Metalcore Definition and Decline
To those not familiar with it, metalcore is a fusion of extreme metal, punk rock, and hardcore; popularised by bands such as Killswitch Engage (who opened for Swedish melodic death metal band In Flames) from the early 2000s to the present day. The more modern metalcore bands are heavily influenced by the Swedish melodic death metal/melodeath sound popularised by In Flames. The most prominent lyrical themes range between Christianity (featured in works of As I Lay Dying) and life struggles (Killswitch Engage.)
However, the genre has hit a decline largely due to bands trying to capitalise and even resurrect passing trends; the "scene-core/screamo" sub-genre; inclusion of trance/techno overtures in songs, prominent down-tuned guitar breakdowns sometimes spanning the whole song and use of studio crutches such as autotune on vocals. This short-lived popularity has spawned many copycat acts that tried to mimic more successful bands for profit and record sales; offering little-to-no musical originality or merit.
Another product of this decline was the creation of "deathcore" which was a fusion of death metal and metalcore where neither was done particularly well with repetitive-sounding songs of constant breakdowns and unintelligible vocals; trying to seem "brutal" rather than make a piece of music. This, like "scene-core," has spawned many imitators who were looking to capitalise on this short-lived trend.
Overall, the genre has declined partially due to the above spawning many clone bands that brought stagnation and eventual loss of interest in the genre; also making it a punchline in metal circles where many people are quick to take hits on metalcore and its derivatives.
However, there are still bands trying to play metalcore and therefore, adding new things to the genre which then makes them stand out. Their sound is closer to the bands that catapulted the genre to success back in the year 2000; taking influence from Killswitch Engage, All That Remains and As I Lay Dying. Finally, the bands below were chosen for their unique musical approaches to the genre with special attention to the instrumentals and lyrics which combine to make interesting material.
1. Of Virtue
Founded in the year 2008 in Lansing, Michigan, USA; the band has one EP and two full-length albums to their name, the band combines metalcore with some ambient elements to the songs which create an atmosphere to every track. Reverb-infused guitar solos are a common feature of the songs which enhances the moving melodies and haunting mood as the drum work echoes of classic hardcore punk bands.
The band's sound is almost like Iron Maiden's "Somewhere in Time" album with reverberation on the highly technical, moving solos; combined with As I Lay Dying's well-written uplifting lyrics.
Also formed in 2008, in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; the band has one EP and three full-length albums; the band also partakes in charity work in support of cancer patients. Confession emphasises more on their lyrics which are presented in harsh and clean passages alongside the instrumentals that are comparable to Hatebreed, another hardcore-metalcore band responsible for the genre's success. The harsh vocals have almost a death metal edge to them which complements the instrumentals which also echo Hatebreed albeit more down-tuned.
Unfortunately, the band broke up after their 2016 farewell tour in Australia, but despite this, I feel this band is worth the exposure and is worth your time for their message in the songs and the soulful delivery.
Here is another band formed in 2008, this time from Petropavlovsk, Kazakhstan (an unlikely place for metalcore or heavy-metal period). This band fuses NU metal with metalcore and only has a single album released in 2008.
Their music is also available for download on their official page on Realmusic.ru—a place for bands to upload and share their music. CLOWN features intense, lengthy passages of moving clean vocals that are comparable to Killswitch Engage. The songs are about life struggles and personal pain where the mood is established with instrumentals similar to Spineshank; a chainsaw-esque, lo-fi grind.
Formed in 2004 in Moscow, Russia, Satrapy has undergone many lineup changes and according to their official Realmusic.ru page. They have released 2 tracks on their page and a full-length album in late 2009.
Like CLOWN, they infuse NU metal with metalcore with clean vocals taking centre stage, and instrumentals echo Soilwork; a melodeath band from Sweden who has experimented with metalcore on their later albums. Clean passages also echo the latter's Bjorn Strid where they sound soothing which gels well with the guitar work which would also fit a melodeath release; sweeping B-minor riffs.
From Norrkoping, Sweden, the band that has one demo and three albums where the first one was a melodeath album akin to Dark Tranquility and the later albums being closer to Killswitch Engage in terms of vocals but instrumentally; it's closer to Soilwork. Melody takes top priority. Therefore, the band's sound is always unique with something new waiting for the listener.
SAREA is a mixture of aggression and melody kind of like Hatebreed was tutored by Sonic Syndicate and Soilwork; making it safe to say that this metalcore band is experimenting with their sound and adding the good parts that fit in with their main talents.
What Makes a Good Metalcore Band?
Overall, a good metalcore band has a fresh sound with influence from the genre's best; as we saw above. This means that the genre was strong and will remain as such if it keeps things fresh while focusing on their own sound; improving, capitalising on strengths and adding their own style to the genre. SAREA adding melodeath and the Russian bands mixing NU metal.
Finally, metalcore became successful because it was a mixture of different genres; the best of heavy metal and hardcore while the spin-offs such as deathcore, however just stuck to one sound with no variety in the influence. Metalcore doesn't suck—the bands playing it badly do.
© 2017 Jake Clawson