Hardcore is a much faster and heavier form of punk rock music. It takes the angst, social themes, and three chord progression of punk and mixes it with elements of heavy metal. While hardcore contains some of the speed, heaviness, and bruality of heavy metal, hardcore musicianship tends to be much more crude and unpolished than heavy metal. Hardcore bands invented the dropped tempo breakdown that was used as a a heavier alternative to the guitar solo. They also used a lot of feedback and groove riffs that bands, like Pantera, would later use mixed with thrash to create groove metal. Song structures changed from the punk notion of verse chorus verse to being much more complicated and varied. Clothing styles changed drastically from the mohawks, safety pins, and spikes of punk to a much more dressed down style of jeans, shorts, t-shirts, and short hair. This style is still seen today in the majority of metalcore bands, as well as various other heavy metal groups. Vocals were usually screamed or spoken word. The screamed type of vocals and fast riffs would later be used by bands, like Slayer, who combined them with speed metal to create thrash. Lyrical content generally deals with liberal leaning themes like social injustice, anti-war, equality, unity, anti-establishment, and protesting. There are some conservative leaning hardcore bands, but they are few and far between and mostly reside in the southern United States.
With hardcore music came the invention of moshing, slam dancing, and stage diving. This form of dancing was adopted by thrash metal bands in the mid 1980’s and soon began to filter to all subgenres of heavy music. Grunge in particular was famous for stage diving during live shows. Now you cannot even attend a heavy metal show without seeing a mosh pit and stage diving.
Hardcore was born in the late 1970’s with bands, like Black Flag, wanting to play a heavier,more in your face style of punk. Other groups such as the Germs and Circle Jerks would follow. Shortly thereafter the documentary, The Decline of Western Civilization, was released in 1981. The documentary featured the above mentioned bands and helped to spark a surge in hardcore across the United States.
During the 1980’s hardcore boom, hardcore was centered in five hot bed areas of the United States. Los Angeles (Black Flag, The Germs, and Circle Jerks), San Francisco (The Dead Kennedys, MDC, and The Dicks), Boston (Sam Black Church, Tree, and Gang Green), Washington D.C. (Bad Brains and Minor Threat), and New York (Agnostic Front, The Misfits, and Beastie Boys). Obviously hardcore bands hailed from other regions of the country, but these were the main areas that would help to influence heavy metal fusion bands in the years to come. Eventually, England would jump on the hardcore train and shift away from punk rock with bands like Discharge and Napalm Death. England would take hardcore one step further by mixing punk with the heaviness and harmonized guitars of NWOBHM. This fusion would influence the creation of the melodic death metal and melodic metalcore sound of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.
Essential Hardcore Albums
- Damaged (Black Flag)
- Bad Brains (Bad Brains)
- H2O (H2O)
- Urban Discipline (Biohazard)
- River Runs Red (Life of Agony)
- Complete Discography (Minor Threat)
- The Second Coming (E-Town Concrete)
- Driver Not Included (Orange 9mm)
- Meantime (Helmet)
- MIA (The Germs)
- Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables (Dead Kennedys)
- Still (Vision of Disorder)
- Age of Quarrel (Cro Mags)
- New Junk Aesthetic (Every Time I Die)
The late 1980’s and early 1990’s would see the delcine in popularity of hardcore. Many hardcore bands began to experiment with other sounds leading to the creation of grindcore, crossover thrash, thrashcore, crust punk, groove metal, metalcore, deathcore, and sludge metal. During this time, New York managed to remain a huge epicenter for hardcore music. Bands like Biohazard, Madball, and Sick of It All managed to stay relevant and even broke into the mainstream slightly. Also the youth crew movement rose with younger hardcore bands coming up and going even further with the lyrical content. These new artists’ material dealt with views like stopping animal cruelty, curbing drug use, stopping pollution, and promoting veganism.
These two distinct styles in New York led to the resurgence of punk and hardcore in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s with bands like Snapcase, H2O, Hatebreed, and Every Time I Die coming to prominence and having mild commercial success. Many of these bands continue to perform and make music today. The continued popularity and experimentation with hardcore will help to influence more heavy bands well into the future.
Post-hardcore is a term used to describe early to mid 1990’s bands that came from the hardcore scene that used some progressive elements. They didn’t conform to the constraints of screaming, noisy hardcore. Many songs had sung interludes, guitar solos, synthesisers, and fusions with funk, jazz, and hip hop. Although slightly popular, post-hardcore never really broke through, like it’s hardcore predecessor. Well known post-hardcore bands include Orange 9mm, The Used, and Helmet.
In the early 1990’s hardcore band Biohazard would fuse hardcore with rap vocals and instrumentals to create rapcore paving the way for 25 Ta Life and E-Town Concrete. This is different from rap metal as it uses more hip hop instrumental and hardcore elements instead of thrash guitars. Rapcore has severely declined in the 2000’s with Hollywood Undead being the only popular rapcore band at this time.
Crust punk is hardcore mixed with extreme metal guitar riffs and blast beats. Bands include Amebix, Behind Enemy Lines, and Dystopia. It is defined as a very bass heavy sound with a fast hardcore tempo, black metal type drumming, and slow instrumental sections. The style was introduced in the mid 1980’s from the influence of hardcore bands and first wave black metal like Celtic Frost and Bathory.
Thrashcore is extremely sped up hardcore with faster guitars and drumming popularized by bands like D.R.I. and Septic Death. It is the precursor to the heavier and more noisy grindcore.
Powerviolence is an experimental form of hardcore. It is defined by really fast music, short songs, oddly placed breakdowns, and tempo changes throughout the song. Artists include Charles Bronson and Cattlepress.