Terror, one of the most well known and respected hardcore bands around, have released their new EP The Walls Will Fall and it quite literally crushes. Though it is only five songs – including a cover of Madball‘s “Step To You” – the EP emits just as much energy and passion as any of their full-lengths.
What makes The Walls Will Fall such a great addition to Terror’s discography is that it is both more accessible than their earlier material while also being as hard as ever. Because it is just an EP, it is a breath of fresh air and just enough for Terror fans to get their fix. This length works for them extremely well, bringing out the best of old school hardcore: quick, brutal and to the point.
Anything can make you a better person if you let it. Scratch that. Rephrase: Anything can make you a better person if you work with it. Being the best “you” takes effort. Hardcore, as far as music genres go, is uniquely capable of aiding in that process.
Hardcore doesn’t initially sound pleasant or happy or pretty to anyone who hears it for the first time, and that’s not by accident. It’s abrasive and grating and loud for a purpose: To confront the things in life that aren’t necessarily pleasant or happy or pretty. To talk about issues other genres don’t talk about. Let yourself listen to it for a little while, allow the rough sounds to sink in and become familiar, and you start to understand. You begin to tap your fingers, to bang your head and to feel something–the reasons behind the screams. It becomes more and more clear that form, as it always does, reflects content, and that the sounds of raw emotion coupled with the meaning of thoughtful lyrics create music that is more than music. Hardcore—the songs, the lifestyle, and the code of ethics—is a powerful guide if you pay attention to what it has to say.
Look in the basement of your heart There is a light that just went dark Look through the wreckage to find reverie There is a truth that we all must see — “The Path,” Senses Fail (Renacer, 2013)
It’s no secret that hardcore deals with some of the more “negative” emotions. For this reason, it also tends to sound pretty harsh. These very characteristics that draw people to hardcore are what repel others from it. Usually, it’s a matter of how naturally comfortable or willing you are to sort through those kinds of emotions. And this is the first way hardcore can help you become a better person.
Hardcore provides a space for you to confront and work through suffering. Life is messy and troubling. Everyone has problems with it. It’s hard. Sometimes, though what you may want most is to forget about what bothers you, what you need most is to go through the pain; to “look in the basement of your heart,” as Senses Fail phrase it in their song, “The Path.” Hardcore music helps you realize the things that may feel bad or negative are just part of life. In a way, they’re not really negative at all. Hardcore not only sympathizes with you, but reminds you that it’s okay not to be okay sometimes. At the risk of sounding like a fortune cookie: From suffering comes strength, from self-reflection comes wisdom.
In these goddamn dark nights I start to realize This is war. I’m gonna have to fight tooth and nail, Tooth and nail just to stay alive.
Look at me, I’m living proof. You’re not alone, we have each other and we’ll pull through. This chapter’s called “you’re alive.” You’ve been writing it this whole time. So come back to life.
Not only can hardcore help you realize that the tough times are worth going through, but also that you’re not alone in going through them. Hardcore is as much about the individual as it is about a community; a community of outcasts, of misfits, of weirdos. If you’re having trouble, this is the place for you. We know what it’s like and we’ll help you through it. As Vanna say in their anthem “Digging,” “You’re not alone, we have each other and we’ll pull through.” Keep going, keep pushing, and you’ll find something worth sticking around for, even if you have to fight “tooth and nail.”
Just as important as accepting others is the ability to accept yourself for who you are. This genre is perfect for wrestling with that, too. Again, I use Senses Fail as an example:
Being vulnerable is scary. Leaving yourself open to getting hurt by opening up to others is difficult to do, and for that reason most people avoid it as much as possible. Hardcore itself offers conflicting messages about this. The “fuck this” or “fuck you” attitude is a huge part of hardcore and its progenitor, punk. Although it may seem contradictory, you can say “fuck this” or “fuck you” and at the same time be open-minded and vulnerable and strong. How? By realizing that these words aren’t all antonyms for each other. Stand up for what you think is right, and stand against what you think is wrong, and don’t let people tear you down, but at the end of the day, don’t shut everything and everyone out either.“Love with the courage of an open heart.”
Speaking of sticking up for your beliefs, traditional hardcore has a very strong code of ethics concerning staying true to who you are. One of the biggest hardcore bands in the modern age, Terror, dedicates an album to it–2013’s Live By The Code. The title track’s lyrics elaborate on just what that means:
Convictions you built in me /A sense of purpose, firm standing beliefs / We’ve kept traditions, held with clear aims / Respect the roots, but we live for today / Fighting against the grain / Live by the code, the diehard remain / The ethics, traditions kept / Live by the code, the freedom to live / Live by the code / Foundation, you are my strength / You are my rock, the anchor I need / Keep me honest, you keep me tight/ The freedom to live, I remain positive / Fighting against the grain / Live by the code, the die hard remain / The ethics, traditions kept /Live by the code, the freedom to live / Desperation, the broken, we found honor / Live by the code, the music and our culture / Live by the code, the roots and the ethics they have taught us / I believe in now, the new breed / LIVE BY THE CODE! — “Live by The Code,” Terror (Live By The Code, 2013)
While we hardcore kids may put up a middle finger to many things in this world, there is a strong sense of morality behind the gesture. In this way, hardcore music can give you the strength to be yourself against all odds as well as the encouragement to get up and take action. The music video for “Live By The Code” is also a great example of why this scene is as much a culture as it is a collection of records. Sure, it can be super aggressive and even somewhat dangerous, but shows provide a communal space for people to let out their aggression in a positive way that doesn’t end up in destructive, mass violence like you see on primetime news channels. It’s a positive outlet for negative things, and I guarantee you that most of the time after you see people slamming into each other at shows, you’ll see them hugging it out and smiling moments later.
The importance of self-reflection, understanding, acceptance, suffering, individualism, community, empowerment, identity, compassion, self-sufficiency, hard work, dedication, creativity–these are just some of the lessons hardcore has to teach those who are willing to listen and learn. It’s a place to turn to; a home. There are countless other lyrics from countless other bands that could keep illustrating my point, but at the end of the day, what you need to know is this:
Hardcore is burning through my veins Without you who the fuck would I be? Gave me a place to call my own This will forever be my home. — “The New Blood,” Terror (Keepers of the Faith, 2010)
American hardcore is more popular than ever. While it may be long past the glory days of Black Flag and Minor Threat, contemporary bands like Terror, Defeater and Capsize are still dominating the underground world with their hard hitting riffs and bellowing lyrics. The latest group to leave their message on the hearts of their fans is Hundredth, whose latest full length, Free, is guaranteed to become a staple of the modern hardcore sound.
From the more traditional vibe of “Isolation” featuring Vogel-esque vocals and a Flash Point worthy drumming speed to the simplistic lyrical metaphors (“You were pulling me/Just to watch me unravel”) featured in “Unravel,” Free encompasses a range of sophistication throughout the entire record.
There’s a strong sense of intention rooted in all of the lyrics vocalized on Free. Lines like “He is the needle/I am the damage done” on “Burdens” and “I won’t allow/I don’t need validation to define me/I justify manipulation” in “See Beyond” prove that attention to detail and a verbose nature really can be successfully utilized in music today without feeling overworked or cluttered.
Free is not only a great record for its witty use of words, but also for its intense melodies and riffs. Banking on tempos to create an emotional ambiance, Hundredth is able to capture feelings of frustration (“Reach”), anger (“Break Free”), and even notions of inner and outer criticism with tracks like “Beggar.” Hundredth continuously places focus on the contradictions of slowed down riffs over deep, sped up vocals, making the intensities effortlessly meld with the various emotions lyrically put forth.
Hundredth created a very complex album in just 11 tracks and they did so by maintaining the basic elements of modern day hardcore but embellishing them in new ways to convey more concise, contemporary ideas. This kind of thinking and musical foresight is most likely why the group landed themselves a spot on the 2015 Vans Warped Tour and are still able to uphold a truly intimate club vibe while dominating a world famous outdoor music festival. And hopefully, all of the records to come from Hundredth in the near future are able to do the same.
If you want to know what a hardcore show can be like, look no further than Terror’s “Live By The Code.” The iconic band have been a staple of the hardcore scene for over a decade and this video can give you a glimpse as to why that is. Between the simple chords and the half-barked vocals are the people that make up a community. To the unfamiliar eye, it may seem like they’re all abusing each other, but really a show like this one stands for the very ethos of the genre. It’s aggressive, sure, but it’s also a home. The lyrics themselves are a kind of ode to that belief: “Desperation,the broken, we found honor/ Live by the code, the music and our culture/ Live by the code, the roots and the ethics they have taught us.” It’s what hardcore was founded on way back when, and it still looks like a hell of a lot of fun to me.
If you want something done right, do it yourself; unless, of course, you can’t afford it.
The majority of hardcore and punk was founded on a DIY ethos, something that HXC has taken to heart and pursued itself. However, in a world filled with YouTube stars and not-so-independent indie labels, it’s kind of hard to remain loyally underground when you can Google a band’s Facebook page and follow them on Twitter. Everyone has an agenda, everyone has a way to be heard. That’s why people make music. That’s why people write. That’s why we put it on the internet, so people will find it. The most DIY thing you can do nowadays would ironically be to keep everything you do to yourself because otherwise you’re helping fund major industry ploys like various social media outlets as the internet continues its shameless take over.
Let’s look at DIY as the mindset of finding funding, promotions, gigs and profits all on your own in an attempt to 1.) avoid the corruption of your art by industry heads or 2.) because you simply don’t have the proper financial backing to pay for the industry established services you need. In the end, DIY keeps things local and directly in and of the scene they spawn from.
“My name’s Blurryface and I care what you think.”
This line is sung by Tyler Joseph of twenty one pilots on their latest single “Stressed Out.” While twenty one pilots is far from hardcore, from punk, and from being a band I’d ever admit to listening to regularly, this song has some serious significance in the modern music scene and beyond.
Beginning with the tell-tale tragedy of being incapable of making something original in modern music because every chord progression, lyrical concept, rhyme, and reason has been exhausted time and time again, Joseph extends his song’s meaning to life in general. We all begin as innocent, imaginative kids chasing our dreams only to get suffocated by the millennial dilemma of needing to make money just to survive. Can you really compromise your art for cash? Do you have to? The idea of “originality” is now determined simply by who can do what’s been done before better because we are no longer in an age of “do it yourself” but of “do it better.” And in the end, once we all get wrapped up in that school of thought, are we even the artists we started out as to begin with? “My name’s Blurryface and I care what you think.”
Perhaps “do it better,” or DIB, really is the future of music. DIY is now just a part of the major production of it all. We have seen multiple times how a DIY aesthetic can make or break a movement, early punk and hardcore being the most prominent flag ship examples. However, there are numerous other music realms that have greatly benefitted from the DIY momentum. EDM, dubstep, house, and basically the entirety of contemporary electronica is rooted in self-serving, SoundCloud blaring, warehouse playing DIY promotions. Who needs a label and a studio when you have a laptop, social media and a solid wifi connection? The same can be said of the major indie revival that has been taking over the airwaves these last five years. Many cool cats and Brooklynites have been able to get their sound out simply through connections and home studios, thus growing into their own, as we saw with Bon Iver and Grizzly Bear, among many, many others.
And of course, in the hardcore, metalcore and punk scenes of today, DIY is blazing through at rapid rates. Beartoothand Vannaare playing house shows. Terroris refusing to use a producer on their latest album, The 25th Hour. FrnkIero andthe Cellebration‘s debut record, Stomachaches, was recorded in a basement in full before a label ever saw it. The Ongoing Concept are hand making all of their instruments for their upcoming record aptly titled Handmade.
So is this the future of the music industry? Finding ways to bypass the enormous fees people lose from having to pay venues to play or sell merch? Finding ways to bypass the ridiculous costs of working in a studio? Finding ways to bypass the very nature of affording instruments (why not make ’em yourself)? Perhaps. And truly, I find this to be a rather endearing sentiment. But, naturally, there’s a catch. Major labels are picking up EDM artists. Grizzly Bear will remain decidedly broke if they simply bank off of their own touring and record sales for income. Vanna is playing house shows between dates of large venue tours. FrnkIero andthe Cellebration have the clout created by Frank Iero’s time in My Chemical Romance to get them noticed more. And in the end, these great sentiments and artistic routes are merely artists finding ways to do things better than the ways of the set systems, better in favor of the artist, not the labels or iTunes or Spotify, etc. Unfortunately, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and other promotional platforms are benefiting and–in the vein of Facebook–profiting off of these promotions seemingly done on the artists’ own.
“When I grow up I’m going to be an artist and not a cover girl.”
–“Cover Girl” by The Ongoing Concept
“Out of student loans and tree house homes we all would take the latter.”
–“Stressed Out” by twenty one pilots
The major problem with going DIY in today’s world is expressed perfectly in these paralleled lyrics. The mentality and sentiment to be a true artist is stronger than ever, but so are financial pressures. Living in NYC, one of the major cultural hubs of the world is hella expensive. For $1,500 a month you can find yourself in an apartment the size of a closet with a job that allots only $30,000 a year before taxes. That math doesn’t quite add up. Student loans are increasingly sought after leaving art kids who have spent their whole lives being told to go to college in immense debt with nothing but low income, entry level jobs to look forward to in order to offset it. These financial realities are forcing the movements of various musical scenes out of major modern cultural hubs because no one can afford to actually be located in these places like they were back in 1979. The Bowery is now a hip and almost bourgeois section of Manhattan, no longer the artist slums of the city. Brooklyn is the most expensive neighborhood in America. To be DIY nowadays, you have to have a trust fund or those crappy minimum wage gigs in which you can actually fund all of the stuff your labelless music can’t and pay for people to see your band’s Facebook posts. You really have to suffer for your art or move somewhere cheaper yet less opportune.
Jay-Z’s catastrophic self-supporting streaming service, Tidal, is simply the latest example of a DIY facade in the industry. Instead of marketing Tidal to the artists who desperately needed that kind of self-serving support and funding, however, it immediately became an elitist platform. Madonna, Jack White and Beyonce were all names included on the promotional roster, however, bands like Vanna, The Ongoing Concept and FrnkIero andthe Cellebration were not. In fact, it would make more sense to see Gerard Way’s solo project appear on this streaming service’s campaign rather than Frank Iero’s simply because Way is backed by a bigger label and therefore is a bigger name in the modern media’s eye. (Staple Records vs. Warner Bros. Records; Warner Bros. will always win.) By carving out a niche hole, the entire notion that musicians can survive off of their work is still being dominated by the “giants” in the industry who feel they have some semblance of a say on who should and should not be promoted. Jay-Z is helping to create a hierarchy that will rule out any artist in need of a more profitable outlet than Spotify or Pandora.
So where do we go from here? Yes, in many instances, bands like twenty one pilots can be hated for their quick ascension and immediate backing by “scene-driven” powerhouses like Alternative Pressand Fueled by Ramen, but at the same time, we are still watching people like Pete Wentz extend the grappling hook to struggling artists to make it big, to bring them up to a mainstream level instead of reaching out to names already on par with the pop culture greats of today, unlike Jay-Z’s actions. Without Wentz, the world wouldn’t have Panic! At The Disco the way they are known. There potentially wouldn’t be a surge in pop punk or as significant an emo revival. While this is still in a sense “selling out,” it is the lesser of two evils.
“Wake up you need to make money.”
–“Stressed Out” by twenty one pilots
“Don’t be the print of someone else’s painting.”
–“Cover Girl” by The Ongoing Concept
Is there a way to stay original and make money without selling out? Can you truly do it on your own in today’s world? While twenty one pilots may have been picked up by Fueled By Ramen, at least they were not completely overtaken by FBR’s parent label Atlantic Records. There still is a sense of obscurity around them, obscurity, however, in a way that is still boosting them to the tops of festival line-ups and tour bills. The Ongoing Concept, however, will go down in a history recorded by low budget bloggers and retrospective hardcore fanatics for making all of their instruments by hand, yet chances are they will not make it to radio play or ever grace magazine covers.
But then again, maybe there is hope. Kory Grow and Grayson Haver Currin over at Rolling Stone seem to like Beartooth and Marmozets, respectively, enough to have given them print coverage–even if it was in the form of a blurb. So where is the line drawn for acceptably selling out? Fall Out Boy was right when they said, “This ain’t a scene/It’s a goddamn arms race.” It all depends on what bands find the right weapons and how/if they choose to use them to get places. Until then, I’ll stay happy in my DIY realm with a bartending gig to fund my writing. The Ongoing Concept will continue to shine in their niche scene with their skills in both instrumentals and woodshop. FrnkIero andthe Cellebration will still have way more communal gigs in dingy basements than Gerard Way could ever hope to accomplish playing his large venue shows. twenty one pilots can continue to ride their wave and Jay-Z can make attempts to support his elite and shut himself off from the rest of the industry all together.
So I ask you, where did the DIY party truly go? I think I would like to be a member of that secret Facebook group.
What do you think of when you hear the word “scene”? If you’re just the average Joe, you probably are thinking of the setting and actions of a play, a moment in your favorite movie, something built up and dramatized, or just something concrete to look at and remember. It can even reflect a culture or lifestyle as one major umbrella topic.
What a pretty scene here at the beach. That’s my favorite scene in Almost Famous. That neighborhood has such a cool skate scene. It’s all good and dandy; that is, unless you are talking about the “scene” of the substream music world. Then it becomes a dreaded word.
I am talking about the -core bands, the non-mainstream pop punk movements, and offshoots of metal that help make up Warped Tour lineups, Hot Topic trends, and give magazines like us, Alt Press, and Rocksound something to write about. While the varying sounds and genres of all of these bands may not overlap, their fan followings, press coverage, and tours usually do. What’s the most logical term to use to describe that? Scene, of course.
Growing up with the music that I liked, the shows that I went to, and the people that I hung out with, I always just referred to it as my “scene.” Of course, as I was referring to this the term, “scene kid” started to replace the term “emo” and became just as degrading or offensive. In fact, as I started to interview bands, if I referred to anything such as “this music scene” or “the scene your band stemmed from,” they’d typically try to correct me and say they didn’t want to call it a scene, however, they never really offered another term for it to go by.
The problem with this realm of the music world is that it’s not fully hardcore, it’s not fully punk, it’s not fully metal, it’s not fully pop. It’s a strange mixture of sounds with a varying range. Why can State Champs, Blood On The Dance Floor, Vanna, Terror, and Attack Attack! all be offered the same opportunities from Kevin Lyman if they have (for the most part) opposing sounds? Well, because many of their values and audiences overlap. The fact that many of these “diehard” or overbearing children of the MySpace age (myself included) became labeled as scene kids for how they looked, acted, and what they listened to is not a product of the music, it’s a product of the time. Sure, generic stereotypes came out of wearing intense side bangs that covered your entire face, crazy dyed hair, skinny ties (usually as anything but a tie), highlighter colored vans, and rubber band bracelets a mile long up your arms, but we loved and rocked that look. And who were the people who hated on the scene kids? The metal heads and the hardcore kids? Basically the kids so involved with the offshoots of this substream world that they knew what to look for to hate on scene kids. Please allow me to also wear immense amounts of black and a Metallica shirt from their thrash age that I lifted from my dad, or immense amounts of flannel shirts in varying colors with my square rimmed glasses and a Texas in July beanie. Trust me, I can willingly and gladly rock all of the fashions and support all of the styles of music associated with metal and hardcore, too.
When we talk about scene, the negatives trend around a previous fashion, style, and look characterizing a generation for the most part that has now grown up. But why is that term still so negative? “Emo” was hated for years. My Chemical Romance, the band who reportedly “Wouldn’t front the scene if you paid me,” denounced being emo, and guess what? They went down in history for 1. fronting the scene and 2. being one of the most influential “emo” rock bands to break the mainstream (and still didn’t sell out to do it, I might add). Now look at the music headlines. Everyone is talking about the “emo revival” that’s upon us. It’s being lauded for what it was and the upcoming bands that influenced it. Emo had been a stereotype associated with a style, sound, and negative actions of self harm. That’s why people hated it, because they all believed that kids who listened to it were mopey and in need of psychological help. That’s gross, and widely untrue. Associating a sound with one particular mental state is an invalid overgeneralization. A sound that helps inspire someone in need is what music is all about however, and emo was the poster child of that movement. A band doesn’t literally save someone’s life, but the connection and inspiration one gets from listening to music that relates to them does.
Eventually emo would open the doors for the term “scene” since it is, first and foremost, just a noun referring to a collective state or following of something. That’s it, a noun. It’s not all-inclusive or exclusive and doesn’t mean you can’t break out of it. Look at Of Mice & Men or A Day To Remember or even Blink-182. They started somewhere, with a certain scene, and branched out, but are still loved by the fans that first helped jumpstart their careers. When turned into an adjective, however, for some reason “scene” is a dirty word because guitarist so-and-so and vocalist whatshisname don’t want to be crowned “the poster child of Hot Topic” or whatever their shallow qualms may be. Why? Hot Topic probably sells your band’s T-shirt, and you know damn well you probably want people to buy and wear your band’s name. That’s why people make music: to share it with other people.
So in defense of the scene kid, the emo, the hardcore kid and the metal head, all terms I’ve been labeled for how I dress, act, and what I listen to, I say fucking own your title. Those aren’t negatives because people say it with snark or try to avoid it. By not owning what and who you are you give power to those who want to put those phrases down. So in defense of the music SCENE that I am heavily involved in, largely in love with, and have been for the majority of my life, I refuse to not use that term when referring to this musical collective and lifestyle.
It’s difficult to always say “the musical substream of the bands that are widely accepted on Warped Tour and through offshoots of ’90s metal,’80s hardcore and pop punk.” That’s exhausting and takes forever to type. Let’s just call it what it is. It’s our music scene. It’s fun, diverse, ever-changing and something we should be proud to be associated with. We don’t have to be scene kids. We just have to love our scene and know that it’s okay to call it that.