Death Squad: The Deathcore Round-Up
Originally published in Guitar World, April 2009
Combine the palm-muted rage of death metal with metalcore’s breakdowns and grooves, and whaddaya get? Deathcore! Guitar World explores the latest hardcore phenomenon through interviews with All Shall Perish, Suicide Silence and other leaders of the pack.
When Arizona’s Job for a Cowboy burst onto the national metal scene in 2005—thanks to the surprise viral success of a clever YouTube clip that synced JFAC’s “Knee Deep” to a SpongeBob SquarePants cartoon—no one expected that the sound they championed would become metal’s next big thing. But that’s exactly what has happened to the genre now known as deathcore.
For the uninitiated, deathcore takes the fast, palm-muted fury of traditional death metal and merges it with metalcore’s requisite breakdowns and grooves, with vocals running the gamut from hardcore bark to grind grunts. In the time since a frenzied bidding war resulted in JFAC inking with Metal Blade Records, metal labels have been scrambling to snatch up bands with a similar sound. What’s more, deathcore bands like the Red Chord and Suicide Silence have earned high-profile opening spots on large package tours with Disturbed and Slipknot.
To consider the history of deathcore, you need to look back to the Nineties at death metallers like New York’s Suffocation, who began adding hardcore breakdowns to their blast beats and power chords. Inspired by these rousing crowd pleasers, bands like Killswitch Engage and Bullet for My Valentine added touches of crossover thrash and melodic death to create the now-popular metalcore movement. Metalcore’s evil little brother appeared soon after, when bands like the Red Chord adopted metalcore’s breakdowns and death metal’s pummeling approach and ditched the melodic hooks altogether.
“Song structure, speed and vocal style are the main things that separate these subgenres,” says All Shall Perish axman Ben Orum. “If there is singing and melody, kids call it ‘metalcore.’ If it’s played at 220bpm and has low growling, it’s probably death metal. If it has a breakdown and brutal vocals, kids call it ‘deathcore.’ But it doesn’t really matter to me. It’s all just metal!”
Deathcore’s practitioners have mixed feelings about the name—some hate it, some love it—but whatever you call it, the music is getting attention. “Deathcore is faster and more aggressive than anything these kids have ever heard,” says Suicide Silence guitarist Mark Heylmun. “They just want to rock and rebel. Since most rock and roll isn’t rebellious anymore and punk is dead, metal is their only hope. So when their parents send them to their rooms, they can cry, put on some deathcore…and spin-kick the walls!”
Here, we’ve rounded up the guitarists from five of deathcore’s hottest acts—All Shall Perish, the Red Chord, Suicide Silence, Whitechapel and Winds of Plague—and asked them a few questions in the hope of getting to the bottom of this new extreme metal phenomenon.
ALL SHALL PERISH
Oakland, California’s All Shall Perish add some Rusty Cooley influence to the deathcore genre in the form of lead guitarist Chris Storey, who has studied under the legendary ax man. On last year’s Awaken the Dreamers, their third record for Nuclear Blast, Storey launches melodic, fleet-fingered leads over the heavy riffs of rhythm guitarist Ben Orum to create a sound that is as elegant as it is brutal. What’s more? Cooley himself adds a face-melter to the track “From So Far Away.” Nice!
What the hell is deathcore?
BEN ORUM It’s a subgenre of metalcore, influenced by modern death metal. Most deathcore guitar work features breakdowns and melodic riffs, a trait that is attributed to the hardcore aspect of its metalcore influence.
Which death metal guitarist most influenced your style?
ORUM Hypocrisy’s Peter Tägtgren is a huge influence on me. He has written so many amazing riffs and songs.
Which hardcore guitarist and album most influenced your style?
ORUM Max Cavalera’s riffs and playing on Sepultura’s Chaos A.D. were a major influence on my style. I think that album was way ahead of its time and influenced a lot of hardcore bands.
CHRIS STOREY Back then I really liked One Nation Under. They had really awesome hardcore riffage.