February 20, 2024

New Fury Media

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Sworn In’s ‘The Death Card’ provided authenticity and honesty when heavy music needed it most

Want an album that’s aged pretty well? Rewind to 2013, when Sworn In released The Death Card. A compelling debut album that inspired many bands to come after, it blended metalcore, nu-metal, and more dissonant vibes to create something that’s even more interesting if you look beyond the surface. Having always delivered heavy music with heavy emotion, the band has seen their sound remain important in hardcore and metalcore, with bands like Alpha Wolf undoubtedly taking influence from the entire scene that spawned around Sworn In.

Emerging alongside bands like Barrier, Yuth Forever, and Kingmaker, the hype behind Sworn In for their debut full-length was a big, big deal. #Windbreakercore was a very real thing at the time, and as Sworn In’s hype started to rise, it wasn’t uncommon to find The Death Card-related items at lots of different tours in the scene. This was as much to do with the hype surrounding Sworn In as well as the wide variety of fans that the band appealed to. Considering nu-metal and metalcore have a strong overlap, Sworn In being one of the first bands to pull off the two undoubtedly helped them gain attention quickly. It also helped that one of the band’s earliest songs, “Let Down”, was a huge reason they were quickly picked up by Razor & Tie.

Produced by Brian Hood, the record immediately landed the band on some high-profile tours, with bands that would also become quite big at the time. In fact, beyond just the music, the band’s merch was extremely popular – notably crashing the MerchNow website at one point. If you thought the hype trains for specific merch drops and even new music from bands like Bad Omens, Knocked Loose, and Spiritbox are big currently, it was a similar situation for Sworn In. Good marketing and image helped, but the music also delivered on The Death Card. Chris George established himself early on as one of the scene’s more interesting and talented drummers, while a pummeling amount of nu-metal-influenced aggression (and guitar riffs) arrive on tracks like “Hypocrisy” and “A Song For The Nameless”.

Listening to The Death Card with the benefit of hindsight, multiple aspects of it stick out. In particular, Tyler Dennen’s vocal performance, which one might say even borders on manic at times. Unhinged might be a better descriptor, and if Dennen’s vocals weren’t a dead giveaway, the song titles will do just the trick. Ruminations of death, self-loathing, and hypocritical people litter the record, and the lyrics certainly don’t have much (if any, really) sort of pretense. At the time, the members of Sworn In were incredibly young – and it shows. Interestingly, though, it’s this directness that has actually made these songs age pretty well.

Despite the subject matter, though, some of these songs have very real hooks. The refrain of “Snake eyes, rolling back into my head // wishing I was dead, wishing I was dead” is a memorable one, as is the band’s general focus on topics that would become commonplace. So too is Hypocrisy’s “So take your necklace off and put a noose in its place” callout, which undoubtedly would’ve been an AIM away status in 2003. Again, not a lot of room for subtlety in the lyrics, and certainly not the dissonant brand of metalcore that Sworn In brought to the table. There’s also this. Back in 2013, the connection between music and mental health in the music scene wasn’t as strong as it is currently. That makes the direct nature of the lyrics somehow more fascinating, because for many people, they can be connected to almost exactly the way someone would describe their lives (or situations within them) as a very young adult.

One could say Sworn In arrived a little too early for the scene, from multiple perspectives. With a lyrical bluntness that’s aged well and a mix of styles that would go on to be influential to many, many bands today, The Death Card still impresses. And when you consider the band’s youth at the time, it makes even more sense.

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