I open with an apology. Despite a rotating roster of talented characters willing to write about the forbidden step-siblings of their trver metal kin, sometimes there’s just too much good stuff that comes out in a month and not enough minds to opine. So it’s with a heavy heart I must announce we are not covering (but you should definitely check out if you haven’t) the new Frontierer, Vildhjarta, or Dying Wish, all incredible records from bands at the forefront of their sounds. Despite being high-profile releases, we here at Heavy Blog have never kowtowed to what we ‘should’ cover, and instead labor to bring you the releases we personally loved the most. October was filled to gills with impressive albums, so without further ado – enjoy the takes.
The Wall of Death
Knocked Loose – A Tear in the Fabric of Life (hardcore, metalcore)
This is the best hardcore release in years. Period. I’m not burying the lede because I want you to know it and accept it before we begin. I state it plainly and factually because, despite it being my own subjective opinion, it seems most peoples’ personal subjective opinions happen to align with mine. I’ve barely seen discussion to the contrary, as if stating “this is the best hardcore release in years” has the core community just nodding their heads along solemnly to something decided long ago, unchallenged. When they debuted with the Pop Culture EP in 2014, I knew back then that this would be the band to write the best hardcore record in a generation. And since that EP, they’ve continued to grow and succeed but never fully recapture that original magic. I had admittedly become a skeptic, watching my initial adoration become a little more jaded after each release that were all good, but not great. Not what I knew they could achieve. Not what would eventually, finally reach us as A Tear in the Fabric of Life. So grant me a selfish little “I told you so!” as we dive in. Thanks.
We open in a car, scanning through stations on the radio during a storm. As our protagonist finally sets the dial, tires screech into the opening salvo of “Where Light Divides the Holler”. A Tear in the Fabric of Life is a simple concept album about a car crash that takes the life of the passenger. Our opening track describes the event, the vehicle hydroplaning and running off-road into the brush, perfectly capturing the impact and panic. Follow-up “God Knows” might be the heaviest, most anxiety-inducing track they’ve ever released, with every single second engineered to awaken the terror in your bones before we hear the uncanny voice of The Beach Boys’ Carl Wilson crooning “God only knows what I’d be without you” distorting and fading into finding out exactly what: survivor’s guilt personified, as referenced in “Forced to Stay”. Through the first three tracks alone, vocalist Bryan Garris proves he’s the perfect person to perform this concept. The lyrics hit like a brick, and his trademark, throat-ripping falsetto hardcore punk screech that brought us the infamous “ARF ARF” is the perfect timbre to convey such abject agony.
“Contorted in the Faille” just gives chills the whole way through. I don’t know how Knocked Loose stumbled upon the formula to write such perfectly sequenced music, with each section roiling and building upon the last to deliver maximum overload, but the huge accented blasts bleeding into lumbering, dissonant breakdowns and Bryan’s ragged voice reverberating through the noise makes your whole body prickle. “Return to Passion” and album closer “Permanent” harken back to tracks from A Different Shade of Blue, taking themes first explored on that record and expanding upon the story of our protagonist, driven mad by guilt at accidentally killing his lover, exhuming her body from the grave for resurrection and supernatural reunion.
I’ve listened to this release intently a handful of times, trying to find something to criticize. The short, standard 6 song EP tracklist, barely clocking 21 minutes? Nope, it’s perfect. Any more or less would feel lopsided. Even technically being an EP, I’d say this is a fully realized and contained album by its content. Musically? They’re at the top of their game, showing growth in songwriting and total mastery of their craft. The production? It’s fucking Will Putney. There’s no one else I can even imagine who would have been a better fit for this sound. Truly, nothing sticks out like a sore thumb or feels any less than carefully conceptualized, crafted, and performed. It’s what we’ve been waiting for all this time. And with complete clarity and confidence, I can say without a doubt, Knocked Loose have cemented themselves as the best hardcore band of this generation, and will write their names in the book of greats at the end of their career – which I hope continues to grow and excite us for many years to come. Watch the beautifully animated short film by Magnus Jonsson that accompanies the album here:
Every Time I Die – Radical (chaotic hardcore, southern rock)
Every Time I Die might have one of the most distinct and easily identifiable sounds in the hardcore, but that doesn’t mean that each of their albums doesn’t also have a distinct flavour to it. From the southern rock party vibes of The Big Dirty (2007), to the frantic melodicism of New Junk Aesthetic (2009) and the angular experimentation of Low Teens (2016), each and every one of their albums – especially the better ones – have had their own distinct sound that at once sets them apart but is never less than 100% Every Time I Die. What the band haven’t done, up until now, is put out an album that captures all of the different aspects of their sound that they’ve explored over their now over-twenty-year trajectory and deliver them all in a single package.
Radical is that album. This record has it all, opening with a punky call and response anthem in “Dark Distance” that would have fit perfectly on Ex Lives (2012), alongside classic cuts like “Underwater Bimbos from outer Space.” From there it absolutely rockets through an endless barrage of some the best songs the buffalo quintet have come up with to date. Singles like “Post-Boredom” and “A Colossal Wreck” recall breakthrough effort Gutter Phenomenon (2005), except with everything a decade and a half at the top of the game brings, both in terms of songwriting and production, with Fit For An Autopsy axeman and producer extraordinaire Will Putney making the band sound bigger and more devastating than they ever have before. The melodic experimentation they showed on Low Teens with “Map Change” continuing on in “White Void.” Yet so too have Every Time I Die doubled down on the thrashy aggression shown on songs like “The Coin Has a Say” or “Wanderlust”.
Radical contains some of Every Time I Die’s most accessible material to date, but it’s also a shoe in for the heaviest record they’ve ever put out as well. Songs like “The Whip” and “Desperate Pleasures” are as devastating as the global climate catastrophes the band often find themselves rallying against throughout the record. Vocalist, icon, author and all around legend Keith Buckley is also at the top of his game here, seamlessly alternating between his most catchy and accessible croons and the most savage, throat tearing performances of his career. Every Time I Die have been reliably putting out phenomenal albums for too long now for any of this to come as a surprise, but that doesn’t mean we should take an album like this for granted either.
It hasn’t yet achieved the classic status of albums like Gutter Phenomenon, The Big Dirty or even Low Teens, but I have little doubt that Radical is the definitive Every Time I Die record and, right now, I’m thinking it might just be their best as well. New Junk Aesthetic: you’re on notice.
God Complex – To Decay in a Deathless World (metallic hardcore, mathcore)
This was an important inclusion for me in this month’s column for bittersweet reasons. About a month before the release of their new record, To Decay in a Deathless World, Liverpool-based beasts God Complex sadly announced they would be disbanding after four years as a band. While I can’t pretend to be a long-time fan of the band—To Decay was my introduction to them—I had heard their name bandied around the UK hardcore arena for a little while, as well as high praise from the members of fellow Scouser’s Loathe. So to hear the news of their dissolution was a shock, not least because the band looked primed to go from strength to strength, especially teamed up with Venn Records, (Last Hounds, I Feel Fine, Gold Key) exponents of some of the UK’s most interesting alternative and hardcore music at present, and employing Erik Bickerstaffe of Loathe on production duties. Whatever their reasons for breaking up, I wish the members of God Complex a happy and fruitful future, as well as a thank you for going out on such a high note with what is a concise monolith of cathartic, at times experimental, metallic hardcore.
The plus points of To Decay is its brevity, sequencing and compositions; which hoist it above a lot of records of a similar style that stubbornly stick to bashing your skull in consistently and for too long. The record is short and contains a few melodic and atmospheric interludes that cleanly divide up the barrage of carnage that hit you on the “main” tracks. There’s some curveballs in the mix too. “Deeper Form of Sleep” adds to the subterranean vibe of the interlude tracks, incorporating melody in a similar way to Car Bomb. The compositions leave you completely bewildered and simultaneously tense with anticipation, with Harry Rule’s vocals leading the charge for the most part. The range and intensity of Rule’s vocals is stunning, he always has an inventive knack for ushering in a bludgeoning breakdown, whether that be an inhuman gurgle that peters out to nothing, or a Michael Dafferner-esque percussive accompaniment that grates your ears off.
The atmospheric interludes on the record—while they aren’t my personal favourite moments nor are they particularly memorable—do serve an essential purpose, and serve it well. Not only are they the prime reason the record is as digestible as it is, but they tether it to a greater sense of melodicism that keeps the record from descending into a melange of squawky riffs and breakdowns. Take “Gathering Dark” for instance. A creaky guitar arpeggio and soft static accompany Rule’s tortured cries as if he’s lost in a sewer system, before “The Altar” barrels in with riffs chuggier than your uncle’s beat up banger. They also contribute to the concept of the album as one of mystique, as depicted by the fantastic artwork, which becomes more nightmarish the more you look at it. It has a kind of Venom Prison sense of righteous macabre, showing a Virgin Mary-style figure and a person, barely kept alive by a series of instruments attached to them, with a look of delirium and possibly pain on their bandaged face. Is this Virgin Mary figure fading in to prolong this person’s pain? Or to miraculously relieve it? Who knows.
God Complex have exited this world with a very good record on their hands. We can only dream of what kind of material they might have produced had they decided to carry on. Still, I’m very happy this exists and that God Complex graced us with their riffs for as long as they did.
Sentinels – Collapse By Design (mathcore, prog metalcore)
Sentinels have quietly been making a name for themselves in the prog metalcore/djent scene over the years since their debut Idylls back in 2013. Over that time however, they’ve gradually evolved their sound away from that saturated djent-core sound into one that uses spurts of hyper-technicality and mathcore influences. With World Divide and 2019’s Unsound Recollections they begin to lean heavily into what you could call somewhere between Structures and The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravanga. As a Canadian, this sound seemed to be the metalcore of choice for a lot of young bands here in the past decade, such as early The Afterimage, Fall In Archaea, and The Parallel. Now eight years since their debut, Sentinels have signed with the increasingly stacked Sharptone Records, and have come into their own with their strongest album to date, Collapse By Design.
While the djent influences are not totally gone, with this new album they’ve developed their own sound that is definitively “Sentinels” without living exclusively off the tropes established from those that came before them. Sure, there’s plenty of 00-00-0000s over ambient backing guitar chords that djenty metalcore lives off, but the Ion Dissonance-like uptempo chaotic riffing is another beast entirely. “Embers” puts this on display with an almost Car Bomb level of pushing a guitar’s tone to its limits with dizzying slides and divebombs that dance around over their polyrhythmic grooves. “Albatross” even shows a bit of a take at some ‘thall’. Even the instrumental “Solitude” which feels straight out of a 2009 djent album still hits hard enough in it’s laidback progressiveness in contrast to the breakneck technicality of the rest of the album. In a sense, Collapse By Design has kept the best elements of djent, but is a textbook example of the power of using musical elements in moderation.
Collapse By Design marks their second vocalist change, and first album with new vocalist Josh Hardiman, after the departure of Joe Benducci who fronted the previous two. The vocals are mostly of that mid-range style that a lot of contemporary progressive metalcore acts operate in. His tone in particular reminds me of Jamie Graham formerly of Heart Of A Coward. Their fit is familiar and comfortable, but given the relative lack of variation and range, hardly the main reason for coming back to this album. To quote a youtube comment of all things, “once this guy acquires lows, they will be truly unstoppable.” I’m almost surprised they didn’t sneak some Contortionist style moody clean vocals in, as there’s a number of those atmospheric moments that almost call for it, but I’m not mad they didn’t lean into that cliché.
Many bands of this style can fall into that trope of being technical for technicality’s sake, and the end product can feel a bit flat and lifeless despite of that. This is a critique I’ve had of bands like Oceans Ate Alaska, as the songwriting itself at times can fail to keep up with the overzealousness of that pursuit for complexity. Mathcore bands are often able to avoid this by leaning into the self-aware chaotic energy with a sense of youthful enthusiasm that’s hard not to get caught up in the fun of. What Sentinels do well at combating this is maintaining a level of catchiness in their music. Some of that is through a pretty engaging sense of melody, but also just the fact that while impressively technical, a lot of these riffs are still damn fun and memorable. If you’re like me and got into mathcore after your djent phase, this album represents both a nostalgia trip into the past, but also a taste into the exciting new possibilities that modern mathcore can offer.
Cerce – Cowboy Music (hardcore punk, powerviolence)
Cerce are a hardcore punk band from Boston that sometimes flirt with a heavier powerviolence sound. The group formed a decade ago and released a couple EPs and one full-length Adieux before disbanding 2 years later. These releases drew comparisons to the likes of Slant or Gouge Away. Now, 8 years later, they’ve returned with their sophomore album Cowboy Music and impressively picked up right where they left off, but now with sharper production quality, and an extra dose of heaviness.
The most distinct part of their sound is undeniably vocalist Becca Cadalzo’s unique poetic spoken-word style delivery, that often builds into a desperate scream. As a big Julie Christmas (Made Out Of Babies, Cult of Luna’s Mariner) fan, the comparison was the first to come to mind. While maybe slightly less-deranged and more sassy, that style of vocal with this brand of hardcore is unlike much I’ve ever heard before – and I love it. It’s raw, passionate, and angry, what more could you want?
The album’s credits pack some pretty notable names such as Ben Chisholm who’s done production for the likes of Chelsea Wolfe and The Armed, mixed by none other than Kurt Ballou, and mastered by Magnus Lindberg of Cult of Luna. All that is a roundabout way of saying, from a production standpoint – it sounds great. I’m not sure of their exact setup, but the guitars have a bit of that hm-2 death metal crunch that hits really hard here, and the bass and percussion are dialed in nicely for the right amount of punch on the low end.
I love when hardcore punk can sound this heavy, and the powerviolence tags are warranted from the upbeat grind and death metal influences in their riffing. The riffs are chaotic and dissonant at times, but mostly just straight-up relentlessly head-bang and/or mosh worthy without relying on breakdowns. Every sort of pit behaviour feels welcome here. As someone generally less into the up-tempo side of this genre, the final two tracks might be my favourites. “Pink Rose” takes a slower sludge feel, with a terrifying mid-paced riff repeated throughout that nails that descending into a hellish void vibe, all while Becca screams in persistent desperation. The closer “Worthless Cheaters” hits almost Admiral Angry levels of heaviness, really highlighting just how well these riffs and the production work together. All in all, Cowboy Music is a dynamic and special album bridging an oldschool sound with a modern mindset, and a valiant return for a unique and needed voice in the hardcore scene.
Under The Pier – An Exercise In Discontent (mathcore, deathgrind)
This year has graced us with a ton of impressive mathcore, and while most eyes (and deservedly so) this month were on Frontierer, a little group from Baltimore, MD called Under The Pier etched their place onto my AOTY list as well. I’ve raved about this group before, being fortunate to premiere their single and music video for “Fabulous” back in September. At this point, if you’re into mathcore and not following and checking out everything Dark Trail Records puts out, you’re fucking up. They literally do not miss. A new album from UTP was unexpected this year, given they raged onto the scene just last year with their impressive debut Puff Pieces. But evidently the mathcore-machine is not broke, as their follow up An Exercise In Discontent is somehow even better.
In short, Under The Pier takes that old-school chaotic mathcore sound of the 00’s of stuff like Heavy Heavy Low Low and makes it even heavier, drawing from deathcore and deathgrind acts like The Red Chord. Giving it a more modern spin is Pedram Valiani (of the aforementioned Frontierer)’s mixing job, giving it a massively thick sound with heavy crunch without feeling over-produced. Their riffs can feel both all over the place and unpredictable, yet engaging, groovy and beaming with contagious energy. That blend of enthusiasm and insanity is what mathcore does best, and this is a prime example of it. It’s unsettling and uncomfortable, yet free and boundless.
As a bit of a pat-myself-on-the-back aside, I showed this band to friend-of-the-blog Ian Wilmot who was looking for new mathcore, and within days he was auditioning to be their new bassist! A position in which all props to him, he landed. So go catch Ian and the rest of the gang on their upcoming NE USA mini-tour this month with stops in Boston, Long Island, Brooklyn, Albany and Mechanicsburg, and stream An Exercise In Discontent below.
Whitechapel – Kin (progressive metal, post-deathcore)
Following up 2019’s The Valley, Kin finds Tennessee titans Whitechapel embarking on the arduous quest to continue where its predecessor left off in the midst of both a musical reawakening and a lyrical meta-concept about vocalist Phil Bozeman grappling with his childhood trauma. Sounds like a lot, right? Sure would be a shame if they managed to not only meet, but surpass all expectations while exploring new musical territory and wrap up the brutal, gripping story in one fell swoop. That would be impossible from a little old redneck deathcore band, right?
Kin might be one of the best metal albums this year, like, period. I almost feel crazy writing it up for this column, as Whitechapel have pushed the needle so much farther away from their original sound with this release it’s barely deathcore anymore. Epic, melancholy southern blues licks underpin a monolith of inspired modern metal that’s every bit as heavy as their back catalog while leaving plenty of room for melody and experimentation. Phil’s trademark ten-ton growl is still on display, but his clean singing has come a long, haunting way, giving extremely A Perfect Circle vibes in context with the music. The compositions alone put this album in a tier of its own among Whitechapel’s discography, blending influences from all over the spectrum to craft extremely compelling, mature, progressive pieces. This is absolutely Whitechapel at their best, which is something you love to see for a band that’s entering its sixteenth year on the heels of a career in a dying genre. I’d recommend this album to literally any enjoyer of heavy music; there’s something on Kin for everyone, and that’s a testament to how far they’ve come.
Ice Nine Kills – Welcome To Horrorwood: The Silver Scream 2 (melodic metalcore)
How do you not love this shit? Okay, maybe my background in musical theater and love for horror and metalcore put me at a disadvantage as the perfect mark for this record. I acknowledge that. But all that aside, how do you argue with guest spots from the vocalists of Papa Roach, Atreyu, Fit For A King, Senses Fail, and George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher of fucking Cannibal Corpse? You can’t buy that kind of pedigree. You will never get Corpsegrinder to guest on your metalcore album. Probably because it’s difficult to actually write something as outrageously fun, heavy, exciting, and strangely progressive as is the INK modus operandi. They’ve carved an extreme niche for themselves, and they deliver time and time again to a growing, rabid fanbase. “But it’s not creative or original! They’re just writing songs about horror movies!” Yeah, and they’re really fucking good, turns out.
All snark aside, Welcome To Horrorwood is genuinely well-written, tight, and thrilling. Vocalist and creative director Spencer Charnas’ theatrical approach to performance and inhuman range once again set INK above the rest, as if the incredibly varied and exciting musicianship isn’t enough to get stuck in your head. This isn’t the set-it-and-forget-it, paint by numbers djenty melodic metalcore of their peers; this is bred from the same stock as Protest The Hero, with vicious punk roots, noodly riffs, and a self-aware sense of humor to boot. If you can’t find joy in tracks like the unhinged, Chucky-themed “Assault and Batteries”, you’re taking metal way too seriously.
The Circle Pit
156/Silence – Don’t Hold Your Breath (metalcore)
Attack Attack! – Long Time, No Sea (melodic metalcore, trancecore)
Bound in Fear – Penance (beatdown deathcore)
Bummer – Dead Horse (noise rock, post-hardcore)
Every Hour Kills – Vacua (prog metalcore, djent)
Filth – The Ignorance (beatdown deathcore)
Guilt Trip – Rain City (hardcore)
Masada – II (screamo, emoviolence)
The Breathing Process – Labyrinthian (prog deathcore)
Wage War – Manic (melodic metalcore)