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Rep Your Set: Hardcore + Metal Bands from Across America to Watch (California Edition)

Entry (Photo: Dan Rawe)

After Melotov Records went on hiatus, I felt a void in my life. I have always loved finding, working with, and developing bands, hoping to play even a small role in their future success. This is what I miss the most about running a record label.

I'm thankful Carlos and No Echo gave me the opportunity to showcase new bands who I feel are on the brink of something big and deserving of your undivided attention.

I'll be drilling down state by state, starting with California, on the top bands you need to watch. I might list 5 bands, I might list 10, but regardless every band listed is deserving of your time, attention, and attendance at shows.

Let me know what bands from your home state you want to see featured. Shoot me an email at melanieblairvoltz@gmail.com.

Lead Dream

Photo: Josh Vega

Santa Cruz and San Jose have been powerhouses for the hardcore community lately. With bands like Gulch, Drain, and Hands of God all hailing from the area, it’s no surprise that Lead Dream is another pummeling, hard-as-nails force to be reckoned with. Their EP, A Bullet Offers Release, is an unrelenting 8-minute testament to the trials and tribulations of modern-day life. The band tackles the affordable housing crisis on “Pacific Displacement,” depression and suicidal ideations on “SSRI,” and the consequences of documenting everything on social media on “Ten 2 Twelve.” 

As someone who suffers from depression in a way that manifests itself in anger and impulsivity, I immediately connected with Lead Dream via their song “SSRI” (which is a type of anti-depressant). Frontman Malachi balances the song’s somber subject matter with a snarling pissed-off bark as vicious as his bite (and gives me strong Freddy Madball vibes). Las Vegas, Arizona, and Southern California can catch Lead Dream this June with Absence of Mine.

Slowbleed

Photo: Gabe Becerra

Straight up, the 805’s own Slowbleed is an ass-beater of a band. Comprised of all my favorite aggressive elements—dissonant chords, pick-raking, harmonics, breakdowns, blistering leads, and blast-beats—it wouldn’t be too off the mark to group Slowbleed with the metal-tinged hardcore giants Kickback, All Out War, Jesus Piece, and Year of the Knife.

I saw Slowbleed for the first time last Saturday when they played The Tavern in Ventura with Dead Heat, Minus, and the mighty Retaliate. The balance between the militant-precision of their searing guitar leads and the outright bludgeoning heaviness completely blew me away. The entire room was one violent herd for the duration of their set, but it was the band’s ethos that resonated most. Self-proclaimed “working class hardcore,” Slowbeed isn’t just another band cosplaying as a blue-collar brown-noser. There is no bullshit here. There is just unbridled brutality channeled through the quintuple.  If I may be so bold, I’d say that Slowbleed is one of the heaviest bands to come out of the 805 area, ever. If you have an insatiable craving for sheer ferocity, listen to Slowbleed’s 2017 EP, Total Vision.

Kommand

Photo: Furn Zavala

Death metal and hardcore have been distant cousins since their respective inceptions. Heavy, brutal, and aggressive are all adjectives that move fluidly between the two genres and are all adjectives that accurately describe Los Angeles' Kommand. Featuring members of Lock and Blazing Eye, it's easy to hear the hardcore influence when songs shift from blisteringly fast riffing to headbang-inducing power chords (listen to "Blood Will Flow" and "Shellshock" to hear what I mean).

I first came across this band last February at a Mammoth Grinder show. I was blown away by the sheer intensity of their set. They came out guns a'blazing and completely decimated the place. I love Mammoth Grinder, but Kommand stole the show that night. Since then I've been trying to go to every Kommand show possible in hopes of being pulverized into oblivion by their haunting demonic vocals, pummeling drums, infectious groove, and terrorizing guitar playing.

The label the group is on is one of my current favorites, so check out Kommand, and other Maggot Stomp releases, on Bandcamp.

Seizures

Photo: Douglas Walker

Okay, so this might be a biased pick of mine, but I have a good reason for including Seizures in this list. For those who don't know, Melotov co-released Seizures' epic double-vinyl The Sanity Universal with Cameron of Seizures' label, Sun Terrace Records, back in 2014. However, I personally feel that Seizures does not get enough credit within the hardcore community, which is why I'm using this platform to spread the gospel.

Everything about Orange County's Seizures is hauntingly heavy. From the name itself to the lyrical content, to the technicality and master musicianship, the combo is setting fire to the path that bands such as Botch and Dillinger Escape Plan once paved and is fearlessly forging their own. They take all the traditional elements of hardcore and, for lack of a better term, fuck it all up. Breakdowns in odd time signatures; jazz chords and clean guitars in the heaviest portions of songs; drumming that is both frenetic and tightly executed; there is nothing that this band can't do.

Seizures just finished their second full-length, which is currently being mastered by Brad Boatright of Audiosiege. I've heard it features some guest vocals of other prominent names in the hardcore community, but you'll have to listen to find out more. Catch Seizures with the revered Curl Up and Die June 22 at Chain Reaction.

Entry

Photo: Dan Rawe

Before I say anything about Los Angeles's Entry, let me preface it by stating loud and clear that "female fronted" is not a genre. Being a female at the helm of a hardcore band has become a fetishized marketing point that discounts the woman and her band's actual talent. If you have been one to sleep on Entry because they are captained by frontwoman Sara G., you are doing yourself a severe and atrocious disservice.

Entry is straightforward kick-your-teeth-in hardcore punk. Their caustic guitars, savage roaring vocals, and unrelenting percussions will have you reminiscing about the first time you heard Anti-Cimex, Death Side, and Skitsystem. Their 2017 EP, No Relief, is a violent whirlwind of circle-pitting chaos and clocks in at only 7 minutes 20 seconds. No frills, no filler. Entry go for the jugular at their shows. Their set is a non-stop barrage of ferocity. You can expect to see Sara thrashing around, wrapping the mic cord around her neck, and screaming directly into the face of audience members without missing a single beat.

You'll have the opportunity to see Entry this June on tour. They kick off their string of shows on June 7 opening for California's sweethearts Culture Abuse at the Teragram Ballroom.

Absence of Mine

Photo: Joe Calixto

Admittedly, I am relatively new to Absence of Mine. I was a casual listener but didn’t go out of my way to see them at shows or listen beyond what came up on my Spotify’s shuffle algorithm. What a fucking idiot I was. I am so glad that I woke the fuck up and started paying attention. 

When No Echo hosted AOM’s “regretdisdainwallow” as their Song of the Day last month, everything changed for me. I listened to this song and immediately fell in love. What hooked me was how fresh, innovative, and new their approach to hardcore is. We’ve heard bits and pieces of '90s-inspired experimentation in bands like Higher Power and The Beautiful Ones, but AOM embraces it fully and with enviable audacity. 

Late on Sunday evening, they released their new record Smile! Aren’t You Happy? on Bandcamp and all streaming services and I haven’t been able to stop listening since. The constant juxtaposition of AOM’s chorus-pedal soaked guitars and Layne Staley wails with their Vision of Disorder groove and yells make Smile! an addictive listen. How they balance this yin and yang is not just impressive, but metaphorically relevant to the '90s homage they either directly or indirectly pay throughout this record. 

It’s fucking great, and like I stated earlier, Smile! Aren’t You Happy? could very well be my 2019 record of the year. 

Tagged: entry, kommand, lead dream, seizures, slowbleed

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