Although hardcore is often considered a more simplistic style of aggressive music, bands have broken that mold by breeding offshoot subgenres with unique approaches. As the ’90s metallic hardcore movement developed, many took a more technical approach and began experimenting with every piece of their sound, leading to the entire mathcore movement. Like the songs themselves, though, mathcore reaches far and wide in influences, sounds and structures. Some bands take a more hardcore-based approach, while others dive into their death-metal roots, but above all else, they’re unified by a need for experimentation.
It’s becoming increasingly common in almost all corners of the music world to blend and blur genres together. Artists are constantly reaching across the aisle to borrow from other genres now, whether it’s mainstream or underground music, but mathcore is built entirely on that idea of colliding influences.
Take a look below to learn more about 20 albums that display what mathcore is all about and the complex approaches these bands took to achieve sounds unlike anything else.
The Armed – Only Love
While somewhat of a mystery of a band, there’s no secret to how great the Armed sound on Only Love. The anonymous collective’s sophomore album is a dizzying collection of chaotic instrumentation clashing on every front, from the harsh synths to the distorted vocals and booming blasts of noisy instruments.
Botch – We Are The Romans
While they weren’t appreciated enough while still active, Botch are one of the biggest influencers in mathcore as well as metalcore. We Are The Romans is a blueprint for the abrasive, discordant and disruptive approach metalcore and hardcore largely took after heading into the new millennium. Not only did they shift the direction of hardcore’s sound with the inclusion of noise and shifting rhythms, but their lyrical approach was a far cry from the stereotypes in hardcore at the time and began the shift away from cliches.
Candiria – What Doesn’t Kill You Will Make You Stronger
Candiria were standouts within the New York hardcore movement through their unique approach to introducing elements of hip-hop, jazz, fusion and prog into the genre. While not as abrasive as mathcore typically sounds, Candiria are foundational to the genre’s love for unconventional time signatures and bringing in as many elements of other genres into their sound as possible. That’s displayed perfectly in the heavy yet melodic songs on What Doesn’t Kill You Will Make You Stronger.
Car Bomb – Meta
Their name aptly describes their sound, as Car Bomb bring together the deep polyrhythmic grooves of Meshuggah with a digital-sounding cascade of noises coating every note. Meta marks their strongest output. There are jaw-dropping twists and turns in each track, whether it be shredding storms of speedy aggression or slow crawls to brutality cut apart with blips of squealing, high-pitched digital guitars.
The Chariot – Long Live
The Chariot exemplified everything hardcore is supposed to be about in their short-lived time together. Abrasive, dangerous, aggressive and, above all else, pissed off, Long Live is a testament to the raucous energy they were capable of. Each instrument seems to be doing its own thing at times, chopped apart by ear-piercing feedback only to link back together to punch listeners in the face time and time again.
Coalesce – Functioning On Impatience
Elements of noise rock and sludge have crept into mathcore numerous times but not quite as succinctly as Coalesce managed. The band still use off-kilter rhythms and patterns to keep you on the edge of your seat but find themselves churning out doom and gloom through hard-ass beatdowns. Functioning On Impatience is a bit less technically motivated than other mathcore albums. However, it nails the transition metallic hardcore had into mathcore on songs such as “On Being A Bastard” or “Measured In Gray.”
Converge – Jane Doe
While the band prefer to distance themselves from mathcore, Converge’s influence on adopters of the label is undeniable. Jane Doe has become the bible for so many bands, ranging from hardcore, mathcore, crust punk and more, by having a full-bore assault of a tracklist built on complex rhythms, experimental tones and a harsh barking vocal style from frontman Jacob Bannon.
Daughters – Canada Songs
Walking the line between noise rock and grindcore, Daughters packaged a deadly assault of noise and technicality with Canada Songs. The record is unrelenting and raw but unlike anything else by finding moments of melody, ditching the death-metal aspects of grind without losing the aggression and using as many strange structures as possible. As a whole, it pushes the idea of brevity further within mathcore, given the album’s 11-minute runtime.
Deadguy – Fixation On A Coworker
While more rooted in the ’90s metallic hardcore scene, Deadguy were essential in the development of mathcore. Fixation On A Coworker bolstered the use of unconventional time signatures and frantic guitar work in hardcore without falling out of step with their peers. Tracks such as “Pins And Needles” or “Makeshift Atomsmasher” show early signs of where the genre was headed in skittering, high-pitched frequencies being used as a focal point to surround typical hardcore breakdowns.
The Dillinger Escape Plan – Calculating Infinity
Until the Dillinger Escape Plan released Calculating Infinity, mathcore didn’t really become a movement. The album opened the floodgates to bands trying to be as experimental and heavy as possible. The mixture of hardcore, grind, jazz and more was cohesively disorienting and new-sounding, setting the group up to be godfathers of a new route in metal. Their change of direction from this record to Miss Machine also created a mass expansion in mathcore with its stylistic differences. At the heart of the genre, though, Calculating Infinity reigns supreme.
The End – Within Dividia
The lunatic madness heard in bands such as the Dillinger Escape Plan didn’t quite seem visceral enough for the End. Consequently, Within Dividia showed an even more extreme take on the grindcore side of mathcore. The majority of its songs are built on constant riff changes that are battling to see which is the most off the wall. The eccentric moments are obviously in abundance, but the album did better than the End’s debut in offering a touch of melody to break up the disorder.
The Fall Of Troy – Doppelgänger
The Fall Of Troy are a roller coaster of a band to listen to, bouncing back and forth between extremity and polished post-hardcore cleanliness. Doppelgänger is friendly and inviting at times but quickly shifts to chaos at the drop of a dime. It’s a wild ride from beginning to end, with plenty of poppy hooks in spite of the intense musicianship on display. While not as heavy as other mathcore albums, it opened the door for more experimentation across the board.
Genghis Tron – Board Up The House
If you’ve ever wondered what it would sound like for a death-metal band to try their hand at sounding like a Nintendo game, Genghis Tron perfected that approach. Board Up The House finds itself sitting somewhere between odd melodic moments and all-out grind, coated in a layer of stabbing synthesizers to give it a unique sound that constantly finds new paths to go down.
Ion Dissonance – Minus The Herd
Tapping into the heavier sides of mathcore, Ion Dissonance walk a fine line between death metal and hardcore with extreme technicality. Prior to Minus The Herd, the band were more chaotic in their style. They cut that aspect back for a groove-oriented djent take on their sound, opening possibilities for newer acts to eagerly stand in this middle ground. Nevertheless, the album is a rager of off-kilter beats, aggressive beatdowns and explosive energy.
The Locust – Plague Soundscapes
The Locust are pioneers of experimentation in hardcore, helping to create a boiling pot of powerviolence, punk, metal and an overall tinge of weirdness. Plague Soundscapes never sees a song hit two minutes in length, sparing no moment for pause between alien-like attacks of technicality, noise and violent bursts of grindcore. It’s all made a level stranger by the visceral synths cutting through the other instruments, which was a primary focus on Plague Soundscapes, breaking away from the rest of the band’s discography.
The Number Twelve Looks Like You – Mongrel
The Number Twelve Looks Like You spearheaded the technical side of screamo throughout the 2000s, with Mongrel marking a huge step forward for the band. The album’s name was described by frontman Jesse Korman as “just a crazy mutt,” perfectly capturing what it was all about. Whether it be the impressive melodies, dizzying spells of warping breakdowns or the general complexity of every song, the album never sits still for too long before finding a new mood.
Protest The Hero – Fortress
Protest The Hero exemplify the difficulty with classifying this subgenre, as Fortress floats between post-hardcore cleanness, thrashing metal tones and a progressive and technical approach. The album is a raging battle between complexity and melody, walking the line between blistering metal and soaring technical cleans in every song.
Psyopus – Our Puzzling Encounters Considered
Psyopus seemingly took an approach of seeing how difficult they could make their music, treating every riff like a marathon race to test how many notes they could fit. Our Puzzling Encounters Considered doesn’t really have any breathing space between technicality. When it seems to, it throws a curveball of strange breakdown rhythms. It’s a bewildering record to listen to, and even with sparse moments of calm to break up the barrage of noise, it takes a few listens to really absorb everything that’s happening.
Rolo Tomassi – Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It
Rolo Tomassi were a young rambunctious group when starting off with Hysterics, taking screamo in every direction imaginable. By the time they dropped Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It, their sound was more calculated. The record ranges from black-metal extremity to dream-pop softness with lazer-sharp precision and an overall flow from start to finish built on tension.
The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza – Danza 4: The Alpha – The Omega
From the depths of deathcore’s beginning, the Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza took the subgenre’s staples and twisted them to fit the mathcore mold. By the time they reached their swan-song album, they perfected their mix of low-and-slow beatdowns partnered with mind-shattering technicality that’s best displayed on songs such as “You Won’t,” “Rudy X 3” and “Canadian Bacon.”