Metal and hardcore to keep an ear out for
Y’know the kind of music that makes you feel scared when you hear it? The kind of music bad guys in movies listen to? Well, that’s what I like: metal, hardcore, etc. – extreme music. And I feel lucky, because 2023 is shaping up to be a big year in extreme music. Since I want you to feel lucky too, here are some notable recent and upcoming metal and hardcore releases to keep an ear out for.
Before getting into this year’s releases, I think it’s worth surveying a few of 2022’s most noteworthy records (according to me). The first two albums that come to my mind when I think about 2022 are Spite’s Dedication to Flesh and I AM’s Eternal Steel. Spite are bringing fresh and exciting energy to deathcore, and that’s never been more true than it is on Dedication to Flesh. Songs like “Caved In” and the titular “Dedication to Flesh” still have me coming back and will for a while to come.
Countering Spite’s deathcore is I AM’s nod-inducing trash metal on Eternal Steel. The only way to describe this album is to say it’s all riffs. You’ll be drowning in riffs. But you’ll headbang as you drown to I AM’s earworm guitar work and rolling drums. Their metalcore influences and guttural vocals give them a newer sound, but the sheer thrash of everything else is sure to keep even seasoned metalheads interested. If Spite’s “Made to Please” isn’t my favourite song of last year, then it’s I AM’s “Surrender to the Blade.”
Some other albums I liked in 2022 are Undeath’s It’s Time…To Rise from the Grave, Watain’s The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain, Conjurer’s Páthos, END and Cult Leader’s split EP Gather & Mourn, Immolation’s Acts of God, Volcano’s Fool 2 Tha Game, Labyrinth of Stars’ Spectrum Xenomorph, Darko US’s Oni and DethMask Pt. 2, Mongrel’s Off the Leash, High Command’s Eclipse of the Dual Moons, and Gates to Hell’s Gates to Hell.
Time for 2023. I’ll start with full releases, then move on to singles from albums set to release later in the year. Starting off the year, Scalp released their Black Tar EP on January 13. This is a furious hardcore/grindcore record with serious attitude and big riffs elevated by palpably abrasive production. It sounds like the band was deep-fried in tears. Scalp put forth freezing desperation on Black Tar; look no further than song titles like “Endless Relapse” and “Diabetic Necrosis” to get an idea of what to expect from this beefy gem.
Speaking of high-octane hardcore, Year of the Knife’s short but sweet Dust to Dust EP dropped February 2. At only 3 songs, Year of the Knife do more than necessary to squeeze every bit of down-tuned, raspy-voiced fury into this little package. The whirling layered vocal production toward the end of “Ctrl+C” signifying one’s voice being lost in a crowd of copies left a memorable (and catchy) impression.
Hardcore band Judiciary dropped their highly anticipated second album Flesh + Blood on March 10. This album is so hard, it’s what diamonds want to be when they grow up. Flesh + Blood is one catchy, aggressive riff after another. Songs like “Knife in the Dirt” and “Blood” will remain in my daily Spotify rotation for a while to come.
Following hot on their heels are two records released March 17: Scarab’s Scarab EP and Kruelty’s Untopia. Scarab have seemingly exploded onto the scene with a four-song, seven-minute EP of pressurized mayhem. Like Scalp, Scarab has attitude and aggression. Meanwhile, Kruelty offers cold deathy hardcore from Japan. They hit my radar in January with the single “Burn the System,” and I anticipated the album since. Untopia is downtuned hardcore punk covered in encrusted distortion with rare moments of bliss.
Finally, as of writing this, the most recent notable release was legendary Finnish grindcore unit Rotten Sound’s Apocalypse on March 31. With 18 songs and a runtime of 20 minutes, Apocalypse crushes one blast-beaten political lyric after another.
Those albums are all great, but so far this year the most exciting music has been singles from upcoming albums; specifically, singles from two bands, the first of which is Jesus Piece. Mixing hardcore and its hip-hop influences with crushing industrial distortion and low guttural vocals, Jesus Piece have just one album – Only Self, released in 2018 – so their new material has been highly anticipated.
They’ve dropped four songs from their upcoming album, …So Unknown, and each one are among my favourite music in recent memory. “An Offering to the Night” and “Tunnel Vision” are easily some of the best bops in extreme music to come out in recent years, and “Gates of Horn” and “Silver Lining” further showcase how unique and captivating Jesus Piece are. They really explore the possibilities of how distorted electric guitar can be used in musical ways beyond conventional playstyles. Jesus Piece really feel like new music; not just recent, but something original and, well, unknown. …So Unknown releases everywhere April 14.
The second band whose singles have me truly trembling with anticipation are Cattle Decapitation. Their name, which you might scoff at, represents the brutality of the slaughter industry. They’ve always been about animal rights and environmental and political issues. Their previous album, Death Atlas, eerily predicted COVID. Released November 29, 2019, songs like “Bring Back the Plague” with lyrics about a culling virus that humanity deserves feel prophetic in retrospect.
Cattle Decapitation have stated they intend their upcoming album, Terrasite, to be a musical rebirth, while still building upon the concepts introduced in Death Atlas. “We Eat Our Young,” the first single released from Terrasite, blew me away when I first heard it. Music can’t get much higher bitrate than Cattle Decapitation before it literally becomes noise. The band’s unbelievable musicianship makes them one of the few metal acts that I think can still successfully push the envelope of how extreme music can be. Terrasite drops May 12, so start getting your ears ready now. If you still aren’t curious, look up the album art.
Lastly, Winnipeg-based noise rock band KEN mode seem to be following up last year’s album, Null, with even more new material. “Painless,” released March 10, features the band’s signature weirdness with strange lyrics, frantic rhythms, and what sounds like a dissonant distorted violin at one point. No word yet if this signifies an EP or LP, so be sure to keep an eye peeled for new KEN mode.
If 2023 keeps up its pace, a lot of excellent extreme music is on its way. In the meantime, here are some listening suggestions depending on your taste: for those of you looking for some real dumb person music, I’ve been entertaining my inner caveman with Snuffed on Sight, BodyBox, 200 Stab Wounds, and Volcano. For the giga-brain punks out there, I recommend Jesus Piece, Boundaries, Chamber, ORTHODOX, and Distinguisher. And finally, for the average metal enjoyer, check out Undeath, High Command, and I AM.