It’s no secret at this point that I’m a recovering scene kid. Like with any affliction, comprehensive treatment plans are in order. Sanitizing that era of our youth from collective memory often took several more metamorphoses before we finally arrived at whatever this is. But, as it came to light that stomping around to Walk and punching kids for their lunch money would never take back what was, I realized that there was never anything to be ashamed of in the first place.
The cringe associated with alternative doesn’t have to be knee-jerk, and the genre’s schema doesn’t have to be synonymous with soft. The bad rep can be traced back to kids trying to figure out who they are through an intellectual sodomsphere like Myspace. The junior high brain, once reserved for locked journals and undersaturated polaroids, was given a public platform, which was interpreted by fellow soft-lobers like a goddamned ink blot test. But, as I’ve talked about at length, scenes from industrial to folk metal have aged more gracefully than scientists expected, because hell, we’ve grown up, too. There’s a whole new set of problems whose discomfort happens to make a tug or two at the seeds of yesterday’s melodrama.
It’s also no secret that I’m also the last one who still takes Yung Lean seriously. But, in the world of the emo-trap big tiddy goth girl hypebeast, we should not sleep on the fact that emo still exists in its uncut form. I find myself regressing to a purer time when I lived under the tear-covered umbrella that was the shitty public school working definition of emo – everything from Dashboard Confessional to Asking Alexandria to the late-term abortion that was I Set My Friends on Fire (a mess that probably existed in the order of the universe for the best). There was no time to adhere to stringent labels. Instead, our time was spent chasing whatever comfort we could scrounge up through music.
Nevertheless, like emo-trap, emo-uncut is still a protectorate of YouTube and Bandcamp, and thank god. Born from pure hearts, it deserves to be unspoiled by labels too willing to re-label. Defining success in their own right, modern alt artists are pulling hundreds of thousands or even millions of views and plays while retaining a relatively modest follower count on Facebook. I take that as a sign that they inspire the conviction to hit re-play, to beat to death the beats that match the arrhythmic hearts of sick souls.
And so, I arrive at The Conundrum. You know the one – wanting to support the growing successes of a deserving artist while selfishly wanting to keep them locked away safe in your pocket playlist, or really, any place small enough to contain what is before it becomes what was.
But, in the absence of any new Pantera records to discuss, I have no choice but to open up the floodgates.
Devil Sold His Soul (UK)
As my brain continues to heal from drinking, I find myself periodically pummeled by memories that have been miraculously restored. I was bundling up over the weekend to go kick cans by the railroad tracks like ya do when I noticed that the daylight cracking through my blinds was starting to wean. In the Absence of Light, I thought. Suddenly, I was 17 again, dipping out of fourth period through an overcast baseball field to go meet my expelled boyfriend over the hill. In my infantile wisdom, going unnoticed meant foregoing noticing my surroundings, blasting the Devil in my ears. By his order, I travelled to the tracks in the same stride.
Born ahead of its time, In the Absence of Light (2007) retains the compelling listenability of -core while standing as a lengthy, complex, and insightful concept album, suggesting that its ilk is capable of more than a couple of catchy-but-disjointed snippets. Devil Sold His Soul was playing metalcore back when it was still being called screamo, and diving into ambient when most metalcore bands were just starting to dabble into prog. The six piece spent last year touring in support of the epic’s ten year anniversary, reining in 2018 with a short film summarizing a success measured in an intangible unit. While they may be sporting Oathbreaker t-shirts and shorter fringe in the modern day, their spirit continues to convey that melancholy that fills the absence of that “something more” that plagued my teenage self.
Ghost Atlas (US)
In Frankenstein, the fiend eventually leaves a blood trail in his lumbering path, all while the beauty of nature remains immune from further massacre. In present day New Orleans, I found myself on a trek that was, too, wrapped up in an untamed thirst, hellbent on a body count. Too broke to afford an Uber, I walked 40 minutes to the AA meeting specifically for atheists that’s still held in a church basement just for good measure. Deafness had adapted itself into an unlikely survival mechanism by this point in my life. “I’ve been dancing in the dark far way too long” blocked the sound of every ashamed step. Palm trees and blue skies – there’s a reason why Dr. Drew lays roots Malibu. I was in no position to take paradise as the face of mockery. With my entire kingdom crumbled, it was all I had left.
Ghost Atlas possesses a solemn brightness that’s cautious in the portrayal of hope, yet still shines bright enough to cut through the clouds. The white light of post-metal guitar tone, the approachability of nu-metal riffs, and powerfully ethereal emo vocals converge to form an alt-rock act on the brink of glory. November drop All is in Sync and there is Nothing Left to Sing About meets the needs of its target demographic, referencing a “Deftones song on the radio” as nu becomes the new classic. A subtle nod of understanding helps us make sense of the story so far; how footsteps have led to the current position, and how they can be navigated to the top of the tower.
As much as I knew it would sting, I slipped my glove off into my pocket. Trembling on the tracks, I held my phone up to the power lines sitting pretty on the hill against a purple sky fading black. I thought the blurriness was my fault, but even as I regained a second of steadiness in my hand, no justice could be found. Head heavy, I headed home. I started crying like a little bitch, my tears becoming the snowflakes missing from what turned out to be no more than another night in January. I was listening to Movements instead of nothing.,nowhere for once, but I could still feel the reaper trying me. No one wants you here. No one wants you. No one.
Loud. Sad. That’s how the freshly-minted West Coast quartet describes an honesty that exists despite invisibility. We’ve grown up. We’ve escaped out hometowns. We saved up and got that sleeve. We’re living the pop-punk dream. Yet, here we are, walking down the golden sidewalks of our most beloved cities, questioning the value of being anywhere. As vocal cords take a tone for the harsh and the words that you thought you knew start playing tricks, that young girl still remains, clinging to comfort, wherever it may come.
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Tune in next week to Thirsty Thursday for more from Jenna.