There is a lot to admire about Metalcore’s longevity as the spearhead of the mainstream end of Metal. Each of the other leading Rock/Metal subgenres that had their turn in the sun celebrated a much shorter, brighter burn as the leading light. Heavy Metal dominated the early eighties, before Thrash seized the throne in 1986, only to be replaced by Grunge five years later, which in turn was bumped by Nu-Metal in a relative heartbeat in the mid-nineties. Yet, if we take Alive Or Just Breathing (Roadrunner) as a yardstick (and some of us old bastards still prefer to think of metalcore in its original form, and acts such as Earth Crisis, Crisis and bands without the word crisis in their name, such as Integrity have had to accept the term has been stolen from us), Metalcore has headed things up for over fifteen years.
There have, of course, been mutations and deviations over time, but the common formula we have come to know and love/hate (delete as appropriate) has remained intact throughout that time. And yet as accurate that the accusations of some kind of creative inertia being prevalent in the scene are, we have probably never been as inundated with as many Metalcore bands as right now. October 2018 is a Metalcore-heavy moshing month, and with that in mind, Ghost Cult got their screaming verses and clean choruses on to bring you a round-up on the latest releases…
There is a lot to admire about Our Hollow Our Home as they set free second album In Moment // In Memory on their own Hollow Records. Their DIY ethic has brought them success, as this homegrown Metalcore talent has raised their profile with a work-rate and integrity near unrivalled in their local scene. Props are owed, too, for putting on and promoting their own annual mini-fest, Hollowfest, a determined and worthwhile event that takes place in their home town of Southampton, UK.
While debut Hartsick was predominantly all style (clean generi-metalcore) with only limited substance, this time around a whole vat of substance has been added, and the band’s sound has been significantly updated. Not to make light of the traumatic times suffered by guitarist Tobias Young but it has forged a steely resolve and more serious inflection to his writing output, and In Moment // In Memory benefits greatly, taking the listener through the various stages of the grief curve in a way that ensures repeat listens yield rewards.
In between times, OHOH have clearly been listening to Bury Tomorrow and Architects as there is added Tech Metal lurch to the music, even if both vocal parts are too safe for their own good – the heavy vocals rarely move out of the generi-growl zone, the counterpoint cleans seem exceptionally familiar (and not just because they recall The Amity Affliction) without quite conjuring magic earworms as the tones, and note selection need the same overhaul the riffs have had if OHOH are to take that next step. All that said, us humans are often harder on those spawned from our own pack, and these are elements that all point to the fact that, with a bit more work on really honing the songwriting, OHOH could well have a beast on their hands third time around. We’re still talking potential, but we’re not too far from them being the real deal. [7.0]
Bringing their I Know What You Did Last Summer brand of unhinged Metalcore, once more Ice Nine Kills are splattering the guts of their B-movie chiller epic, quasi-symphonic Atreyu meets In Flames outpourings with fifth opus The Silver Scream (Fearless Records). While highlights include ‘American Nightmare’ with its joyous, tech Maiden widdle, staccato stabs and A7X worship, and ‘Stabbing In The Dark’, a psychotic Dimmu Borgir jamming with Fall Out Boy ball of ridiculousness, The Silver Scream lives and dies by an everything bloodier (and louder) than everything else ethos that serves it well. Cheesy synths pad, dance and spiral, guitars chug and swirl, vocals switch from throat-assault to earworms… All in, this is a fucking mess (with a cranberry sauce side-serving of WTF reserved for ‘Merry Axe-mas’ which truly has to be heard to be believed … Christmas won’t be the same), but a gloriously fun one. [7.0]
Approaching matters with a much stronger Progressive Metal and intellectual bent, Italian Sci-fi themed Metalcorers Shading have set the bar high with The Vanishing Of Our Lore (self-released). There is a strong Coheed & Cambria feel to some the vocal melodies, but the true depth is in the tilting, push-pull rhythms and cascading motifs and licks that dance around the polyrhythms and clean breaks. There are several references to TesseracT (whose Acle Kahney mastered the first single) not least in the swirling, stirring ‘Convergence’. Damiano Affinito effortlessly moves from harder, harsher vocals, to floating melodies, which helps the whole package to deliver on varying dynamics, while elsewhere nods of Leprous, Northlane, Architects and the underrated ambitious expansions of Arcane infiltrate a complex and involved album where the music is as elaborate as the concepts that form the lyrical inspirations. Shading may well be inspired by the tales unfolding in epics such as Bladerunner, and the music itself presents as a Progressive Metalcore soundtrack to something like the shimmering modern intricacy of Ghost In The Shell. [7.5]
It is third dance and still standing for Pop Metal upstarts A Light Divided whose Choose Your Own Adventure is also self-released. With a star turn in their ranks in the form of vocalist Jaycee Clark, who reminds of Lzzy Hale, the music itself is somewhere near the Amaranthe ballpark of staccato Metalcore riffing augmenting Pop choruses with dancing electronics to flesh things out. And, to be honest, they’re a band that it’s difficult to listen to without a smile on your face, particularly when the choruses hit on tracks like ‘Fear of Heights’, which belies an insecurity told within the lyrics with a confidence and swagger that will serve the band well on the live circuit, or the dancy ‘Life Lessons’. Cards on the table, A Light Divided don’t quite live up to the bigger hitters in their field, but this is a very listenable and credible release. [6.5]
Queens’ rapping Nu-Metalcore merchants Sylar have a touch of something about them, it has to be said, and with third album Seasons (Hopeless Records) they build on their previous successes with a commercially tinged selection that bundles up the jerk and lurch of Wrestlemetal, simplistic rapping and some Chester Bennington influenced choruses. The brain suggests this is cherry-picking elements that guarantee success, and there’s a nagging feeling this really isn’t contemporary (despite the protestations of the band and their followers) but just a polishing of the best of things that have floated around the rock mainstream for the last twenty years, but if we’re not punishing Doom bands for apeing Sabbath, then perhaps an act that brings together Evanescence, Linkin Park with elements of Hip-Hop and commercial Metalcore also deserves some props. Seasons is an album that is slowly winning me over more with each listen, even if my default position is that it’s all a bit too obvious to be a true winner. [6.0]
God Complex are only featured in here by extension, but because they fucking deserve a mention… this isn’t Metalcore, this is modern Hardcore for a post-Forever world, with, in between the stabs and beatings and turn on a pulse convulsions of violence, an undercoat that suggests a Nu-Metal upbringing that has been subverted by Slayer and Hardcore. Created Sick (Venn Records) is five songs, ten minutes, of a huge, sprawling, arm-flailing fight of a release that throws slabs of concrete and Nails level aggression straight at your face. The Code Orange generation is breeding filth… [8.0]