Every year, the music industry looks more like a complex nostalgic souvenir racket. Pressing plant turnaround times and festival lineups sag under the weight of the bands you loved most (back whenever it was you last paid attention). For me, one of those eras is the early aughts, during a heyday of Northeast post-hardcore; partially staked around the Level Plane Records roster. If you absolutely must defend ‘American Screamo’ in any capacity, this is one of the best places to start. For me, digging through Archivist’s Bandcamp page is like visiting an dear friend from a time I remember fondly.
The Archivist label is the brainchild of Robotic Empire, who have been quietly and consistently excellent for decades. The Archivist is a digital-only clearinghouse, mostly for out of print gems from 10-15 years ago. They’ve also begun issuing and reissuing bands from like-minded bands before and since. Of the hours of music posted so far, these are a few of the brightest gems:
City of Caterpillar
When City Of Caterpillar’s debut LP first arrived in 2002, I remember hearing of it simply as a Pg.99 side project. That description was apt, but woefully complete given the benefit of hindsight. Well more than a decade on, it still stands on it’s own, so much so that it’s the only of these records to be recently reissued
All seven songs are exhilarating and messy, a swashbuckling mix of grimy punk and earnest emo. It’s all right in line with peak Planes Mistaken For Stars (who toured with them around this same time). “A Heart Filled Reaction to Dissatisfaction” is probably the best single-song summation of what was best about City Of Caterpillar, though “Fucking Hero” is a close second.
(from: City Of Caterpillar, Level Plane Records 2002)
“Teratogen” is actually the final song on Transistor Transistor’s final LP. A few years on from their urgent and outstanding Erase All Name and Likeness this was more refined. Released as most of the bands’ touring days mostly passed, it never fully got its’ due at the time. Even on their way out, these guys were well ahead of their time. Produced by Kurt Ballou, it set a template for recent bands like Touché Amore or Xerxes with brute force intensity and spontaneous, swaying melody in remarkably even proportions.
(from Ruined Lives, Level-Plane Records, 2008)
Love Lost But Not Forgotten
You may have to take my word for this, but “a progressive hardcore band with two singers” in 2000 didn’t inspire the immediately dread it would today. After a self-titled debut, these St. Louis flamethrowers returned with an even more schizophrenic follow-up. Their particular stop/start mix of full-on blast beats and oblong Botch-inspired riffs was well ahead of it’s time. I actually missed out on LLBNF until a couple years after their reign. In an odd coincidence, I ended up sharing Kinko’s evening shifts in Boulder, CO with one of the singers. We shared stories of playing many of the same venues, with many of the same bands a couple years earlier. Nice dude. Even nicer that I didn’t have to feign interest in his old band, as I have with every other coworker since. Hell, it even holds up a decade after all that.
(from: Upon the Right, I Saw a New Misery, Happy Couples Never Last, 2002)
By the time 2001 rolled around, Milwaukee’s Forstella Ford were already three LPs deep and it showed. Mixing Northeast hardcore and Midwestern angular post-punk, Quietus found them at their expansive, ambitious best. Successful combinations of heavy and melodic are rare in any era. Forstella Ford pulled it off in a novel, complex way for three outstanding records, peaking here.
(from: Quietus, Level Plane Records 2001)
Riddle Of Steel
Also from St. Louis, Riddle of Steel were a few years after LLBNF. Their music was much less frantic, but just as urgent. Python is their debut, mixing Dischord earnestness with angular Midwestern grit; not far off from contemporaries like Shiner or Bluetip. Two thirds of this lineup is still very much in the game; frontman Andrew Elstner is now in Torche, and drummer Dave Turcrantz has spent most of his time since this anchoring Russian Circles.
(from: Python, Ascetic Records, 2003)
Welcome the Plague Year
Like City of Caterpillar, WtPY arrived as a “previous members of…” project. Their pedigree included two of my genre-wide favorites: Neil Perry and Joshua Fit For Battle. Similar to their previous projects, these songs find a post-screamo holy grail of restrained complexity and hardcore intensity. “Graveyard Planet” is one of the heaviest songs you’ll find which is roughly 0% metal. Which, for whatever reason, seemed like exactly the point.
(from: Welcome the Plague Year, Electric Human Project, 2004)
Grief is a newer release for Archivist, but a reissue originally recorded in 1992. Recently repressed by Fuck Yoga Records (hailing from Macedonia of all places), Grief is practically prehistoric by modern heavy music standards. But their primitive, snarling version of post-Sabbath doom seems practically prescient these days. Dismal is exactly the sort of relevant music history best served by the ubiquity of Bandcamp and other digital curating, which The Archivist hopefully continues uncovering.
(from: Dismal, Fuck Yoga Records 2015)
— S. ANDERSON