Northern California post-hardcore trio, Down Again recently kickstarted their career with the release of their debut album, The Devil is a Gentleman, on June 12th. The thirteen-track record is the formal introduction to the band’s melodic, angsty sound familiar to fans of emo, hardcore, metalcore, and everything in between. The sound isn’t revolutionary, but Down Again deserve props for the undeniable commitment to the musicianship and emotion rooted within their intense sound.

Pulling inspiration from early-2000s acts such as Underoath, Thrice, and Brand New, vocalist/guitarist Lenny Costa wrote The Devil is a Gentleman as an outlet for his inner struggles framed within the musical realms he and his bandmates are so fond of. Fittingly, we now have Lenny joining us for this killer rundown of his favourite post-hardcore albums from the early 2000s. The acts are familiar to pretty much everyone who was into music in that era, but it’s always good to go back and re-assess just how crushing so many of those records were. Set your clocks back 20 years and enjoy it all over again with Lenny Costa and Down Again.

1. Underoath – They’re Only Chasing Safety (2004, Solid State Records)

They’re Only Chasing Safety lands the top spot on my list and is my number 1 post-hardcore album of all time. This is one of those albums I can vividly remember hearing for the first time, hearing each song and not being able to believe how good it was. This album was so far ahead of the curve, it’s like every band for the next decade was trying to duplicate Underoath’s formula.

Spencer Chamberlin’s screams were like nothing I had ever heard before, with intensity and ferociousness that was tangible in every line. He is by far my biggest inspiration, and one of my absolute favorite vocalists. The way he pairs with the emotional and extremely catchy singing from Aaron Gillespie was magic. Every song on the album has a level of passion both musically and vocally that is unmatched.

To this day I have never heard another song as good as ‘A Boy Brushed Red Living in Black and White.’ With relentless guitar and drums paired with the perfect amount of synth/keyboard, they set the standard for what a post-hardcore band is capable of.”

2. Emery – The Weak’s End (2004, Tooth & Nail Records)

The Weak’s End could have easily been my number 1 album and might be the one that I have spent the most time listening to. I actually discovered Emery in 2006 when they released The Question (another fantastic record), but when I went back and listened to this album I was blown away. The Weak’s End is on a very short list of what I would consider perfect albums.

What really sets Emery apart are their vocals; they don’t have a true frontman, but Devin Shelton and Toby Morrell share the singing duties evenly while Josh Head handles the screaming. The uniqueness of Devin and Toby’s voice, paired with the creative ways they utilize having two singers is really what defines the album. It is never more apparent than on the second track ‘The Ponytail Parades,’ with the singers switching back and forth, and flawlessly singing harmonies and rounds over one another.

The album is consistent from start to finish with drivey songs that effortlessly transition from chaotic breakdowns to intoxicating lines filled with angst and emotion that landed perfectly with me during my teen years. Some of the best tracks on the album were ‘Walls,’ ‘By All Accounts (Today Was a Disaster),’ and ‘As Your Voice Fades.’”

3. Thrice – The Artist in the Ambulance (2003, Sub City Records)

The Artist in the Ambulance was a game-changer when it came out in 2003, and number 3 on my list feels just right. It sounded to me like they just took heavy, aggressive alternative rock and threw screaming over it, and it worked! I loved every minute of the guitar-driven, fast pace, roller coaster. It was a perfect headbanging album that never really slowed down.

Dustin Kensrue’s voice was truly a match made in heaven for Thrice; it had grit to hold down the more alternative rock side and his fry screams were more than adequate for the more post-hardcore songs like ‘Paper Tigers.’ They had a great balance between their two sides and you never felt like one overpowered the other. You also cannot fully appreciate this album until you have heard these songs live, as Thrice is one of the best live bands I have ever seen.”

4. From Autumn To Ashes – Too Bad You’re Beautiful (2001, Ferret Music)

“When I think of early 2000’s post-hardcore, this is one of the first albums that comes to mind, and it lands at number 4 on my list. Too Bad You’re Beautiful is as raw and organic as it gets, almost to the point it sounds unrefined, yet somehow that only makes it better. It is so incredibly emotional from top to bottom and the minimal post-production makes you feel every emotional lyric even stronger. From Autumn To Ashes really captured the essence of young heartbreak.

This record never gives you a clue as to what is coming next; the band’s blatant disregard for traditional song structure keeps you on your toes with every passing minute. It is violently heavy, with flurries of double kick, and breakdowns around every bend. The screaming sounds great even today, and they lean heavily on Benjamin Perri’s harsh vocals. While Francis Mark’s singing fit the band, it also left something to be desired. But year after year the brutality and passion of this record has always left me coming back for more.”

5. Chiodos – All’s Well That Ends Well (2005, Equal Vision Records)

“Love them or hate them, Chiodos put out a genre-defining album in 2005 with All’s Well That Ends Well. It came out during such a pivotal point for post-hardcore that you can almost use it as a separating marker between early post-hardcore and today’s. Craig Owens was one of the first ridiculously high pitched voices in the scene, and after this album dropped they started popping up everywhere.

I happen to be on the ‘love them’ side of things, and there was no way I could keep them out of my top 5. They bring a franticness to their guitar and piano writing that sets them apart, especially on their debut album. I love how each individual instrument can almost sound out of control, yet everything comes together like a well-fit puzzle. The album is high energy and catchy as hell. Songs like ‘All Nereids Beware,’ ‘The Words ‘Best Friend’ Become Redefined,’ and ‘There’s No Penguins In Alaska’ have become absolute classics, and I couldn’t be happier.”

Artwork for ‘The Devil is a Gentleman’ by Down Again