With the spring release of a collected Saetia discography, simply titled Collected, coming out on vinyl through Deathwish imprint Secret Voice, it’s worth taking a look at several other seminal screamo releases that should be cornerstones of your vinyl collection. Most of these are readily available on vinyl, while some will require vigorous eBay crawling.
During the first song on Ten Songs by i hate myself, there’s a quiet moment where vocalist/guitarist Jim Marburger just goes for it and yells a mighty “KAMEHAMEHAAAAAAA” before the band follows suit with an explosive flurry of action, an experience much like the real thing, I bet.
i hate myself never seemed to take things seriously - the song titles and lyrics found on Ten Songs showcase an irreverent sense of humor. That is, except for when their gaze was pointed inward — the lyrics feature some of the most evocative and self-deprecating imagery you’ll find. "Caught In A Flood With The Captain Of The Cheerleading Squad" and “Destroy All Monsters” are great examples of the band’s ability to utilize quiet-loud-quiet dynamics a la Pixies to move from operating in a hushed capacity to become louder than everything — an emotional whirlwind of sonic trauma.
With digital distortion lacing every instrument in the mix, Loma Prieta sound like they are fighting their way to some sort of clarity on I.V. It’s a bleak and harrowing listen, yet the brief moments when those metaphorical clouds open up to illustrate the depth Loma Prieta have going on here. It’s not until the second half of I.V. where the band’s emotive influences start to shine — the chiming guitar riffs that explode into fireworks to mark the final minute of “Biography” or the anguished screams hiding in the doomy grind of “Diamond Tooth” for instance. But Loma Prieta have one foot in hardcore — the three song trilogy found in the middle of I.V. pulses with an volatile energy that’s downright scary.
A last.fm entry on this band described them as "music is feelings and the words are thinking too much and out loud." Discography is a collection of the band’s first LP along with assorted demo tracks. The production could be better: the drums sound like someone punching cardboard and the guitars are just barely distinguishable. The vocals hit the sweet spot between anguish and terror and the sheer emotion is palpable especially in the lyrics. In spite of its inaccessibility, it’s one of the essential releases on its ability to make one feel simultaneously upbeat and down.
Members in this band later went on to play in other acts like Punch and Beau Navire, another fantastic screamo act whom also share members with Loma Prieta.
Can you doubt a band’s commitment to punk rock when their album starts with a goddamn Kurt Cobain sample? pg.99 could be a difficult band to pin down; they excelled at being a force of passion and anger, each song packed with enough riffs and dissonant madness to wear listeners out via sheer force of will. document #8 brims with enough punk rock piss and vinegar to propel itself through anything, even as the band collectively joked about needing three guitarists in order to pull off reunion shows a decade later. It’s a messy and endearing work from a band that sounded like they were ready to fall apart at any point.
The debut full length by Swedish band Suis La Lune is noteworthy for its musical approach — it’s likely the most optimistic and upbeat sounding album on this list. Similar to Envy in how they wholeheartedly embrace textures as a songwriting tool, Suis La Lune manage to explore several different ideas in the course of a single song, all the while dialing any aggressive tendencies to a minimum. It makes for a beautiful listen — album closer “My Mind Is A Birdcage” builds into a display of stunning guitar arpeggios that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Deafheaven release. Even as the song builds itself to a furious crescendo with layers of distortion and harsh vocals wrapping around itself before unraveling into feedback and lush echoes, it doesn’t stop sounding quite so smooth.
The last Funeral Diner full-length record starts soft, working its way into a mighty crescendo before vocalist Seth Robert Baab makes a grand entrance on second track “Collapsing,” only to have it quietly settle again. Some bands play out their approach to catharsis quickly. There’s only so much you can do with harsh vocals and guitars. People can get tired of it. What makes The Underdark succeed is Funeral Diner’s sense of grandiosity — everything feels epic. Not a second seems wasted, not a note of music flubbed. The high production values make a world of difference here; the tight musicianship and engrossing atmosphere found here demand to be heard.
Likely one of the most well-known splits in punk, if not for the fantastic songs contributed by two top-tier screamo bands but also the skull-shaped design and reverse grooves that evoke Public Image LTD’s Metal Box in its no-fucks-given design. Both bands are at the top of their game with this release but Jeromes Dream edge out with the superior side by a slim margin. In just five minutes, they do it all; dissonant noise breaks, crushing guitar riffs and frantic drumming all the while handling each seismic shift with an effortless ease.
William Bonney, a short-lived succession of notable emo bands Merchant Ships and Midwest Pen Pals, had so much going for them. They mixed harsh vocals with the clean guitar work of modern emo bands like Snowing or Algernon Cadwallader to culminate in something wholly different. William Bonney emerged with Good Vibes, the best refinement of the sound. Then they broke up. It’s a shame because Good Vibes reads like the start of something new; the way vocalist Jack Senff veers from screaming his lungs out to adopting this half-singing cadence while the band bash through songs like “Leather Empire” and “Druglord” are some of the memorable moments found here.
I’ll be honest: Any full-length Orchid release could and should taken as essential, thus making it difficult to pare it down to just one. Over the course of five years, the Amherst group distilled elements of hardcore and powerviolence into a powerful sound that was unrestrained as it was raw. Before Orchid, there was very little in terms of actual screamo. Their debut Chaos is Me is an incredibly apt title to describe the violent collage of sounds within and where Dance Tonight!... succeeded was refining that reckless abandon into something unsettling. I frequently cite video evidence of one of their last shows to witness the Orchid effect for what it is — a chaotic mess veering ready to explode at a moment’s notice.
In recent years, Envy have become more interested in sounding like a post-rock band rather than a screamo act, even going as far as collaborating with bands like Mogwai. Yet the Japanese group’s album All The Footprints… is a study in how at one point, all their formative influences met halfway to create something rather stunning and aggressive. Serrated vocals hit guitars that sounded like they were ready to scorch the earth and Envy make it pretty clear they’ve been versed in the school of hardcore. Yet they sound most at ease when they let their pedalboards — thus texture — dictate the mood. “Your Shoes And The World To Come” is a post rock tour de force, hinting at some of the avenues the band would explore in their later work. All The Footprints…, managed to establish nearly every major post-hardcore motif heard in modern bands like Deafheaven and Touché Amoré. Envy happened to be doing it a decade before everyone else.
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