July 1, 2022

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A Decade Under The Influence: The 12 Most Important Releases In Sumerian Records History

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The music industry has changed a lot since 2006, in ways most people couldn’t even fathom. Vinyl sales are on the rise, physical CD purchases are almost nonexistent, and digital streaming services are a thing. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the importance and influence of rising (and falling) underground metal labels. Prosthetic, Relapse, and Razor & Tie have adapted to the changing times quite well, while labels like Victory have seen a slight fall from grace due to major bands on their roster leaving, going inactive, or moving to other labels.

The last decade has also seen upstart label Sumerian Records courting both mainstream styles of rock/metal (Asking Alexandria), the burgeoning electronicore movement of the late 00’s (I See Stars), and generally cornering the market on the self-styled “djent” and progressive metal movement (Born Of Osiris, Periphery, After The Burial, Veil Of Maya, countless others). In recent years, the label has scored some major coups, luring bands as diverse as Circa Survive, ††† Crosses, Night Riots, and the ferocious Dillinger Escape Plan to their roster. It’s this display of forward-thinking moves that puts Sumerian Records all over the charts, the airwaves, all the while maintaining critical respect in the press.

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Given that Sumerian is celebrating its 10 year anniversary this year, it’s about time we put together a list of the label’s 12 most important releases. Remember that important doesn’t mean this is a list of the best releases from the label – though quite often, you can tie together important and successful. Carry on.

Honorable Mentions:
A Higher Place (Born Of Osiris, 2009)
The Joy Of Motion (Animals As Leaders, 2014)
Descensus (Circa Survive, 2014)
The New Reign (Born Of Osiris, 2007)
One Of Us Is The Killer (Dillinger Escape Plan, 2013)
Alone (Evan Brewer, 2011)
Dayshell (Dayshell, 2013)
Life Reaper (I, The Breather, 2014)

#11: Make Your Own History (Stray From The Path, 2009)

Great lyrics, a solid chaotic metalcore sound, and a spirit of righteous discontent with the world around them helped Stray From The Path gain initial success. Though later albums like Anonymous would gain them more of a fanbase, SFTP’s second album for Sumerian Records was an important one, both for band and for label. The song “Negative And Violent” will probably make you want to spin kick your neighbor, as will the rest of the album.

#10: [id] (Veil Of Maya, 2010)

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Previous album The Common Man’s Collapse may be slightly better, but [id] is where Veil Of Maya started picking up solid sales numbers, landing slots on higher profile tours, and generally experience a surge in growth that’s continued to this day (they’re currently playing to huge crowds on the Sumerian 10th anniversary tour). [id] is where they solidified their technical death metal/metalcore hybrid with fan favorites like the 1-2 punch of “Unbreakable” and “Dark Passenger”.

#9: ††† Crosses (††† Crosses, 2014)

A watershed moment in the history of Sumerian came when Crosses (the side project of Chino Moreno, Shaun Lopez, and Chuck Doom – the former being a member of Deftones/Team Sleep, and Shaun being a founding member of Far and The Revolution Smile) signed to the label, which also triggered a wave of bands with instant name recognition instead of mostly newcomers (bands like Circa Survive, TDEP, and Animals As Leaders were all signed to the label within close proximity of each other). The textured dream pop/darkwave of Crosses is vastly different than anything the label has signed before or since, but also fits right in with the diversity of Sumerian, pigeonholing be damned.

#8: Diamond (Stick to Your Guns, 2012)

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A passionate message of PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) and a rampage against greed and homophobia (album highlight smash “Life In A Box”) define the 4th full-length from melodic hardcore veterans Stick to Your Guns. In the early days of the then-fledgling label, the band made their presence known through relentless touring and a rowdy stage show. Though having a solid discography overall, Diamond is the jewel of their discography, containing righteous anger towards the broken system we live in, while still telling listeners to remain positive. Instant classic for lyrical content alone. Also contains arguably the greatest song STYG has ever written, “Built Upon The Sand”.

#7: The Hidden Words (Fellsilent, 2008)

Fellsilent pioneered a number of ideas in their short time together – namely, the two distinct, separate vocalists that bands like Volumes now employ (at least they did until vocalist Michael Barr left last year), and the intense, polyrhythmic style that Meshuggah invented, and bands like Tesseract, Periphery, and Monuments would soon make both of these popular in the coming years. Their influence lives on in both Tesseract and Monuments, as well as dozens of other bands like Circles, The Arusha Accord, and Uneven Structure. (Editor’s note: Album was originally released in 2008 via Basick Records, but Sumerian signed the band for USA distribution, and THW was released Stateside in 2009).

#6: New Demons (I See Stars, 2013)

You could probably put their 2009 debut 3-D here as well, but New Demons was the real coming out party for I See Stars, who finally merged their metalcore, electronica, and EDM influences into a finished product. Equally made for the dance floor as much as the moshpits, singles like “Ten Thousand Feet” are screaming to be played on a good sound system.

#5A/5B: Akeldama/Planetary Duality (The Faceless, 2006/2008)

The Faceless was Sumerian’s first ever signing 10 years ago, and though the follow-up to this album is fantastic in its own right (the obvious career highlight Planetary Duality), Akeldama comes pretty close to greatness. It’s clearly influenced by progressive metal icons like Cynic (just listen to the title track!), but also speedy, chaotic, and an early deathcore highlight as well. We included both Planetary Duality and Akeldama because they’re both incredibly influential and good albums – the former because it was the first Sumerian Records release, and the latter because it takes what was great about Akeldama (the crushing guitar riffs and machine-precision drumming, among other things) and improves it tenfold. “Xenochrist”, indeed.

#4: Stand Up And Scream (Asking Alexandria, 2009)

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It’s quite often, in the history of burgeoning underground labels, that said label has an early release or three which buoys the label with either money or name recognition (many times, both). In the first few years of Sumerian, it’s pretty clear that Asking Alexandria was that band, and 2009’s Stand Up And Scream was that release. Combining elements of Eurotrance, post-hardcore, metalcore, and the bombast of 80’s hair metal bands like Skid Row, it helped buoy Sumerian Records with lots of media attention in the early years of the label. Tracks like “A Prophecy” showed the band was already ready for the bright lights after their debut.

#3: Rareform (After The Burial, 2009)

Before we go any further, RIP Justin Lowe. If you’re struggling with mental health issues of any sort, I implore you to get help before it’s too late.

After The Burial is one of many Sumerian bands who have a solid, occasionally spectacular discography. Really, any of After The Burial’s albums could be considered the best in their discography, but as far as importance, it’s likely you have to go with the re-issue of Rareform. Containing re-recorded vocals from the recently acquired Anthony Notarmaso, Rareform introduces Anthony’s solid, consistent vocals, while not letting up with the polyrhythmic attack on standouts like “Aspiration” and “A Vicious Reforming Of Features”.

While you’re at it, checking out their new record, Dig Deep, is great as well. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

#2: Periphery (Periphery, 2010)

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You like polyrhythms? So do we.

The hype train for Periphery had been growing for a couple years, prior to their debut record even being released on Sumerian in 2010. Teases of songs, shuffling vocalists, and constant mentions on music blogs everywhere had fans salivating for what the first Periphery album would even sound like. They managed to snag a diverse vocalist in Spencer Sotelo (who would come into his own on their future records), to go with an established rhythm section. It’s not necessarily an accessible album to newcomers (that came on Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal), but there are intense workouts and simply smashing drumming on “Letter Experiment” and the long finale, “Racecar”.

#1: The Discovery (Born Of Osiris, 2011)

A modern progressive metal album that’s as heavy as it is spacey (thanks, keyboards!), The Discovery is an album so broad in scope and deep in technicality, it’ll be hard for the band to equal or top it (though they’ve definitely got the musical chops to do so). The album almost overstays its welcome at nearly an hour long, but it’s never a chore to get through. The grand finale of XIV/Behold is something to, well, behold – but so are album highlights like “Recreate” and “Follow The Signs”. Based on overall musical skill and influence on a crop of newer bands, it can be argued this is objectively the best album Sumerian Records has ever put out. It’s certainly one of the best. Born Of Osiris has never sounded tighter.

Bonus: This Is The Warning (Dead Letter Circus, 2010)

I didn’t really know where to rank or put Dead Letter Circus here, given that, like Fellsilent, the album was originally released on another label before being picked up for distribution and promotion here in the States.

But it’s clear this is an exceptionally talented Australian rock band – influenced by bands as diverse as Radiohead, the delayed guitars of U2, and the industrial-pop of early Nine Inch Nails, Dead Letter Circus isn’t quite like any other band right now. This Is The Warning simply has no weak tracks, and no filler at all. Need an album highlight? “The Design”, “Reaction”, and the title track are good places to start. Fancy a good place to begin with the band? Singles “Cage” and “One Step” should be on your list.

They’re finally starting to get traction in the States, but DLC has a rabid following in their home of Australia. And why shouldn’t they? Dead Letter Circus creates music that’s equally exciting, passionate, and most of all, anthemic.

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