Category Archives: Metalcore

Favorite Metal(ish) Albums Of 2012

‘Tis the season for year-end lists of what everyone and their dog thinks are the best albums of the past year, as well as the incredibly pretentious and elitist mindsets that come with them. I’m not going to pretend I know what’s best for anyone, but I do know that there are definitely albums I enjoyed much more than others, despite some critical flaws in some of them. My tastes can be a bit whacky at times, but I’m pretty sure that there are at least a few people out there who will be curious to know what my favorites are, so I will be sharing them.

But not here.

Instead, I’ll be doing a series of posts over at Under The Gun Review that will double as a countdown to when we’re free of the holiday hell that is the month of December.

Because they’re happening one at a time, I’ll be posting the list as it goes live day by day over at UTG in list form here.

#25: RIITTIIR by Enslaved (read it)
#24: Results by Murder Construct (read it)
#23: Awakened by As I Lay Dying (read it)
#22: Ex Lives by Every Time I Die (read it)
#21: Failed States by Propagandhi (read it)
#20: Eremita by Ihsahn (read it)
#19: Dead End Kings by Katatonia (read it)
#18: Les Voyages De L’Âme by Alcest (read it)
#17: Autotheism by The Faceless (read it)
#16: All Hail The Void by Enabler (read it)
#15: Legend by Witchcraft (read it)
#14: Death Is The Only Mortal by The Acacia Strain (read it)
#13: No Matter Where It Ends by Black Sheep Wall (read it)
#12: Book Burner by Pig Destroyer (read it)
#11: Parallax II: Future Sequence by Between The Buried And Me (read it)
#10: Monolith Of Inhumanity by Cattle Decapitation (read it)
#9: Incongruous by Beneath The Massacre (read it)
#8: All We Love We Leave Behind by Converge (read it)
#7: CVI by Royal Thunder (read it)
#6: Danza IIII: The Alpha – The Omega by The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza (read it)
#5: Hasta La Muerte by Xibalba (read it)
#4: A Flash Flood Of Color by Enter Shikari (read it)
#3: Yellow & Green by Baroness (read it)
#2: Koloss by Meshuggah (read it)
#1: L’Enfant Sauvage by Gojira (read it)

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Suffer The Destroyer – The Silent Majority [Review]

Suffer the Destroyer is a relatively new hardcore/metalcore/deathcore/mosh band from Boston. I wish I could tell you that I know exactly what style or genre of mosh-heavy music Suffer The Destroyer would be most closely associated with, but I can’t. In any case, they’ve played a handful of local gigs, recorded a six song EP called The Silent Majority, and are now scheming to take over the world (or so I assume).

The Silent Majority really fills more of a demo role than an actual EP, as the recording quality is pretty rough. While there are plenty of criticisms about the recording quality, they’re not really important in the grand scheme of this demo, especially considering it’s plenty good enough to hear all the instruments and what’s going on, as well as being decently mixed. What the recording quality does give you, though, is a good indicator at how well the band performs (there really isn’t any “studio magic” to be found). It also helps to capture the band’s energy without the assistance of bass drops (and thank goodness for that).

Musically, The Silent Majority is a rather odd mix of metalcore styles that range from mega-heavy beatdowns to melodic bridges. There’s some pretty original-sounding riffs and vocal lines, but also a few “tried-and-true” riffs scattered throughout the demo. Even more, there were a couple of musically surprising elements, such as the thick bass groove driving a section of gang vocals smack in the middle of “Iconoclast” right before it gets back to the circle-pitting verse. You’ll find groovy riffs, gang vocals, circle pit chugs, spacey guitar licks, brutal beatdowns and everything in between on this twenty minute demo.

As a demo, The Silent Majority is about everything you could ask for. It shows the versatility and musical interests of the band, isn’t too long, and actually has a couple of solid songs. If you’re looking for much more than that, you’re not really going to find that here. I have no doubts, however, that the next release from Suffer The Destroyer will bring the heat on another level.

In any case, you might as well download it and give it a spin. It is free, after all. Check it out below:

Converge – Axe To Fall [Review]

Everyone, go home, Converge is officially this year’s winner. Few albums have floored me so immediately, and from start to finish, as Axe To Fall has. From the opening bass line to the serene ending songs, this album teeters on the edge of being completely overwhelming, but never crosses that fine line.

converge axe to fall cover

The first track of the album, “Dark Horse” couldn’t do a better job at setting the pace for the entire album. It features grooves, riffage, and everything Converge does perfectly on this record. If somehow, at the 1:57 mark of “Dark Horse” you are not kicking holes in walls, smashing your keyboard, or at the very least metal thrashing mad – you either aren’t human or you hate heavy music. From there on out, the album only further careens into the dark depths of chaos, beating your soul into submission with furious riffage and raucous rhythm changes. It’s amazingly cliché to say such things, but this album really will strike terror into your soul with such painful discord in each and every note.

Beyond the furious riffage and bludgeoning rhythms, the songs are written with very diverse structures, and flow amazingly well. They’re connected to the point where the line between songs is blurred, but not so much that it is unclear when you’ve hit a new song. It’s not foot-to-the-throat the entire time, either (something I feel limits many bands and albums in terms of actual songwriting). On my first listen through I was extremely shocked by the last two songs on the album, “Cruel Bloom” and “Wretched World”, and how they’re considerably less ballistic than the other eleven tracks on the album. Though a bit suspicious, once the album subsided to silence it all made sense. My ears were tingling, my blood was pumping, and I was completely and utterly speechless. I can say without doubt that I have never heard an album as emotional as this album. I don’t mean that in the “our girlfriend of two weeks broke up with us now we wanna cry” way, either. This album from top to bottom is filled with rage, pain, joy, fear, pride, and most of all passion. This truly is music you can feel.

Sonically, this album is near perfect. Nothing is too much or too little, and it is meant to be played way too loud. You can pick out each and every single instrument at any given moment, and can hear each and every nuance that is contained in the album (and boy are there a lot of them). To be completely truthful, I was never quite sold on Converge before Axe To Fall. I enjoyed Jane Doe and No Heroes, but this album is truly in its own league. I’m unsure if people who loved the old Converge stuff the best will like it, but Axe To Fall certainly cannot disappoint and will most definitely score the band troves of new fans.

Song picks: “Dark Horse” and “Reap What You Sow”

Overall Score: 10/10 devil horns

Architects (UK) – Hollow Crown [Review]

Hollow Crown is the third full-length release from UK metalcore band Architects. Released on Century Media January 26 in Europe and February 10 in the United States.

Architects Hollow Crown

There have been a lot of things dubbed as “metalcore” in the last decade, but most of it is melodic death metal, or some other bastard child of metal, normally incorporating a break down here and there. Architects, however, are the real deal. This album is as purely metalcore as I think I have ever heard (not by the widely accepted definition). The first track from the album has the ever familiar guitar tone from The Agonist, Derelict, and Strapping Young Lad (these guys aren’t Canadian though, they’re English). Throughout the album, the incorporates things from metal, hardcore, and even post-hardcore (namely the clean vocals that sound straight out of the newer Underoath). They move through many different sounds throughout the album for a metalcore album.

There are so many time and rhythm changes on this album it makes my head spin. It seems incredibly cohesive considering this fact. All the sections in each song, and from song to song, it all transitions quite well. The best part of the album, however, are the overly hardcore lyrics. Beyond that, and a more interesting talking point, is the guitar work. There are a lot of really great harmonies,riffs, and fills all throughout this album. The other notable piece of this album is the production. I happen to enjoy it, but it’s technically not all that great. There’s a lot of stuff that sort of gets lost in the mix, and it’s all mixed really loud (lots of compression, like everything out there these days sadly). I mean, it works, because this album is clearly meant to be loud, but when the clean vocals are used, it would be nice to have some actual dynamic.

After listening to their entire discography, this band has really got me hooked. It’s a truly brutal album that doesn’t seem to complex or out of the ordinary, but it’s the little things that make this album great. The pinch harmonics, pic scrapes, cool harmonies, unexpected breaks, etc. This album kicked my ass the whole way through. I’m not sure this one will leave my regular iTunes rotation for a while.

Track picks: “Dead March” and “Early Grave”

Overall score: 8/10 devil horns

God Forbid – Earthsblood [Review]

Earthsblood is the fifth studio album from Century Media thrashcore band God Forbid. This is the follow up to their very strong release IV: Constitution of Treason – an album that received very good reviews, but did not generate a large amount of buzz. Eathsblood released February 16, 2009 in Europe and February 24, 2009 in North America.

God Forbid Earthsblood

In stellar metal fashion, this album opens with a nice piano/orchestral piece to set a very dark, foreboding mood, about :30 into the song, — cue the big distorted guitar chords and melodies. As always, it sounds awesome. The best part about this song is that during the latter half, the guitars are mixed very low, and and shredding all over the place. It’s slightly difficult to hear, but they are there. After setting the mood, we’re back to the God Forbid we know and love (or not love, if you happen to hate the band). It is unmistakable, yet, the execution seems to be a bit more spot on this time. In previous efforts, it was chugging guitars, blistering solos, and the same monotone screams for a vast majority of the album. This album goes with a major direction change in that regard. There are much more varied vocals, with varying levels of heat, and the clean melodic vocals are much improved from previous efforts. The first example of this is :50 into “The Rain”, the second track on the album. This section, however, is just a taste. There are many good clean vocal melodies strewn about the album. Possibly what I consider to be the strongest element to the album.

The second area that surpasses the average God Forbid repertoire are the guitarists. They chose to vary up the structure and style of their solos on this album, most noticeably the solo half way through “The Rain” (there is a lot to be be said about this particular track). Beyond this track, there is little to nothing new from God Forbid. All the same chugging guitar riffs and monotone screaming, which is fine. The song structures are varied, there are some great clean vocal parts mixed in, and keeps attention well.

The next notable song on the album is “The New Clear” — this song is pretty different from the usual God Forbid schtick. This song is plain and simply a metal song, and has a very vintage feel. Guitar solos abound, almost no chugging, no broken rhythms, and this vocals are spot on for classic metal.

The easiest way to tell, for me anyway, that God Forbid are doing something a bit different is to look at the length of the songs. There are only three tracks on the album that top off at less than five minutes, one of those being the album intro. Five tracks on the album top off at over six minutes, including the whopping nine minute long title track, “Earthsblood”.

All in all, this album is fairly spectacular, and will more than feed the aural desires of old God Forbid fans, and I have the feeling they might garnish a whole bunch more fans in the near future.

Track Picks: “The Rain”, “The New Clear”, and “Walk Alone”

Overall Score: 9 out of 10 devil horns

underOATH – Lost in the Sound of Separation [Review]

Lost in the Sound of Separation is the sixth full-length studio album from the Solid State/Tooth & Nail act Underoath (or underOATH, or UNDERØATH). THe album was released September 2, 2008 (Us/Canada/Japan). The lineup for the album is the same as their last two releases, Define the Great Line and They’re Only Chasing Safety. This is another band that also falls in the horribly mundane and vague category of Christian Metalcore. The band has also been considered to be a post-hardcore band. In my opinion, the band floats in the grey area between the two genres.

Underoath Lost in the Sound of Separation

As with a few other reviews I have written, this is the first album I really sat down and listened to by Underøath. I did eventually listen to them, but this was their first of their albums I had been exposed to.

Upon my first listen, the album is sonically one of the best I’ve ever heard. There is simply no way to compare with this album in terms of the sound output. Take away what the music is and whether you like it or not, the production values on this album are perfect. Period. This is al album to be listened to with a nice pair of headphones, and deserves something far better than poorly compressed .mp3 file as you would get from say, the iTunes Music Store? Get yourself a nice pair of headphones and listen to this on a good vinyl setup if possible. It really is an experience.

Anyway, on to the music itself. Although I had not heard any full albums by Underøath before, I have herd songs. I sort of knew what to expect, but I had sort of discounted this band (regrettably) as another crappy screamo band, but with a little extra heavy. I was sadly mistaken. This band is a gargantuan band in terms of their musical performance. Great lyrics, and vocals that make me feel. Few voices I have ever heard have really spurred real emotion in me. Throughout Lost in the Sound of Separation I felt sadness, anger, hope, empathy, and so many more emotions. The rhythms and guitar melodies are always fresh, exciting, and interesting. The drummer doesn’t seem overly talented from what I heard on this record, but he sure as hell gets the job done.

The songwriting on this album is flawless as well. It feels like a gapless album when listening to it (well, other than the break between “Desperate Times, Desperate Measures” and “Too Bright to See, Too Loud to Hear” – that’s pretty obvious). The album really isn’t gapless, however, that is just how well put together the album is. Of course, they had to put the one song on the album that people who don’t like brutally heavy and raw music could enjoy… *cough cough* “Too Bright to See, Too Loud to Hear” *cough cough* Although it’s a good song, I wish that Underøath could just get rid of the soft, melodic songs they just stick into the albums. I guess it worked on the other albums, but it feels out of place on this album. At least it is at the end, and does a decent job at bringing the album to a calm, along with the last song (“Desolate Earth: The End is Near”). In my personal opinion, I would have been personally 100% content if the album had ended at the last note of “Desperate Times, Desperate Measures”.

The last thing I want to address is the album artwork. Now, is it just me, or does Underoath always have the best album artwork? I don’t have the slightest clue about what this album art is all about, but it’s awesome. There’s also no way to discount the album art for They’re Only Chasing Safety or Define the Great Line.

All in all, I absolutely love this album, and it is one that every fan of raw, heavy music should OWN. Yes, own as in BUY. If not only because the album is great, then buy it for the opportunity to get the “golden ticket” that allows free passage to every Underøath show form now until forever.

Track picks: “Only Survivor Was Miraculously Unharmed” and “Desperate Times, Desperate Measures”

Overall score: 9.5/10 devil horns

The March – Unearth [Review]

The March is the fourth full-length release from Massachusetts metalcore band Unearth, their third release on Metal Blade records. The March is the first release with new drummer Derek Kerswill. The album was released October 14, 2008 official, but was leaked a few weeks prior to the release date.

Unearth The March

To be completely honest, I have been awaiting the drop if this album for a long time, and I had high hopes for it. VERY high hopes. Then I heard the first track of the album when it was added to the band’s myspace, and it was simply incredible. Now, I wish I could say the rest of the album is that ludicrous, but it’s not. Nor could it ever be. It’s simply that good. The rest of the album’s pretty good, too.

I’ll say this, it is their most metal release to date. They’ve moved closer yet to the metal scene with their latest release, only furthering the progress from III: In the Eyes of Fire (although, nothing is as metal as “Sanctity of Brothers” on this album). The biggest aid to this venture is what the new drummer adds. Overall, the sound of the drums, and the style of the rhythms, is more metal than hardcore. I think it suits the band, as Buz McGrath can write some pretty fantastic metal riffs (aforementioned “Sanctity of Brothers” is a good example).

As far as production goes, this album is your standard well done album. Nothing really sticks out as bad or good, and it serves it’s purpose. I did notice, however, that the bass is pretty much buried in most of the tracks, which I am personally indifferent about. I can’t say for sure how good the bass lines are on the album, but I will assume for now that is the reason that they are not too prominent in most places on the album.

Arguably the strongest attribute of this album is the songwriting and album composition. There is a lot of style in the construction of this album, and works well as a unit. The songs all run together seamlessly, but are clearly separate songs. The nature of the beast is the abrupt beginning and ending of almost every song, which is usually a no-no, but somehow these guys found a way to make the album move alright even when doing so. I feel that this could be attributed mostly to the abrupt nature of the music itself, even without all the breakdowns that Unearth used to feature on their albums (there are still a bunch, though).

The final thing I want to comment on are the guitar solos and harmonies. Though most people won’t pick up on this, the sweeps that start the album off are harmonized. That means? Yeah, you guessed it, two separate guitar parts. Then there’s the chugging behind it. Doesn’t that just blow your mind? The solos throughout this album really are fantastic, and tasteful at that. Contrary to popular practices, they’re not only tapping and sweeps at the fastest speeds the guitarist can play (don’t worry, though, Buz still melts some faces with some blisteringly fast shredding).

All in all, this album is a great listen, even though it falls off significantly after the first track. The guys from Unearth really brought everything to the table this time around, and now we get to enjoy the sonic feast they have prepared.

Track picks: “My Will Be Done”, “Letting Go” and “Cutsman”

Overall Score: 8 out of 10 devil horns