Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been using these SHORT BUT SWEET features to catch up on recent EP’s by bands both well-known and just emerging. Today, we’ve got three more in the “just emerging” category. Two of the bands were recommended by my NCS co-founder IntoTheDarkness, and the third came my way via Quigs at The Number of the Blog (who correctly surmised that it would be my kind of thing, though I suspect it’s not his).
If you’ve been slumming here at NCS for very long, then you know IntoTheDarkness has a penchant for deathcore. I still have a reservoir of enthusiasm for that genre, though certainly not as wide and deep as ITD’s. He and I have had a brief, civil debate about whether today’s first two bands really belong under the deathcore banner. I can understand why he thinks of their music that way, but I’m not sure the label strictly fits. More on that later. But labeling isn’t what this post is about — it’s about the music, which should speak for itself.
IMHO, the music of these two bands happens to be worth hearing. Why else would I be writing about it? And as for the third band, I’m just a complete sucker for the style — I have been for a long time, and always will be. So, without further ado, here are a few words about Tempest (California), Apostate (The Czech Republic), and Superstition (Croatia) — plus a selection of songs for you to test drive (after the jump).
Once upon a time, someone had the bright idea of marrying the stylistic elements of hardcore punk and heavy metal. Depending on who you read, credit could be given to Agnostic Front or Earth Crisis or Converge (and there are others) for laying the foundations for a metallic brand of hardcore. Additional evolution led to more melodic forms of “metalcore” (including those that feature – gasp – clean singing), and nowadays it seems that when you hear the word “metalcore”, it’s those melodic practitioners of the genre who come to mind first (eg, All That Remains, Killswitch Engage, Shadows Fall).
But don’t throw Tempest into that mix. Their debut EP, Open Your Eyes, is bludgeoning, loaded with big clanging blocks of atonal concrete riffage, heavy and sharp, blasting in short bursts of machine-gun rhythm or bombing away like jackhammers, occasionally leavened with shimmering, echoing, minor-key guitar leads. You get a mix of two-step rhythms, staccato pulsations of djent-style riffing, and vitriolic hardcore vocals roaring away in the low end of the register.
And yes, you will find bass-drop carpet-bombing, exploding with regularity — which I guess is one thing that may cause the deathcore references to leap up in your head. That, and perhaps the polished production, complete with lots of channel-shifting and snatches of electro scratching. So, maybe it’s not as raw as trve hardcore, but it still punches very fucking hard.
Thanks to the nice folks at ReverbNation, we have this here widget that will play you three of the songs on Tempest’s EP, and you can download them via this widget, too, if you like what you hear. The songs are also available for download on the band’s Facebook page (here), where you can also keep abreast of the Tempest’s news.
And now for our next featured band, brought to you all the way from Prague . . .
Apostate’s EP, Seaborne, is a very different reflection of metalcore than what Tempest offers — a more melodic, more technical take on the genre. The melodic intro (“Paragraph”) features acoustic picking and the wash of waves on a rocky shore before “Omit the Words” bolts forward with jabbing rhythms, jets of clean lead guitar and dual-tracked harmonic solos, and mid-range hardcore vocals that (thankfully) never veer into clean territory. (And yes, there are bass drops and channel-shifting in here, too. Call me weak, but I do like me some bass drops.)
You’ll certainly find more variety on this EP than in most music I think of as “deathcore”. The mid-section of “False Footsteps” abruptly shifts into a quieter instrumental with guitar picking, which then opens up to a wah-wah guitar solo, which then turns into a melodic clean guitar duet, followed by a martial snare bridge, a different acoustic guitar passage, and (of course) the big finish with a convulsive breakdown
“Numbers Are Going Down” is accented by flashy guitar noodling, a dual-tracked, guitar-driven melody, a roaring convulsion of pneumatic riffage — and a load of bass drops (but not breakdowns).
And then you come to the long closer , “Raised On the Blood of Heroes”. At the outset, you hear the sounds of thunder and waves and a slow guitar, before the music begins to pound, howl, and accelerate. But here comes the variety again — tempo dynamics, a keyboard melody playing off against stabbing riffs and a rolling drumline, and piano chords with the sound of thunder in the outro.
At different times, in a good way, the music puts me in mind of Born of Osiris and Veil of Maya. Here’s “Numbers Are Going Down”:[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/4-Apostate-Numbers-are-Going-Down.mp3|titles=Apostate – Numbers are Going Down]
Is there any more gold to be mined from the seam of traditional, stripped-down, chainsaw death metal, or is that strike played out? If you wanted to listen to some of that old-school music, why would you listen to a new band when you can just play (to name a few) Blessed Are the Sick, Into the Grave, Like An Everflowing Stream, Onward to Golgotha, or Mental Funeral?
Those are the kinds of questions asked by people who don’t really love old-school death metal, people for whom that brand of metal occupies its confined niche in their music library and is let out of the cage only every now and then to scratch a particular itch. Or at least that’s my theory.
But if you do really love this kind of music, then new bands and new songs are always welcome . . . if (yes, there’s an if) they’ve got the right spirit and the right technique.
Which brings me to our last EP (or in this case a demo). It’s a 2009 recording called Mirrors of Suffering by a Croatian band called Superstition. They make no bones about their mission: “Our goal with the band was to create some Old School Death Metal and show to the scene that extreme metal is still breathing in our town.” And their named influences? “Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse, Hypocrisy, Sinister, Deicide, Malevolent Creation, Vader, Death, Dismember and so on.”
I think they’ve got the right spirit and the right technique, and a talent for song-writing (with structure and dynamics in the tempos and moods). The guitars whirr and grind with tremolo-infused fury, the natural-sounding drumming is fun to hear, the quite audible bass enhances the heaviness but also provides some atypical flash, and the vocals are gargantuan and meaty.
For a relatively young band’s first effort, all three songs on the EP are promising. Here’s one:[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/02-Unforgotten-Eyes.mp3|titles=Superstition -Unforgotten Eyes]
Superstition once gave Death Metal Invasion their permission to provide a download link for the Mirrors demo, but that link appears to be broken. So, trusting that Superstition still want to spread their music, we’ve uploaded the file to our own high-speed servers and provided a download link here. Right-click on it and save the compressed file to your hard-drive if this sounds like your kind of music:
Superstition’s MySpace page is at this location. They apparently have plans to record a debut album. I hope that works out.