New year, back on the same bullshit. Welcome to Chaos is Me, Nine Circles’ monthly roundup of the best screamo one man can dig up. If you’re joining us for the first time in this new year, welcome, and thanks for checking this out. If you’re a repeat reader, then thanks for coming back for a new season. 2021 is already off to a great start music-wise, with a few releases that might even have the potential to stick around come list season when this year wraps up. I called a lot of shots that I regretted in this respect last year, though, so for now lets just take stock of what are definitely my favorite releases from January.
Portrayal of Guilt – We Are Always Alone
Portrayal of Guilt have one of the most intense work ethics of any band I’ve ever seen, which is part of the reason why they’ve built such a following in such a short amount of time. There seems to be almost no point at which they aren’t releasing new music, whether those are standalone EP’s or a litany of split releases with other bands, and for a while I felt the quality definitely matched the quantity in their discography. It wasn’t until the last couple of split releases that I felt like the band had written themselves into a rut; their tracks on the 7″ splits with Soft Kill and Slow Fire Pistol felt almost formulaic, predictable in their structure. The notion that they could fall into a sophomore slump on We Are Always Alone was definitely in the back of my mind when I went to press play on this album. This, however, is an instance in which I’ll happily eat a rather large plate of crow, because We Are Always Alone isn’t just good, it’s fantastic. The fire I felt present when I first checked out this band is burning brighter than ever, and with it comes new and inventive ways to drag the classic screamo sound into the depths of hell. Industrial harsh noise and not-even-subtle-about-it-anymore nods to black metal combine with frantic RVA-style post-hardcore to create a collage of suffering and misery that is as inventive as it is twisted. This is the album that reminds me just why I was so invested in this band in the first place; Portrayal of Guilt have once again positioned themselves as a luminary force in the genre, taking screamo places other bands are afraid of going.
Terminal Bliss – Brute Err/ata
Speaking of RVA, Terminal Bliss are a new name on the scene composed of some of the most stalwart faces in post-hardcore. Featuring members of pg.99 and City of Caterpillar, yet sounding nothing like any of these, Brute Err/ata is a scathing, noisy, brutish hardcore punk album that gets in, beats you into the dirt, and gets out just as quickly. For all its brevity, though, it’s a memorable 10 minutes, blending post-hardcore with bizzaro noise rock and an almost grindcore level of intensity and experimentation, with tracks like “Clean Bill of Wealth” and “8 Billion People Reported Missing” chock full of angular riffing and breakneck rhythms. Even putting name recognition aside, Brute Err/ata is an album unique and fun enough to stand on its own amongst these members’ memorable discographies.
Eyelet – The Devil Shining Out Your Eyes
Eyelet’s The Devil Shining Out Your Eyes was released on 12/31, so in my mind it’s within the margin to be considered a ‘January’ release, and you’ll have to forgive me for returning to 2020 for a second, but I have to talk to you about this album. I remember discovering Eyelet’s 2014 self-titled EP via a mutual from my old tumblr blogging days and listening to “Blush” on a near daily basis, its lush melody completely engrossing me. Well, seven years sure have passed in between then and now, because the Eyelet standing before me today is a totally different beast, yet somehow no less engrossing. The Devil Shining Out Your Eyes sees the band embracing a much darker and heavier sound than their previous releases would have made me suspect, yet there is still much of the same melody that defined them peeking through the muscular riffs giving a familiar touchstone among the chaos. It doesn’t seem that I’m the only one surprised by the turn in this band’s sound, but it’s hard to argue with the results; The Devil is a wholly memorable experience start to finish, and an exciting new chapter in this band’s history.
Here is a Classic Album I Think You Should Be Listening To: Since we’ve been mentioning a lot of the Virginia scene this column, here is a classic album of East Coast screamo, Majority Rule’s second full-length album Interviews With David Frost