If spring makes you think of weird time signatures and dissonance, you are not alone. We here at Svbterranean have decided to dedicate the month of March to that little genre known as “mathcore”. Throughout the month, we will be posting about some of our favorite releases that have become affiliated with the genre in our oh so cleverly-named series, March Madness. These are records that we are either personally fond of, or ones that we find significant in some way. Expect to rediscover old favorites or discover something new this month.
Before anyone says anything, we will not be covering The Dillinger Escape Plan’s Calculating Infinity or Botch’s We Are the Romans. That’s not to say these artists won’t make an appearance in this series, but we feel these particular albums are generally regarded as the Holy Books of the genre and it would be too easy to write about them. Even though we do agree they are totally sick.
Please feel free to leave comments telling us your thoughts on the particular record(s), your favorite mathcore releases, or how much our opinions suck. Enjoy.
“What more do you want from me? Some sort of apology? Well I promise that forgiveness is the most you’ll get. And what I demand of you is to put up or shut up. So make your decision, but remember – you can’t kill us all”.
These are the words that Coalesce vocalist Sean Ingram delivers with seething angst during the first moments of their 1998 album, Functioning on Impatience. As Ingram yells into the void, James Dewees’ drumming creeps in and builds anticipation for the oncoming onslaught of lurching guitar riffs and off-kilter rhythmic shifts that would make “You Can’t Kill Us All” one of this Missouri band’s most recognizable tracks.
I do not remember the exact place in time when I first heard this record, but I do remember thinking that it had one of the most visceral openings I had heard. Little did I know, the remaining six tracks would be just as satisfying.
“I got this CD and a few others from a distro bin at a show in high school for like $8 or something, I had seen Coalesce‘s name around but never listened to them. Functioning is record that you never forget where you were and what you were doing the first time you heard it, I was cleaning my room and head banging. I can’t think of a harder opening to a record with Sean’s vocals saying “What more do you want from me?” without music behind them. I’ve never really dissected a piece of music and spoken about it intelligently so I guess i’ll just say the tones and time signatures are fucking sick obviously. I’ve always related to this record lyrically with it’s religious and political themes, the annoyance of helplessness, the ‘there’s nothing I can do or say anymore’ feeling pushing one towards total apathy, which would make this record thematically timeless. Maybe I’m misinterpreting Sean’s words but that’s what I’ve always felt.”
Favorite song: “My Love for Extremes”
-Cameron Miller, vocalist, Seizures
Coalesce make the most out of the 20 minutes they are given on this vicious sophomore effort. After hearing a track like “You Can’t Kill Us All”, I didn’t think it could get any more complex and hard-hitting than that. Of course, the band prove me wrong by delivering songs like “A New Language”, which is wrought with discombobulating groove and gritty, off-time breakdowns. Then the music becomes more chaotic when “My Love for Extremes”, my personal favorite cut, rears its ugly head. Sliding, noisy chords, disfigured guitar riffs and a closing beatdown to end all beatdowns, makes the track one of my favorite Coalesce tunes and one of my favorite mathcore songs in general.
“…where their prior releases, had been instrumentally mindblowing, and gloriously frenetic and angry, I feel like Functioning was the moment where they dialed back the chaos just enough to really focus all that aggression… and they formed it into one fucking body blow and one knockdown headshot after another…”
Favorite song:”You Can’t Kill Us All”
-Jon Lane, drummer, Godmaker
When the album opts to be a bit more frantic, tracks like “On Being a Bastard” and “Measured in Gray” are the results. Here the guitar riffs become more loose, frenetic and dance feverishly up and down the neck. Noisy, piercing harmonics also play a big role on these tracks, turning the abrasiveness of these tunes up to 11.
Then just when I think I’ve got the band figured out, a track like “Reoccurring Ache Of” happens. This two-minute instrumental is an experimental soundscape of warbled voices, ambient noise, discordant piano and intermittent acoustic guitar strums. Placing this strange piece between two of the heavier tracks on the record was an odd, but effective decision. Though not quite as jarring as this noise interlude, but still an interesting moment on the record, is the main riff on “A Disgust for Details”. Here the band employ a wah pedal and palm-muted harmonics to create a parody of groove, before launching into their unique brand of mathematical goodness. It’s even little things such as this that make this record such an engaging listen.
Before learning of this album, and Coalesce‘s existence in general, I had heard The Dillinger Escape Plan. I had heard Botch. But something about the record’s raw, imperfect sound, and the lyrical bitterness, makes it standout from the pack for me and prompts me to keep revisiting it. I would argue that this is Coalesce‘s best work and one of the best records to be labeled “mathcore”.