7 Crucial Bands at Crucialfest 11
Music Festival Coverage
For the 11th time in Salt Lake history, Crucialfest will be resurrected for a four-day event running August 25–28. Held at Metro Music Hall, the event will open the floodgates of hardcore hell in honor of the wayward metal community crawling in SLC. Crucialfest 11 will feature a mix of local beasties and headline some national beloveds. To prepare your ears for the event, SLUG has compiled a list of seven of the featured bands, provided a bit of background and highlighted a track for each—all so you can decide who to see for yourself.
Cult Leader will be headlining Crucialfest on August 27, otherwise known as “Graywhale Night.” Formed in 2013, the group is known for coming up in Salt Lake and forming from members of the group Gaza. Their sound is on the aggressive side of the metalcore spectrum and reeks ardent chaos over a crowd. Meaty vocals and midrange distorted guitar delivers a sludge-ish punk that speaks to the gut of their dedicated fans.
Cult Leader = Pig Destroyer + Converge
To prepare for the release of Cult Leader’s new EP, which will debut at Crucialfest 11, we’ve revisited a hit track of their first-ever, 2014 EP, Nothing for Us Here. The third track of the EP features an intense intro of full-bodied sound. The opening, catchy guitar riff taunts the listener with a feeling that the sound might explode at any moment. Lead singer Anthony Lucero moves the song forward with a disturbing verse of lyrics: “My name is sorrow / the name they gave me / when I took their joy away / with my first breath / with my first / breath.” The sound then erupts with penetrating drums, and Lucero’s vocals wail like a bloody criminal in a torture chamber. It’s a brutality that speaks to the darkest parts of a person and only grows as the song furthers into darkness.
The Casket Lottery will be headlining the last night of Crucialfest, August 28 aka “Crucial Night.” The Kansas City, Missouri–based band will bring an indie rock sound full of tension and cutting-edge anger. The everlasting group has played, written and performed together for 24 years and is as fresh sounding as ever. Their most recent album, Short Songs for End Times, is celebrated for its catchy and interesting guitar riffs, head banging drum sequences, great rock production and use of ethereal background.
The Casket Lottery = The Smashing Pumpkins + Balance and Composure
With their debut album released in 1999, The Casket Lottery has been through many versions of themselves, and their sound modulates through their discography. “More Blood” is the third track on their most recent album release from 2020, Short Songs for End Times. The construction of the track is refined, written thoughtfully and skillfully. Each instrument has its own moving part that fits the rest of the sound. It’s like a photo mosaic where, when zoomed in, there’s constant movement in every instrument, but they work together to make one giant sound. The launch of the chorus starts as all sound stops and multiple voices yell. It’s the moment of the song that pushes endorphins to the very forefront of the brain—the rest is history because you’re waiting for it to happen again. “More Blood,” and the entire album of short songs, is a showcase of writing skill.
Threar is a Salt Lake hardcore group who produce some of the darkest and most dramatic work on the SLC scene right now. They’re known for their creative and panic-inducing song structure and emotional, melodic lines in vocals and instrumentation. Threar will be playing on Graywhale Night to the likes of metalheads who love to be inspired and depressed simultaneously. With their second album released just this year, their discography is a performance of musical expertise and precise writing excellence.
“A Heavy Thing, Your Nothing.”
Threar = La Dispute + Daughters
On the map more and more every year, Threar released their first full-length album, You Live With What You Create, this July. It’s a masterpiece of emotional guitar interludes, disturbed intros and satisfying chord progressions. “A Heavy Thing, Your Nothing” is the sixth track that runs at six minutes and 20 seconds long. The song’s first four minutes divulge a desperate and fucked up story, narrated by Nicholas Bat’s roaring vocals. It begins softly with a slow beat and impassioned picking pattern but drops into a metalcore suddenly as Bat’s vocals escalate. As the story comes to a close, the song is carried out by an anthem-like chord progression by Wolf Nunley. It serves as the end credits to an art-horror movie. It’s the time to let the observer breathe and process what just happened. Perfectly structured, it’s a complete emotional journey.
I Hear Sirens is an instrumental hard rock band born in Salt Lake in 2005. Because of their instrumental song structures, their sound grew famous internationally and in non-English speaking countries. Their fame led them to tour in unique places like China and Germany, and our Salt Lake honeys flew the nest with long tours to their dedicated international fans. Their use of piano is central to their sound and creates a lightheartedness to what is otherwise a dark and twisted sonic arrangement.
“Drowning City Skyline”
I Hear Sirens = Jakob + This Will Destroy You
“Drowning City Skyline” is the third track of I Hear Sirens’ hit, 2009 album Beyond the Sea, Beneath the Sky. Since this release, the band have been praised for their post-rock instrumental sound. This fervent track begins with a guitar riff that carries the theme for the song’s length. Layers unfold over the next four minutes with an echoing synthesizer sound and a low bass carried by the drums. As the guitar begins to move around the scale more, the drums become more prevalent and it eventually reaches a bridge of sound where the guitar dramatically hushes. The last minute is carried by this soft dance between two guitar lines that perfectly exit the sound, back out of time. It evokes a vigorous, dark theme and presents a satisfying, trance-like experience.
Charlatan is a give-no-fucks kind of group who fuse punk, rock and metal. They’re known for their creative and witty song presentation. Everything from the lyrics, sound effects, song structure and production choices are completely unlike anything you’ve heard before. They’ll be playing on August 25 to open the festival with “Huge Brands Night,” and the crowd will be in for a surprise as Charlatan wreaks havoc on opening night.
Charlatan = Taking Back Sunday + Joyce Manor + Twenty One Pilots
“SHEEP” is the most recent single from Charlatan and gives a collage of dark humor, creativity, left-field weirdness and taste. It feels like the track covers seven different genres, and they’re so contrasting that by the end of it you’re left in disbelief. The beginning of the song sounds like pop-punk metal and uses a drum machine whose sound reminds me of Harley Quinn. There’s fine details sprinkled throughout the entire track, but the weirdest one I heard was this mamba-ish sounding piano at the end of the bridge. After that, the song moves back to the chorus to finish the sound, stopping abruptly and completely at around three minutes. That kind of stop tricks you and makes you think there’s a glitch. The next thing you hear is a chaotic, black metal drum riff and guitar sound. It’s like a planned trainwreck, staged for ironic enjoyment.
Swarmer is a more recent four-piece project from members of Salt Lake origin bands in the metalcore scene. Swarmer members have been a part of Gaza, Pilot This Plane Down, Form Of Rocket, Motherkilljoy and others. Their progressive sound is intrusive and abrasive, but, at the same time, smooth and satisfying. Swarmer will be rocking on Graywhale Night and will shake the walls with punching guitar chugs and unhinged disorder.
Swarmer = Foo Fighters + Underoath
“Stardust” is the fourth track to the most recent album release, “Brutalist,” from Swarmer. It’s ’90s rock meets metalcore. The vocals have that same kind of moody and careless feeling that sounds like how Kurt Cobain looked. Another element that brings ’90s rock to the brain is the much-slower tempo compared to a lot of hard rock music and metal, but this gives the track the flair it needs. The haunting guitar saturates the bridge with a vexing and hold-your-breath interlude that catapults the rest of the song into a harsher version of itself. Each instrument varies the main melodies of the track, but the rhythms change within the background details. “Stardust” is an eight-minute journey into a starry illusion—as the title suggests.
Sunsleeper is a Salt Lake band turned national who’ve been pushing out releases in 2022 left and right. Their sound encompasses an indie rock vibe that’s camouflaged with hard rock guitar riffs and thoughtful lyrics. Sunsleeper are a group with attention to aural aesthetics, and they continue to cultivate a fan base that’s all over the metalcore and rock map. They’ll be performing on Crucial Night, giving an opportunity for listeners to sink their teeth into some hard and catchy tunes.
Sunsleeper = Band of Horses + August Burns Red
“Currents” is one of the many byproducts of the stay-at-home mandate. It’s the third track on the most recent EP from Sunsleeper, Stay Home. The track starts with a low guitar line that explodes into an ear-catching and refreshing intro, easily my favorite part of the song. Sunsleeper play with the idea of having two, distinct guitar parts at the beginning that do different things within the same chord, but in contrasting registers. “Currents” feels like an alternative rock song mixed with elements found all over metalcore. The chorus is written in such a way that you crave to sing along with it, which is how a lot of alternative rock songs feel. The drums switch back and forth from basic alternative beats to more progressive rolls. It’s a lighthearted way to listen to metal, but it’s just as powerful.