Deathcore is one of metal’s most maligned and misunderstood subgenres. That makes it sound a hell of a lot like a teenager, but it’s actually approaching adulthood if it’s not already there. (That all depends on when you think it started.) In honor of its growth into an exciting boundary breaker, here are 21 albums that unfortunately got buried under a glut of chugging drudgery and burnt-off straightened hair that came to define it to the unaware.
That being said, we’re not including bands such as the Red Chord, even though they will always deserve more credit than they got. (Watch this writer aggressively go to bat for them in the player below.) No, instead we’re targeting bands for whom the Billboard charts were hardly even a distant dream. Check them out below.
Embodyment – Embrace The Eternal
This list isn’t in much of an order aside from this appearing at the top, as arguably the first fleshed-out deathcore album. Hell, the difference in vocal styles between the death growl-laden preceding demo and the higher screams on Embrace The Eternal would come to embody the genre. Embodyment managed to collide the more brutal stylings of bands such as Suffocation with a skronk that would define metalcore. They were ahead of their time in many ways, including setting a precedent of Christian-core-leaning bands blazing trails the secular scene would follow. Unfortunately, their forward-thinking music likely didn’t jive with more traditionalist views in 1998; Christians weren’t ready for this level of extremity, while metalheads didn’t accept Christianity.
Antagony – Rebirth
The fact that Antagony can name an album Rebirth in 2005 shows how far ahead of the deathcore curve they were. In fact, they’re considered by many to be the first deathcore band. By the time this album dropped, they had already been a band for seven years, with many releases (including an LP) to show for it. The influence followed members beyond, as they’d go on to play in All Shall Perish, Suffokate, Misericordiam, Hacksaw To The Throat, Oblivion and more. And this was arguably their finest hour.
Animosity – Empires
Here’s another band seemingly defined by the success their members found after. In Animosity’s case, that includes Animals As Leaders, the Faceless, Suicide Silence, Decrepit Birth and more. However, don’t let that overshadow what they accomplished in just three albums together. There was a palpable rage behind their grinding take on the genre. It was simultaneously more technically advanced yet primitive, with Empires serving as the perfect middle ground. Only two years prior, the band had released Shut It Down, recorded when some members were a mere 15 years old.
Into The Moat – The Design
Deathcore is at its best when it embraces its bastard child heritage. Into The Moat’s The Design takes that approach, similar to the Red Chord. It can be personified as an angle grinder, angularity embraced throughout the math-y mess of deadly grind. It’s surely deadly, but what’s most impressive is the versatility. Besides, they’re innovators in the legit machine gun breakdown, in which one actually fires, during the aptly titled “Empty Shell.”
Premonitions Of War – Left In Kowloon
These Ohioans embraced chaos at every turn. Dizzying passages made it hard to breathe (the Suffocation influence was palpable). Premonitions Of War kept you guessing, though, as sludge metal, Southern rock, industrial and other atypical influences reared their head, all filtered through grinding death, naturally. Some might use the phrase ahead of their time, but maybe the reason this album was Left In Kowloon was because the world at large would never truly be ready.
Salt The Wound – Carnal Repercussions
Once deathcore had been established, its early adopters came in two styles: those who embraced the brutal side and those who brutalized death metal’s melodic stylings. Salt The Wound fall in the latter, injecting a serious amount of intensity into what was defining metalcore at the time. Carnal Repercussions could have popped off on the same level as As Blood Runs Black’s Allegiance. Unfortunately, the band’s Rotten Records home was best known for thrash and other more retro stylings. Salt The Wound’s modern attack never got what it deserved.
At The Throne Of Judgment – The Arcanum Order
Another melodic deathcore act foiled by association with the wrong bands. Back in 2007, Rise Records was quickly becoming known for its synth-laden metalcore. A couple of years after The Arcanum Order dropped, Rise would unleash a sleeker, less deadly band similarly based on Swedish riffs in Miss May I. Unfortunately, by that time At The Throne Of Judgment had gone their separate ways in pursuit of college. Now that Rise Records has established itself as a label that can do whatever it damn well pleases, maybe it’s time for a reunion. Please?
Cholera – The Answer To Infection
What the hell is going on in Ohio? Cholera are the fourth band in a row here from the state, which AltPress coincidentally calls home. Apparently in the 2000s, it was cause to rage. The Answer To Infection is pissed. The pre-breakdown mosh call of “Go fuck yourself” in “This Love Is Your Life” is exactly the kind of vitriol deathcore was built on.
Hester Prynne – The Goswell Divorce
Despite sharing their name with As Blood Runs Black’s best song, these Kansans had their own identity. Hester Prynne managed to split the difference between At The Gates and the gates of hell. The Goswell Divorce takes As Blood Runs Black’s melodic runs and speed, if it were clotheslined by the more down-tuned focus on crushing that would come to define the genre.
Float Face Down – Exitium Verum
Float Face Down just might have been the ones to clothesline Hester Prynne. The New Jersey band play melodeath riffs so aggressively that the guitar must be shaking—and we’re not saying that because the down-tuned strings are bouncing around. With similar ease, slow parts on Exitium Verum trade between breakdowns and beatdowns. That Float Face Down so easily nail deathcore and its more core side is exactly why they flatten audiences into the pavement. Just hope there’s no puddle where you fall.
The Monsters – Monsters
Five months before Suicide Silence took deathcore’s nü-metal influence to new heights with 2011’s The Black Crown, Monsters put their mark on the now-commonplace nü-deathcore sub-subgenre. It makes sense that this, their lone LP, was released on Frankie Palmeri’s short-lived False Prophet Records. However, unlike Emmure, Monsters featured some riffs that sounded like death metal. The rap part in “My Urge To Kill” was also a next-level double down few would do. Monsters made huge strides in innovating over three short years.
The Last Felony – Too Many Humans
The Last Felony were birthed from Montreal’s fertile death-metal-cum-deathcore scene. Too Many Humans touched on more modern death metal, filtered through the brutality the deathcore scene was known for. Perhaps the world just wasn’t ready for an album that opened with such honest, Montreal bluntness. “We Are Future Housing Developments For Maggots,” indeed.
Martyr Defiled – Collusion
Maybe it’s the hellish artwork, but these Brits always felt a bit more sinister than their peers. The tones on Collusion feel like they were dialed in by some demidemon’s claws. Even the synth in intro “Enigma” feels dark in spite of its bounce, like a precursor to Brand Of Sacrifice. It’s a shame Martyr Defiled didn’t transcend and last like Ingested, whose vocalist Jason Evans shows up for a guest shout. However, this album’s insane drummer Alex Micklewright recently united with its label head Jamie Graham for Viscera.
The Red Shore – Unconsecrated
These Aussies should be co-billed alongside fellow Aussies Thy Art Is Murder. Unconsecrated dropped the same year as the Infinite Death EP. The two bands share an affinity for super-high octane, high-technicality deathcore. That the Red Shore were able to pull together an album this masterful while mourning late vocalist Damien Morris (and roadie Andy Milner) is truly impressive. Morris’ inclusion on three songs hits harder than the music itself. The drum production and performance, particularly on “The Garden Of Impurity” and “Misery Hymn” are genre high-water marks.
With Dead Hands Rising – Expect Hell
With Dead Hands Rising came onto the deathcore scene before it was much of a scene. Despite Expect Hell dropping in 2008, after the tenets had become etched in stone, it retained that early spirit. The album is rough around the edges in all the right ways, feeling dangerous in execution, not just beefy production. The Minnesotans actually came back with an EP earlier this year, and they’re still rejecting modernity. Hell yeah!
Shadow Of The Colossus – Shadow Of The Colossus
This is the complete opposite of rejecting modernity. Shadow Of The Colossus made a deathcore album as expansive as the video game with which they share a name. It’s a shame the band aren’t as influential on their chosen medium as the PlayStation title. The self-titled album doesn’t just feel definitive of the band themselves but the genre as a whole, validating deathcore as an art form at a time (2010) when it was still scoffed at.
A Different Breed Of Killer – I, Colossus
Like the aforementioned At The Throne Of Judgment, A Different Breed Of Killer were victims of a Rise Records fanbase not ready for the heavy. Seriously, I, Colossus is significantly more crushing than The Arcanum Order. There’s less focus on melodeath. Where other Rise Records breakdowns were played underneath keyboards, here they are bisected with squeals for seriously brutal death effect.
Misericordiam – A Thin Line Between Man And Machine
Speaking of brutal death, Misericordiam are pretty well as close as deathcore can get to the genre. Pig squeals aren’t for punctuation here; they’re the damn near the whole vocal track. The song titles come with duality, both in terms of having a subtitle and alternate meaning. On the surface, much of this album is layered in misogyny, but the lyrical focus is reflected in the album’s title. A statement on technology’s overpowering statement was oddly prescient. Between the pushback against misogyny but the realization of these technical nightmares, it’s clear the world is less about steps forward vs. back and more just spinning in circles as this rock spins incessantly.
With Blood Comes Cleansing – Golgotha
The Christian deathcore throne was never occupied solely by With Blood Comes Cleansing. Though Golgotha came out over a year before Impending Doom’s Nailed. Dead. Risen., they were already vying for the crown. It’s a shame, too, because the title track of Golgotha goes unreasonably hard. Like their Christian contemporaries, With Blood Comes Cleansing could get down with the more brutal elements of the genre in a way their secular peers rarely did. Oh, the irony!
And Hell Followed With – Proprioception
More irony here, slapping a band with that name after the Christians. A uniting factor between And Hell Followed With and With Blood Comes Cleansing is the focus on brunt force over any melodic meandering. The album’s name is the sixth sense having to do with one’s ability to perceive their own position in space. In reality, And Hell Followed With should take up a much larger position in the deathcore pantheon. They came back with a new lineup and EP in 2019. Meanwhile, Proprioception vocalist Nick Holland continues fronting Wounded Touch and directing films, such as the upcoming home invasion thriller An Intrusion with fellow screamer Keir Gilchrist.
I Shall Devour – The Misanthropist
With their grandiosity and full-on intensity, I Shall Devour fit somewhere between Lorna Shore and Infant Annihilator. The symphonics are understated in the mix, making The Misanthropist feel off-putting. Are you listening to this epic masterpiece, or are the beautiful moments wafting in from the other room alongside the smell of fresh meat, as Hannibal Lecter prepares a victim—for a victim?