Whoever thought of mating anger with happiness blew my f@#%ing mind. I'm of course talking about the affectionately-labeled "happy hardcore" (or "melodic hardcore" to those keeping official track), a trend that is catching on in a big way. You've probably already noticed this burgeoning movement erupting through bands like Set Your Goals, Daggermouth, Four Year Strong -- and of course the band that began the movement in the first place, Fall Out Boy. Don't act so offended, hardcore kids.
Expect to hear a lot about the next up-and-coming act in metalcore, a five piece from Florida called A Day to Remember. These kids can rock, and they've got the melodic hardcore world by its tail with their new release, Homesick.
Yep, here comes another bastard-child analogy to try to put the band's sound on the level. Think Bullet for My Valentine (fresh off a recent fling with My Chemical Romance) meets Fall Out Boy, falls in puppy love, elopes to Vegas and is wed by Set Your Goals, who have the authority to marry following a mix-up at the state department. The resulting offspring would sound a lot like ADTR.
Homesick makes me feel simultaneously comfortable and violently ill. ADTR masters the art of hardcore with an ecstatic flair, utilizing some of the most radio friendly riffs I've heard from a hardcore act. The screaming borders on death metal; the drums are oddly dumbed down. But the edge is there in a big way...and so are the hooks. They could have called this album The Next Big Thing in Underground Music and it would have turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Final summation? A Day to Remember will top my chart as the next music act that I love to hate, drawing in an audience most hardcore bands won't be able to relate to but keeping me interested with their catchy, edgy tracks. They stand as a reminder that even hardcore can be relatable to a wider audience while solidifying the death of gang vocals. RIP.
Here's a track from the new album, Homesick, for your listening pleasure.
There is something so intricately formulaic in Lamb of God's sound, defined almost exclusively by contemporary metal's most creative guitarist, LOG's Mark Morton. Every formula must contain supporting factors; blisteringly fast and distinct drums, growl/scream vocal dynamic, and tight, raw recording quality are all crucial supporting cast members in the Lamb of God show.
The unreleased CD fairy has graced my home yet again with the early arrival of Lamb of God's sixth full-length studio album, Wrath. By now, these guys are seasoned veterans of the scene and fully solidified as the torch-carriers to the Pantera throne.
It's hard to believe LOG started as a strictly-instrumental outfit when you hear how well vocalist Randy Blythe's screams lead each track. With Wrath, LOG maintains the same raw, heavy-hitting and serious themes of the group's earlier work while setting the bar even higher, capturing an almost indefinable songwriting evolution that wasn't always noticeable on 2006's Sacrament.
Yet Wrath is simultaneously a step forward and a step backward. Yes, the evolution is there. But what really sets Wrath off is the band's departure from Sacrament and revisit to older work in the songwriting space. Sitting here desperately trying to put my finger on specific differences, all I can say for sure is that the differentiators are technically minute but emotionally palpable.
"Grace" is my favorite track on Wrath, laden with metal grooves, some of the coolest drum fills I've ever heard, and, of course, a classic metal breakdown. I'm also partial to the final track, "Reclamation," which is reminiscent of and as big as a Pantera ballad.
Wrath is exactly what you would expect from major metal players like LOG: simply another example of why this band is on top of the genre. Pick it up February 24. Until then, rock to some oldies but goodies.
Today I came across Amazon.com's 100 Greatest Debut Albums of All Time. Sure, the post was meant to pander to the consumer. Some marketing stiff at Amazon likely saw an opportunity to highlight some great albums, conveniently linked to Amazon's store. The list wasn't a total waste, though, highlighting some spectacular albums and some I found to be duds. No accounting for taste, I guess.
A few of the highlights from Amazon's list: U2 - Boy, Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures, Metallica - Kill Em All, Bob Marley - Catch a Fire, The Clash - The Clash, Kanye West - The College Dropout, Sex Pistols - Nevermind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols, The Smashing Pumpkins - Gish, Weezer - Weezer, Sonic Youth - Confusion is Sex, Morrissey - Viva Hate, The Shins - Oh, Inverted World.
(No, I will not link these albums to Amazon. Go support your local DIY store for chrissake.)
A few of the duds: Beastie Boys - Licensed to Ill (cmon guys, you started off in hardcore punk then decided semi-intelligent hip-hop babble was your niche?), Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers - Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (simply because I hate Tom Petty and I do not understand the appeal), The Postal Service - Give Up (I love this album, but it's the only one! Let them release another before you hand them industry cred!), 50 Cent - Get Rich or Die Trying (can't Fitty get rich AND die trying??).
Anyway, the point is that the Amazon list inspired me to create a list of my own, incomplete though it may be. This is part one of a four part series. Without further ado, I give you the Top 20 Greatest Underground Debuts.
20. The Weakerthans - Fallow - Shortly after John Sampson left Propagandhi, he formed the ambitious and callous Weakerthans. Given Sampson's disposition with the Weakerthans, it was probably better he hung his punk shoes up. Fallow defined an awkward new sound in indie that brought another spectacular Canadian band into the limelight of the scene. Track from Left and Leaving.
19. Panic! At the Disco - A Fever You Can't Sweat Out - Before they dropped the !, Panic! debuted with a sound that borrowed from recently outed Fall Out Boy, mixing heavily with dance-pop beats and tons of hooks. Too bad Panic! decided to quit the sound they were so instrumental in bringing to the masses. Then again, if a bunch of shitty rip-off bands followed immediately in my footsteps, I'd probably make a change as well.
18. Protest the Hero - Kezia- Protest the Hero showed up just in time to save metal from the clutches of metalcore. Crafted from incredibly tight, heavy beats, wandering bass, insane guitars, and flawless vocals, Protest the Hero took something like ten years to tweak Kezia to perfection. Was it worth it? This humble blogger thinks so.
17. From First to Last - Dear Diary, My Teen Angst Has a Body Count - Before Sonny Moore left From First to Last, the band was a complete unit, blending elements of modern emo and metalcore into abrasive, emotional anthems. The follow-up didn't quite satisfy, but DDMTAHABC will remain a consistent spin on my playlist.
16. The Get Up Kids - Four Minute Mile- There's no doubt in any emo kid's mind that the Get Up Kids are still kings of their genre. Following on the heels of 90s emo success like Texas is the Reason and Sunny Day Real Estate, the Get Up Kids were a defining moment for the emo scene. Unfortunately, a bunch of shitty pop-core bands followed, molding the term "emo" for their own use. Do you see a trend forming here? Track from Something to Write Home About.
Fresh off their quadruple EP concept album, The Alchemy Index, California-bred Thrice like to keep things interesting. Currently touring the country with punk superstars Rise Against and Alkaline Trio, Thrice has built a core fan-base as pioneers of the contemporary hardcore and punk scenes, blending elements of metal, pop-punk, folk, electronic and classic rock to formulate a melting pot of aural goodness. IBreathetheUnderground caught up with front man Dustin Kensrue before Thrice took the stage at the Congress Theater this month in Chicago. IBreathetheUndergroud: How would you describe your music to someone who’s never heard it before?
Dustin: It’s always been changing but it has roots in punk and hardcore. It’s been, over time, incorporating a lot of stuff from a ton of different genres. At this point it’s like kind of dynamic and versatile rock. I don’t know. There’s a lot of heavy hitting stuff and there’s a lot of melody in there and everything in between – from stuff that’s super mellow at times to things that are really, really heavy. If you could set one thing on fire, what would it be?
That’s an interesting question. I don’t know. I always think too literally for these questions. Too bad you can’t set fire to ideas.
I’d probably set fire to the 911 Commission Report because it’s a giant pack of lies and omissions. What’s it like touring with legends of the scene like Alkaline Trio and Rise Against?
We’ve known both of them for awhile. We’ve known Alkaline for a really long time. They’re like friends and peers to us. They’re all awesome guys and great live bands, so it’s definitely a pleasure being out with them. It’s great being out with Gaslight [Anthem], too. They’re a great band. I hadn’t heard them much, hadn’t heard them at all until we knew that they were going to be on this tour. Then, I picked their record up and I’ve been digging that quite a bit. What are your preconceptions prior to the first of a two-show homestead for both headliners, especially in a town that takes so much pride in its hometown legends like Chicago?
Our outlook on this whole tour is we’re two of four on this, and we haven’t done something like that in awhile. It’s been a lot of fun. You have to earn it, you know, and just go out there and play hard for forty minutes. Play for the people that are there to see you and play for the people who have never seen you before. You can never see how a show is going to go. It’s really unexpected – especially when you’re earlier on the bill. Sometimes you think it’s going to be a really good reaction, and it’s not. But then, later, it seems like it did something. Sometimes, the total opposite. You think it’s going to be awful and people are just having a great time. We really don’t think a whole lot about that kind of stuff. We just go out there and play. What is your favorite body of water?
I would have to say the Pacific Ocean because I’m from California and I feel an affinity with it, I guess.
How important do you feel your art is to your music?
I don’t differentiate our music from art. I see art as being a pretty broad concept and I feel like the aspects of the music and the aspects of our lyrics and whatever [album] design we’re doing is all speaking to and coming from some other place. If you talk about the contrast between art and a consumer product, I think we try to focus on it as art and not as a product. Musical evolution is a key component to creating a successful legacy for your act, and Thrice has certainly done its part to move forward sonically. Do you ever step back and think, “Are we changing too quickly for our audience?”
I definitely think we have at times, but, when you’re trying to be true to yourself and what you want to make, that’s a better gauge of how you’re progressing than if people like it or not. I’ve been thinking about this a lot, this issue, and what it means for us to even be making music at this point, ten years in, and what our band is. When we’re writing a record, it could one of a million places, you know? Especially at this point, after The Alchemy Index. I was just thinking that what makes us who we are is not just who we are as people now, together playing music, but where we’ve come from. I’m hoping to try to build a new fort without completely shredding our artistry. We’re trying to do what we can do best and better than anyone else, the places we can go that maybe no one else would go. We all just love different kinds of music. More and more everyday we’re into completely different things. We have a lot of core bands that we like together.
It’s a weird dynamic. I definitely feel like we alienated a lot of fans at certain points. But I do feel like a ton of people really appreciate the fact that we’re just trying to push ourselves and do something different. There’s no right or wrong way that that could have been done. So it’s just more opinion if people want to hang out or not. I definitely appreciate people that take the time to just listen to the records that we’ve made and try to understand why we’ve made that record and where we’re going and why we like it. I think usually those people who’ve been fans before will take that time in appreciating the new records. Have you ever had a mud facial?
No. I’m not big on massages and stuff like that because I don’t feel like it’s worth the money for me. I buy my wife massages and stuff like that but for me – I don’t need that. I gotta keep that money for something else.
The Alchemy Index is a ball of concepts. There’s the surface concept (man’s relationship with the elements as depicted lyrically), but more important is the deeper idea behind the quadruple EP, revolving around the elements that make up Thrice as a band. Having broken it down, do you feel like it’ll be easier for you to fuse these elements to perfection on the next album?
No, I think it probably makes it harder in a certain way, but I do think it was good for us as an exercise and even just to clear our heads and be able to refocus now on where we could or should be heading. I feel like its good in that sense as something we needed to do.
What prompted you guys to break with Island [Records] and how did you choose Vagrant as the next step?
The Island thing was pretty mutual. They didn’t know what to do with us anymore, and we knew that they didn’t know what to do with us and didn’t really want to invest in the band anymore. Most of the people we had worked with over there had gone at that point. The music industry is just shuffling all the time, especially with the majors. They balked when they heard the majority of the record and our A&R guy at the time actually had to leave after we left. We’re really glad we left because he was our dude there. He kind of helped us negotiate getting out of there – Island saving a bunch of money and us getting to keep the record that we worked so hard on. I feel like it worked out better for everyone. There wasn’t any bad blood. It was just kind of like, “This doesn’t make sense for either of us anymore.” It was nice that it didn’t get super-messy.
So what’s next for Thrice? Have you guys decided on your direction for the next album? Have you started writing?
We’re in the process of writing. We could write anything, so it’s like, “What should we be writing and what kind of direction does that look like?” I think we’re still figuring that out. It’s definitely not set enough yet to put into any kind of words.
What US city that you’ve visited has the best air? You take a breath and say, “Damn, it feels good to be alive.”
Maybe, like, Seattle. There’s a freshness there. Same with Portland. There’s a freshness and there’s also a damp quality that’s not humid really. I hate humidity. I almost said Denver or something, but I really like the kind of wet, earthy smell. You’ve got the ocean coming in and you have plenty of rain. I like how it smells.