Emma Boster remembers where she was when she received the message that would change the course of her band’s future. The singer with incendiary metalcore five-piece Dying Wish was working at a local venue in her hometown of Portland, setting the stage for an Atreyu gig that evening. Suddenly, she got an Instagram DM from Knocked Loose vocalist Bryan Garris, asking her to lend her vocals to A Serpent’s Touch, a track on their upcoming second album, A Different Shade Of Blue.
“We had played a show with Knocked Loose in 2018 when we were still a very new band,” Emma remembers. “They played a headline show here in Portland, they hand-selected the local support and chose us. Then, [a year later] out of the blue, Bryan messaged me on Instagram and asked me to do the feature. I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing because I will never forget that moment.”
Today, Emma describes the opportunity as transformative. Not long after Knocked Loose released their album, on which Emma’s unrepentant guest spot was an obvious highlight, Dying Wish were offered a support slot on Counterparts’ US tour, another step early in their journey to be hardcore’s brightest new hopes.
“It elevated us,” she says, speaking from her home, having just returned from a short US tour with The Acacia Strain. “We were visible to more people, and I felt I was visible to more people, which is a scary and vulnerable thing, but it’s really transformed the way I feel about the band and the way I feel about myself as far as confidence goes.”
It’s taken Emma years to grow into her role as band leader, but now she’s emerging as one of heavy music’s most blistering young voices. Having discovered hardcore aged 16 at a Punch show in Portland, she formed Dying Wish in 2018 with drummer Jeff Yambra, guitarist Pedro Carrillo, guitarist/songwriter Sam Reynolds and bassist Andrew Le. Together, they’ve developed a devastatingly violent, emotional sound that nods to Swedish melodeath and 00s metalcore giants Killswitch Engage and Bleeding Through, raging with social and political turmoil.
Their debut, Fragments Of A Bitter Memory, which was recorded over a month in New Jersey during summer 2020 for Sharptone Records and which sees Bryan Garris return the favour by featuring on the unflinching Enemies In Red, is one of the most powerful statements of recent teams, not least as a result of Emma’s raw, personal lyrics. It’s an album, she says, she couldn’t have written at the band’s inception three years ago.
“There’s a level of maturity and a perspective on things that I hadn’t had before in my life,” she says. “It was a growing experience to be able to verbalise a lot of things I’ve needed to say for such a long time.”
Emma has vented her anger and emotions on the title track and Severing The Senses, which see her working through her past, growing up with an abusive, violent and alcoholic stepfather. “It was a lot of living in a daily hell, which I feel a lot of people stuck in abusive relationships can relate to. Living in constant fear of doing the wrong thing and feeling you have to walk on eggshells. There was a lot of violence and emotional abuse.”
While she ended her relationship with her stepfather 10 years ago, her lyrics seethe with unbridled fury and resentment: “You are everything I despise,” she bellows on Fragments Of A Bitter Memory. “Drunken devil. Wicked eyes. I would bury you if I could.” Even so, she sought to capture the complex and conflicting emotions that come with surviving such a toxic situation: “Still I chose to love you despite the demise of the man I had once known.”
“A lot of the perspective I wrote from was, my stepfather is an addict and I know one day I’m going to get that phone call that he’s passed away,” she says. “And I’m going feel a lot of complex feelings - guilt, but also relief. These interactions are very complex and it’s difficult to understand how I feel about them a lot of the time.”
There’s political anger too: the cutting track Innate Thirst is inspired by the band’s fierce political position, and their involvement in the BLM protests that broke out in Portland in 2020.
“We try to embrace moving further left than the neo-liberal fascist middle,” says Emma, reluctant to cite Donald Trump’s presidential defeat last year as a victory for America. “Our left politics are more radicalised than what the Democratic Party represent. The two parties have a lot more in common with each other than what we have with them. We’re very more so power to the people, not power to the parties.”
When asked what keeps her and her bandmates up at night, though, Emma’s thoughts turn to the longevity of the band, as well as their innate need to create music that matters. “We want to speak about important topics, not just the same old vague topics a lot of bands talk about in metal,” she says vehemently. “Ten years from now, we’re still want to be doing this. We want to make an impact.”
Fragments Of A Bitter Memory is out now via Sharptone records