Is Deathcore Dead?
Deathcore has long been the subject of derision by certain corners of the metal community. A blend of death metal characteristics (blast beats, growled vocals) with the intensity and breakdowns of hardcore, its roots can be traced back to the nineties, when death metal bands like Suffocation and Obituary began to incorporate hardcore influences. Those bands remain cult favourites, but it was the impact they had on the next generation of metal musicians that truly birthed the deathcore movement.
By the mid-noughties, in the garages and backyards of southern California, small groups of outcast metalheads were taking the death metal and hardcore crossover to the next level, tuning their guitars lower and hitting the breakdowns harder than ever before. It was there, with bands like Job For A Cowboy, Deadwater Drowning and Carnifex putting on shows that almost nobody cared about, that deathcore as we know it began. Carnifex vocalist Scott Lewis remembers that time fondly, even if it felt like his band were pariahs in a music scene already on the fringes of society.
“When we started there wasn’t a deathcore scene,” Scott begins. “There was, however, a metalcore scene, so those were the bands we played with. The problem was, when we’d open for metalcore bands, I’d be doing gutturals and we’d be blasting for three minutes, and we’d get boos and middle fingers from the fans. These were people who claimed they loved metal. It was tough back then – deathcore was a joke. Some people were ready for it, but a lot weren’t.”
On the other side of the world, in Sydney, Australia, CJ McMahon, frontman for Thy Art Is Murder, was experiencing a similar situation. He’d come from a metalcore and hardcore background, but yearned to play in a band that did something more extreme. The music he began to play with his Thy Art bandmates presented an opportunity, but, like Carnifex were finding out, the rest of the metal community weren’t ready to welcome deathcore bands with open arms.
“We were the only band playing that kind of music,” CJ says of Australia’s metal scene at the time. “I ended up getting in fights with hardcore gangs when we were on tour; we’d have younger fans who were into emo music and that aesthetic, and the hardcore guys would hate-mosh these kids. So I’d jump off the stage and fight 15 men and tell them to fuck off. I’d regularly finish shows with a busted lip or nose. A few rumours got around of us flogging hardcore gangs and people began to take us more seriously because we wouldn’t be intimidated – I made it clear that I’d flog any of them if they wanted to cause trouble. The hardcore scene didn’t appreciate us, but we quickly overtook them and played shows 10 times the size of theirs.”
A significant factor in the explosion of deathcore that CJ describes was MySpace, and the ability bands like Thy Art Is Murder and Carnifex suddenly had to share their new brand of metal with fans worldwide. Bring Me The Horizon and Suicide Silence were two young deathcore bands revelling in this surge of popularity, the former at one point becoming the most-streamed act on the entire website, while the likes of Whitechapel, Emmure and The Acacia Strain rose to prominence.
For a while it looked like deathcore would become a huge deal, but as time went by and the MySpace scene began to dissipate, so too did deathcore’s popularity. Things weren’t helped by Bring Me The Horizon – the hottest property in metal at the time – ditching deathcore in favour of a more metalcore-leaning sound for their third album, 2010’s There Is A Hell Believe Me I’ve Seen It. There Is A Heaven Let’s Keep It A Secret.
Will Putney, guitarist for New Jersey deathcore heavyweights Fit For An Autopsy (and a man who’s produced records by Body Count, The Amity Affliction and Knocked Loose), sensed this decline was happening. He felt deathcore had become stagnant, and so his band, along with Thy Art Is Murder, took their first steps into a ‘post-deathcore’ world.
“It hit a lull – things felt rehashed and sterile,” he remembers. “What deathcore became was very limiting at its core – it was simplified and a far cry from where it started out. A lot of the chaos and experimentation was taken out of the genre. It became boring, basically.”
“We wanted to move into a different space,” he continues. “Both Fit For An Autopsy and Thy Art Is Murder wanted to have our own lane and stop deathcore bands all sounding like each other. Thy Art went into the black metal world, and we got more experimental and took influence from Gojira and classic metal. We were done with what deathcore had become – we wanted to put a new spin on it.”
Fast-forward to 2019, and, at least for Will, CJ and Scott’s bands, things are looking pretty good: Thy Art Is Murder’s latest album, Human Target, performed strongly in America and Australia; Fit For An Autopsy will release their fifth LP, The Sea Of Tragic Beasts, later this month; Carnifex, meanwhile, have returned from a brief hiatus with three full-lengths which all charted better than those released during deathcore’s supposed boom. The three bands will tour together in the UK early next year, and while they all acknowledge deathcore isn’t exactly cool right now, they’re hopeful for its future.
“This scene is tough, but great bands with good attitudes have a chance of making it,” Scott argues. “Enterprise Earth, Lorna Shore, Shadow Of Intent, The Browning and Oceano are all great new bands that are passionate about playing deathcore. They’re true artists that are in it for the music, not the parties.”
“Conjurer are a band I’m excited about,” Will adds. “They’re not a deathcore band, but you can hear early deathcore in there alongside a lot of progressive and stoner stuff. There’s also an Australian band called Justice For The Damned who are mixing deathcore with blackened hardcore, which is a refreshing take on the genre.”
This all sounds positive, but despite the promise of the bands Will and Scott outline, there’s no solid indication that the class of 2019 are set to bring deathcore to the metal masses once more. Then, there’s the touring side of things. Thy Art Is Murder, Fit For An Autopsy and Carnifex playing together is obviously a brilliant bill, but as the bands openly admit, they’ve all played alongside each other many times before. “It’s a great line-up, but it demonstrates how in deathcore you can quickly run out of new touring packages,” Scott confesses.
As for the music, CJ and Will have both been open about their desire to leave the style of their early records behind and embrace all that metal can offer them. With some of the scene’s biggest names not as excited about the genre as they once were, and without a long list of new names that are ready to freshen up the touring landscape, is it the case that, a decade on from its peak, deathcore is, well, dead?
Not if you ask those leading the pack.
“Deathcore is still a relevant concept,” CJ states. “Although its meaning can become muddled, I’d hate for it to be washed away. Deathcore’s got a bad name, but we should own it, because we are who we are. It’s not gonna stop us from playing massive shows and having loads of fans around the world.”
“Regardless of popularity, deathcore will always be there,” Scott concludes. “When we started Carnifex, no-one was asking for it – we were just a bunch of nobodies having fun. And we’ve retained that approach, even as the band has grown into a business. As long as there are passionate, authentic bands out there, which I believe there are, deathcore will never die.”
Get your tickets now for Thy Art, Carnifex and Fit For An Autopsy’s tour of the UK and Europe.
Thy Art Is Murder/Carnifex/Fit For An Autopsy tour 2020
25 Zappa, Antwerp, BE
26 Academy 2, Manchester, UK
27 Garage, Glasgow, UK
28 Stylus, Leeds, UK
29 SWX, Bristol, UK
30 Electric Brixton, London, UK
31 O2 Institute, Birmingham, UK
01 013, Tilburg, NL
02 Cabaret Sauvage, Paris, FR
04 Mon Live, Madrid, ES
05 Razzmatazz, Barcelona, ES
06 Transbordeur, Lyon, FR
07 Z7, Pratteln, CH
08 Backstage, Munich, DE
09 Circolo Magnolia, Milan, IT
10 Kino Siska, Ljubljana, SL
11 Szene, Wien, AT
12 Barba Negra, Budapest, HU
13 Meet Factory, Prague, CZ
14 Proxima, Warsaw, PL
15 Festsaal, Berlin, DE
16 Amager Bio, Copenhagen, DK
17 Trädgärn, Gothenburg, SE
18 Slaktkyrksn, Stockholm, SE
20 Gruenspan, Hamburg, DE
21 Felsenkeller, Leipzig, DE
22 Turbinehalle, Oberhausen, DE
23 Schlachthof, Wiesbaden, DE
Members of Venom Prison, Devourment, and more discuss death metal’s changing relationship with women.
The prince and princess of darkness will present an award at this year’s GRAMMYs.