Screamo lives — that visceral, amped up punk-feeling music that defies categorization and captures some of our most private emotional moments keeps growing. In part, as others have noted, the persistence of the style can probably be credited to the age in which we live. No longer do those making this kind of raw music have to keep it to themselves or cross their fingers to find someone also interested — log into Facebook, Reddit, or a similar platform, search “screamo,” and you’ve found yourself some new fellow fans. We have made a new community that has long since produced energized real world elements.
That’s where these artists come in. The three mentioned here are by no means the only ones to have made great screamo so far this year, and this is by no means any sort of ranking, but each project has released some emotionally epic tunes this year that push you through a tear into a new mental dimension. Whereas previously some of the elements packed into this music may have just been fleeting mental pictures, now the portraits have come to life and they’re here to have a word with you.
The concept of “screamo” has been turned into a catch-all slang term at times, but even acknowledging the boundaries stretched by those less familiar with the actual style trend, there’s a lot of variety in the style. None of the three bands here sound the same, or like they’re necessarily fitting into a genre category — but that’s the way it should be.
Without further ado — here are three standout screamo albums from this year that you should probably be listening to if you’re into thrill rides through mayhem. Make sure to check them all out if you haven’t.
OLAM — I Will Guide Thy Hand
This April album from the Indianapolis-based trio OLAM feels simultaneously visceral and aggressively heavy, and the band tread that line remarkably well. The just more than 30 minute release apparently was some time coming, but the nuance inherent in these songs makes it abundantly clear that the music was definitely worth the wait and then some.
The line that titles the album and the absolutely epic, about seven minute long closing song is taken right from the 2016 horror film The Witch. In the movie, it’s shared towards the very end by a character named Phillip, who’s offering to assist main character Thomasin with signing her name in an equivalent of a “book of the beast” and handing her soul over to witchery. There’s a sense of incredibly shadowed “empowerment” that emerges in this scene and in the music that OLAM share. You’ve been through blood and mayhem, but there’s something thrilling to reach for on the other side, even while still covered in the muck of your struggles. Not much feels left to the imagination, in a sense — you’re not really wondering while listening, “Hmm, I wonder if there’s a deeply set reservoir of cacophonous emotion hiding beneath this line?” The brutal, heavy music and the visceral screamed vocal work make this hurricane just beneath the surface abundantly obvious, and you get sucked into it as a listener. Partaking of this kind of musical power might not be for the faint of heart — but it’s great.
Nuvolascura — Nuvolascura
The California screamo outfit Nuvolascura feel incredibly direct, using their music to shine a relentless spotlight on already in-place pain. Their music itself bursts with a kind of caustic energy, and while listening to the musical chaos, you’re left pondering destruction. In a sense, this effort can be a very useful exercise, considering the fact that we’re never really going to escape destruction in the first place — death comes for us all, so we might as well come to terms with it.
That morbidity is not at all where Nuvolascura stop on their January 2019 self-titled release though. This record feels like an intimately personal work in which those behind it are spilling their metaphorical guts and it’s up to us to observe and maybe pick up the pieces afterward. This feeling gets communicated through the wild, swirling manic music and the vocal work, which approaches a point at times of meshing right into the tumultuous black hole encapsulated by the tunes themselves. The invigoration inherent in these songs comes in large part from their amazingly immersive quality; it’s like a crash course in empathy for our collective condition here. It forces you to feel — really, if you’re familiar enough to attentively dive into this in the first place, there’s got to be close to no way to walk away without the passion making an imprint on your psyche. It’s time to remember what we’re really here for.
Senza — Even a Worm Will Turn
May’s Even a Worm Will Turn from the Oregon group Senza goes full-force in its visceral attack almost right from the very beginning. You can not hide from this music — it’s the soundtrack to not just utter destruction that’s way out there somewhere and not close to home, but it’s the songs that accompany your own emotional home barely weathering a relentless onslaught from a massive hurricane. Or maybe it didn’t survive at all.
The band incorporate elements of some real, raw, primal power into their music. They’re wildly chaotic at times while never really losing a sense of technical precision and essentially always having their music hit with a resounding, earthy thud. The band have been described as blending the epic brush strokes associated with black metal into the primal revelations of screamo, and that does begin to describe what they’re doing here, but they take the work much farther than a neat technical trick.
The lyrics that accompany this album and the way they’re screamed on the record itself lend incredibly towards this record truly proving an experience to step into. It’s not a one-off excursion into some nicely packaged chaos that can be left behind. It creeps up behind you like some kind of animalistic menace and devolves into wild sputtering, demanding that you behold its mayhem. There’s some “empowerment” that slinks through the shadows of this record, but that’s not the main attraction here — instead it’s the raw response to being stepped on and ground into the dirt. When the vocalist screams that forces out there “pinch the gullible from their homes” and “fly them out to foreign soil” with “a promise of life, never to return” — it’s pretty on-point what they’re getting at here. They’ve amplified their music’s relation to tumult into reflecting huge menace, and it’s a volatile but thrilling experience.