2021 or: How I Learned to Stop Cringing and Love the Deathcore

Photo collage of deathcore albums by Whitechapel, Lorna Shore, and Slaughter to Prevail

If you’re of a certain age, just seeing the word MySpace brings a flood of emotions, memories, and reactions. MySpace, a driving force behind the cultural movement of sorts, shone a spotlight on some of the best and worst the millennial generation had to offer. As a precursor to sites and apps like Facebook, Twitter, Vine, and TikTok, it introduced us to concepts we know and love today, like ‘virality’ and trends. One of those trends that persists today is the “Deathcore” genre of metal.

Be honest, when you read the word ‘MySpace’, did you cringe a little? It’s okay, I did too when I came up with the concept of this article. And if you cringed at the mention of MySpace, you probably cringed at the mention of deathcore, too. That’s okay, too.

Since its inception, the deathcore genre has been highly divisive within the metal community. It has often been looked down upon. Often thought of as “unserious” and “hokey”. I’ll be the first to admit, if you’d talked to me a year ago, I would have had the same reaction.

Now, this isn’t a “discovering metal for the first time” story like you’d see if you’re familiar with someone like Elizabeth Zharoff and her wonderful YouTube channel, “The Charismatic Voice”. No, I’ve long fancied myself a ‘metalhead’.

I grew up listening to classic rock, falling in love with guitar solos and riffs. When I was in my childhood, the grunge era was hitting the scene and I couldn’t get enough of bands like Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains. As I grew up, I gravitated towards progressively harder music. Metallica. Slipknot. Bullet for my Valentine. Killswitch Engage. But, inevitably, I always tended to stick within the same few genres, namely thrash and metalcore.

Then something changed. Or, rather, three somethings changed the way I think about the deathcore genre – and to a greater extent how I thought about heavy, extreme music as a whole. It may sound weird to some to say you went through a musical epiphany at the age of 34, but that’s exactly what happened to me thanks to releases from Slaughter to Prevail, Lorna Shore, and Whitechapel.

Slipknot + Death Metal + Russia = ????

I’m not sure if there’s a better way to explain the sound of Slaughter to Prevail’s “Kostolom” than, ‘What if Slipknot’s ‘Iowa’ was a death metal album?” That was sort of the description I got when their single “Baba Yaga” first came onto my radar, and when I tell you I was blown away by the accuracy!

Iowa is one of the most important records to who I am as a person today. That album got me through some dark times, and it will always hold a special place in my heart.

That connection, I think, is a large part of the reason I connected so strongly with ‘Kostolom’. It hits a lot of those same notes of anger, brutality, and hopelessness that both the ‘Iowa’ record had, and that I had personally when that record was getting me through.

That was the first thing that really got me to begin to reconsider my stance on the genre of a joke. How can something be a joke if it’s legitimately making you feel emotions? Deathcore can make you feel emotions? That can’t be right, can it?

Oh, it can and it is! For all the shit this genre gets, there’s so much more to it than the memey vibes it was giving off during the MySpace days of its infancy, and there’s so much more that the genre can become as it continues to evolve and pull from other influences like hardcore punk and nu-metal.

Deathcore Evolves with Lorna Shore

“Kostolom” was the album that got me to a place where I was intrigued by the deathcore genre. But it was another album, one that coincidentally dropped on the same day, that picked up where Kostolom left off and convinced me to accept – and eventually love – the genre. That album, or EP if we’re being technical, was Lorna Shore’s “And I Return to Nothingness”.

At first, I was hesitant to give the Lorna Shore release a chance. I’d never listened to the group in the past, but I knew there was some… not great stuff in their past, so I avoided it at first.

Upon learning that this iteration of the band swiftly ousted a member responsible for said stuff and had a brand new vocalist, I caved and listened to their new single “To the Hellfire”.

If I remember correctly, my first impression was something to the effect of “HOLY SHIT…WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?!?” Said in the best way possible!

What that was, was the absolute vocal gymnastics of new lead singer Will Ramos. The ease with which he flowed from deep, guttural tunnel screams to his goblin-esque highs blew me away. Then, of course, the pig squeals into that final, sustained tunnel scream to close out the song. My mind was absolutely blown. 

Then, when the EP finally dropped and I got to check out the other two songs – “Of the Abyss” and the title track – my mind was blown yet again. You can do that with deathcore? You can just… go and add symphonic elements to it? I didn’t know that was allowed!

This is Deathcore? Then Why Can’t I Stop Crying?

The entire idea behind this piece stems from a conversation I was having with a friend (@HobbyistBrendan on Twitter) about Whitechapel’s latest album “Kin”. We discussed how much of an absolute masterpiece I think this album is and lamented the (relatively) poor sales performance it had.

Part of that “poor” performance has to do with the music industry as a whole and its evolution. Album sales across the board just aren’t what they used to be. The industry by and large has moved to a place where physical media just isn’t as popular.

The other factor in that performance is fan reception and, let’s be honest, gatekeeping. There’s going to be a contingent who reads this article, sees the mention of Whitechapel, and immediately thinks “KIN WASN’T A DEATHCORE ALBUM YOU ASS!”.

And that’s fine, people are allowed to have their feelings about what characteristics do and do not make up a genre. However, that kind of thinking is a double-edged sword. But that is an article for another day. For now, let’s get back to the overall masterpiece that was “Kin”.

Whether you think “Kin” qualifies as a deathcore album or not, Whitechapel is a quintessential deathcore band, and there are more than a couple of songs off the album that absolutely go hard, so I’m counting it.

In that context, and much like the Lorna Shore album before it, “Kin” pushes the boundaries of what deathcore can be, and adds elements to the genre that should have had fans really excited for the future of the genre. Namely, in this case, incredible storytelling.

“Kin” continues the story from Whitechapel’s previous album, “The Valley” and continues the journey of lead singer Phil Bozeman dealing and coming to terms with the childhood traumas he endured. And all of that anger, pain and suffering really comes through in the lyrics. 

The lyrical content of “Kin” ascends beyond the typical brutality and gore that deathcore typically brings. It really attempts to take the listener on an emotional journey through those emotions, and eventually to a place of coming to grips with them. Getting to a place where you can accept the past for what it was. Appreciate the good times that were had even through the suffering, and move on with life a healthier and better person for it.

Find Music That Makes Your Heart Sing

To me, music is at its best when it piques your curiosity, connects with you, and makes you feel. Whether those emotions are a cathartic release of anger and trauma, or an overwhelming sense of joy, music at its best is uniquely capable of drawing out emotions, and providing an endorphin rush that few other things can.

That’s something that all three of these albums have in common. And to get all of that from a genre that I previously wrote off as a joke was an eye-opening experience, to say the least.

If you get nothing else from this piece, I hope it’s to always keep an open mind on your musical journey. Don’t be afraid to listen to something just because of the label it’s been given. Limiting yourself to certain genres is depriving yourself of so much incredible music and so many wonderful stories.

Now get out there and discover something that makes your heart as happy as these albums have made mine. And be sure to catch the return of the Blast Beats podcast!

North Ave Jax Album Review: “Lazy, but i have goals”

north ave jax
Credit: North Ave Jax Spotify

The hardest out the scene in the 802. North Ave Jax, dropped one of the most complete projects of 2022 so far. His album “LaZy, but i have goals” dropped on August 17th, 2022 and I have not stopped listening to it since, so why not put out an album review? The album has no features and includes two skits and eight songs.

North Ave Jax Album Review

The album from start to finish is one of the most complete and well put together albums I have heard in a long time. Every time I listen to this album, I always find something new. Whether it is that song I have been overlooking, a new play on words, or just understanding each song’s place on the album.

“Awful” was a great choice for the opening song, and really sets the tone for the rest of the listen. “Play Dumb” is the biggest banger on the album, and always gets me going. “The Fall” and “Awful” are two songs that almost everyone can relate to, but songs like “Guns & Roses” and “Eastside” will definitely have you contemplating getting in your bag.

My real only complaint is how random the skits are. My first time listening to the album I was like “why is this even in here?” That being said, even though the skits are a bit random they fit into the album. The skits give your ears a nice break as he transitions flows from song to song.

The production on the album is solid, but my favorite part of the album is Jax’s flow. No matter what type of beat it is, Jax always seems to know how to flow on it. And the quality of flow switches Jax does in a number of songs kept things fresh.

Closing Thoughts

The replay ability on this album is insane. I play this album day-in and day-out, and I don’t get tired of it. It’s the perfect album for any type of vibe and will have your friends asking you “who’s this?”

My personal favorite songs are “Awful” and “Play Dumb”, and I am looking forward to seeing what North Ave Jax drops next.

Stream North Ave Jax “LaZy, but i have goals” on Apple Music or Spotify, and for more album review content check out all of ATB’s hip-hop content.

Parkway Drive Albums Ranked

It’s not cool to like Parkway Drive anymore. There is a clear shift in the direction of the band, and the days of blast beats and ferocious licks are all but forgotten. Luckily I’ve never been cool, so I’m going to rank all of the Parkway Drive albums. Since Darker Still will be out in two weeks, I figured it’s a perfect time.

The criteria for the rankings, unsurprisingly, will be personal preference. But I will make an attempt at objectivity when breaking down the music. Last note: I’m not considering the Don’t Close Your Eyes EP.

(Editor’s note: This article has now been updated with the release of “Darker Still”)

Parkway Drive Albums: The Bottom Feeders

Killing with a Smile

Yes, it’s ranked “last” in our list of Parkway Drive albums, but it is by no means a bad album. If I was just discovering this band, and “Killing with a Smile” came out on KMaN’s Friday release chart, I’d lose my mind. It would be an AOTY contender and I’d be hyping Parkway Drive as the next metal juggernaut.

The reason why it finds itself in this position is I feel the vocals don’t match with the riffs. The riffs, mind you, are simply fantastic. It’s as if they were tailor-made for me. But Winston’s voice on this album is young and not as polished as it will soon become. His cadence doesn’t complement the rest of the song, something I value. 

For this reason, if you bump a lot of tech death, I highly recommend it. 

Standouts: Gimme Ad, Romance Is Dead

Darker Still

Yes, like most of the metal community, I’m placing this album in the bottom half of the band’s discography. It’s too top-heavy, and when it misses, it makes Adam Dunn look like Tony Gwynn.

Despite these harsh criticisms, there are two reasons I’m placing it ahead of KWAS: Like Napalm and Darker Still, the title track.

I find these songs OUTSTANDING. Winston’s delivery of the verses for Like Napalm is the gold standard for balancing catchy with substance, and Jeff Ling’s contributions on guitar for Darker Still were the strongest aspects of the entire album.

In a recent interview, the band stated the title track Darker Still would be their version of Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters, in their minds the ultimate metal ballad. Upon hearing this information, Lars Ulrich is currently filing a motion to receive royalties. /S

My impression of the album is that it’s a collection of songs written for the live setting. Big choruses, easy-to-shout tag lines, catchy riffs, you get the idea. It’s not an album that I’ll go back and listen to from start to finish, but there is definite replayability.

However, I’m going to pretend that If a God Can Bleed doesn’t exist.

Standouts: Like Napalm, Darker Still

Deep Blue

Parkway Drive put a foot up our ass on album three. My only criticisms from their debut have been completely eradicated. Winston’s voice developed into a powerful war machine. The vocals, drums, and riffs worked together like a well-tuned engine to beat your ass. Best ass beating you’ve ever received.

“Deep Blue” CHUGGED. Steady headbanging. 0-0-0-1 0-0-0-1. Meat and potatoes. But it did not come at the sacrifice of Jeff Ling’s classic melodic riffs throughout the song. It was a perfect blend. The entire album gives you stank face with a slow, but deep headbang. Jesus Christ, I’m listening to it as I write this and it’s just absurd how well they blended beefy chugs with fast licks. 

Recommend this to some hardo on metal twitter and let them know 200 Stab Wounds could never.

Standouts: Deliver Me, Home Is for the Heartless, Sleepwalker

Parkway Drive Albums of Some Reverence

Ire

Many fans will state this is the start of their “decline”. Many fans also still have active Facebook accounts and have arguments in comment sections.

“Ire” is the clear beginning of the band becoming more accessible to a wider audience. While some see that as harsh criticism, I look at it this way: a good song is a good song. That’s (almost) all that matters. I would like to note that at this point, Winston McCall has taken the throne (in my completely biased opinion) of having the best range of harsh vocals. Highs, mids, lows, king. 

Top to bottom, it probably doesn’t have the depth that their earlier discography had, but they did something very significant, and that has to matter.

“Bottom Feeder” is arguably the greatest song they’ve ever written, with one of the best hooks ever to grace your eustachian tube. It’s a Mount Rushmore song, and it’s a masterclass in efficiency. It was made for spilling beers, jumping around, and giving free high fives to strangers.

“Ire” was an album written for arenas. “Crushed”, “Bottom Feeder”, and “Vice Grip”. All staples in their live show, all songs made to share with thousands. We love going to shows, and they wrote music specifically for the shows we go to. Good band, yep.

Stand Outs: Bottom Feeder, Destroyer, Vice Grip

Reverence

This album holds a very special place in my heart. It came right at the perfect time and was just what the doctor ordered. I saw them tour this album in 2019, and that night left a lasting impact on me, shaping my taste in music going forward. I was on the front lines for the wall of death setting up the breakdown of “Bottom Feeder”, so clearly, life was going well for me.

To this date, it’s the most diverse album in their discography (until September 9th). It features, once again, two of their greatest musical achievements. I’m biased when it comes to “Wishing Wells”, but you’re an asshole if you can’t enjoy “Prey”. Please no mean comments, I’m living MY truth.

They also discovered they are the authority on slow, cowboy metal. As somebody obsessed with Red Dead Redemption 2, this scratched me right where I itch. Here, I completely understand all criticisms. But Arthur Morgan has me by the short and curlies.

Reverence is a great album to recommend to your friends that are starting to dip their toes into heavier sounds. What a great bonding moment that could bring. Be a good pal.

Standouts: Prey, Wishing Wells, The Colour of Leaving (For Arthur Morgan)

God-Tier Parkway Drive Albums

Horizons

Recently, I was arguing with myself as I was starting to wonder if this was my number one. “Horizons” was my introduction to Parkway Drive. I will never forget the person that told me to listen to “Carrion”. If I win the lottery, they will most certainly receive a text from me when I am on Parkway Drive’s tour bus. Not money. I’m selfish.

If I may use a metaphor: “Horizons” is the Frieza Saga of Dragon Ball Z. Still early in the show, but officially established as an absolute POWERHOUSE. “Carrion” is the Super Saiyan moment of the album, and will forever remain one of their greatest achievements. A riff that was made for the perfect summer sunset. Windows down, sun in your face, hand out the window doing that roller coaster thing. Life gives us beautiful serene moments sometimes.

“In a moment I am lost. Screaming from the inside” Doom and gloom, and yet so calming. Back to the action.

The crowning jewel for this album – aside from “Carrion”– is the verse structure. I’m not one for music that is overly complex (See: Tech Death) or something that doesn’t move around melodically. A happy medium is ideal.

“Horizons” wrote the book utilizing multiple riffs in a song. It’s a full plate of delicious food. We’ve got a delicious entrée with a great selection of sides. Eat up.

Standouts: Carrion, Idols and Anchors, Boneyards

Atlas

My favorite Parkway Drive album has it all, folks. Anthems, jams, vibes, and even their best album art.

It also features what the band probably considers their best song: “Wild Eyes”. It very well could be the song they wrote where the live reaction triggered the lightbulb for what occurs on the next two albums. I mean have you seen it live? I’d write as many songs as I could that would invoke that reaction from the crowd, just watch the Wacken version.

“Atlas” also marks a slight shift in the band’s sound. No longer an all gas and no breaks approach seen on KWAS and Horizons, but a diverse range in tempo. The title track is accompanied by a string section to create a smooth yet somber tone. Pair that with harsh vocals and you get a great progressive sound that any band can experiment with as far as I’m concerned.

Where I think “Atlas” thrives is in its replay quality. For me, brutality is a mood. If you redline the whole album, I’m likely only going to listen to it after the Lions lose or if work is pissing me off. This album is riddled with tracks that improve my mood, not complement it. 

Standouts: Sleight of Hand, Wild Eyes, The Slow Surrender

In short..

These rankings are not set in stone, my mood will change along with what I value in good tunes. “Horizons” might be number one in a month. I might age into an emotional teddy bear and “Darker Still” will be number one. But I DO feel confident in saying “Atlas”, “Horizons”, and “Deep Blue” are objectively their greatest total pieces of work.  

Why was Deep Blue so low if I feel this way? Because Cam Newton took that Auburn team to a natty. “Bottom Feeder” was Cam Newton in 2010. “Prey” and “Wishing Wells” were LeBron and Kyrie in 2016. Deep Blue was the 2015 Kansas City Royals.

Are these comparisons accurate? Does it tarnish the credibility of my rankings? No idea.  

If I could ask for one thing, it’s that I hope you read this and at the very least check out an old album for the first time, or maybe revisit one, and realize that there was a reason Parkway Drive headlined Wacken. 

Otherwise, Blast Beats is returning for season two next week. We are fresh and bloated with good tunes.

Music and Sports: Why Cover Both?

music and sports
Credit: NBC Los Angeles

At first it may seem out of place for a sports website to venture out and cover music. You may be seeing us on Twitter and asking yourself “why are they talking about a music artist?” The answer is simple. When you really think about it, music is an integral part of the fabric of sports.

Whether it’s a marching band in high school, fight songs and hype songs in college, entrance music in baseball or wrestling, or the PA playing heavy metal — or symphonic deathcore, to be specific — at a hockey game, music is everywhere in sports.

The Intersection of Sports and Music

So why, then, should you have to go to one spot for your sports coverage and then leave to go to a specific music website to read album reviews? Why should you have to come to us to read about what’s going on in training camp, then have to head to an entirely different site to see a band’s entire discography ranked from worst to first?

You shouldn’t! And that’s the ultimate goal here at Around the Block Network. We want to be your one-stop entertainment hub! We want to be at the intersection of sports and music.

That’s why you’re going to see someone who tweets about the Giants and his local Baltimore teams talking about a hot new artist he loves. That’s why you’re going to find two Dolphins fans and a Lions fan promoting a heavy metal-focused podcast. Because at the end of the day, we all love sports and we all love music. So why shouldn’t you be able to get analysis and opinions on both in the same place?

It may seem strange at first, but should it? We would argue that it shouldn’t, and we hope you agree! Who knows, maybe someday in the future it’ll become some normal, par-for-the-course content strategy. For now, ATB is here to give you the latest on all your passions. Stay tuned and enjoy the ride!

Aaron May “No Recognition”: Album Review

aaron may no recognition
Credit: Aaron May Spotify

In late June 2022, Aaron May dropped his highly anticipated EP “No Recognition”. Is the album worth a listen and how does it stand up to his previous breakout album “Chase”?

Aaron May Background

Aaron May is an up-and-coming independent artist out of Houston, TX. He is signed to the independent record label MOVEINTHEAM. Early in 2019, May dropped his debut album “Chase” with his hit single “Let Go”. Since then he has dropped a number of singles, but “No Recognition” was his first album since.

No Recognition Review

The seven song EP by May is one of the best melodic rap albums put out this year so far. The album has a slightly different vibe compared to “Chase”, as this is more mellow — which I feel like May did well. On “No Recognition” Aaron May seems to be coming into his own sound, and you can really see the growth he has had as an artist. Even though there are still some more upbeat tunes, May’s vocals float on the beat. The album also has a good balance of both slow songs and little more upbeat, which makes it an even better listen.

Personally, this is one of the best albums to just vibe to. May’s flow and voice with the production on this album make it a go-to for any moment. Throughout the album, May raps more about his struggles and uses music as a form of therapy. As you listen you hear lyrics that make you reflect on yourself and your own personal struggles. One of my own personal favorite lyrics is

“They be saying “Don’t waste yo potential boy you got real talent”
They don’t understand it ain’t that simple when you tryna kill habits
Goin’ through it on yo own it ain’t hard to feel stranded”.

Final Thoughts on Aaron May’s “No Recognition”

The replay ability of this album is just as good as it was for “Chase”, as the album is still in my rotation and has no signs of leaving. My personal favorite songs are “Last Time” and “I Ain’t Worried”. Overall, the album is a solid 8/10 and think will age like fine wine.

Be sure to check out all of Aaron May’s music: Spotify Apple Music SoundCloud

Check out ATB Network’s top metal albums of 2022 so far!