Tuesday, February 5, 2013
The Deathcore genre has either peaked, or evolved into something else or maybe it's in its prime. One thing I can tell you now, it is not a fad, or gimmick, or fleeting would-be genre like industrial. This stuff is here to stay I think, and I'll tell you why...
I quit keeping up with the metal scene arout 2002 or so. I had a new child and a host of grown folks' priorities which prevented me from being able to keep up any longer. I was invited to attend a show full of 'hardcore' bands by a friend in Birmingham, and out of curiosity I obliged. I didn't know at the time, but I was seeing some of the most influential deathcore acts of the time that night, all I knew was the bands FUCKIN ROCKED.
I grew up on a steady diet of Death Metal (Suffocation,Deicide,IncantationMorbid Angel,etc) and extreme hardcore (Capitalist Casualties, Napalm Death, Spazz, many others I can't recall). I loved Death/Grind, and went to shows as often as I could, Nile and Incantation were my favorite live acts. That was more or less the heyday of Death/Grind of the "Meat & Potatoes" variety (Deicide,Obituary,Malevolent Creation,old Cannibal Corpse) meaning, the music was very brutal, but relatively scaled back music-wise, almost a verse-chourus-verse style. There is nothing at all wrong with this style. It has died out for the most part, but it was to the point, no bullshit, brutal Death Metal. Some bands today could learn a thing or two from Malevolent Creation in my opinion when it comes to keeping the music interesting to the listener, rather than being about giving the performer the opportunity to showcase his guitar skills(prog). There is a balance many bands lose between being technical and complex, yet easy to listen to, and just simply finding excuses to show how totally fuckin awesome you are at hard-to-play guitar stuff, (Between the Buried and ME)
I've veered off course. Sorry. Someone has to say these things.
Anyway, I had pretty much heard all there was to hear of the Death-Grind stuff(I thought) and the stuff started to seem repetitive. My interest dwindled until the Birmingham show. The bands on the bill were Ion Dissonance, Beneath the Massacre, Through the Eyes of the Dead, and As Blood Runs Black. Almost all prepositional phrases I know, but band names can be tough. As for the show, I was floored. The bands' intensity, distinct sounds, and heavyness impressed me alot. I spent most of the time headbanging, mostly cause you couldn't drink at the club (the now defunt Cave 9 in Birmingham) and it was way too hot to go to the stage. It was a blast though, and began a friendship and times I will always cherish in my memory, driving from Birmingham to the Masquerade in Atlanta to get drunk and headbang with my buddy Mike. We saw lots of great bands:Goatwhore, Job For A Cowboy, Gojira, The Red Chord, Cannibal Corpse, Beneath the Massacre, Despised Icon, Behemoth, and countless others. Many if not most were of the "Deathcore" sub genre. Which is generally Death Metal/Grindcore with Hardcore influences. Many dismiss this sub-genre as just another fad, that there will be no deathcore bands in a few years. I take exception to this for a few reasons, such as the fact that way back when Pantera was ruling the scene in the 90's, many folks said they were not metal and the sound was just a fad as well. I'm actually old enough to remember this stuff. Now, to say Pantera isn't metal is obviously false to anyone who knows anything about the music. They were/are legends. And rightfully so. They left their mark on the music industry for sure.
The same can be said for the Deathcore subgenre now. If you are unfamiliar with this sound, I'll suggest a few records for you:
The Red Chord - Prey for Eyes
Between the Buried and Me - The Silent Circus, Alaska, or Colors
Job For a Cowboy - Genesis or Demoncracy
As Blood Runs Black - Allegiance
Through the Eyes of the Dead - Malice
Any Ion Dissonance or Despised Icon
The Black Dahilia Murder - Deflowerate
The Acacia Strain - Death Is the Only Mortal
As I lay Dying - Awakened
Some may dispute some of those, but to hell with em. That's a pretty good representation of the genre. Now, if you haven't heard much of the stuff, part of what distinguishes it from other metal stuff are things like the emphasis on breakdowns. This is a hallmark of deathcore, and it shows its hardcore roots here, because we all know that many times, the build up in anticipation and ultimate payoff is part of what makes hardcore breakdowns so fun. Especially in the live setting. It is a chance to stop, slow down, catch your breath, or just simply stretch out the brutality. Through the Eyes of the Dead are great at writing cool death metal breakdowns. They kind of remind me of a stripped-down Suffocation/Incantation style Death Metal/Hardcore. The Red Chord is one of the genre's best bands, the record Prey for Eyes reminds me of like a Far Beyond Driven of deathcore. The music is brutal as hell, as well as quite technical, the lyrics are very harcore-inspired. Humerous, funny at times even. What really sets that record apart from the rest to me is the atmospheric slowed down instrumental parts. They all have a very creepy feeling to them, and are all very original sounding, catchy and memorable. Check out the track Prey for Eyes end part, the instrumental It Came From Over There, or the end of the last track, Seminar. Perfect arrangements. Something to behold any way you look at it. Another one of my personal favorites is Between the Buried and Me's Alaska. I compare this as the And Justice For All of deathcore, maybe. I know the comparisons are weird maybe, but the similarities are there. This was BTBAM's last pure "metalcore" record, as they went pretty prog with Colors, (which is also Godly in it's own right) and the riffs and drumming are infectious. The title track is mercurial metal fun, as the song is constantly changing every 10 or so seconds. And as I noted before, those dudes can fuckin play! Check out Selkies:The Endless Obsession, Backwards Marathon, and Roboturner. Each one of those is deathcore perfection.
Job for a Cowboy has always been a controversial band, due to their age, (folks say when the Doom ep came out, they were still in high school) and the fact that their early works weren't the most technical songs ever written, to say the least.
The Acacia Strain's Death Is the Only Mortal is a pretty new record, but I listed it because it really epitomizes their sound perfectly. Their guitar sound is syrupy, sludgy mid-tempo for the most part, but they have a very distinct sound. The lyrics are always negative as possible, to the point of being humerous. The record is what gave me the idea to write this piece, because it is that good.
The Black Dahilia Murder are another band who has left the deathcore label behind them,and is now regarded as Death Metal generally. The Ritual record is my favorite. It came out last year I think, and it's incredible. I'm listening to it right now as a matter of fact.
And you really can't talk about deathcore without mentioning Job For A Cowboy. They improve with every record. My only problem with the newer stuff is it sacrifices listenability for the sake of being technical, which makes the songwriting suffer. The songs aren't memorable, because you can't really distinguish one from the other at times. It's just a bunch of hard to play parts strung together.That pretty much raps it up.