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Hardcore punk

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Hardcore punk
Stylistic origins: Punk rock
Cultural origins: early 1980s North America
Typical instruments: Guitar - Bass - Drums (Double kick)
Mainstream popularity: Little to none during the careers of the bands, has gained much popularity in recent years
Derivative forms: Alternative rock - Emo - Post-hardcore
Christian hardcore - Crust punk - D-beat - Mathcore - Melodic hardcore - Power violence - Queercore - Skate punk - Straight edge - Thrashcore - Youth crew
Fusion genres
Crossover thrash - Funkcore - Grindcore - Grunge - Metalcore
Regional scenes
Australia - Brazil - Canada - Europe: Italy - South Wales - Scandinavia: Umeå - Japan - USA: Boston - Chicago - Detroit - Los Angeles - Minneapolis - New Jersey - New York - North Carolina - Phoenix - Seattle - San Francisco - Southern California - Texas - DC
Other topics
Hardcore dancing

Hardcore punk (or hardcore or Thrash) is a faster and heavier version of punk rock usually characterized by short, loud, and often passionate songs with exceptionally fast tempos and chord changes.



Hardcore originated in the 1980s in North America, primarily in and around Los Angeles and Washington, DC, but also in around New York City, Chicago, Vancouver, Boston, and other cities. Former DC club promoter Steven Blush claimed, in his book, American Hardcore: A Tribal History, that hardcore was punk rock adapted for suburban teens. Hardcore lyrics often express righteous indignation at society, usually from a politically left perspective.

The origin of the term "hardcore punk" is uncertain. One story, as is commonly told, is that the term was coined by New York City producer and manager Bob Sallese while promoting a show by the band The Mob, circa 1981, at a Bayside, Queens club. (The common New York term for fast punk, at the time, was "thrash.") Another possibility is that it comes from the Hardcore '81 album by Vancouver's D.O.A.

Nevertheless, the term was used in the California fanzine Flipside in the early 1980s, although not in the sense of a particular musical style, but in a sociological sense, to positively describe acts which were in the "in crowd" of the Los Angeles punk scene.

Until roughly 1983, the term "hardcore" was used fairly sparingly, mainly as an adjective, not as the name of a defined musical genre: American teenagers who were into hardcore considered themselves into "punk" -- as opposed to "punk rock" or "77 punk," the earlier, slower style of the Sex Pistols et al., which they generally considered hopelessly dated and passé.

"Hardcore"' was initially an in-group term, meaning "music by people like us," and included a surprisingly wide range of sounds, from hyper-speed punk to sludgy dirge-rock, and often including art/experimental bands such as Mission of Burma, The Stickmen, and Flipper. Today (and for the purpose of this article), it refers more or less exclusively to what used to be known as 'thrash.'

The Big 3

Michael Azerrad’s Our Band Could Be Your Life traces hardcore back to three bands: He calls LA’s Black Flag (formed in 1976) the music’s “godfathers”; he credits the Bad Brains, formed in Washington, D.C. in 1977, with introducing their often astonishingly fast “light speed” tempos; and calls Minor Threat, another Washington, D.C. group formed in 1980, the “definitive” hardcore punk band.

The Bad Brains were a young African-American band from Washington, DC, with a background in soul and funk, but also an interest in bands such as Black Sabbath and the Sex Pistols. Their eponymous first album (originally a cassette-only release on ROIR, in 1981), has been called the “holy grail” of hardcore and included three reggae tracks in sharp contrast with the rest of the band's music. A similarly esteemed single, “Pay to Cum” b/w “Stay Close to Me” preceded it in 1980.

Black Flag has been called "for all intents and purposes, America’s first hardcore band". It has also been said that "the group played an essential role in the development and popularization of American punk." The band had a major impact on the scene with their complex, confrontational sound and DIY ethical stance. They were mostly notable for featuring future Circle Jerks singer Keith Morris, and former State of Alert singer Henry Rollins.

Often cited as the definitive hardcore band Minor Threat formed out of short-lived The Teen Idles, in Washington, D.C. Carry-over members of The Teen Idles were Ian Mackaye and Jeff Nelson, who also founded Dischord Records. The band played an aggressive, fast form of punk that was already being described as "hardcore". The band was also responsible for jump-starting the straight edge movement through their use of the X as a symbol for clean living. After the The Teen Idles broke up, Mackaye gathered their tour money and founded Dischord Records initially to their recordings on vinyl, Minor Disturbance EP.

Other early notable bands

Rhino 39’s 1979 “Xerox” b/w “No Compromise”/“Prolixin Stomp” single has also been noted as a hardcore landmark. The Germs’ 1979 GI LP is essentially a hardcore record, not only for its quick tempos but especially for its notably fast chord changes, while the Circle Jerks’ first album, from 1980, features both blinding chord changes and tempos. The Germs had actually been called "hardcore" early in their career.

Several bands in the Los Angeles area in the late 1970s released records whose style has been cited as functionally identical to what would later be called "hardcore." The most striking is the Middle Class’s thrashing Out of Vogue EP from 1978. Another significant California hardcore band, San Francisco's Dead Kennedys, formed in 1978 and released their first single, California Über Alles, in 1979. The song is featured on their first CD Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables. Fresh Fruit is considered a classic of the hardcore genre, and is credited by some as being the first "true" hardcore punk record.

The Misfits, from northern New Jersey, were a ’77 punk band involved in New York’s Max's Kansas City scene, whose ironic horror-movie aesthetic was hugely popular among early hardcore aficionados. In 1981, the Misfits responded by integrating high-speed thrash songs into their set. Hüsker Dü was formed in Saint Paul, Minnesota in 1978, as a thrash band, releasing their first recordings in 1981. Their early recorded output has been called a “breakneck force like no other… Not for the faint of heart.” [1] Soon after, though, the band morphed into one of the top rated indie rock bands of the era.

By 1981 and 82, hardcore bands were cropping up all over North America, including The Neos, from Victoria, British Columbia; Zeroption, from Toronto; The Fix, from Detroit; The Necros, from Maumee, Ohio; Strike Under, The Effigies, Naked Raygun and Articles of Faith from Chicago; The Dicks and Big Boys, from Austin, Texas.

Important records of the period include The Adolescents’ first eponymous LP, the NYC compilation The Big Apple Rotten To The Core, the Boston-area This Is Boston, Not L.A. compilation, the Zero Boys' LP, the Detroit-area Process of Elimination compilation EP, Negative Approach's eponymous EP, The Necros’ IQ 32, SS Decontrol’s Kids Will Have Their Say, the New York Thrash cassette compilation, the DC-area Flex Your Head compilation, the Northern California Not So Quiet on the Western Front double-LP compilation, the Chicago-area Busted at OZ compilation, and the Fartz’s Because This Fuckin’ World Stinks LP.

Despite all this, the first actual use of the word "hardcore" was by Vancouver, Canada's DOA, on their album "Hardcore '81". DOA are credited by many, Ian Mackaye included, with being trailblazers in the world of constantly touring punk rock bands, and inspired many to jump in vans.

Early support

Hardcore was like most punk rock in that many of the bands specifically sought not to become famous pop stars. The concept of hit singles was nonexistant, as 7 inch records were used as EPs and not singles. The bands also were probably too poor or too apathetic to make videos for their songs. Complicating the matter further is the fact that many bands did not record at length, or released only self-made records, often with extremely low production values.

Therefore the early bands genuinely got zero support from MTV and commercial radio. However, independent and college stations all around the country usually had at least one person eager to get his favorite punk bands out on the radio, leading to many localized hardcore spots on the radio.

One of the most influential shows was Rodney on the ROQ on Los Angeles’ commercial station KROQ. DJ Rodney Bingenheimer played many styles of music, and helped popularize what was, circa 1979–80, called "Beach Punk"—a rowdy suburban style played by mostly teenage bands in and around Huntington Beach, and in heavily conservative Orange County.

The San Francisco-area public station KPFA featured the Maximum Rock ’n’ Roll radio show with DJs Tim Yohannon and Jeff Bale, who played the younger Northern California bands. A wave of zines also helped spread the new, younger punk style, including Guillotine, Ripper, Flipside, and in late 1981, Yohannon and Bale’s Maximum RocknRoll zine—modeled on Tim Tonooka's Ripper, but with a national circulation and 'scene reports' from around the country. A strong infrastructure of indie labels, linked with already-existing radio outlets and both old and new zines (Slash, Option, Flipside, and others had already covered alternative music for several years), helped to create a functioning, nationwide subculture, if not always one that was appreciated by older indie-music fans.

Negative publicity

Unfortunately, the hardcore scene became associated with violence. The relationship between violence and hardcore is difficult to easily quantify. There was undoubtledly an aggressive element to the music--the aggression was often had a major appeal for many fans.

Hardcore shows increasingly became sites of violent battles between police and concertgoers. Many clubs were trashed on both coasts, despite frantic pleas from the fanzines of the time. Henry Rollins, for one, argued that in his experience, the police caused far more problems than they solved at punk performances.

The reputed violence at punk shows was famously featured in episodes of the popular television shows CHiPs [2] and Quincy, M.E., in which Los Angeles hardcore punks were depicted as being involved in murder and general mayhem. This led to the term "Quincy Punks" (from which the punk band Quincy Punx took their name).

Slam Dancing

Main articles: Mosh and Hardcore dancing

The hardcore scene was responsible for intensifying the circle pit. Early New York and London punk gigs gave birth to the practice, but soon after hardcore came to prominence, its fans turned it into an artform. One notable innovation came from Huntington Beach. The circle pit began life as the H.B. Strut, a violent dance that involved participants strutting in a circle around the rim of the pit, swinging their limbs into onlookers. A somewhat accurate representation of the dance can be seen as the Circle Jerks popular logo, a walking punk rocker with a raised fist.

Later in the 1980's hardcore fans took to what is known as hardcore dancing.


Hardcore had a huge influence on other forms of rock music, especially in America. The San-Francisco-based heavy metal band Metallica were among the first crossover artists (circa 1982-83), incorporating the compositional structure and technical proficiency of metal with the speed and aggression of hardcore (Metallica would eventually cover three Misfits songs). Venom were another very early crossover band, as were Hellhammer and Slayer (formed in 1982, Huntington Park, CA) a largely influential "thrash metal" band who , put out an album in 1996, Undisputed Attitude, which portrayed their hardcore influences by covering hardcore songs on the album by bands such as Minor Threat (formed in 1980, Washington, DC) and Verbal Abuse (early 80's to current, Texas). The new style became known as "Thrash metal" -- or, later, "Speed metal" (another transitional term was "Speedcore"'), and soon became a trend which still exists today, including other bands such as Megadeth and Anthrax, with Slayer in the well known ranks.

The rising influence of heavy metal in the hardcore scene ---the Boston scene had gone over en masse, circa 1984, while other bands such as Corrosion of Conformity, from Raleigh, North Carolina, gained prominence through popularity among metal fans--dismayed some hardcore punks, especially veterans, who felt that the hardcore bands who were crossing over to metal styles were selling out to some of the very sensibilities that hardcore had organized against. Long-time hardcore punks, who remembered only a couple of years earlier fighting in streets with hostile metalheads, now felt that those same people were attempting to co-opt hardcore. These die-hard hardcore punks argued that the new long-haired interpreters of hardcore were merely mimicking emotions, such as raw anger, that they did not truly feel.

A 1986 concert by the U.K. band Discharge in New York City generated brief international notoriety when a crowd of roughly 1,500 paid $10 admission and pelted the band with garbage, an apparent response to the band's recent turn to a more metallic sound.

In 1985, New York's Stormtroopers of Death, an Anthrax side project, released the extremely popular album Speak English or Die. Though it bore similarities to Thrash metal, such as a characteristic bass-heavy guitar sound, and fast tempos and chord changes, the album was distinguished from Thrash metal by its lack of guitar solos and heavy use of crunchy chord breakdowns (a New York hardcore technique) known as "mosh parts". Other bands, most notably Suicidal Tendencies (from Los Angeles) and DRI (from Austin, Texas) played music similar to that of Stormtroopers of Death. The music, dubbed Crossover in the 1980s, is today often called punk metal.

Many hardcore bands branched out and began experimenting with other styles, moods and concerns as their careers progressed in the 1980s; the music of many of these bands are some of the earliest examples of what became known as alternative rock. Hüsker Dü's artistic growth from Land Speed Record to their final album Warehouse: Songs and Stories is a chief example of this development. Grunge was especially heavily influenced by hardcore. The sense of liberation that many of the grunge bands got--that you didn't have to be the world's greatest musician to form a band--was at least as important as the music. Even though the early grunge sound was more influenced by Black Sabbath and Black Flag's My War album than hardcore punk rock, bands like Mudhoney and Nirvana would instill a traditional hardcore influence as well as take the sound into more conventional pop-oriented territory. (Kurt Cobain once described Nirvana's sound as "The Knack and The Bay City Rollers being molested by Black Flag and Black Sabbath.") The popularity of grunge ultimately resulted in renewed interest in American hardcore in the '90s.

In the early '90s, bands like NOFX and Bad Religion, both of which had been around since the early '80s, achieved varying levels of mainstream success. They added catchy melodies and anthemic choruses to the hardcore template whilst removing much of the aggression and anger that had been the genre's trademark. While NOFX, Bad Religion and underground bands like Plow United are usually accepted as authentic by fans of hardcore punk, other Pop punk bands that had a poppier sound, such as Green Day and blink-182, were often accused of being "sellouts" or "posers".

Bands that retained the aggression of '80s Hardcore into the '90s include Agnostic Front , The Dwarves, The Distillers and Zero Bullshit (although debatably The Dwarves and The Distillers took just as much from influences outside of the hardcore genre as inside it). Many early hardcore bands have regrouped.

The hardcore punk scene had an influence that spread far beyond music. The straight edge philosophy was rooted in a faction of hardcore particularly popular on the East Coast. Hardcore also put a great emphasis on the DIY punk ethic, with many bands making their own records, flyers, and other items, and booking their own tours through an informal network of like-minded people. Radical environmentalism and veganism found popular expressions in the hardcore scene.

Early history in Europe and the UK

Outside of North America, the influence of Hardcore has been less universal. The Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, and Germany had, and continue to have, notably active and prolific scenes, but in the United Kingdom, more traditional punk bands like The Exploited, GBH, Discharge, and The Anti-Nowhere League occupied the cultural space that hardcore did elsewhere. These UK bands at times showed a superficial similarity to American hardcore, often including quick tempos and chord changes, and generally had similar political and social sensibilities -- but they represented a case of parallel evolution, having been musically inspired by the earlier London street-punk band, Sham 69, and/or the proto-speed-metal band, Motörhead.

Additionally, Discharge played a huge role in influencing the Swedish hardcore scene with bands such as Anti Cimex and other European bands. To this day. many hardcore bands from that region still have a strong Discharge and even Motörhead influence, which is considered by many to be the standard Swedish hardcore sound. The band Entombed is also cited as a huge influence of the sound, songwriting and production of Swedish hardcore bands from the early '90s onward.

In much the same way, Anarcho-punk bands like Crass, Icons Of Filth, Flux Of The Pink Indians and Rudimentary Peni had little in common with American hardcore other than an uncompromising political philosophy and an abrasive aesthetic. American hardcore punks listened to and supported many of these British bands (shows by bands such as GBH were considered special events in America and drew large crowds), even while upholding a strict regionalism, deriding them as "rock stars" and anyone too fond of them as "poseurs." (Expressive fans of the influential UK anarcho-punk collective Crass, were called "crassholes.")

American hardcore bands who visited the UK (such as Black Flag, in 1981) encountered equally ambivalent attitudes. Visiting European hardcore bands suffered no such prejudice in the U.S., with Italian bands Raw Power and Negazione, and the Dutch BGK, enjoying widespread popularity.

It should also be mentioned that there in the more underground part of the UK scene, around the same time and a little later than the already mentioned bands existed, grew a hardcore sound and scene, inspired by continental European/Scandinavian, Japanese and U.S. bands. It was started by bands like (and the people in) Asylum, Genocide Association and Plasmid, that from their material and inspiration -- only heard at live shows, and released on demo tapes and compilations in the mid '80s -- would evolve into bands like Heresy, Ripcord, early Napalm Death, Hellbastard, Doom, Satanic Malfunctions and Extreme Noise Terror.

The most important influences among late '80s UK bands was (among others): GISM, Confuse, Siege and Septic Death, as well as Discard, Anti Cimex and more metallic bands like Celtic Frost and Metallica. They had a solid background in the Anarcho-punk sound, scene and way of thinking, as well.

About the continental European hardcore sound and scene(s), there was a huge number of bands that could be described as something in between the dominating UK bands and US bands. The band that had the biggest influence among them all, was the allready mentioned Discharge. But also Circle Jerks, Bad Brains and Black Flag left their mark on European hardcore (especially in Italy). Other key influences were: Dead Kennedys, Disorder and Millions Of Dead Cops. Some notable bands from that era and these countries were Wretched, Raw Power, Declino, Negazione, Indigesti (Italy), H.H.H., MG-15, Eskorbuto (Spain), Inferno, Vorkriegsjugend, Scapegoats (Germany), U.B.R. (Slovenia), Kafka Process, Barn Av Regnbuen (Norway), Heimat-Los (France), Lärm, BGK (Holland), Vi, Enola Gay, O.H.M.(Denmark), Dezerter, Armia, Moskwa, Siekiera (Poland), Kaaos, Rutto, Kansan Uutiset, Terveet Kädet, Appendix (Finland), Headcleaners, Asocial, Missbrukarna, Sound Of Disaster and Anti-cimex (Sweden).

Examples of bands who continued to play that style of hardcore in the '90s include: Seein Red, Uutuus, Kirous, Health Hazard, Totalitär, Los Crudos, Sin Dios, and Detestation.

Hardcore in the 1990s

Even though American Hardcore is often thought of solely as a product of 1980s Reaganism, many bands have continued to play an aggressive form of punk rock similar to hardcore well into the 1990s and even into the early 2000s.

Many of the '90s/'00s hardcore bands began to include new sounds into hardcore while retaining hardcore's aggression. Notorious Boston band Blood for Blood released "Outlaw Anthems" in which they changed from their hardcore roots to what they call "hardcore rock n' roll." Seattle's Zeke incorporated the heavier guitar sound and ranted vocals similar to Stormtroopers of Death into hardcore and, eventually, evolved into a thrash metal band. Other bands to follow a similar, hardcore metal, path include Pennywise, The Opposed (Cincinnati) and The Dwarves.

Heavy Hardcore

Being a chiefly urban phenomenon, hardcore often reflected the life of its players and fans. The incorporation of heavy metal (both musically and mentality-wise) led to a sect of hardcore bands branching off into heavier, more brutal directions. Sheer Terror from New York put out a demo in 1985 called No Grounds For Pity. The music within contained a brutal mixture of punk rock, Motörhead style speed, and Discharge's intense vocal delivery that was a great deal heavier than most hardcore in the scene. Sheer Terror's music, along with elements such as Biohazard's mixture of metal and hip hop beats, Madball's brutal and unforgiving depictions of urban life, and Judge's syncopated musical breaks gave birth to what is variously called heavy hardcore, brutal hardcore, and toughguy. Other notable bands who helped spur the genre on in early years include Killing Time, Maximum Penalty, and the infamous Carnivore.

Essentially the "heavy hardcore" sound is an amalgamation of deep, hoarse vocals (though rarely as deep or guttural as death metal), downtuned guitars, thrashy drum rhythms inspired directly from earlier hardcore bands, and slow, staccato low-end musical breaks, known colloquially as "breakdowns". Some bands tend to focus more on breakdowns than others (such as New Jersey's Redline), and others tend not to rely on them too much, letting the overall songwriting and feel drive the music (Troy, New York's Stigmata is a prime example). Elements such as thrash metal and hip hop are also common. Sworn Enemy and Boxcutter are two current respective examples of such.

Today, the best-known representative band of the genre is most likely Hatebreed. Hatebreed was formed in the middle of Connecticut's strong hardcore scene in 1995 and quickly made a name for themselves. After releasing a split EP, a 7 Inch, and a 7 song EP called Under the Knife, they signed to Victory Records and released 1997's Satisfaction Is The Death Of Desire. The album placed the group squarely in the spotlight of the hardcore scene, and can be found on many diehard fans' top ten lists. From there Hatebreed managed to cross over into the heavy metal scene through tours with Slayer and Slipknot, and later signed to Universal Records.

It would be impossible to have a discussion on "heavy hardcore" without mentioning some of the the aggressive bands that came out of the early 90's, particularly the Northeast, who helped pioneered the mixture of old school hardcore with death metal. Brooklyn, NY's Merauder and Confusion along with Jackson Heights, NY's Dmize are perhaps the finest examples, crossing bands like Kreator and Obituary with New York Hardcore. Darkside NYC, formed by Alan Blake of Sheer Terror fame around the same time, was often compared to Celtic Frost meets Sheer Terror musically and Negative Approach meets Crumbsuckers vocally, a devastiatingly brutal combination. (Alan Blake is credited as the man who brought Celtic Frost to New York Hardcore!!) They were also known for incorporating blast parts as a direct death metal/grindcore influence. Dmize, Confusion and Darkside NYC managed to achieve cult status in the U.S., Europe and Japan while only playing shows in the Northeast during their short existences. Merauder went on to sign to Century Media and tour the world, and still performs today, albeit with various lineup changes. In upstate NY, All Out War, formed with ex-Merauder members gained an extremewly violent repuation as members of their audience would pummel the hell out of each other - many shows often ended in a full scale riot! As a result, many clubs were loathe to have these kinds of bands perform. When All Out War played, hundreds of people would show up. They went on to release 3 incredibly heavy albums on Victory Records and has also toured the world. Most of the bands playing "heavy hardcore" today inevitably cite these bands as an influence.

In Baltimore, MD, Next Step Up put the City That Bleeds on the map with their heavy guttural rendition of hardcore and brutal mosh breakdowns. Their ex-members have all remained in music and have gone on to start perhaps a dozen newer bands, namely Wake Up Cold, The Unyoung Heroes, Hell To Pay.

Early in the 1990s, Earth Crisis fused hardcore's ethic and simplistic aggression with brutal metallic syncopation to create an unforgivingly heavy sound. This, combined with the band's near-militant stance on veganism, animal rights, and the straight edge movement (inspired heavily by the band Vegan Reich) ensured them popularity, if not notoriety in the scene for years.

Though certainly not representative of all listeners, this particular scene of hardcore is known for (and sometimes looked down upon for) its stereotypical image and attitude of inner city street thugs with fake gangster mentalities. Again, it must be noted that much of hardcore's fanbase has always revolved around inner city youth. With the popularity of inner city fashion and image, and the similarities of some of the heavier bands' music to hip hop, it is not surprising that the two would end up crossing over. Of course actual hardcore/hip hop crossovers were most likely the catalyst of much of the image, such as Biohazard's general sound and collaborations with Onyx, KRS-One's appearance on a Sick Of It All song, Madball's streetwise attitude, and New Jersey's E-Town Concrete, a brutally heavy Biohazard-influenced band.

Other sources of negative connotations in heavy hardcore come the tendency in various scenes for fans to be part of "crews" that, also stereotypically, lie somewhere in between a group of close-knit friends and a full out gang. Typically these crews will give themselves 3 or 4 letter acronyms for names and refer to (and defend) each other and their close friends like a family. Madball, Dmize and H2O's involvement in New York's DMS (Doc Martin Skin) crew is probably the most famous example. Despite the image and bad publicity this sort of thing can bring, most crews simply are just a group of close knit friends. Although this is true, others that have made themselves known as a "crew" may make bad influences in their local scenes, such as Visalia, CA's "division" of SYG (STAND YOUR GROUND), who seem to look for trouble and start fights at shows by hardcore dance into the crowd of bystanders at the edge of the circle pits (causing the bystander to push the "dancer back" and the "dancer" comes back throwing punches). They also have a heavy "gangster" like image ("SYG" graffiti logos on their shirts and boxers, baggy-saggy pants, and baseball caps cocked to the side) and openly listen to rap/hip-hop. To many old school punks (crusties, street punks, and deathrockers), this is equivalent to heresy. Not all groups of SYG's crews are like this though, as these groups of "wannabes" have been confronted by their Los Angeles (and other Inner City groups) for their unintelligent actions against their own kind, and have backed down or lost (brutally) to a challenge/fight. Other "crews" have also confronted such groups such as FHS (Fresno Hate Squad) and FHC/FCHC (Fresno Hardcore/Fresno City Hardcore), whenever those that oppose the fun and positivity of the scene may cause trouble. Some hardcore Crews are almost novelties in the way they are. For example, VKC (Visalia Kid Core)-- Which is-- quite commically-- a group of "punks" between the ages of 10-13 years old that are recognized by their novel dress style of comic book superheroes.

Throughout the following couple decades the newer style became just as predominant as its faster cousin. Prominent bands include 25 ta Life, Vision Of Disorder, 100 Demons, All Out War, Neglect, Shattered Realm, Death Threat, Next Step Up, E-Town Concrete, Hoods, Subzero, Sworn Enemy, Breakdown, Knuckledust, Mushmouth, Settle The Score, Angel Crew, and The Bad Luck 13 Riot Extravaganza who became infamous for their unpredictable and chaotic live sets.

Progression and experimentation

In the late '80s bands like No Means No (British Columbia, Canada) and Victim's Family (Northern California) created a new style of powerful music by blending aggressive elements from hardcore with other influences such as psychedelic or progressive rock, noise, jazz, or math rock (a development sometimes termed jazzcore). This path was followed in the early 90s by Mr Bungle, Candiria and lesser known bands such as Deep Turtle (Finland), Ruins (Japan) and Tear of a Doll (France). The noisecore played by Melt-Banana (Tokyo) was probably a separate evolution. Other important hardcore-based or influenced bands in this area included the avant-garde Naked City, formed by saxophonist John Zorn, and Neurosis, who started as a hardcore band before exploring slower tempos and dark ambiance to evolve a style of their own.

There were also many bands who started to incorporate emotional and personal aspects into their music, influenced by the sounds coming out of Washington, D.C. and Dischord Records, which by the late 90s had grown and fused with more traditional punk to create emo (a contraction of 'emotional hardcore'). The Nation of Ulysses was one of the most influential bands to come out of D.C., combining dissonant guitars similar to those of Black Flag, elements of jazz, and a seemingly absurdist (or situationist) political ideology. Their sound and fashion sense would be of particular influence on the San Diego scene.

Ebullition Records, from Santa Barbara, California, was a record label that tended to feature and distribute this type of music. These bands remained political, but tended to focus more on personal politics. Examples of these bands would be Endpoint, Groundwork, Split Lip and others. Born Against, from both New York and Baltimore, Maryland, played politically aware hardcore.

The San Diego Band Heroin splintered into many new bands, most notably, Antioch Arrow, and Clikatat Ikatowi. Antioch Arrow, were brutal and spastic, combined with a goth aesthetic, while Clikatat Ikatowi, combined pounding tribal drums, and dissonant guitar, with a post-punk aesthetic, and become one of the most unique bands of the '90s hardcore scene. The Locust, who started out as a fairly conventional hardcore band would develop their own sound; which is fast, brutal, and spastic. Some have described the Locust as Free Jazz meets hardcore. The Locust and their distinct sound would later be classified as power violence.

Today, another common, heavier sound is represented by bands such as Mosquitos Can Kill, From Ashes Rise and Tragedy who play a brand of melodic sound influenced by crustcore.

Gravity Records was an important record label of the '90s hardcore scene, releasing bands like Antioch Arrow, Clikatat Ikatowi, and The Locust; the label was later associated with the power violence genre.

Straight edge also became more prominent in the 1990s with bands like Earth Crisis fusing metal and hardcore with militant vegan and straight edge lyrics. In the late 1990s there was surge of 80 revival bands which copied the sound of Youth of Today and Gorilla Biscuits, updating the sound with slightly faster tempos and metal breakdowns.

A recent subgenre is Gaelic punk which first gained media attention in Scotland in 2005 with veteren anarcho-punks Oi Polloi starting to record in Scots Gaelic. They have been joined by Seattle's Mill a h-Uile Rud who play tuneful hardcore but sing entirely in Gaelic. Their repetoire includes a Gaelic version of 'Sheena is a Punk Rocker'.

Hardcore today

There are still many bands today that follow the lines of original hardcore. It has evolved somewhat since the '80s but still follows many of the ideals.

There are also many contemporary bands who play hardcore in an original, purist sense while attempting to add even more intensity to the music. These bands often adhere to a specific local flavor of hardcore. Another common trend is to try to capture the sound of influential bands from an earlier era. One example of this would be D-beat bands who emulate the early music of Discharge, like Deathcharge, Dischange and the Japanese band Disclose.

Additionally, the name "Hardcore" has been applied with increasing frequency to what most would consider heavy metal. Groups like Inside Recess, Bleeding Through, Inner Surge and Poison the Well have fused the aggression of traditional hardcore with the intensity of metal. Typical of this "metalcore" genre are heavy breakdown parts and harshly delivered vocals, sometimes verging on death metal growl. As this new kind of music has evolved, so has the sub-culture associated with it; for example, fashioncore. In the 1990s the name "hardcore" even came to be applied to a genre of electronica having nothing in common with hardcore punk.

Although the term "Hardcore" has come to be attached to this kind of music, some fans of traditional Hardcore deride its use. Today, some reserve the term "Hardcore" for the style of the early 1980s, referring to today's genre as "Street Punk." A good example is the California band Final Conflict.

There is also an emerging hardcore scene, predominantly in California, of hardcore punk. Mostly bands involving younger people, places such as the Burnt Ramen, Warm Water Cove and long beach wherehouse continue to host DIY punk shows. Bands such as Gnar, Deadfall, K-BAR, and most importantly WARKRIME bring a hostile approach to modern hardcore, taking the sound of older bay area bands and making it their own.


  • American Hardcore: A Tribal History (Steven Blush, Feral House publishing, 2001, ISBN 0-922915-717-7)
  • Smash the State: A Discography of Canadian Punk, 1977-92 (Frank Manley, No Exit, 1993)

External links

Current punk community websites


Punk rock
Anarcho-punk - Anti-folk - Crust punk - Garage punk - Hardcore - Post-hardcore - Horror punk - New Wave - No Wave - Noise rock - Oi! - Pop punk - Post-punk - Psychobilly - Deathcountry - Riot grrrl - Ska punk - Streetpunk - Two Tone
Other topics
Hardcore punk | Hardcore punk genres
Christian hardcore - Crust punk - D-beat - Funkcore - Grindcore - Mathcore - Melodic hardcore - Power violence - Ska punk - Skate punk - Thrashcore - Youth crew
Derivative forms: Emo - Math rock - Post-hardcore
Regional scenes: Australia
Hardcore topics: Hardcore dancing - Straight edge

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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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