"Mathcore, what's that?" I hear you ask. "Genre names are getting too complex these days, do the bands sing about mathematical constructs?" you type in the comments section of a Facebook post mentioning The Number 12 Looks Like You to get three likes and a haha react. The truth is that mathcore is one of the most interesting and technically complex offshoots of heavy music.
It's characterised by weird time signatures, odd rhythms, experimentation, dissonance is used quite a bit too. Its earliest roots are in the experiments on Black Flag's seminal My War album, but it became a fully fledged thing in its own right with the rise of metalcore in the 1990s, Deadguy kicking things off with their noisy, dissonant, off kilter metalcore, Botch throwing down the gauntlet for technincal complexity in a sea of bad Earth Crisis clones, and in 1999 the world was forever changed by the incendiary Calculating Infinity by the sadly departed Dillinger Escape Plan. It's a wonderful, varied genre, and I'm here to give you 10 songs to get you into it.
Taken From: Doppleganger (2005, Equal Vision)
The Fall Of Troy are perhaps the most commercially viable mathcore group, they sit more on the post-hardcore end of things, their particular brand of wild and widdly guitarwork oweing more to At The Drive-In than say, Drowningman or Deadguy. Nonetheless this is a good song to get you used to the wild chaos this genre brings, with a wonderfully catchy chorus.
Taken From: Cursed (Century Media, 2010)
And on the opposite side of listenability we've got Montreal's Ion Dissonance. This band share a bit of ground with the early deathcore movement, with the vocals having that bark alongside the use of crushing breakdowns and death metal style blasting, The math is still brought however with the rapid changes of pace and nasty lead lines.
Taken From: Calculating Infinity (1999, Relapse Records)
There's a quote from guitarist Ben Weinmann about how their debut record was born from musicians who had given up any chance of making music as a career, though that would turn out not to be the case, that frustration would spawn some of the most technically complex and intense music put on record. Though mathcore had existed before them, here it was at its most fiendishly complex, most bravely forward thinking, yet with the wild abandon and passion of punk. Also how iconic is this opening riff?
Taken From: The Trees Are Dead And Dried Out, Wait For Something Wild (2003, Gut Records)
Sikth sit in a genre all of their own, combining the complexity of mathcore with a funky bounce and a bug eyed strangeness straight from the school of System Of A Down. There's not just wild technicality, there's Mikee Goodmann's unmistakable vocals, the stabbing, punchy riffs that would go on to influence the school of djent, and some surprisingly lovely melodic parts.
Taken From: Hollow Crown (2009, Century Media)
Their early material was very much a sum of their influences (Dillinger, Converge, Botch, The Bled), but here is where this band truly comes into their own and becomes the Architects we know and love today. The thuggish opening riff builds into a punchy hardcore riff in the verses, deceptively simple but with a complexity few bands are able to match. It's vocalist Sam Carter who steals the show here. His raw, tortured scream marks him out as one of the finest vocalists in modern metalcore, especially over the closing breakdown, which also has some really cool drumwork.
Taken From: Bless The Martyr And Kiss The Child (2002, Solid State Records)
Norma Jean are a long running mathcore band, notable for having the frontman of the Chariot in their ranks, being Christian, and really liking the work of Botch and Neurosis. Though not always being the most original band in this subgenre, they are very good at what they do, crafting a dynamic and truly brutal song here. It uses interesting drumwork, pummeling breakdowns, dissonance and brilliant vocal performances from Josh Scogin and Aaron Weiss of mewithoutyou, leaving us with an absolute barnstormer of a song.
Taken From: We Are The Romans (1999, Hydra Head Records)
Botch. Fucking Botch. What mathcore list would be complete without Tacoma, Washington's finest purveyors of evil math rock? Their music is not complex for complexity's sake, yet they take the guitar/bass/drum framework of hardcore and pushed it to its absolute limit. Building on the misanthropic dissonance of Deadguy and the angular, jagged post-hardcore of Drive Like Jehu, they created something utterly unique and frequently ripped off. One of their more uptempo tracks here, it's got those odd time signatures. jarring panic chords and a sick ass bassline.
Taken From: Jane Doe (2001, Equal Vision Records)
Converge are an odd fit for mathcore, though they are a fiendishly technical band, their approach is not the fretboard melting shred of Dillinger or the battering ram riffs of Botch. Instead it's a raw, kaleidoscopic take on hardcore punk with a strong emotional core, technicality coming in bursts of squealing guitar, a song framework facilitating frequnent shifts in tempo, it's very dense, very claustrophobic, and utterly exhilarating. Their whole discography is worth a listen, but honestly you need Jane Doe in your life, here everything came together in the most spectacular, stupidly heavy way imaginable. There's furious hardcore riffing with eerie melody woven within, and Jacob Bannon's pterodactyl screech going 90 over the top of it. What a band.
Taken From: Greyer Than You Remember (2015, Holy Roar Records)
Turning to the UK now, we have one of the shining lights of the new wave of matchore acts in Woking's Employed To Serve. Their approach is a crushing, riff driven approach, with the heft of Norma Jean and the maelstrom of a band like Gaza, yet they are unafraid to drop a more straightforward halftime riff and have a command of atmosphere to rival that of Will Haven. Frontwoman Justine Justine's furious roar elevates this song into a true modern mathcore classic.
Taken From: Fixation On A Coworker (1995, Victory Records)
Deadguy have almost been a forgotten case in the wider narrative surrounding the development of hardcore. Despite their short existence they are one of the most important bands in 1990s metallic hardcore, their discordant, noisy riffing and the unmatched misanthropic anger of frontman Tim Singer influencing everyone from Botch to Will Haven to Touche Amore spinoff group Hesitation Wounds. It's not strictly mathcore but the dissonance and oddness in the time signatures are key features, the misanthropic approach additionally being a large part of mathcore for whatever reason.
Taken From: Dead Lung (2015, Basick Records)
Ireland's contributed quite a lot to math and post rock, with bands like Enemies, Adebsi Shank, God Is An Astronaut, And So I Watch You From Afar and Yonen, our contribution to mathcore however, pales quite a bit. Thankfully however we have Tullamore, Offaly's finest, Murdock. They've got the furious technicality you'd expect, but a wry, playful edge that comes out with the rhythm section, in particular the bass offsetting the sludgy crush and searing shred of the guitars. Both progressive and insanely fun, Murdock are a band this island should cherish far more than any Mooju drinking band of likely lads knocking around Indiependance or halfway up the bill on Longitude.
Taken From: Mongrel (2007, Eyeball Records)
Oh god The Number Twelve Looks Like You. This band represents the most extreme end of the mathcore spectrum in terms of melting your brain, a place shared by the likes of Daughters, Heavy Heavy Low Low, Me And Him Call It Us, iwrestledabearonce, any band refered to as white belt scene grind. Given this list is about drawing you into the genre I wasn't sure including Bergen County's strangest sons was the best idea, but this side needs representation and they are quite accessible here. They take Dillinger's stinging shred, the flamboyance of sass (another weird offshoot of hardcore, listen to The Blood Brothers if you wanna know what it sounds like), jazzy flourishes, jarring shifts in genre, creating something strange but oh so wonderful at the same time.