Cover photo by Alex-Jay Moore
Metalcore is one of those genres of music that are destined to divide. If you speak with the wide and heterogeneous legion of metalheads, you’ll typically find out that there are many of them who are literally crazy for this kind of music – and who listen little else than that, to be honest – while most of the others show something like a visceral hatred for this particular style of music. My position is quite neutral. I’m certainly not one of the greatest admirers of this kind of metal, to put it mildly, but I don’t disdain to listen to a record of metalcore when I meet something that manages to go beyond the mannerisms and the conventions that are today rooted in this style of music.
This year I had the opportunity to heard many metalcore records, some of them released from the so-called “masters” of the genre. The few albums which really took my attention, however, came in most of the cases from “minor” bands, formations which are genuinely playing their music since many years but who didn’t reach the same attention, and success, of the “major” metalcore bands.
With this article I’m going to present to you a bunch of excellent records that really managed to present something interesting for metalcore. All of these albums have something unique, a particular feature which makes the experience of listening to the music as something deep and intriguing, which should be the standard of great bands.
And please don’t blame me too much if you don’t find here the usual suspects, there are around many other places to celebrate them. The spirit of this blog is always to select something special, and I’m going to demonstrate how that’s possible even within an over-inflated and static sub-genre like metalcore.
#1) “Erase Me” by Underoath
Underoath, from Florida, have incrementally absorbed in their music almost every trend and style which emerged during the last twenty years of metal. The evolution of their sound, in addition, was also affected by the band’s troubled life. Apart from the fact that today no original member still plays in the band, Underoath went also through a long period of disbandment, which terminated only in 2015. In 2018, eight years after the previous album, they eventually came back with a new album, Erase Me. But despite all these premises, surprisingly the musical offer from Underoath is today more solid than ever. As a matter of fact, Erase Me looks to me as one of the most intense records of metalcore which I’ve heard in recent times: it’s full of many good ideas and it’s also played with a lot of emotions and passion. Categorizing the music of Erase Me purely as “metalcore” is clearly a simplification. As I said at the beginning their music got richer and larger with the years, and today the band has basically inherited all the best influences that were heard in the last twenty years within many genres such as metalcore, nu-metal, but also alternative rock and post-hardcore. In summary: this is really a great record, one of those works that can please both the long-term fans of the band, but which has also the potential to get the attention of everyone who was not aware of Underoath and their troubled history.
#2) “Era” by Bleed From Within
Within the large family of metalcore bands there are some of them, like Bleed From Within, which try every time to give their own contribution to the evolution of this genre. Almost five years have passed since their last LP and it’s not by chance, thus, that the new record from the Scottish band, named Era, shows clear signs of evolution. In Era the band is exploring the interesting boundaries that metalcore shares with groove and thrash metal, but with respect to the past we also notice an improved balance between the melodic and the heavier sections of the songs, with a tangible reduction in the presence of clean vocals.. The image that emerges today from this album is that of a band which doesn’t want to renounce to melodic elements and relatively accessible sections, but nevertheless decided to push the accelerator and to pump up the level of energy and fury of their songs. The new album collects an impressive number of powerful guitar riffs and it’s also characterized by a genuine and appreciable stylistic coherence across all of the songs. In the increasingly crowded world of metalcore, Bleed From Within keep searching their own way to success with tenacity and dedication. Luckily, they’re also doing it by beating harder and stronger on their instruments, without pauses and indecisions.
#3) “Defy” by Of Mice & Men
American metalcore band Of Mice & Men had to face the departure of their charismatic lead singer shortly after the release of their previous album, a couple of years ago. Austin Carlile, who was also one of the two founders of the group back in 2009, had to leave his his companions for serious health reasons. The remaing members of the the band at that point decided to continue without looking for someone to replace their old singer, and in fact the new album of the group, Defy, sees the formation performing in the form of quartet, with the tasks of “unclean” vocalist taken in charge by bassist Aaron Pauley. The new work of the band confirms the style and skills of these musicians, who despite the vicissitudes of the last two years have managed to include many elements of variety in the songs of their latest work. The album contains also a nice and funny cover of the Pink Floyd, Money, which doesnt’s seem out of context with respect to the other songs, given the incredible metalcore reshape it went through.
#4) “Elements” by Caliban
With a fairly impressive regularity, German metalcore band Caliban has taken the habit to release a new album every couple of years and the results, in most of the cases, are really good. However, in part due to the intrinsic characteristics of the music they play, partly because of their own stylistic choices, the band’s previous albums didn’t show any particular element of innovation and this is maybe one of the reason beacuse their musical parable didn’t follow that ascent trajectory with which they started in the early years of their career, at the time when they used to share the stage with some of the sacred monsters of metal. Caliban’s new LP, named Elements, seems to interrupt this downhill path and presents a really nice collection of new energetic and masculine songs. The music played by Caliban contemplates all the typical elements of metalcore, in particular for what concerns the melodic sections that year after year have gradually grown in importance. Elements contains basically everything that the lovers of metalcore expect to find in a new record, and there are also a couple of exciting tracks which make the album particularly interesting to hear.