'Fake History,' 'Danger Days,' 'White Crosses,' Diamond Eyes,' Long Live,' 'The Fire,' American Slang' & more!
The Chariot - 'Long Live'
The Chariot wielded weapons-grade feedback, jarring edits, and volatile math-core on ‘Long Live‘ to a disorientating degree, more so than 'Wars And Rumours Of Wars' (2009) and 'The Fiancee' (2007) had mustered up previously. Recorded live with a few extra overdubs, this was an aural assault of passion, spirituality, and humanity. This was a hymn for believers and non-believers alike, all bathed in harsh screams and discordant riffs. The Chariot’s fourth (and arguably best) record sounds like copping a blood-stained guitar-spin to the head. This was sweaty, red-faced emotion displayed across all ten songs; from fan-fave opener 'Evan Perks,' through the double-whammy of 'The Audience' and 'The City,' right past the short-lived chaos of 'The Heavens,' up to the horns and marching snare-rudiment breaks of closer 'The King.' Long Live The Chariot.
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Against Me! - 'White Crosses'
Produced by the Butch Vig, and mixed by Alan Moulder (Nine Inch Nails, Foals, The Killers), 'White Crosses' was a watershed moment for Against Me!, remaining one of their commercially biggest and most well received records, next to the fan-lauded 'New Wave' (2007) and the immensely personal follow-up, 'Transgender Dysphoria Blues' (2014). Front to back, 'White Crosses' is the best kind of modern day punk rock gold, finding a sweet spot between their authentic punk music roots and a bigger, radio-primed melodic rock sound with hooks galore. Mixing Laura Jane Grace's heartfelt personal stories (the yearning and loneliness in 'Ache With Me') and the band's leftist politics (the pro-choice origins of the titular song), there's so much soul and commentary held within the wall-smashing ten tracks of this powerhouse release. At the time in 2010, fans and music writers ruminated that this was one of the greatest Against Me! work yet. You could just feel it in your bones from simply listening. I certainly could at the time. Now, ten years later, that all still holds true: 'White Crosses' is Against Me!'s best album.
Lantlôs - '.neon'
Before Deafheaven widely popularised modern post-black-metal and shoegaze sounds with their break-through 'Sunbather' LP(2013), there was Germany's Lantlôs and their isolating, mesmerizing and abstract second record, '.neon.' I'll cut to the chase: if you have even the slightest interest in contemporary black metal or shoegaze, you owe it to yourself to hear this album. I can't put it any simpler, or even any better, that that. In six beautiful songs, at a runtime of almost 40 minutes, Lantlôs captured a sense of wonder, hopelessness, desperation and fear than practically any other band has done before in since in this particular microcosm of black metal. It's not an album, it's art.
Stick To Your Guns - 'The Hope Division'
The finest Stick To Your Guns LP next to 'Diamond' (2012), 'The Hope Division' is a burly, heavy-hitting release when it needs to be, a thoughtful and compassionate listen when it's called for. Off the back of 'Amber,' this motivator severely elevated STYG's profile. With two decent mosh albums under their belts already - 'For What It's Worth' (2005) and 'Comes From The Heart' (2008) - 'The Hope Division' was big leap forward for their production, songwriting, and message. Very few other modern records in the genre have captured hardcore's political and communal vibe as well as STYG did here. It's talking-points about philosophy and mental health, the pitfalls of consumerism, and bringing awareness to how Eastern and Western values are intrinsically linked via the tendrils of capitalism have never been more relevant. All with some of the sickest songs that the Orange County group and frontman Jesse Barnett have ever concocted: 'Faith In The Untamed,' 'Wolves At The Door', 'Life Through Western Eyes', '3/60' and 'Some Kind Of Hope.' Mosh local, act global.
Linkin Park - 'A Thousand Suns'
'A Thousand Suns' was the best, most suitable follow-up to the stunning 'Minutes To Midnight' (2007), seeing Linkin Park further spread their sonic wings even further on their experimental, eclectic fourth album. The chilling, ominous electro rock of 'The Catalyst'; the touching melodic respite of 'Iridescent'; the feel-good, upbeat hip-hop rap jam of 'Waiting For The End'; the over-distorted, groovy political rap-metal of 'Wretches & Kings'; the heart-breaking acoustic closer from Chester Bennington, 'The Messenger' - there's so much variety to love and appreciate on this bold record. Linkin Park always did their own thing, even if it pissed people off, and are a far deeper, far more creative band than many naysayers will ever give them credit for, solely because those people didn't like nu-metal. Well, this wasn't nu-metal, but it was damned good! For the tenth anniversary of 'A Thousand Suns,' watch the behind-the-scenes DVD that LP recently made available online.
A Day To Remember - 'What Separates Me From You'
'What Separates Me From You' was a consistent, faithful follow-up to the album that's since defined A Day To Remember and their history - 'Homesick.' This 2010 album remains one of their darkest, heaviest and most spiteful records, whilst still finding time to be one of the most well-balanced iterations of their pop-punk-meets-hardcore shtick. 'All I Want' and 'All Signs Point To Lauderdale' are two of their biggest pop-punk numbers that still get huge live set mentions now; they're hook city. On the other side, 'You'll Be Tails, I'll Be Sonic' and '2nd Sucks' are two of the meanest, heaviest songs in the band's catalogue; they're mosh-pit anthems to live or die by. Then there are the swell deep cuts like the infectious 'Better Off This Way' and the sublime 'This Is The House That Doubt Built.' And the hateful, waste-no-time opener of 'Sticks & Bricks' is a great crossroads of everything else that this LP offers. 'What Separates Me From You' is a satisfying, neatly-packaged record for ADTR's sound, keeping the cheesy easycore elements to a bare minimum. A decade later, it's still a real blast. (Though bassist Josh Woodward can get in the bin for his alleged sexual misconduct; here's his statement.)
My Chemical Romance - 'Danger Days'
A bright, colourful concept LP about heroic outlaws, The Killjoys, resisting an all-controlling, over-bearing mega-corporation, MCR’s highly-anticipated follow-up to ‘The Black Parade' could not have been more of a 180-degree tonal shift. Yet it wasn’t lesser for doing so. One could only dream to recreate such a huge album as their 2006 smash hit, so why bother rehashing it? And not bothering with those safe expectations MCR did! With vibrant synthesizers, disco beats, slick choruses, and a prevailing mindset for dirty rock riffs, ‘Danger Days‘ is banger central. ‘Destroya,’ ‘Planetary (Go!),’ ‘The Kids From Yesterday,’ ‘S/C/A/R/E/C/R/O/W,’ and ‘Na Na Na‘ made it a maximalist pop-rock release. It was MCR not being restricted by preconceptions, doing whatever the fuck they wanted to do with their art. This renegade rock record is as hooky, as charming, and as damned fun as it was when it first dropped back in November 2010. 'Danger Days' isn't perfect - the horribly corny and repetitive 'Sing' isn't a highlight, neither then or now - but it's still an incredibly well-written, daring release for a band that so many people shallowly pigeonholed off the back of two hugely successful alt-rock records.
Letlive. - 'Fake History'
Letlive. clearly took influences from Glassjaw, Refused, and At The Drive-In, but injected those inspirations with such vigor that they crafted one of the finest post-hardcore records of the last decade. A brilliantly creative, freeing, and uncertain release that wasn’t afraid to pull from other genres in subtle ways in order to make a new breed of rock that was sorely needed. Hell, it still is, and the recently released demo version is an interesting, Twilight Zone-esque look at what once was and what could've been. The not-so-secret weapon of ‘Fake History‘ was Jason Butler. The charismatic performances that he cut for this whirlwind LP covered soulful singing, breathy transitions, chest-bursting growls, ecstatic shrieks, some rapping, and even a hint of spoken word. Jason delivered clever political commentary, raw anecdotal sentiments, and switched pitches and styles at the drop of a hat. All in an arresting manner that was damned hard not to fall in love with such character. Yet it’s not just the vocals that make ‘Fake History‘ such an impressive body of work. As it’s how the band kept the process and production simple: what you heard, what you saw, was what you recieved. Vocals, drums, bass, and guitars all played with killer chemistry, putting art first ahead of everything else.
Senses Fail - 'The Fire'
'The Fire' isn't the first or most recent Senses Fail record. It's not the band's weakest release, nor is it their best album. Their fourth LP is the black sheep of their career, sitting in an over-looked zone despite the quality hooks and awesome songwriting it holds close. In hindsight, 'The Fire' heralds the stellar shifts in direction Buddy and his band of merry men embarked on with 'Renacer' (2013) and 'Pull The Thorns From Your Heart' (2015); two incredible records that, tragically, remain as the strongest material from Senses Fail, but are often discarded in lieu of a 2004 throwback. Just look at the track-listing here: 'New Year's Eve,' 'Safe House,' 'Saint Anthony,' 'Landslide,' 'Headed West,' 'Hold On' - pure fucking gold!
'The Fire' is about torching what you love, immolating yourself in cleansing flames, and birthing it anew like a Phoenix. It's a brutally personal record about a man spilling his guts, self-reflecting on the person he was, the person he is, and the man he wishes to be. Changing yourself instead of simply changing scenery ('Headed West'), defeating toxic vices ('Nero'), finding time for yourself and developing better ways to cope ('Safe House'), slowing down and living for the now before your life passes by ('Landslide'), coming to terms with family issues ('Coward'), dealing with alcoholism ('Irish Eyes'), forgiving in order to move on and let go ('Hold On') situates 'The Fire' as a force of therapeutic thematic consistency and unrelenting honesty. All as Buddy proves throughout why he's one of most clever lyricists in this whole forsaken scene of alt-rock, pop-punk and post-hardcore, with a menagerie of thoughtful metaphors and anecdotes strikingly implemented.
This wasn't the first Senses Fail album I heard (that honour falls to 'Still Searching'), but 'The Fire' is the one Senses Fail record that I emotionally and mentally resonate with the most, with a possible exception of 'Pull The Thorns From Your Heart' depending on the day. It's certainly a one-note record but I have such a soft spot for it. 'The Fire' spoke to me at 15, and it still does at 25.
The Ghost Inside - 'Returners'
In 2008, The Ghost Inside dropped 'Fury Of The Fallen Ones'; a fast and furious hardcore record that was all kinds of angry and mosh-ready. Then in 2010, TGI basically did themselves one better by pushing everything that their debut did up another notch. Frankly, there is so much good 2010 core shit to be found on 'Returners.' So many TGI staples came out swinging from this bad boy: 'Between The Lines,' 'Unspoken,' 'Chrono,' 'Greater Distance,' and the horribly over-looked 'Overlooked.' (That irony is just astounding.) This Shane Frisby produced, chest-beating, and passionate hardcore release is still as heartfelt, bludgeoning, and as exciting as it was ten years ago. It robustly stood the test of the time, remaining as a cornerstone moment for TGI's career. 2010 mosh breakdowns? Cool! Calling your tour bus driver the N-word? Not cool!
Underoath - 'Ø (Disambiguation)'
'Ø (Disambiguation)' is an ill-forgotten record of Underoath's. Notably the band's first album without drummer/singer Aaron Gillespie - ex-Norma Jean drummer Daniel Davidson did a great job filling those shoes - it didn't have the legacy or build-up of 2018's 'Erase Me,' and it wasn't a record from what's considered their glorious trilogy of 'They're Only Chasing Safety' (2004), 'Define The Great Line' (2006) and 'Lost In The Sound Of Separation' (2008). But I'm here to step up to the plate and go into bat for this excellent yet underrated Underoath record. A record that, for my money, should replace their 2004 break-through LP instead in that aforementioned trilogy. Not because 'They're Only Chasing Safety' is bad, just that 'Disambiguation' is the better, more interesting listening experience.
Underoath took a lot of risks with 'Disambiguation,' risks that paid off. For one, Spencer Chamberlain fully embraced the frontman role by doing all of the screaming and singing. In that transition, the frontman delivered and it's impacted how the band now performs new and old songs alike. This was the closest Underoath had ever sounded to their genre pals in Norma Jean, though that wasn't at all a bad thing. This record required multiple listens, and wasn't just a flash-in-the-pan Myspace release. On top of that, the group's clear personal growth and musical evolution was pushed to the forefront. So much so that when compared to their youthful poppy-post-hardcore days of 'Chasing Safety,' it's a staggering differnece. Then there are the songs. My good god, these songs! The brutal as fuck 'A Divine Eradication' and the apocalyptic-sounding 'Paper Lung' could both level cities. And the sublime opener 'In Division,' or the surreal 'Catch Myself Catching Myself' displayed that Underoath were onto something deeper and more cerebral. Why this album isn't more loved, I shall never understand.
The Dillinger Escape Plan - 'Option Paralysis'
Sandwiched between 2007's startling 'Ire Works' (2007) and personal favourite 'One Of Us Is The Killer' (2013) resides one of the strongest Dillinger Escape Plan offerings: 'Option Paralysis.' Released on the band's imprint label, Party Smasher, the first record of theirs to feature multi-limbed madman drummer, Billy Rymer, and littered with lethal deep cuts like 'Good Neighbour,' 'Chinese Whispers,' and 'Gold Teeth on a Bum,' 'Option Paralysis' was yet another confirmation that TDEP were one of the best bands going. Not just in metal and math-core, but just in general. A "musician's band" and a chaotic hardcore kids favourite group all at once. Acting as a kind of lyrical and musical free-association delivery - like a continual stream of jazzy, progressive mathcore consciousness - 'Option Paralysis' is mostly bewildering and overwhelming. Which was the whole damn point. If the band felt there was a cultural depression happening at the time with the advent of the internet and technology, then they most certainly captured the dissonance and jarring noise of society with these scolding tracks.
Four Year Strong - 'Enemy Of The World'
At that point in their lifespan as a band, 'Enemy Of The World' was a record that was almost too good, too big in sound, too massive in energy, for Four Year Strong. But a lesser band would've crumbled and failed in making an album as confident and polished as this. Following up the beloved intersection of pop-punk and melodic hardcore that was 'Rise Or Die Trying' (2017), FYS decided to go big or go home. And, well, they haven't come back home yet from this truly unforgettable bad boy. Loaded with weapons-grade choruses and hooks, more riffs than most metal bands could muster up, pop-culture references as song titles. a larger-than-life production and mix by Will Putney, and the finest songs the band have ever written ('On A Saturday,' 'Paul Revere's Midnight Ride,' 'What The Hell Is A Gigawatt'), 'Enemy Of The World' was and is a golden touchstone not just for the band who crafted it, but for any of the bands around that time falling under the banners of pop-punk and 'easycore.' Don't look down.
The Amity Affliction - 'Youngbloods'
Seems like forever since The Amity Affliction have put out a genuinely good album. People confuse me not liking the last few Amity albums as me hating the band entirely, which is untrue. As 'Youngbloods' (and as a matter of fact, 'Chasing Ghosts' as well) still rank highly. 'Youngbloods' is very much a time and place record, indicative of the polished, synth-heavy era of metalcore it was released in. An album so solid that its creators copied it three times over; a record that netted the band their first ARIA nomination too. While the ARIA's mean little of value these days, it was quite noteworthy back in 2010 for the band. (Only losing out to Parkway Drive's 'Deep Blue.')
The metalcore brutality of 'Fire Or Knife' is still well-written and menacing, the heart and soul of 'H.M.A.S. Lookback' remains fully intact, and 'I Hate Hartley' is still the band's best opening track of any record they've released. The hook-laden and upbeat fun of 'Anchors' kickstarted the anchor and nautical memes that have plagued this band's comment sections for the better part of ten years. Oh, and the album's titular track is the closest thing that Amity have ever had to a bonafide anthem. Then there's deep cuts of the album's solid second-half, like 'Olde English 800,' 'Dr. Thunder,' and 'No Sleep 'Till Brisbane.' On top of that, you could still clearly hear the character in Ahren's vocals on this record, that while tuned, where nowhere near as over-produced as they are on recent Amity releases. This was a simpler, better time for Amity.
Bring Me The Horizon - 'There Is A Hell, Believe Me I've Seen It. There Is A Heaven, Let's Keep It A Secret.'
‘There Is A Hell, Believe Me I’ve Seen It. There Is A Heaven, Let’s Keep It A Secret.‘ is the greatest BMTH album. It’s a pinnacle of their career and vision. This was back when Oli could scream and have it feel so palpable. There’s Lee Malia’s hectic drop A chugs and awesome riffs pushing everything forward, and the breakdowns are instantly gratifying, aided by Matt Nicholls’s air-tight drum performances. Then there’s how well the band’s subtle atmospheric, electronic and melodic tendencies were expertly expanded upon; growing bolder, creating bigger arrangements. Along with Oli wearing his heart full on his sleeve vocally and lyrically, all of this created a perfect storm that saw the band write their best work. And the rest was history.
Returning to work with Fredrik Nordström and Henrik Udd again lends the album an incredibly polished sound; one that holds up now. It’s mix never feels too artificial or derivative. Musically, the album is exceptionally consistent, right down to the cleaner, sparse guitar figures that drift their ways into most songs. Even the sample-heavy, keyboard instrumental of ‘Memorial‘ is neither disposable or superfluous; slotting into the record’s final moments beautifully. Even at the album’s “weakest”, like ‘Blacklist‘ and ‘Home Sweet Hole‘, things were still fucking killer. This was BMTH proving themselves, a big chip on their collective shoulders they’d carry onto the grand ‘Sempiternal‘ era as well. This was the crossroads between the metal underground the band had conquered and the mainstream world they were about to trail-blaze right through. Turns out, it never did end.
Rolo Tomassi - 'Cosmology'
Math-rock, jazz, post-hardcore, prog, post-rock, electronica, and '90s chiptune music experimentally collided on a creative planetary level with Rolo Tomassi's second LP, 'Cosmology.' Following on from 2008's 'Hysterics,' 'Cosmology' was bigger, better, and weirder. If 2018's 'Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It' is the band's perfect highpoint, than this sophomore was perhaps the most important moment of their careers. I genuinely don't think they would be were they are today without this enigmatic epic. Produced by Diplo (yes, that Diplo), 'Cosmology' cemented the fact that this then-young U.K, group was something very special. I don't think there's any two better examples of this than the mosh-abled, jarring transitions of the cheekily chaotic 'Party Wounds' or the atom-splitting dynamics of the shimmering, atmospheric title song. Rolo were always leagues ahead of their peers, showing vision and chops beyond their years. 'Cosmology' was living breathing proof of that talent.
Daughters - 'Daughters'
Between Canada's Daughters being an underground grinding-hardcore darling in the early 2000's and finding critical acclaim in 2018 with 'You Won't Get What You Want,' there was 2010's self-titled LP. Not quite the blistering hardcore of their early works, not quite the terrifying soundscape of their most recent LP, Daughters' eponymous release is in its own lane. There's a strong argument to be made that this was and still is their most "accessible" effort, what with it not being as heavy and intense as earlier records nor as experimental or off-putting as their 2018 magnum opus. Yet 'Daughters' being in that middle-ground between the group's extremes makes it stand out on its own. It has its own personality in many ways.
It's also just a sick, Southern-flavoured noise-rock album, quite frankly. Nicholas Sadler's stabbing dissonant riffs slice and dice everywhere, Alexis Marshall sings and yells in a husky Southern drawl, Jon Syverson's cymbals wash-out harshly over his sporadic drum playing, and with a raw and lively atmosphere pervading the record, these eight songs just leap out of the speakers. Produced by Keith Souza and Sadler, this is one of Daughters' most straightforward and polished sounding records overall. As essential as anything else they've done.
The Gaslight Anthem - 'American Slang'
The sheer levels of personality, lyrical heart, singing hooks and swaggering charm of what was already know about The Gaslight Anthem courtesy of 'Sink Or Swim' (2006) and the break-through of 'The '59 Sound' (2008) returned in droves for their soul-warming third LP. 'American Slang' is like a top-shelf whiskey in an old New York dive bar, pulled out on the Friday's to help warm weary souls and drown out their weekly blues. 'Stay Lucky' and 'Orphans' had working-collar punk rock blood pumping through their veins, whereas forlorn and delicate tracks like 'The Queen of Lower Chelsea' and 'The Diamond Church Street Choir' saw Brian Fallon and co. painting vividly mundane and daily images of people just getting by; lonely, half-broke, lovesick and trying to get through the day. Many bands have aimed for this exact kind of authentic, vintage, and bluesy rock and roll, but few replicated it and nailed it as well as The Gaslight Anthem did on 'American Slang.'
Parkway Drive - 'Deep Blue'
After working with Adam Dutkiewicz for 'Killing With A Smile' and 'Horizons,' Parkway Drive wanted something rawer, something less "mechanical" sounding. So, they teamed up with producer and engineer, Joe Barresi, widely known for working closely with Tool, Queens of the Stone Age, Coheed and Cambria, Bad Religion, Avenged Sevenfold and Slipknot, among many others. And thus, 'Deep Blue' was born: a dark and dense metalcore record that was more in-tune with how the band sounded live and the energy they off set on-stage. Three years after 'Horizons,' Parkway put forward one of the best sequel records a band could write after dropping such a landmark album for Australian heavy music.
This was the Byron Bay legends proving themselves as artists and musicians, no longer being able to fall back on Killswitch Engage's guitarist to write or even play certain parts. They were on their own, swimming out at sea in the deep uncertain blue, so it was time to put up or shut up. The result? Some of the band's finest songs: 'Unrest,' 'Sleepwalker,' 'Deliver Me,' 'Karma' (a speedy banger they still play live) and the sing-along anthem of 'Home Is For The Heartless.' A spiritual, philosophical and political record about our depressive modern lives, over-wrought cities, ruling bodies, what we value, and feeling lost like floating debris, 'Deep Blue' had something to say, and it said it loud and proud over some the biggest breakdowns Parkway ever penned.
Deftones - 'Diamond Eyes'
Few records are as jam-packed with vocal melodies and riffs that are both equally huge and impactful, yet Deftones aren’t most bands and their other-worldly 2010 effort, ‘Diamond Eyes,’ also wasn’t like most other records at the time. Following 2006's 'Saturday Night Wrist,' 'Diamond Eyes' touched down from another realm with a mighty bang, defining the heavy and ethereal sound we all know and love from the band. Out of the three releases that The Tones dropped during the last decade, ‘Diamond Eyes‘ was without question the closest they came to perfection.
The sheer size of the title song makes for a stunning opening statement; the aggressive extremity of ‘Rocket Skates‘ cuts like a serrated knife; the awesome nu-metal bounce of ‘CMND/CTRL‘ is a groovy bliss; the off-beat grooves and head-bobbing feel of ‘Beauty School‘ is just infectious; ‘Sextape‘ is pure, serene beauty; and ‘You’ve Seen The Butcher‘ may very well be the best intro hype riff to any of their heavier-leaning songs, let alone from many of their peers. Time may see us realign, but the passing of time has been very kind to Deftones‘ immense sixth LP.
Comeback Kid - 'Symptoms + Cures'
'Symptoms + Cures' sits within the middle years for Comeback Kid, yet its the fiercest the five-piece have ever sounded. His second record with Comeback Kid as their vocalist, Andrew Neufeld sounds particularly ferocious, to the point where you can almost feel the spit on your face. The neck-snapper of 'Do Yourself A Favour' is one of the heaviest Comeback Kid songs around, and is one hell of an opening song, informing you on everything you need to know come the remainder of this blistering record. The Canadian band was fired the fuck up! They sounded polished and refined but not clinically clean or soulless; a fantastic happy medium. Normalise loving Comeback Kid records that aren't just 'Wake The Dead.'
The crew-vocals here are some of the catchiest and biggest in hardcore from the last decade, with only the exception of other Comeback Kid releases. Drummer Kyle Profeta doesn't get the love and respect he deserves as a drummer in hardcore, but Kyle's hand and footwork served to suitably propel these pummelling songs along at a vicious pace. Tracks like the speedy punk of 'Crooked Floors' and the grim wailing SOS call of 'G.M. Vincent and I' would not have been the same without him behind the kit. Then, the husky, Southern drawl of Liam Cormier from Cancer Bats on 'Balance,' A Wilhelm Scream's Nuno Pereira being heard on the excellent 'The Concept Says,' and Architects' Sam Carter echoing in 'Pull Back The Reigns' only added to the album's wickedly chaotic fray.