The Swarm a.k.a. Knee Deep in the Dead - Parasitic Skies (1999)
There are bands that burn bright and fast, and then there’s The Swarm a.k.a. Knee Deep in the Dead: a band so barely-there they almost slipped me by. They are a lesson in ephemera, named after a forgotten movie from 1978 (about killer bees, and starring Michael Caine, for those who might be interested) for no special reason. The Swarm a.k.a. Knee Deep in the Dead gave their career a lifespan of less than two years, and in that timeframe released two splits, an EP, and Parasitic Skies. There’s no special reason for that timeframe either, and their “full-length” is hardly longer than the rest of their recordings put together. It’s hasty, it’s reckless, it’s volatile, and it’s even...charming, sort of like a snaggletoothed Canadian version of The Chariot.
(Yes, The Swarm a.k.a. Knee Deep in the Dead - I still haven’t puzzle out whether that “a.k.a.” is actually part of their name - are from Hamilton, Canada. I’m splitting some semantic hairs to fit them in here, but the American Metalcore Project technically refers to the continent, upon which we can all agree Canada resides. And Buried Inside are Canadian. This little loophole has been here a while.)
The Swarm (...?) lean on the -core end of metalcore with a sloppy-tight approach, prioritizing enthusiasm over technicality, although they incorporate enough grinding tones to pay deference to their metal forebears. Parasitic Skies is drenched in oppressive dissonance and cymbal hiss and studded with movie sound bytes, used like succinct little thesis statements a la Until the Ink Runs Out. The specter of thrash looms over all, but it’s the metalcore tag that best accommodates the frenzied gorilla stomp of “Fucking Invincible at 1:00 a.m.” (one of the greatest song titles of all time), the ricocheting “Familiarity Breeds Contempt,” and all the berserking they accomplish in between.
Still, something a little less serious lurks behind all the throat-punching violence, best illuminated by the inscription on the Parasitic Skies vinyl: “It’s not how long you’ve been straight edge. It’s how many times.” This self-effacing sense of humor takes the reins on “Best Laid Plans,” “Crawling Through Glass,” and “X On Our Knees X” (you’ll find a version of this earlier in the tracklist), live cuts which appear at the end of the album after the bone-chilling “Monopolized Reality for the Maintenance of Order.” Technically speaking, they’re piss-poor recordings, but the band’s youthful charisma shines through quite clearly despite the sound quality. This instinct for fun would have served them well if they had stuck around, but you know: the brighter the flame, the quicker it burns.