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Hardcore punk, often referred to as simply hardcore, is a subgenre of punk rock that originated primarily in North America (though, early examples could be found throughout the world) in the late 1970s. The new sound was generally faster, thicker, and heavier than earlier punk rock. Early hardcore has a quick tempo with drums and vocals in time, whereas modern hardcore punk has drums and vocals which may not be on beat with the tempo.

Hardcore spawned several fusion genres and subgenres, some of which experienced mainstream success, such as melodic hardcore, metalcore, post-hardcore and thrash metal

In the United States, the music genre that became known as hardcore punk originated in different areas in the early 1980s, with notable centers of activity in Californiamarker, Washington, D.C.marker, New York Citymarker, Michiganmarker, and Bostonmarker.

The origin of the term hardcore punk is uncertain. The Vancouver-based band D.O.A. may have helped to popularize the term with the title of their 1981 album, Hardcore '81. Until about 1983, the term hardcore was used sparingly, and mainly as a descriptive term. (i.e., a band would be called a "hardcore band" and a concert would be a "hardcore show"). Americanmarker teenagers who were fans of hardcore punk simply considered themselves fans of punk – although they were not necessarily interested in the original punk rock sound of the mid-late 1970s (e.g., Ramones, Sex Pistols, The Clash, or The Damned). In many circles, hardcore was an in-group term, meaning music by people like us.Since most bands had little access to any means of production, hardcore lauded a do-it-yourself approach. In most cities the hardcore scene relied on inexpensively-made DIY recordings created on four-track recorders and sold at concerts or by mail. Concerts were promoted by photocopied zines, community radio shows, and affixing posters to walls and telephone poles. Hardcore punk fans adopted a dressed-down style of T-shirts, jeans, and crewcut-style haircuts. While 1977-era punk had used DIY clothing as well, such as torn pants held together with safety pins, the dressed-down style of the 1980s hardcore scene contrasted with the more elaborate and provocative fashion styles of late 1970s punk rockers, which included make-up, elaborate hairdos and avant-garde clothing experiments.

During the same period, there was a parallel development in the United Kingdommarker of a British form of hardcore punk or street punk. British hardcore bands such as Discharge and Chaos UK took the existing late 1970s punk sound and added the incessant, heavy drumbeats and distorted guitar sound of New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) bands such as Iron Maiden. This contributed to the development of the thrash metal sound of the 1980s.



Michael Azerrad's book Our Band Could Be Your Life and Steven Blush's book and documentary film American Hardcore describe three bands -- Black Flag, Bad Brains, and Minor Threat -- as the most important and influential in the genre. Azerrad calls Black Flag the genre’s "godfathers"; credits Bad Brains, formed in Washington, D.C.marker in 1977, with introducing "light speed tempos" to hardcore; and describes Minor Threat as the "definitive" hardcore punk band.

Black Flag, formed by guitarist and songwriter Greg Ginn in Los Angelesmarker in 1976, had a major impact on the Los Angeles scene – and later the wider North American scene – with their raw, confrontational sound and DIY approach. Tours in 1980 and 1981 brought Black Flag in contact with developing hardcore scenes in many parts of North America, and blazed trails followed by other touring bands. Bad Brains, formed in Washington, DCmarker in 1977, incorporated elements of heavy metal and reggae, and their early work often emphasized some of the fastest tempos in rock music. . Minor Threat, formed in Washington D.C. in 1980, played an aggressive, fast style directly influenced by Bad Brains. The band inspired the straight edge movement with their song, "Straight Edge".

Other bands in scenes across the country were developing and experimenting with the "hardcore" sound before these pioneers. An example is The Germs crossover appeal between old school punk rock and hardcore punk.

Other early notable bands

According to Brendan Mullen, founder of the Los Angelesmarker punk club The Masque, the first U.S. tour of The Damned in 1977 found them favoring very fast tempos, causing a "sensation" among fans and musicians, and helping inspire the first wave of U.S. west coast hardcore punk.

San Franciscomarker's Dead Kennedys formed in 1978 and released their first single "California Über Alles" in 1979. By the time they released the In God We Trust, Inc. EP in 1981, Dead Kennedys were playing very fast tempos. The Misfits (of New Jersey) were a 1977-style punk band involved in New York’s Max's Kansas Citymarker scene. Their horror film aesthetic was popular among early hardcore fans. In 1981, the Misfits integrated high-speed thrash songs into their set. Hüsker Dü was formed in Saint Paul, Minnesotamarker in 1979 as a post-punk/New Wave band, but soon became a loud and fast hard punk band. Hüsker Dü released the 1982 live album Land Speed Record, which has been called a "breakneck force like no other... Not for the faint of heart." By 1985, the band morphed into one of the seminal alternative rock bands. In 1982, Bad Religion released How Could Hell Be Any Worse?, which is considered a benchmark hardcore album, and which secured them as one of the most enduring outfits of the early 1980s hardcore scene.

By 1981, many more hardcore punk bands began to perform and release recordings, including 7 Seconds of Reno, Nevadamarker who formed in 1979; M.I.A of Las Vegasmarker, Nevadamarker; Negative Approach and Degenerates of Detroitmarker; The Meatmen of Lansing, Michigan; The Necros of Maumee, Ohiomarker; The Effigies of Chicagomarker; SS Decontrol, DYS, Negative FX, Jerry's Kids, and Gang Green of Boston; The Mob and Agnostic Front of New York City. The Beastie Boys, more widely known for their later hip hop music, were one of the first recorded hardcore bands in New York City. Negative FX, perhaps the most popular hardcore band in Boston around early 1982, did not appear on record while they were together. They were largely unknown outside their own area until a posthumous album was released in 1984. In Honolulu, the skater surfer fueled community juxtaposed well in the tropical tourist city. Bands like Super Rad Ohana, The Sharx, and Devil Dog thrived from '81 -'87. Devil Dog frontman Raoul Vehill recreated the dayglo thrash scene in his autobiographical novel, Hawaii Punk, published by Enlightened Pyramid.

Notable early hardcore punk records include The Angry Samoans’ first LP, the Big Boys/The Dicks Live at Raul's Club split LP, the Boston-area compilation This Is Boston, Not L.A., Minor Threat's 7" EPs, JFA's Blatant Localism EP, the New York-area compilations New York Thrash and The Big Apple Rotten To The Core, Agnostic Front's United Blood 7", Negative Approach's eponymous EP and the DC-area compilation record Flex Your Head.

Early media support and criticism

An influential radio show in the Los Angelesmarker area was Rodney on the ROQ, which started airing on the commercial station KROQ in 1976. DJ Rodney Bingenheimer played many styles of music and helped popularize what was called Beach Punk, a rowdy suburban style played by mostly teenage bands in the Huntington Beach area and in conservative Orange Countymarker. Early radio support in New Jerseymarker came from Pat Duncan, who hosted live punk and hardcore bands weekly on WFMUmarker since 1979. In New York Citymarker, Tim Sommer hosted Noise The Show on WNYU. In 1982 and 1983, MTV put the hardcore punk band Kraut on mild rotation.College radio was the main media outlet for hardcore punk in most of North America. The Berkeley, Californiamarker public radio station KPFA featured the Maximum RocknRoll radio show with DJs Tim Yohannan and Jeff Bale, who played the younger Northern California bands. Several zines, such as Flipside and Maximum RocknRoll, also helped spread the new punk style. A few college stations faced FCC action due to the broadcasting of indecent lyrics associated with hardcore songs.

Concerts in the early hardcore scene increasingly became sites of violent battles between police and concertgoers, especially in Los Angeles. Reputed violence at hardcore concerts was featured in episodes of the popular television shows CHiPs and Quincy, M.E., in which Los Angeles hardcore punks were depicted as being involved in murder and mayhem.

The hardcore punk scene in Los Angelesmarker was the subject of a 1981 documentary featuring interviews of musicians and fans by Penelope Spheeris entitled "The Decline of Western Civilization".

Early history in Europe

The Netherlandsmarker, Finlandmarker, Swedenmarker, and Germanymarker have had notably active hardcore scenes. In the United Kingdommarker, street punk (also known as UK hardcore or UK82) bands occupied the cultural space that American-style hardcore did elsewhere. These UK bands at times showed a musical similarity to American hardcore, often including quick tempos and chord changes, and they generally had similar political and social sensibilities. However, they represented a case of parallel evolution, having been musically inspired by oi! bands and the speed metal band Motörhead. UK band Discharge played a huge role in influencing early Swedish hardcore bands, and many hardcore bands from that region still have a strong Discharge and Motörhead influence. British anarcho-punk bands shared an uncompromising political philosophy and an abrasive aesthetic with American hardcore.

American hardcore bands that visited the UK (such as Black Flag and U.S. Chaos in 1981-1982) encountered ambivalent attitudes, but European hardcore bands suffered no such prejudice in the United States.

In the more underground part of the UK punk scene, a new hardcore sound and scene developed, inspired by continental European, Scandinavian, Japanese and American bands. Their sound – only heard at concerts and on demo tapes and compilations in the mid 1980s – evolved into metal bands such as Heresy, Napalm Death and Extreme Noise Terror. There were many 1980s bands that could be described as sounding like something in between the styles of the dominating UK and US bands. The Stupids (a UK band influenced by US hardcore) gained brief but widespread college-radio airplay in the US. Examples of European bands that continued to play the original style of hardcore in the 1990s include Voorhees, Totalitär, Disfear and Sin Dios.

After the fall of the Iron Curtain in eastern Europe, many hardcore bands were created or became more publicly known (after hiding in garages and being known only by small circles of underground fans).

Mid 1980s

By 1985, most of the early hardcore bands had broken up or were on their way out. The New York hardcore scene became an epicenter for the hardcore movement, and was the birthplace of the youth crew subgenre. Young bands formed by teenagers in New York City between 1986 and 1987 found huge followings in hardcore scenes around the world.


By the end of the 1980s, hardcore became more diverse, branching off into two sounds: one traditionally punk-based, referred to as old school hardcore and the other evolving into something heavier, slower, more technical and more intense, influenced by heavy metal, known as new school hardcore, metalcore or metallic hardcore. Sick of It All's second studio album, Just Look Around (1991) is illustrative of this style. Earth Crisis, Biohazard, Hatebreed, Snapcase, 108, Strife, Integrity, Damnation A.D. and World's Collide were some of the earliest bands to feature an amalgamation of deep, hoarse vocals (though rarely as deep or guttural as death metal); downtuned guitars and thrashy drum rhythms inspired by earlier hardcore bands; and slow, staccato low-end musical breaks, known as breakdowns. Thrash metal and melodic death metal elements are common in melodic metalcore.

By the middle of the 90's, a new found interest in old school and youth crew hardcore had developed and the scene experienced a major revival of these styles with many bands adopting the sound of late 80's New York hardcore bands such as Gorilla Biscuits and Youth of Today. For this reason, many of these bands were credited as playing "'88 style hardcore" or being part of the "'88 hardcore revival" . Bands that were an integral and prominent part of this movement were Battery , Better Than A Thousand , Ten Yard Fight,In My Eyes,Speak 714 ,Floorpunch and Good Clean Fun.

An important aspect of the this old school revival was its stripped down and back to basics sound which stood in stark comparison to the more technical and complex style of new school hardcore and metalcore that had developed earlier in the decade. Ray Cappo, the singer of Better Than A Thousand, who had sung originally with Youth of Today in the late 80's but then founded the new school style krishna core band Shelter in the early 90's, explained in an interview his return to the rudimentaries of hardcore in the late 90's."I was sick of going into the studio for 3 months to record a CD. With Better Than A Thousand we wanted to capture something spontaneous and raw on tape. Get rid of all the flashiness and gloss of expensive studios and just get in there and pour out your heart. We erected a studio in Ken Olden's bedroom and whipped off a completely crunchy and emotional CD that completely captured the essence of what this band was about."

Towards the end of the 90's and into the beginning of the next century many hardcore bands, such as Botch and Dillinger Escape Plan began incorporating elements of power violence and grindcore into their style such as blast beats, extremely fast and chaotic guitar riffs and unintelligible vocals that were either shrill and screamed or deep and guttural. This style is generally referred to as a form of metalcore entitled mathcore.

Influence on other genres

Some hardcore bands began experimenting with other styles as their careers progressed in the 1980s, becoming known as alternative rock. Bands such as Minutemen, Meat Puppets, Hüsker Dü, and The Replacements drew from hardcore but broke away from its loud and fast formula. Critic Joe S. Harrington suggested that the latter two "paraded as Hardcore until it was deemed permissible to do otherwise".

In the mid-1980s, Washingtonmarker State bands such as Melvins and Green River developed a sludgy, "aggressive sound that melded the slower tempos of heavy metal with the intensity of hardcore", creating what became known as grunge music. Melvins, aside from their influence on grunge, helped create what would be known as sludge metal, which is also a combination between Black Sabbath-style music and hardcore punk. This genre developed during the early 1990s, in the Southern United States (particularly in the New Orleans metal scene). Some of the pioneering bands of sludge metal were: Eyehategod, Crowbar, Down, Buzzov*en, Acid Bath and Corrosion of Conformity. Later, bands such as Isis and Neurosis, with similar influences, created a style that relies mostly on ambience and atmosphere that would eventually be named atmospheric sludge metal or post-metal.

The San Franciscomarker-based thrash metal bands Metallica and Slayer incorporated the compositional structure and technical proficiency of heavy metal with the speed and aggression of hardcore. The new heavy metal genre became known as thrash metal. Slayer are also known for their love of hardcore punk, and have released an album of hardcore cover versions called Undisputed Attitude. In 1985, New York's Stormtroopers of Death, an Anthrax side project, released the album Speak English or Die that bore similarities to thrash metal – with a bass-heavy guitar, fast tempos and quick chord changes. However, 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. Bands such as Suicidal Tendencies and Dirty Rotten Imbeciles (DRI), switched from hardcore to a similar metallic style, which came to be known as crossover thrash.

The later 1980s and early 1990s saw the development of post-hardcore, which took the hardcore style in a more artistic and complex direction, much as the bands of the post-punk era did for classic punk rock. Washington DCmarker, in particular the community surrounding Dischord Records, became a hotbed for post-hardcore, producing bands such as Hoover, Nation of Ulysses, Jawbox and Fugazi, who helped define the scene and included Dischord founder and former Minor Threat frontman Ian MacKaye. Post-hardcore included and influenced other styles, such as emo and math rock. Early emo bands were influenced by hardcore bands like Rites of Spring, Minor Threat, and Black Flag. Emo bands are heavily influenced by hardcore punk's powerful lyrics, song structure and emotion. Sunny Day Real Estate are sometimes called the "first true emo band."

Politics and social issues

Punks burning United States flag
While the aforementioned "godfathers" of the hardcore genre—Bad Brains, Black Flag, Minor Threat—usually did not deal with overt political themes, many bands that followed in their wake took strong left-wing political stances against Republican US President Ronald Reagan, who served in office from 1981 to 1989. Reagan's policies, including Reaganomics and social conservatism, were common subjects for these bands. Dead Kennedys, Reagan Youth, and MDC promoted anarchist views. However, a minority of hardcore bands were relatively conservative, such as The FU's, The Undead, and Antiseen.

Ebullition Records, founded in 1990 by Kent McClard in Santa Barbara, Californiamarker, often released albums by bands that criticized the American political and economic system, paying less attention to personal issues. Anarchist ethics seeped their way into the work of many hardcore punk bands, most notably Aus-Rotten, who were also popular in the crust punk genre. On the east coast of the United States, bands such as Rorschach and Born Against also played a similar left-wing form of metallic hardcore.

The straight edge philosophy of no smoking, drinking or doing drugs was rooted in a faction of hardcore particularly popular on the east coast of the United States. Hare Krishna bands like 108 and Shelter typified this movement, taking it even a step further. Hardcore also put a great emphasis on the DIY punk ethic, which inspired other types of bands to make their own records, flyers and other items, and to book their own tours through an informal network of like-minded people.

Hardcore dancing

The early 1980s hardcore punk scene developed slam dancing and stage diving. In the second half of the 1980s, the thrash metal scene adopted this form of dancing, with bands such as Anthrax popularizing the term mosh with the metal scene. The term hardcore dancing now describes a type of dancing that has become staple of hardcore concerts. A performance by Fear on the 1981 Halloween episode of Saturday Night Live was cut short when slam dancers including John Belushi and members of other hardcore bands invaded the stage, damaged studio equipment and engaged in some profanity.


  1. However, in New York City, as early as the middle of 1982 (if not earlier) the punk scene was overwhelmingly represented by "hardcore" bands. Many of these bands, like their fans, comprised a new generation of teens and young adults -- i.e., people too young to have participated in the late-70s scene. There was a clearly articulated consciousness of "hardcore" as the contemporary (early 80s) phase in the ongoing evolution of punk. Also by 1982 (if not earlier) the slogan "New York Hardcore" was adopted by these young fans, who congregated at clubs such as CBGB and the newer, more exclusively hardcore venue called A-7.
  3. Black Flag
  5. VH1 - Black Flag
  6. Bad Brains
  7. see Mullen's comments in the Don Letts directed documentary Punk: Attitude.
  8. allmusic (((Everything Falls Apart and More > Overview)))
  10. Nelson, Jason. "Degenerates (Online Band Profile / Biography)". (website).
  11. David Carr: Hawaii 70s-80s Punk Museum. Retrieved on February 17, 2009.
  12. Vehill, Raoul: "Hawaii Punk" (Bangor, Wales, Enlightened Pyramid Publications, 2009) Retrieved on 2009-2-17
  13. Battle of the Bands - CHiPs Wiki
  14. Allmusic The Decline of Western Civilization
  15. J. Bennett, "Converge's Jane Doe," Revolver, June 2008
  16. Allmusic Review, Atreyu, Suicide Notes and Butterfly Kisses [1] Access date: June 24, 2008
  17. Metal Injection, August 28, 2007 [2] Access date: June 24, 2008
  18. Ink 19. Music Reviews: Speak 714, "The Scum Also Rises".[3]Retrieved 2009-08-30
  19. Revelation Records. Bands: Battery.[4] Retrieved 2009-08-30
  20. Epitaph Records. Artist Info: Better Than A Thousand.[5]Retrieved 2009-08-30
  21. Insound. MP3: Ten Yard Fight, "Hardcore Pride".[6]Retrieved 2009-08-30
  22. Last FM. Artist: In My Eyes.[7] Retrieved 2009-08-30
  23. Ink 19. Music Reviews: Speak 714, "The Scum Also Rises".[8] Retrieved 2009-08-30
  24. Sputnik Music. Punk: Floorpunch, "Fast Times At The Jersey Shore".[9] Retrieved 2009-08-30
  25. SAVEYOURSCENE.COM. Interviews: Good Clean Fun.[10] Retrieved 2009-08-30
  26. Epitaph Records. Artist Info: Better Than A Thousand.[11]Retrieved 2009-08-30
  27. Facebook. Fan Page: Botch [12]
  28. Reynolds, Simon (2005). Rip It Up and Start Again: Post Punk 1978–1984 (London and New York: Faber and Faber). ISBN 0-571-21569-6, pp. 460-467
  29. Harrington, Joe S. (2002). Sonic Cool: The Life & Death of Rock 'n' Roll (Milwaukee, Wisc.: Hal Leonard). ISBN 0-634-02861-8, p. 388
  30. Azerrad, Michael (2001). Our Band Could Be Your Life (New York: Little, Brown). ISBN 0-316-78753-1, p. 419
  31. Greenwald, Andy. "Nothing Feels Good: Punk Rock, Teenagers, and Emo." pages 9-33 and 37-39.
  32. Reagan
  34. (2001) "Moshpit", ISBN 0711987440, 9780711987449, p.38: Alternatively the term may have been coined by Anthrax or SOD (Storm troopers Of Death), an Anthrax affiliated project whose 'Milano Mosh' was an influential track"
  35. "Mosh" and "moshing" were in local use on the New York Hardcore scene as early as 1982, and so the coinage and usage of these terms has its origins in the early eighties hardcore scene.
  36. Allmusic Fear bio
  37. Fear on SNL and Ian MacKaye March 1, 2006


  • Going Underground: American Punk 1979-1992 (George Hurchalla, Zuo Press, 2005)
  • Smash the State: A Discography of Canadian Punk, 1977-92 (Frank Manley, No Exit, 1993), ISBN 0-9696631-0-2

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