Cave In — Until Your Heart Stops
I’m not sure if everyone else in the heavy music world views this as such a crucial record, but being from Massachusetts and all Until Your Heart Stops is about as quintessential as it gets for us Yankees. The experimental fluidity of styles and raw emotional expression give this collection surprising staying power for a 14 year old record. Name me another “metalcore” album that didn’t lose its luster when the trend (finally) died.
Unlike many, I’m a fan of all of Cave In’s material, but for me it begins and ends here. Aspects of Cave In’s style were quite unfortunately imitated for about a decade, but clearly never equaled.
Dillinger Escape Plan — Calculating Infinity
Where to even begin? Right from the get go, “Sugar Coated Sour” delivers one of the most iconic, chaotic, and unsettling introductions to an album in heavy music. Everything about this record is the musical equivalent of caluclated anger, destruction, and disregard for the human race. Back at the beginning of my college years, when Jesus rode on the backs of dinosaurs and MP3 players were a relatively new commodity, I was hesitant to listen to “43% Burnt” while walking to class for fear of committing acts of unbridled rage against innocent bystanders. Dimitri’s memorable line “I smell that whore” still makes the tiny hairs on the back of my neck stand up straight. Will someone bring me a brick?
Pig Destroyer — Terrifyer
If you don’t hear the Pig Destroyer influence in Hivesmasher’s music, you’re simply not listening. JR, Scott Hull and recently departed drummer Brian Harvey absolutely kill it on this beast of an album. To me, one of the biggest challenges in writing heavy music, especially in grindcore and its derivative styles, is matching speed and technical execution with musicality and groove. Pig Destroyer and fellow grind masters Rotten Sound are case studies in the artform. Try to listen to this and not bang your head.
Sulaco — Build and Burn
This is the most recent entry to the list, and the one that has been seen the heaviest rotation in my playlist as of late. This Upstate NY outfit has been around for 10 years, but don’t get anything close to their due credit despite releases on Relapse and Willowtip and founding member Erik Burke’s involvement with Lethargy and Brutal Truth. A quick internet search makes it easy to trace the common ancestry between Today is the Day, Mastodon, and Sulaco; the musical comparisons are equally apt. Sulaco skillfully treads the finest of lines between pointless meandering and inspiring musical exploration, always employing stellar song structure and a knack for intricate riffage which magically makes their complex material heavy, memorable, and accessible.
The Cancer Conspiracy — The Audio Medium
If you’re afraid to lose scene points for listening to something other than metal, then stop reading the article. For those of us that are still around, The Audio Medium is an underappreciated work of staggering genius that demands a little under an hour of your time.
Blending chaotic math rock and cues from the prog heroes of the ’70s, these Vermont based gents typify the concept that music can express things that words cannot describe. Featuring former members of Drowningman and a future member of Daughters (a band which almost made this list in their own right), it’s no wonder these guys came up with music that’s truly special. It might be argued that the posthumous 2008 album Omega is the more refined of their two full-length releases, but something about the emotional peaks and valleys of The Audio Medium still captivates me ten years after I received this album as a pre-order back in ‘02. It’s a damn shame these guys broke up so early, who knows where they’d be now if luck hadn’t pissed all over their rising star.