Being one of the most consistently devastating and innovative hardcore bands on the planet doesn’t come easy. In fact, it requires countless hours of hard work, a highly disciplined work ethic, and a level of stamina that even the youngest punks in the game can’t always muster.
For nearly 20 years, Salem, Massachusetts-based metalcore titan Converge has continually pushed its intense sound to new and progressively head-spinning extremes, hammering out 90-second explosions of speed and energy on one track, while delving into a gut-wrenching mixture of emotion and melody the next. Though expectations are best left wide open when approaching a new album from the group, two things remain constant: it’ll never be half-assed, and it most certainly won’t be boring.
Another year, another torrential downpour of albums across our desks. As always, we encountered way too much amazing music, from Meshuggah to The Mars Volta, Converge, Killer Mike, P.O.S, and many more.
After relaunching for free this summer on the iPad, ALARM Magazine is back in print with more awesome shit. We’re psyched to have the mighty Soundgarden on the cover of our Nov/Dec issue, which includes interviews with and stories on Converge, Refused, Melvins, Dirty Projectors, Bloc Party, P.O.S, Squarepusher, Fang Island, and more.
Oakland sludge trio High on Fire has kept the heavy-metal flame alive and burning for 14 years, having formed following guitarist/singer Matt Pike’s time in doom/stoner group Sleep. And with each new chapter in the band’s scorching legacy, Pike, drummer Des Kensel, and bassist Jeff Matz further challenge what a power trio can do. Somehow, over time, they’ve managed to grow louder, more epic, and even catchier.
The band’s sixth album, De Vermis Mysteriis, in many ways is classic High on Fire. Recorded with Converge’s Kurt Ballou, it balances punishing sludge riffs with epic solos and high-octane tempos. The first half alone is an exercise in ferocity: “Bloody Knuckles” pounds out a hook-laden variation of the band’s classic churn; “Fertile Green” lunges into an ultra-menacing stomp; “Madness of an Architect” taps into its Sabbath-y roots for old-fashioned doom.
Here Kensel speaks about going back to basics, writing in the studio, and “Eureka!” moments.
[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Generation_of_Vipers_Eternal.mp3|titles=Generation of Vipers: “Eternal”]
With a pair of members in US Christmas and one in A Storm of Light, Tennessee trio Generation of Vipers has kept quiet for the past four or five years. But the sludgy post-hardcore three-piece finally self-released its third album, Howl and Filth, last year, and now it gets a proper push and release from Translation Loss.
There’s no actual rule saying that heavy bands have to dilute their heaviness when they indulge in melody — or, for that matter, when they put cutesie My Little Pony-looking dinosaurs on their album covers. For whatever reason, the nerve to attempt either still is rare, as Miami four-piece Torche demonstrates with its third full-length, Harmonicraft.
In just one more trip around the sun, another swarm of immensely talented but under-recognized musicians has harnessed its collective talents and discharged its creations into the void. This list is but one fraction of those dedicated individuals who caught our ears with some serious jams.
Though not a strict departure from previous material, the new album by post-hardcore outfit Young Widows displays a different phase of the band’s career. Calling it a “progression” might apply regressive traits to its first two albums, but In and Out of Youth and Lightness turns down the Cro-Magnon wallop and continues the band’s history of accomplished noise rock.
Its last album, Old Wounds, was a mostly live recording by Kurt Ballou (Converge, Coliseum, Pygmy Lush). In contrast, the new album was produced by the band and Kevin Ratterman (My Morning Jacket) at The Funeral Home in its hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. Guitarist and vocalist Evan Patterson joined us to answer a few questions about the band’s songwriting process and what bands people should check out.
How do you describe your music?
I don’t, but if you were a clerk at a gas station, I would tell you that we are a rock band. That’s as far as I can go.
On the new album, there’s a bit of a weird blues influence — less Jesus Lizard pummel and more of a Liars atmospheric vibe. What did you want to do new or different? What did you want to keep the same?
Music has to progress. There are no specific influences. The goal with this album was to find my voice, and that was wholeheartedly achieved. Lyrically, [they’re] the heaviest and most affective songs that I’ve created. Old blues has that same effect on me. It speaks to me. The bridge between modern rock music and blues is a short one, and it’s inevitable that those characteristics will be riding in the same vehicle to achieve certain goals.
[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Trap-Them-The-Facts.mp3|titles=Trap Them: “The Facts”]
To appreciate Trap Them‘s new album, Darker Handcraft, it helps to start with the Filth Rations EP from 2010. Trap Them has consistently charged its hardcore side into a collision with metal that refuses to get dragged down in grime.
The four songs on Filth Rations give as sure a sign as ever that the band’s craft and tightness can always match its sheer impatience. The third track, “Dead Fathers Wading In The Bodygrounds,” keeps up a gimpy, stumbling trudge as the drums gradually thud harder, and vocalist Ryan McKenney bellows himself up to a pitch that invokes scalding tears and unforgivable injuries. There’s a sense that Trap Them is in a desperate frenzy to repeatedly overload their songs, lest a single McKenney roar or screech of feedback from the guitar go unused. Even the cramped handwriting of the lyrics in the EP’s liner notes looks more like a dozen rows of snaggled teeth than a sequence of words.
In retrospect, it’s as if the band that made Filth Rations was gearing up to achieve a height of directness and focus. Darker Handcraft is a plenty accurate introduction to Trap Them; it once again captures a sonic force that’s both furiously commanding and remains bitterly hurt no matter how feverishly it tries to expiate its demons. This time, though, that force resolutely says, “Look, one fucking thing at a time.”