I was in college again, and the “whatever-core” mentality was in full effect throughout most of it. One of the things was Christian-core, who had great bands like Zao and helped me discover older bands like Trouble (Psalm 9 rules!) but made me worry about antics like throwing bibles to the crowd (Stryper did this in the 1980’s for you youngins who must know) and being preachy. I have never gone to a core genre, but do have a weird set of morality. An example of this is not wearing clothing of Straight-Edge bands, not out of hate ( I love the Promise, XSECTX, and Champion), but due to the fact I haven’t had edge since I was 17 ( I smoke like a chimney and do like my beers.) I get weary of preaching but keep an open mind, and try to discover new music no matter what it may be.
My friend John D.A. Wolfe had introduced me to Norma Jean in 2002 with their seminal album Bless The Martyr And Kiss The Child. That album rocked, with what was considered at the time witty song titles, heavy riffs, drone admiration, and good song writing, with the only thing kind of killing it for me were some of the lyrics were a bit over the top in their Christianity but not short in their nihilism for how the world, and the human race in general, were seen with contempt. The album was good and well done, if not a little generic.
But then chaos happens and the band lost its singer (He went on to start and then disband The Chariot, whose first album is fucking killer by the way) This may kill lesser bands and create turmoil, with the latter being there a bit, but the band held its own. And they drop this bomb, this goddamn killer of an album that encompasses what happens when a band can overcome what is put in their way and create from the destruction that life gives them. (If you didn’t know, this album is Grammy nominated for the album artwork and design, further cementing the idea that beauty comes from chaos and destruction.)
But back to the album at hand: O God, The Aftermath. This shit was fucking ridiculous when it came out. Their love of Botch had taken their songwriting to a new level (the band even admitted that they wanted to sound like Botch and looked to them for inspiration for this album). This beast stepped up their game ten fold, and while they may be the most well-known to be referenced on this list so far for the kids just finding this music, it set the bar high for the band and for mathcore in general.
The album had odd song titles at the time that were two words put together ( “Murderotica: An Avalanche in D Minor,” Disconnecktie: The Faithful Vampire,” and ” Pretendeavor: In Reference to a Sinking Ship” to name a few.) The riffs were sharp, angry, and all over the place, serrated jagged and angular, with a stop start quality. The drumming was top fucking notch, adding a new layer of awesomeness and creating a disjointed but natural feel. The lyrics worked with it and were intense as all hell, constantly referencing a sinking ship and drowning and the aftermath of it, and how one can always blame something or someone else for their own mistakes and for reactions that can be seen coming (“It’s not a boat, it’s a coffin” or ” Why can’t you brace yourselves?”) and never avoiding it. All these things add up to songwriting, which this album has in spades. There are lyrics you can yell out at all times, parts that get stuck in your head, and not once does it feel out of place. Not once do you question a decision the band made when making this album.
This album presented a benchmark for the genre not just in terms of songwriting and production value (Trust me, it is top notch and well done all around from the art work to the music itself) but also for the band. For a band to weather as much shit and wade through it, to create the beautiful, discordant, jagged beast of an album, and to get the recognition that it did from underground reviewers to the mainstream (COME ON MAN! IT WAS GRAMMY NOMINATED (not that that means jack shit to the scene)), the bar was set high after this. Be forewarned. Be prepared.