10. He Is Legend – Endless Hallway
“It’s not unheard of, but certainly rare when a band 25 years old and eight albums deep into their career create a record that could be in contention as their best, but if there was any group who could it, it would be He Is Legend. And guess what? That’s exactly what they’ve done with Endless Hallway. Tonally, it suggests one of their most divisive efforts since Suck Out the Poison — it’s dark, heavy, sludgy, and one of their most narrative driven releases — but it has all of the finesse of their post-reunion material. Speaking of heavy, Endless Hallway may be their most brutal outing to date, oscillating between near djent riffcapades and slower, churning swamp metal throwdowns — there is no shortage of headbanging moments strewn throughout the record. However, this uptick in viciousness does little to deter Schuylar Croom from crafting some of the most memorable hooks of his career. As always, the frontman has a very distinct sense of melody, writing passages that make use of odd harmonies but are still impossibly catchy. Endless Hallway is somehow He is Legend at their peak, and I can’t see any fan of the band being disappointed with this one.” —Brandon Scott / TheSpirit
It’s hard to write about this album without letting Brandon’s words really describe it. The day Brandon left was a tough one –one that is sure to be remembered by many on this site. But even though he wasn’t able to be here to go crazy over it with the rest of us, it’s a beautiful thing to know that he was able to listen to it and write his thoughts in this soundoff. TheSpirit would be proud knowing that this was the album to kick off the top 10 albums of the year. RIP Brandon.
Continuing to excel on the success of their previous record, White Bat, He Is Legend produce one of their strongest releases in years. Endless Hallway showcases some of their heaviest burners while also capitalizing on the use of captivating and immersive melodic moments. The one-two punch of “The Prowler” and “Lifeless Lemonade” begin the album at full throttle with chunky and chuggy guitar riffs with rapid-fire drums and powerful vocals. Immediately followed by “Honey From the Hive” and “Return From the Garden”, the band lean heavy into the rockier side of their style and bring forth catchy and memorable riffs and leads that build upon their foundation. “Sour” brings back the post-hardcore sound of their earlier works, producing one of their best melodic songs in the last decade while “Animals” digs deep into their Suck Out the Poison era for a gritty southern rocker.
However, Endless Hallway elevates the experience in the moments where the band work to expand their formula. “Circus Circus” opens with oddly distorted, almost robotic, vocals and dissonant guitars that erupt into an infectious groove, highlighting itself as one of the standouts of the record. “Time’s Fake” and the title track are some of the riffiest tracks of the record, but not in the same way as the rest of their discography. This time around, the riffs are bursting with energy that give a mixture of hard rock with metalcore chugs, showing off He Is Legend’s versatile songwriting and composition. Yet, Endless Hallway‘s true highlight lies in the closer “Lord Slug”, which combines every aspect of the record into one cohesive effort. This sludgy, dark number shows off the group’s ability to craft a song that delves deep into their softer, melodic side of the verses and mixes it with the powerful choruses and intense riffing that is signature to them, ending with a dark concoction of dragging guitars and semi-shouted vocals that perfectly conclude the record.
As one of their heaviest records, Endless Hallway does a fantastic job at balancing He Is Legend’s intensity with their gentler melodic sections. While it doesn’t tread too far from their normal style, the band’s newest effort provides just enough experimentation to keep it fresh and captivating. Just to repeat what Brandon left for us, his final description of the record is the perfect summary for this: “Endless Hallway is somehow He is Legend at their peak, and I can’t see any fan of the band being disappointed with this one.” –Tyler W. / tyman128
9. Fontaines D.C. – Skinty Fia
“I’m gonna be big” was the first of Grian Chatten’s rallying cries when Fontaines D.C. first came to our collective attention in 2019. Dogrel was a succinct and proper introduction to ’em, a statement of intent that emphatically announced, “We’re full of piss and vinegar” with straight-forward, no-nonsense post punk. A Hero’s Death was a lean on the atmosphere dial, as sophomores often are, carefully balancing that raw energy with a level of solemn composure. The two albums in as many years accrued a fervent following, seeing the Dublin delinquents amass Grammy and Brit Award noms and take many a festival stage to belt out their woes with the state of their beloved Ireland and the alienation of unhelped youth. The world has dealt with much upheaval since the band’s arrival. Skinty Fia is the ulcerated, cathartic response.
Translating to “damnation of the deer,” Skinty Fia continues to examine a battered Irish history through the lens of a maligned generation. Stood stoic and taxidermied on its cover is an allusion to the extinct giant elk, thin-legged and bathed in red as a symbol of that which has been forcibly erased from Ireland. More in touch with their roots than ever, Fontaines D.C. kick the album off with “In ár gCroíthe go deo”, a brooding tribute to an Irish woman dead in England, denied her parting wish of having the track’s title (which translates to “in our hearts forever”) carved into her headstone — it’s Irish, in England, and is therefore politically motivated. And it happened a couple of years ago — a hanging-on to some unjustified hatred of the Irish in England — a perceived threat where there is none. The grieving family caught wind of the song and played it at the tombstone.
“The Couple Across the Way” is what best exemplifies the mending that these lads are looking to achieve. Set atop pensive traditional Irish accordion, it tells of old love and young love, and the perspective of one to the other: “Across the way moved in a pair with passion in its prime. Maybe they look through to us and hope that’s them in time?” It’s wonderfully bittersweet, and a true testament to the maturation of some boisterous boys. And nestled amongst the hard-hitting, exhausted plights of “I Love You” and “Jackie Down the Line”, these turns toward a fading heritage and flailing adolescence create a work that feels so in tune with the past, as seen by the present. –Ashley Collins / anat
8. Gospel – The Loser
Everyone loves a good comeback.
Gospel had only released one album, 2005’s The Moon Is A Dead World, which mixed hardcore violence with Yes-like progressive overtones. The band members then moved on from where they came from — which is no fucking where. Fast forward to 2022, and the quartet have risen from the underworld to offer us The Loser. Although hardcore traces remain, The Loser is eminently more prog than its predecessor. Synths are more prominent, and the production, crafted by the duo Kurt Ballou and Magnus Lindberg (Cult of Luna’s drummer), is more straightforward than its illustrious forebear, allowing each note the luxury of being perceptible. Fortunately, this is not to the detriment of the abrasive aspect of the band, which lets its power speak through the muscular play of the rhythm section. Despite not elevating itself to The Moon…‘s level of cathartic batshit craziness, it reminded us how we felt when we first listened to Gospel. Lost, enraged, awed, and hungry for more.
Yeah, everyone loves a good comeback. –Erwann S. / dedex
7. Rolo Tomassi – Where Myth Becomes Memory
It’s a common contrast in the metal world — juxtaposing beauty with the brutality inherent in the genre’s many subgenres and sub-sub-genres and such — but one difficult to appropriately craft. Major chord overdose can cause cavities, jarring transitions will induce motion sickness, forced saxophone breaks are not clever, turn to page 394 for songwriting lessons if you dare invoke the name of Deftones, etc. What has always set Rolo Tomassi apart, and what continues to put them head-and-shoulders above most that indulge both sides of the divide, is that they understand how to bridge the gap and harmoniously link explosiveness with restraint. They arguably mastered it on Grievances by welding frantic mathiness onto calming ambiance, but Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It exemplified how they could take beautiful soundscapes and make them grander, expanding upon their knack for elegant crescendos by keeping an eye on a more epic scope. It magnified the raw power of the group’s razor-edged riffs and ominous keys, simultaneously staging proceedings underneath a gazey atmosphere that glorified the softer textures omnipresent in the mix. There was enough appeal within those gorgeous tunes to fuel another several albums in that same vein, by which point the formula would tire and inevitably cheapen what came before it — but Rolo Tomassi never seem to stay still.
Indeed, Where Myth Becomes Memory has the intrepid Sheffield quintet demonstrating their awe-inspiring post-metalcore once more, but they’ve managed to condense their songwriting into a slightly smaller package without sacrificing its strengths. Rolo still drill deep into an emotional well that bleeds into their prose and subsequently erratic tug-of-war between bedlam and tranquility, with the main difference on their sixth LP being that everything — from the minimalist, softer forays that decorate the scenery to the varied math-tinged assaults — flows impeccably. The collective’s knack for dynamics was never in question, yet Myth represents a novel apex in their ability to construct a cohesive, unwavering front-to-back album experience, which in and of itself exhibits to what extent the band have developed over the years. The ambient ventures that base themselves around a reserved mood, substituting abrasive variables for angelic vocals and elegant chords, serve the atmosphere wonderfully and prepare devastating haymakers that can cut through the fog with their raw power. That cooperation dominates Myth and grants it a unique position in the band’s growing catalog.
The progression of the record’s robust ebb and flow is a thrilling experience. For instance, off the back of the soothing “Closer” comes the threatening entrance of “Drip” — a track initially announced by a buzzing synth line and a pounding snare drum, only to erupt into vicious screams and a thunderous guitar and bass assault. Likewise, the haunting interior of “Stumbling”, characterized only by vocalist Eva Korman’s elegant singing and stray piano notes, disintegrates as “To Resist Forgetting” takes the reins and rips the quiet asunder. Internally, these coarse entries have their own engaging movements to complete; for example, “Drip” launches from its opening into an ambient portion that cools the flames, only to then usher in a destructive finale that rekindles the earlier intensity. When buttressed by the atmosphere, these climactic moments are accentuated, often feeling a part of a larger whole than a self-contained endeavor. The aforementioned one-two punch of “Stumbling” and “To Resist Forgetting” embody this tactic at its peak, with the former decreasing tension before the latter orchestrates an emotional conclusion built around distorted clean vocals. Such moments of songwriting brilliance are discovered often in Myth, and every tune obtains a defined purpose.
By its excellent compositions alone, Rolo Tomassi’s latest is an amazing exercise in matching serenity with its opposite, using ambiance to diffuse incendiary musicianship and simultaneously incite it. However, the stronger takeaway from Myth is that, despite the sudden success the group have encountered, their identity remains intact. No corners are cut; even the slight pivots towards domineering mainstream influences barely register due to their position in the record’s pacing, and their purely entertaining bass grooves provide ample enough justification for them to flaunt their heavy rhythms. Rolo’s predilection for intricate riffs does not bind them to constant destruction — tunes such as “Mutual Ruin” are in no hurry to erect a superfluous climax — and it’s instead a commendable sense of restraint that pilots the arrangements of the album. The Brits have an intimate understanding of how and when to show their full hand, and in the event that they do lay down the total potential of their sound, it’s always an earned moment of carefree headbanging courtesy of painstaking build-ups. No matter what avenue the collective travel down, it’s evident that they can handle it with grace, defying any sort of lofty expectation that’s placed as a ceiling. Rolo Tomassi do not stay still; those still needing proof can plug in their speakers and buckle up for the ride. –M. Worden / MarsKid
6. Alexisonfire – Otherness
What a strange career the Canadians of Alexisonfire have had. The band seemed unstoppable thanks to a trilogy that established them as an influential post-hardcore band (Alexisonfire in 2002, Watch Out! in 2004, and Crisis in 2006). Then came the lazy Old Crows / Young Cardinals in 2009, a pair of bland EPs, and then… nothing. Various side projects followed, and then in 2019, it was the big reunion. An enthusiasm that was first dampened by two singles that were at most correct, then revived by “Season of the Flood” in 2020, an excellent indicator of what was to come: an album in the straight line of the band’s discography and which is fortunately not just a pure and simple look at the past.
For Otherness relies on slower and more prog influences than usual. Of course, there are tracks like “Committed to the Con” featuring machine-heavy riffs and hardcore atmospheres, but the most apparent influences are alternative rock and stoner. And then sometimes all these nods merge, like on the monumental “Sweet Dreams of Otherness”, with a chorus that reminds of Cult of Luna. But the Canadians’ real strength on Otherness is to vary the formula instead of simply adding a few other genres into their recipe. For example, if “Dark Night of the Soul” hits hard with its post-hardcore with stoner accents, it first opens with gospel choirs and is later interrupted by a psychedelic interlude with synths straight out of the Vangelis house. Likewise, “World Stops Turning” shows the band’s thirst for experimentation with its eight minutes-long crescendo, where the guitar solos answer the vocal demonstrations of the three singers of the band, whose complementarity is no longer to be demonstrated.
It’s a shame that the production lacks a lot of punch — won’t blame the boiz, as they mixed everything themselves. And if we lose some of the little details that used to enrich the heavier tracks, all this will certainly be compensated by the usual strength of the band’s live performances. So without losing that sense of comfortable familiarity and nostalgia that one would expect from such an essential band for an entire scene, Otherness presents Alexisonfire’s music in a new, more atmospheric, but still unifying and anthemic light. –Erwann S. / dedex
5. Chat Pile – God’s Country
As an examination of the dehumanizing nature of a blighted social environment, Chat Pile would have been hard pressed to find a better cover image than that of the Oklahoma County Detention Center. Slabs of brown human containment obscured by a net of taut cable; this is the skyline of drip poisoning to the soul. God’s Country may be an ugly record, but it perversely works to provide sensitization — to remind us that atrocities are not just events that happen; they are bullets which immediately tumble in the tissue of whole communities and bury themselves in the mold of future generations.
Chat Pile (so named after toxic remnants of mining that litter Oklahoma) have changed up the traditional noise rock formula with a few nu metal elements that might be more fitting on a Korn track. However, the most telling component that distinguishes them from seminal influences like Big Black would be adjusting the ratio of subversive wit to earnestness. Despite the band being fans of gory horror, I detect little relish in shocking the system here. Vocalist and lyricist Raygun Busch (a pseudonym for the ages) was told to ground his writing by his bandmates, and it is the mundanity and directness mixed with the vocal of a person left to die in a steel shipping container that gives their debut the power to gouge through layers of accumulated coping mechanism insulation.
This is also a band that does not showboat — they surround the listener with metal prods. If you look for relief anywhere, the processed electronic drum kit batters you back to your knees, hands behind your head. The bass is so remarkably prominent that you are conscious of the physicality of what the notes are — this is the singing voice of thick metal coils held rigid on a rack. The sickly guitar makes you uncomfortable even if you comply. There may be gaps in this persistent, unhurried churn, but it is only to make the next scream or vulnerable supplication more upsetting.
The album constantly juxtaposes the idea of the promised land of the title with something being terribly wrong with the world. Opener “Slaughterhouse” is inspired by a 2014 incident in which an employee at a processing plant beheaded a co-worker. In this callous setting, our narrator opines that we are all under constant surveillance by an unknowable deity in a place which is relentlessly wearing us down. “The Mask” references a 1978 killing spree which culminated with the death of six restaurant employees and ends with the killer seeing nothing but distortion and his own hate. The album also pivots away from the perpetrators to victims in “Anywhere”, which chronicles a random shooting. For a brief fleeting moment there is an image of something good, and then sound is the trigger for the foundation of that normality crumbling into a mess of displaced meat and matter. In “Wicked Puppet Dance” an addict can sense the roaches breeding in the walls. The most literal example of trying to point out Rome burning is “Why”, in which Busch grapples with how we can tolerate homelessness as an acceptable, everyday outcome. Even when they cannot resist what could be a deal-breaking reference to Friday the 13th in “Pamela”, the band inject a strange solemnity to the song which subsequently reads like a meditation on guilt, negligence and the devastating finality of mortal absence. By the end of the album, even a harmless, ridiculous mascot becomes a monstrous spectator to a mental untethering.
God’s Country reminds you to look beyond just being thankful it was not you caught in the crossfire; it translates the fundamental horror of things that happened to another interior life into ours. The band have said this is less political statement, more last desperate yell of fear and frustration before the water rises over your nose. They have also described the music best in the opening refrain — it is like hammers and grease. –fog
4. Black Country, New Road – Ants From Up There
Nearly a full calendar year after its release, it’s easy to forget the frenzied discourse that surrounded Ants From Up There’s tense release cycle. Nearly every nervous lyric and exultant moment of the group’s Queen Elizabeth Hall performance (included on the album’s deluxe release) was dissected by curious and rabid fans alike, desperately searching for the answer to why Isaac Wood was so unhappy as a member of Black Country, New Road, to what degree the album was dedicated to his struggles as a performer, and what some of the album’s more concerning messages meant for his future.
It’s 2023 now and BC,NR have continued on as a six-piece, maintaining a healthy touring schedule and experimenting with promising new material on stage. As the band (and likely Wood himself) attempt to leave the Ants From Up There era in the rearview mirror, it’s astonishing to witness how well it works completely divorced from the hullabaloo of Wood’s departure, both lyrically and emotionally. While a cut like the wisely rewritten “Basketball Shoes” cannot easily be separated from the turmoil that surrounded his final days as a member of the group, some of the record’s most enduring tunes carry a multi-layered impact that any listener can easily identify with — for example, fan favorite “The Place Where He Inserted The Blade”‘s heartrending breakup narrative or “Good Will Hunting”‘s incisive exploration of anxious attachment.
Ants From Up There transcends its origin story through universality, and has become more and more listenable to me as it ages. Its instrumentation is mature and much more disciplined than the aimless freakouts that dominated for the first time, and its lyrical imagery and vocal performances will stand the test of time. It’s rightly being recognized as an early classic of the decade, and I believe its reputation will only snowball with time. –YoYoMancuso
3. Counterparts – A Eulogy for Those Still Here
A Eulogy for Those Still Here is Counterparts’ seventh offering. Their discography is shaped by honest, emotional introspection from lyrics screamed in furiously raw anger backed by brutal hooks and a tight foundation. If asked to define ‘Melodic Hardcore’, I would directly point to Counterparts. They captivate with catchiness while breaking your heart — all while you are shouting along with the verses and crying out in anguish during one of their signature cathartic choruses.
As songwriters, Counterparts never feel rushed, always seeming to end up exactly where they want to be — they are firmly in the driver’s seat taking the listener along for the ride. Whether grieving the death of a beloved cat in “Whispers of Your Death” (“It’s hard to breathe without you sleeping on my chest”) or somehow eliciting empathy for murder on “Unwavering Vow”, Counterparts know what they want to say and aren’t afraid to say it.
Energetic guitar fills and punchy drum blasts conjure a ferocious intensity while a back-and-forth between trademark emotive shouts and dynamic tempo changes forge constant engagement. Melodic interludes allow for small sacred moments that take the time to stretch out a feeling. From the slowdown on “A Eulogy for Those Still Here” (“Grieving though you haven’t left my side”) to the dramatic build up of “Soil II”, Counterparts can focus down to a pinpoint and zoom back out effortlessly. There is a consistent flow from song to song, and a confident voice permeates throughout the album.
Eulogy is a catalog of struggling with loss, grief, and sorrow. With this album, Counterparts maintain what they have always brought to the table while putting forth what is arguably their most vulnerable work to date. Delicately weaving poetic verse and devastating relatability becomes a perfect marriage. From the visceral “Flesh to Fill Your Wounds” to the somber closing track “A Mass Grave of Saints”, Eulogy is a fierce meditation on saying goodbye: a farewell to what we have lost along the way and a brilliant celebration of those still here. –Adam T. / Zoinks
2. Birds in Row – Gris Klein
I vividly remember the first time I sat down to listen to The Hotelier’s Home, Like NoPlace Was There — which is somewhat ironic since it wasn’t much of an event to remember. Reclining back in my chair as the sun slowly dipped under the horizon line, I took in the delicate sounds, kept special attention to the lyrics, then quietly put away my laptop and called it a night. That was it. The quality of the LP was evident and I could sense the level of care with which it was constructed, but the glowing praise eluded me. The thing is, this initial visit came during a time of comfort in my life; my senior year of high school was progressing like a pleasant breeze, I had met someone I earnestly believed I could share my life with, my friend circle was intimate and loving, and there was a clear path to an alluring future. This initial visit was before my depression began to creep over my shoulder; it was before I realized everyone I was close to was going in different directions; it was before my anxiety, stress, and immaturity began to damage my relationship; and it was before I learned to properly cope, instead channeling my self-hatred, my anger, my failures — I pointed it all at me and made myself take it. Amidst that turbulence, NoPlace opened up; its vague interiors were suddenly colored in, the home decorated, every facet made familiar to where I could mumble, “Tell me again that it’s all in my head,” in my broken sleep at 3am. Out of nowhere, without seeking it and without knowing I needed it, the record became a life raft for me, keeping my head above water when everything started falling away.
My question, therefore, is this: to what extent do we choose the music we like? That isn’t to say none of us search — this is a music website, so we’re all nerds (or dorks!) out here in the trenches — but of all that crosses through our eardrums, what separates the forgettable and the irreplaceable? Does it sort perfectly binary via subjective criterions, or does some unseen, unknown personal factor take the wheel when it craves a voice, a way to relate its innermost thoughts? It’s not exclusive to music in the malleable sphere of emo, but it’s doubtlessly a factor; the performance of the prose seals the connection between listener and artist, forging a bond through evocative phrases and the manner through which they are delivered. The instrumentation that surrounds it — often melancholic, portraying grief in every note be it through restraint or hectic outbursts — complements this linking. I didn’t think The Hotelier were a band capable of that until, well, they became very capable of it.
Similarly, there was a time where I didn’t trust Birds in Row to create a cohesive, immersive voyage that could identify insecurities, extract them, and scream them to life in such a cathartic way, but Gris Klein has converted me into a believer. Their vision of a bleak world characterized by shattered dreams, broken relationships, and no hope to cling to, has finally crystallized into their masterwork. The French trio present a sound that’s a loving throwback to post-hardcore emo of the past. It can be felt in a production that’s delicately scaled back while still possessing grit. Similarly, static is allowed to seep in when needed, and each instrument obtains a key purpose in the mix. No brickwalling here, no pure noise assaults — attention is specifically placed upon clearing enough space for the lyrics and their conveyance to prosper even when the instrumental assault charges ahead. The performances draw far more from the roots of early 2000s screamo than they do contemporary acts, taking cues from the likes of Loma Prieta and the old-school French scene, with additional intensity coming courtesy of metalcore’s golden age. Modern touches can be felt — the gradual build-ups of tunes such as “Noah” would be at home on a Joliette record — but it’s altogether a collection of familiar sounds that have been compiled before, although with much more consideration placed into how exactly those influences are assembled, imbued into tracks, and eventually organized into a complete album experience. The peaks and valleys of Birds in Row’s compositions demonstrate their ability to gauge the pulse of a record; from song-to-song, or even within a given song, the violence can recede or leap back at the audience with terrifying force. That airtight flow makes the progression of Gris Klein divine to hear, often creating highlights due to the pure enjoyment of its seamless transitions.
The threat of an oncoming storm consistently looms over the LP in large part because of how much momentum is conserved between entries, with included tracks either laying the groundwork for an onslaught or introducing a spell of calm. As can be expected from an LP in this particular genre, Birds in Row have submerged their sound into a palpable darkness that invades the writing, the timbre of the guitar riffs, and the restless energy fused into the percussion performance. The shadows pursue any wayward listener around every bend by using a varied and fervent vocal contribution as its primary conduit of desolation. Fluctuating from distressed screams to nervous clean singing, the vocals are an incredible boost to the material, describing every tale with tangible emotion. It becomes overbearing when the vehemence — be it directed at a crumbling society, the decaying dreams of youth, a relationship fraught with uncertainty — is amplified in scratchy riffs (“Daltonians”), and it toys with nerves when it unexpectedly vanishes, patiently biding its time as lyrics count the grievances (“Trompe L’oeil”). Regardless of the method, Birds in Row apply remarkable musicianship, demanding focus through their surprisingly layered compositions — the bass on “Cathedrals” absolutely rocks the fuck out — and similarly admirable attention to detail. Every moment of the disc is spent advancing its domineering mood; its messages cannot be avoided.
I’ll stop short of declaring Gris Klein a revolution, but its contents do give a sense of revelation. The despair purveyed by Birds in Row is all-encompassing, tackling any woe head-on with a furious passion that is impossible to ignore. Their earnest approach grants the record a special resonance; when screaming out, “You’re sure you’re wasting your life,” on “Grisaille”, it feels as though it erupts from that place — that ugly corner where insecurities hide, whispering doom in every hour of the day; when desperately pleading to feel something, anything beyond the misery on “Rodin”, the emptiness of a one-bedroom apartment suddenly widens into a foreboding abyss; and when stumbling through “Water Wings”, clamoring for a self-made redemption while knowing how hollow it is, I feel the words choke in my own throat. There’s something to be said for records that can portray that agonizingly beautiful connection to where reality and music bleed at their joints, and perhaps the familiarity therein makes it all the more potent. I didn’t think I needed certain releases in my life until, well, I needed it. This may not be a release anyone requested or knew they required in order to have an outlet for their troubles, a beacon in turmoil — but, well, maybe we did need it after all. I can’t say for sure, but what I do know is that Gris Klein is an emotional, artfully-constructed opus that emblemizes the spirit of its influences perfectly, and it deserves whatever accolades are sent its way. –M. Worden / MarsKid
1. The Callous Daoboys – Celebrity Therapist
Sometimes, a band just has it. It’s hard to truly define what “it” is, but you know it’s there. It’s something in the music, something in the lyrics, something in the songwriting… you can’t quite nail what it is, but it brings that band to the next level. The same could be said about The Callous Daoboys. After remaining relatively unknown in the metalcore/mathcore scene for a few years, Celebrity Therapist came barrelling through in 2022. While building upon their mathcore elements of previous efforts, The Callous Daoboys made their music wackier, heavier, melodic-er (bear with me), and simply better.
Following on the heels of their debut Die on Mars, tracks like “A Brief Article Regarding Time Loops” and “The Elephant Man In the Room” continue to expand their mathcore styles by adding even crazier guitar passages and manic vocals. Full of dissonance and indiscernible guitar riffs, the Daoboys are at their heaviest are a chaotic mess, but in the best way possible. Maybe that’s it? Yeah, that’s part of it, but that can’t be all there is to it. The insanity was heavily bumped up from their last couple efforts, but that’s not the only thing to ‘it.’
Maybe it’s a mixture of their intensity with their more refined melodic sound. “Beautiful Dude Missile” (which, can we just appreciate that name for a moment?) is an absolute barnstormer (pun intended) that is pedal to the metal for the entire song, only taking moments to breathe with “clean” guitar passages that still have a sense of urgency. Yet, beyond this chaos lies a powerfully melodic conclusion to this song, which happens to be one of the catchiest moments on Celebrity Therapist. “What is Delicious? Who Swarms” carries along the mathcore elements and aggression while also using an explosive chorus (??) and a chilled out bridge section to emphasize the Daoboys’ talent in creating versatile compositions. Even “Field Sobriety Practice”, although focusing more on the melodic elements, experiments with their chaotic sound to create one of the most haunting bridges with oddly distorted guitars and contrasting it with their heavy riffing. But no, I can’t even nail “it” down to this mixture — that’s too simplistic.
All it takes to see what pushes Celebrity Therapist to the next level is two songs: two very different songs. “Title Track” (no, not the title track “Celebrity Therapist” — that doesn’t exist) and “Star Baby”. Now, with “Title Track”, The Callous Daoboys show off an entirely new side of their music. Yeah, they’ve had their moments of melodic bits here and there, but very rarely have they entirely focused on creating a softer song. With the occasional spark of intensity, namely in the bookend moments of the track, “Title Track” emphasizes their more refined sound with cleaner guitar tones and powerful vocal harmonies that bring out a new facet of their music. The entire track builds tension to the point that it explodes into an epic conclusion of massive guitars and melodic shouting that just feels overwhelming. Now, “Star Baby” is entirely different, but it shows what gives Celebrity Therapist that “it,” like “Title Track”. I can’t really shake the feeling that the first half feels like a manic circus, with its sliding dissonance and head-bobbing drum grooves that are both catchy and ferocious. To match this circus feeling, the song really doesn’t take itself seriously, with some rather interesting lyrical moments like deep-frying the Great Barrier Reef… because that happens. But then something happens in the second half. Suddenly, it erupts into a huge number with driving chord progressions, horns, and strong vocal harmonies that powerfully conclude Celebrity Therapist.
But even then, it’s not enough to solidify what that “it” is… until you look at the big picture. You see, across each individual song lies its own unique take to their sound, whether it’s more melodic emphasis or relentless riffy aggression. While it’s hard to determine the Daoboys’ “it” factor from one song, it’s easy to see it in the context of a whole record. Celebrity Therapist shows a band with immense talent using their skills to craft an album that shows off their duality of chaos and melody while never taking themselves too seriously. Every listen highlights something new embedded within the songwriting, bringing you back to Celebrity Therapist over and over again. It’s hard to really define what “it” is, but I know it’s there, and clearly y’all do too since this concludes the top 50 of the year. –Tyler W. / tyman128
List of principal contributing writers (alphabetical order):
anat, dedex, fogza, garas, MarsKid, normaloctagon, tyman128, YoYoMancuso
Special thanks to the following supporting writers: Manatea, Toondude10, Zoinks
An additional thank-you to all those who volunteered to write for the community feature (and/or graciously allowed us to use your sound-offs or comments!).
As is tradition, cheers to Willie and SandwichBubble for designing the artwork so that it looks pristine across all devices!
Lastly, thank you to all those who submitted a ballot for the 2022 feature — and to everyone in the community for making our slice of the Internet a delightfully unique place for camaraderie. Best wishes for 2023!