We’re back with the first official edition of this column in the new year. 2020 is already looking promising for screamo, both in terms of releases as well as recognition. Heavy music-themed burger establishment Kuma’s Corner’s Indianapolis location announced that their coveted Burger of the Month for February will be an homage to Texan screamo rising stars Portrayal of Guilt, an honor that comes with a fried pork chop and pico de gallo slathered all over it. Do Portrayal of Guilt deserve most of the credit for this for being the incredible band they are? Absolutely. Do I deserve some of the credit for focusing my will on bringing screamo into the wider collective consciousness?
Well, I’m not not saying that.
Pats on the back aside, here is more of the screamo you need in your life.
Loma Prieta – Continuum/Fate
Back with their first new music since 2015’s Self Portrait, genre darlings Loma Prieta deliver unexpected twists to convention on their new 7″ release. Never ones to stick to a tried-and-true path, the San Fransisco quartet stray even further from their roots here, with A-side “Continuum” starting with an upbeat, almost poppy structure before losing control and descending into chaos. B-side “Fate” is more immediately recognizable, yet manages to sneak in themes of 90s alt rock alongside the frantic energy of screamo, like pageninetynine filtered through the lens of The Pixies. These two songs are a strong comeback for a band that’s been sorely missed around these parts, and I’m hoping there’s much more like this to come in the near future.
Obroa-Skai – S/T
While this isn’t technically a January release, it was dropped on Bandcamp on December 31st, and I wanted to give this album some love no matter what, because not only is it a great release in its own right, it was released courtesy of Aught/Void, a Canadian label I’ve long held a candle for due to their release of consistently fantastic ambient, noise, and experimental albums. Worlds collide here, and Obroa-Skai bridge those two worlds by effortlessly amping up screamo’s darker tones with a healthy dose of harsh noise and experimentation. Obroa-Skai is a bleak release, full of aggressive instrumentation and bristling noise, but with a humanizing undercurrent of longing and sadness that peeks out through the blackness, as on album closer “Quiet Dysphoria.” This is a standout release among a near flawless label catalog that I’d encourage everyone, regardless of how adventurous your tastes may be, to give a shot.
And while you’re here, maybe listen to Autumn Pool’s Balm in the Night Air too.
Frail Hands – parted/departed/apart
The Aught/Void connection leads us directly into our next album this month, which is the newest full-length from Nova Scotia’s Frail Hands (A/V was responsible for releasing the tape edition of this band’s split with California’s Ghost Spirit, who I have mentioned in a previous edition of this column). parted/departed/apart is Frail Hands’ first album without the vocal performance of longtime member Dawn Almeda, but their contributions are felt in the lyrics to five out of the album’s ten songs, and the group’s remaining members carry on with the same weight their music has always held. Math-y, mournful screamo reigns here, with songs that emphasize the short and sweet spirit of the genre, though not without knowing when to pause and breathe, as in the spacious ending of “Mirrored Limbs.” parted/departed/apart is full of a sense of controlled chaos, an album that feels molded by capable hands rather than simply let fly, and while both approaches work well for screamo, the smart songwriting choices here make this an early standout album for 2020.
Empatía – Discography
I usually try to stick to three albums for this column’s length, but I couldn’t help throwing in a little bonus this time around. January saw the return of much beloved German label Miss the Stars after a two year long hiatus, and first on the docket is the release of Empatía’s discography, collected in one place for the first time. While the oldest songs on this release date back to 2017, this is the first time I’ve heard this band, and I’m thankful for the chance to digest their entire catalogue up until this point all at once, because once you start Discography you really don’t want it to stop. Hailing from Bogota, Columbia, Empatía are the least experimental band we’re going to talk about today, but that doesn’t stop their brand of tight and fast flowerviolence from being any less riveting. Discography hits you with 13 songs in 14 minutes that wield raw emotion as a weapon, breathlessly barreling full steam ahead throughout the album’s run time with barely a pause to be had, while snappy guitars, breakneck drumming, and impassioned vocals rage around you. I’m glad for the opportunity to get to know Empatía and you should take this chance as well.
Until next time,