It’s the perfect time of the year to take a look at what have been the highlights of 2015 in alternative music and I can already say that is has been especially successful for hardcore in the broad sense (I mean everything from metalcore to punk hardcore basically. We’re however not really into labelling stuff, but we are trying to frame things here) Let’s take a closer look and see how it performed.
Generally, every musical trend seems to have its 4-5 years of success before falling down a bit. Nu Metal was huge at the beginning of the 2000s with bands like KoRn, Limp Bizkit or Evanescence leading the charge but bands barely evolve in this sphere anymore. The 1990s were the years of Alternative Metal with Rage Against The Machine and System Of A Down. Looking at “our scene”, every year passing by seems to be better than the previous, on the business standpoint for bands, as well as for us, listeners with new bands taking our ears by storm. Having listened to metal for 12 years solid, I am getting started in hardcore and its derivatives. Therefore, I may be mistaken, but my feeling is telling me that we’re reaching new heights in the current cycle. Of course, if you only look at one single market, skepticism might be in your mind, as in France, for example. Although we do have some (very well) hidden treasures, it’s close to nothing when you see how well bands like Parkway Drive, Stick To Your Guns or even Counterparts perform everywhere else in the world.
2015 has been a strong year in music, in so far as a lot of quality records of all genres have seen the light. In hardcore especially, we’ve been graced by some sweet gems:
Parkway Drive have put out a freaking masterpiece with ‘Ire’, no matter what people say. While She Sleeps keep getting bigger with ‘Brainwashed’; a record that might not be reinventing the genre, but finely defines While She Sleeps stronger than ever. Stray From The Path outdid themselves with their new record, ‘Subliminal Criminals’, remaining faithful to their genius blend of sounds, but always tackling the trickiest subjects in the light of the recent social issues that occurred, such as racial discrimination, or sexual abuse within music industry. Defeater did not fail either with ‘Abandoned’, while Counterparts finally put themselves on a throne with their recent record ‘Tragedy Will Find Us’.
Are we entering in some sort of a golden age? Or are we living the prominent part of a cycle? Even the controversial Bring Me The Horizon (which you can’t really connect to metal/death/whatever “core” anymore) are at a major turning point in their career. To put things in very clear language, their new record label (Sony) wants One Direction fans to listen to them. And you know what? This is absolutely fantastic. Because one day, those new listeners – who are not familiar at all with anything near BMTH – could become fans of Northlane a few months from now, the same way I was introduced to metal by Evanescence twelve years ago. Obviously all of them won’t turn into hardcore fans in the blink of an eye, don’t take me wrong. However, if only 5% of them become interested metal and hardcore it’s already a huge win. How many people started listening to metal after the release of the ‘Black Album’ by Metallica? Well, I think a few will start the similarly with ‘That’s The Spirit’.
The likes of Counterparts, Defeater, Stray From The Path, Being As An Ocean, Stick To Your Guns are all forming the many names that put hardcore in the spotlight in 2015, alongside with established bands who tried to push their boundaries and produce their best effort to date. One small indicator of that success, is that you can witness media not used to speak about this aspect of metal music, actually doing quite positive write ups on them. It says a lot about the quality of those records and the level of acceptance and recognition that melodic hardcore is gaining outside its doors.
If international bands are often topping the game, let’s not forget about European bands.
In France, for instance, 2014 was already big with established outfits such as Betraying The Martyrs or Rise Of The Northstar but 2015 is the year where we saw newcomers. When Reason Collapse released their debut album called ‘Dark Passengers’ – the best deathcore release of the year by far, if you ask me. After an EP in 2010, Ellipse just did a huge statement with their album ‘A Nos Traitres’. All of them, as well as many others are still underground bands, but if you care giving them a listen you’ll see how much potential is hidden in there, and I am confident that those are the bands we’ll be hearing from in the next couple of years.
Being a metal band in France is harder than in the UK or the USA or even in Nordic Countries because clearly, France is not a land of Metal. You can count on one hand French bands who are known internationally but I also think the local scene has the potential to become the next big thing, with just a little more support. So far, Rise Of The Northstar has shown an incredible growth outside of their home country (now signed to Nuclear Blast Records) and of course we can’t overlook Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! although their style is easier to air on the radio. But we also have the likes of Birds In Row (who are getting huge, hopefully), Ellipse (mentioned earlier), Above The North, who definitely have nothing to envy to their British or American counterparts.
Two of the main criticisms, however, we could make about hardcore is the abundance of bands who join the bandwagon, often using similar formula of lyrics, riffs or breakdowns. We can’t really say there isn’t the slightest truth in those words. Generic music happens everywhere. Look at all the electro-pop artists who sound nearly exactly the same. Hardcore can be very rich, with a lot of different subgenres and if you take a closer look and pick the right performers, you can’t simply say “hardcore is always the same”, hell no. Thy Art Is Murder, Architects, Body Count, Chunk! No, Captain Chunk!, Crossfaith : those are 5 hardcore bands approaching the music in 5 very different ways. As a huge fan of symphonic metal, I do also think of metalcore as way less generic in its approach, believe it or not. But that’s also because it’s easier to record metalcore than symphonic metal – orchestras aren’t cheap – so obviously, you can find ten thousand more metalcore bands here and there than anything purely symphonic.
With good releases come the great tours. Just in the last third of the year, we’ve been able to check out some crazy cool bills such as The Tragedy Will Find Us EU Tour (Counterparts/Senses Fail /Capsize) or earlier the killer While She Sleeps /Cancer Bats coheadliner, alongside Hundredth and –oh another European figure – Oathbreaker (Belgium does fairly well). As promoters need to put together strong line ups, and enough acts to attract as many people as possible, we’re able to watch up to 5 acts in the same evening, including at least 3 that we’ll enjoy particularly. Not something a lot of music genres can make happen. Speaking of stong bills, next year is also shaping up pretty well. Just think about the Parkway Drive – Architects – Thy Art Is Murder and later Stick To Your Guns – Stray From The Path – Counterparts – Wolf Down, for a second and be grateful.
2015 is a year to remember for hardcore fans and I have the feeling that this is only the beginning of a new era. I can’t wait to see what 2016 will offer to us. I’m expecting a lot from established bands but I also can’t wait to see what the newcomers will give us in order to access the throne as well.
Right now, I’m thinking of Kingdom Of Giants (catch them live throughout February, with Continents and High Hopes) but I’m also sure we will get a lot of surprises. Bring it on!
Words : Max H.