Way back in the late 90s or early 00s, when I was still living in NYC, I saw one of the strangest, avant garde guitar performances I've ever experienced. A relatively unassuming man came on stage with just an electric guitar and one amp, and he treated us to 90 minutes of squeals, feedback, pick scrapes, plinking the strings above the nut, and all manner of other tomfoolery. There was almost no melodic or harmonic structure to hang onto at all. After the show, I went to the men’s room and heard this brilliant summing up from some random drunk dude: "That's art. It's not music, but it's art."
That pretty well sums up how I feel about mathcore bands. Before hordes of Dillinger Escape Plan and Converge fans accost me, I don't mean that as an insult. When done well, I appreciate bands that play in that general territory, including Dillinger. But the unrelenting assault of dissonance, jagged rhythms, and general whatthefuckery engage a part of my brain that's adjacent to, but not directly connected, to the part that engages with music in general, so it's not a subgenre I revisit very often.
Enter the Barcelona-based band Rather Be Alive and their EP Resiliència. They self-identify as mathcore on their Bandcamp page, and I think that's a fair description. The vocals are hardcore bellows, the music is intricate, and there are plenty of quick-change shifts both melodically and rhythmically. But in spite of that, I find Rather Be Alive to be insanely catchy instead of mildly exhausting. The vocals are the perfect level of abrasiveness. When the vocals kick in the opening track, "Acaba amb Mi," I actually sing along with the line, "observa al teu voltan!" That's in Catalan, and I have no idea what it means, but the energy is so infectious that I still sing along. (A quick trip to Google translate gave laughably and obviously bad English translations of the lyrics provided on Bandcamp.)
The instrumental performances are all top grade as well. Check out the jazzy bass solo in "Acaba am Mi"--and when I say jazzy, I mean legitimate, high-quality jazz, not just a half-hearted attempt. The guitar solo that breaks out immediately afterward is a study in simplicity and catchiness. And that nuclear-powered-freight-train riff that opens up "Sense Fugir"! All of this is over drumming that's deceptive in its complexity, intricate without sounding like it's being done by dome futuristic drum-bot.
The EP is just a quick blast of three songs, offered for free download, but here's hoping we get a full length some time in the near future.
[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]