Hell of a month, huh? How ’bout them Olympics? Right? And uh, COVID’s back! You heard about this? I mean it’s just crazy, it’s like it’s everywhere, am I right? And all these catastrophic weather events and mass evictions and people in the streets the world over while a couple of assholes tear massive holes in our atmosphere, just because they can? You seen what I’m talking about? Just…. wow, you know? It’s a lot to take in. Fortunately, silver linings do exist — in the form of sick riffs. Here’s a fresh batch of pure unabashed aural violence to soothe your world-weary soul. Love you.
The Wall of Death
Born of Osiris – Angel or Alien (progressive metalcore)
One of the progenitors of sumeriancore, the aptly named microgenre that spawned the all-influential boom of groovy, progressive, tech-deathy metalcore that would become the blueprint for countless djent acts, Born of Osiris have had perhaps the most tumultuous career of those outfits. Setting the bar insanely high back in the MySpace days with The New Reign, BOO stormed the scene and were promptly swept away in their own current. In the ensuing explosion of similar bands saturating listeners’ ears, follow-up A Higher Place was just mediocre. However, 2011’s The Discovery saw a meteoric rebound from the sophomore slump, securing their names in the metalcore history books forever. While they’ve seen some minor successes since, nothing has ever truly surpassed the staying power of those early genre groundbreakers, causing the back half of their catalog to seem weak by comparison.
At least, that’s what I was prepared to write about Angel or Alien, their seventh studio album. What I found instead was an enthralling moment in musical history: the final link in the chain reconnecting modern metalcore back to its Swedish melodeath roots. Angel or Alien is easily Born of Osiris’ best work in a decade, if not the most impressive, inspired performance of their careers. What could be oversimplified as ‘what if August Burns Red wrote Soilwork’s Stabbing the Drama’, AoA is a relentless, nuanced record full of crunchy tech riffs, beautiful melodeath synths, and catchy crymosh choruses that would make Killswitch Engage weep. Album finale “Shadowmourne” in particular reads as a sax-filled spiritual successor to KSE’s seminal classic “My Curse”, where tracks like “Crossface” are a boot-to-the-neck reminder where all the local beatdown bands steal their riffs from.
Best of all we’re treated to “You Are the Narrative”, a track that feels like baby BOO all grown up: a bouncy, mathy thrasher that soars through sections of lush, refined melodies and vicious dissonant riffs, calling back to motifs first heard in TNR-era tracks like “Abstract Art”. That’s far from the only musical easter egg to be heard on Angel or Alien; homages to bands both peer and influence are abundant, with nods to acts like Circle of Contempt, Rivers of Nihil, and In Flames sprinkled throughout. It’s a huge love letter to their own journeys as both artist and listener, and that passion is apparent track after track. You’re just as likely to hear a gorgeous neoclassical solo on this record as you are a downtempo meat grinder, and for people like me, that hits a real sweet spot that’s rare to find.
If there’s one last thing I could impart to you about this record, it’s this: the riffs just don’t fuckin’ quit, bud. Not once, not ever. Angel or Alien is a masterclass in post-djent core riffing, with some truly legendary passages that just make you want to put your guitar down and quit. If you’ve been unimpressed with Born of Osiris in recent years, as I’m sure a lot of listeners have, this is the best time to revisit with fresh ears. Give this one a spin and see how it feels in the folds of your brain. Just don’t blame me when you go down a rabbithole and start knocking shit off your dresser windmilling to “Bow Down” again.
Fallfiftyfeet – Twisted World Perspective (mathcore, post-hardcore)
This month I want to touch on a couple of new releases from my new favourite label in the -core world, Dark Trail Records. If you’ve been following modern mathcore whatsoever, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of this label. They’ve routinely worked alongside the top-tier promotional page Mathcore Index to bring attention to some of the best up and coming bands in the scene. One of such bands is the West Virginia based three-piece fallfiftyfeet. Mathcore certainly comes in a lot of shapes and colours these days, and Twisted World Perspective fits into about all of them. Oddly, it’s experimental in how approachable it can be. Typically when you think about experimental mathcore, your mind might go to the highly dissonant or pushing the boundaries of the sounds that a guitar can make. But here they take a more smorgasbord approach, and every flavour profile they go for feels like a success.
Twisted World Perspective begans with a slower, almost post-metal anthemic-build-up intro track, that partway through shifts slightly into a more metalcore tone. It’s the sort of track that makes you go, “well that was unexpected” from a genre where you already don’t know what to expect. From there, most of the album is rooted in that sort of The Chariot or early Norma Jean style of very panic chord driven hardcore, but nearly every track takes an unpredictable spin at some point. Be that the distinctly swancore-esque guitar licks in “Shortcuts to Hell” followed by layered clean and shouted vocals in what are more sprinkles of the “we’re playing whatever genre we want” attitude fallfiftyfeet have adopted, or some of those anthemic metalcore touches. Speaking of swancore, some of the harsh vocals also take on a bit of that Jon Mess of DGD sound. In general, it’s comparable to Kaonashi in the amount of post-hardcore and more accessible metalcore elements that are present, but with distinctly different vocal styles and a more raw energy.
With all three members of fallfiftyfeet contributing vocals on this album, you get a pretty wide range of timbres and techniques employed. Unfortunately, I’d have to say the vocals are the weaker aspect of this release. They don’t make me want to turn it off, but they aren’t exactly the selling feature here. That being said, their usage, and where and how they’re employed is really well executed to accentuate the more emotional or frantic passages as needed. They’re the sort of vocals that would also translate well live to bring out a more charismatic experience.
All in all, this is the sort of album that this genre needs. It’s the sort of mathcore album that’s not just for the Dillinger-truthers and Car Bomb enthusiasts, but there’s enough here that should appease them too. It’s an album for those that might not even be into mathcore yet, or aren’t aware that they could be, and for that alone this album deserves recognition.
Times of Grace – Songs of Loss and Separation (old school metalcore, post-alt rock)
If you’re unfamiliar, Times of Grace is essentially the Christian rock stepchild of Killswitch Engage’s Adam Dutkiewicz and original vocalist Jesse Leach, formed after he was replaced by Howard Jones. This is only their second release in a decade as Leach rejoined KSE shortly after Times of Grace premiered, thus putting the side project on the back burner. Their first album The Hymn of a Broken Man was solid, and many attribute its success and Leach’s return to KSE to the renewed chemistry between old collaborators. Fans and critics alike have been eagerly awaiting new ToG material ever since. Hearing them steer their talents into what Adam D. himself refers to as “shoegaze” territory has been exciting, and Songs of Loss and Separation is a damn fine album, but I would love to have heard more.
“Shoegaze” as interpreted by the duo is a vivid, melancholic throwback to the grungy alt-rock ballads of the 90s, with big, distorted bluesy guitars and Leach’s scream-sing scaled back to a soulful rasp. It’s a beautiful marriage of styles that these two are well suited for, and the first two tracks of the album (including lead single “The Burden of Belief”) barely betray a true metal influence. After that, the boys let it rip, reminding us all we’re dealing with metalcore royalty for the remainder of the record. They sprinkle a few softer passages in throughout, and even in their heavier tracks, Dutkiewicz’s compositions tend to open up organically with sorrowful strokes. It’s really one hell of a record that dirt rockers and metalheads alike should adore, but I still can’t help feeling a little robbed.
I would pay good money to hear full albums in the style of those first two tracks. The fact that most of the material on this record could have easily just been used for Killswitch without much differentiation, while well-written, is a bit disappointing. The real meat of their experimentation with different sounds and styles is something I’d love to hear explored more by these two, and fingers crossed, we’ll get just that — though hopefully sometime sooner than 2031.
Noxious – Bleeding Out (metallic hardcore, technical beatdown)
Virginia’s Noxious are the kind of band you find playing mid-bill that signal the shift in the night from their opening note. The green openers have come and gone, the sun has settled over the horizon, and it’s finally time for the big boys to get the pit ripping for the rest of the show. Sophomore outing Bleeding Out is a diabolically heavy slab of crowdkilling mayhem crafted with a keen ear for progression and pacing that most bands in their corner are lacking. From seething opener “Misery”, a lab-grown crowd waker trained on years of hyphy hardcore shows, to the title track’s unassuming descent into one of the hardest breakdowns of the year, Noxious prove time and time again what talented, studied acolytes they are.
Even more satisfying is their dip into technical territory. “Bleeding Out” teases it in the latter half of the track, but the descending tapped leads and syncopated chugs of “Keeping The Silence” betray the influence of acts like Ion Dissonance and Sentinels. Album finale “Burn” flips the script right back however, delivering a dirty Knocked Loose-inspired fist fest that somehow leaves you with a black eye regardless of your proximity to a pit. Bleeding Out is a goldmine of simple, effective fight riffs and breakdowns, perfectly blended and arranged to keep your energy up and your face twisted in vicious glee.
Pacmanthemovie – Pacmanthemovie 2: Eat Lives (mathcore)
Next up along the Dark Trail Records catalogue this month was the sophomore release from Houston based spazzy mathcore artist Pacmanthemovie. Say what you will about zany mathcore band names, I think it fits the music perfectly in its absurdity. These guys first got my attention with their self-titled debut in 2019, and I’m happy to say the follow up isn’t a departure from anything that made that release great, but it’s a more refined and polished take on their sound.
This is the sort of get-in, fuck everything up, then get out kind of mathcore album. Following their cousins in the grind world, almost all of the eleven tracks are sub 2-minutes, with the album clocking it at just under twenty. It’s a chaotic mess of sounds, but also really tight. The production is crisp, the drums and low-end are perfectly punchy, and nothing ever feels too overbearing or suffocating. Pretty much everything I want from the …weirder side of modern mathcore.
They’ve got the sort of sound you can see filling a house show with a whirling dervish of a pit going on, limbs flying everywhere, people jumping up at the vocalist and shouting along. The kind of raw enthusiasm and jovialness you only find at local shows. And that’s not to say their sound is amateurish in any way, it’s far from (except for maybe the lyrics to “Folly D”, but I digress). Their riffs and song-structures are complex and unpredictable, but still engaging and memorable. This is basically mathcore broken down to its purest form; we even get a bit of nintendo-core touches added in, and it’s a short-but-sweet triumph of why this genre can be so damn fun.
The Circle Pit
A Night In Texas – The Divine Dichotomy – Chapter I (technical deathcore, beatdown)
Capstan – Separate (metalcore, post-hardcore)
CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP – Cyberviolence (cyberviolence)
Cognitive – Malevolent Thoughts of a Hastened Extinction (progressive deathcore)
deadvectors – Elemental (prog deathcore)
Defocus – In The Eye Of Death We Are All The Same (prog metalcore, djent)
Erdve – Savigaila (sludgecore)
Fromjoy – It Lingers (metalcore, metallic hardcore)
Know Suffer – The Great Dying (metalcore, beatdown)
Null Existence – The Gehenna Complex (blackened deathcore)
Lower Automation – Lower Automation (mathcore, post-hardcore)
Sleep Waker – Alias (metalcore)
snag. – Death Doula (screamo)
Structures – None of the Above (progressive metalcore, djent)
Under a Serpent Sun – Under a Serpent Sun (melodic metalcore, melodeath)
Weston Super Maim – 180-degree Murder (mathcore, prog metal)
The Voynich Code – Post Mortem (progressive deathcore, death metal)
Yunalesca – The Amalgamation of Human Apathy (prog metalcore, deathcore)
I’d also like to use this space to give a shout-out to the Call Me Armageddon Vol. 2 compilation album that dropped on July 1st. A collection of 125 of the best underground hardcore, metalcore, mathcore, grindcore, powerviolence, cybergrind, etc. tracks released this year all in one place, and available to download for pay-what-you-want. Just an amazing source of new underground music.