All photos by Taylor Markarian
It’s still early in 2017, but The End Is Here Tour may very well be the biggest tour of the year. Giants in the scene like Falling In Reverse, Motionless In White and Issues play to crowds of thousands with stage production that would rival the best Hollywood sets. And on a massive tour like this, openers Dangerkids and Dead Girls Academy start each show off with a bang. Check out the insane spectacle at Philly’s The Fillmore with these incredible shots.
Even if you enjoy academics, the phrase “back to school” is always cringeworthy. It marks the end of summer fun and those damn TV commercials seem to start earlier and earlier every year. But no fear! Your HXC Magazine staff is here to make it a little more fun! Here’s a playlist to make your first days a little more mosh-tastic. (And if your teacher asks, that’s totally a word.)
On June 19th, Yahoo! Screen streamed the first date of Vans Warped Tour 2015 on its Live Nation Channel from the Fairplex in Pomona, CA. The live stream kicks off a hugely important festival for the “underground,” but it also kicks off an important question: Do live concert streaming and hard rock shows really belong together?
We’re all used to seeing live performances on TV by now. Come the Super Bowl, the halftime show is all that matters for many viewers. We watch televised performances from the likes of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, The Oscars, and nightly programs like Jimmy Kimmel Live and Conan. While broadcasted musical events have become commonplace, live concert streaming takes the concept to a next level and thus raises next level questions. When a -core band’s show inside a local venue becomes easily viewable from remote locations, is it just cool or does it take something away? When you can watch Stick To Your Guns play a set from your laptop in bed with some hot cocoa, for example, it inarguably changes the experience. But is it for the better?
Vans Warped Tour and Stick To Your Guns aren’t the only examples of streamed shows, of course, and Yahoo! isn’t the only platform for this market. (Others include IROCKE and ConcertTV & Concert Window, for instance). Various acts from genres all across the board have dabbled in the new digital music phenomenon. Bands like The Ghost Inside, Falling In Reverse, Chelsea Grin, August Burns Red, and Bayside have live streamed their shows via Yahoo!, as have acts like Stone Temple Pilots, Infected Mushroom and Meghan Trainor. On one hand, you might note how fair the platform is to music of all types. Heavy bands aren’t usually deemed noteworthy enough to appear side-by-side with ultra-famous pop singers or widely-known psychedelic trance groups. Alternatively, though it may be nice to see your favorite bands emerge from the more shadowy corners of the music world, there is something about watching their performances from a computer screen that can justifiably raise an eyebrow or two.
I’ll admit, the first time I heard about live concert streaming, I thought it was pretty freakin’ awesome. “No way!” was followed by “I’ve gotta try that!” was followed by “I’m totally living in the future right now!” I actually tuned in to a couple of shows to see what it was like or to see how the bands actually performed live. Each time, I stared at my computer screen allowing that exact same train of thought to pass through my brain…for about 60 seconds. Then I got over it.
Then I started thinking, That’s cool. I’m sure the people who are actually there right now are having fun. Because although being able to watch a live show from your couch is admittedly a neat trick, the initial magic wears off rather quickly. Sure, with pop acts and more mainstream sounds it’s probably a bit different. After all, watching Super Bowl Halftime shows is always fun. But pop, hip-hop, and stadium rock acts are what the doorman of Oz would call a horse of a different color as compared to a hardcore outfit. Those streamline genres are more tailored to broadcast performances. For the most part, vocals are really most of what’s going on in a pop act, and the audio engineers are well-adjusted to those kinds of smooth vocals. But introduce some screaming and growling into the mic, some double bass pedals alongside intense cymbal work, and some crunchy guitars and most live music coming from your home speakers sounds crappy. Even though the actual live show at the venue could be insane, a live hardcore band will never sound as good over your internet connection as it will in person. As it always has with this kind of music, it comes down to the live show, and the thing about live shows is you should probably be there when they happen.
Half of hardcore is the live performance. The recorded tracks are what get you interested perhaps, and they’re definitely what keep you going, but the live show is what it’s all about: being between a certain set of a walls with a certain set of people playing your favorite set of tunes. You go to your favorite venue with familiar graffiti impetuously scribbled on the walls. You stand in a crowd of 50, 100, 500 people wearing shirts of bands you’ll be seeing next month or whose CD you have laying around your car. You get pushed around, jump up and down, thrown front to back, toppled, drowned in the sweat of strangers, get a beer spilled on you, and get close enough to the band that the spit as their screaming flies past your eyelids. To use precise terms, there’s a vibe, an energy you get from the sense of community and from the charisma of the musicians striking chords you’ve heard alone in your room a thousand times. You go to a show to not be alone in your room anymore. You go to a hardcore show because there’s nothing like being at a hardcore show.
True, live streaming can allow you to virtually attend a show you otherwise might not have been able to attend. Boiler Room streams music events from all around the world, making it possible for someone who lives in New York City to “attend” a concert in London. Live streaming also may introduce you to new bands before you decide you want to spend your money on a ticket. However, you don’t get an accurate depiction of what the band in question is actually like because you’re not physically in the space, and you could end up hating a band you might have otherwise loved.
Am I standing atop a hill with a torch in one hand and a mace in the other shouting, “Down with the internet!”? No. Is live concert streaming a terrible development in technology? By no means. However, does it make sense for genres that have historically and culturally found a home in dingy basements and mosh pits? Not in my book.
There has been increasing talk of the lack of women in the hardcore scene lately. Yet for all the talk, there doesn’t seem to be adequate exploration of why this is so or of what’s truly going on here. Relative to other rock genres like metal and alternative, hardcore seems to be the most homogenous and male-dominated of all. The reasons for this phenomenon may be far and wide, but I’d like to point to one particular issue that I’ve noticed in my years of listening to post-hardcore–the lyrics.
YouTuber Jared Dines hilariously sums it up in one of his satirical videos of the scene, “10 Styles of Metal.” A few seconds into the video, when the genre title “POST HARDCORE” holds above his head, Dines elucidates in unclean vocals: “My girlfriend broke up with me/ I’m really upset about it/ It’s really my own fault/ But I’m gonna blame her.” While saying that all post-hardcore bands sport the same lyrical content is an overgeneralization, any fan can laugh at how common and, for the most part, accurate Dines’ criticism actually is. Women tend to be given a certain symbolic status of vixen or betrayer or, like in a recent Ice Nine Kills music video, succubus.
Personally, I love the music metalcore band Ice Nine Kills make, but I’ve got to admit that the video for “The Fastest Way To A Girl’s Heart Is Through Her Ribcage” is troubling. It’s become so commonplace now that we no longer realize it, or if we do, we let it pass by us as mere fact–the idea that woman is the downfall of man. In this particular case, a (sexually) voracious female demon that we watch vocalist Spencer Charnas brutally kill is the subject matter. Coupled with lyrics like “You’d be just as sexy bleeding,” this visual takes the trope to a more obvious extreme. While some of you out there may argue “it’s just a music video” or “you’re taking this too seriously,” I’d like to suggest that sometimes the effects outweigh the intent. Do most guys approach their actions or the art they make with the explicit idea that they’re going to villainize women? I’d like to guess not. But the unconscious ideas are there and they keep getting nonchalantly perpetuated, and in this instance, as an INK fan, become alienating to me.
Perhaps the very icon for this kind of behavior is British powerhouse Asking Alexandria; or, to get right down to it, ex-frontman Danny Worsnop. The cover art for the band’s latest album From Death To Destiny is a prime example of the female figure being reduced to a purely sexual and symbolic role for the male frontman. In the image (above), the woman is placed naked in a vending machine at the male rock star’s disposal should he have a few bucks on him to spare. She is a resource of pleasure for him, an object. In short, she is dehumanized. Take virtually any strand of lyrics from Asking Alexandria over the years and you’ll find something similar. Again, AA is a band I’ve enjoyed listening to musically for a while, but lyrically it’s hard to escape “I knew when I first saw you/You’d fuck like a whore” (“Not The American Average“).
On the more pop-oriented side of the post-hardcore spectrum, Falling In Reverse‘s music video for “Good Girls Bad Guys” gives us yet another example. In the video, a car pulls up and lets attractive women out of the trunk, parading them around on a kind of catwalk for the men on the set. Their only value in the space of the video is as beautiful objects; commodities that give the men their successful, masculine status. These women are only here for the purpose of reflecting the male ego back on itself in a positive light.
This editorial isn’t here to call out anyone specifically, or even to call out men in general. “Men = bad, women = good” isn’t the idea here, and hardcore/post-hardcore/metalcore aren’t the only genres that have issues with representation of women. Rather, the purpose of this article is to call out a prevailing attitude that I think needs some reevaluation; the attitude that, to quote Laura Mulvey, “Women are bearers of meaning, not makers of meaning.”
For me, this is the link to creating a “Women of Hardcore” serial. There needs to be a shift in perspective. By collecting interviews with various female talents in the scene, we want to emphasize these people as active contributors to music and music culture, and hopefully, show other fans of hardcore–female and male–that there is a place for them, too. So let’s go make some meaning, regardless of your sexy parts.
To anyone who has recently heard the new Sworn In record, The Lovers/The Devil, you may be asking yourself “What the hell did I just listen to?” And this is a pretty standard reaction as many of the tracks on the quintet’s sophomore effort are pretty much collections of not-so-collaborative noise. After the great success of their debut full-length, The Death Card, this shift from “emocore” to experimental melodic metal(ish) collage-djent (yes, that is a mouthful just as much as an earful) felt almost disappointing and out of place for the band.
A couple weeks back I cited Sworn In as one of the bands you need to know based mainly off of their highly innovative efforts on The Death Card, or XIII, depending on how you want to read it. It’s a fantastic album that carries a distinct sound throughout the entire work, but is filled to the brim with dynamic and out of the box rhythmic patterns over strange chord progressions and an intense use of distortion pedals. It’s what I imagine broken hearted spoken word in a dive bar would sound like if suddenly Rise Records wanted to remix it. While it’s definitely a little bizarre, it’s also incredibly intense and highly enjoyable. So when The Lovers/The Devil dropped and I couldn’t understand my own disappointment in their strange, new musical direction, I had to take a step back and ask myself, “Have Sworn In gone crazy or are they really just musical geniuses no one understands?”
When it comes to art and music, where do we find the exact divider? In fact, is there even a dividing line or is music simply a form or “genre” of art? And if so, is art all encompassing of “the arts” and thus not solely focused on the major artistic media such as painting, sculpting, and drawing?
Okay, so where is all of this philosophical stuff coming from that sounds like the beginning of a bad 101 class in college? And why am I asking so many goddamn questions?
Well, that’s kind of the point. When you listen to a great record, not just a good record, you want the music to challenge you. This is why listening to albums like Stick To Your Guns‘ Disobedient will always hold more of an impact than listening to Falling In Reverse‘s Just Like You. While FIR may have catchy and even danceable riffs and hooks, STYG are preaching lyrics with a strong message as well as musical backbone. People love Bring Me The Horizon for similar reasons. While the music is amazing and ever-changing, it’s the personal and emotional aspect of tracks like “It Never Ends” and “Drown” that will resonate with the listener long after the records stop spinning. If the music doesn’t subliminally force the listener to think in some new or different way then there really is no point to invest yourself in it.
When I first heard The Lovers/The Devil I was confused. I had previously only heard the singles “Sunshine” and “I Don’t Really Love You” and I couldn’t quite get a grasp on why the fuck a band so rooted in doing spoken, emotionally driven unclean vocals would want to introduce these weird meshes of melodic cleans sporadically throughout each track. It wasn’t sonically pleasing, and it wasn’t aesthetically intriguing either. The fan feedback via social media also seemed to be just as disappointed or confused as I was (though now, looking back, I think it was more confusion disguised as disappointment). The one major thing this album was doing was getting people talking–whether it was good or bad, people were genuinely discussing these out-of-left-field singles that seemingly no one could figure out.
In a strange move, Sworn In took to social media themselves to really push the idea that the album needed to be listened to as a whole, not just in bits and pieces. They stressed it was a concept album divided into two major ideas, The Lovers and The Devil, naturally, and encouraged fans not to write them off for their shift in sound.
So with that I went back into it.
And still wasn’t satisfied.
When we think “concept album,” we are thinking of an album that is divided up into varying sections and stories, but what if each track on The Lovers/The Devil is actually more of a microcosm of the entire album? Just about every track except “Oliolioxinfree” has this bizarre separation of depressing lullaby-like melody amongst thrashy, experimental hardcore. The title of the album is problematic enough. The Lovers/The Devil is not only annoying to type, but it’s also kind of jarring to look at and say. It’s two separate ideas used to create one concept, one idea. Perhaps this jarring sonic effect was the purpose; perhaps this album is meant to be just as jarring as the stylized title suggests.
The fact of the matter is that The Lovers/The Devil is never going to be truly sonically enjoyable. There is an intentional formula behind it that makes it just impeccably grating to listen to. But it can be appreciated for its conceptual sophistication. Think of Jackson Pollock. His paintings are sporadic and all over the place, but they say something far more transcendent than just a run of the mill portrait. They create outward commentaries on society and the people of the art world as well as those who view, collect, and showcase his paintings. They say that there are set formulas for “art,” but we do not necessarily need to follow them in order to create Art. There may not necessarily be a skill displayed within the painting, or a catchy flow to this album for that matter, but it’s a concept that came about from both past experience in and knowledge of the industry as well as technical skills in general. It’s throwing conventions to the wind and in the end creating conversation.
You cannot deny that people are talking about The Lovers/The Devil. While this time around the lyrics may not be the selling point that the listener takes away, it’s the challenge of making a new sound with a dualistic concept present in almost every track that is completely throwing people off their game. Metalcore, hardcore, djent, punk, dubstep, whatever alternative music you listen to is always so rooted in verse, chorus, verse, chorus, hook/breakdown/bass drop, chorus, blah blah blah, that when an album comes around and changes the entire dynamic, people tend to jump and just say it’s bad. But “bad” is the wrong word for The Lovers/The Devil because the album isn’t one to be listened to for its musicality, it’s meant to be listened to for its innovation and artistic nature. I will never bump this album on a car ride or at a party. I will never want to listen to it because of any melodic nature it may hold. And that’s because The Lovers/The Devil shouldn’t be viewed as a record. It should be viewed as sonic concept Art. And for that, Sworn In deserves to be lauded for their efforts, not beaten down for making a record absolutely no one expected.
After Falling In Reverse’s entry into the music world and Ronnie Radke’s triumphant return with The Drug In Me Is You and their sophomore release, the electronic rapcore enigma that was Fashionably Late, it seemed unlikely that Radke would be able to top his two prior epics with a third full length. While 2015’s Just Like You upholds the classic Radke aesthetic found within his early days of Escape The Fate, it doesn’t quite hold up to the innovative and controversial sounds that Falling In Reverse has become known for. Just Like You is the poster child of playing it safe. Tracks like “Chemical Prisoner” are catchy as hell and include the signature Jacky Vincent guitar solo FIR fans have grown to love. Apart from directly quoting the line “Days go by” from Ronnie’s previous track with rapper B. Lay, the song is fun and energetic, but lacks the sonic bite that challenges the listener. The same problems arise with tracks like “God, If You Are Above…” and “Wait and See.” As the album progresses, FIR attempt to tackle a heavier sound, most notably in “Guillotine IV (The Final Chapter).” FIR finally close the ongoing “Guillotine” song series, a series that originated on the first Escape The Fate full length and had two follow ups with Craig Mabbitt behind the vocals rather than Radke. Somewhat overthought, the “Guillotine IV” feels more like a track made just because Radke could write it rather than to serve any real purpose apart from letting the new Escape The Fate get the last word. While tracks like “Brother” and “Get Me Out” feel dated and reminiscent of the height of the emo craze, singles like “Sexy Drug” and “Just Like You” capitalize on Radke’s snarky lyrical witticisms. Just Like You‘s title track is a classic FIR song that lets the world know what we’ve all known for a while: Ronnie Radke is an asshole. Though it’s a highly publicized fact, hearing Radke cleverly string together the words “I am aware that I am an asshole/I really don’t care about all of that though” in a catchy chorus is one of the major highlights that remind the listener this may be a safe play album for FIR, but as an album overall, it’s a solid effort.
We’re all aware by now that Ronnie Radke is an asshole, and with the arrival of Falling In Reverse’s new album, Just Like You, it’s safe to say he’s not afraid of owning it. The music video for the title track of the band’s third record celebrates a fact to which those of you who have ever seen the infamous frontman perform can attest–being an asshole for some reason only adds to Radke’s entrancing charisma.
In this video directed by Zach Merck–who has directed a handful of other Radke videos dating back to the “Situations” days–the singer resumes the familiar role of the reality TV star. Here starring as a competitor (and, of course, ultimate winner of) talent contest parody “The Choice,” Radke makes it clear that if nothing else, he’s a born showman; or at the very least, that it’s worthwhile seeing him cross-dress as Jessie J. You’ll spot a few familiar faces who are, like Radke, known for their shall we say, less-than-reserved demeanors. How many (Andy) dicks can you spot in one video? (And yes, the larger-than-life phallic symbol of the microphone between Radke’s legs at the end definitely counts.)
Falling In Reverse have released another track from their upcoming album, Just Like You, and you better have your hairbrush ready…and maybe a condom. The song, “Sexy Drug,” is a sinfully catchy romp that adds to the band’s already substantial catalogue of sexy tunes. Like “Good Girls Bad Guys,” “Pick Up The Phone,” and even way back to the “Situations” days, it leaves little to the imagination and a lot to the hips.
2014 was a huge year for music. We saw the first time a band from the post-hardcore scene put on a music festival that was entirely in, of and for the scene with A Day To Remember’s Self Help Fest. We watched the aftermath of My Chemical Romance’s breakup dissolve into glorified solo projects. The Bury The Hatchet Tour finally happened, marking a long awaited resolution between Escape the Fate and Falling in Reverse. And hell, even Taylor Swift gets a shout out since more hardcore-influenced bands covered her songs than ever before. So the real question is: what were the best musical moments of the year? Check out our editors’ picks for the Top Albums of 2014 in no particular order and let us know what some of your favorites were!