Rotten to the Core // April 2024 | Heavy Blog is Heavy

A party platter of some of the best in bleak noise, cathartic wailing and pit-stomping breakdowns from February and March.

a month ago

A big one here, as we make up for our lack of March column with a Catalina Wine Mixer of RTTC posts, covering a dozen of the best -core and noise releases from both February and March. Lots of heavy, grinding, sludgy violence. I hope you enjoy our picks, there was even more that could have been covered but as always peep the best-of-the-rest recs at the bottom as well. With that, lets get into it.

-Trent Bos

The Wall of Death

Crippling Alcoholism - With Love From a Padded Room (noise rock, goth rock)

One thing that noise rock excels at more than maybe any other genre is the unsettling. That hint of unease that creeps in and just sits in the air, slowly slithering under your skin. It's often masked beneath peculiar percussive rhythms and the engaging energy of punk and hardcore, but it's there, lingering. This is often produced instrumentally as a by-product of dissonance and selective distortions and tones. Combine that with often distraught, borderline unhinged vocal deliveries among many of the contemporary bands, and it's not surprising that this could lend to an intentionally uncomfortable listen. Now take all of that, and picture it being performed by a depraved and deranged serial killer with an affinity for 80s goth? That's Crippling Alcoholism

Their 2022 debut When the Drugs That Made You Sick Are the Drugs That Make You Better came out of nowhere and was a surprise album of the year contender that year, so obviously there was a lot of anticipation and high expectations for this release, and it’s safe to say they were mostly met. It must be said that the new album With Love From a Padded Room (their album titles really set the mood is a little bit less “musically” heavy compared to the debut, holding back some of the mathcore influence that had a lot of people talking for a more cold-wave and post-metal influenced approach to their haunting gothic noise rock fusion. That heavy Chat Pile dissonance is still there, but it’s more often baked into the atmosphere in a Swans fashion, with some begging to be cancelled lyricism to boot. The only knock on the album is in post- fashion, the pacing and time they take to get places pushes the 1hr run-time into feeling a little on the long side. 

With Love notably embraces the synth, resulting in some pretty eclectic and varied song-writing as tracks like “Lipstick With No Lips” are more straight coldwave, bordering synthwave at times. They immediately follow this up with “Ottessa” who’s intro utilizes them like a score to a horror flick, before shifting to a standout melancholic melody that makes me yearn for more synthwave that embraces a somber tone. The post-rocky piano building to an impassioned vocal outburst full of desperation really cemented this track as an early favourite.  

As abrasive and unapproachable most of this album is, it’s undeniably intoxicating and seductive. You can't help but feel captive to it. Everything comes together to contribute to this effect, but it’s hard not to pin a lot of it on the maniacal Nick Cave vocal delivery and lyrics. It’s a grossly enabling and voyeuristic look into the darkest corners of humanity. Striking and over the top like a gory slasher, but done so artistically captivating that you can’t pry yourself from it. Crippling Alcoholism are one of the most interesting and refreshing new bands in some time and With Love From a Padded Room is a triumphant accomplishment that will greatly reward those with the patience and taste for their eclectically dark palette. 

-TB

Cell Press - Cages (noise rock/sludge)

The noise rock pedigree runs deep in Cell Press. From the 90s cult classic noise rock of Shallow North Dakota to the modern sludgy “arbitrary swamp arithmetic metal” of The Great Sabatini, the members of Cell Press have a long history with the genre. Although the noise rock DNA results are conclusive, these Montrealers are hardly the simple progeny of that ugly family tree. Instead, Cell Press combines characteristics from across the heavy music spectrum: the angularity of noise rock, the bluesy grooves of sludge, and the urgency of hardcore. As guitarist Sean Arsenian noted, “None of the tunes slot too cleanly into any genre box.” 

One of the most captivating aspects of this amalgamation of styles is how much groove they put into their music despite employing a plethora of odd time signatures throughout the album. One needs to look no further than the first thirty seconds of opener “Adult Baptisms” for an opportunity to bob your head in ⅞. Mid-album track “JOI to the World” is essentially all groove as it swings back and forth with the force of a muddied wrecking ball. What’s more, the prevalent use of octave pedals throughout a considerable portion of the album also adds a fair amount of heft, making those grooves punch far above their weight.

But it’s not just the octave pedals that add punch to Cages’ sound, and “punch” doesn’t even begin to describe the high-quality album production. One of the first aspects that stood out upon first listen to the album was how different the production on the album sounds than most heavy music coming out today. The warm production gives the impression that the band recorded it live, straight to tape, and with minimal overdubs. That may not actually be the case, but that’s certainly what it sounds like. All this is a direct result of what the band describes as their “ugly music dream team”: engineer Sean Pearson (Tomb Mold, Vile Creature, Cursed), mixer Carl Saff (Elder, KEN Mode, Fu Manchu), and masterer Scott Evans (Kowloon Walled City, Great Falls, East of the Wall).

Cages is remarkably close to having the “all killer, no filler” certified seal of approval. The only point on the album that seems superfluous is the noise track “Blue Royale”. It’s essentially a full-band noise improvisation that would have best been left as an outro. It is very difficult to understand the motivation behind the inclusion of this track because it doesn’t serve as a bridge between songs, nor does it add any particularly interesting layer to the album’s already unique style and production. Quite the opposite: it breaks up the natural flow of the album and simply sounds as if the band added it as an afterthought. However, this writer may be missing something since the band implied that the album is a “...complete story, with each song being individual chapters to that story.”

Regardless, Cell Press are indeed writing their own story in the annals of noise rock. Outside of Coalesce, there are essentially no other bands that can begin to compare to Cell Press’ unique blend of sludge, hardcore, and noise rock. Cages snarls and bites in the way one might expect from most noise rock, but the oddly-timed grooves of “Kissed by a Morose on Mont Royal” and the emotional resonance of “Things They Do in France” are signs of an altogether different beast. One that should not be ignored.

-JD

Frail Body - Artificial Bouquet (screamo, emoviolence)

As a genre, proper screamo has a mainline to the heart and is responsible for some of the most emotionally devastating records in extreme music. Though the label has been misused and confused for decades now, it has remained a steady scene in the underground that has seen a bit of a renaissance over the past few years. Illinois’ Frail Body might be one of the most promising new acts in the genre at the moment, with their sophomore album Artificial Bouquet serving as a new high water mark for the genre in 2024. 

Artificial Bouquet brings everything to the table you’d hope out of this genre, and this power trio pulls it all off expertly. Elements of powerviolence, post-metal, and blackgaze come into play throughout, from the furious blasts and throat-rending howls of opening track “Scaffolding” on through breathtaking and climactic tracks like “Runaway” and the somber finale “A Capsule In The Sediment.” The ebb and flow of this record and the technical and emotive mastery within brings to mind classics from the likes of Gospel and Saetia in different ways. It’s truly screamo perfection, and not an album you want to miss this year.

-Jimmy Rowe

Weston Super Maim - See You Tomorrow Baby (mathcore, djent)

Put bluntly, See You Tomorrow Baby is the best blend of mathcore and djent since Car Bomb’s Mordial. And it shouldn’t be taken as a slight on Weston Super Maim that listeners might immediately make that comparison. Car Bomb carved a special niche that has captivated fans with their futuristic mind-scrambling take at heavy progressive music, and it’s impressive that this little 2-man internet project stretching from London, England to Oregon has crafted something arguably on par with their latest effort. It’s not a stretch to say that some may even prefer this to their american counterparts. For better or worse, the slightly less complex approach lends itself to a greater sense of groove that you can get lost in. Relative to a lot of mathcore in genre,  there’s more of a sense of introspection bordering on optimism, and their tasteful use of melody and “prog” influence is integral to bringing this out. The touches of synths are also evocative of some of the UK’s math rock scene, and add a further sense of adventure. All in all this is a refreshingly dynamic release relative to both the mathcore and djent scenes, and is a must listen for fans of either. 

Pushing this release further are the intelligently selected guest features, vocally from the likes of booming prog-deathgrind group Blindfolded and Led to the Woods, and the acclaimed Chad Kapper of Frontierer, as well as a great guitar solo from Ian of tech-death group Soreption. These features hint at both the musical influences in the creation of this release, but also help to stretch the limits of this duo’s sound into even more dynamic and dangerous territory. Chad is a natural choice here as WSM bleeds into that glitchy deconstructed noise violence, and well, it’s just always great to hear him rip into anything heavy. Ultimately all of these factors come together to produce a well-balanced and flowing listening experience from start to finish. This is technical and progressive music that doesn’t compromise on both fun and feeling, and is surely one of the most impressive releases of 2024. 

-TB

ZOMBIESHARK! - Die Laughing. (cybergrind) 

When it comes to all-encompassing whatevercore, ZOMBIESHARK! runs the gamut. The one-person project helmed by the multi-talented Cory Swope proudly extols the virtues of cybergrind with its erratic array of programming and noise imbued with avant garde tendencies, with glitchy beats, pulsating bass synths, wailing guitars(?), and autotuned vocals bringing about an exhilarating air of unpredictability. Within the context of that glorious mess lie elements of deathcore, mathcore, sasscore, and, yes, grind. Or false grind? Does it matter anymore? Are we pretending that genres matter this far down? Tracks such as “RBG Gaming Guillotine” and “Bastard Spelled Backwards” are shining examples of ZOMBIESHARK! at its most direct and hard-hitting, often calling to mind the space-laser riffing of acts like Frontierer or Car Bomb – just give “Does Barcode Man Believe In God?”) but fed a steady diet of Genghis Tron and Mick Gordon’s DOOM soundtrack. Further down the spiral, the metallic edges wear down to uncover an incredibly moving industrial album that has enough emotionally resonant hooks that make the breakdowns that much more devastating, as is the case for the track “Put Your Glasses On, Nothing Can Be Wrong.” 

It’s albums like Die Laughing. that keep niche genres like cybergrind alive. Despite the genre’s inherent sense of irreverence, Swope was able to generate a multifaceted experience that grounds the chaos in sincerity and vulnerability. It celebrates genre conventions and aesthetics while pushing the style forward. This is a tentpole release for cybergrind, and lord knows we don’t get very many of those lately. 

-JR

The Crowdkillers

Black Pegasus - Black Grass Smoker (sludgecore, downtempo-deathcore)

Contrary to the hopes of one of our writers, this is not “a concept album about high school stoners who are resorting to rezzi rips because they’re too cheap to buy fresh weed.” It does however contain the sort of gurgling sludgy tone that some stoner metal bands yearn for, but used in the context of downtuned, downtempo, doomy deathcore. This thing is filthier than the backseat floor of your highschool drug dealer's Civic. The production is certainly not your typical deathcore mix, again leaning much more into what you’d find on a sludge or doom album, but the results of these production and tone choices is something rarely heard in the core genres. The riffs and breakdowns are closer to something you’d find on the last Black Tongue album in their stretched out, densely atmospheric and devastatingly heavy approach, but then they take you on some wildly psychedelic guitar solos that they bridge into compelling riffs? It’s the sort of thing you really just have to hear to experience, and is this ever an experience. The vocals don’t really stand out nor detract from the album, they stick to mostly a mid-range harsh fry style with some blackened influence which fits the overall sound appropriately. 

This is the sort of release that doesn’t come along that often that I just had to write about as soon as I heard it. This mysterious newly formed group from the Netherlands has now dropped two releases since last year, and I can’t wait to hear where they go from here. Black Grass Smoker  may not be the best album you’ll hear this year, but it should certainly be one of the most unique and memorable. 

-TB

Bulletsbetweentongues - The Lights Never Lie (screamo, throwback metalcore)

The Lights Never Lie is the impressive debut album from a little Texas-based band sharing members with emo bands Sinema and A Brief Memoir, with an affinity for 90s screamo and metalcore. There has been a slowly building explosion of bands in this ilk of late, especially from the likes of Ephyra Records, but this is surely one of the strongest. Bulletsbetweentongues encapsulates everything about that throwback sound, from the riffs and melodies, the under-polished production, and above all the absolute raw emotion that has always made screamo special, but has been lacking among a lot of metalcore over the past decade. From a pedantic point, it’s hard to label this as specifically metalcore or screamo, and while emoviolence is certainly a fitting meeting place it leans a little more post-hardcore. The instrumentation is refreshingly melodic, beyond the spinkick inducing breakdowns and panic chords, the riffs find a nice balance between the franticness of early Norma Jean and the bittersweet melancholy of early La Dispute and Underoath. Just a great fusion of sounds that should appeal to a wide range of -core appreciators. 

-TB

Enterprise Earth - Death: An Anthology (deathcore)

Enterprise Earth is a band I’ve always wanted to really love, but am continually left a little underwhelmed. Is their new album Death: An Anthology the one to finally break through then? Well, yes and no.  This band has had some fairly regular shifts in band members, but the biggest yet came last year with founding vocalist Dan Watson (of Infant Annihilator) being replaced by a relatively unknown Travis Worland. Fans of Dan and earlier EE shouldn’t worry though, as Travis’ style and range fits like a glove. This is maybe a knock on deathcore vocalists in general, but it was hard to even tell much of a difference.

Now instrumentally, I’ve been following lead guitarist Gabe’s work for some time, back to his days in the very underrated progressive metalcore band Delusions of Grandeur who put out one full-length and a number of EPs in the mid 2010s, including the actual first collaboration between Dan and Gabe. Maybe it’s just the prog nerd in me speaking, but as his creatively impressive riffs, djenty grooves, and solos were a huge standout from this work, I’ve been left a little underwhelmed with the more straight-forward deathcore product of EE. Yes, obviously that’s just what they’re going for, and fans of their earlier work like Patient 0 will probably scoff at this, but it’s hard not to feel a little wanting. Fortunately, on Death: An Anthology we find him in his most eclectic and refreshingly untethered form, and this extends to the entire band and overall feel of the album.   

Given the “anthology” reference in the title, this more diverse approach is unsurprising. Some of this is brought out by the number of guest features which all kick ass, including Ben Duerr (Shadow of Intent), Wes Hauch (The Faceless, Alluvial), and Matt Heavy (Trivium). There’s of course deathcore, but melodic metalcore, straight-up thrash riffs, and a venture back into more progressive metal for Gabe. As somewhat to be expected however, the end result does start to feel more like a collection of songs and ideas, which possibly was the justification for the run-time to push nearly an hour. Honestly, very few deathcore albums need to be an hour long, and this unfortunately isn’t one of them. So, is this the refreshing renaissance that EE needed? Maybe? But you might find yourself just returning to those specific songs of the styles that most appeal to you rather than listening to the album as a whole.  

-TB

Edhochuli - Highlander (progressive post-hardcore)

Despite being active since 2009, Edhochuli has only released four full-lengths in that time (if their 2009 self-released edhochuli is one word is included in that total), and Highlander is the progressive post-hardcore band’s first release, full-length or otherwise, in nine years. However, it’s clear that time is on Edhochuli’s side because Highlander is one of the most noteworthy albums of the year thus far.

One reason Highlander is so immediately striking is that the album’s sound has very few obvious comparisons as a result of a unique mix of influences with Thin Lizzy being the only obvious one. Upon the release of Highlander, the band uploaded an Instagram reel in which the viewer sees the point of view of a person flipping through a row of records until the last record in the row is revealed to be the vinyl version of Highlander. The eclectic selection runs the gamut of rock-oriented music and includes the following:

  • Fugazi - End Hits
  • King Crimson - In the Court of The Crimson King
  • Melvins - Ozma
  • Thin Lizzy - Jailbreak
  • Rainbow - Rising

It doesn’t seem particularly accidental that these, among many others, were the albums included in the reel, as the suggestion is that these served as influences on the band for the writing of Highlander. Many parts, such as the midsection of “I Must Build”, includes some major-key guitarmonies that would not have sounded out of place on Jailbreak or any other Thin Lizzy album. But in some ways, that section, as well as the considerable portion of the album, sound as if they also owe a debt to Baroness, a band that is curiously absent from the aforementioned row of records. The classic rock stylings of latter-day John Baizley and co. seem to be an obvious reference point for Edhochuli on Highlander.

But whereas both Baroness have lost a bit of their initial bite over the years, Highlander is still very much a heavy record. While much of the guitar interplay is in the upper register, there is a warm fullness and rawness to the production that recalls Mastodon’s full-length debut Remission, a sound that this writer much prefers rather than the band’s latter-day flat and overly compressed production. That type of production serves Edhocholi well here as it captures an urgency that most progressive-minded bands, and even many bands that largely fall under the “post-hardcore” tag, lack on their recordings.

But with the average Highlander track time hovering around eight minutes, that urgency does not always save the integrity of the songs. While each song twists and turns multiple times as a never-ending parade of winding classic rock-inspired riffs is marched out, it can be easy to lose the musical narrative as the listener. Whereas many progressive or progressive-leaning bands often have extended track lengths, they utilize those lengths well by integrating repetition to maintain the song’s narrative while also implementing dynamic shifts to keep the listener engaged. This might include, but is not limited to, repetitive buildups that gradually build tension before reaching a climax.

While Highlander does explore peaks and valleys of dynamic shifts, they are often brief respites from the full-throttled riff fest. At 6:12 in “I’ll Never Forget ‘Ol What’s His Name”, for example, a swaggering riff is coupled with a syncopated drum beat before smoothly transforming into a brief transition between one guitar and a steady bass drum beat. This lasts mere seconds before jumping back into the riff melange. But parts such as this seem like a missed opportunity for the band to build tension while also maintaining some repetition. Overall, the lack of repetition and dynamic shifts, and therefore, the lack of clear musical climaxes, sometimes make it difficult to really latch on to the music.

Despite the issues described above, Highlander is a creative triumph for this long-running band that has taken a wide swath of musical influences and has consolidated them into a notable sound that very few of Edhochuli’s contemporaries are even attempting.

-JD

The Sawtooth Grin - Jabberwocky (mathgrind)

Legacy mathgrind outfit The Sawtooth Grin made their long-awaited return in 2023 with their new full-length album Good., much to the joy of many mathcore and grind fiends in their 30’s. Their activity as a unit was promised to not be limited to the one-off reunion, and murmurs that Jabberwocky – a demo collection that was released after their disbandment all those years ago – would be revisited started to permeate. Jabberwocky was made out to be this great big mythical lost album and a massive deal, and its surprise release mid-March certainly felt like a huge moment for about twelve minutes, which is about the length of this four-track EP as the end of things. A bit underwhelming given the decade-plus mythmaking surrounding Jabberwocky, but surely that’s not the fault of the band and more to the rabid want of new material for this band. No matter how you slice it, it’s nice to hear more Sawtooth and that some of that old material was able to be reworked into this invigorating burst of experimental grind. We collectively need way more shit like “The Meadow,” and we’re blessed that Sawtooth are back with us at this level. 

-JR

Birds in Row & Coilguns - You and I in the Gap (post-hardcore, noise rock)

You and I in the Gap is the sort of thing I really wish we’d see more of. Sure we get split releases all the time, and they’re a great way to turn someone on to a new band if you’re not familiar with one of the contributors, but a true collaboration on a release, with both bands contributing to the same songs? That’s just not something you get often. And it’s not surprising. The dividing of roles, sharing of responsibilities, compromises, song-writing decisions, it sounds like a logistical headache. Now throw in the unique challenge they presented themselves in having to write, produce, and record everything in a seven-day window? Sounds impossible, but mon dieu, two of the hottest names in the french scene, Birds in row and Coilguns came together and really pulled this off.

While both acts operate in the post-hardcore-adjacent realm, Birds certainly lean more towards screamo, with Coilguns embracing a noise rock by-way-of mathcore direction. The end product is appropriately something a little in the middle, noisey post-hardcore with a curious blend of art rock and post-rock instrumentation. This was most likely the result of the jam-session-like approach they took to writing it. Ultimately they ended up with both bands drummers sharing duties, three guitarists, one bassist, and Coilguns’ Louis taking on most of the vocals in his mostly clean delivery, with both Birds vocalists supplying bouts of harsh emotional desperation throughout. The ending title-track is definitely the standout and most true to both bands' original sounds in its hypnotically enraged aggression, carried by the dual-drummer performance. While it’s only 3 tracks spanning a little over 15-minutes, this is clearly one of the most ambitious releases you’ll find this year, and it’s incredible how deeply nuanced and fleshed out the entire thing feels. A testament to the creativity and talent of both these bands, and a collaboration I hope we hear more from again.   

-TB

SISSY XO - PUBLIC HUMILIATION (cybergrind, avant-garde metal)

Real emotional cybergrind hours. If you found the Zombieshark album covered above was lacking in genuine grindcore influence for your taste, then PUBLIC HUMILIATION, the refreshing debut LP from this Vancouver-based two-piece might be more up your alley. This album's been given the sasscore label, but I think it goes beyond that into pure distressed rage. It's a viscerally raw and honest look into the hearts and minds of two trans artists with a lot to say. Sure, it can be very abrasive, hard to digest, and there's some cheeky song-titles like "keep staring at me like that and i'll fuck your dad", but at the depths of this you can feel the cathartic emotional weight being exorcised from their performance. Have I mentioned the compositions here are borderline avant-garde, with big angular riffs borrowing from disso-death? This whole thing is just incredibly creative and a staggering listening experience that won't soon be forgotten.

-TB

The Circle Pit (Best of the Rest)

Vantana Row - Cuts (cybergrind)

Serenity - 1,000,000 Eyes (metallic hardcore)

xINSTINCTIVEx - Take Your Life Back (old-school metalcore, hardcore)

Votto - Gli ultimi istanti delle nostre vite precedenti (screamo, post-hardcore)

Shaving the Werewolf - God Whisperer (noise rock)

Darkest Hour - Perpetual | Terminal (melodic metalcore, melodeath)

Domain - Life's Cold Grasp (metalcore)

The Last Ten Seconds of Life - No Name Graves (deathcore)

Mastiff - Deprecipice (sludgecore)

Sinister Feeling - Sinister Feeling (powerviolence)

Kidnapped - Disgust (powerviolence)

Burial Etiquette - Mis-en-scène (screamo)

Versera - Calliope (screamo, emoviolence)

SPACED - This Is All We Ever Get (hardcore punk)

Utopia - Shame (prog metal, metalcore)

defdot - Arcos & Bulbos (mathcore)

Crush Your Soul - Crush Your Soul (metalcore, metallic hardcore)

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Published a month ago