Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Deathcore I Actually Enjoy, Part II: With Dead Hands Rising



How do you make Gothenburg-style melodic death metal that isn't weak and boring? There've not been many satisfying answers to that question. At The Gates did it for one or two tracks on Slaughter of The Soul by actually living up to their potential as riff-writers. The Crown did it by actually being a really fast thrash band. Hypocrisy does it by actually being a death metal band. Amon Amarth did* it by actually being vikings. But they've all missed the obvious answer: just crank the extremity up to 11 and then drop a GIANT FUCKING BREAKDOWN. Turns out that works just fine.

This is also a good answer to the question "how do you write deathcore that doesn't suck?" Working in a more melodic style seems to have helped WDHR focus on the songwriting elements that make music truly heavy. They actually care about the fast parts, whipping off tight, thrashing riffs instead of blundering through a morass of pseudo-technical noodling en route to the chug. But get to the chug they do. Highlight is the call to moshage at 2:10. "LET'S BURN THIS MOTHERFUCKER DOWN!" Indeed.

Thanks to my bro/bass player Travis for showing me this tonight! Check out the "Get Into" I wrote on his main band Grudges a while back. (No bias. If my friends are in lame bands I just don't write about them.)

*edited at the suggestion of perceptive readers... new Amon Amarth does suck.

41 comments:

  1. Amon Amarth are some pretty middle-of-the-road generic shite. REAL vikings would do some adventurous (and still ass-kicking) music

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    1. Couldn't agree more. AA is really fucking boring.

      This song, though, gets pretty awesome at about 1:37. That polymetric breakdown bit is quite cool. Glad I gave this a chance! As for the melodic riffing bits (esp. 0:45 & 3:30 onwards), I had about as much of this stuff as I could stomach during my teenage years, when the whole melodeath-influenced-metalcore thing was going on (KsE, Darkest Hour, etc.). Makes me feel a bit sick to hear this in 2012.

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    2. aye, I feel exactly the same - between the 14th and 17th year of my life I think I've had my fill of that kind of riffing - god, it used to be everywhere lol. That giant breakdown is great though.

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    3. @Anonymous: Ok, you're right, I overstated on Amon Amarth. I think "Once Sent From The Golden Hall" and some of their other earlier shit is great, and I've really enjoyed some individual songs of theirs since then. But yeah, their new shit is pretty lame. I'll actually edit the post.

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    4. @Rob and Tim: Yeah there was a ton of that melodeath riffing back in the day, and even then I think its limitations were pretty obvious. But I admit to enjoying the "epic" vibe, when it's done in a cool way. So I guess I just like hearing Gothenburg riffing in a faster, more blast-happy context...sort of like the rest of the music is justifying its existence? And I'd rather hear obsolete riffs that sound like Darkest Hour than relevant riffs that sound like Job For A Cowboy.

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  2. Doesn't the whole "yeah bro arrgh so tough" vibe put you off at all? I'm not a troll, I'm actually curious because you seem to have pretty decent taste.

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    1. I didn't get that from this music at all. All that pre-breakdown sloganeering is such a staple of the genre that it's hard to believe there's any sincerity in it at all. They're just coming up with snappy captions for the next lot of merch. And besides, the image that deathcore bands project in their promo photos hardly screams "tough guy", does it?

      http://www.rocksound.tv/images/uploads/bringmethehorizon300.jpg

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    2. lol there are twee pop bands who look like they could take bmth

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    3. Ok, well BMTH are straight up emo poster boys! fucking pussies! that band pisses me off so much. also that they are way younger than me and probably getting laid every day.

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    4. @Anon: I appreciate the sincere question! That raises a question for me though: why should you or I find tough-guy vibes inherently off-putting? Because they can get really silly? That seems to be a good reason to enjoy them! Because we're not tough guys? Surely tough guys or people who want to be seen as tough guys can make music, and I don't know why I can't get down to it too.

      The other thing is, if the post didn't make clear, i DO find most deathcore pretty retarded, and certainly don't identify with the mallcore jocko vibe. But I have always listened to a lot of punk and hardcore, and really love a lot of stuff that comes by its tough-guy vibe in a more honest and brutal way, from Cock Sparrer to Cro Mags to Integrity to Shattered Realm. And that stuff I do relate to, even if I did not grow up on the mean streets of London/Boston/NYC and can't bench press much. So when I hear someone telling me to "Burn this motherfucker down!" I can laugh at it but also think it's fucking sweet.

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    5. There's a lot of stuff in more "respectable" metal that's just as silly as that sort of repressed bro posturing, but I always found the best punk/hardcore to be intelligent, and even deconstructive of the male ego. Flipper, Minor Threat, etc. Hell, even Napalm Death (if grind counts--it should).

      So, I guess what I'm saying is all these mosh-centric brocore bands strike me as illegitimate, and even though some of them might have some neat musical ideas, if they're under that umbrella they're still inert to me. :V I think the whole movement is sort of a case of the aesthetic being confused for the sum of a genre.

      This totally goes against some posts here about how that stuff is "authentic" hardcore of course.

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    6. And it's not like I'm against "stupidity" by default. I mean... let's get prehistoric for a second and consider The Stooges. Were they about sex, drugs and rock and roll (male id in general--the "toughguy" crap of their time)? Yes. Did they sound like it? No, because the execution had emotional dimension to it. They were primal instinct, violence, sensuality, loneliness and hedonism rolled into a little ball.

      this is a lot of words to call modern core bands one-dimensional.

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    7. @Anon: Hmmm, I'm not quite sure what music I'm supposed to be defending here! "Mosh-centric brocore" can refer to a looot of different stuff, and I'm more likely to go to bat for proper metallic hardcore like New Lows and APMD than I am for deathcore like this.

      And what do you mean by "illegitimate." Do you mean "not punk?" With Dead Hands Rising are absolutely not punk. Do you mean "not real hardcore?" I mean, I guess I could concede that too--deathcore seems tenuously related to any genre with depth or history. Do you mean "not Art?" or "not intelligent?" In that case, DUH! Every deathcore band I've heard is pure entertainment. My point is only that some of this music can be worth listening to IF you like moshing/being angry and yelling/getting wasted with your bros.

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    8. @Anon: The Stooges are my favorite band of all time! Great to see mention of them here. And yes, I absolutely agree with you--theirs was the subtlest kind of stupid. But I actually think they were quite subversive of their time's "toughguy crap." Iggy sort of turned it on its head with his effeminate posturing, women's clothes, "I wanna be your dog," etc. But underneath all that there was also this core of violence and fearsome male energy. To me the most important Stooges song is "Gimme Danger," where he finds the power hidden in vulnerability. He was creating a new figuration of masculinity, the first one I ever found convincing, and the one to which I'll always return. You dig?

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    9. @Anon: I think we'd probably have a lot to talk about, music-wise, but there's a thread running through what you wrote that I think you should reconsider. It's what I call the "record collector" or "college radio" narrative of hardcore, where its held to the same ideals of "artistic progress" and "intelligence" and "not being macho" that people on the 80s alternative scene cherished. Doubtless some hardcore bands WERE after these things, and they're often the ones I can't stand (Minor Threat, Flipper...).

      As a high schooler, I shamefully paid attention to the opinions of gray haired music critics who wrote bullshit like "English punk just turned into shitty heavy metal after '79" and "In the mid 80s American hardcore started getting ruined by bodybuilder thugs." I lost YEARS when I could've been listening to Discharge or the Cro Mags. And when I realized what an idiot I'd been, I asked myself why, and had to admit: I'd ignored this stuff just because someone else told me it wasn't cool. And it wasn't cool to him because it had the pure, crystalline goal of delivering maximal sonic violence, and--most of all--because it often had a "tasteless" working-class aesthetic.

      Basically, what I'm saying is, try and open your ears a little bit.

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    10. Also, are you against any sort of machismo in music? Why? Nobody's saying you have to BE those guys! Don't let it scare you!

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    11. Nah, of course not. I have no biases. I think the concept of masculinity is a total death-worshipping fraud, but it's part of life and it seeps into art. I have no misconceptions that I have to agree with Mishima to read his works.

      But some music(/art) I feel is transparently about reinforcing a specific mindset in a very shallow way. It's not really a matter of opening one's mind when you know what it's for, and it doesn't suit you. Why listen to Korn when there's smarter music rock and metal that's not just piece of a stack of some consumerist trend? Why listen to deathcore when there's smarter... anything?

      I guess we might just fundamentally disagree, but I consider this genre a watered down version of something that's not very good anyway

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    12. And I recommend giving Flipper a second chance. They were fucking geniuses, some of the original trolls in punk.

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    13. Discharge rules by the way fuck critics who said otherwise

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    14. One last thing. Working class is a red herring. I don't think it necessarily means dumb and generic.

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    15. I mean, you are talking to a death-worshiper, so yeah I guess we differ there.

      "Why listen to _____ when there's smarter music?" Sure, if that's what you want then don't listen to deathcore! I'm not saying you SHOULD enjoy With Dead Hands Rising. The impression I get is that you come to extreme music looking for the same kind of enjoyment you'd get from listening to, say, a Velvet Underground album. You are drawn to the intensity, but you're listening more with your brain than your body. That's perfectly possible, and perfectly fine. Listeners like me, though, are ALSO interested in another kind of experience--the visceral rush of pure heaviness and speed, the feeling of wanting to punch through a wall, etc. So for us, deathcore can be compelling if it's well-written. And that's another thing..."smart" isn't just about a band's sound or thematic concerns, it's about how songs are constructed, and there's no reason deathcore can't be smart in that way.

      Which brings me to Korn: why listen to them? Because if you don't, you're missing out on some really well-crafted pop songs and one of the most uniquely unnerving sounds of the 90s. I mean, I never get the feeling "Man i could really use some Korn right now," just as I rarely feel the urge to bump deathcore, but it's definitely not something you should look down on.

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    16. To the last three comments

      1. Listening to something for the lulz is as incomprehensible to me as listening to it for the mosh kicks is to you. Flipper has always struck me as a band that wanted to be like the iconoclastic, "difficult" bands they idolized, but mistook mere unpleasantness for anything genuinely powerful or challenging. They fetishized the superficial scuzz rather than the things that made earlier noisy punk bands worth listening to.

      2. Sure, because in the last five years the tastemakers have decided that Discharge is cool. Honestly, though, a better example from me would've been GBH or Broken Bones--these things are still definitively excluded from the college radio narrative.

      3. No, it's absolutely relevant. I'm not saying you're prejudiced against working-class people or all working-class culture. There will always be working-class music that appeals to bourgeois aesthetic values. The idea that music should be Art, and that Art entails a certain kind of "intelligence"/originality/authenticity, is just a typical assumption of the college-educated middle class connoisseur.

      Maybe open your ears was the wrong word. If it's not what you're looking for, don't listen to it. But try and realize that what you desire in music isn't the sum total of what it can give.

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    17. Anyways... sorry if any of this came off as rude, I'm not good at mincing words. And thanks very much for seeking a real conversation instead of just calling me a "deathcore-loving faggot" or whatever. You've been pretty much the ideal Anonymous, and I hope you keep reading/commenting.

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    18. Man, I don't know college radio from Kerrang from Barney the dinosaur, I just like what I like.

      Anyway, deathcore/Korn shit aside (we come from different galaxies and I think that subject has been exhausted): "for the lulz" is a pretty egregious misunderstanding of Flipper! (Even though I did emphasize they were a bunch of trolls.) The crazy thing is there's nothing but positivity beneath all that negativity and "scuzz"; case in point, the lyrics to stuff like 'Life' and 'Ever'. "Ever see a couple kissing and get sickened by it? ... I have. So what?" And can you really accuse a band that did nursery rhyme covers of having artistic pretensions?

      They were trying to make punk take a good hard look at itself, while maintaining a sort of eerie subtlety and depth that betrayed their "stoner" sense of humor. Their live stuff was like the goddamn apocalypse.

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    19. "No, it's absolutely relevant. I'm not saying you're prejudiced against working-class people or all working-class culture. There will always be working-class music that appeals to bourgeois aesthetic values. The idea that music should be Art, and that Art entails a certain kind of "intelligence"/originality/authenticity, is just a typical assumption of the college-educated middle class connoisseur."

      "Artistic merit"/"working class" is a loaded dichotomy, and I don't place much stake in it. All I'm saying is deathcore to me is like wading unpleasantly through a kiddy pool and getting my ass wet, to put it simply.

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    20. Hah! Deathcore IS undoubtedly a kiddie pool, I'll give you that.

      As far as all that business about class and music history that I (stupidly) introduced, I think it pulls us into territory too complex to explore anymore here. Just to clarify, I certainly wasn't suggesting some rigid dichotomy between Art Rock and Pub Rock, or whatever. Rather, I was suggesting that by looking down on all "tough guy" music you might unintentionally be perpetuating it.

      But whatever, I think I am thread-ed out! I absolutely understand your hatred of deathcore, and generally sympathize.

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    21. As for Flipper:

      I think the 80s are a story of punk taking a good hard look at itself over and over again and growing weaker for it every time... Too much auto-critique, not enough destroy! And doing nursery rhyme covers is totally a part of that, and EXACTLY what a pretentious 80s punk band would do. An attempt to shock with banality, or to "call punk on its bullshit," a pretense to some kind of subversiveness or honesty. That shit's easy.

      Nevertheless, here's where I admit that I don't know what I'm talking about. I've only heard enough Flipper to get REALLY turned off and wonder why people listen to them, so never gone beyond that. That bit about "the positivity hidden under the scuzz" makes me think there might be something going on I didn't hear, and in all fairness I do owe them another listen.

      Ok. Can't type anymore. But nice to make your acquaintance. Here's hoping my next post is something we can agree on.

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    22. Ayup

      And you pretty much got me pegged when you said something about expecting The Velvet Underground in my metal/punk. So yeah.

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    23. Haha I love VU! When I was 15 I was getting into old art-punk and screamo/metalcore at the same time. Television and Thursday... The latter part might explain my tolerance for deathcore.

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    24. Flipper is pretty nice. Funky funky funky.

      I've been listening to THE VELVET UNDERGROUND for almost two decades now. As far as I'm concerned, their first two albums stomp all over almost everything else with both grace and impunity.

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  3. @pavel
    dude, i'd fuck you every day

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    1. thanks! you have good taste.

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    2. here sum more o' dat hawt hawt luvin', hot pants-
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XudCKYsDWcc

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  4. You mention you despise BMTH, but their first album Count Your Blessings pretty much does this exact same style of deathcore, except far superior IMO. They way I see it, it's easily the greatest Gothenburgcore album and one of the pinnacles of deathcore. Check it out if you haven't, it's got great riffs, rockin' solos, thrashy drumming, insane vocals and breakdowns that won't ever leave your head.

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    1. Touche. I'll take you up on that. Not sure it will make me want to beat them up any less, but if it's good maybe it will make want to beat them up while blasting their own music.

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  5. I'm digging this. Speaking of *guilty pleasure melo-death deathcore, you ever hear that last With Passion full length?

    *Precise level of "guilt" being completely subjective, of course

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    1. No, link me to a song i'm lazy

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    2. Wooop, I dropped off the face of the earth for a second. Check THIS SHIT out

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNx8M2PYV9U

      They're kind of in a sweet spot between "pointlessly over-technical" and "ultra catchy melo-death"

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    3. based on your description i was hoping to really like this, but i actually can't get into it. it sounds forced...less like they're doing with the style what always should've been done with it, and more like they're trying desperately to wring more mileage out of it by playing more notes faster. also a lot of the (underlying) riff-forms are pretty familiar... but maybe for latter-day melodeath it really just comes down to whichever particular band does it the way you like.

      sorry to be a bummer!

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    4. It's cool, dude! Truth be told, what songs they have up on youtube kind of forced me into selecting the title track, which is kind clumsily arranged. I found one more, if you're willing to try. This one is more hook-driven than it is weedly weedly. Also there breakdown they fade out on is a complete brainworm.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C909dUVngVg

      Yeah, these do sometimes seem to come down to taste. There are a few Darkest Hour tracks that I secretly have held onto since the mid 2000s

      W.F.

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    5. Yeah this one is more fun! I like the shameless power metal guitars, all that woodly-woodly stuff. it comes off kind of like extreme video game music. and yeah there are some cool hooks... the end breakdown's good, and 4:05 wouldn't sound out of place on an actual extreme metal album (like, Stargazer or early Melechesh or whatever).

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