The implosion and eventual dissolution of Every Time I Die in January of 2022 left a void in the scene and a hole in the hearts of many long time fans. The band was a foundational and lasting influence within hardcore and metalcore for over 20 years. While other bands overstayed their welcome or faded away into obscurity; ETID were always consistently great. All the way up to what would end up being their swan song and final record Radical.

But like nature the scene abhors a vacuum. So it wasn’t long before a few members of ETID announced their intention to start another band under a new name laying the foundation for what would become Better Lovers. Better Lovers are sometimes called a supergroup due to the hard hitting talent that have come together to form this new entity. Featuring Jordan Buckley, Steve Micciche, and Clayton Holyoak of ETID, Will Putney of End, Fit for an Autopsy, and producing something like sixty albums over the last twenty or so years, (Including the last two ETID albums.) and finally rounding out the all-star lineup is Greg Puciato of The Dillinger Escape Plan.

Better Lovers surprise released their debut EP God Made Me An Animal in July 2023. They went on their first tour that summer, both headlining a few dates of their own and opening for Underoath mostly on the East Coast. Better Lovers immediately went to the top of my must see list. So I knew I would be in attendance whenever they made it out to California.

When they announced a headlining tour I was already excited and then I saw the lineup. Greyhaven, Foreign Hands, SeeYouSpaceCowboy, and Better Lovers. To say this group of artists was stacked would have been an understatement. I got my ticket as soon as they were available. As anticipation built and the days counted down to the show I realized something special was coming together. Not only was I going to see four awesome bands, but they all had new music they were touring to promote. Talk about an opportunity to showcase the new material from four killer bands in their prime as they translate their songs from the studio to the stage.

These four bands are part of what I am referring to as The New Core: a wellspring of bands that have swelled up in the last five years or so that are carrying the torch for bands like ETID and other old guards of waves past. Whatever subgenre of core the universal essence is energy, taking that youthful passion and longing for identity or expression and utilizing aggressive music as an outlet. That fire which drives the bands together in the first place to create and document their truth is then played out jointly in live performance which becomes a powerful conduit binding fans and artists in community. These elements make for very natural transitions from writing, to recording, to concerts because the enthusiasm is present at every stage in the process and on every stage of the tour.

I got to the venue about fifteen minutes before the show started and made my way front and center a row back from the cattle guards. The Roseville Goldfield Trading post is a newer venue, the second location of the downtown Sacramento Goldfield and shares management with the legendary Ace of Spades. Despite being billed as a Country & Western bar and a newer venue they’ve had a surprisingly exceptional run of shows in the hardcore and metal adjacent genres over the last couple years. In fact this would be my third time seeing Foreign Hands and second time seeing SeeYouSpaceCowboy at this venue!

For a Monday night the place was already packed with the dull rumble of overlapping anticipatory conversations. Jazz was accompanied by a slideshow of dogs projected onto the rear of the stage behind the drum kit. It’s always been funny to me what music they play before metal and hardcore shows and in-between acts. It’s almost never the same style as what brought you out. Rap, pop, and classic rock are pretty common; but lowkey jazz and lofi hip-hop beats was a new one.


Before too long the lights dimmed and a dude with no shoes on and short bright red hair ran to the drum kit quickly joined by the rest of the band as the show began. Opening acts are kind of a crapshoot and can be a bit of a mixed bag. Sometimes they are relative unknowns just trying to get a start serving their role to warm up the crowd for the main attractions. Tonight this would absolutely not be the case. In fact Greyhaven had just done back to back headlining shows in the Bay Area before joining back up with the Better Lovers tour.

Greyhaven dove into their first couple songs breaking to ask who all had heard of them as the crowd went wild with applause. Then asking who was hearing them for the first time. ‘That one guy! Well today you’re gonna learn!’ Their bassist and vocalist thrashed around the stage. Meanwhile their guitarist stood more stoically tapping away and tremolo picking up a storm. ‘We just put out a new EP Stereo Grief a couple weeks ago. Who all has had a chance to check it out?’ I think he was a bit surprised at the roar of cheers and applause in response. ‘Well alright! We’re gonna play the single off that EP, it’s called “The Welcome Party”.

“The Welcome Party” opens with a sweet jangly guitar riff as pummeling drums and ethereal vocals join the mix. The song carries a lot of the narrative weight of the EP.

‘Don’t think I’ll ever get home
This isn’t where I thought I’d be
Disillusioned with what’s to come
At least I’ve finally broken free
Can’t believe I never caught on
This isn’t who I thought I’d be
This illusion would let me die
I think it’s got a hold on me’

I ran into their bassist Johnny Muench and guitarist Nick Spencer after the show. After congratulating them on the new EP which I said I’d really enjoyed, I asked them what it’s like taking something from writing and recording to playing live. They said it has been really fun getting better and better with practice. Going from older songs that they’ve played a thousand songs to ones that are brand new and feeding off that energy on stage. Then just a few minutes later I bumped into their vocalist Brent Mills and asked him the same question about taking new material from studio to stage. Without a moment’s hesitation he grinned and said, ‘Fun!’

It was really heartwarming to hear such a consistently enthusiastic response from the band. They have such a vibrant youthful energy that is felt on the stage, on the record, and in person. Brent Mills continued ‘It still feels kinda wild and surreal. We just put this out and people are singing along. We’re like ‘Have you heard this?’ and they’re like ‘Yeah!’ It is interesting to observe how streaming has sped up the industry especially when it comes to live performances. Music is more accessible than ever and audiences are quick to familiarize themselves with brand new material.

In an interview on the Chord Progression Podcast vocalist Brent Mills gave even more insight into the writing and recording process:

‘We haven’t really had the luxury to record on our own really in the past. So when we picked the five songs that we were gonna do I was already familiar with them. So then just getting to sit with those five and really focus on them before we even went up there to record. It was something we were really committed to. These five songs are really strong and we think we can come into the studio pretty well prepared with how this is gonna sound. And it’s not gonna change very much from the basement to the finished product. Which was honestly a first for us there really weren’t very many changes.’

Stereo Grief is an exceptionally tight collection of songs. Over just five tracks and around twenty minutes Greyhaven spins up an incredibly cohesive and engaging tale. Building off the post-hardcore sound developed on their 2022 full length This Bright and Beautiful World, Stereo Grief has an intensity of focus through a sharp narrative vision. The story behind the EP was inspired by And He Built a Crooked House by Robert A. Heinland , a Twilight Zone-esque short story about a house that doubles as a tesseract and the movie Interstellar. Over the course of the EP the main character goes through doorways and enters different realities offering glimpses of outcomes that might have been. The EP is a vague exploration of the nature of reality and self-reflection or ‘Our usual kind of music with this loose concept looming in the background.’

Brent continues describing the sound and intention behind the EP: ‘We were pretty deliberate on wanting it to be pretty aggressive the whole way through. Like come out really swinging with the Solid State release and kind of hint on where the new stuff is gonna go. Because we are still writing and working on trying to get a record out as well. So this is a really nice indicator, but also it’s kind of its own thing in a way. That it’s just this big aggressive piece of five songs, it’s just like boom; a little explosion.’

Stereo Grief by Greyhaven was released April 12 on Solid State Records.

Foreign Hands

Of the four bands on this tour Foreign Hands are easily the most sonically distinct. While the other three bands all have post-hardcore roots with rock influences, Foreign Hands are straight up metalcore. When I saw Foreign Hands a couple years ago opening for Counterparts it was the first time I had ever heard of them. I was quite taken with their 2000’s metalcore sound and decided to check them out after the show. One of my favorite things about going to concerts is making that connection with a band’s music and finding out about artists you never would have otherwise just because they happened to be on tour with another band you came to see. I’ve found some of my favorite bands in this roundabout fashion. I’m really glad I looked up Foreign Hands because their release Bleed the Dream ended up being my favorite EP of 2022.

As the rest of the band grabbed their instruments and strapped up with their backs to the audience, lead singer Tyler Norris casually picked up the mic stand and moved it out of the way. Yeah, he’s not going to need it. Tyler stomps around the stage just as he implores the audience to ‘Move from side to fucking side!’ Jumping up and down, wrapping the mic cord around his arm, oozing high octane hardcore. He has the most energy of any front person I’ve ever seen. After a whirlwind of several non-stop songs he pauses to introduce the band and say hi. ‘We’re Foreign Hands from Delaware. We have a new record coming out in a couple months.’ This is met with a huge round of applause. He kind of pauses for a moment taking this in and smiles saying simply: ‘Very cool.’

While the band was playing “God Under Fingernails” one of the singles from their upcoming album I could see SeeYouSpaceCowboy’s guitarist Timmy Moreno just off stage headbanging and singing along, he’s obviously a fan. This song starts fast, has a building intensity, the chorus is great for two stepping, and it has a brutal breakdown at the end making for a super fun and engaging live song. Foreign Hands featured a guest vocalist on one song, who I would later meet working the SYSC merch table and come to find out is Jess Nyx of the bands Mortality Rate and World of Pleasure. These examples of the comradery that develops while touring are always nice to see.

I was able to speak with vocalist Tyler Norris briefly before the show. I asked what it’s like taking songs that they’ve just written and recorded and getting to play them live for an audience. He was really thinking about how to respond, so I asked if for example they were nervous to play new songs. He said, ‘No, like we obviously want to be able to play them competently and put on a good show. But it’s more about maintaining the energy present on the record in live performance. Translating songs from record to show and playing songs that no one has heard before.’ Most of all after a couple of very well received EP’s, they were excited to finally be putting out a full length.

‘This is a brand new song from that record.’ With that they launched into a song that I hadn’t heard yet, so I won’t know for sure what it was until the record comes out. But much like “Conditioned for a Head-On Collision”, the first single Foreign Hands released last November when they announced the new album, this new song also had an increased vocal presence from guitarist Jack Beatson. They closed out their set with “Separation Souvenir” off Bleed the Dream which is probably my favorite song of theirs so far. Hard hitting and fast paced a perfect choice to end on.

Foreign Hands just released another new single on May 3rd titled “Horror Domain”. “Horror Domain” starts softly with a kind of ghostly combination of guitar and voice before launching forward into Foreign Hands potent blend of metalcore. The saccharine sweet chorus on this track interlaced with the hard hitting main vocal assault encapsulates everything that has made me such a fan of this band. From Shadows are Security back in the day, to Death is Little More by Boundaries just released at the end of March, I’m a sucker for any kind of core that explores the interplay of the dualities between clean and harsh vocals.

What’s Left Unsaid by Foreign Hands is out June 21st on SharpTone Records. Just as the band is excited to finally be releasing it, I’m stoked to hear it. This album is easily one of my most anticipated releases of the year.


There was that red haired no shoes drummer again… I knew he looked familiar! Turns out SYSC’s AJ Tartol was filling in for Greyhaven‘s drummer. Just another example of the fellowship between bands on this tour. I noticed that both SYSC’s guitarists and their bassist were wearing these heavy boots and dress shoes while their drummer played barefoot. There’s not really any deep significance to this. I just found it humorous at the time while they tuned up their instruments and set the stage.

The lights dimmed, they returned to the stage, and then the band did this thing I’ve never really seen anyone do before. With their intro backing track building and drums coming in their bassist and guitarist started screaming into the mics doing what I can only describe as a bizarre combination of carnival barkers and shit talking. ‘Come on mother fuckers, get up, let’s do this! Is that all you got?!?’ Yelling all over each other SeeYouSpaceCowboy took the stage with a vengeance working up the crowd. It was unique, jarring, and a fitting prelude. 

SYSC live performance is pure unhinged cathartic chaos at its finest. They utilize a wireless system like nothing I’ve ever seen as they all smash around the stage. Constantly switching places in an orgiastic frenzy. They seamlessly shift from song to song as lead vocalist Connie Sgarbossa yells out: ‘Dance time motherfuckers!’ Guitarist Ethan Sgarbossa screams, Connie does flying karate kicks, jumping off monitors, while Taylor Allen throws his bass into the air.

They also have four vocalists which they put to full effect. Especially on their new record Coup De Grâce which has an increased presence of clean vocals from guitarist Ethan Sgarbossa and bassist Taylor Allen. It becomes impossible to focus on any one thing as they shift between singers, styles, and melodies. Luckily I got a set list from their bassist or I honestly might not have been able to fully recall exactly what I had just bore witness to.

Looking at their set they played mostly older songs which allowed them to really highlight the new songs they chose to play; “Subtle Whispers to Take Your Breath Away”, “Lubricant Like Kerosene”, and “Chewing the Scenery”. Mostly the singles which makes sense given the album just came out the week before. They opened the set with the intro backing and clapping from “Respite For A Tragic Tale”. Played live this was an excellent opportunity for audience participation as we all clapped along in anticipation. In the music video the applause scene beautifully transitions from clapping into the drum intro of “Silhouettes in Motion.”

The music videos SYSC produced for Coup De Grâce are simply stunning. In an interview with Rock Sound, Connie expanded on the visual details on display:

‘This entire story is my thing. Every outfit that you see the band wearing is something I went out and found. Every shot in every video came from me running around and saying what was next. Being a creative director for other bands is my dream job, but doing it for my own was really nice, too. Knowing that this is what we were moving towards, this is what we wanted to happen. It was really motivating for me because this feels even more advanced than anything else we’ve done.’

“Lubricant Like Kerosene” is just a perfect live track. Dancy, fun, and carefree “Lubricant” emphasizes the hedonistic undertones of Coup De Grâce and cranks all that energy and sexual tension up to 11. Coup De Grâce is like a series of interconnecting scenes. In an interview with New Noise Magazine Connie talks about one of the main non-musical influences on songwriting for the album: ‘Song to song to song, the biggest influence was Frank Miller’s Sin City. Because all those books are different stories, some with interconnecting characters, some with entirely different characters, but they all take place in this city, and then that city becomes a character in itself. And that was something that we really wanted to emulate with connecting things in every song.’

They closed with “Chewing the Scenery” which was an exceptionally fitting choice as it was actually one of the first songs the band wrote for the new record. The song sort of opened the floodgates and gave the band permission to experiment with a heavily indie rock influenced sound. As Connie related in an interview with Good Noise Podcast: ‘We dove into this thing and how we could play around with these different influences that we were throwing in that we really hadn’t heard bands take from and how we could make it work. Lots of like staying in a cabin locked up together for a week or two weeks to write music and figure out how we were gonna do this. It was kind of a period of experimentation until we could lock things in.’

Again to Rock Sound, Connie elaborated on the freedom they embraced on the new record with a wide ranging mix of sounds:

‘Cowboy has always had this incessant need to change after every album. We need to imbue it with something different, and because I wanted to do something more ambitious, this was the right time to push forward in this way. If we’re going to do this, then we are going to commit. We will write an indie rock song. We will write lounge songs. There are still songs that have breakdowns, but there will also be driving bass and music to shake your ass to. It just has to be an extension of us. That’s the most important thing.’ 

Coup De Grâce by SeeYouSpaceCowboy was released April 19th on Pure Noise Records. For an even more in-depth look at the album be sure to check out our review.

Better Lovers

Going from the quad vocal assault of SYSC to the singular voice of Greg Puciato was quite the abrupt change of scenery. Sporting a mohawk, ripped-off sleeves, shorts, and combat boots with veins popping out of his neck, Greg looked every bit the mythical punk rock archetypal anti-hero. While he does actually have a decent singing voice and a softer side – as evident on Dillinger albums like Dissociation, his solo albums, touring with Jerry Cantrell, and even on the Better Lovers EP itself – this live performance was not that.

Tonight was pure adrenaline and aggression. Constant hammering of d-beat grindcore like drums, frenetic dual guitar attacks, and non-stop screaming as the band smashed all over the stage. At one point Greg went off into the audience to join in gang vocals on “30 Under 13”. ‘Don’t you wanna be saved!’ Better Lovers gave even SYSC a run for their money with this anarchic high energy performance.

Speaking with Kerrang! guitarist Jordan Buckley was prophetic of my experience seeing the band perform in describing what to expect from Better Lovers: ‘When we go onstage we’re saying, ‘Here’s what we are, here’s what we have, fucking buckle up cause it’s gonna knock you out!’ It’s gonna fucking knock you down. There is a blinding, energetic creative force inside of all of us that only amplifies when we’re together, and makes us go, ‘We’re gonna try to beat the shit out of you with our music every day, for as many days as possible.’

Maybe it was the shock of going from the multi vocal onslaught of SYSC to a single vocalist to focus on. Maybe it was just that Greg is just so fucking charismatic. But whereas most performing artists have this way of looking past or even straight through you, Greg has this way of looking right at you and really seeing you. There’s a warmth to his gaze that’s similar to Matt Heafy in this regard.

The dynamics of this tour lent themselves to a funny set of circumstances. The newest band is headlining on the back of the fewest songs to support an album that hasn’t even been announced. Though the band has publicly started they are currently sitting on an album worth of songs that are ready to go. And given the way they surprise released their debut EP, it would be entirely in keeping with their approach to drop the album out of nowhere at any time.

Typically headliners are caught between the tension of playing the hits and playing their new stuff. That just isn’t the case for Better Lovers. In point of fact all of their public material to date is barely enough to fill out a set, which in a way was sort of nice because there wasn’t much of a worry of if they would play certain songs. They kind of had to play them all in a whirlwind of fire and fury. The one exception to the non-stop aggression was “Rusty Cage” of all things, a Soundgarden cover they somehow worked into all the madness. After which Greg joked that he didn’t know how Chris Cornell could hit those highs for half an hour, when he could barely make it through one song.

“The Flowering” is Better Lovers newest single released April 3rd. The song starts off with rumbling drums and guitar feedback before diving into a kind of melodic hardcore sound with a kind of rock and roll rhythm to it. Fairly similar to the feeling Better Lovers developed on their EP, which takes all the sounds the bands these various musicians came from and are known for and blends them up with great kaleidoscopic effect. “The Flowering” features more of the trademark sing-along lines Better Lovers are becoming known for: ‘No roots can hold you down!’ Building toward a climactic finish with: ‘All the bodies are fuel for the fire!’ “The Flowering” also shows off some especially tasty guitar riffs from Jordan Buckley and Will Putney.

The music video for “The Flowering” starts off as your pretty typical band in a small room affair. Then the video slowly incorporates these little surrealist elements of plants creeping up from behind pictures and under rugs. Until it goes from just kinda creepy to a little more horror direction. I won’t spoil it so if you haven’t seen the video yet, do yourself a favor and check it out. Because it’s campy, hilarious, and awesome.

God Made Me An Animal by Better Lovers was released July 7th 2023 on SharpTone Records.

One common thread I’ve picked up on throughout this look at how four different bands approach writing, recording, and live performance is the dynamic between seclusion and exposition. Going from a cabin, studio, or basement to sold out shows across the country is quite the juxtaposition. Moving from the intimacy of the studio getting everything sounding just right on the record to having the freedom to rock out and goof off a bit on stage sounds liberating.

It’s no wonder then that consistently the experience has been described as fun. As much as the bands are playing heavy songs about burning the world down, there’s also a warmth in their eyes and a glow in their smiles of gratitude. Seeing their fans showing up to appreciate first hand what they spent so much time and energy writing and recording. There’s also a sense of solidarity between the bands themselves.

One of my favorite things about going out to shows are the small quiet moments that some might otherwise find boring or tedious. I find myself absorbed in the minutia of clearing the stage and small conversations in the background. As roadies, stage crew, members from the band that just played, and the band that are about to play all join forces to haul amps, guitar cases, and the never ending drum kit pieces. This unity and sense of common purpose on display at concerts is something I will never grow tired of witnessing.

Another tension I noticed was how time collapses when comparing the writing process to the recording process. Writing out ideas, lyrics, and music might happen over the course of months or years. Then all of that time spent brainstorming and rewriting gets condensed into a weekend or if you’re lucky a couple of weeks to record and finalize what may have been brewing for quite some time.

I can only imagine the pressure and tension that must build up during this process. But from what I’ve heard and read from these bands along the way this seems to act as fuel they convert into creative energy that gets funneled directly into the record. Then a funny thing happens; Time stretches back out again. The bands take what was recorded in the privacy of the studio out on the road to exhibit publicly over many weeks or months of touring. These are some of the dualities at play on the journey from writing and recording to performing.

The bands I’ve been thrilled to cover in this feature represent just four facets of the nearly infinite face of The New Core: progressive post-hardcore, metalcore, sasscore, and chaotic hardcore. Whatever particular flavor these artists are bringing passion and love for extreme music with them and being met in equal force by an eternally loyal fan base. I’m happy to report that the scene is alive and well. Long live the scene.

Greyhaven band photo by Errick Easterday. Concert photos by Joe Calixto.

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