Band – Riversleem

Album – A Second Release By Riversleem

Country of Origin – Canada

Genre – Metalcore/Mathcore

Release Date – September 25, 2023

Label – Zegema Beach Records

Author – Andy D

The 2020s are setting themselves up as a great decade for genres across the metalcore/screamo/grind spectrum. Not only are leagues of excellent new bands pushing the style forward, but we have also had the reformation of just about every giant from their original scenes. The return of these older bands is a sign of the broad revival of 90s metallic hardcore, a genre which was pushed deeper underground as the late 2000s redefined and defamed the words “metalcore” and “screamo” in the cultural consciousness.

Enter Riversleem, whose first release, which slipped past me in 2021, is a four-track EP of blistering hardcore with a sometimes groovy metallic edge. Some sections have the rhythmic and harmonic complexity of pre-Jane Doe Converge, whereas others have the chugging alt-metal moshiness of Snapcase. All of this is packaged together with the blood-curdling shrieks of vocalist Kyle Zurevinski. 

On this second release, the format is almost identical. Four short, sweet, pummeling tracks feature riffs on riffs on riffs and a generous helping of skronky dissonance and palpitating rhythmic confusion to make the listening experience as invigorating as possible. The clean, uncomplicated production is one of the keys to how enjoyable this EP is. The recording quality is excellent, but the drums sound roomy enough to avoid sterility, and the vocals do not rely on any obvious post-processing as a crutch. Zurevinski’s vocals sound like a larynx entering a paper shredder the entire time, which contributes to the overall more organic and well-balanced sound that sets this EP apart from their first.

One thing I admire about this in comparison to many other current bands in this vein is the balance of compositional elements. Whereas many bands in the space of mathy metalcore take a kitchen sink approach to rhythmic complexity, fast style changes, and prog-adjacent displays of instrumental prowess, Riversleem never loses track of the groove, and always maintains a cohesive and dynamic approach to songwriting. When there is a breakdown, the song structure makes sure that it feels earned, notably heavier, and narratively significant. Dissonant, painful riffs usually take place on top of driving, steady grooves. For this reason more than any other, I return to the comparison to early Converge, whose greatest work uses restraint in how it is constructed, so that it can consistently top itself in intensity.

Additionally, these four tracks provide a wonderful variety in the various ways metal and hardcore can collide, while still feeling very cohesive. The first track, viscerally titled “Eating Teeth”, kicks off with a much more neocrust-oriented sound, with melodic minor-key riffing over a d-beat. The opening riff on the second track is mostly chugging power chords taking place over a basic rock beat, but is somehow the most frantic moment on the whole EP. Something in the combination of speed, the nastiness of the chords, and the guitar tone caramelize into a frantic, feral version of a traditional heavy metal riff. Throughout the whole EP, and especially on the last two tracks, elements of OSDM and crossover thrash mingle as well. I don’t mean to put everything here in a box – each track contributes to the band’s unique sound – but it is refreshing to see a band who can so effectively synthesize the amazing variety that exists in different strands of metallic hardcore. 

In just two short EPs, Riversleem has joined the ranks of some of my favorite currently active bands with a short but unrelentingly intense genre-spanning style of hardcore, with the advantage of hindsight on what made so many of the classics from that brief early era of metalcore so enduring. I am curious to see how they may evolve as they write more material.

Biography:  Andy D is a composer, bassist, and recovering academic. His own musical output draws from free improvisation, electroacoustic composition, metal, and jazz.