Hardcore heroes Converge should have the right to rest on their laurels. After putting in years developing their sound in the ’90s and then releasing a string of albums during the last decade that culminated in a shower of critical praise, one might think that the band would rest and take stock of their achievements. Lucky for us, Converge are still hungry. Early this October, they released their latest album, All We Love We Leave Behind, another ferocious burst of the band’s unique blend of punk, metal, and hardcore. We recently caught up with vocalist Jacob Bannon to talk about the economics of creativity, the passage of time, and his surprising fondness for Tina Turner.
OS: The cycles of the moon appear on the album art for All We Love We Leave Behind, and the moon is also the first thing that appears in the Aimless Arrow video. What is the importance of that image for the band?
Jacob Bannon: When Max Moore (director of the video) started work on the piece, I sent him a variety of visuals intended for use in the album, along with the storyline of the song itself. He did a fantastic job at capturing the energy of my work and his interpretation of the lyrical content through his own eyes. The use of the moon in the beginning of the piece is a great example of that. The cycles of the moon represent a passing of time, age, wisdom, but at the same time, an unknowingness of the future and a cloudiness of the past.
After months of defending their new album from leaking to the public, hardcore legends Converge have decided to stream All We love We Leave Behind as a video. The listening experience is accompanied by slowly moving images of vocalist Jacob Bannon‘s vivid and colorful artwork for the release, which changes with each song. The album will be out on Tuesday, October 9th under Epitaph Records and is sure to take the hardcore world by storm.
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With a steady decline in CD sales caused by an even more exponentially consistent incline in downloading, it’s becoming more and more difficult for artists to justify selling their music within physical mediums. The upside, however, is that many indie and DIY bands are using this as inspiration to get more creative, putting the extra effort into their physical products and making something even more unique and valuable for their fans. A classic example is the split release concept. With the recent resurgence of vinyl and reinforced motivation to create a valuable physical product, many bands have teamed up on interesting limited edition projects. Here are some notable split releases from this year and the past few years that are sure to be valuable collectors items: (more…)
Underground hardcore standard-bearers Converge have a new album coming out on October 9th called All We Love We Leave Behind. This time around the guys have gone with a more “structured” approach to song-writing, according to singer Jake Bannon in a recent interview with Decibel magazine. As you’ll hear in the video below, their new song “Aimless Arrow” has more of a verse/chorus structure, and Bannon’s vocals are less distorted than usual. In fact, the annunciation of his lyrics in this song may well be more distinguishable than any other Converge release to date. The production quality might also be described as a bit “cleaner” than previous releases by the band, who are normally known for being more rough around the edges in terms of honest and gritty sound quality. But don’t let these attributes alarm you. This is still the same heavy-hitting, DIY, true-to-self band that we all know and love. After 12 years of unforgiving brutality, the guys in Converge are still finding new ways to wake people up and expose all of the ugly and beautiful truths of the world. There seems to be no sign of stopping for these masters of thrash.
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Though the metal genre has had many landmark years, no year in it’s musical history matches 1990 in terms of legendary and influential record releases. At a time when metal was starting to explore heavier sounds, such as brutal death metal, and bands like Judas Priest were evolving, the incredible album releases across the metal spectrum was an integral part of metal’s evolution. The year was epic in terms of both metal releases across sub genres and overall history.
For the new wave of British heavy metal, Judas Priest released their monster album Painkiller, which is considered to be one of the best metal albums of all time. It’s a considerably heavier sounding album than most Judas Priest material, and certainly heavier than their most famous songs such as “Breaking The Law” and “Hellbent for Leather.” Painkiller is the album in which Rob Halford finds his most sinister place, K.K. Downing finally breaks loose of the cheesier guitar riffs from the earlier days and Scott Travis adds more attitude on the drum kit. A true metal masterpiece.
The thrash world also had an all-time great album released in 1990 courtesy of Megadeth. Rust In Peace is a fairly short album, clocking in at just under forty minutes, but those forty minutes are densely packed with great riff after great riff, and blistering solos to spare. You also can’t forget Dave Mustaine’s incomparable voice, which is at its absolute best here.
That same year saw the debut release of the now legendary Atheist album Piece of Time, as well as Deicide‘s eponymous debut“both of which put a clear stamp on the death metal that would follow them. In a completely separate area of metal, Primus also released their debut album Frizzle Fry, considered by many to be their best album to date.
Splitting the top of the 1990 release charts with the powerful debut releases by Atheist, Deicide and Primus were bands like Pantera and Kreator. Both bands found the perfect formula for their very distinctive thrash styles, each releasing what was the best album of their careers (and still might be). Pantera’s Cowboys From Hell is certainly the band’s best known effort, boasting one of the most distinctive opening riffs in the history of metal. Even Bathory was on board with the year 1990, releasing Hammerheart, an album considered by many to be the first true “Viking Metal” album.
In terms new metal bands, the “class of 1990” list is pretty extensive: At The Gates, Converge, Kyuss, Opeth, Dark Tranquillity, Tool, In Flames, Fear Factory, Lamb of God and more. Many of these bands would go on to be extremely influential in their respective sub genres. In fact, the bands from Gothenburg (At The Gates, Dark Tranquillity, and In Flames) went on to define a scene and sound for Swedish melodic death metal for the two decade to follow.
The year was marred by tragic events, such as Judas Priest being sued when their song “Better By You Better By Me” allegedly prompted a kid to commit suicide (the band won the case) and the attack and ensuing paralysis of Possessed frontman Jeff Becerra. Still, with landmark release after landmark release, 1990 will go down as one of the best years in the world of metal.
Metal as a community”made up of bands and their fans” is a tight-knit population, but that does not mean this happy family is without its schisms. With the somewhat recent rise of deathcore into the mainstream, many death metal and grindcore acts have drawn a line in the sand to separate themselves from this sub genre of metal. The same can be said for metalcore, which at one point in the early 2000s had a major surge within mainstream music and was ostracized by many metal sub genres. You see, if someone isn’t raised in the metal scene, then they may not be able to tell the minor differences between these sub genres. Add to this the large number of bands spilling over and changing sides between sub genres, and you’ve got a recipe for a giant mess.
Grindcore, metalcore, deathcore”they all came from very distinct roots: death metal and hardcore (scenes ultimately born from punk). Death metal is known for its heavy and constant nature, taken to an extreme level. Lots of bands fit this bill and have had the “death metal” label slapped onto them, but the essence of death metal lies in bands like Death, Cannibal Corpse, Obituary, Suffocation and Decapitated. Change anything the classic death metal formula and you’ve probably found yourself wandering into sub genre land”bands like Necrophagist are known as “technical death metal” but to the inexperienced listener are really not much different. For a good example of death metal, you can check out this video for Cannibal Corpse’s “Death Walking Terror”:
Early in the death metal days, grindcore was born”taking the heaviness of death metal bands of the time along with the avant-garde nature of post-rock, the frenetic rhythms and breakdowns of hardcore punk and an extra splash of craziness to create a totally new sub genre of music. The more famous grindcore acts include Napalm Death, Pig Destroyer, Brutal Truth and Agoraphobic Nosebleed. Check out this music video for Brutal Truth’s “Sugar Daddy” to hear a good example of grindcore:
The late 1990s witnessed the next offshoot: metalcore. Though its beginngs lie in early 90s bands like Converge and Zao, its current style was brought about by bands such as Unearth, God Forbid and Shadows Fall. Taking a lot of influence from trash, the metalcore tag may be a bit misleading, as the only real element taken from hardcore is the style of breakdown used. Most of the stylistic choices lie in heavy thrash, and the vocals often feature big melodic lines evident in heavy metal bands like Armored Saint. The most famous example of more modern metalcore is All That Remains‘ “This Calling”:
Soon after metalcore’s rise, deathcore began to brew. Take out the melodic vocals, make the sound a bit heavier and use more extreme breakdowns and you’ve transformed regular metalcore into deathcore. Bands such as The Acacia Strain, Caliban, The Red Chord, Animosity and Job For a Cowboy are known as some of the first true deathcore bands. To get a taste of an archetypal deathcore song, check out The Acacia Strain’s “Angry Mob Justice”:
Nowadays, though, bands are breaking these boundaries. Act such as The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza, Cephalic Carnage, Job For a Cowboy and Brain Drill have completely shattered the mold for these genres. This has been a much needed change for the metal scene since many separate sub-genres began drawing lines in the sand because, really, many of these bands aren’t that different at their core”they’re all just looking to have a good time by making extreme music people want to move to.
If a person is to consider themselves a metalhead, they had best know the roots ” the basics. Be aware of all sub-genres, who dominates them and know the albums that helped shape that sub-genre. For the next few weeks, I’ll be schooling you on some essential metal albums from metal’s biggest sub-genres; making sure you know the biggest and the best in the metal world while giving you some essential albums to add to your metal collection.
This week is one of the more recent metal sub-genres to take over the metal limelight ” Metalcore.
As you likely already know, OurStage is a music discovery platform serving all sorts of great musical artists. Sometimes, though, there are bands that people should know about but, for whatever reason, don’t. Here are five awesome metal bands to put on your radar. They’re not OurStage bands (yet) but could very well be future superstars.
At the end of the year, when all is said and done, 10 top albums is simply not enough to give credit where it’s due. As a supplement to last week’s Top 10 of Metal, I’m giving props to all the other bands who did something right this year. Think of the following lists as the “superlatives” section of your yearbook”but for metal albums.