bAn air of seriousness, or at least the appearance of one, is near universal for music, but most especially for hardcore and metal. And I get it—on some level you have to take it seriously to make it something seriously impactful. But the real picture is a crowd (or more often, a handful) of sweaty people standing in front of someone screaming at the top of their lungs about an old relationship or some such nonsense.
In those terms, hardcore seems awfully silly. But still, every band stands around with their arms crossed and faces of angry stone. It’s rare that a band acknowledges the strange circumstances that surround their music, and even more rare to incorporate that absurdity into their music. But that’s exactly the avenue the Callous Daoboys explore on their latest LP Die on Mars, flavoring their chaotic, face-melting metalcore with more than a bit of self-aware humor.
From the opening screams to the final spindly piano, Die on Mars will tell you that the Callous Daoboys are here to throw down. The bass stampedes beneath manic guitar riffing and panic chords, the strings searing the eardrums with sloshy feedback and dissonant melodies. The drums sprinkle swing feels between vociferous blastbeats and gargantuan breakdowns, while the violin—an instrument that up until this record I have solely despised—riles sweet melodies and noisy scratches against walls of distortion. The vocals are mainly focused through wretching harsh screams, but occasionally sway into beautiful consonance such as the jazzy interlude of “Flip-Flops at a Funeral” or the a cappella opening to “Pure Schlock.”
The posse of musicians behind Die on Mars are ostensibly masters of both their instruments and their compositions. Time-signature changes and dynamic shifts abound, with the band reeling between brutally loud and tiptoe quiet. Multiple tunes feature bizarre genre-shifts mid-song: “Cobra Winfrey” pops soft color chords and an organ in between pitiless heavy riffs, while “Faraday Cage” dips into a tiny circus-like section before bringing the dirty back. The Daoboys wander in and out of different sounds on Die on Mars like a pack of wild goofbawls, yet execute each shift and section with absolute accuracy.
Die on Mars is a chaotic record, and the Daoboys wholly embrace chaos into their sound. Every tune runs wildly between different tempos and time signatures, and the band tosses grueling breakdowns throughout like they’re fishing with dynamite. They seem to intentionally add slop to their sound; “Dogfight Over the Trenches” bumbles like they’re trying to play while tumbling down a hill, while the opening to “Barnstormer” is just utterly preposterous nonsense. But for all the disarray, the Daoboys are unquestionably tight and talented—their riffs and writing are so polished and powerful that they can more than afford to fuck around a bit.
And that’s my favorite aspect of this record: how insanely self-aware and unapologetically fun it is. The Callous Daoboys are fearless in their music, which allows them to embrace the preposterous and slip it into their songs. They directly mock their own struggle during the spoken-word spiel in “Contrail Crucifix:” “We need you to buy our merch so we can eat / we need you to tell your friends about us.” Their madness extends beyond the band as well: “Faraday Cage” features a “103-Daoboys” radio plug, while the heavy hitting “Barnstormer” is literally interrupted by a lounge waiter checking in on a table mid-song. While the fierce compositions and full-throttle performances alone make Die on Mars a record to experience, the unabashed enjoyment fueling those performances will stamp this album as seminal.
Whether you’re looking for hard-as-hell jams or hilarious non-sequiturs, Die on Mars more than delivers. The Callous Daoboys demonstrate how to take music seriously without being serious, a point almost every remind us that there is no reason to make music if you can’t have fun doing it. So all you arms-crossed hardcore kids take note—this record will still be in heavy rotation in a decade, and a stern-faced façade has nothing to do with it.
My Top Track: “Flip-Flops at a Funeral”
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