In Defense of the Genre is a column on BrooklynVegan about punk and its many offshoots, including and often especially the bands and albums and subgenres that weren’t always taken so seriously. This list looks at some of the genre's most over-the-top, theatrical, and often intentionally obnoxious albums.

With the continued rise of bands like SeeYouSpaceCowboy, .gif from god, Wristmeetrazor, For Your Health, Portrayal of Guilt, Kaonashi, The Callous Daoboys,'redead, Omerta, and other similar artists, there's been a renewed interest in the 2000s bands who laid the groundwork for this current wave of over-the-top hardcore. Bands like these get called chaotic hardcore, mathcore, sasscore -- some more accurately than others -- but there really isn't a clear-cut subgenre that these bands fall into. They're often as fast as grind/powerviolence but more tuneful and unpredictable, heavier and more sneering than screamo but more emotive than metalcore, as twitchy as post-punk but as caustic as post-hardcore. Synths are often used just as prominently as guitars, and bright melodies are often juxtaposed with discordant noise. A lot of different-sounding bands fall all across this spectrum of music. What ties them all together, though, is that almost all of them sound frantic, sarcastic, theatrical, shapeshifting, and often intentionally obnoxious. As a way of doing a deep dive into this "genre" -- which primarily existed in the 2000s before its recent comeback -- I've put together a list of 25 2000s albums that fit this description and feel influential and/or worth revisiting today. Some of these bands have also reunited and/or made comebacks in recent years. Two of them in particular have recently undergone drastic reinventions and have given their careers a second life, and in cases like those, it's always fun to revisit the early days after seeing how they'd transform later on.

As with any list about a loosely defined genre, there are gonna be some questions about what fits; here are a few I had. Do bands like Every Time I Die and The Chariot count? They share a lot of the same traits but I'd say they were a little more accessible and a little more firmly metalcore than anything else on this list. (And you can read about both in our recent list of second wave metalcore.) Do Converge and The Dillinger Escape Plan count? They've probably influenced almost every band on this list, but they kind of exist beyond the niche that this list is really about. (You can read about both of those in that same metalcore list, as well as in many other articles from over the years.) What about, like, Hot Hot Heat and Death From Above 1979? They definitely helped bring sass to the masses and they ran in the same circles as some of these bands early on, but they're more "sass" than "-core" and not entirely what I'm going for with the premise of this list. Does including The Blood Brothers kind of contradict every other point I just made? Maybe, but as big as they became, they entirely epitomized this sound, perhaps more than any other band. (For much, much more on sass, Ellie Kovach has a fantastic essay called "The Definitive Word On Sass" and it's an absolute must-read on this topic.)

As with any list that's limited to 25 albums and spans an entire decade, there are guaranteed to be some omissions. I do these lists to start a conversation, no to be the end all be all, so leave the albums you would've added in the comments. Read on for my list...

Black Cat 13

Black Cat #13 - I Blast Off! (2000)

Before Jesse F. Keeler went on to achieve fame with Death From Above 1979 (and MSTRKRFT and other projects), he was the drummer for the sassy Canadian synthpunk band Black Cat #13, a band he considers to be the launching point for everything he did since. One of the band's early tours was with The Locust (more on them soon), and Black Cat #13 became the first non-California band to sign to Locust member Justin Pearson's Three One G label, whose interest in signing self-proclaimed "annoying" bands played a major role in the development of the type of music represented on this list. The synth-driven Black Cat #13 weren't as traditionally heavy as a lot of the guitar bands in this genre, but they went just as hard, and vocalist Lindsey Gillard's (later of The Sick Lipstick) shouted sneer was as sarcastic and awesomely abrasive as any of them. (Not to mention they predated a lot of bands on this list and probably influenced a bunch of them.) This short-lived band didn't release that much music, but what they did release left an immediate and lasting impact, and this four-song EP is some of the best music of its kind.


The Sawtooth Grin

The Sawtooth Grin - Cuddlemonster (2001)

"Annoying" might be a good word to describe a lot of bands on this list, but for Montrose, New York's The Sawtooth Grin, "annoying" is an understatement. They veer closer to straight-up grindcore than most of these bands, but they descend into enough mathcore chaos to fit into this niche, and their music sounds as irreverent as song titles like "Satan Would Sit in the Smoking Section But He Doesn't Like the Creepy Waiter" and "Please Shit All Over Me, I Love It." (Song titles like those come up a lot with bands like these.) The record offers up seven songs that are over and done with in about 16 minutes, and that may sound short but honestly, I don't know if anyone could handle more Sawtooth Grin than this. It is some of the most overtly grating, nails-on-a-chalkboard shit to come out of the early 2000s post-hardcore scene, and it just so happens to be some of the most fun too.



Racebannon - In the Grips of the Light (2002)

If "apocalyptic sasscore" was an accepted genre, Racebannon would be its poster children. The Indiana band's Mike Mogis-recorded sophomore album (and Secretly Canadian debut) In the Grips of the Light includes a Captain Beefheart cover ("Electricity") and it owes as much to that band's psychedelic freakouts as it does to the Gravity Records/Three One G scene as it does to Sonic Youth and Swans. Sometimes it offers up sassy, flamboyant post-hardcore that rivals the Blood Brothers album that came out a month later (more on that in a sec), and other times it takes a noise-drenched acid trip into outer space. Vocalist Mike Anderson can sound as sarcastic as you'd want a sass band to sound, but he can also sound genuinely desperate, like the entire world is crashing in on him and this is his one last call to be saved.


Blood Brothers March

The Blood Brothers - March On Electric Children (2002)

The Blood Brothers brought chaotic, sassy hardcore to the mainstream with their 2003 breakthrough ...Burn, Piano Island, Burn, one of the most important post-hardcore albums of its generation, but they had already figured out their sound on the Three One G-released, Matt Bayles-produced March On Electric Children, which came out the year prior. It's just as anarchic and over-the-top as ...Burn, Piano Island Burn, and it's just as strangely accessible too. Songs like the title track and "Kiss of the Octopus" are just as immediate as the bigger hits The Blood Brothers would score throughout the 2000s. It's also a concept album that's more ambitious in scope (and better produced) than their 2000 debut This Adultery Is Ripe, but clocking in at less than 25 minutes, it's a more compact, fat-trimmed version of The Blood Brothers than the later albums. It's the perfect middle ground, and it's the album that belongs on this list because -- while ...Burn, Piano Island Burn transcended the sassy hardcore niche -- March on Electric Children set the gold standard for it.



Orchid - Orchid (aka "Gatefold") (2002)

Orchid helped define screamo as we know it with their 1999 debut LP Chaos Is Me and 2000 sophomore LP Dance Tonight! Revolution Tomorrow!, but for their final act, they went in a more flamboyant, melodic post-hardcore direction. Down to having a song called "Chaos Ain't Me," Orchid made it clear that their self-titled LP was a reaction to the sound they'd become best known for, and though their first two albums will probably always be considered their most classic, the impact of Orchid is crucial. Jayson Green's sassier, cleaner vocals and the band's more expansive instrumentation helped bridge the gap between early screamo and the dramatic post-hardcore of the mid 2000s, and this record undoubtedly influenced a handful of the later bands on this list. 3/4 of Orchid would go in an even more sassy dance-punk direction with their next band Panthers, and this album is the perfect middle ground between Panthers and Orchid's chaotic hardcore roots. It's less of a sonic assault than Chaos Is Me, but it's sneering, sarcastic tone makes it arguably feel even more confrontational.


Since By Man

Since By Man - We Sing the Body Electric (2003)

"We sing the body electric/Sickness says hold on/Would you like to dance, dance, dance?"

That's how Since By Man open "A Kid Who Tells on Another Kid is a Dead Kid" (probably an Over the Edge reference but not a Nation of Ulysses cover), with Sam Macon raising his voice to a harsh shriek on "dance, dance, dance" and totally embodying flamboyant hardcore in the process. That line also gives this Milwaukee band's Revelation-released debut LP its title, and -- for a subgenre that prides itself on shamelessly verbose poetry -- it makes sense that a band would name their album after a Whitman poem. Throughout We Sing the Body Electric, Since By Man deliver a shapeshifting soundscape that bounces between melodic math riffs, clean-sung hooks, and bludgeoning metalcore, sounding like a cross between The Blood Brothers, Botch, and Poison The Well (who Since By Man guitarist Brad Clifford later joined). It's often a fast, frenzied, constantly-in-motion record, but it sets itself apart from dime-a-dozen mathcore with a few atmospheric, slow-burning songs that veer closer to Jupiter-era Cave In. I don't know if this particular album is a big influence on the current punk scene or not, but it sure sounds like it could be; it combines a lot of different sounds that have been coming to prominence in recent years. Some parts of this album sound like early 2000s post-hardcore in a nutshell, but other times it feels genuinely ahead of its time.



The Locust - Plague Soundscapes (2003)

The Locust are one of the many, many bands to feature Three One G founder Justin Pearson -- whose '90s band Swing Kids paved the way for just about every band on this list -- and The Locust kind of took what Swing Kids started and made it 8,000 times more batshit. On Plague Soundscapes, their second album and first for ANTI- Records, their songs are often less than a minute long, and they pack as much into 30 seconds as Pink Floyd do into 30 minutes. It sounds like concoction of multiple lead screamers, off-key guitars, speaker-busting synths, and rapidfire drumming in a blender, and I know a lot of music writers use the phrase "in a blender," but The Locust actually sound like one of their instruments might be a blender. It is complete chaos; it doesn't go off the rails so much as it implies there were never rails to begin with. But somehow, it feels controlled. The sharp production by At The Drive In/Knapsack collaborator Alex Newport makes everything shine, and these songs only work because The Locust is so impossibly tight. You need to learn the rules to break them, and The Locust break every rule in the book, but they know exactly what they're doing.


Ed Gein

Ed Gein - It's a Shame That a Family Can Be Torn Apart by Something as Simple as a Pack of Wild Dogs (2003)

Somewhere between screamo, metalcore, grindcore, and mathcore was Syracuse's Ed Gein. Their 2003 debut LP was recorded like shit, and the total lack of production quality makes the music sound even more ear-piercing than it already would have. The songs are short and the music changes shape every 15 seconds, making for an album that's in a constant state of motion and feels unpredictable at every turn. Guitars go out of key on a whim, vocals sound frantic and throat-shredding and frequently feature two people screaming at once, and the rhythms are totally manic. Ed Gein only ever interrupt the fury to interject trippy movie samples that add to the utter ridiculousness of it all. The cacophony is over and done with in about 15 minutes, but hang around for the hidden track: a raw screamo cover of Nirvana's "Very Ape."


An Albatross

An Albatross - We Are the Lazer Viking (2003)

Like The Locust, back-in-action Philly maniacs An Albatross stuffed grindcore speed, progressive rock maximalism, and swirls of synths and guitars into 40-second songs, but more so than The Locust, An Albatross had their eyes set on the dancefloor... and maybe also the arcade and the circus. They sound like if Converge were tasked with soundtracking something that could be interchangeably used by both Atari and Barnum & Bailey, and it ultimately feels more like dance music than mosh music. All of this madness comes alive on 2003's excellent We Are the Lazer Viking, a mind-, body-, and headfuck that never even makes it to the 10-minute mark.



Daughters - Canada Songs (2003)

Daughters have never made the same album twice, and as their career progressed, their songwriting got more and more dynamic. Their dark, atmospheric 2018 comeback album You Won't Get What You Want is possibly their finest work yet, and it's nothing like the grindy, chaotic music they were making when they started out. Their constant evolution is one of the main reasons they've managed to achieve longevity and not exist eternally as an "early 2000s band," but that doesn't mean their early work has gotten any less significant over time. If anything, it just means we now see their early work in a different light. Daughters now regularly write sprawling, climactic songs that reveal themselves over time. In contrast, their 2003 debut album Canada Songs clocks in at exactly the same amount of time it takes to listen the first two songs on You Won't Get What You Want. But to some extent, their songwriting is just as intricate now as it was back then. Daughters were never really a grindcore band so much as they were an art rock band operating at a grindcore pace. Canada Songs is full of incongruent sounds and ideas coming together to create something that would sound like a total mess in a lesser band's hands, but which Daughters pulled off gracefully. And topping it all off is Alexis Marshall, who these days is a brooding goth crooner, but who back then was a flamboyant shrieker who gave this album exactly the attitude it needed.


HORSE the Band

HORSE the Band - R. Borlax (2003)

HORSE the Band's mix of punk, metalcore, video game-inspired synths, and lyrics about video game characters helped pioneer the Nintendocore subgenre, but pigeonholing them into such a super specific description kind of takes away from how singular and enduring their music is. R. Borlax, their first proper album, is all over the place in the best way possible. The album sounds like a high-speed car chase, swerving between bone-crushing metalcore, danceable '80s pop, melodic emo, discordant mathcore, and more, and usually crashing into two or three of those things at once. (The synth-fueled intro of fan fave "Cutsman" sounds like a Dan Yemin band covering Bon Jovi's "Runaway.") The album is heavy, theatrical, and deeply strange, but it's also a revved-up adrenaline rush and severely catchy. It's constantly caught between extremes: too many breakdowns and harsh growls for people who don't really like metal and too many brightly colored synths, clean-sung hooks, and dance beats for people who primarily do. For us weirdos who exist right in the middle of all that, there is HORSE the band.


Fear Before Art Damage

Fear Before the March of Flames - Art Damage (2004)

Fear Before the March of Flames started out as a chaotic hardcore band and ended up as an experimental, progressive post-hardcore band that sounded so different from their early days that they sort of changed their name (to just Fear Before), and if you listen to their discography in chronological order, you'll hear that the progression actually happened pretty naturally. Art Damage -- released in 2004 on Equal Vision is their second album and the peak of their heavier, screamier days. "Art damage" is also a great description for what this album, and pretty much everything else on this list, sounds like. Art Damage shared DNA with The Blood Brothers' flamboyant, scream/sung dual vocals, Botch's mathy metalcore, and Orchid's manic screamo, and they turned it into something they could call their own. Art Damage hints at the more experimental and melodically complex work that FBTMOF would explore on their later two albums, and it does so without sacrificing any of the unfiltered aggression. It sounds like a hardcore band reaching the limits of their genre, just about ready to boil over into new territory but still devoted to the gnarly, abrasive place they came from.



Showbread - No Sir, Nihilism Is Not Practical (2004)

As a band with albums on Tooth & Nail and overtly Christian lyrical themes, Georgia's Showbread have gotten lumped in with Christian hardcore, but they prefer to call themselves "raw rock" and they've also faced backlash and been called "satanic" by certain Christian groups. Their breakthrough 2004 album No Sir, Nihilism Is Not Practical also has songs called "Sampsa Meets Kafka" and "The Bell Jar," suggesting they pull from classic literature as much as they pull from the Bible. They're too complicated to fit in with any one particular niche, and that's just as true sonically as it is thematically. Across the 13 shapehifting songs on No Sir, Nihilism Is Not Practical, Showbread hop between sassy hardcore, raw screamo, radio-friendly alternative rock, glittery synths, industrial noise, somber folk music, melodic indie rock, and so much more. It's about as maximalist, over-the-top, and genre-defying as a post-hardcore album can get without departing from the genre entirely. The whole thing would feel a little too ridiculous if the end result wasn't so damn satisfying.

Side note: Showbread are scheduled to end a 5+ year hiatus by performing No Sir, Nihilism Is Not Practical in full at Furnace Fest 2021.


The Great Redneck Hope

The Great Redneck Hope - Behold the Fuck Thunder (2004)

Colorado's The Great Redneck Hope recorded their second and final album with Kurt Ballou of Converge, and they shared that band's knack for grindy mathcore but were about 100 times more tongue-in-cheek. Even if they didn't name their songs things like "Did You Ever Notice That 'Stat' Is 'Tats' Backward? Dude, That's So Tribal.," you'd be able to pick up on The Great Redneck Hope's lack of seriousness just from listening to the music. It's a totally brutal album, and they'll interrupt the brutality at random to interject goofy spoken word samples, novelty jazz, or amateur funk guitar. It's funny, obnoxious, and grating, but just because The Great Redneck Hope don't take themselves too seriously doesn't mean this isn't serious music. Behold the Fuck Thunder features 11 songs that all segue directly into each other and clock in at just nine minutes, and it never feels short or incomplete; it feels overwhelming.


punk vinyl


Plot Fascist Brothel

The Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower - Love in the Fascist Brothel (2005)

Before vocalist Brandon Welchez and guitarist Charles Rowell formed Crocodiles and drummer Brian Hill formed The Soft Pack, they all played together in The Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower, a manic post-hardcore band informed by jazz, noise, punk, metal, and more. Their second and final album Love in the Fascist Brothel -- co-released by Three One G and Revelation -- is less overtly jazzy than the band's 2003 debut Dissertation, Honey (though it's got the sax-fueled, John Zorn-esque "Lipstick SS"), but it's sassier and even more chaotic. With dance beats, discordant/noise freakouts, and Brandon Welchez's sneering, shouted voice, Love in the Fascist Brothel sounds like The Blood Brothers with an art degree. It qualifies as a concept album, which -- down to the album title, artwork, and song titles -- centers on a mocking, satirical take on nazism and fascism. And if you're unsure that this band -- who have Jewish and queer members -- were in fact intending for this album to be satire, just listen to it. Brandon's tone couldn't be any more sarcastic.


Number Twelve Nuclear

The Number Twelve Looks Like You - Nuclear. Sad. Nuclear (2005)

The Number Twelve Looks Like You's Nuclear. Sad. Nuclear is proggy enough to fit in with progressive post-hardcore, but it's also just as much a chaotic mathcore album. It's a record that rarely stays in the same place for more than like 15 seconds. Any given song is likely to constantly change timbre and tempo and incorporate anything from screamo to death metal to grindcore to post-rock, but you really need to hear the album as a whole to get a full grasp on this band's musical ambition.



The Jonbenet - The Plot Thickens (2005)

The Blood Brothers spawned a lot of imitators, and the best of them just might have been The Jonbenet. You can't deny the influence, but The Jonbenet did it so well, and by the time they released The Plot Thickens (their not-technically-debut-album which comprised their 2005 split with The Kidnap Soundtrack and the previous year's Five Stories Retold EP), The Blood Brothers were about two albums removed from sounding this much like a raw basement band. The Jonbenet also did put their own twist on it; they went more into straight-up metalcore territory than The Blood Brothers, and they combined their saccharine side and their heavy side in new, interesting ways. Some of their hooks are as sugary as the radio-friendly emo-pop of the era, but The Jonbenet always contrasted those hooks with a caustic hysteria that suggested they didn't give a fuck about the radio. It's provocative, defiant, and outrageous, and delightfully so.



XBXRX - Sixth In Sixes (2005)

Every band on this list creates one hell of a racket, but XBXRX give even the most ear-piercing bands a run for their money. On their 2005 Polyvinyl debut Sixth In Sixes, XBXRX's rhythm section sounds like a classic '80s hardcore record coming out of a blown speaker, and then they cover it with out-of-key distorted synths, and the tinfolk-on-a-chalkboard screams of Vice Cooler, who sounds desperately in need of throat surgery throughout this entire album. The band's rotating lineup included drummer Weasel Walter on this album, and it makes sense that XBXRX would be a welcome home for a musician with roots in no wave, noise, and improvisation. Sixth In Sixes is as harsh and heavy as any handful of screamo/hardcore bands, but it's coated in layers of noise and they take a real avant-garde approach to their fury. It's somewhere in the same ballpark as Daughters and The Locust, but it really doesn't sound much like any other band in this genre. Even over 15 years later, it feels thrillingly original.


Letters In Binary

Letters In Binary - Pretty and Perpendicular (2006)

Michigan band Letters In Binary arose from the ashes of Enkephalin (whose only release was a 2003 split with Phoenix Bodies, who Letters In Binary shared a member with - more on them momentarily) and in 2006 they released their second and final album Pretty and Perpendicular. It's got raw, bare-bones, demo-quality production which is offset by the fact that the band is so goddamn tight, and their music fits the "chaotic" descriptor perfectly. Pretty and Perpendicular has 14 songs that range from 10 seconds in length to two minutes (though the longest song is actually a Swing Kids cover), and they clock in at a total of 14 minutes - less if you omit the gap of silence before the hidden track. They incorporate mind-meltingly technical mathcore, jackhammering grindcore, jazz interludes, formless jams, spoken word samples, and more, and Dan Farabaugh's screams nail a balance between sassy and throat-shredding. Give this album a cursory listen and you might write it off as run-of-the-mill grind/mathcore, but repeated listens reveal a genuinely innovative band who never got their proper due.

Phoenix Bodies

Phoenix Bodies - Raise the Bullshit Flag (2006)

Phoenix Bodies released a handful of splits, including the aforementioned one in 2003 with pre-Letters In Binary band Enkephalin, plus later ones with Raein, Hewhocorrupts, La Quiete, and more, but their sole full-length was 2006's Raise the Bullshit Flag. (They also shared members with Mara'Akate, who had a split with Racebannon.) Clocking in at under 16 minutes, Raise the Bullshit Flag speeds through 10 tracks that straddle the line between sass and grind. It's too sneering and sarcastic to qualify as full-on grindcore and too much of a brutal sonic assault to be post-hardcore. It's also one of the most slept-on records to come out of the whole early/mid 2000s wave of hardcore-adjacent bands. It's a crisp, cleaned-up record compared to their dirtier sounding early works, and the clearer production really shows how much nuance is in these songs. Like a lot of these bands, Phoenix Bodies have a sense of humor and the chaos they create borders on ridiculous, but it feels so focused and intentional that you know they're not fucking around.


Me and Him Call It Us Loss

Me and Him Call It Us - Loss (2006)

Before guitarist/vocalist Blake Connally went on to front the crusty grind/powerviolence band Dead In The Dirt and then the deathgrind band Infernal Coil, you could find him mixing mathcore, grindcore, screamo, sass, noise, and more with Me and Him Call It Us, who released their second and final album Loss in 2006. Blake's later bands are more pulverizing, but MAHCIU are undeniably the most chaotic. On Loss, they sound like they're destroying their instruments as they're playing them. Songs change shape and fall off their hinges at the drop of a hat. One works in a harshly screamed interpolation of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" ("Just Can't Function No More"). One includes so many minutes of guitar feedback that even the members of Sonic Youth might turn it off (and it's called "Headache"). The album feels like it's going to fall apart at any given second, and it kind of makes sense that the band themselves imploded the following year. I don't know how much longer something that sounds this combustible could possibly last.


Genghis Tron Board Up

Genghis Tron - Board Up The House (2008)

Genghis Tron returned in early 2021 with a new lineup and their first album in 13 years, Dream Weapon. Like the latest Daughters album, it's a total reinvention. It pulls from psychedelic pop, krautrock, synthwave, and more, and it's a bright, catchy album; not one rooted in hardcore. It feels totally unexpected, but at the same time, the seeds for Dream Weapon were planted on Genghis Tron's previous album, Board Up The House (released in 2008 via Relapse). This album flirted with the krauty synth jams and atmospheric, melodic, clean-sung hooks that are now Genghis Tron's calling cards, but this one is a chaotic hardcore record at heart. (And, ironically, Genghis Tron's hardcore-adjacent records were the ones recorded with a drum machine. Dream Weapon is their first with a human drummer.) Genghis Tron were called "cybergrind" back in this era, and it makes sense. Electronics? Check. Elements of grindcore? Also check. But "cybergrind" kind of undersells how expansive this album is. A lot of the bands on this list -- and within grindcore -- favor 30-90 second songs, but Board Up the House has a real prog side to it. They sound like a band who listened to grindcore and mathcore as much as they listened to Rush and Yes. Those things may seem like they exist at opposite ends of the musical spectrum, but Genghis Tron find the ways in which they intersect, and the result is a total head trip.


Duck Duck Goose

Duck Duck Goose - Noise, Noise and More Noise (2008)

They may be named after a playful children's game, but Duck Duck Goose are not for the faint of heart. On their debut EP Noise, Noise and More Noise, the California band find the exact middle ground between Every Time I Die's metalcore theatrics and The Blood Brothers' dramatic sass, and they tangle it all up in knotty mathcore rhythms. It's among the most in-your-face, obnoxious stuff to come out of this corner of the musical universe, but it's also some of the most accessible. DDG embraced cleaner production than a lot of their peers, and -- while some of these bands were destined to remain in obscurity -- they really sound like they could've been a lot bigger. Like Every Time I Die, their songs manage to sound arena-sized even when they're fueled by guttural screams. And their mathy side is technical without ever sounding overbearing or taking away from the song. But who knows, maybe their moment will still come; they were supposed to do a comeback tour opening for Heavy Heavy Low Low (more on them soon) until the pandemic hit. Hopefully they still plan to get back on the road, and maybe their best days are yet to come.


Heavy Heavy Low Low Turtle Nipple

Heavy Heavy Low Low - Turtle Nipple and the Toxic Shock (2008)

Heavy Heavy Low Low were still kind of a niche band in the mathcore/scenecore realm when they broke up in 2012, but their music really transcended their niche, and in the time since their breakup, they've been increasingly cited as an influence by new up and coming bands. They're now set to do a reunion tour when it's safe, most of the members are making awesome (and even more chaotic) music with their new band Bone Cutter, and records like Turtle Nipple and the Toxic Shock are finally being rightfully recognized as the classics that they are. This is the band's third and final LP, and it's one of their best. The music is a total circus of discordant mathcore, and Robbie Smith's exaggerated sing-screaming makes the whole thing even more over the top. It works in a cover of Black Flag's "Wasted," one of the earliest and most simplistic hardcore songs ever, and its inclusion works to show how far HHLL were willing to take hardcore while still honoring the genre's roots and remaining within the hardcore lineage. I don't know if Black Flag ever could have imagined they'd be creating something that would lead to bands as batshit as Heavy Heavy Low Low, but I hope they're proud to know they did.



Hayworth - INPYFAD (I Now Pronounce You Fucked and Depressed) (2009)

The short-lived Hayworth existed in the late 2000s for just two full-lengths and one EP, and as you may expect from an album title like I Now Pronounce You Fucked and Depressed, they were totally nuts. INPYFAD was their second and final LP, and it's a sassy, mathy, grindy screamo/hardcore record that just sounds totally outrageous. Coming at the tail-end of the 2000s, you can hear hints of a lot of the stuff that came before, but Hayworth made it their own. They worked in random flirtations with a slew of other genres, from death metal to emo-pop, and INPYFAD is a record that channels the sonic assault of The Locust one minute and the volatile sounds of Me and Him Call It Us the next. It's chaotic even by chaotic hardcore's standards, and it's a blast to listen to.



One of the big reasons I'm looking back on these 25 albums is that this type of hardcore is having a real moment right now. Here are five great songs from 2021 that breathe new life into this sound...

For Your Health - "save your breath, you're gonna need it to blow my head off"

For Your Health's 2021 debut LP In Spite Of is some of the best controlled chaos of the year, with hints of The Locust, Daughters, and Fear Before as well as an unabashed love of emo-pop like My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy. There's a ton of great stuff on it, and on "save your breath, you're gonna need it to blow my head off," they embrace straight-up sass before evolving into heavy-as-fuck metalcore, and the whole thing only lasts 64 seconds.


SeeYouSpaceCowboy & If I Die First - "bloodstainedyes"

This song and video looks and sounds like it just stumbled out of a Hot Topic in 2006 and I am living for it.


Kaonashi - "An Evening of Moving Pictures with Scooter Corkle"

This is the lead single off self-proclaimed "emo mathcore" band Kaonashi's just-released concept album for Equal Vision/Unbeaten Records, and as we recently said, it spends its absolutely fucking batshit three and a half minutes bouncing between manic screams, discordant fury and almost-cloyingly catchy hooks, and it's full of progressive post-hardcore sized ambition. Its video was directed by The Number Twelve Looks Like You vocalist Jesse Korman, which feels like a real passing-of-the-torch moment, from one chaotic band to another.

--'redead - "Baby's First Pyramid Scheme"

This band refers to their music as "danceviolence" and I hope that catches on, because it's a good way to describe a lot of these bands. Also, their music is genuinely insane.


Wristmeetrazor - "Last Tango In Paris"

Wristmeetrazor's 2019 debut LP Misery Never Forgets was already nuts, and they're taking that nuttiness to another level on its followup Replica of a Strange Love. The album's lead single "Last Tango In Paris," which features guest screams by Knocked Loose's Isaac Hale (who also produced the album), treks through nu metal and metalcore riffage, screamo and death metal screams, a bellowing gothic metal chorus, and more. "Chaotic" would only begin to describe it.



* 15 albums that shaped progressive post-hardcore in the 2000s

* 25 essential screamo albums from the ’90s/’00s that still hold up today

* 15 albums that defined the 2000s post-hardcore boom

* 15 ’90s metalcore albums that still resonate today

* 15 seminal albums from metalcore's second wave (2000-2010)


Read past and future editions of 'In Defense of the Genre' here.

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