This year I tried to take more into consideration what artists were pushing the genre forward the most and in particular the ones that were more directly mathcore-informed in their sound, but naturally I still sneaked in some shit that is barely adjacent anyway. Also, I took the time to list some EPs I enjoyed as well as some completely disparate shit that I charted heavily. Here we go.
Disclaimer: I helped release some of these albums, but so what? You think I put out shit I don’t like? Don’t be stupid.
I Sell Mathcore and Mathcore Accessories (Top 20 LPs):
20) Infinite Hex – “Simulacrum and Stimuli”
19) for your health – “In Spite of”
18) MouthBreather – “I’m Sorry Mr. Salesman”
17) Black Sheep Wall – “Songs for the Enamel Queen”
16) Delta Sleep – “Spring Island”
15) Sentinels – “Collapse by Design”
14) Fawn Limbs – “Darwin Falls”
13) Nursing – “Self Care”
12) Dreamwell – “Modern Grotesque”
11) black midi – “Cavalcade”
10) Every Time I Die – “Radical”
What can you can say? This band cannot release a bad album, and some would probably argue this is one of the best albums they’ve released in years, and I’m inclined to agree. Keith Buckley is in top-form, an ever-flowing fountain of effortless anthemic lines, more self-aware than ever.
9) fallfiftyfeet – “Twisted World Perspective”
Skillfully executed vocal interplay and anthemic lyrics, staggeringly technical chops, abundant melodic hooks, and massive breakdowns, fallfiftyfeet’s debut full-length simply cannot be denied. They also released some of my favorite music videos of the year with “Parting Gift” and “Anything That Can Go Wrong…”
8) Pacmanthemovie – “Pacmanthemovie 2: Eat Lives”
An incredibly infectious and fun listen with serious reply value, Pacmanthemovie’s debut LP is full of earwig riffs, sassy and frantic vocals, and super tight percussion, harkening back to the glory days of MySpace while still sounding fresh and exciting.
7) Pupil Slicer – “Mirrors”
The debut LP from what I consider to be one of the UK’s premiere mathcore acts, “Mirrors” is an emotionally charged and grindcore informed project that is packed full of technical riffs, dynamic compositions, and tortured, personal vocals and lyrics from vocalist, guitarist, and song writer, Kate Davies.
6) Death Goals – “The Horrible and the Miserable”
Some might not qualify this as a mathcore band, but it’s so good and just adjacent enough that I couldn’t possibly think of leaving this out simply because there’s not enough odd-meters. Death Goals’ debut LP is a very danceable foray into chaotic hardcore, with excellent vocal interplay between guitarist Harry Bailey and drummer George Milner that perfectly compliment their frantic and breakdown-heavy style.
5) SeeYouSpaceCowboy – “The Romance of Affliction”
SeeYouSpaceCowboy have struck a much better balance between melodic and chaotic on their 2nd full-length effort, more seamlessly integrating the melodic post-hardcore elements that were introduced on their last album with the more mathcore and metalcore informed material that older fans might recognize from the bands earlier work.
4) Under the Pier – “An Exercise In Discontent”
Under the Pier have show true maturation and attention to detail on their sophomore LP that makes it feel more cohesive, better developed, and overall improved upon in every possible way from the instrumentation to composition. They strike the perfect balance between heavy and technical, catchy and chaotic, providing nice counterpoint with nimble chromatic guitar runs between the heavier breakdowns that are now allowed more room to repeat, finally creating more opportunity for anthemic lyrical moments as seen on “Subtext and Make Believe Fact.”
3) Kaonashi – “Dear Lemon House, You Ruined Me: Senior Year”
Incredibly passionate vocal performances, staggeringly detailed lyrics, and super heavy and technical instrumentals that bring an eclectic mix of emotive post-hardcore, progressive metal, and mathcore. I don’t think it’s possible for me to listen to this album without getting the chills, with its emotionally charged content, vivid characters, and thoughtful world-building.
2) The Armed – “Ultrapop”
This album is pretty much immaculate. From start to finish, there is scarcely a moment when I’m not either fully engaged or just letting the wall of sound wash over me. There are these magnificent crescendos that are heavy, but not in the conventional metal sort of way, more in the way of allowing yourself to be swept away by some unseen electric current. Conversely, at times it’s also very punk and rock and roll, but also has distinctly pop-like hooks, and the end result is unlike anything I’ve ever heard. I’m constantly reminded of things so far outside of the sphere of hardcore and metal when I’m listening to this album, and it makes for a really interesting and thought provoking listening experience
1) Frontierer – “Oxidized”
If what you seek is to be absolutely punished, it doesn’t get much better than Frontierer, and if this 3 album arc has shown us anything, it’s that Frontierer are not done leveling up. This album is essentially a clinic in insane guitar effects and electronic integration that is overwhelming and disorienting, and truly plays at the dissonant and chaotic sound they have so successfully cultivated over the past few years. Frontierer is one of the most relentless and forward thinking projects in extreme music of the past decade, combining elements of mathcore and electronic glitch based elements to create one of the most pummeling wall of sound effects in metal, with screeching pitch shifted guitars, heavy electronics, and the savage vocal delivery of Chad Kapper, also of Knives Into Orbit. Guitarist, producer, and song writer Pedram Valiani is a visionary whose influence has already clearly pervaded many of the next generation mathcore bands utilizing whammy pedals and heavy electronics, and additionally mastered my #4 AOTY, Under the Pier’s “An Exercise In Discontent.” All in all, it simply doesn’t get more abrasive or extreme than this. Frontierer have raised the bar for what is possible in underground music.
“It’s Very Digestible” (Some EPs I loved):
Off the Wall (some other shit I couldn’t stop jamming):
Carson Pace (The Callous Daoboys):
10) Pacmanthemovie – “Pacmanthemovie 2: Eat Lives”
Damn this record is so much fun. Riffs all over the place. Very reminiscent of Art Damage-by Fear Before The March Of Flames, one of my favorite records of all time. You can sing along to almost every riff on “Eric Andre”, and I catch myself humming the guitar parts on “Horse Dick Fiasco” almost every day. Amazing work.
9) fromjoy – “It Lingers”
“This band is like beatdown slipknot” fellow Daoboy Maddie Caffrey said to me as I showed her “Phantom Bullet” emphatically over her car’s Aux. She’s not entirely wrong. Fromjoy takes enormous sonic risks of drum n bass and lo-fi breakbeat in between brutal syncopated passages that sound like you’re stuck in a tear-gassed bathroom. One day this band will write a fuckin masterpiece that will spawn and endless number of copycat bands. Jump on the train now.
8) Adjy – The Idyll Opus (I-VI)
Daoboys’ first show after 18 months of being locked down was in Columbia, SC at New Brookland Tavern, a venue we are proud to call a home away from home. Playing again was emotionally exhausting in multiple ways. I was very lucky to have my very good friend, Abandcalledlove bassist Ian Riley, come up to Columbia with us to run merch and sing “Die on Mars (Sunspot)” with us.
On the 3 hour midnight drive home, Ian drove my Ford Explorer while I sat in the passenger seat as he explained the myriad concepts included in Adjy’s “The Idyll Opus”. Boy howdy I am still so lost.
Expansive, Beautiful, heart-wrenching, and downright confusing, “The Idyll Opus” takes the story of two kids meeting at a Christian Music festival, and then somehow ties that plot line into a scientist resurrecting his dead twin. I have no idea what’s going on, but I love it.
Ian is one of my closest friends, and I think I will forever associate this record with our friendship before our early and late 20’s came to an inevitable end. It’s my #8 in 2021, but it’s going to stick with me forever.
7) Jpegmafia – “LP!“
Anyone who knows me is very aware that I worship at the altar of Barrington Hendricks’ output under the name JPEGMAFIA. 2018’s “Veteran” and 2019’s “All My Heroes Are Cornballs” are the two biggest “non-metal”influences on my songwriting. I put “non-metal” in quotes because, well, this shit is still heavy as balls, those records might as well be metal. “LP!” Is no exception.
Every time I show someone “END CREDITS!” and see their smile slowly start to form at the slow fade in of the Animals As Leaders sample before Peggy starts dropping bars like “New Glock, leave it up to Christ”, my heart grows three sizes. It’s just such a pleasure to share art like this.
Much like all JPEGMAFIA projects, “LP!” Is going to slowly grow on me, as a new detail jumps out at me with every repeat listen. I’m sure next year I’ll be kicking myself for not putting it as #1.
6) Kaonashi – “Dear Lemon House, You Ruined Me: Senior Year”
What happened to the great emo concept album, Huh? The last amazing one I remember was Armor For Sleep’s “What To Do When You Are Dead”, an album about-you guessed it!- being dead. On “Senior Year” (I put the subtitle Cuz I assume this is the first installment in the “Dear Lemon House” canon), Kaonashi continues the story they’ve been chipping away at since 2018’s “Why Did You Do It?”. However, this time the narrative is more clear than ever. You can feel our Protagonist, Jamie, next to you throughout the album’s run time. I feel like we all knew a Jamie in high school. The kid only spoke in lyrical references, the kid who tried to show you skrillex before bangarang came out, the kid who would air drum with headphones in at lunch to make sure everyone knew they played music (I’m describing my very cringey high school self at this point). It’s so easy to feel what Jamie feels; The isolation, the terror of growing up but nothing ever changing, the echoes of “I tried so hard and got so far” ringing more true than ever, it’s almost too real. Around the time this record came out, the street my parents live on was adopted in memory of my high school friend who I lost to suicide in my senior year. I relived the day my Small Group Leader from church called me to tell me my friend had taken his own life over and over again as if it had happened 7 days prior rather than 7 years ago. Listening to “Senior Year” hurts. At this point it’s pure catharsis. I’m forever indebted to Kaonashi for it.
5) Injury Reserve – “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”
This is the “Frances The Mute” of experimental rap music. Yeah trust me, I also think that sentence is ridiculous, but it’s true. In 2019, I would see Injury Reserve’s eponymous album top year-end list after year-end list with its nondescript cover of the trio under the beam of a laser pointer. I had heard the name, heard their song “S On Ya Chest” as the house music at one of Atlanta’s many now-defunct DIY venues, so I decided to check it out. It felt so refreshing, like an improvement on modern hip-hop, and it revived my love for making beats for no one but myself (I think I have 20 some-odd project files named “Injury Reserve type beat”). Naturally, I expected another great crop of tongue-in-cheek bangers from a new Injury Reserve, right? That’s what these guys do! They make fun bangers! “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” is not a great crop of fun, tongue-in-cheek bangers. It is instead one of the most thoughtful, beautiful, weird, experimental albums I have ever heard. The first single “Knees” had me speechless with its off-kilter, wonky rhythms as the now-deceased Injury Reserve vocalist Stepa J. Groggs croons “my knees hurt everywhere I go/and that’s a tough pill to swallow”. While much of “By The Time…” was recorded while Groggs was alive, it’s very evident which songs were written after his passing in 2020, “Top Picks For You” being the most notable of those. However, you can feel the grief in every note of this one. If you haven’t heard this one, please give it a listen, I can’t recommend it enough.
4) fallfiftyfeet – “Twisted World Perspective”
It is so cool to see your homies win. For as long as I’ve known Fallfiftyfeet guitarist/vocalist James Becca, he’s been sending me crazy demos full of riffs that I couldn’t play if you gave me a year to learn them, and he’s effortlessly performed those riffs live with more energy than a coked-up Tasmanian devil. The dude has a physical fight with his guitar every night, and his telecasters have the battle scars to prove it. Perhaps It’s all this knowledge of James’s electric (and very loud) personality, and the way our personas have bumped heads in the past that make me love “Twisted World Perspective”, but even without all of that, it’s a fucking classic. From front to back. I could easily skip to my favorite song- the album’s closing track “Perspective”- but it’s nowhere near as rewarding without the 10 tracks that precede it. “All you need is 3 panic chords and the truth” Dear James, Dave, And Scoot. I love you guys. Can’t wait for the next one.this one. If you haven’t heard this one, please give it a listen, I can’t recommend it enough.
3) black midi – “Cavalcade”
“Haha dude wtf. What is this. Trippy.” Was the most common response I would get when I sent video for “John L” by Black MIDI to friends who I thought would enjoy it. That or “I love primus, lol” Shut up. Please Shut up. Primus are goblins who write music about goblins, for other goblins. This shit is not about goblins at all. It’s about… something I have no idea dude. What I do know is that every song on this record besides “Diamond Stuff” has a catchy-ass riff you can sing along to. Every second of this record is so fun and transcendent, I truly think we’re going to be talking about black midi in 100 years. Well, I’ll be dead (hopefully), but other people will be talking about black MIDI in 100 years. Everything I could say about this record has been said, so I’ll spare you that, and just tell you to listen to it. If you compare it to primus I’ll block you.
2) Fawn Limbs – “Darwin Falls”
I’ll admit it: this one makes me fucking mad. I finished “Darwin Falls” on a night drive to Taco Bell and was fucking mad. Mad someone came up with this record before I did, mad I wasn’t a member of Fawn Limbs, mad that I wasn’t driving to see Fawn Limbs, mad that Fawn Limbs isn’t headlining Coachella, all that Shit. Goddammit, if this record isn’t everything I like about art and creation. I’m so happy I am alive at the same time as something like this. Every time I recommend this album, I don’t spoil the big hook to it, and I’m not going to now. Go in blind, maybe blind while wearing a cowboy hat. That’s all I’m gonna say. Fuck you, Fawn Limbs. You made something completely unforgettable.
1) for your health – “In Spite of”
Yeah yeah, Daoboys just toured with FYH, I remixed a song for “In Spite Of II”, and Hayden is on the new Daoboys record (exclusive leak!) Bias aside, I don’t think I would’ve gotten through this very frustrating year without this record. 18 minutes of my friends making noise, a few deep breaths and I was fine, I was human again, I was Carson again. Within the first few seconds of “Birthday Candles In The Effigy” Damian Chacon’s frantic minor seconds pan from left to right, as Hayden Rodriguez comes back in with the lyric “Dead Seeds, a monument to nothing” bombarding you with a barrage of bottled up nails being let loose. If you aren’t sold after that, I don’t know what to tell ya bud! Try getting into ASMR? The post-punk influences on tracks like “Abscess Makes The Heart Grow” provide such a beautiful contrast to the heavy moments. The harmonies on the line “good company’s just so hard to find” make me smile from ear to ear like I’m being fed something delicious. While FYH wears their influences on their sleeve, “In Spite Of” shows that they are doing their particular brand of Post-hardcore better than anyone else in their lane. I spin this album once a day, if not twice sometimes, and seeing most of it get played live for 2 weeks only made me love it more. If FYH is reading this, I miss y’all, I love y’all, and I can’t wait to be back out on the road with y’all.
These may not be the “best” releases of the year, but definitely my most-listened to/enjoyed. I spent a lot of this year digging back into older albums, but of the stuff that came out in 2021 these stuck out the most to me…
Vildhjarta – “Måsstaden under vatten”
Huge production and impeccable writing, reaffirming their place as the Thall lords. Though I do find myself listening to the Instrumental version more.
Genghis Tron – “Dream Weapon”
Many didn’t get what they wanted from this one, I definitely did and on several levels. An incredibly nuanced and well intentioned/executed return.
Fawn Limbs – “Darwin Falls”
YUUUGE sound and awesome twist in their discography. Cinematic AF.
Willzyx – “i don’t feel anything”
Superb blend of noise-rock and math elements, equally throbbing and jarring.
Every Time I Die – “Radical”
Cmon, party-riff album of the year, no contest.
Kelhvin – “Holistic Dreams”
An immersive and meticulously sculpted “comeback” album from the Swiss mathy-sludge veterans.
Blindfolded and Led to the Woods – “Nightmare Withdrawls”
A world-class and unique angular death-metal release from my fellow countrymen.
The Armed – “Ultrapop”
So many levels, equally new and old sounding, equally easy and harsh listening. It’s all the things. Probably my most spun album of the year.
The Sound That Ends Creation – “Boomers, Zoomers, Desperate Coomers”
Utter Chaos, “challenging/experimental” one man projects that I can actually listen to more than once. Excellent example of dissonant electronic noise done the right way.
Under the Pier – “An Exercise In Discontent”
Massive sound. Massive riffs. Aggressive AF. Continually improving material. Probably my favorite “traditional” mathcore release of 2021.
OTIS 2021 Singles/EP’s/Misc – No Particular Order
– TELOMERE – Where Are We Still (ep)- TOTALLY UNICORN – Trust Fund Glee (single)
– NORNA – Serpent Spine (single)
– BONECUTTER – Bonecutter (ep)
– COILGUNS – Shunners- POSSESSION1981 – Faster On Fire (ep)
– TAKAFUMI MASTUBARA – Mortalized (ep)
– ZOMBI – Liquid Crystal (ep)
– BIG MONEY CYBERGRIND – Volume 1 (compilation)
– SÂVER – Emerald (split ep)
Levi Sebastian & Screamo Index:
10) Demersal –
Denmark’s hidden gem for blackened screamo/emoviolence. The lyrics and music in this album hit hard for me. This album focuses on the terrible daily routines of humans that eventually take over and destroy us.
9) fromjoy – “It Lingers”
Chaotic industrial style mathcore with a touch of beauty sprinkled in due to the electronics. This was one of my most listened to EP’s in the last few months.
8) Fronterier – “Oxidized”
What else is there to say about this band? Another consistent and well structured chaotic piece of mathcore out there. These guys never dissapoint. If you know, you know….
7) Plebian Grandstand – “Rein ne Suffit”
Always unpredictable, this band is always blending noise, electronica, death metal and a little blown out jazz. This album came out of left field, thats just fine with me.
6) Under the Pier –
This album gives me the feel that i got when I listened to Calculating Infinity back in the day. Under The Pier have stepped it up not only song wise, they also beefed up their lyrics and vocal structures. Give it a listen.
5) fallfiftyfeet – “Twisted World Perspective”
This band is so fucking talented. The singing, the hc vocals, breakdowns and catchy song structures. If I don’t have your interest off of that… you don’t deserve this album.
4) Fawn Limbs – “Darwin Falls”
“Second album from these brutal gents that contain a spoken word story in between the tracks. This along makes not only a concept album but creating its own sub genre of extreme music.”
3) Pupil Slicer – “Mirrors”
Been waiting a long time for this release. Theres something about this album that made it stand out in all of the bangers this year. I hope 2022 brings much more Pupil Slicer.
2) POSSESSION1981 – “Faster on Fire”
A unique blend of screamo, mathcore and blackened hardcore that my ears have never heard before. Hailing from Detroit, this band formed during Covid to cope with all the bullshit. What came out is a new band with an already filled to brim catalog of music videos to aid in the visual side of their music.
1) Waternoose – “All Pain, No Feeling”
Holy Shit, I love this album. It calls back to the early ThreeOneG and GSL releases out of San Diego. This screamo supergroup consists of some of LAs best rippers right now in the scene. Even the one or two “filler” tracks completely aid in this release. I WANT MORE WATERNOOSE!
10) Low – “Hey What“
9) Zao – “The Crimson Corridor”
8) Plebeian Grandstand – “Rien ne suffit“
7) KRZTA – “ŻÓŁĆ.NISZCZENIE.ZGLISZCZE”
6) Lingua Ignota – “Sinner Get Ready“
5) Full of Hell – “Garden of Burning Apparitions“
4) Replicant – “Malignant Reality”
3) Kollapse – “Sult“
2) Cannibal Corpse – “Violence Unimagined“
1) Erdve – “Savigaila“