In Defense of the Genre is a column on BrooklynVegan about punk, pop punk, emo, post-hardcore, and more, including and often especially the bands and albums and subgenres that weren’t always taken so seriously. Here are The Genre’s five best songs from August.
Before I get into the August roundup for In Defense of the Genre, I'd like to pay my respects once more to Power Trip's Riley Gale, who we sadly lost this month at age 34. If you like the punk, emo, post-hardcore, hardcore, and other related subgenres covered in this column but you haven't checked out thrash/hardcore greats Power Trip, I highly recommend giving them a good listen. They've got plenty of great studio material and they were a force on stage, as captured in some of these great live videos. Riley's impact was felt far and wide, as evidenced by the tributes that poured in from all over the metal and hardcore communities, including from Code Orange, Touche Amore, La Dispute, Knocked Loose, Anthrax, Ice-T, Thursday, Fucked Up, Jay Weinberg, Converge, Cave In, Turnstile, Lamb of God, and many others. Rest in peace, Riley.
Riley's death was so shocking because of his age, but we also lost a true punk legend this month: Walter Lure of Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers. Members of the Ramones, Sex Pistols, Blondie, Garbage, and more have paid tribute.
On to the roundup. Here are the punk-related features we ran this past month:
* Be Well’s Brian McTernan talks powerful debut LP, influences & more in Q&A
* Q&A with The Faith on upcoming live album from 1981 CBGB show with Bad Brains
* Jesse Malin discusses 11 of his favorite Todd Youth songs
* country singer Arlo McKinley discusses his 5 favorite punk & metal albums
* 11 must-hear punk albums from 2020 (so far)
* 14 must-hear emo, screamo, and post-hardcore albums from 2020 (so far)
* 12 must-hear hardcore albums and EPs from 2020 (so far)
* 10 classic '70s punk concert videos to watch right now
* 15 classic '90s/'00s emo live videos to watch right now
* A look back on underrated punk/post-punk legend Adrian Borland of The Sound and The Outsiders
Some other August punk news: The Bouncing Souls have a don't-call-it-an-acoustic album coming (The Menzingers do too), Bad Religion put out a drastically reworked version of "Faith Alone" and an autobiography, a Distillers reissue is coming, a Bane documentary is coming, Jimmy Eat World's Jim Adkins launched a video podcast (guests so far include Mark Hoppus, Nate Ruess, Chris Carrabba, Ben Gibbard, Tegan Quinn, David Bazan, and more), Henry Rollins did too, blink-182 return to skate punk on new song, Soulside released their first 7" in 31 years, Comeback Kid paid tribute to Chi Pig with an SNFU cover, and Jello Biafra took on Trump and Putin with a new song.
Read on for my picks of the five best songs of August 2020 that fall somewhere under the punk umbrella. Just by chance, all five this month fall on the heavy side...
Excide - "Actualize"
If you like the new Higher Power album as much as me, you're gonna wanna make sure you're not sleeping on Excide, who seem to have a lot of the same influences and who are similarly great at fusing them together. Their new single "Actualize" marries the chugs of Earth Crisis' Firestorm to soaring Deftones choruses, and there's a little of Turnstile's psychedelic hardcore in there too. It's catchy, forceful, and it feels both familiar and fresh.
Svalbard - "Listen To Someone"
UK post-hardcore greats Svalbard's new album When I Die, Will I Get Better? comes out 9/25 via Translation Loss/Holy Roar, and while lead single "Open Wound" hinted at a more atmospheric, post-rocky direction, newer single "Listen To Someone" dives fully into that territory and incorporates ethereal dream pop/shoegaze vocals too. If you like the heavy shoegaze of bands like Hum and Nothing or the more art rock-leaning Thrice and Thursday songs, you need to listen to "Listen To Someone."
Chamber - "In Cleansing Fire"
Somewhere between Botch and Converge's mathcore, Poison The Well's melodic metalcore, and Knocked Loose's current-day metalcore revival lies Chamber, whose anticipated debut full-length Cost of Sacrifice drops 10/23 via Pure Noise (also home to Knocked Loose). New single "In Cleansing Fire" is a great example of what makes this band so promising - tech-y guitar work that's as mind-melting as it is catchy, brutal pit-opening chugs, and a screaming style that's harsh but still intelligible. You'll be screaming along to every word.
Dying Wish - "Innate Thirst"
Scratching a very similar itch to that Chamber song is this new one by Dying Wish. Knocked Loose come to mind here too (especially because Knocked Loose's Bryan Garris guests on Dying Wish's 2019 single "Enemies In Red" and Dying Wish's Emma Boster guests on KL's 2019 LP A Different Shade of Blue), and like Chamber, Dying Wish know how to sound totally pulverizing while remaining approachable and accessible. There's a little early Thrice in those bright yet chugging guitar parts, and Emma's screams are as gripping as they come.
Respire - "Tempest"
Screamo continues to make a comeback, and Toronto's Respire have become one of the genre's most beloved modern-day bands. They've signed to Holy Roar for the followup to their great 2018 LP Dénouement, and lead single "Tempest" is a very promising first taste. It's part screamo, part black metal, part Godspeed You! Black Emperor style post-rock (thanks in part to the violins), and it nails the balance of beautiful and aggressive. It's full of musical ebbs and flows, and you can feel the song's emotion within the instrumental crescendos as much as you hear it in the passionately shrieked vocals.
Read past and future editions of 'In Defense of the Genre' here.