You would never have guessed it perusing today’s heavy music scene, but at one time hardcore was king. In the mid ’90′s bands such as Unashamed, Focused, Strongarm, and Overcome ruled the christian heavy music scene. The scene became known as “spirit-filled hardcore” or SFHC for short. The bands usually played a raw, passionate mid-tempo brand of hardcore, different from the blistering pace of the original ’80′s hardcore punk bands. The new breed of SFHC also were quite a bit heavier than their ’80′s, more punk sounding, counterparts.
The reign of the SFHC band’s began to decline in 1997, ironically two of the scene’s more well-known bands helped incite the genre’s decline in popularity. Both Overcome and Zao released groundbreaking albums that year. Overcome’s When Beauty Dies displayed a very metallic, lead based style of guitar playing, while Zao’s The Splintershards The Birth Of Separation, featured a darker, more artistic atmosphere that would foreshadow the bands change in sound. Those two releases coupled with the release of Living Sacrifice’s groundbreaking Reborn, would help lay the foundation for the beginning’s of a new genre known as metalcore, a combination of metal and hardcore.
While metalcore became all the rage during the late ’90′s and early ’00′s, in large part due to Zao’s new metal infused sound, hardcore still thrived with the creation of Facedown Records, brainchild of hardcore stalwarts No Innocent Victim drummer Jason Dunn. Facedown kept the hardcore spirit and sound alive with bands such as Figure Four, The Deal, Dodgin’ Bullets, xDisciplex A.D., and Point Of Recognition.
By the mid 2000′s, metalcore had started to receive mainstream popularity, creating a more polished sound with most bands employing a screamed verse and clean singing on the chorus. While metalcore was reaching a stale state of homogenization, hardcore all but disappeared due to the metalcore craze. Thankfully the hardcore bands such as Comeback Kid, Sinai Beach, xLooking Forwardx, Call To Preserve, and Life In Your Way that stuck around and stood out from the crowd gained an almost cult-like following.
By 2007, metalcore had spawned a new sub-genre known as deathcore. Deathcore melded death metal brutality with metalcore song structures. Deathcore became the flavor of the moment among fans of hard music that were tired of the cookie-cutter song writing and generic sound of metalcore, which at this point did little to resemble the genre it began as. By 2009 three things began to happen:
1.) Deathcore due to it’s lack of versatility and range began to become played out. Fans began to realize that you can only get so far on overused breakdowns, brutal chugging riffs, and death grunts.
2.) Blood and Ink Records put out three hardcore classics, Venia’s Frozen Hands, The Red Baron’s My First Love, and Debtor’s Deliverance, which garnered more attention for the record label.
3.) Advent. On their 2008 Solid State Records debut Remove The Earth, North Carolina based metallic hardcore band Advent melded old school spirit-filled hardcore with a chaotic, thrash styled edge. Their follow-up 2009′s Naked and Cold moved the band into a more straight ahead chaotic hardcore sound. They became the most popular band of the new hardcore scene.
These three things were the beginning of a hardcore renaissance. 2010 and 2011 have seen great releases by the likes of the reunited Life In Your Way, two amazing melodic hardcore albums by Hundredth, Facedown Records bands Gideon, Messengers, Call To Preserve, and Dynasty all released critically acclaimed albums, and Blood and Ink Records continued to sign promising acts: Dependency, Thin Ice, Ironwill, and Jawbone (pictured below), while providing great new releases from veterans Debtor and Venia.
While hardcore seems to be gaining popularity again, ironically at the expense of metalcore and deathcore, it only goes to show you that the popularity of genre’s of music are cyclical. One minute you’re in and the next your not, or even worse, you become a mockery of what made you unique in the first place. The one thing that hardcore has always had going for it that is missing in metalcore and deathcore, is it’s passion and soul; which keeps it going strong through the lean years.