Born from the ashes of Chicago bands such as Nouveau and Not For You, EXCRUCIS sent me their demo recordings a few months back and I was stoked. After hearing the masters and gettin' these tapes ordered for Tomb Tree I became ecstatic. Ecstatic for Excucis? Yep. This four-piece plays simultaneously destructive and dancey hardcore/screamo (not unlike Dianacrawls) with a lot of variety and jarring transitions (not unlike These Arms Are Snakes). Their 9-song, self-titled album comes out on June 30th via Tomb Tree and it's fucking great. You can jam the opener below...and what an opener!!!
(2023)EXCRUCIS "One Must Make A Living" (from 'Excrucis')
Clocking in at 1:28, "One Must Make A Living" wastes little-to-no time in capturing the listener's attention in the way jarring thunder is both terrifying and wonderful. Feedback leads into a bass wallop and Linda's incredible shrieking. So, after seeing Linda in Not For You I knew they'd be a sick screamo vocalist...but holy shit did they seriously exceed my expectations! The wild, torn cries flip between ear-shattering screams and sassy spoken word with some slight crooning. There's also very cool guitar progressions and the drums are fucking commanding, and that doesn't just go for this track, the entire EP sounds like this. June 30th, baby!!!
As soon as I heard the upcoming OLTH album 'Every Day is Someone's Special Day' I knew it was something special. And with repeat listens came an even further appreciation for the absolute chaos and visceral bombshell that is their sound. After jumping at the chance to release their debut on cassette, I asked Danny (guitar) and Sean (vocals/lyrics) to have a chat with me. We discussed their upcoming release on June 1st, 2023 via Zegema Beach Records as well as: the best and worst of The Grateful Dead, getting into screamo, the Loma Prieta legacy, the poppiest of screamy bands, lyrical themes for 'Every Day is Someone's Special Day', the band's favourite OLTH songs, hearing Elliot Smith for the first time, better than Alexisonfire, new OLTH, collaborative music and breaking out of habits, etc. Bands played in this podcast: Elliot Smith, In Reverent Fear, Infester, Loma Prieta, Senses Fail, and Stuntman. Listen to podcast #115 which is available to stream and/or download for free via this link.
music video for "screamO sucks"
1Birthing Screamo at the Grateful Dead Show
INFESTER"Darkness Unveiled" (Sean)
STUNTMAN "The Scourge" (Dave)
2Olth Chisels a Statue
LOMA PRIETA"David Fung" (Danny)
SENSES FAIL "Bite to Break Skin" (Sean)
3What the Hell are Those Vocals?
ELLIOT SMITH"Tomorrow Tomorrow" (Danny)
IN REVERENT FEAR "Bright Eyes Under the Blue Night Skies" (Dave)
"When Words Skew A Shattered Frame" exclusive song premiere
For fans of: Blue Noise, Deafheaven and Life
orders open May 29th, 2023
I'd never heard of SICKLE EATER until I was sent this 'Coldworld' 3-Way split to release on cassette via Tomb Tree. Regular player My Hair Is A Rat's Nest was the catalyst for this split, and Outside Observer closes out the b-side with a 15+ minute journey. Today's premiere is for the shortest of the songs and clocks in at six-and-change of most excellent screamo/black-metal gold, titled "When Words Skew A Shattered Frame" and performed by the incredible SICKLE EATER, who I am now enamored with and eagerly anticipating more material from. The full release comes out May 29th on 34 cassettes.
(2023)SICKLE EATER "When Words Skew A Shattered Frame" (from 'Coldworld' 3-way split)
Following a brief/spooky introduction the songs shifts into blown-out screamo with searing vocals and wonderful guitar leads. At the one-minute mark the song shifts into early Alexisonfire territory with a chuggy, atmospheric, and jarring section is the precursor to more Blue Noise/early Deafheaven black metal/screamo. There's a near-silent break around the four-minute that is not the ending! The song swings back into epic clarity about 20 seconds later and takes on a bit of a post-rock feel that even include some clean vocals. The swirling beauty present in the chaos is absolutely wonderful, and although this is slightly lo-fi it in no way diminishes how awesome it is, as there is lo-fi and shit-fi, and this is the former.
For fans of: United Nations, Cara Neir, Envy, Our Future Is An Absolute Shadow and PG.99
Today's premiere is for a project I was asked to do vocals in. So I won't say much about it as I'm biased as fuck. PERFUMED SATURNINE ANGELS features instrumentals from Garry Brents (Cara Neir, Gonemage, Memorrhage, etc. and David Norman on vocals/lyrics (Our Future Is An Absolute Shadow, Apostles Of Eris, Mrtex, etc.) with a guest appearance by Ivan Belcic on vocals (Kosmogyr). The full length releases on 75 cassette (50 UV printed/25 swirled) via Zegema Beach Records and Santapogue Media on May 22nd, 2023.
Garry had this to say about the inception of the project:
Perfumed Saturnine Angels was an idea initiated by Brandon Nurick (RIP), when asking me if I wanted to ever make a screamo project in the vein of PG.99 and early Envy with him as the vocalist and me on instruments, especially after knowing me for many years as he was one of the biggest fans of Cara Neir. I was glad to say yes and started writing and recording material for it a few months later. The lyrical intent was to pour out his soul on the battle with addiction. On a deeply personal level and relatable level with goals in mind to help others through not only this album but his passion for covering music online and through zines.
Unfortunately, Brandon passed in the Fall of 2022 not long after I finished the instrumentation of the album. So this album’s mission immediately shifted into being a body of work in dedication to him and his original vision, seeing it through to completion with Dave Norman on the mic and a guest vocal appearance from Ivan Belcic.
(2023)PERFUMED SATURNINE ANGELS "Hope is Draining" (from 'Saccharine Curses Exhaled in the Wind')
This is the 7th of 9 tracks and lyrically deals with the two main characters exiting a cave with their hands fused together. As they find themselves lost in a sea of white, they turn back and fall into their black holes. Musically it vibes as one of the heavier and shorter tracks, ditching the ambient breaks and spoken word for dancey screamo, metallic hardcore, breakdowns, and some righteous slappin' of the bass.
I've been a Youth Novel fanatic for a very long time, so when they disbanded and morphed into HEAVENLY BLUE I was all over them. So asking the band to play ZBR Fest 2022 was a no-brainer, and after they killed it and Encarsia dropped in 2023 it was another mind-lacker to add them. During that 2023 add conversation Jon (bass) told me that one of their two vocalists also does a pop project called MEL*N which I checked out and immediately fell head over heels for. With HEAVENLY BLUE set to start their road to ZBR Fest tour with Blind Girls today and a MEL*N cassette coming out on my Softseed Music label in late May, I've got a lotta Melissa Lynn in my life right. So there was no better time for this podcast! We had a very chill/fun time and discussed a wide range of topics not limited to: instagram recruitment, vocal techniques, J-pop, K-pop, Chill Korea, joining Heavenly Blue, from Michigan to Philly to New York, writing new Heavenly Blue, home turf vibes, forgetting names, unreleased Olth, Peach Faygeaux, the beginning of MEL*N and further growth, cassette release and new material, playing shows, Dave softening up in his old age, etc. Listen to podcast #114 which is available to stream and/or download for free via this link.
For fans of: People's Temple Project, Pique, Truman, Trotsky, Life, My Hair Is A Rat's Nest and A Paramount A Love Supreme
I few weeks ago I was sent a song and asked to give some opinions about it. My response was, "Yes and here it is, please send me this when you're done lol it's fucking sick <3". A week later I had all five tracks and over two days I dubbed them from a cd player to a cassette deck to make 20 DIY copies that will release and go on sale May 12th, 2023 on Tomb Tree.
YUKI (foreverwewillmissyou) is the brainchild of Arne Peterson of Newberg, Oregon and their take on self-recorded screamo is a fucking treat. Mixing parts of People's Temple Project, A Paramount A Love Supreme, and some of Long.Way.Down.'s earlier/heavier moments, the five songs on this EP are very high-end on the lo-fi spectrum. We did 20 tapes over various random/unique swirl dips with a lyric sheet, just figuring out the packaging today with promo pics coming out sometime later this week.
"Castled in" is the fourth of five jams and definitely the longest, clocking in at 3:18. This track is really fleshed out, rooted in simplicity while also being structured in epic fashion, so it all begins with a head-nodding intro that will get any screamo fan moving. Soon the unrestrained vocals arrive and unravel as they pour out of Arne. After the first minute we are graced with some classy chugs, an audio clip, more bobbin', and another swing at the chug as an outro. Awesome stuff!!!
After a fantastic debut and some member changes, Ohio's SCENARIO is back with a killer 12"LP titled 'When All Is Said And Done' that releases on Monday April 24th via Zegema Beach Records, The Ghost Is Clear Records, and Mishap Records.
(2023)SCENARIO "Voyage (Tracers coming, my program crapped out)" (from 'When All Is Said And Done')
The second track on the album begins with ethereal soundscapes before the screamo takes hold with a phenomenal concoction of chugs, noodles, and screaming. By the one-minute mark the song shifts into more frantic territory before 1:30 the band brings on their heaviest section to date. What a fucking banger.
Her mouth is moving in shapes.
Motion is in a dreamlike moment.
Words are sinking into his chest.
Tracers are tracking body movement.
Comfort paints the mind's eye grey.
Hold on, be still, and let the fear pass through you.
Remind yourself to breathe.
Moments like these make your life worth living.
It’s worth experiencing.
A perception can hinder us from feeling alive.
Ask yourself, are you living life?
In a second, a second goes by.
Did you spend it how you had in mind?
SCENARIO opened Zegema Beach Records Fest 2023 and blew everyone away. Here's a song from their live performance as they'll be back again this year!
(2023)SCENARIO "Knavery" (from 'Sounds in Sequence') live video
ZBR fest was a blast last year. A couple of us had never been to Chicago. Billy is from Peoria, so he was pretty familiar with the area. We had fun jumping around town, checking out shops, and eating hot dogs before the fest. There were so many good bands, some we'd seen before, some we hadn't. It was nice putting faces to names, chatting it up, listening to tunes, and hanging with the homies. It was just a really good time. We appreciate everything ZBR does for heavy music.
A week or two ago the band revealed their first single and music video via Brooklny Vegan. Check it below!
Related artists: ?. Country: Lüneburg GERMANY Years Active: 2008-present For fans of: Trainwreck, (early) Baroness, AmenRa, Zann, Fall Of Efrafa, Lentic Waters, Back When, Perth Express, Mesa Verde, Titan, Hope Drone, Omega Massif, Isis, Flirt, I Am A Curse, and June Paik.
Label(s): Self Released / Moment Of Collapse Records / Tief in Marcellos Schuld Records / Désordre Ordonné Records / Aim Down Sight Records / Brückentick Records / Blindman Melodies
I first heard of RHA. through a friend (Hi Alex!) and ended up miscommunicating a trade with Moment Of Collapse that resulted in me finding out about Riah (also sick but a very different style of band). Two or so years later we traded again and I rectified the problem and picked up the 'leben.lassen' 12" for the Zegema Beach Records distro and myself. I was instantly hooked at the sheer ferocity that gives way to excellently restrained post-rock parts, amassing in an epic, cathartic experience. Let's quickly go through the history of their output though.
RHA.'s first, self-titled release 'rha.' came out in 2009 and is a very different beast than today, with all songs clocking in at three minutes or less. This is more straightforward German punk/hardcore/metal with slight screamo leanings (and lots of guitar solos) that goes hella fast, and almost ends up sound ing like Mesa Verde on speed. Not the starting point I'd recommend but for a first release it's very good.
In 2011 the band released 'plus+' (which also ends up on the 'plus+minus-' split with Always Wanted War the following year) focuses primarily on straightforward pummeling metallic hardcore in the vein of Trainwreck and Perth Express, with a few melodic twists and slowdowns, but generally you know what you're getting after the first minute or so.
And then...holy shit and then in 2013 they released one of the best songs ever with the one-sided 12" and 18+ minute behemoth 'refugium' / "refugium". This thing is marks the second iteration of the band's music which is both heavier and crushing, boasting a real ear for building songs and having them climax in the most satisfying possible way. The band's dynamics really shine through as well, with intriguing and discordant sounds being the focal point instead of speed.
2015's '4-Way split' with Lvthn, Paan, and Kratzer houses another lengthy banger by name of "lichtbruch" which is just as epic but much more urgent (save the head-nodding atmospheric midsection) and clocks in at just under 13 minutes. The same year the band's shortest song "bedeutungslos" appeared on the 'Always Wanted War split' double floppy disk which would have felt right at home on an Emo Apocalypse compilation.
After four years the band returned with their absolutely stellar five-track 12" full length titled 'leben.lassen'. This thing is fucking incredible. Opener "inferno" is a whopping 13 minutes and after a four minutes of eerie atmospherics, isolated drum beats, and cavernous bass, it fucking lets loose with a raging lurch into a sound so prodigious it's almost terrifying. There's even a few swings (like 5:40, for example) that turn the macabre into a groove-fest and give the songs an additional level of uniqueness and memorability. "die eigene objektivität ist die größte illusion des menschen" wastes no time with anything other than laying down concise AmenRa/Fall Of Efrafa-esque post hardcore/post-metal with a cataclysmic climax (not unlike early/good Baroness). "zu zweit allein" is both unrelenting and serene, depending on which of the song you happen to be listening to, and closer "krampfhaft" is most reminiscent of the opener as it also reaches the 10-minute mark, but begins in a much more uplifting and tranquil manner before picking up four minutes in. A few songs on here somehow utilize a tremolo riff that sounds like something I'd hear when imagining ancient Egypt, and I fucking love it. I also love the packaging (pictured above).
In the mid-late 2010s I was honored to release a split 7" by the Russian emo-violence band Улыбайся Ветру (hereby referred to as their English name Smile To The Wind) followed by their full length effort and final release 'Illusions' on 12". It's been a tough few years waiting for the members to revisit this style of music, and in late 2022 I was sent their new incarnation Ясность (hereby referred to as Lucidity) featuring members of Smile To The Wind, Euglena, Crossbringer, The Homeless Is Dead, Mayak, Namatjira, etc. 'Минское море' (aka 'The Minsk Sea') is a seven-track 12" that is the new benchmark in screamo/emo-violence. Zegema Beach Records sold more than 75% of the pressing in the first few days. As of this posting we have less than 20 copies left, linked here. Things discussed in this podcast: Beatles and Rammsteinn, each members' past bands, falling in love with Converge at the hospital, the different shades of Cave In, shifting from Smile To The Wind to Lucidity: members, presentation, tone, lyrics, etc., the Kidcrash hole, the importance of the Ikar reunion show, how this band is basically Guitar Hero, Serpent Column's screamo/black-metal solo project conspiracy, and more! Bands played in this podcast: Capsule, Cave In, Choke, Converge, Shora, and The Wind In The Trees. Listen to podcast #113 which is available to stream and/or download for free via this link.
Related artists: ?. Country: Helsingborg SWEDEN Years Active: 2020-present For fans of: Isis, AmenRa, The Monarch, Sarin, Ikaray, I Am A Curse, We Are Among Storms, R. Josef, and Eretia.
Label(s): Trepanation Recordings / Evil Noise Recordings / Clouded Mind Records
It's not often I get an email nowadays with a band that lines up as nicely as KOLLAPS\E and their 2023 push for the seven-song behemoth known as 'Phantom Centre'. Stretching across post-hardcore and post-metal with some crust/doom/sludge injection, there's no way fans of Isis and AmenRa won't be eating this up. Chugs and discordant/evil riffs are ever present here, as are vocals dripping out of a cement mixer, but you've also got some well-placed serene parts like the mid-section in opener "Era" that is bookended by some excellent stop/start textbooks. All-in-all most tracks create a very intriguing journey that climax in glorious fashion. "Uhtceare" is the album's most gargantuan track as it both clocks in at 8:35 and hits like a slow-falling anvil. "Anaemia" will appease fans of AmenRa with it's brooding, dark, and hypnotic swing, while my personal favourite "Radiant//Static" leans heavy on the 'Oceanic'-era Isis. A truly fantastic debut album!
@TERMINAL BAR in NANAIMO on March 25th, 2023 Live Show Review
So first things first...I'm old. About a week ago my back acted up again and I was unable to stand for more than 30 minutes. Although it was on the mend, by the time The Monarch got off the stage, I walked back to my vehicle, took a 15-minutes sit-down in my car, and then walked back to the venue to catch Chunkasaurus...they hadn't even started setting up. So I left. I was pretty bummed but I'm also glad I was self-aware enough to negate further injury, and I am stoked to say that now I'm back to 100% and could watch a show for hours with no issue. Therefore, there is no Chunkasaurus review because I didn't get to see them.
This local band opened the show and they have some serious chops, with all members being very proficient at their instruments, but the vocalist and backup singer/bassist both had very, very good voices to the point where I was pretty blown away that I was witnessing the layered melodies live in real-time. Unfortunately I took a video of what I considered to be the slowest and weakest of all their songs, but it's still really good! Hopefully I'll get to see them again and I can record one of their bangers which amalgamate the stylings of Incubus and Alice In Chains but did it without the cheese that I find buried in some alternative music.
The reason I went to this show was because after discovering these local post-metal heroes (thanks Trez!) I had been itching to see them live. Did they disappoint? Fuck no. They were incredible and the crowd responded in turn, smashing out a ridiculous 40-minute set that included a Thrice cover and their brank new single "God I Hope". The two singles from the band's new album are absolutely sensational and bring to mind Isis, Sarin, Mares Of Thrace, Moving Mountains, and the like, providing lush soundscapes, menacing screams, massive chugs, and even some gorgeous clean-sung vocals. I hadn't planned on filming the entire set but they were just so damn good I pieced together the videos and have embedded it below with track titles. If you haven't checked out THE MONARCH yet and even slightly enjoy those previous bands then you are missing out!
Band: A NEEDLE UNDER THE NAIL Genres: Punk / Hardcore / Metal / Metalcore / Metallic Hardcore / Math Metal / Mathcore
Related artists: ?. Country: Pembroke Pines, Florida U.S.A. Years Active: 2017-2019 / 2022 For fans of: Thank You Driver, Under The Pier, .gif from god, Stasis, Black Matter Device, A Mourning Star, Letters To Catalonia, (early) WristMeetRazor, The Kidnap Soundtrack, Thumbscrew, Unearth, Ed Gein, Loftus, (older) Vatican, Jukai, Hanging Moon, and Long.Way.Down.
Label(s): Wax Vessel / The Coming Strife Records / Arduous Path Records
So I'm pretty attached to the Wax Vessel movement and have followed every release they've put out. So why...why did I miss A NEEDLE UNDER THE NAIL? I dunno. My only guess is it came out during a lengthy deathcore run of releases and I just mixed them up with another band I'd checked out. Regardless, I'm here now after swapping songs with label founder Nik and he pointed me in their direction after hearing Long.Way.Down., and I was flabbergasted to find out I'd missed my chance at this incredible double-EP discography release. Luckily I run Zegema Beach Records and just traded away a test press of something for one muhahahaha (pictured above).
First off regarding this 'Demo 2017' release, I fucking love it. Despite finding the vocals a tad one-dimensional vocals (except when they utilize dual screaming) the balancing agent is that the instrumentals are absolutely massive. Speaking of instrumentals, I like this even more than the subsequent EP as the chugs are so heavy the walls shake, the onslaught of panic chords are as frantic as they are piercing, and the drums/bass are also super loud in the mix so the entire thing reverberates like a bomb explosion. My personal favourite off this is the second track "Red Shift" that guitars in particular are so goddamned catchy whilst simultaneously ruining the listener. I'm having a hard time with comparisons, regardless I think this release has some similarities with early SeeYouSpaceCowboy, Letters To Catalonia, and Long.Way.Down. but with much lower/heavier vocals, although I'm sure the metalcore fans have much more accurate ones. Oh and look at this fucking cassette art, be still my heart. 💓
The band's final foray into ridiculously awesome metalcore/mathcore was 'The Third Impact' EP. This thing is insane. First of all, although the instrumentals are more versatile, recorded more clearly, and the production is cleaner, they lose some of the oomph that the previous EP had. Despite that one complaint (not really a complaint lol) the vocals on this release are waaaaay better and fall in line with the stuff that Thank You Driver are doing currently (that goes for the instrumentals as well). Opener, title track, and my pick for strongest track is "The Third Impact" which just goes so fucking hard yet injects more melody and stable transitions, making it perhaps the best song they ever recorded. The rest of the EP follows suit with really groovy, mathy (but not of the ridiculous variety), just enough to perk your ears up whilst simultaneously kicking your ass and making you dance.
Massa Nera's new album is excellent. I was contacted directly by Massa Nera and was given a sneak preview of the release via the soundcloud URL provided in the email.
I got the exciting feeling that this album is the result of the pursuit of the hardcore sound that Massa Nera has been presenting so far, and also that they are breaking new ground.
1. First of all, I know this is an old question, but please tell us about the band's history to date. There may be many listeners in Japan who become familiar with Massa Nera through this interview.
Mark: I'm gonna give an insanely detailed answer so that we can just refer to this in the future haha.
Massa Nera was originally a different band. Allen and Chris were members, as well as our original bassist and vocalist. I met them at a show in Roselle Park, NJ (the only show Chris ever booked, coincidentally enough). My other band, Our Wits, played alongside them. After our set, Chris came up to me and asked me if I enjoy jazz. I answered in the affirmative, after which he asked if I listen to Toe. I once again said yes, all the while asking myself “who is this kid asking me about jazz at a punk show?”
A couple months later, I saw that they needed a drummer. I remembered my conversation with Chris and figured it would be worth auditioning. I think I was the only drummer they tried out. Upon getting the role, I found out that they were going to rename themselves and essentially start anew. Thus, Massa Nera was born. By this point, they had added a third guitarist, making Massa Nera a sextet in its original configuration.
From there, we started writing. We worked on the songs that became Will it Be Enough for You to Keep Going? (two of which were already written, in part or in full, by the time I joined) before recording them in April, 2016 with Steve Roche (who has recorded everything we've done since, the Envy cover notwithstanding). By that point, we'd already begun writing a couple of the songs that would be featured on no estamos separados and the first 4-Way Split (specifically "I'll be the next to go" and "Un mal cola de hadas"). Shortly after the first ep was released, we began playing shows. I think our first show was May 9th, 2016.
That summer, our 3rd guitarist left, after which we decided that two guitarists were enough. Personally, I think this decision gave Allen the space to really assert himself as both a writer and guitarist. Once we became a quintet, we rewrote our unrecorded material and began working on "The Search for Nothing," "Doing Nothing for Others is the Undoing of Ourselves," and Los Pensamientos de una Cara Palida. We recorded both no estamos separados and our contributions to 4-Way Split in August, 2016 (in one day!) and spent the rest of the year working on Los Pensamientos and playing shows (of which I think we played about 30). We also worked on our cover of "The Monologue of the Century" for that Jeromes Dream tribute album. 2016 was an extremely busy year!
We recorded Los Pensamientos in February + March, 2017 (over the course of 4 days spread across a pair of two-day sessions). Our bassist left the band between the first and second sessions, whereupon Allen got his friend Rick (with whom he played in Forever Losing Sleep) to join. I think we played one show with that lineup before our vocalist left. Once that happened, Chris, Allen, and I decided to do the vocals ourselves, rather than bring someone else into the band. Chris and I had already been contributing lyrically, and the three of us had more-or-less established ourselves as the principle writers, so it made sense. From here on out, Massa Nera would be a quartet.
Our first show doing vocals was Zegema Beach Records Fest 2017, which was our first time playing out of the country. I think that performance gave us a lot of momentum going forward. No one knew who we were beforehand. Afterwards, most people still didn’t know who we were, but enough people did that we were being added to shows with bands like Soul Glo and Flesh Born!
By July 2017, Rick decided to bow out. My friend Nagee (who plays bass in Our Wits) became our new bassist. He was with the band until February, 2018, meaning he was with us during our weekender with Infant Island, our first two Canadian weekenders, and a whole bunch of other shows. He was also part of the initial writing sessions for "Nunca Seremos lo Mismo" (off Hymnes aux désarrois de la peau) and "Adrift (off Derramar | Querer | Borrar, which should give people an idea of how long we were working on this album).
Once Nagee left, we were pretty rudderless. Since much of our time with Nagee was spent playing shows and teaching him our old material, we didn't have many chances to write (beyond the aforementioned songs and a couple other things). After he left, we seemed to write even less, though a few of the ideas that made it onto the new record first appeared during this time. I think we recorded "The Light of My Footsteps" (our contribution to the Envy/Love compilation) during that period as well.
Thankfully, AJ joined in June, 2018. I knew her from the Skramcave; she had made a pretty incredible ep that fused screamo with chamber music, as well as a criminally underappreciated screamo ep under the name Small Caps. We'd exchanged messages a few times, and she actually attended a show we played in Brooklyn that January. She messaged me about the possibility of Massa Nera doing a weekender with This Place Is Actually the Worst, her mathcore / cyberpunk / electronica / art punk duo. I asked if she wanted to join Massa Nera instead. She said yes, and soon after began playing bass and performing vocals. Finally, we had a stable lineup!
From here, the rest is quick. We played a lot of cool shows during AJ's first year with the band (New Friends Fest 1, for which our friend Taimir filled in on bass; ZBR Fest 2, NFF 2, etc.). We also toured Southeast Asia and Japan, which was probably the highlight of my entire life. We also recorded "Nunca Seremos lo Mismo" in August, 2018. Come January 2020, we finally found a practice space, which allowed us to write and rehearse much more regularly. Covid killed some of our touring plans, but it allowed us to devote ourselves entirely to the new record.
And that's it! Since last October, we've been playing a lot of shows, working on the new record (which is obviously out now, thank goodness), filming music videos, and planning tours. That is as comprehensive a history of the band as any of us will ever give hahahaha
2. First of all, the new album that you played for us was wonderful. It is clearly on a different level from your previous works. My personal impression is that Massa Nera's sound has some elements that are a bit different from the new generation of Screamo trends that have been rising since the late 2010s. I have been wondering what they are, so I would like to first clear that up. Do you guys consider yourselves a Screamo band? And you are trying to update that musicality rather than conservatively inherit it? Isn't that right?
Mark: Thank you for the kind words! I do consider us a screamo band, but I always felt that "screamo" was rather vague and amorphous as far as genre descriptors go. For me, screamo is more about exploring certain ideas (the dichotomy of chaos and fragility, extreme emotional vulnerability, etc.) than it is about replicating specific sonic hallmarks (beyond screamed vocals, which are pretty essential haha). So I guess it might be more precise to say that while I do consider us a screamo band, I don't think we're just a screamo band.
Truthfully, we think of Massa Nera as an art project. We don’t believe we have to sound a certain way, or that we have to adhere to certain aesthetics. We're aware of stylistic trends within screamo (like "the screamo rhythm") and make a conscious effort to avoid them (or at least subvert them). Likewise, we love pulling from a wide variety of musical and artistic influences, even if that results in us writing something that isn't screamo at all.
So to answer the second part of this question, I don't think we're trying to "update" screamo. I think we're trying to create our own sound, something that's distinct to us. Personally, I don’t care if our pursuit of that goal causes our future music to move in a completely different direction, so long as it remains honest and passionate.
3. I think the first time I heard Massa Nera was on "Los Pensamientos De una Cara Palida" released on Zegema Beach. Even at that time, we had a lot of Screamo/Skramz bands in our distro, but your sound had a chaos to it, like the old City Of Caterpillar releases. It is a whirlpool of emotions that cannot solely be expressed through the intensity and urgency of your playing. There is a tension in the length of the songs and between the sounds, and there is an immersive feeling of being transported to another world when you listen. Obviously, I thought it was different from the West Coast bands as well; what do you think Massa Nera's influences are?
Mark: Each of us is influenced by a wide variety of music, including a lot of stuff that might not seem obvious at first! Obviously, many of our biggest influences are the screamo bands that we discovered when we were younger. City of Caterpillar may very well be our biggest influence, but we also love bands like Raein, Loma Prieta, Envy, Malady, Kidcrash, Daitro, Shizune, Itto, Majority Rule, and the like. We also love a lot of our contemporaries: bands like Respire, Sans Visage, Infant Island, Closer, Joliette, Zeta, Blind Girls, Gillian Carter, Burial Dance, Hundreds of AU, Beast Jesus, Supine, etc. The list goes on and on!
We’re also influenced by several other heavy genres: death metal (Gorguts, Immolation, Cryptopsy); grindcore (Discordance Axis, Assuck, Human Remains); the more post-rock and shoegaze-infused strains of black metal (Oathbreaker, Sadness, Deafheaven); sludge metal (Rorcal, Sumac, Thou); math rock (Capsule, Don Caballero, Slint); post-hardcore (Thursday, Fugazi, These Arms Are Snakes); etc. We all listen to a ton of softer rock music as well; post-punk, shoegaze, indie rock, power pop, emo, and even stuff like classic rock.
I want to stress that the four of us also enjoy a great deal of music that’s pretty far removed from the world of rock. We pull a lot from those non-rock influences rhythmically, melodically/harmonically, and aesthetically. Collectively, we take inspiration from jazz, bossa nova, merengue, ambient, modern classical, future garage, city pop, vaporwave, techno, hip-hop, cloud rap, salsa, hyperpop, soul, drone, and 1000 other styles of music.
4. When you started the band, did you have a vision from the beginning of what kind of band you wanted to be?
Mark: I think we knew that we wanted to play hardcore music with a lot of melodic and rhythmic movement. If you listen to our first ep, Will It Be Enough for You to Keep Going?, the foundations of our sound were already in place. From there, we’ve just tried our best to write the sort of music that interests, excites, and challenges us. I think our new record is by far our most successful attempt at doing that. It also represents the most intentional piece of art we’ve ever created. We spent more time working on this album than we did on all our previous records put together, Los Pensamientos included.
5. You have toured Japan, and Nakagawa Kou of ungulates is an important figure in Japan. How did you come up with the idea of touring Japan?
Mark: Well, we were brainstorming ideas for what was going to be our first real tour. We were throwing around a lot of possibilities, like a full US tour, or a trip to mainland Europe. I think it was Chris who suggested going to Asia. His rationale, if I’m remembering this correctly, was that it would be fun and exciting to do something that very few bands from the U.S. ever attempt.
Initially, our plan was to exclusively tour Southeast Asia. We got in contact with the Sleeping Boy Collective (based out of The Philippines), which led to us messaging bands in Malaysia and Singapore (and eventually Indonesia). Shortly thereafter, we decided to split the tour between Southeast Asia and Japan. This was mostly inspired by our love of various Japanese bands (such as the aforementioned Envy and Sans Visage, but also bands like Toe, Endon, Tricot, Blue Friend, and more), as well as our desire to visit Japan on a personal level.
Since all of us really loved Sans Visage, Kou was the first person we messaged. Thank goodness we did that! Without him, this tour never would have happened. Not only did he book and promote our shows in Osaka and Tokyo; he also acted as our guide during much of our time in Japan. It was an absolutely beautiful experience. He’s a truly lovely, kind individual, as well as a monster behind the kit! We miss him to this day, and hope we can return so that we can spend more time with him, if nothing else. I should also give a shout out to our friend Yoshi (formerly of the band Diane Arbus) for booking our show in Nagoya! It was a joy spending time with him as well! In general, that tour was a dream come true. Like I said earlier, this was probably the best two weeks of my life.
6. Please tell us about the current situation in the U.S. Some of the new bands that emerged in the late 2010s have grown up or broken up, but what is the current situation in 2022?
There don't seem to be many bands like Massa Nera that are still active with several releases. It seems like everyone is short-lived. I am inspired by the new Screamo territory that bands that have been around for a long time are stepping out into.
Mark: From our perspective, there’s a surplus of excellent screamo being produced in the U.S! It’s true that most of screamo groups are short-lived, but there are several awesome bands that have a few releases under their belts: Ostraca, Hundreds of AU, Infant Island, Quiet Fear, Gillian Carter, Eyelet, Snag, Supine, Foxtails, Coma Regalia, Frail Body, etc. If you include the scene in Canada, you can add bands like Respire, Terry Green, Dianacrawls, and TDOAFS to that list (and similarly, including the scene in Mexico allows us to bring up bands like Habak, Joliette, and Satón).
Additionally, there are tons of great bands that are either newer, or simply don’t have many releases (despite having been around for a few years). We’d recommend checking out bands like Lágrimas, Lástima, To Forget, Sonagi, Pyre, Burial Dance, Stress Spells, New Grass, In Wolves Clothing, and Yume. From there, you’re liable to discover dozens of bands that even we don’t know!
Truthfully, with all the bands that are currently making music (and with festivals like Zegema Beach Records Fest and New Friends Fest gaining strength each year), I feel like the U.S. screamo scene is the healthiest it’s been in a while! The only thing that’s lagging behind, at least where we live, is the infrastructure for DIY shows, and even this has been picking up as of late. With more nurturing and community-building, I think the scene will be really strong and robust for years to come.
7. There is one striking sentence about the lyrics of this issue.
"Why do I believe compliance will save me?"
It is a line from the fourth song, "Adrift".
This song is very introspective. It also has the kind of anguish of someone who is not a young person (which of course I think is linked to the sound as well). You are in fact 30 years old?
What do you think about the regulation of expression from compliance (also called political correctness?)
Mark: Thank you! I wrote the lyrics to “Adrift” (except for the last line; I pulled that from "Shapeshift," which AJ wrote). I'm actually still in my 20's! I'm currently 28, but I finished those lyrics when I was 26. When we recorded the album, AJ was the only person in the band who was 30; I was 27, Chris was 26, and Allen was 25. I guess we're just old souls at heart haha.
In all seriousness, when I wrote those lyrics, I was experiencing an existential crisis of sorts with respect to how I was living. I'd obtained a master's degree in psychology and had spent 5 years working in the mental health field. By most metrics, I was "doing everything right," yet I wasn't happy. In fact, I was depressed. This situation reached a boiling point at my last job. I kept telling myself that if I stuck things out just a bit longer, I’d be able to save some more money, and then I’d quit, or get myself fired, or whatever.. Each time I reached whatever deadline I set for myself, I pushed things back even further and repeated the entire process.
"Adrift," then, was my way of confronting this situation. It was my attempt to confront the phenomena of enduring a toxic situation, despite your awareness of how unhealthy it is, rather because of fear / complacency / etc. It was also my way of expressing my worry that if I kept putting off action, I’d end up like my dad, burnt out and filled with regrets after 30+ years in the same soul-deadening job.
As an aside, I eventually decided to contact a local union. My coworkers and I spent a great deal of time engaged in a very active organizing campaign. Unfortunately, someone snitched on me, and I ended up getting fired before the union could get in. However, I subsequently filed an unfair labor practice charge against my job (for wrongful termination), after which I was awarded a nice settlement. Even before I won the settlement, my mental health improved dramatically after getting fired. It goes to show, there’s no reward for silently suffering at a job that ultimately views you as replaceable. Collective action is the only way forward.
Regarding political correctness: In the U.S. at least, political correctness is oftentimes used as a tool by the right-wing to decry any criticism they might receive for punching down or otherwise discriminating against marginalized groups. The right-wing are keen to bang the free speech gavel, but only when it suits their limited, narrow worldview. They’re using the idea of free speech as a way to deflect from criticism, and as a dishonest means of painting their political opponents in a bad light. If you can successfully convince people that your opponents are simply “politically correct,” you can more easily get them to agree with your regressive, discriminatory agenda. Obviously, we as a band are against racism, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, ableism, and any other form of bigotry, so we don’t think we’re being politically correct by adhering to those values. We think we’re just being decent people.
However, there’s also a much more conservative form of political correctness that’s extremely pervasive in the U.S., even if it isn’t always identified by that name. As you say, it’s the sort of political correctness that demands we refrain from speaking truth to power. It’s the political correctness that tells us never to question whether the police are truly necessary (or whether their function is to actually “protect and serve”), or why your boss makes so much more than you despite doing less work (or why we even need bosses in the first place), or whether capitalism is indeed ethical, fair, or just. It’s also the sort of political correctness that tries to control how we look, who we love, and the means by which we express ourselves. Obviously, we’re vehemently opposed to that sort of political correctness. True freedom means creating a world in which everyone can be boundless. That will never happen unless we destroy all the systems that restrict us (such white supremacy, heteronormativity, cisnormativity, the patriarchy, and especially capitalism).
8. I was very surprised by "Shapeshift." This track is very different from your previous hardcore sounds. What was the process behind this track?
I mean, how did the songs on this album come to be?
The unpredictable development is thrilling, yet not too bizarre, and everything seems natural at the same time.
Mark: It was Allen’s idea! Allen more-or-less wrote the “thrash” section of “Shapeshift” by himself. When he originally presented the “Shapeshift” demo to the band, it included an extended trance outro. Around this time, Chris was heavily immersed in the world of electronic music, so he took that idea and ran with it. The actual techno / future garage / etc. track that made it to the record is 99% Chris. The rest of us contributed a couple of ideas.
Without giving too much away, we were very deliberate about ending Side A with that section. Some people might find it disruptive (indeed, it seems like this is the most divisive section of the album by far), but we view it as essential to the overall flow of the record from a thematic standpoint.
As for the other songs, the writing process was extremely collaborative! In general, someone will come to the band with an idea, whether it’s a riff, chord progression, or rhythm. From there, the four of us build the song piece-by-piece, usually editing and revising each aspect of it several times. On some occasions, a song is brought to the band in a more fully-formed state.
9. There is a song called "April 7th." Is April 7th a date when something happened? Or is it a day that means nothing?
Mark: If I recall, April 7th was the day AJ quit a particularly depressing, exploitative job. Either that, or it was the day she began writing the lyrics for that song. Either way, it holds personal significance to us! However, in the context of the album, the title is deliberately unremarkable and mundane. April 7th is “just another day,” a sad comedown after the future garage freakout that ends Side A. Again, without telling anyone how to listen to the record (which isn’t any fun), that’s 100% intentional.
10. In addition to the chaotic music, what prompted the lyrical expression to delve deeply into the inner world about views of life and time?
When I read the lyrics of other Screamo bands, they are either pretty straightforward expressions of anger, or on the contrary, abstract, or both.
Your lyrics are neither of those things, or rather, there is something that sticks deeply inside. I think the sound also enhances this effect.
Mark: Simply put, each of us were going through a great deal of turmoil while working on the album. Much of that stress had to do with our jobs, capitalism, mental health, and the interrelationship between those things. After completing drafts for about five songs, we compared lyrics and found out we were all writing about the same things. Once we came to that realization, we made the decision to make those subjects the focus of the entire record. It was important for the music and lyrics to enhance each other, so we’re happy you feel they did!
11. The title is "Derramar | Querer | Borrar" and I don't know what it means, but it's not fun to listen to the answer here, so I'm going to interpret it for the listener.
But I would like you to give me just a hint at the end.
Mark: A hint? Why not! The meaning of the title isn’t meant to be a secret, but I’m game.
Here it is: each word appears in the album at least once, albeit in a conjugated form. “Querer,” however, doesn’t appear in Spanish; it only appears in English. In fact, one of the song titles is essentially the present-tense conjugation of “Querer” in English. Can you guess which song that is?
Sorry if that’s a bad hint! Obviously, I won’t be working on any murder mysteries any time soon.
12. Now I would like to add one last question.
In his opening response, Chris asked, "Do you like jazz?" I wonder what the reason was for asking that.
Mark: I think Chris asked me that after watching my other band (Our Wits) perform! I admittedly really enjoy jazz, and at the time I played in a couple jazz ensembles at college. I guess Chris could detect that influence in my playing and wanted to confirm it. Once I answered "yes," he started talking about Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane, confirming that he liked jazz too!
13. I hope that this interview will help listeners find something else to enjoy about this masterpiece of Massa Nera's work.
I was like, "I see!" and there are some parts that made me want to listen to it more deeply.
Any last words?
Mark: Thank you for giving us such thoughtful questions! Also, a sincere thanks to anyone who has listened to the new album, even if it wasn't for you. The fact that people have taken the time to give it a chance means a great deal to us. We hope to return to Japan at some point! I feel like it's going to happen; it's just a matter of "when."