By Natasha Van Duser
Vans Warped Tour, South by So What?!, Soundwave, Bamboozle and many more festivals have been increasingly characterized by the ever-growing post-hardcore genre, making it the hub of one of the biggest underground music subcultures of today. The use of break-downs, djent riffs, unclean vocals, and melodic choruses have sunk their sounds into a scene and influenced countless groups across the globe. Though it seems unlikely that any of these styled bands will ever make it to number 1 on the Top 40 charts, they have created a stronghold in the underground that has led them to the incredible and dedicated fan base that they have today. Here are what I would consider the top 25 essential post-hardcore albums for the modern scene.
25. Follow My Lead – Sleepless
Frankly, this slot could be filled by a number of incredible debut EPs that have popped up over the last year or two, but this one happens to be my current favorite. Start-up bands that are able to release their own EPs like this Irish quintet always impress me and prove that everyone needs to give those little guys they find on Spotify or YouTube just as much of a chance as the big names in the business. Follow My Lead is exceptionally musically advanced for their career, which can be seen in a range of their songs including the triple-layer structure of the track “Dead,” one of my favorite songs of 2013.
24. Code Orange Kids – Love is Love//Return to Dust
After numerous self-released EPs, this is the first LP released by Code Orange Kids. Two Words: female vocalist. Code Orange Kids is not only one of the heaviest bands to come out from the underground in the last few years, they’ve also got insane stage presence, dual vocalists (Reba Meyers and Eric Balderose) and they put on an epic, yet intimate, show. They are proof that there is still a very strong underground culture supporting post-hardcore and that not everything has to have pop-punk choruses to get recognition in the scene.
23. Get Scared – Cheap Tricks and Theatrics
After I first heard this EP, I went to see Get Scared play opening slots at three different gigs. It’s one of the rawest records Get Scared has ever put out, and if you can find it, it has a majority of the original, heavier recordings for tracks that landed on their debut LP Best Kind of Mess. This is Utah Goth Rock at its absolute finest and it’s the reason Craig Mabbitt of Escape the Fate helped put Get Scared on the map. Also, it has a killer B-sides companion EP that is slightly more experimental and very different from the Get Scared of today.
22. Motionless In White – Creatures
Metalcore meets shock rock meets F— you. This was the album that really made MIW stand out in the scene. It promoted a dark, exotic image and “true-to-yourself” message that so many bands utilize, but as if on steroids. Creatures was highly innovative with cultural criticism singles like “Immaculate Misconception,” which displayed intriguingly shocking religious imagery in its music video. Unfortunately, it is the only officially released album by MIW worth listening to before the band completely changed both their style and message.
21. Blessthefall – Witness
This 2009 release is the first release from Blessthefall without original vocalist Craig Mabbitt; instead he was replaced with Beau Bokan who went on to bring BTF to the high level of praise the band receives today. Though, arguably, not the group’s strongest album, it is still an incredible transition from the work of Mabbitt to Bokan and is one of the most successful examples of vocalist switches that appear in the post-hardcore music industry.
20. Vanna – The Few and the Far Between
Going to a Vanna show will change your perspective on the post-hardcore genre. Seeing Vanna live is one of the most incredible, crowd-interactive, intimate musical experiences a fan will ever have. Though this album is one of their latest works, it is also one of their strongest. Vanna has had numerous lineup changes over the years, but their current set up, including vocalist Davey Muise, guitarist Joel Pastuszak, and drummer Eric Gross, is by far their best. Vanna stayed away from major labels in the scene with this record, which means less promotion; but, it also means a more genuine experience with album, show, and band over all.
19. Bring Me The Horizon – There Is a Hell, Believe Me I’ve Seen It. There Is a Heaven, Let’s Keep It a Secret
Not only does this album win for longest album title in the scene, it also wins for one of the most groundbreaking post-hardcore records ever released. Oli Sykes begins his transition from standard frontman to scene innovator with this by writing a record that included collaborations with Lights and Josh Franceschi, distortion, deep-rooted religious imagery and sound, and intense lyrical wit, including making “Alligator Blood” an allusion to Fight Club. Amazingly, it holds its own as a beautiful record, even with all of the harsh screams, breakdowns, and despairing imagery.
18. Crown the Empire – The Fallout
This is another break out record that is a really great example of putting forth a band’s best effort and coming out on top. It’s just an impressive feat to hear such complexity and vaudevillian originality in a band that is literally just starting out. The maturity that went into creating this album and the instant success a band with such a strange, steam-punk influenced image received is mind-blowing. The coordination between the dual vocals really compliments the Romeo and Juliet inspired theme to this concept album.
17. Miss May I – At Heart
This is the record that gave Miss May I real street-cred as a band. Lyrically, musically, and performance-wise, this album just brought MMI out of their shell. It’s a lot more refined than their earlier work and shows a firmer grasp on lyrical quality and song structure that the group was missing earlier on. Also, songs like “Ballad of a Broken Man” and “Hey Mister” are so personal, that you just want to scream along with Levi Benton when these tracks come on your playlist.
16. Parkway Drive – Atlas
Parkway Drive is evidence that post-hardcore is becoming a global phenomenon. Parkway Drive is one of the biggest, most influential, and successful post-hardcore bands to come out of Australia paving the ways for other groups of today, like The Amity Affliction and the up-and-coming Capture the Crown. Atlas was released in 2012, marking the band’s ten years together and the long way they have come from their beginnings of making split EPs and doing compilation albums. They now have ten years under their belt of holding their own, and with the single “Wild Eyes” and the change-of-pace track “Atlas,” Parkway Drive is showing they’ve still got it.
15. I See Stars – New Demons
I was really skeptical about this release. Digital Renegade was such a catchy (but safe) album that I wasn’t sure if ISS would be able to up their ante with a following record. Luckily, ISS proved they can go above and beyond my expectations. This is the first record where I feel personally connected to the band since they wrote less party songs and more heart-felt (but still danceable) tracks like “Murder Mitten” and “Violent Bounce.” ISS has held on strongly to their electronicore sound and continually cite their influences from the dubstep and EDM scenes, as with tracks like “Ten Thousand Feet,” making them one of the few bands to successfully combine these polar-opposite musical styles.
14. Senses Fail – Still Searching
This 2006 release holds two of Senses Fail’s biggest releases to date, “Can’t Be Saved” (which made it into the Guitar Hero franchise) and “Calling All Cars.” SF is another reason that New Jersey is still one of the most underrated music hubs of the world, but this album also offered a solid alternative to how to make the post-hardcore genre fit alongside pop-riffs and commercialism without really selling out.
13. Attack Attack! – Attack Attack! [Reissue]
The self-titled album is the first Attack Attack! album where Caleb Shomo gets credited for unclean vocals, thus leading to the importance of the reissue in which he contributes clean vocals as well. The reissue includes songs like “Criminal” and an acoustic version of “Turbo Swag” that compliment songs like “Sexual Man Chocolate” and “A is For Andrew” so well because of the variety they offer. That being said, you can also hear just how much fun AA! had when making this album; just listen to the over-the-top intro of “Fumbles O’Brian.”
12. Black Veil Brides – We Stitch These Wounds
BVB got a lot of hate for how they looked and their attitude towards other bands when this album came out. But what went largely unnoticed was that they were a really talented group with some insane drum fills, 80s hard-rock inspired guitar solos, and really gritty, unrefined vocals that no one ever seemed to give them credit for. As a debut LP for BVB, it is one of the most commercially successful in the post-hardcore realm. It’s first week of release landed it in the Top 40 best selling albums of the week, according to Rolling Stone.
11. Of Mice & Men – The Flood
The Flood is what should have happened to Attack Attack! if Austin Carlile had remained with the band. This album is just as creative and lively as Carlile’s work with AA!, but it is significantly more mature. This is the final album with Shayley Bourget’s vocals and as always, it has the cymbal fanatic, Valentino Arteaga, to tie the record together. It is one of the few albums in which the drums really carry the record. It has gut-punching, up-beat tracks like “Ohioisonfire” contrasted with really soft, melodic works like “My Understandings” that both equally show the diversity in Bourget’s and Carlile’s singing styles.
10. We Came As Romans – Tracing Back Roots
WCAR has been headed in the right direction to really break out in the music sphere, and the promise that their first two records kept alluding to finally came forth with this third record. Not only do WCAR keep their ongoing plant-life/growth metaphor in this album, but they expand musically to bring both vocalists into a more organic and even flow that creates for catchier, yet harder-hitting songs that blow away all of their prior work. Tracing Back Roots is the first WCAR release where Kyle Pavone and David Stephens both split the clean and unclean vocals.
9. Evergreen Terrace – Burned Alive by Time
This is one of the first post-hardcore albums I was ever exposed to and it’s the album that really got me thinking about how this genre could work in today’s music world. That and to this day, Evergreen Terrace still has some of the most intriguing guitar breakdown riffs I’ve ever heard, and this was from 2002. No one has been able to construct a song quite like them since. Also, just for the hell of it, this band is another group that made it with a name in reference to The Simpsons.
8. Every Time I Die – New Junk Aesthetic
Every Time I Die has a pretty complex sound, so this was a tough decision between 2003’s Hot Damn! and this 2009 release. Overall, however, New Junk Aesthetic just shows substantially more range and potential for ETID, while still keeping the integrity of the gravelly, undisciplined songs off of Hot Damn! That, and the vocals on “Wanderlust” is a constant reminder that it’s always okay to have a little soul in your post-hardcore.
7. Escape The Fate – This War Is Ours
This album is probably most-well known for the drama it started within the scene. For anyone who has ever seen angry tweets about someone named Ronnie Radke or Craig Mabbitt, this is the album that started the feud because ETF replaced Radke with Mabbitt. This album, however, is the strongest put forth by the group; it also is the best highlight of Mabbitt’s vocal capabilities from r&b-like melodies to hardcore unclean growls. The drama surrounding the album is worth knowing about and extends to a multitude of bands in the scene including Blessthefall, Falling in Reverse, The Dead Rabbitts, Get Scared, Motionless In White, and many more.
6. letlive. – Fake History
letlive. kind of resurfaced out of nowhere in 2010 and was instantly glorified for their highly-animated stage presence, which they do well to translate into most of their music videos. However, it is the jazzy, melodic qualities of their heavy hitting tracks paired with their personal and emotional tracks like “Muther” that really make letlive. come alive. Fake History was their first LP with a more concrete line-up and left fans in absolute diehard anticipation for their equally successful follow-up release, The Blackest Beautiful, earlier in 2013.
5. Pierce The Veil – Collide With The Sky
This album alone is the reason I can refer to a genre as “Mexicore” (the self-proclaimed genre of PTV) and people will know exactly what I am talking about. PTV has an incredible way of molding a variety of different genres, sounds, and styles into one and making everything look like a cohesive painting, rather than a choppy mosaic. From Spanish guitars, to the high vocal riffs of Vic Fuentes, to allusions to Shakespearean literature, this album is all over the place, but right where it needs to be at the same time. Unfortunately, it’s one of those albums that is potentially un-toppable, so it is unclear where PTV will go next.
4. Asking Alexandria – Stand Up and Scream
This was Asking Alexandria’s break-out debut album, and frankly, as great as their other records have been, they will never be able to top this album, hence the huge egos of vocalist Danny Worsnop and guitarist Ben Bruce. AA’s use of electronics, heavy metal influence, and raunchy, in-your-face lyrics are unmatchable. To fully understand the direction AA is going in with their latest music, one must trace back their sound-evolution to this record. They can’t copy what they did on Stand Up and Scream, so they have to move forward in other directions. To this day, lyrics in tracks like “The Final Episode” and “When Everyday’s the Weekend” are key reminders of just how young the band was when they released this record in 2009.
3. A Day To Remember – Homesick
ADTR has yet to make a bad record, but Homesick stands far above anything else they have ever released. It has hit tracks that range from the angry-super heavy “I’m Made of Wax Larry, What Are You Made Of?” to the acoustic soft-rock “If It Means A Lot to You.” Not only was this album appropriate for the post-hardcore scene, it also showed that ADTR can branch out into the mainstream when “If It Means A Lot to You” was actually given radio air play. Homesick takes all of the stereotypes of a pop-punk band and makes it heavier than anything Blink-182 ever imagined could happen.
2. Alesana – The Emptiness
The Emptiness is the album that basically made Alesana important. The sextet group which incorporates the almost disturbingly female-like, high-pitched vocals of Shawn Milke finally found a way to add a little more edge to their repertoire. The Emptiness is homage to Edgar Allan Poe in a rock opera-concept album. And it beats out anything Alesana had ever done before by really embracing their use of theatrics. It also became the first of three albums to be installed into Alesana’s Annabel Trilogy, which marks the first ever post-hardcore concept album trilogy.
1. Bring Me The Horizon – Sempiternal
This album was leaked in early 2013 and all of a sudden my entire idea of music had been flipped upside down. Sempiternal is a real game changer for the post-hardcore world because it is the first substantial instance of an unclean vocalist taking the time to learn how to also do clean, melodic vocals. Not only is it vocally innovative, it is also musically diverse as a mix of all the genres and scenes surrounding the post-hardcore world with its own twist on electronics, distortion, trap, drum-n-bass, metal, pop, ballads, and just about everything else involved. Tracks like “Shadow Moses” and “Sleepwalking” just as singles alone have shown how much this band has grown since they started out in 2004.