At The Drive-In: 20 Years, 15 Releases and a Hell of an Influence

At the Drive-In was unlike any else I had ever heard; they had a sense of angst that was so perfectly channeled that it barely seemed angsty somehow. It was raw emotion, but wrapped in ribbons and bundles that allowed it to be easily digestible, even more so than the Dischord Material I idolized (and still do). The band was artful and careful with how they did everything and, at the time, it seemed revolutionary. Now, some 4 or 5 years after that first initial meeting, I am sitting here re-visiting their discography in full, struck not only by its timelessness but by the band's sonic evolution from release to release. Below is an exploration of those releases, their inner workings, and why they have retained such heavy, influential status among the post hardcore community.

Die Choking – Taking Grindcore in an Artistic New Direction

grindcore faces yet another renaissance as it moves further into this new territory, driven by bands such as Ed Gein, Full of Hell, and Column of Heaven, where it is almost the most coveted form of artistic expression in extreme music. For these acts' aesthetic, poetry and more weave into their frightening sonic assaults, marking a strikingly human approach to a genre that once sat so far out of boundaries it was almost untamable. And, finding their place in this new wave of artsy-fartsy (said with all the love in the world) grind band's is Philadelphia's own Die Choking, a band who prides themselves on their relentless blend of death metal, grindcore, and crust leanings.

Red Fang’s Only Ghosts: The Track By Track Breakdown

If you have checked Heavy Blog in the past day, you most likely would have seen an overwhelmingly positive review of the new Red Fang record, Only Ghosts. The record, released October 14th, shows the band at a much beefier, intricate level than they have ever been before. At times this means experimenting with new sonic textures, expanding beyond their stoner-sludge roots to incorporate a much deeper, more ambiance oriented sound. However, this does not mean that Red Fang has ditched their classic 1-2 punch of punk driven stoner-sludge, but rather enhanced it to merge with the more psychedelic leanings of their current material. The result is a record as diverse and consistent as it is ambitious and offers an exciting look into what the future may hold for the Portland natives and world renown heavy rockers.

Red Fang – Only Ghosts

In 2013, fresh into high school and edging out of his interest in death metal, a young Jake Tiernan was gifted a $20 iTunes gift card for Christmas by his old sister. At the time, $20 was a lot of money for him to spend on a site like iTunes, and he was naturally thrilled, questioning what he could possibly buy with his newly acquired wealth. He searched for hours, listening and re-listening to every possible Relapse Records sampler and new album to find one that particularly caught his attention until he finally stumbled upon a monster-riff unlike he had ever heard. This riff was "Blood Like Cream" by Red Fang and inspired the purchase of their last album, Whales And Leeches, and a meticulous love affair for one of stoner metal's finest institutions. Now, almost 4 years later, that love burns strong still and provides an interesting dynamic when listening to the band's most recent offering, Only Ghosts.

Whores. – Gold

To fully play noise rock, a certain aesthetic lyricism is required, even grimier than the music that surrounds and drives it. Initially, this lyricism was pioneered by the slacker-by-way-of-burn-out California hardcore "legends" Flipper, as well as the often perverse and sadistic Big Black. The two acts, stylistically different in many ways, drew a certain kind of glee in exploring the smut that truly made up the average human being, and consistently reflected that lyrically. These lyrics, in addition to the music, supplied a certain attitude to noise rock that became as essential to the genre as the music itself. Unfortunately, this attitude is not always easy to emulate, and has led to an aggressive number of hopeful noise rock bands who simply cannot pull off the swagger. Luckily for us, however, Whores. is not one of those bands, but instead pulls off the grime of noise rock with flying colors.

Winterfylleth – The Dark Hereafter

Black metal in of itself is always somewhat of a corundum as a genre. On one hand, there are strict purists, adhering to tradition and believing anything outside of that is simply an attempt to cash in on the aesthetic. However, on the other hand, there is the entirety of the movement of "post black metal", pushing the boundaries of what the music can be and taking it in exciting new directions. Neither of the styles are particularly better than the other nor is either ever truly dominant in the context of the scene. Instead, the two vie for control of black metal's sudden increase in popularity, a constant push and pull. And, existing somewhere in between that push and pull, has always been Winterfylleth, a band whose sound is rooted in the symphonic black metal of acts like Emperor but has a distinct post-black metal flavoring. It has been a sound that has carried them effectively thus far but with The Dark Hereafter seems to be in a place of uncomfortable flux.

Oathbreaker – Rheia

As Fenriz (of Darkthrone/now political fame) once said, the line between black and crust was inevitably erased with the release of His Hero Is Gone's monumental album "Monuments To Thieves". At first this blurring of genres was subtle as artists found success in one another's respective scenes. Then, as artists like Fall Of Efrafra and Nux Vomica began to emerge with the turn of the century what was once truly a line in the sand was fully erased. Black metal bands swarmed to crust stylings in force and vica-versa. Soon a whole new generation of artists had emerged and it became standard that no black metal album was complete with out a d-beat and no crust album without a black metal riff. It was during these years that West Flander's/Belgium's Oathbreaker began to find their footing with an abrasive, but often heavily melodic, blend of post hardcore, hardcore, and black metal. Like many of their peers at the time they leaned heavily into the more crust/hardcore oriented territory of their sound, but with Rheia Oathbreaker finally breaks free of this constraint, bringing their influences full circle to create an intoxicating, dynamic album.

Harm Wülf – Hijrah

When thinking of hardcore it is not often thought of as a particularly "artistic" genre. For the most part is is rage induced, sweaty, adrenaline pumping music crafted to make a statement in a short burst of time. For the most part there are no art rock frills, no examples of poetic lyricism, and very little deviation beyond what is comfortable and what is known. However, there are those rare few hardcore bands that push beyond what is comfortable and create a truly unique listening experience. Such is the case with Philadelphia hardcore heroes Blacklisted, a band who has shown that hardcore is not meant to just be simple, but can be expanded upon in some truly unique ways. And helming Blacklisted with lyrics that prove hardcore can be poetic is George Hirsch, otherwise known as the neo folk project Harm Wülf.

Track Review // American Football – “I’ve Been So Lost For So Long”

17 years ago in Chicago, American Football's released an album that would, for better or worse, dramatically change the face of emo. Instead of the shouting/screaming vocals they opted to gently sing theirs. There were no blast beats, no sudden crashes of chaotic feedback but instead gently arpeggiated guitar parts and a light dusting of trumpet. While their contemporaries - such as I Hate Myself - were sad, poetic kids who scared everybody, American Football were the kind of kids who had just enough charm to not seem douchey when whipping out their acoustic guitar at a party. Their music was gentle and had lyrics deeper than even Chicago's deepest dish, and all of this culminated into one particular stellar debut record. However, that was 17 years ago, and while American Football may have returned on a live stage to a large amount of fanfare by the critics who made them legends and fans who adore them, it is questionable how well they have stood the test of time.