Whilst listening to the new release Hellbent from deathcore veterans Impending Doom (skip to the review by clicking here), I was inspired to look at the overall state of deathcore in the year 2021, which could be one of the most important years in the history of the genre.
Never has there been such a buzz in the scene largely due to the variation of styles within deathcore, bands going in new directions and new figures leading the scene. There had been a view that it has been in decline in recent years largely due to lack of ideas, outright disgusting behaviour from numerous band members in multiple bands and generally an audience outgrowing their tastes. Before we look into why the buzz has returned we need to look in the rearview mirror and see what has brought us to this point.
We can argue all day about the origins of the deathcore and who started what or influenced who, so I think the best place to start is when the scene really exploded and gained notoriety, I would put the year 2006 as the beginning of what we now know as deathcore. Job for a Cowboy released the acclaimed Doom EP in December 2005 and All Shall Perish released Price of Existence in 2006, as did BMTH and their debut Count Your Blessings in October of that year, although BMTH drifted away musically moving towards a more metalcore sound soon after this but were still predominant to the scene.
Soon after, Suicide Silence’s debut record The Cleansing was released which debuted at #94 on the Billboard 200 in 2007. Mitch Lucker and arguably Oli Sykes of Bring Me The Horizon became the faces of the scene for the next few years with the commercial peak of Suicide Silence’s 2nd and 3rd records debuting numbers #32 and #28 on Billboard 200 respectively. A year after the high point came the lowest, Mitch Lucker died in a motorcycle accident at age 28 in 2012. In the same year of his death, BMTH released Sempiternal which marked their complete departure from the deathcore sound from which they had started to drift. The change in sound was not limited to BMTH.
After Mitch passed, Suicide Silence then hired All Shall Perish vocalist Eddie Hermida whose first release was less than two years after, but it just didn’t work as successfully as before. They followed that up with a self-titled record produced by Ross Robinson and the less said about that the better. Job for a Cowboy after their initial breakthrough EP also moved towards a different style more of a death metal sound.
Numerous other bands exploded onto the scene during the late 00’s era with 2008 widely regarded as one of the best for releases in terms of quality with Chelsea Grin, Carnifex and Whitechapel making some of their strongest offerings. Whitechapel specifically did consistently well commercially before their 2014 release Our Endless War reached #10 – The commercial high point of the genre and in many ways, the baton had been handed over to them after the earlier events – newer bands like Fit For An Autopsy and Thy Art Is Murder released some of their strongest material in the early to mid-2010s but sales-wise it was going down but this can be put down to the consumption of music itself, digital streaming and not physical media being as popular with the audience.
Death metal, for example, will usually sell well on physical copies like vinyl largely due to the audience being slightly older than a deathcore fan who wouldn’t normally buy a record. It also helps that death metal was hugely popular around the same time as vinyl was in the late 80s and early 90s if a fan has a copy of a Cannibal Corpse or Carcass record from when it was released 30 years ago they would more than likely buy a new release on vinyl as well. A 16-24-year-old is less likely to buy a copy of the new Thy Art Is Murder record due to not having that nostalgic connection or a collector’s mentality and would more than likely stream the album.
Truth be told, the genre was a victim of its own success, a change in audience tastes and a resistance to change musically (although many will say the quality of the music didn’t decline). In 2019 Whitechapel, the band that took that baton decided to draw a line in the sand and create a defining body of work that changed the landscape as we know it. They released The Valley which not only slowed the tempo of the usually frenetic music but added progressive elements, cleanly sung melodic vocals and some of the most mature songwriting deathcore had seen. The reaction was hugely positive, numerous year-end lists included this record. Non-deathcore fans begrudgingly now admitted this was good, that it felt different and it felt new.
Clean vocals seemingly were now accepted. No breakdown? No problem. The risk had paid off but a risk that would not have been accepted a decade before. Released around the same time was Fit For An Autopsy’s Sea of Tragic Beasts which, whilst I wouldn’t call them clean vocals, does feature a lot more melody in the vocal performance and musically it is far superior to the chugging, pig squeals and suffocating style of the early days.
The quality in production and the attention to detail that went into that record is evident. Which leads nicely into their guitarist Will Putney being a hugely key figure in the scene. The mastermind producer/engineer behind this record and some of the most popular metal records of the last 10 years (Every Time I Die, The Acacia Strain, Thy Art is Murder etc) is not limited to just deathcore and has also worked with Knocked Loose as a producer who would be deemed more of a metallic hardcore band. Their recent EP A Tear in The Fabric Of Life instrumentally at times has elements of deathcore. This kind of crossover success means that there is now an acceptance from the adjacent scenes that deathcore isn’t just a fad and it’s not uncommon to see hardcore or death metal bands on the same bill as a deathcore band.
So. What of that baton? Who holds it now in 2021? Well, this year Whitechapel followed up the critically acclaimed The Valley with a new record entitled Kin. Continuing a similar formula, it features not only another incredibly heartfelt vocal performance but features less deathcore instrumentation which almost feels like Whitechapel transitioning to a new chapter musically and outgrowing the scene. It’s not just fans who outgrow their tastes but bands too. So who will lead us into the new generation of deathcore?
Earlier we gauged success on Billboard numbers and sales. This is 2021 and as mentioned we don’t digest music the same way we did even 10 years ago. Now it’s all streaming services, Social media and viral sensations. Enter stage right Lorna Shore, an NJ based band who play a blackened style of deathcore and have been around for a number of years with various line-up changes, seemed to have stumbled upon their perfect line-up with the introduction of vocalist Will Ramos (made the permanent vocalist after touring with the band) who replaced CJ McCreery who was fired for being an abhorrent asshole (which unfortunately isn’t a one-off the scene) and who is plagued with various accounts of abuse by band members to women and in some cases men. These behaviours need to be called out and need to be stopped. Personally, I can only give praise to all victims for coming forward and telling the truth. We need more awareness of the subject and the industry as a whole to do much more and help stamp out these atrocities.
Five months ago, Lorna Shore debuted their first music video with Will Ramos entitled “To The Hellfire”, a song that not only showcases the vocal talents and range of Ramos abilities but gives you an indication of the whole band and just how damn tight they are. The song has crushing breakdowns, a melodic solo and ends with Ramos inducing feral like screams akin to demonic possession.
At the time of writing, the song has 5.7 million views on YouTube.
To put that in perspective a Cannibal Corpse music video released 3 months earlier only has 850k views – for such extreme music, this is unheard of. Not only does the song have this many views on YouTube it has over 10 million streams on Spotify.
You would be forgiven for thinking this is an anomaly – a fluke if you will. Slaughter to Prevail has finally entered the chat. Russia has long been, for better or worse, the land of extremes. Extreme music however has largely been hidden from view. That was until Alex Terrible decided to create a YouTube channel showcasing his incredible vocal prowess. He released covers of many popular songs of numerous genres in a very distinctive deathcore style, but it wasn’t until 2019 that his band Slaughter to Prevail really caught fire with their song Demolisher – a fast-paced, riff-heavy brutally catchy song with multiple breakdowns and towards the end features a vocal turn which, similar to Ramos, feels demonic and not of this world. Released one year ago the video on YouTube currently has 12 million views.
They followed up that success with the release of the album Kostolom which was heavily influenced by nu-metal. It featured multiple tracks which all have 2 million-plus streams on Spotify and the record debuted at #4 on iTunes. It is worth noting in terms of YouTube numbers and Deathcore – of the top 10 most viewed deathcore music videos Suicide Silence make up 7 of those. The Mitch Lucker legacy certainly lives on and remains strong.
2021 was also a hugely successful year for Brand of Sacrifice who released Lifeblood – a futuristic chaotic style of glitchy deathcore. Similarly, DARKO US, fronted by Tom Barber (Chelsea Grin) also released their debut full-length which also contained electronics, samples and crushing breakdowns. DARKO US also toy with clean vocals and featured Courtney LaPlante of the Spiritbox fame who, whilst not deathcore, also had a breakout year with the hugely successful Djent/Metalcore Eternal Blue.
Which leads us to the future and what is next. Lorna Shore will embark (pandemic permitting) on a worldwide tour and release their highly anticipated full-length release with Ramos at the helm. January 14th aka “Deathcore Day” sees the release of new material by Enterprise Earth, Shadow of Intent, Worm Shepherd and Fit For an Autopsy. Striking while the iron is hot can only give more attention and exposure to the genre.
I also expect releases at some point from Oceano, Chelsea Grin, Thy Art is Murder and my personal favourites Black Tongue at some point in the year. Clean or melodic vocals as mentioned are seemingly now being accepted with the Enterprise Earth also incorporating this into their music on their new release.
Across the globe we are seeing bands now as key figures and the future of the genre Mental Cruelty (Germany) Distant (Netherlands) Deviloof, Dexcore (Japan) all keeping the scene relevant and thriving in all four corners of the Earth. All of these bands have a distinctive style and sound which makes deathcore almost an umbrella term now for the various sounds within it. From nu-metal/djent influences to blackened or symphonic elements and the ever-present downtempo slower style popularised by The Acacia Strain, 2022 promises to be a very good year for Deathcore and I for one am hugely excited about what some of the veterans of the scene are going to be releasing and what direction they will move in.
As for Impending Doom their latest release, Hellbent, was originally scheduled for a Deathcore Day release. The band clearly couldn’t wait to launch an EP on the same day as everyone else and released it digitally in late October. Hellbent is five tracks of traditional sounding downtempo chugging deathcore but with elements of nu-metal thrown in: opener Satanic Panic has a chorus and riff which are incredibly catchy. The EP hasn’t gone completely down the nu path though, as we have some insanely brutal breakdowns in the track Culture of Death. Its heavy as hell guitar riffs are a highlight, but the track does have the isolated whispery type vocals in the verses which was very prevalent in nu-metal and for me is a turn-off. The brief 20-minute run time is scattered with various tropes of both genres – it’s an enjoyable listen and really captures the state of the current scene in a snapshot.
Impending Doom’s Hellbent will be released physically by MNRK Heavy on Friday 14th January. You can buy it here.