Death Goals secured a recording contract with Prosthetic Records following the critical acclaim of 2021’s The Horrible and the Miserable LP. Scream Blast Repeat called the band’s debut ‘a dark and maniacal record that mixes vicious humour with painful self-loathing’ and celebrated its powerviolence roots. Now, the London duo return with their tails up and expectations running high for album number two. A Garden of Dead Flowers appears one month before their friends in Pupil Slicer release their sophomore effort on the same label, but you can guarantee it will not sound like this. Death Goals call it “queercore.” Whatever it is, there’s no denying that it’s an emotional burden injected with a contemporary hardcore menace.
Harry Bailey’s hysterical screams and feedback-drenched guitars in the intro to ‘Genderless Clones of Gameshow Hosts’ build you up for a tipping point of rage as if waiting to add diesel to a bonfire of self-remonstration. You have your mouthguard in place when the dissonant dyad riff arrives, yet the impact still leaves you with aching gums. This is pain. This is discontent. “One thing I am certain/ I’m not certain who I am/ A creature of discomfort, barely a man/ The skin I inhabit is not who I am inside.” One can speculate if this is the personal memoir of gender transphoria or the words of a protagonist who suffers from it. The screams of “I am not a man/ I am not a woman/ I am nothing,” will leave you shaking with a voyeuristic shame.
“Queer hardcore forever” is the message on the duo’s UK tour poster for May 2023, but this self-identification is not clear-cut. Death Goals have no interest in propagating a message of happy-clappy diversity, nor do they ram anything down your throat apart from a monstrous siege of distorted noise on the likes of ‘Ultraviolence’ and ‘I Wouldn’t Be Caught Dead (Taking a Bullet for You)’. The former experiments with subtle time signature mathematics and abstract melodies; the latter begs the question – how do you play guitar and scream at the same time to a song that can rival the Dillinger Escape Plan’s complexity of thought?
Drummer, George Milner, has the fluid musical skills to match the transitory nature of his sexuality. People in the London/Hertfordshire hardcore scene will remember him as the vocalist of Chinned. Bailey was the drummer in that band also, yet he handles guitar duties here like a music college graduate. The two of them chart new territory on ‘Loveless’, where the Killing Joke discordance (think Fire Dances era) and military beats give way to a rough medley of noise rock melodies. ‘Death Goals in Cursive’ is a sludge metal song without the guitars. Instead, they loop a passage of ringing church bells and slow them down to an eerie rotation before unleashing a doom metal drama at the climax. Even black metal fans can appreciate the dissonant emo-punk hysteria of ‘If I’m the Enemy Then Who’s the Protagonist?’
Death Goals put themselves in danger of being a propaganda platform for LGBTQ interests, and maybe they don’t object to this. But you don’t write this type of violent and complex music unless you do it for the love of art and expression. It’s not just about the lyrics. The music is not a secondary concern. If anything, Death Goals advance rather than diminish the musical ability of modern hardcore on this record.
Release Date: 05/05/2023
Record Label: Prosthetic Records
Standout tracks: Ultraviolence, Loveless, I Wouldn’t Be Caught Dead (Taking a Bullet for You)
Suggested Further Listening: Eyes – Congratulations (2023), Mine Collapse – Delusions (2022), Suplex – An Altar, a Stage EP (2023)