There is a place where discordant notes collide in fitful harmonies – where tempos and time signatures shift like windblown sands and tormented howls echo from every shadow. That place, my friends, is The Mathcorner – and together we shall plumb its caliginous depths.
Last time, we took a lengthy look at the enduring influence on mathcore of metallic hardcore legends Converge and Botch. This week, we will be continuing our examination of mathcore’s advent by taking a quick turn through a few more metallic harcdcore bands that helped to construct the mould for the genre. And as an added layer of pointless cohesion, today’s bands all start with the letter ‘C’.
Massachusetts hard rockers Cave In began their career as a bunch of angry-ass hardcore kids. Their debut full-length, Until Your Heart Stops, is a great piece of exciting metallic hardcore, as well as a great piece of evidence for my argument that mathcore is not an offshoot of metalcore, but an evolution of metallic hardcore – much the same as metalcore itself. Listening to Cave In’s early material, one hears aspects that are predominant in both metalcore and mathcore; while these two sets are not mutually exclusive – there are many shared components between the two genres – but they are far from identical. The band’s impact on metalcore is the clearer of the two: the song “Juggernaut” contains a few choice passages that will be familiar even to casual metalcore listeners.
While it is tempting to view Cave In simply as some ghost of metalcore Past, the band has had a noticeable – if harder to pin down – influence on mathcore as well; Until Your Heart Stops has its fair share of off-kilter moments, avoiding the lazy predictability that plagues metalcore’s present. In addition to utilizing the stop-start structures that have become inseparable from mathcore, the band carries a certain penchant for weirdness that would come to pervade the genre. The oddly grunge-tinged goodness of the combination track “Bottom Feeders / Segue 3” makes this point more ably than words.
It takes just a quick listen to Kansas City’s Coalesce to deduce that their music has impacted the development not only of mathcore, but also that of chaotic hardcore and metalcore. Coalesce plays a particularly heavy brand of metallic hardcore, featuring the harshly barked vocals and stop-start riffing that would become commonplace in future mathcore. The breakup-prone band released three full-lengths during the dawn of mathcore, before lapsing back into a lasting hiatus. As many commenters have pointed out (this one included), the early work of Christian metalcore act Norma Jean takes inspiration from the style of the aforementioned Botch; what is less frequently mentioned is that Norma Jean clearly borrowed elements of their sound from Coalesce – and ‘borrowed’ is giving Norma Jean the benefit of the doubt.
Coalesce make dark, dirty music. While metalcore has progressively become less and less abrasive, mathcore has remained a generally aggressive genre. Whereas many of metalcore’s producers and practitioners have adopted an increasingly sterile style – smoothing out the music’s rough edges, both sonically and figuratively – the vast majority of mathcore bands still hew to the gritty template established in the filthy melting pot that was late 90s metallic hardcore – embracing the rough edges as part of the music’s aesthetic quality. Mathcore bands have largely avoided the self-imposed homogeneity that runs rampant in the modern metalcore scene thanks, in part, to the example set by the diverse group of metallic hardcore bands that came before. Coalesce took inspiration from a variety of sources, even going back to hard rock’s heyday by covering “Immigrant Song” by the legendary Led Zeppelin.
Brooklyn’s Candiria is a random grab bag in a genre full of random grab bags. Incorporating elements of hardcore, metal, hip-hop, and electronic music, the band’s style is a unique take on metallic hardcore, sometimes self-described as “urban fusion”. Candiria’s sound is quite strange, often combining rap with screaming and downtuned guitars with hip-hop influenced drum patterns. The band employs a form of experimentation through combination, creating musical juxtapositions that are, at the very least, interesting, if not entirely successful.
For many survivors of the 90′s, the very concept of a rap-metal fusion conjures unpleasant memories of the musical excesses of the decade – including, but not limited to, the horrific reigns of Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park. Somehow, Candiria manage to make this hybridization palatable. Although the rap elements would become more traditional as the band refined its sound, Candiria’s early music features rather novel attempts at blending hip-hop with metallic hardcore. Songs change direction without warning,with rap giving way to screaming and beats giving way to guitar chords. And at times, Candiria is simply a rap group or a hardcore band – and not a bad version of either.
Next time, we’ll wrap up our look at 90s metallic hardcore with a quick examination of a few more bands that have influenced the development of mathcore. Until then, here’s some more weird blending of rap and metal, courtesy of Candiria: