Mariesena: existential Ukrainian screamo
There’s a video on YouTube where Mariesena, a screamo band from Ukraine, plays a cover of Orchid’s “…And The Cat Turned To Smoke” live in their hometown Odessa, on the Black Sea. The song is a classic that fans know, but the reaction of the crowd is not what an American or European screamo lover would expect: the audience sang, cried, desperately held their heads, and comforted each other while falling on their knees.
It’s not a parody nor a meme, but one way to show dedication to a genre that has developed quite a cult following in some ex-USSR countries. While foreign bands are rather worshiped here, the local scenes in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia are alive and well, delivering several interesting emo and screamo bands every year. Mariesena is one of them, and a great starting point for those who want to dig in these unexplored territories. Unlike many of the other bands they share the stage with, their lyrics are in English, exploring romantic and existentialist poetics in a personal style, especially on their full-length Ruth. The music is raw, violent and passionate, with reckless conjunctions between emoviolence chaos and staid moments of lo-fi clean arpeggios and abrupt screams.
The band, which broke up in 2014, has played a reunion show just last week in Odessa, with 200 people sweating and screaming all of their lyrics, but its members have also released a good quantity of material with other bands in the past couple of years. Yotsuya Kaidan, for example, are releasing these days what is one of the most poignant screamo EPs to ever come from Ukraine.
Bastos: Romanian screamo band, formerly just instrumental, have now added vocals and channel late ’90s American screamo and emo.
“Henry Parker” is the third track off Bastos‘ debut LP, ‘Second Favourite Person,’ and it’s possibly the best Italian emo song of the year. Frantic and twinkly guitars wreath around a raw yet powerful sound driven by ever changing drums. Heartfelt lyrics about an ephemeral and nocturnal love story are screamed with passion in the background of a present and dynamic sonic pattern.
The funny thing is that Bastos are not from Italy but from Romania. While the rest of their tracks are sung in English, the fact that “Henry Parker” has (slightly ungrammatical) Italian lyrics already suggests what some of the band’s main influences are. Raein, for example. The sound of the iconic Italian screamo band occasionally echoes on Bastos’ tracks, but it’s enriched by a taste for cheerful emo à la Algernon Cadwallader and math-rock guitars, delivering a product that is willingly raw but extremely rousing.
As a matter of fact, Bastos, who come from several places in Romania but are based in Bucharest, started playing a few years ago as a math-rock instrumental band. After a split with Pandrea released in 2014, ‘Second Favourite Person’ is the first album where they add vocals, and the mix between screamo and the math guitars they’re able to master is what makes it so great. There’s a Topshelf Records sort of vibe sometimes, but the honesty and the lo-fi urgency this record transmit connects it to ’90s emo and screamo, as if they’re taking back the genre to its natural DIY environment.
Trachimbrod: a new “indie” side to the Swedish-sung screamo.
Glacial and glittering guitars, uniform and decisive rhythmic patterns, desperate shaking vocals on the verge of bursting. These are more or less the defining traits of screamo in Sweden, a country that is one of the most prolific when it comes to this niche genre. Bands like Suis La Lune, who have been pioneering this type of music in Stockholm for more than ten years, are known to every screamo fan in the world, but there are many Swedish bands that are quickly getting the international attention they deserve.
Trachimbrod is one of those bands. Their style is unmistakably close to the rest of their compatriots, but the quality of their music is outstanding. The band’s first album, ‘A Collection Of Hidden Sketches,’ came out in 2012 and was a real gem. Hoarse yet harmonious, with unforgettable guitar melodies emerging from a thick and icy sonic blanket, their songwriting felt unstudied and original, setting them apart from many similar bands in the world.
While their following split with Sore Eyelids showed worrisome chameleonic skills, resulting in them sounding way too similar to the dreamy shoegaze of their split partners, their 2017 comeback with ‘Leda’ is a breath of fresh air for Swedish and international screamo. It’s a soft-tempered record where atmospheric guitar arpeggios endlessly chase each other in a post-rock setting, reaching a climax only rarely and creating a dense emotional tension.
The singer – who also sings in the lively emo group I Love Your Lifestyle – switches his lyrics from English to Swedish this time, increasing the magic and the mystery of the band even more. Occasionally, he adds poignant clean parts that exalt the musical potential and versatility of the music, making ‘Leda’ a thorough record that will make it really easy to fall in love with this band.
49 Morphines: the unpredictable tension of South Korean post-rock
Sometimes music can be so vivid and graspable that it allows the listener to create a visual representation, like listening to a record soundtrack a movie that doesn’t exist. ‘Partial Eclipse,’ the only full-length release by 49 Morphines, is one of those albums.
This post-punk five-piece started playing in Seoul, South Korea in 2003. In spite of a 14-year-long career, their discography only consists of one EP from 2004 and the aforementioned LP released in 2008.
49 Morphines play an impeccable mix of screamo and post-rock, similar in a way to their Japanese neighbors, Envy – yet this sound is more complex and particular. The contrast between soft and explosive is less balanced and predictable. At first, an Explosions In The Sky-like tenderness leaks through quiet and poignant guitars that never feel comforting, as the violence that comes before and after is unprecedented. The rhythm gets fast, crammed with ever-changing drum tempos and frantic guitars equally inspired by hardcore and metal. The listener’s awareness of the upcoming tempest is enough to turn even the softer moments in a vortex of tension and anxiety.
It’s been nine years since the release of ‘Partial Eclipse’, and meanwhile, some of the band members have started new bands; Noeazy plays a particularly furious type of metalcore while Jambinai mixes post-rock with traditional Korean folk instruments. Yet 49 Morphines still play a couple of shows every year, and they might even release something new in the near future according to an interview from last year.
Piri Reis: emoviolence has never sounded so loud and so good
While screamo was born in North America and later developed in Europe, in the past ten years it has reached almost every corner of the planet. South East Asia is one of the liveliest areas for screamo, with several respectable bands reaching out from the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia. Piri Reis come from the latter, from the middle-sized city of Shah Alam, and they’re one of the most interesting young acts in Asia.
Piri Reis’ name originates from the Ottoman admiral who drew what is known to be the oldest world map in 1513. To get all the information necessary to its creation, the admiral Pīrī Reʾīs used ten Arab sources, four Portuguese maps and one that belonged to Columbus that was stolen from a Spanish caravel. Similarly, the Malaysian band seems to have learned the lesson of several screamo scenes from all over the world but is not content with plain imitation.
The band’s main influences include classic groups such as Orchid or Pg.99 mixed with European emoviolence while making their music personal. Violence is the most important component of their sound, but it somehow feels justified and never messy or confusing. Every guitar riff is relevant to the song’s structure as it explodes in its uproarious melody before burning out into softer nervous parts. These riffs end up being the most tense thanks to the powerful and heartbreaking vocals of singer Mira.
Piri Reis have recorded a demo and a split with Coma Regalia from Michigan, both in 2015. The latter has been released by three labels in three different continents, emphasizing the band’s international mindset. After a lot of shows in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia, they managed to embark on a tour in Japan this year. Sooner or later the band will certainly manage to take their intense live sets even outside of Asia, and it would be more than deserved.