The Charleston music scene is becoming more diverse. But there are still certain genres left out of the mainstream scope and maybe even completely. One of these lesser highlighted genres is metal, and more particularly deathcore, which is significantly dwindling in South Carolina.
Formed in 2015, five-piece outfit Down Under is possibly the only deathcore band in the state still actively playing shows. Members Mustafa Temel, Will Manigault, James Davenport, Savannah Myers and Eli Blalock are based in Charleston and all share a passion for the genre they represent.
Deathcore is a fusion of heavy metal-influenced death metal and punk-based hardcore. The result is a combination of blast beats, down-tuned guitars, tremolo picking, shrieked and growled vocals and breakdowns. To the average ear, it might sound like a lot of noise. But there's more to it than that.
"I think the main appeal of any style of heavy music — whether it’s metal or hardcore or punk or deathcore, whatever it may be — is that it’s music for outsiders," says Manigault. "Whether you have depression or whether you live an alternative lifestyle or you’re an atheist in a Christian home — whatever makes you feel outcast from society, metal music and hardcore music provide an outlet for people to express their emotions. And it might look strange from the outside if you’re not really into the music, but when you go to a death metal show or a hardcore show, you’re going because you know that the bands and people around you can relate to what you’re going through."
Down Under's latest EP "Enigmatic Design" particularly explores issues related to mental illness, suicide, drug abuse and domestic violence. Its title was born from existential soul searching.
"The 'Enigmatic Design' name came from a lot of thoughts that went into our song 'Broken Hearts and Body Parts,' where I question God and his existence and why he does what he does," explains vocalist and lyricist Temel.
The debut EP was released in April 2017 and recorded by Tim Ossenfort of Castus Audio in Beaufort. Drummer and audio engineer Davenport demoed and produced the tracks before they were sent to Ossenfort.
The real magic happens at live shows, though. And right now, there are very few spaces for deathcore in Charleston.
Manigault has been booking shows at Cory's Grilled Cheese on Maybank Highway for a year and a half to keep the genre alive, as well as securing slots for lesser-known hip-hop, punk and indie artists.
This decision to start booking shows came after the closing of The Hive in Ladson and Inland Surfs & Skate in Summerville, two popular all-ages venues for heavier genres. While Big Gun and Burn's Alley are great locations for the 21 and up crowd, a downtown all-ages venue is severely lacking. Manigault recognized the need for a venue when he partnered with Cory's.
"It’s really hard to get new people to come into the scene, especially since we lost the skate park and The Hive and a lot of people don’t know about Cory’s Grilled Cheese," says Manigault. "And there aren’t any national-level bands who are coming here anymore, because the crowd is so small and there isn’t really a venue to accommodate them."
Both pose major issues to the deathcore genre and younger metalheads looking for a space to mosh.
Yet, despite these setbacks, Down Under is about to reach its two-year mark. And unlike contemporary bands Plagues and Discomfort who have broken up, Down Under's members are not ready to quit anytime soon. In fact, they are planning a regional tour later in the year and continuing to play shows at local all-age venues like Cory's Grilled Cheese and new space Creek City Vapors in Goose Creek, where the band has a show on July 17.
Down Under will play some new songs from a full-length album that is in the works, in which they experiment with an extreme niche subgenre of death metal known as slam. Slam features a strong emphasis on groove and a raw, bare-bones heaviness.
"A lot of our songs are going to be angry and aggressive," says Temel. "It’s going to be stuff where you’re going to want to throw a table through a wall."
Yet, it's also the music that brings the crowd closer together — emotionally, through heavy lyrics and physically through moshing.
“The show I booked the other day, someone brought their 8-year-old kid," says Manigault. "And he was just throwing down and having the time of his life. We want to have a place for that. We’ve all been going to shows since we were little kids, and it’s very important to have a place for kids to be a part of the scene."
So, where can you find the deathcore scene on any given night?
"The Summerville Taco Bell is like the unofficial Down Under headquarters," says Davenport. "It's our tradition that we go after every band practice. We even tried to shoot a music video there once. We're still working on it."