If you can recall, back in March we did a special month-long series titled March Madness in which we highlighted some of our favorite records in the “mathcore” genre. The series was quite a hit and was fun for those of us involved, so we collectively decided to create a similar series in which we highlight some of our favorite albums of another genre most of us love – metalcore.
Enter Alive or Just Blogging: the metalcore column series with the corny name that will take place throughout the remainder of September. Throughout this month we will share some of our favorite albums that have been labeled “metalcore” in the hopes that you will rediscover old favorites, or find something new. Because mathcore has been labeled a subsidiary of metalcore by many genre enthusiasts that came before us, you may see some overlap between bands featured on March Madness and bands featured on Alive or Just Blogging. But, just go with it will ya?
We hope you enjoy this series and we encourage you to share your thoughts on these albums and how much you think we suck.
Due to my relatively young age and the fact I grew up in a small Texas town that had no music scene and limited internet access, my exposure to what is known as “metalcore” was initially limited to bands like Killswitch Engage, Unearth and so on. I am not knocking these particular acts, but as my tastes gradually began to favor the more dissonant and more complex forms of heavy music, the more melodic and “commercial” metalcore sound began to disinterest me.
Between 2005 and 2010, during the second half of my eighth grade year and my high school days, I really began to discover my love for heavy music and developed my tastes. Somewhere during that span of time I discovered the seedy underbelly of metalcore and its grittier, more aggressive roots. Due to my limited acknowledge of the genre, I was taken aback by the ugliness and chaotic nature of these bands I was discovering for the first time. One of these bands, and one that remains one of my favorites of the scene, was Zao.
Truthfully I could have chosen any one of Zao’s records from Where Blood and Fire Bring Rest onward, but it has always been their fourth full-length record, Liberate Te Ex Inferis, that keeps drawing me back.
The sprawling, moody, Deftones-esque intro track immediately drew me in the first time I heard it because I just knew it was going to build into something that would knock my teeth out. Sure enough, “Savannah” comes stampeding through a wall of noise and “Event Horizon” film samples with an extensive array of dissonant riffs that are as menacing as they are throttling. The track is rife with pulverizing groove and off-kilter breakdowns that are propelled by Dan Weyandt’s infamous vocals that spew lyrical acid that dissolved the flesh of my face when I first heard it. This one particular track still manages to get my blood pumping several years later.
The dynamics and almost Neurosian vibes of songs like “If These Scars Could Speak” and “The Ghost Psalm” brought a whole new dimension to Zao‘s sound, one that would be explored further in the album’s that followed. The Helmet-esque grooves that populate the pummeling “Dark Cold Sound” instantly made the track a favorite of mine, while the venomous, penultimate track, “Kathleen Barbara”, continues to rip me limb from limb. Even the repetitive closing track “Man in Cage Jack Wilson” is so hypnotic and despondent sounding that it is hard to find fault with it.
There is not one dull moment on Liberate Te Ex Inferis to me and it continues to be my favorite Zao recording, and one of my favorite metalcore releases to this date. I could dissect this album piece-by-piece, showcase each and every glorious riff. But, I think it speaks for itself quite well.