All the Footprints of an Apparition – An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Screamo

Rohit Chaoji writes about some of his favorite screamo releases and why you should start listening to screamo.

I personally really hate the term “screamo” since there is no actual way to make a distinction between bands like Bring Me The Horizon and bands like Orchid or Saetia, without following it with “oh no not THAT screamo, but what screamo was originally meant to be” and then nerding out about music while the other person loses interest in ever speaking to you.

I also hate “skramz”, because it just sounds too silly.

That being said, let’s begin with trying to quickly understand what “screamo” means here and then take a look at a list of albums that a beginner might want to try, if they’re curious to listen to or understand it.

Just like powerviolence and grindcore were logical evolutions to crust and hardcore punk, screamo was not only a logical progression of the “emotional hardcore” scene from DC, United States, but also the twisted child of “post”-hardcore, powerviolence, grindcore and (some) melodic hardcore, all at once. The irony is that one of the most unhinged and wild musical genres consisted of bands that had the sense of humour to call their style something silly throughout the ages – screamo, emoviolence and skramz being among the ridiculous terms humorously coined by the artists and the fans.

This strange, enigmatic and misunderstood genre has some musical gems that anyone into aggressive and dramatic music should like. Here is a list of 5 of them that are rather beginner-friendly.

 1. Envy – All the Footprints You’ve Ever Left And the Fear Expecting Ahead (Temporary Residence Ltd)

These Japanese fellows were my introduction to *chuckle* REAL screamo. Combining melodic, emotional hardcore punk riffs, with very post rock-like build-ups and tension-release dynamics, this album is a rollercoaster from the beginning to the end. The guitars soar and scream with piercing intensity, which is complemented by vocals with a similar quality, which works in the album’s favour. Following this album, I personally think Envy only got worse, as they chose to discard a lot of their hardcore punk aggression in favour of more post-rock noodling.

 

 2. Orchid – Dance Tonight! Revolution Tomorrow! + Chaos is Me (Ebullition)

Orchids is probably the most well-known band that plays this style. Frantic and urgent chord progressions, blasting drums, unconventional song structures with lots of tempo variations and time signature oddities is the name of the game here. Despite this, none of the songs here feel too inaccessible to a listener who might already be familiar with grindcore and powerviolence, with the difference being that this is melodically, harmonically and rhythmically richer, compared to a vast majority of PV and grind bands.

 

 3. Pg.99 – Document #8 (Robotic Empire)

Highly prolific screamo band, with a vast number of recordings under their belt. Although it is difficult to recommend any specific release, Document #8 is a good place to start. Pg.99 understand how to write memorable melodies while keeping the expected hardcore punk ferocity at 11!

4. Saetia – A Retrospective (Secret Voice)

There are often mentions of loud-soft dynamics when talking about post-hardcore and screamo and I truly believe that no band does this better than Saetia (with the exception of maybe Off-Minor). There are some nods to indie rock and post-hardcore from the early 1990s in how those dynamics are displayed on this album. The constant switching between frantically-paced, distorted sections and calmer, cleaner sections is seamless and ties each individual song together.

 

 5. City of Caterpillar – S/T (The Archivist)

If Godspeed You! Black Emperor were a hardcore band, they would be called “City of Caterpillar”. This bunch understands how tension, excitement and drama are created in music and they apply that understanding to hardcore punk. The heavier sections consist of well-written melodic riffs and grating vocal performance, while the softer sections serve as bridges and build-ups within the songs, creating a very varied and dynamic sound that just fits together extremely well. The album is also not very difficult for a beginner to get into, hence its inclusion here.

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Catching up: Agrimonia, Earthen Grave, Suns Of Thyme

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy reviews the following albums from Agrimonia, Earthen Grave, Suns Of Thyme

The last few months have been hectic, what with recording and releasing the first Djinn & Miskatonic album, and I have a number of album reviews pending. I’m going to do a few shorter, but hopefully equally useful reviews until I’ve caught up with the backlog.

1. Agrimonia – Rites of Separation (Southern Lord)

Gotherburg crust/sludgers Agrimonia’s sophomore effort, ‘Host of the Winged’ was one of the most dense and relentlessly intense releases in this space in 2010. Particularly with the modern US sludge scene dwindling away on the trail of accessibility, it’s heartening to see that, on ‘Rites of Separation’, Agrimonia continue to practice the art of adding melody and expansiveness to their sound without compromising on the sheer weight of negativity their tutelary genres are supposed to embody. Christina’s vocals are harsh litanies of acrimony, guitarists Pontus (also in the excellent OSDM band Miasmal) and Magnus unleash a range of six-string-soundscapes that maintain the pressure while exploring almost post-metal like whorls and tides of sound and melody. The 5 songs  here are all generally of epic length, and the layered, lush yet corrosive sound is augmented by thoughtfully positioned keyboard layers contributed by Christina. She even contributes gentle piano lines – piano on a crusty sludge record! – which only add another element of contrast and cohesion to Agrimonia’s arsenal. Martin’s bass work is especially effective at bringing in dolorous, droning undercurrents in the more introspective sections and Bjorn, who also plays for Miasmal, anchors the sound with his incisive, dynamic drum work. This one is up there with Kongh’s ‘Sole Creation’ and Primitive Man’s ‘Scorn’ as one of the most crushingly massive releases of the year from the sludgier side of the tracks, but that heaviness is only furthered by the moments of melodic reflectiveness that are interspersed throughout the album.

2. Earthen Grave – S/T (Ripple Music)

The band’s stated genre is doom/thrash and I was curious to see how they would make that work. Mainly they’ve taken the crunch of thrash and some of its more mid-tempo aspects and melded it to a histrionic, melodic, traditional doom framework. This isn’t miles away from how Trouble (which is bassist Ron Holzner’s alma mater, after all) always brought the doom without being overtaken by the pace and energy of their coevals in the thrash scene – nothing here will be mistaken for an Exodus outtake. Instead we have songs that are long on melody, augmented by generous lashings of violin, and can move from moody, slow passages to 8th-note grooves with pounding drums and chugging power chord riffs. The band’s musicianship is top-notch but I found the vocals a shade too grungy at times, which is a shame because Mark Weiner does a mean Eric Wagner when the mood catches him, such as on the magnificent ‘Tilted World’. Violinist Rachel Barton Pine’s contributions go well beyond simple layering or novelty interludes, perfectly meshing with the seasoned doom-mongering of the rest of the band. The end result is a sound that makes the band a natural addition to the front row of classic American doom bands. Certainly, their decision to include two classic doom covers in their debut offering (a great version of ‘Burning A Sinner’ which makes the Witchfinder General sound more like Trouble and a cover of Pentagram’s ‘Relentless’ which sees Weiner apparently channeling the vocal stylings of Wino) shows how closely this band identifies with the history of the doom genre, but doesn’t capture the variety and lush romanticism of the music on offer here, which isn’t just limited to retreading what has gone before.

3. Suns of Thyme – Fortune, Shelter, Love and Cure (Electric Magic)

Kraut is alive, and it’s got shoes. While Samsara Blues Experiment purveys the darker end of the modern kraut spectrum, their scene-mates and countrymen, Suns Of Thyme have a more airy sound, less grueling, more filigreed and bright-eyed. There is a sense of wide-open spaces and endless, ecstatic jamming in these songs, but there is also a certain serene contemplativeness underlying the psychedelic excursions. These songs are also decidedly concise, with running times in the 3-4 minute range most of the time. It’s kraut crossed with shoegaze: shimmering guitars, motorik jams and hazy vocals intertwining to form a dreamlike, propulsive sound. Everything here, especially the voice, sounds like it has been slathered in layers of glistening star-stuff (not to mention delay), and while individual songs do not jump out at you on initial listens, there are enough way-out bits and shimmering, melodic passages to make this album a pleasant excursion down the river of Lethe, the sonic equivalent of a kaleidoscope held to the eyes on a warm summer afternoon.

And that’s it from me for now – stay tuned for a couple more catch-up posts this week!

Transient – Transient

Mohammad Kabeer reviews the new self titled debut LP from Transient, released via Six Week Records.

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Track Listing:
1. Bottom Feeder
2. Goad
3. False Philanthropy
4. Narcissus Nemesis
5. Sustain the Yoke
6. Antipositivism
7. Praying Mantic
8. Waste Not
9. Cataphora
10. Pythia Misunderstood
11. The Shape of Grind to Come
12. Positivism
13. Big Man Plick
14. Snoop Scion
15. Swallowing Androcles
16. Van Grinder

I couldn’t really think of an intro to this so I think I am going to be feminist here and tell you how much  I love women in Grind,  the women of  Grindcore are  amazing.  They’ve been part of bands   like Fuck the Facts(Mel Mongeon)  and Cloud Rat(Madison Marshalls ) who have   changed the dynamics of the genre and have proven that grind can be used to evoke deep emotions  other than chaos and anger , such as loss, pain and the ensuing grief. Additionally bands like Lycanthropy (Zdisha) and Cretin (Marissa Martinez) have given some really tight, intense straightforward grind. Damn it! I love all you women of grind! You are really are awesome! Don’t let chauvinist assholes let you down.. I love you all so much that I would buy you all drinks at a bar!!!… ok maybe not but I still love you! and to celebrate  that love I am going to review a female fronted grind band today! A band called Transient.

 

 

Transient are a four piece from Portland consisting of Krysta Martinez(Vocals) Jesse Shreibman ( Drums) ,Stefan Thompson (Guitar) and Adam Wilson(Bass). Transient have a very diverse sound,   one that mixes, blast beat driven grindcore, crushing Nails like metallic hardcore and simple crust/hardcore that blends the skank/ D- beat with   chord driven guitar riffs.  Although this is the crux of the band’s sound, in some cases one can hear a bit of stoner, yes stoner!!  Like in the starting of False Philosophy or at the start and end of Sustain the Yoke. At a few places the band adds some tech grind which can be seen in the song Narcissus Nemesis and Positivism SFP Opt.1. All of these features work for the band’s benefit, and these guys are able to bring a lot of fresh and interesting ideas  to the table   and  mesh them rather well, which of course makes them sound unique and different, and makes them do something that very few bands are able to achieve. In effect, to be playing a form of  grind that is catchy,  but still able to maintain the brutality and harshness of the genre, and this is honestly  something  that only Six Brew Bantha  have been able to do( these guys are one of my favorite bands by the way).  This is in fact quite remarkable if you ask me. On the negative side they do need to be a tad more aggressive, and only by a very slight measure that is indeed a very small gripe that I have with the band.

So in the end Transient turned out to be another female fronted grind band that I ended up loving!  I think these guys are fantastic and if this is what they have produced the future can only be brighter and more brutal!!  Indeed this band is another reason why I love all the women of Grind!!

PS. I would like to give a shout out to my friend Kylie Ackerson who used to be a woman of grind! She played in a pornogrind band called Rimjob but now she’s a thrasher, Kylie you are awesome!!!

 

 

Norma Jean – Wrongdoers

Review of Norma Jean’s new album titled Wrongdoers, and released via Razor & Tie Records.

normajean-wrongdoers

Tracklist:
01 – Hive Minds
02 – If You Got It at Five, You Got It at Fifty
03 – Wrongdoers
04 – The Potter Has No Hands
05 – Sword in Mouth, Fire Eyes
06 – Afterhour Animals
07 – The Lash Whistled Like a Singing Wind
08 – Neck in the Hemp
09 – Triffids
10 – Funeral Singer
11 – Sun Dies, Blood Moon

Christian metal… An oxymoron to many, a source of inspiration for some, good music for a mere handful. More often than not, your average heavy music enthusiast shuns it like the plague. This is precisely where one needs to bring in that ever so clichéd phrase, “You don’t know what you are missing.” To people with faculties that abound in the dumb ignorance quotient, Christian metal, despite their overtly religious tones has its share of unique bands, which haven’t been given due credit. From the death metal cavalry of Mortification, prog laced thrash from Believer, the unmitigated onslaught that is Living Sacrifice, and the inseparable paragons of old school doom which is Trouble. It probably is safe to say that the 90s held fewer Christian metal bands, yet being those who never allowed quality to take a nosedive like we are full witness to today. Post – millennium, what you have is a slew of metalcore bands that rehash rehashed material and served with a cup of evangelical tea.

Here’s their first single. To just give you a preview of what to expect.

 

As the case may be, there will always be a few exceptions to the rule. Zao was one, Underoath and Becoming the Archetype for a good part were as well. While the rest, were quite content on donning exactly the same piece of clothing and a whole lot of swagger. Then there were a small  lot that started out boring, continued being boring albeit hinting at improvement, until finally they just decided it was time to quit and start anew. Norma Jean is an example.

With their last release Meridional, it was quite obvious they were finally beginning to find their feet as opposed to showing mere glimpses of it. The sound of Meridional was something of a homage to every sound they’ve previously tried out on, to moderate success. Wrongdoers, their 6th down the line, sees the band honing its craft and delivering with much conviction which lacked previously. Just the like their last record a few Dillinger Escape Plan-esque mathcore comes into play, but this time with their own, subtle yet conspicuous little spin on it. Even a few surprisingly sludgy sections do take a peek in and out of a few songs. Then there is your share of off heatseekers such as the absolutely emotive closer Sun Dies, Blood Moon. Playing along the slow reflective line rather than the all guns out blazing style the band is recognized for, coupled with Cory Brandon’s unfeigned warm croons and strung out screams of despair, all makes for a much endearing listen. Songs like Triffids (yes those venomous man eating plants you see on cartoon network), Funeral Singer, If Got It At Five You Got It At Fifty all count powerful crunching riffs than on senseless guitar pyrotechnics.

The album capitalizes on all past misgivings, restructuring them into something more cogent and yet relishing in its controlled yet chaotic environment. Effectively lending the album the necessary appeal and high replayablity, which past Norma jean records I personally think, sorely lacked. This will be their antecedent benchmark for all Norma Jean releases to come. Wrongdoers can do no wrong.

A B-side from the album