12 great screamo releases from 2019
There are pretty much always strong underground scenes happening within hardcore and its various subgenres, and every now and then, those scenes boil over outside of their usual niches, and that's very much happening right now. Hardcore punk and metalcore are already getting more mainstream attention than they have in a long time thanks to the rapid rises and crossover appeal of bands like Code Orange, Turnstile, Vein, and Knocked Loose; mathcore is having a real resurgence thanks to bands like SeeYouSpaceCowboy, .gif from god, Wristmeetrazor, and The Callous Daoboys; and right now it feels like the screamo bubble is about to burst once again too.
Screamo's most classic era may remain the late '90s and early '00s but it never really went away. The genre's influence could clearly be heard in popular 2010s bands like Deafheaven and Touche Amore, and the previous decade birthed a few new screamo classics, like State Faults' Resonate / Desperate, Portrayal of Guilt's Let Pain Be Your Guide, Caravels' Lacuna, and Comadre's self-titled, all of which we recently included on our 100 Best Punk & Emo Albums of the 2010s list. (Not to mention the great '10s albums from Loma Prieta, Lord Snow, We Were Skeletons, The Saddest Landscape, Frameworks, and a handful of others... 100 is a small number!) Very recently, though, it feels like there's a stronger and more unified screamo movement than there has been in a while. The past couple years have seen triumphant comebacks from veteran screamo bands Jeromes Dream, City of Caterpillar, and Majority Rule (and don't forget the first Envy album in five years is coming in February), and there's been a growing amount of new albums that already feel like landmark releases within the genre, like the aforementioned Portrayal of Guilt LP, plus LPs from Ostraca, Respire, Gillian Carter, Massa Nera, and more.
2019 had no shortage of great screamo releases, including some comeback albums, some worthy followups from already-great bands, and some promising albums from some newer bands who seem like they're on the cusp of greatness. We've put together this list of twelve great screamo releases from 2019, which isn't necessarily a "best of" or an "overlooked" list, but just a list of great releases that we think deserve even more attention than they're already getting. Read on for the list, in no particular order...
Shin Guard - 2020
Pittsburgh's Shin Guard actually started out as more of a melodic emo band, but they'd been gradually inching closer to emo's nastier cousin screamo, and on their sophomore LP 2020, they officially went all in. Some of their clean-vocal and spoken-word emo parts remain, but when they show up on the harder-hitting 2020, they act as momentary breaks from the usual madness, and those parts sound even more effective in this context than they did on the band's earlier work. 2020 also finds time for crushing metallic riffage, Fall of Troy-style flashy leads, and jazzy sax without ever losing focus. And it's not just a musically thrilling record, but a lyrically uncompromising album that tackles a handful of political and social issues. If Shin Guard make as big a jump on their next album as they made from 2018's Cerebral to 2020, we're gonna be in for something very special.
Meanwhile, Shin Guard are beginning a US tour this weekend, hitting Chicago, Atlanta, Richmond, Philly, and more.
For Your Health / Shin Guard - Death of Spring
Just a few months after releasing 2020, Shin Guard contributed four more great songs to another of the year's most essential screamo LPs, Death of Spring, a split with Columbus, Ohio's For Your Health (who also dropped Nosebleeds in January). For Your Health go more in the discordant, chaotic direction of classic bands like pg.99 and Orchid, and not only do they do a ton of justice to that sound, but it's a great match for the Shin Guard songs. FYH's contributions contrast well with the more melodic/atmospheric vibes of Shin Guard's first two songs on the split ("Grief Instilled" and "Both Stricken"), and maybe it's just me, but it sounds like Shin Guard get more discordant/chaotic than ever themselves on the last two ("Perfect Boy," "Apropos Mortality").
For Your Health will also be on tour in January and February, starting with two shows with Origami Angel and Short Fictions, followed by a run with Gillian Carter.
Frail Body / Infant Island / Massa Nera / dianacrawls - Hymnes Aux Désarrois de la Peau
Death of Spring wasn't the only great screamo split released this year. Hymnes Aux Désarrois de la Peau, a four-way split between Rockford, IL's Frail Body, Virginia's Infant Island, NJ's Massa Nera, and Montreal's dianacrawls is just as essential. Each of these bands bring a very distinct vibe to the split, and each is great in different ways. Frail Body are operating in a rawer mode on their contribution "Fixed" than they are on their debut full-length which came a few months after this split (more on that in a minute), but even "Fixed" finds them masterfully straddling the beautiful/aggressive line of post-rock-informed screamo. Infant Island describe their own sound as "atmosphere & anguish," and that very much comes across on their contribution "Death Portrait," their first new song since their 2018 self-titled debut album. When the strings come in at the end, it really gets to the next level. On a very similar note, Massa Nera's "Nunca Seremos Lo Mismo" starts out like your average heavy screamo song, but when it turns into a climactic post-rock buildup with gorgeous strings of its own, it becomes a totally different beast. That song follows Massa Nera's also-great 2017 debut album Los Pensamientos De una Cara Palida and their song on 2018's split with thisismenotthinkingofyou, Yo Sbraito, and EF'IL, and so far it just seems like this band can do no wrong. Last but definitely not least is dianacrawls, who contributed three songs that find them exploring the more avant-garde side of screamo without sacrificing any amount of intensity.
If you're in NJ, you can catch Massa Nera's first home state show of the year this month at Asbury Park Brewery (1/18) with The Planet You (record release), Have A Good Season, and Career Opportunities.
UPDATE (1/9): Massa Nera and Foxtails (more on them in a minute) added a NYC show happening February 22 at Gold Sounds with Nine of Swords, Aspine, and Army Wives (tickets).
Frail Body - A Brief Memoriam
Frail Body, who are fresh of touring with the aforementioned For Your Health, signed to Converge frontman J Bannon's Deathwish Inc. label not long after contributing to the Hymnes Aux Désarrois de la Peau split, and they released their debut album on the label in November. It's got much cleaner production than Frail Body had in the past, and that benefits them well, as they've clearly got their eyes set on a more melodic, uplifting sound than some of their peers. A Brief Memoriam is cut from a cloth that's not totally unlike Envy or early Pianos Become the Teeth, and like those bands, Frail Body have some clear crossover appeal, especially if you like post-rock.
Amygdala - Our Voices Will Soar Forever
San Antonio's Amygdala have been grinding for a few years, and with their second album overall and first for Prosthetic Records, Our Voices Will Soar Forever, they've come out with their most transcendent work yet. It greatly expands upon the band's screamo/emoviolence roots, adding in a genre-defying dose of metallic hardcore and much clearer production, and it's a powerful political punk record that's highly relevant in the Trump era but built to outlast it. Our Voices Will Soar Forever is kind of the perfect title; vocalist Bianca Quiñones takes on everything from domestic violence to abortion rights to immigration rights to mental illness, and as painful as these topics can be to sing about, she does it in such a way that you might actually feel some hope. One day, the abusers and the corrupt politicians that Amygdala are singing about will be gone, but this album's voice of dissent will soar forever.
Foxtails - querida hija
I don't know if querida hija is the best album on this list, but it's at least the most ambitious and all-over-the-place. Vocalist Megan Cadena-Fernandez opens the album not screaming at all but instead delivering ethereal sung vocals over organ on "zzz," and by second track "the chickening," this Connecticut band is churning out a mix of pulverizing screamo and dizzying math rock. From there, querida hija continues to bounce between math, screamo, dreamy pop, and more, and even sometimes dips its toes into loungey jazz, and it’s also a bilingual album, with lyrics in both English and Spanish. Foxtails have pretty much been this ambitious since their 2015 debut (and prolific since then too), but querida hija may very well be their strongest and most refined release yet.
Zeta - Mochima
Zeta, who recently relocated to Florida from Venezuela after touring the US like crazy for two years (and ran into well-publicized immigration issues), have been making a breathtaking mix of screamo, post-hardcore, prog, psychedelia, jazz, experimental rock and more for over a decade, and they continued to expand their sound on 2019's Mochima (which, among other things, features guest rapping from Ceschi). It's a wild ride of an album, impossible to pin down, and all the proof you need that this band just keeps getting better. The lyrics are often in Spanish, but the language of Zeta's passionate music is universal.
Nuvolascura - Nuvolascura
LA's Nuvolascura (who were known as Vril up until last year, and whose guitarist Dom used to play in SeeYouSpaceCowboy) recorded their self-titled debut album with Jack Shirley, who -- as a former member of Comadre and a frequent collaborator of Loma Prieta, Deafheaven, State Faults, and more -- is arguably the most reliably great producer/engineer in this game, and a good rule of thumb is that when you see his name in an album's liner notes, you should listen to it. That rule would not fail you with Nuvolascura, who take a classic '90s-style approach to screamo yet manage to sound fresh and distinct. They keep the production raw and the rhythm section pulverizing, yet the guitar melodies are devastatingly beautiful and powerhouse vocalist Erica has a quality to her voice that hooks you immediately. The record flies by, and it's only better with each listen.
Snag - Snag
"I want to break down every border / I want to open every cage / I want to pull down every statue / And plant roses in their place," Milwaukee's Snag shout at the beginning of standout track "The Only Rational Response," and they do it with so much conviction that it stopped me in my tracks the first time I heard it. They don't sound preachy, they sound helpless, and I think that's why it shook me to my core so much. Snag capture the feeling that so many of us have, that there are all these problems in the world right now and nothing we can do about it. The issues on "The Only Rational Response" are ones that a lot of activism-minded musicians have sung about recently, but throughout their killer self-titled debut album, Snag also offer up commentary on an issue I haven't heard as many songs about: climate change. "The more I learn, the more I believe the earth is a corpse laid at our feet," they wail on "Colony Collapse." Who knew caring about the environment could be so damn emo. But seriously, this album rips. Snag wrap their message into goosebump-inducing songs, with intricate instrumentation, engaging interludes, and a knack for overlapping vocals that make the chaos in the lyrics even more palpable.
Senza - Even a Worm Will Turn
"Many tracks bleed into each other / album best listened to in full," Eugene, Oregon's Senza advise listeners of their 2019 debut album Even a Worm Will Turn, which followed four years of EPs/splits/etc (and features some of those same songs), and we concur. Some songs are just a minute long, one's over nine minutes, but the whole LP often just acts as one big song cycle rather than a collection of tracks. Even a Worm Will Turn flirts with black metal, mathcore, post-rock, and other subgenres, while still remaining in the lineage of '90s-style screamo, though it remains a very focused album despite how all-over-the-place it may look on paper. I've seen people compare it to pg.99 and I've seen people compare it to Deafheaven, and I think it could easily appeal to fans of both. It casually defies genre, and it's got the power and precision of a band who's been around twice as long.
Portrayal of Guilt - Suffering Is A Gift
As mentioned in the intro of this article, we named Portrayal of Guilt's 2018 debut album Let Pain Be Your Guide one of the best punk/emo albums of the decade, and with this year's quick-and-dirty Suffering Is A Gift EP, they proved their powerful debut was no fluke. They continue to pack a ridiculous amount of musical variety into very short songs (the longest song here is under three minutes, most are under two), bringing in bits of noise, death metal, post-rock, grindcore, powerviolence and more into this EP without losing focus (and without losing the ability to still fit on a screamo-specific list). Suffering Is A Gift reminds me why I thought Portrayal of Guilt's debut LP was an instant-classic the day it came out and it makes me fall in love with the band all over again, and that's more than you can usually ask for from a stop-gap EP.
State Faults - Clairvoyant
State Faults are the only band on this list that you can almost call veterans at this point (their album that we included on our emo/punk decade list, Resonate / Desperate, is already nearing 7 years old!), but they sound like a hungry new band on their first album in six years. Clairvoyant doesn't feel like a "comeback" so much as it feels like a fresh start, and it breathes new life into the screamo scene as much as (or even more than) the newer bands on this list do. Clairvoyant also makes good use of clean, big-sounding production (courtesy of Jack Shirley), and it does so while remaining the heaviest, meanest sounding State Faults record to date. This is how you come back from a hiatus.
SOME MORE RELATED NEWS
New Yorkers reading this list may want to know that Soul Glo -- who are really more of a hardcore punk band but sometimes sorta screamo (and who released the great The N**** In Me Is Me in 2019) -- are playing Brooklyn's Gold Sounds on Sunday, January 12 with Capacities, Fluoride (who dropped Disentanglement in 2019), and Quantice Never Crashed (tickets). That's the day after Soul Glo and Capacities play Philly with We Were Skeletons and Everywhen (ex-1994!, Algernon Cadwallader, Prawn).
Need an anticipated 2020 release? Frail Hands (not to be confused with Frail Body) are following their great 2017 S/T with their sophomore album parted/departed/apart next week (1/10) via Twelve Gauge Records, and the first two singles are rippers:
Need even more? 13 more great screamo releases from 2019:
* Algae Bloom - I am less than I expected to be
* Cady - Silence Will Not Protect You
* Coma Regalia - Vau Faelgoh
* Drei Affen - Seguimos Ciegxs
* Elle - ...
* Ghost Spirit - Hourglass
* Hundreds of AU - Mission Priorities on Launch
* Joliette - Luz Devora
* Lord Snow - Shadowmarks
* New Forms - I don't want to live my life again
* Overo - s/t
* Shirokuma - Clothes I Wear For The Space I'm In
* Shizune + Lytic split
* To Be Gentle - L'autre Côté de la Peur