Mathcore

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Mathcore is a progressive, rhythmically complex and dissonant style of metalcore that emerged in the 1990s. It was pioneered by bands such as Converge, Coalesce, Botch, The Dillinger Escape Plan and Candiria.

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THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN One Of Us Is The Killer Album Cover One Of Us Is The Killer
THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN
4.28 | 16 ratings
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THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN Calculating Infinity Album Cover Calculating Infinity
THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN
4.24 | 17 ratings
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PSYOPUS Ideas Of Reference Album Cover Ideas Of Reference
PSYOPUS
4.42 | 4 ratings
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BOTCH We Are The Romans Album Cover We Are The Romans
BOTCH
4.10 | 5 ratings
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ROLO TOMASSI Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It Album Cover Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It
ROLO TOMASSI
4.17 | 3 ratings
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CONVERGE Jane Doe Album Cover Jane Doe
CONVERGE
3.99 | 25 ratings
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THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN Irony Is a Dead Scene (with Mike Patton) Album Cover Irony Is a Dead Scene (with Mike Patton)
THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN
3.96 | 10 ratings
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THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN Dissociation Album Cover Dissociation
THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN
4.00 | 5 ratings
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PSYOPUS Our Puzzling Encounters Considered Album Cover Our Puzzling Encounters Considered
PSYOPUS
4.00 | 3 ratings
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THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN Ire Works Album Cover Ire Works
THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN
3.86 | 16 ratings
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BOTCH American Nervoso Album Cover American Nervoso
BOTCH
3.85 | 6 ratings
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CAR BOMB Centralia Album Cover Centralia
CAR BOMB
3.76 | 5 ratings
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THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN Calculating Infinity

Album · 1999 · Mathcore
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Necrotica
Calculating Infinity is the perfect example of an album that takes the rulebook of its genre(s) and throws it out completely. It’s the flawless melding of brutality and sophistication, of anger and despair, of hardcore euphoria and jazz-driven mathematics. And the members of The Dillinger Escape Plan were certainly aware of what they were doing too. Guitarist and figurehead Ben Weinman was once quoted as saying on The Independent:

"Calculating Infinity was us effectively ripping up the music theory book; if someone said 'don't harmonise with a second, it just sounds out of tune', then every single lead we did, we'd harmonise with a second. It sounded disgusting, but we did it".

This music is controlled rage, but just because it’s controlled doesn’t mean it’s sterile or edgeless. The complex, labyrinthine arrangements are given plenty of vocal ammunition through Dimitri Minakakis’ tortured, chilling screams. And I’ll certainly give the band credit: they don’t mess around when it comes to storming the gate early. “Sugar Coated Sour” is both a phenomenal thesis statement of the album’s sound and practically a war cry for any listener interested in joining the band for this unique event. The dissonant guitar harmonies, impossibly precise drumkit grinding, and furious wailing are incredible markers of what you’ll be hearing throughout this brief experience. About 90% of Calculating Infinity is a mixture of blinding speeds, jaw-dropping technical prowess, and the rare moment of unsettling reflection. Those calmer sections are a great way for the band to show their vast range of influences as well, such as the incredible polyrhythmic prog-oriented bridge of “43% Burnt” or the avant-jazz chord progressions of the slow melodic (?) section of “The Running Board.” Even more curious are the few interludes that mark the record, leaning more on the avant-garde side of its identity. The title track and “*#..” are enjoyable Meshuggah-esque ditties that rely on strange rhythms and little diminished guitar “pops,” while “Weekend Sex Change” combines sampling, depressive guitar melodies, and incredible drum soloing into one fascinating fusion.

The most impressive thing about Calculating Infinity is that both sides of its bipolar personality are so natural and well-represented. Many of us are aware of the various rumors surrounding the album’s recording, most famously the decision to roll dice to determine each time signature. But it’s strange to think that for something so, ahem, “calculated,” that every bit of hardcore aggression and raw emotion can still come out in full force. Just listen to that utterly insane intro to “Jim Fear.” It doesn’t give us a moment’s notice to prepare for the full-on assault of scorching fretwork and deranged screams, but everything manages to be very planned and pre-staged all the same. That whole song really comes together when you reach the next section and hear the complex runs across the fretboard in unison with the rabid drums, and that concept of “controlled anarchy” comes into play. Wanna know why it all works? Because the insane technicality and the angular “prog-meets-punk” riffing ensure that each emotional catharsis is earned. The Dillinger Escape Plan somehow have the ability to turn technical prowess into atmosphere, weaving in and out of disturbing musical passages; Dimitri is simply icing on the cake with the chaos he spews over it all. But each emotional release works because the band members are incredibly skilled at building us up to those moments. Much like Converge’s Jane Doe, there’s a respect and care that’s given to each weird transition and tempo shift despite the hell being unleashed on top of the songwriting.

At the end of the day, Calculating Infinity is simply a mesmerizing paradox; it combines mathcore, hardcore punk, free jazz, avant-garde metal, and progressive metal, and somehow manages to treat them all as equals. If you want sophisticated songwriting and complex instrumentals, this album is essential. And if you just want to fuck everyone up in the moshpit, then it’s still essential.

BOTCH American Nervoso

Album · 1998 · Mathcore
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siLLy puPPy
Progressive metalcore is one of those splinter genres that is too wildly abrasive for prog lovers and too artsy fartsy for many who indulge in the core section at the metal supermarket but has been somewhat popular in crafting a unique hybridization of the two styles for those into both sides of the fence. The term mathcore covers a lot of these bands in a generic sense but just like technical death metal and progressive death metal, has slightly different dynamics which take place. The Tacoma, WA based BOTCH straddled the lines between straight out metalcore and mathcore and thus found a few fans from both sides of the fence including Aaron Turner who was the vocalist for the post-metal band Isis and founder of the Hydra Head Records label.

BOTCH formed all the way back in 1993 and released a series of EPs of loud and abrasive metal / mathcore but also was more adventurous than the usual band of noisemakers by covering unexpected pieces such as Carl Orff’s “O Fortuna” on “The John Birch Conspiracy Theory” EP. After several years of taking the mathcore realm to more fertile grounds and incessantly touring which gained the band a larger following, BOTCH finally released its debut album AMERICAN NERVOSO in 1998 which featured a stealthy mix of mathcore laced post-hardcore with occasional drifts into piano based progressive rock. The album sort of went over the heads of many as whole progressive metalcore thing hadn’t really caught on yet but nevertheless the band toured with The Dillinger Escape Plan and Jesuit. The album as you may have guess debuted on Hydra Head Records!

AMERICAN NERVOSO originally only had nine tracks on the first pressing but subsequent releases have added five bonus tracks which are all worthy editions albeit clearly in the bonus track realms. The album starts off in full metalcore mode with “Hutton’s Great Heat Engine” and is a little misleading as the album doesn’t start crafting a more intricate deliveries with more frequent time signature changes until the track takes off. Late on it hots softer passages that escape the incessant bombast of the frenetic bass, drum and guitar assaults linked with Dave Vereillen’s frantic screaming, however even on the opening number, BOTCH are clearly not your run of the mill metalcore group as there are moments of more atmospheric contemplation with subdued clean vocals and more guitar sustain than rampaging chords.

Perhaps what is most effective in this kind of extreme metal is the diversity of the guitar riffs and styles of playing throughout the album. One trick pony extremism can become quite tiring for an album’s run yet BOTCH excel at keeping the raw core bombast as the album’s emphasis while pulling enough tricks out of their sleeves to leave an extremist metal lover’s attention fully in tact. In addition to rhythmic variations and tempo changes, the band delivers some progressive deviations as well as a few moments of respite to allow the contrast to sink in such as the space rock beginning of “Dead For A Minute.” While labeled as mathcore on many databases, AMERICAN NERVOSO is much more of a progressive metalcore album with some mathcore seeping in once and a while. Regardless of how you classify BOTCH’s debut full-length, it’s certainly a compelling listening experience if you can handle the incessant screamed vocals. BOTCH would release one more album before breaking up but they certainly made their short run count.

PLASTICBAG FACEMASK Whited Sepulcher

Album · 2019 · Mathcore
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siLLy puPPy
As 2020 continues and the constant sight of those silly face masks surrounds us no matter where we live in the word (unless we happen to happily live in an isolated commune in fucking Antarctica or something), what better way to celebrate the shitshow that is 2020 than by reviewing this extreme noisy metal duo known as PLASTICBAG FACE MASK which was formed in 2008 in Oakhurst, CA but has been terrorizing Fresno for most of the time since.

Together Patrick "Dr. Lankanotvich" Hogan (drums, synthesizer, vocals) and Jacob "Dr. Jenkins" Lee (guitar, bass, vocals) crank out a set of six headache inducing mathcore tracks that continue their bizarre mix of grindcore, mathcore, sludge metal, deathcore and pretty much whatever the fuck comes to mind. This don’t give a fuck attitude is exactly what sets them apart from the competition but to be honest it’s the nerdy mathcore ping pong ball unpredictability that draws me in.

WHITE SEPULCHER is this duo’s eighth album but at around 23 minutes could possibly fit in with the EPs they’ve released but whatever. It’s fucking core music. This is about making extremely abrasive ear abuse noise and that’s exactly what PLASTICBAG FACE MASK achieves here. With excruciatingly fast tempos, frenetic time signature changes, unthinkable levels of distortion and vocals that sound like some dude getting his dick sawed off, this is a frenetic assault on your sanity with only a very few moments of synthesized atmospheres lingering in the background when the music drops to offer a respite from the brazen bravado.

Where there are many progcore metal bands out there these days ranging from Behold…The Arctopus, Psyopus and Dillinger Escape Plan, PLASTICBAG FACE MASK seems to stand out in its bold experimental approach of just creating a maelstrom of frenetic guitar riffs, a few screeching solos and an incessant time signature frenzy that hops around like an electrocuted monkey. Most vocals are shouted but a few death metal growls jump into the mosh pit. Basically everything on this one is on maximum overdrive for the entire run with only a few ambient outros after the tracks are finished.

While these sorts of firecracker bands usually deliver super short tracks, most of these are over three minutes which gives more time to shape shift the noisemaking shenanigans and conjure up new methodologies for irritating the fuck out of people. Except me. I love this shit. Gimme more muthafuckers! My skin is thick and my ear drums are made of fucking titanium. Oh yeah, bring it on, bitches! This is for the most hardcore MFs out there. Loud, obnoxious, sanity eroding music that pummels away on its own terms. Mathcore with all middle fingers raised with pirate flags attached. And fuck those goddamn worthless masks. They don’t fucking work anyways. Don’t argue with me. I read it on the internets.

OXX The Skeleton Is Just A Coat Hanger; These Are The Black Strings That Make You Dance

Album · 2019 · Mathcore
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Kev Rowland
I must confess to not knowing a great deal about this Danish band apart from they are a trio and I think this is their third full-length album. With a title such as ‘The Skeleton Is Just A Coat Hanger; These Are The Black Strings That Make You Dance’, one expects this to be a little out of the norm and that is certainly the case. I have seen them categorised with different tags, with mathcore and hardcore featuring quite prominently and while they are much more to the former to the latter they are also quite experimental and I would love for someone to call them progressive, so perhaps I will have to be the one to do it. Although in this case we are talking about truly progressing music as opposed to regurgitating Genesis. Massively complex musical threads and time signatures have been woven together to create something powerful which never loses its edge, just like Damascus steel.

There is no room between any of the lines for anything to be inserted, and then the trio take a break to allow a lead guitar break or ask a poor saxophonist to make himself heard above the melee. It is intense, massively over the top, and one can only imagine a performance by these guys must be all-encompassing and also quite short as there is no way they can keep up this level of energy for a significant period of time. Mathcore is being pushed to its very limits here and the listener is quite drained by the end of it, but in a positive manner. It needs to be played loudly, so consequently the gentle melodic break in the middle of the title track (which is not only the final song on the album but also the longest at 5:58) is something of a surprise and shows just how intense and heavy it has been up to that point. 27 minutes, just seven songs, powerful indeed.

CAR BOMB Centralia

Album · 2007 · Mathcore
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siLLy puPPy
Formed on Long Island, New York the mathcore band CAR BOMB didn’t waste any time crafting a totally obnoxious fusion of metalcore bombast with progressive rock complexities. After a couple demos, the quartet of Michael Dafferner (lead vocals), Elliot Hoffman (drums), Greg Kubacki (guitar) and Jon Modell (bass) set out to create the loudest and most abrasive musical output they could muster up and on the debut CENTRALIA which was named after an utterly doomed town in Pennsylvania that was abandoned after an underground mine fire, these hyperactive and over-imaginative freaks pretty much succeeded.

Mathcore is a challenging and difficult listening experience for sure. Absolutely everything is wrapped with the sonic equivalent of barbed wire and only accessible for those with Ankylosaur armor, however it is impossible to dismiss CAR BOMB as mere noise makers no matter what your musical proclivities happen to be. This is a serious band that as over the top as it may be, engages in highly nuanced and sophisticated slabs of iron plated metal music that excels at an equal ratio of bombast turned way past 11 and unpredictability calling its bluff and upping it one hundred and elevenfold. The results are enough to wake the dead and to kill the living.

While mathcore got its start in the New York based Lethargy all the way back in 1992 with Mastodon drummer Brann Dailor in the mix, the most irritating subgenre of metal has become, well, even more irritating as time goes on! Yep, it’s all about maximizing the most extreme forms of music and taking them even further, EVEN further than the comfort zone of most self-proclaimed metalheads. Add a heaping mix of progressiveness to the mix and you have something that will instantly suffocate the uninitiated and make all the non-open-minded ones of the world instantly run for cover as this stuff is the equivalent of a nuclear attack in the musical world!

With tags like technical, complex, heavy, aggressive, dissonant, energetic, manic, uncommon time signatures, dark, hateful, pessimistic, misanthropic and arhythmic, you know you’re in for one heckuva ride with CAR BOMB. Clocking in at a merciful 32 minutes, CENTRALIA is a non-stop metal bombast ride through extremely aggressive sonic assaults. The music is relentless as pummeling guitars, bass and drums are accompanied by the most hardcore screamed vocals that Dafferner can force out of his throat. Not overly far from what bands like Behold The Arctopus and Psyopus have to offer, CAR BOMB maintains its own distinct sound that offers a scant few moments of reflection with soft clean guitar passages but more often than not pummels the hell out of your senses with an incessant supply of start / stop guitar riffs decorated with unusually complex time sigs.

Graced with track titles such as “Cielo Drive” which refers to one of the locations of the morbid Manson Family killing sprees, you know what you’re in for with this brutal beast and at this stage CAR BOMB was merciless with one brutal arrhythmic assault after another and for that i am completely enamored with this completely anti-commercial display of aggressive and energetic parade through bombastic riffs and incessant orotundity. Every musician on this one is at the top of his game and as far as the most brutal extremes of mathcore without the complete surrender to atonality, then you can’t go wrong with CAR BOMB’s excellent debut album CENTRALIA. This is the stuff nightmares are made of. Don’t close your eyes, sunshine. You might be in the wrong CAAAAAAAAAR! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

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