Deathcore. Is this still a dirty word? For what seems like forever, learning that a new band was categorised as ‘deathcore’ was enough reason to instantly dismiss them. Due in part to the media attention bands such as Bring Me The Horizon received, the genre was synonymous with skinny guys sporting skinny jeans, straightened fringes and full sleeves of tattoos despite not looking old enough to be let into the parlour. In other words: they didn’t look metal. And this is all before we even get to how their music actually sounds.
While appearances may be enough for the staunchest of metal elitists, those who enquired about the genre’s sound would learn it is a hybrid of death metal and hardcore/metalcore. Uh oh, some more dirty words! Don’t people know that a genre with -core in it isn’t real music?! Despite being met with negativity from all angles, the genre persisted. More and more bands emerged embracing this new style; some firmly rooted in the genre’s definition, others incorporating outside influence. Just recently, deathcore icons Carnifex released their eighth studio album, Graveside Confessions, having been performing for 16 years. Just goes to show that deathcore isn’t a flash in the pan, is it?
“People hated it because it was new” reflects Carnifex vocalist Scott Lewis on the scorn that deathcore received. At the beginning of the band’s career, deathcore was barely established. There was no scene for the band to fit into, and no easy way to market the band. Throw in an army of stubborn metalheads, and Carnifex had a formidable fight on their hands simply to be heard.
Yet with all the criticism, the pig-headed attitudes of metal gatekeepers, and even the lack of financial support from record labels, the Californian band haven’t caved to the pressures of mainstream appeal. By writing the music they want to write, Carnifex have crafted a sound that is recognisably their own in the face of contempt and a turbulent career. “We put out Until I Feel Nothing and that really didn’t perform well, as the anti-deathcore sentiment was at fever pitch in 2011” continues Lewis. “By staying true to our sound, there probably was a big opportunity lost to us.”
The album Until I Feel Nothing was noted for incorporating black metal qualities into the band’s deathcore stylings, and while it may have been a commercial disappointment at the time, such an approach to the genre has impacted and influenced many younger bands today. Acts like Lorna Shore and Make Them Suffer have been dubbed ‘blackened deathcore’, serving as a testament to Carnifex’s impact on the genre. “We’re never gonna be the hype band, we’re too old” jokes Lewis, “but what we can be is that band that’s always pushing boundaries, even at risk. That feels like our role in the genre.”
With many newer and younger acts looking at the groundwork laid out by Carnifex, the deathcore band have a legacy of genre defining and redefining work, but still feel no desire to slow down. “We’re still scrapping for our spot!” Lewis remarks. “It does feel good, but I also think ‘Oh, you’re looking at us? Good luck!’” Having spent so long being kicked down and told to change their sound, there is a feeling of hope among the band when seeing newer deathcore bands being embraced and supported. The aforementioned Lorna Shore and Russian act Slaughter To Prevail both have produced singles that have gone viral on YouTube, and even older bands such as The Acacia Strain and Whitechapel have received a newfound fandom in the metal community with their recent records. Lewis adds “it gives me a feeling that the music business and new fans and agents and managers will give deathcore a shot now, as it has some commercial appeal.”
The release of Graveside Confessions anticipates the 15 year anniversary of Carnifex’s debut album, Dead In My Arms. To mark the occasion, their latest release features three re-recorded tracks taken from their debut, boosted by the obvious advances in production technology. Even with the gulf of time between the two records, Lewis feels an affinity between the two albums. “Shawn, Cory and I wrote Dead In My Arms, and Cory and I wrote Graveside Confessions, so it’s kinda like a full circle in that we stayed who we are.”
With over fifteen years of experience in the performing/recording musician game, one would expect nerves to be a thing of the past for Scott Lewis. But the release of a new album still brings butterflies to the vocalist’s stomach. Back in 2007, the band’s debut had no expectations, and there was no scene for the band to fit into – they were simply trying to find a place in the metal community. Album number eight comes with the burden of expectation and an audience to appease. “Right now, I’m more nervous,” Lewis reveals. “We’re so detached from the metal community due to lockdown. I haven’t seen any fans or even any other bands. We’re kind of wondering if anyone is actually asking about us!”
Ultimately, all the naysayers and gatekeepers who voiced their objections to the once new genre have fallen away. Thy Art Is Murder are one of deathcore’s biggest names, and for an Australian band to break the US is no mean feat. Sumerian records are full to the brim with deathcore bands, both new and old, and bands who were once scoffed at are fondly missed (anyone else still desperate for Job For A Cowboy to come back?). Having held their ground and ignored the critics, Carnifex have earned their status as deathcore legends. Furthermore, the band have proven that just because something is new, doesn’t mean it is bad. “When you do something first, it’s typically not embraced on a wide scale,” concludes Lewis. “But at some point, you’ve just got to respect the talent. You can try to shit on deathcore, but eventually people will say ‘hang on, this is actually good, these are good bands!’”
Graveside Confessions is out now via Nuclear Blast Records
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