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Deathcore That Doesn’t Suck (As Much)

slice the cake odyssey to the gallows

Deathcore sucks, and we all know it. As someone who actually likes deathcore, even I know it. But if we get real about it for just one second, we might realize there’s a different way to go about this music versus other forms of heavy metal. We might also realize that, theoretically, there is a chance some of this deathcore stuff is actually worthy in a grander metal context. It’s true that deathcore serves a unique albeit overly specific purpose: it takes one element of metal (essentially, the breakdown) and makes it the central element. Unfortunately, there’s only so many ways you can slice that pear; fortunately, though, it can be a juicy-ass pear.

Breakdowns are miraculous tools for marrying crowds with bands at live performances: the connection between body and music they inspire is actually something to behold. But, boiled down, they’re simple as fuck, even if made technical in their execution. Bottom line: breakdowns sell tickets and albums. People eat ’em up.

As such, it only makes sense to me that deathcore would be chock-full of soundalike bands — all repeating the same basic formula but with slight variations to produce an identical intended effect among listeners — but with the inevitable diamond in the rough. Lo and behold: this is indeed deathcore in reality. The likes of Suicide Silence and Emmure are no bueno in my book; to me, that is not what deathcore as a genre should champion. And while it’s probably okay to shit on deathcore as overly simplistic, thematically singular, easily commodified, etc., no reasonable person can damn the entire beast for being hideous when, if you focus your sights just so, there are spots of magnificent and complex beauty.

Yes, I am about to make the case that the following deathcore albums aren’t just good deathcore albums (a prerequisite to being on this list), but good metal albums to boot. It’s not just because they’re relatively technical — even though deathcore shines brightest through its interface with technical death metal — but because they’re actually deep-down, complex, well thought-out albums. From storytelling to experimentation to unbridled energy, these will be the deathcore albums you’ll enjoy if you’re to enjoy any deathcore album at all. If you still aren’t into it, that’s totally fair too; nevertheless, I hope these help broaden your perception at least about what deathcore can do as a (sometimes) legitimate subgenre.

LoreleiLore of Lies
February 4, 2014

This is the album I show to tech-death fans who haven’t heard one deathcore band they’ve liked before. As long as you’re okay with liberally applied cinematic synth (not too unlike Shadows of Intent, but trust me, this is better) — and, of course, breakdowns and the accompanying low growls — then Lore of Lies should cut you in half like butter. It’s as poised and tight as any top-tier tech-death album, but tons heavier, groovier, and… well, more fun. And that illustrates a point I want to make about deathcore (which may apply to other metal subgenres in varying degrees): despite all the tough-guy, frowny-face antics and whatnot, the point of this music is to have a good time. It’s supposed to energize you, to get your body moving from a standstill, to reverberate inside your chest.

Lorelei have imbued their masterpiece with tons of dramatic build-ups (the synth helping here greatly) and impressive technicality which keeps the mind occupied while the body follows the groove. With everything going on, they haven’t forgotten deathcore at all: Lore of Lies checks off all the requisite boxes, and then some. Hyperbolic breakdowns are the backbone of these eight songs, with the more technical noodly bits filling in the gaps. The keyboards then help glue everything together, melodically. It’s a lot at once (as deathcore should be), but Lorelei have a penchant for balance too, as demonstrated especially by the self-titled album closer — easily the most impressive feat on the album.

If you’re questioning whether you’re about to hit play on a 12-minute long deathcore song, I don’t blame you. For many, two seconds is enough. For me, though, I just can’t get enough. “Lore of Lies” goes hard as fuck, dances with aplomb, and doesn’t waste a single moment in all of its proggy goodness.

Slice the CakeOdyssey to the West
April 1, 2016

All things considered, my favorite deathcore album ever laid to tape. Few albums from any metal genre can match Odyssey to the West‘s homeric scope and incredible complexity, not to mention its flawless execution. The only detectable defect with this package of poetic lyrics, avant-garde musicianship, and monstrous breakdowns is strictly nomenclatural: Slice the Cake is easily one of the worst band names of all time. But who cares, because Odyssey to the West feels like a goddamn odyssey, and not just because it’s 77 minutes long (not even counting its 28-minute adjoining album Odyssey to the Gallows).

So, given the band name, the grand scale of the thing, and the fact that there’s spoken-word and clean singing (one of my favorite aspects to the album, actually), Odyssey to the West is indeed a hard sell both for deathcore fans and non. Like, you either get really into it, read through the dizzying lyrical content, absorbing its mesmerizing ballet, or it just goes in one ear and out the other. In no way can Odyssey for the West work as muzak; in fact, it comes alive during late, somber nights, something quite unusual for deathcore. There was some drama regarding the band, the album, and the breakup which ensued, but despite all that, we were left with something entirely irreplicable and so wickedly cool.

Echoes of MisanthropyShades of Ugliness EP
July 19, 2014

Heavier than fucking fuck. And unlike a lot of deathcore, extremely fast at times, only to break at the most opportune moment for some ridiculously detuned chugging. My guess is that you’d have to like deathcore already to appreciate Echoes of Misanthropy; on this list at least, they’re perhaps the “most deathcore” of any of the other picks, i.e. relying most heavily on breakdowns. The 12-minute Shades of Ugliness EP — easily their strongest work — relishes in its hyper-aggressive format and frankly hyperbolic trappings.

There’s one big hook here: heaviness. Everything about the Shades of Ugliness EP is designed to serve one ultimate purpose. To be very extremely heavy, at least in that traditional deathcore sense of just slamming planets together to see what happens. But what I appreciate most about Echoes of Misanthropy is their uncanny ability to weave bouts of technicality, blackened blasts, and super-groovy rhythms into something which actually feels like it flows rather than stutters. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t a fan of their debut full-length Faux Narcissism, so I always come back to this EP when I want my skull caved in by a granite fist.

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