This split is currently available for pre-order on vinyl!
Last week four bands teamed together to single, erm, quadra-handedly bring back easycore. Open Door Records rounded up Arcadia Grey, Oolong, Guitar Fight from Fooly Cooly, and dannythestreet and got them each to record two songs and battle it out for DIY supremacy on Fatal 4 Way (Split), a deathmatch themed split EP. On the tape’s cover each band is represented by a wrestler with their heads replaced by various characters, including Oolong from Dragon Ball Z, Master Chief, Godzilla, and I believe Chuck E. Cheese. While the theme is fun and inspired, if I had to pick nits the tape functions more as a gymnastics competition than a fight to the death. From what I could tell no punches or subliminal disses were thrown from one band to another on any of these tracks, its more so four bands putting their unique spin on a series of triple backflips into metal breakdowns. Part of me wanted to score the tapes like each of the bands was doing a floor routine but a Battle Royal is a way cooler and more badass theme than a gymnastics competition anyway, so with this review I’ll stick to the binary scale of who “Got Murdered” and who “Did the Murdering” for each band.
Arcadia Grey had the difficult task of opening up this split but good lord were they up for the challenge. The Carmel, Iniana band start EP opener “Wildmutt” by introducing themselves to the rapt and bloodthirsty crowd like they were Don King, yelling out, “In this corner weighing ten million pounds of fury,” as every member of the band provided that ten million pounds of fury shredding away on their instruments a hundred miles an hour. After they’ve been properly introduced things slow down for just a second as lead singer Coraline belts out, “I don’t even know how we got here in the first place,” as the song rockets forward like a rollercoaster taking an unexpected early drop. It’s a perfect tone setter for the split and an incredible introduction to Arcadia Grey, I’d imagine anyone who hadn’t heard of them before this split will be spending time getting acquainted with their excellent album from last year Konami Code. Like Simone Biles seamlessly going from the floor routine to the uneven bars, Arcadia Grey really flex their range on their second song “Braum”. The track introduces both Coraline and Dysphoria as characters in an internal battle with one another, giving the later a particularly gnarly voice. Coraline laments how much easier their personal issues would be to deal with if people would give them the respect, courtesy, and seriousness they deserve, shouting out, “I get it’s really hard for you, just think of how hard this is for me.” The track starts slow before running into a dead sprint as Coraline screams, “Terrified of my own body so scared of everything,” really laying their issues out on the table. It’s an introspective and thought-provoking track that still absolutely fucking rips. Arcadia Grey definitely did the murdering on this tape.
Round One is closed out with two tracks from Oolong, who I compared in our top albums of 2020 so far list to an Emo-Voltron with members bringing together the combined power of the suburban angst of Long Island, New Jersey, and Philly. Like Arcadia Grey before them Oolong knows how to open a song, starting “Dipping Daniel” with a cute twinkly riff before exploding with a loud, “I don’t know whhhhhyyyyy everything is fine in my fucking life, nothings changed.” I mean it as a massive compliment when I say that lead singer Vinny’s singing on the track reminds me of Third Eye Blind’s “Graduate” with a touch of Tom Delonge, something about their voice just feels so right on these twinkly instrumentals. The band’s second song on the tape “Guts”, which is a track I understand to be about the trials and tribulations of competing on Nickleodeon game show GUTS, is almost definitely my new favorite song by the band. Vinny opens up the track lamenting the diverse skillset you need to succeed on the show while being self-aware of how lucky they are to be competing, shouting out “I feel like I gotta be good at everything, please envy me, cause I got Guts now.” Sam’s unforgettable drumming was a major highlight of their album About Your Imaginary Friend and similarly steals the show on “Guts” ripping away on the drums like a boxer sneaking a hundred quick jabs into their opponent’s gut. Oolong not only murdered their two tracks on this EP but will be going home with a piece of the Aggro Crag to boot.
Guitar Fight from Fooly Cooly arguably had the least to prove on this tape, with their recently released AOTY contending album Soak still fresh in rotation for anyone who’d be interested in this split, but they still brought their A Game to this fight to the death. They open up “Lite Wotus” with a Mortal Kombat styled announcement of “Round Two: FIGHT” before dropping right into a heavy ass breakdown. “Lite Wotus” is the most violent sounding of any of the tracks on the split. When Uri reaches into the top of their screaming register behind a hundred layers of fuzz and on top of Ryan and Kit rocking the guitar and drums at a hundred miles an hour, the band feels like the sonic embodiment of the Twisted Metal video game franchise (specifically the bit like 52-59 seconds into the track). By comparison “Seasalt Ice Cream” is significantly more mellow, and almost feels like an easycore rendition of something by The Cars, which again I mean as a big compliment. They close the track with the biggest gut punch of any line on the split, as Uri screams, “You’re just a stupid fucking piece of shit and I thought that you should know it,” letting the subject of that diss ruminate on what they did wrong as the song fades to a close. As they do every time they release a track Guitar Fight packed a hell of a punch on this split, and no doubt did some murdering along the way.
Dannythestreet was the group I was admittedly least familiar with going into the split. They closed this shit out with a bang and absolutely made a fan out of me. Both their tracks here have the energy and charm of early Joyce Manor. On “Mystery Faded” the group rips through three unique movements in under a minute thirty, picking up the pace as the track moves forward. They do the opposite on “Letterboxd” ripping out the gate singing the absurdly memorable, “I can smell your armpit sweat from a million miles away // Hit me in the face with a gun to remind me where I’m at.” I swore to myself I was hearing those lyrics wrong the first five or so times I heard the track and now I can’t help but sing along, they’re just the right amount of off kilter to be instantly memorable. Dannythestreet then close out the track with a meandering screech of the guitar under a vocal sample too fuzzy for me to decipher, perfectly feeding back into “Wildmutt” so you can roll right into a second listen. Dannythestreet definitely did some murdering on this tape and are a band I will for sure be looking out for in the future.
So in the end, when the dust settled and the final guitar lick faded into oblivion, all the bands killed it on this split and more importantly none of em got killed. Who did they kill exactly? Spotify Execs trying to monetize putting artists in their algorithm? Skeptics of Easycore’s resurgence? The DIY Hierarchy? Regardless of those lost along the way every band killed their shit on this split. The EP even garnered the praise of emo music’s Herodotus, Ian Cohen, who gave the tape a “Slappers Only” stamp of approval. My one biggest take away from this split is I’d love a whole lot more of these in the scene. There couldn’t be a better way to get into four excellent bands at the same time and the battle royal theme only made it all that much more fun. The confluence of these four groups all in similar stages of their ascent felt like a genuine moment in the scene when the tape dropped, and was on a project that is in way relatively lower effort for all the bands involved. Everyone really wins with these splits. If any emo bands would like to come together to do the gymnastics meet themed one, where four groups cartwheel through two tracks each leaving it out there on the mat for their band, please get in touch! I’d be happy to coach that into reality.
Buy the album on Open Door Records website and follow the bands on their socials below: