The Moon is a Dead World is one of the greatest albums ever made. It blew me away upon release, and it continues to do so to this day. It’s something of a shame, though, that this classic of progressive post-hardcore has been out of print since, well, since the wonderful Level Plane Records closed. At the time of writing, CD copies on Discogs are going for over £20; and vinyl for over £60. Sure, it might be on Spotify, but that’s no substitute for actually having a copy that sounds the way the album should, and I’ve been hoping for years that someone would reissue it. Well, good news, because the wonderful people at Repeater Records are reissuing the album on vinyl, with pre-orders starting on Friday 12th October.
There’s often a tendency for post-black metal bands to focus on the “post” part of the equation, with the more memorable sections of their music being the more expansive and, for want of a better word, “pretty” sections. This has been as true for Bosse-de-Nage in the past as it has for any other post-black metal band; but now, on Further Still, those moments are relative calm are all-but abandoned, with the songs instead being tight, controlled bursts of fury. If most other post-black metal pulls from post-rock, shoegaze, and Cascadian black metal, then Further Still is post-black via way of Battles in the North and the most furious of post-hardcore. It is vicious, unrelenting, and impossible to deny its power.
Taking in a huge variety of genres and influences, yet with the end results being remarkably focused and cohesive, the self-titled EP by one man band Singular is an impressive slice of noisy post-hardcore/black metal/emoviolence that succeeds in finding the common thread between the genres and stitching it together in impressive style. Moving between emotional soundscapes and blisteringly violent outbursts – and taking in everything in between – this is varied in a way many other bands try, and fail, to be; an achievement made all the more remarkable for being a solo creation.
It shouldn’t have been this way. Sure, I expected that the second album by British band Rope would be an album full of emotional power; the kind of record that can kindle to life emotions you thought were long-lost to the faded memories of youth. But what I didn’t expect Come Closer Now to do was hit in ways that speak of emotional vulnerability in so profoundly adult, mature ways; to come across like a record made by people who have worked shitty jobs, gone through genuine heart-break and loss, and come through it all with their sense of self both reinforced and adjusted. Somewhere between Self Defense Family, Slint, and Jawbox, Come Closer Now is the album that will speak to your 30-something self in ways that you didn’t think were still possible.
That Level Plane Records is no more is nothing short of a tragedy. Between 1997 and 2009, the label released some of the best underground punk, hardcore, screamo, metal, and everything in-between. Originally set up simply so Greg Drudy had an address to put on the back of the first Saetia 7″, the impact and influence the label would go on to have upon the underground scene was huge. Some of these records have been re-issued by other labels – with special praise being given to The Archivist label for getting so many on Bandcamp – but some might require searching on Discogs or eBay.
As such, limiting this list down to only five releases has been rather painful. There’s so many I wanted to include – so many records of superb quality, so many that meant so much to me, and still do – but there’s a reason this series is called Five of the Best, not Twenty of the Best. So, here we go. Feel free to tell me what I missed or what your favourite records from this excellent label are. Enjoy!
About thirty seconds into Only Love, the second album from The Armed, the thought occurs that this is what the future must sound like. The mix of hardcore/punk guitars, frantic electronics, and restless drumming (courtesy of Ben Koller of Converge and All Pigs Must Die, amongst others) produces a real rush of adrenaline and endorphins, and leaves the listener unsure whether to launch themselves into reckless dancing or simply staring in awe at what the band are creating. It’s a feeling that more or less lasts throughout the album and subsequent listens, making Only Love one of the most innovative, exciting albums released under the broad spectrum of hardcore thus far in 2018.
Going by the band name, you probably expect French band Bind Torture Kill to play Suffocation-style brutal/tech-death, full of slams and grunts. But instead, Viscères play post-hardcore of a blackened, chaotic variety, full of weight and the promise of violent catharsis. It’s a challenging album, very different from the norms of post-hardcore, but all the better for it – as if the most forward-thinking elements of Converge were run through dirty black metal, before being combined with the malevolence of bands like The Rodeo Idiot Engine or fellow French hardcore acts like Cowards. It’s really rather good.