's Chamber album will find a lot to love here, as it borrows some of their modern edge and tight production without sacrificing their relentless raw passion. At this pace, Lockslip are going to be a name you’ll want to keep an eye on.  


The Circle Pit (Best of the Rest)

Alluvial - Death is a Door (progressive deathcore)

Decorticate - Conditioned by Violence (grindcore/powerviolence)

Eye Flys - Eye Flys (noise rock)

Fallingwithscissors - The Death and Birth of an Angel (metalcore, screamo)

Rejoice - All of Heaven's Luck (metalcore, hardcore punk)

Cross of Disbelief - ST (deathcore, death metal)

deepincision - Sorry for the Wait (metalcore)

Casey - How To Disappear (post-hardcore, shoegaze)

Splitknuckle - Breathing Through the Wound (metalcore, beatdown, deathcore)

Svdestada - Candela (blackened hardcore, crust)

Bottom Surgery - Please Follow Closely (powerviolence, cybergrind)

x.seeing.stars.x - Behind the Veil of Innocence and Fragility (ATG-core)

Massa Nera / Quiet Fear - Quatro vientos // Cinco soles (screamo)

Our Future Is An Absolute Shadow - LP (emoviolence)

Gray State - Under the Wheels of Progress (metalcore)

Cariosus - Will, Until Beauty (melodic deathcore)

Moment of Truth - Promo 2024 (proto deathcore)

Serling - The Hempstead Assignments (mathcore)

XclocktowerX - Greatest Hits: Vol 2 (mathcore)

A HOMELAND DENIED: A Compilation for the Palestinian Liberation (assorted hardcore/metal compilation)

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Published 2 months ago