The mixing of metal and hardcore punk is hardly a new trick—in fact, it’s about as old as sticking peanut butter in chocolate, and all the old-timer NY/HC boot-boys will tell you they’ve been doin’ it since the Reagan administration. As useless as most rock-critic speak is—”emo,” “scream-o,” “indie rock” —the particular term “metalcore” does have its own particular flavor.
To the untrained ear the distinction between the two styles is a subtle one, like the difference between the crisp, metallic-blood aftertaste absorbed from a pair of brass knuckles and the appley blood-and-cedar bouquet left from a two-by-four across the chin.
But though to you it may sound identical to most pit-inducing, devil-horn flashing, headbang-commanding metal, where metalcore diverges from tradition is in its love of dissonance—thanks to genre innovators Botch and Converge—and lyrics with a political stamp and bullhorn-blaring personal viewpoint.
With song titles like “Pentagons and Pentagrams” and “Washington Tube Steak,” New Jersey government-haters and peaceniks Burnt by the Sun, for instance, stay true to hardcore political affinities but throttle you with extreme metal. And as they’d no doubt agree, whatever the element is in Jersey’s water supply that causes generation after generation to spawn mass numbers of hardcore and metalhead kids ought to be kept secret from the military—pent-up testosterone is best kept blasting through Marshall stacks, not out of the barrels of guns. The brainchild of guitarist John Adubato and noise-terrorist David Witte (a/k/a “that insane drummer düde from Melt Banana”), the band specializes in groove—earthquaking caveman stomps reminiscent of the most brutal aspects of Sepultura’s classic Roots. The drums lead a deliberate attack—slamming back and forth between halftime power-grooves, blast-beat black-metal fury, and complex avant-jazz spazz. True to genre custom, the vocals are screamed, ripped, and shredded out of raw and bleeding vocal chords much like a possessed, corpse-paint-wearing Norwegian.
Though they’ve previously been known for chaotic two-minute death-metal blasters, BBTS on their current The Perfect Is the Enemy of the Good twist, thrash, and bash craftily focused looooow-tuned riffs all through the metal oeuvre. “Arrival of Nibiru” gets straight-up stoner-rock loopy, and tracks like “Forlani” and “180 Proof”—much like the band’s Relapse labelmates, Mastodon—reference the anthemic fretboard nimbleness of prime Priest or Maiden. So metalcore, schmetalcore—who gives a shit what it’s called, as long as it ignites that Dionysian spark of feeling alive, plus wanton destruction and the urge to fuck. Set your Bics on high flame!
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 6, 2004