Deathcore dudes `blowing up'
Dad jokes and tongue twisters on TikTok translate into millions of views for Carcosa
Say if a dog chews shoes whose shoes does he choose. It's hard at any speed. Now say it in a tortured death metal voice akin to Elmo the Muppet raging on steroids.
But posting tongue-twisters, dad jokes and bad pickup lines set to howling heavy metal as breakdown call-outs on TikTok is proving to be a big win for Vancouver rockers Carcosa.
With 1.4 million likes, the dog-chewing post is one of the lesser performers for the band. Yet it's a figure that bands working in the extreme heavy metal deathcore subgenre seldom see. Almost every TikTok snippet the quartet posts is averaging 500,000-plus likes. The Metal Pickup Lines post, including the seductive “if you were a booger, I'd pick you,” is at 2.5 million likes and counting.
By comparison, the YouTube music video for A Plague is only at 197,977 views after almost a year online. Respectable, but nowhere near the volume of views on TikTok. With a new album titled Anthology due for release this month, both the band and its label Blood Blast are curious to see if the TikTok numbers will result in a sales spike.
“We were born in COVID and we've had to build in COVID, so coming up with ideas of how to do that led to TikTok, among other things,” said guitarist Andrew Baena. “Everyone is pretty excited about us blowing up there and it's pretty cool to see how many people are commenting that we are the first deathcore band that they've ever heard. I guess we're kind of a gateway band for the genre.”
“TikTok is really good for us reaching an audience that would never check us out on their own,” said singer Johnny Ciardullo. “You are kind of initially forced into watching or listening to whatever it is for somewhere around 30 seconds to a minute, and you are either on-board or you swipe up and we vanish forever. But people seem to really like the shock value of deathcore, specifically, so they stick around and watch us do stuff.”
Once viewers are finished with watching the band “do
stuff,” the hope is that they head over to Carcosa's website to buy stuff. It doesn't have to be music either.
Since traditional methods of marketing music have been paused by pandemic restrictions on performing, the members got busy launching an entire product line of merchandise other than their recordings. Not only are there the usual T-shirts, toques and ball caps, there are custom logo slip-on sandals, guitar picks and more. As much of the products as possible are sourced locally or in Canada.
So much for the impression that metalheads aren't socially conscious. From manufacturing to doing all their printing in town at Prints of Darkness, these headbangers are injecting money into local economies. Demand is such that guitarist Cooper
Lagace presently works fulltime on the merchandise sales and development.
“We really put a lot of time into making merch that is on brand with our theme and logo, as well as going after high quality unique stuff that most bands don't usually offer,” said Lagace. “We have an excellent emblem designed by a Toronto tattoo artist in Ontario named Larry Coffins, and we commission other artists to realize the rough ideas I come up with. I found great Canadian wholesalers for almost everything we're making, which I'm really happy about.”
Formed from the ashes of progressive metal group Galactic Pegasus, nobody in this group is a beginner. All four musicians are bringing years of experience to the table. Carcosa didn't arrive at
its level of online expertise overnight.
Guitarist Baena makes a living as a full-time YouTube content provider. His channel is loaded with product reviews of everything from the best baritone guitar on the block to the benefits of using the Slamurai Overdrive Pedal with your instrument. It's safe to say that he's making heavy metal his life on all levels.
“We were writing a different style of music before, but it wasn't doing a lot for me as a vocalist,” said Ciardullo. “Progressive metal actually kind of puts you in a box with all the complex and confusing time signatures and parts, whereas deathcore is actually a lot more standard and accessible. You can bob your head along with the songs.”
“It's weird to say that, because the vocal style is so jarring to most people, but our previous incarnation was really only catering to guitar heads into the next technical riff,” said Baena.
“Switching over to deathcore meant we now had more creative doors open to us and an audience that was just more into music than complexity. I'm not stressing out about trying to write more and more confusing parts too.”
This isn't to say that the singles rolled out in advance of
the new album release are ever likely to wind up on commercial radio playlists.
Carcosa's music rages, pummelling the listener with loud guitars, pounding drums and gut-shaking bass. Plus, it's amazing that Ciardullo can still talk given how he seems to ravage his vocal cords. Deathcore is most certainly a niche musical form. Carcosa knows it, but they also really love playing it.
However, as groups from the Ramones to Black Label Society have proved, many long, lucrative careers were built selling more T-shirts than records. The diehard fans will always be there at the shows. If dad jokes and sandal sales drive the tour bus, that's just fine.