(More) Deathcore That Doesn’t Suck
Deathcore is indeed rife with repetitive tropes and a ton of stylistic pretense (all genres suffer these ailments, but this one especially). We should probably blame the breakdown: in the first Deathcore That Doesn't Suck article, I wrote that "...deathcore serves a unique albeit overly specific purpose: it takes one element of metal (essentially, the breakdown) and makes it the central element." Centralizing something as rigidly bound as a breakdown is, really, a recipe for uninteresting and soundalike music, though some deathcore bands manage to destroy this dilemma altogether with some creative (and technical) wit. Below are three.
Writing deathcore off is totally fair after your own personal assessment. If you're in the process, or just curious, these albums have a better chance than most at winning over your breakdown-seeking psyche, or whatever you're after, really. They're wildly different in execution and style, but all three are downright deathcore, showcasing what the genre can accomplish -- not just recreate -- within and at the edges of its boundaries.
The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza -- Danza IIII: The Alpha -- The Omega
October 16th, 2012
Even after countless listens, Danza IIII: The Alpha -- The Omega still retains the ability to utterly rock my world with its unrepentantly blunt force. Definitely deathcore, but then again not fully, The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza fully congealed as a progressive band on this release, their fourth, final, and finest. If you think the concept of "progressive deathcore" is bonkers or bullshit, you might have some swing in that fight -- indeed, the band is literally called The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza, which is ridiculous on its face. And, truthly, Danza IIII: The Alpha -- The Omega is nigh unlistenable: from its ballistic production to its schizophrenic songwriting, the band basically deconstructs and reconstructs deathcore from the ground up, fucking up everything in their way while doing it. The breakdown (as a defining element) definitely hones the leading edge of Danza IIII: The Alpha -- The Omega's assault, but beyond the chugging and slamming are incredible nuances so worth absorbing in a context beyond just deathcore.
Album centerpiece "Paul Bunyan and the Blue Ox" is just that: nuanced to infinity, with mathy constructions interwoven with that lovely open-string pounding that djent later hyper-popularized but also ruined. Samples and synths create cinematic atmospherics while the gears and guts of the song crush mountains; the fury stops mid-way, too, to let something more delicate and pretty emerge from the wasteland only so the band can savagely rip it apart in the outro. The song is the album's longest, and it's also instrumental, a nice nod from a deathcore band to the notion that the music actually matters in this subgenre, not just the trendy hats and tough-guy attitudes. A lot of "good" deathcore aims to twist your mind; Danza IIII: The Alpha -- The Omega wants to twist your goddamn head off. That is a big difference, and The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza banked on it hard before disbanding, leaving us with a gem so precious it's actually sorta hard to take it all in at once.
NovaThrone -- Revenants
December 17th, 2015
This is my go-to album for what we'll call "technical deathcore": Revenants is pretty much the shining example of what technicality (when utilized correctly) can do with deathcore, much like it does with death metal and the resulting tech-death. In a plain way of saying it, NovaThrone's technicality helps make their deathcore less rote and repetitive than it might otherwise be -- the flip-side, though, is that the band was adept at not letting technicality overpower what should of course be the central element, the breakdown. Revenants breaks down hard, really hard, in both the straightforward fuck-you-up way and the atmospheric way, where synths and abstract noise help create a chaotic headspace that those breakdowns thrive on. It's that symbiotic relationship between guitar calisthenics and one-note cosmic slamming -- two sort-of separate things if you think about it -- that NovaThrone captures.
And now here I am talking about technicality and atmosphere, two things which typically destroy each other functionally. Not so with Revanants which remains thoroughly both heady and heavy whether it's a million notes per second or just a few. This blend on its own is surprisingly difficult to find, but goddamn especially in deathcore. Lorelei, another deathcore band that I covered in the first article, does this as well, but they have a much more modern and stylish approach. NovaThrone achieves a deeper, darker spirit and mood, something much more sinister and with less pretense.
Born of Osiris -- The New Reign EP
October 2, 2007
"Fucking bow down!" This EP is an immediate classic from a band who departed significantly from its rawly technical and unembellished nature. This is not the Born of Osiris you're either familiar with (their latest release The Simulation was nigh unlistenable) or the Born of Osiris whose sound you just imagine to be a certain way because they're lumped into "that category" of bands along with Veil of Maya and After the Burial. But neither of those bands, despite having great early-on releases to their names, could match the sheer brutality of songs like EP closer "The Takeover," with its torpedo ending featuring heavily syncopated pre-djent deathcore chugs. They were nothing but deathcore -- and remember, 2007 was right around when Periphery would take off along with djent as a whole.
That's why this EP is so important, notwithstanding the fact that its 21-and-a-half minutes are simply rife with beautifully technical deathcore riffs (and patterns). It represents that turning point right before djent started to influence nearly everyone in the scene, sorta Meshuggaizing everything in that annoyingly poppy way. Not going to shit on djent here, because I do like some djent; suffice it so say, I much prefer The New Reign EP (as a side note, fuck the remastered edition, the straight-up low-budget one is the way to go) when it comes to this sound as it began to flourish in different directions. In fact, I like this EP so much that I'm actually glad the band hasn't since matched it. It's perfect the way it is, alone in their discography as something that truly bites and burns as progressive, interesting deathcore.