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Finding the CORE

In this paper we explore the dynamics of how metalcore music comes together through the roots of both hardcore and metal music, as well as the different bands that explore both (but not exclusively influenced by) metal and hardcore. Specifically pointing out local St. Paul hardcore band Husker Du and their association with the 1980's punk/hardcore scene of Minnesota, and Pompano Beach, Florida's Shai Hulud with their connection to the early stages of the recently coined "metalcore" music. Here we will explore what it's like to be apart of an underground music scene and what will become of it in the future.

Finding the CORE in Metalcore.
The merging of hardcore and metal music was a concept coined in the mid 90’s as “metalcore? which consisted of music that incorporated ideal concepts from both genres and creating a more progressive sound. What made the music hardcore was the attitude, sometimes the lyrics and a particular message, a certain image (for example, you know a band is metal and not hardcore if they all have long hair, face paint, and wear a lot of leather), and vocal style of grainy yelling or shouting often accompanied with “gang vocals?. The metal influences in metalcore music derive commonly from the use of the double bass pedal, a more guttural, deep, and throaty vocal style, structure of songs, and more emphasis on guitar instrumentation, melodies, licks, and riffs.
Music is so dynamic in this day and age that it is hard to distinguish the metal and hardcore influences in many bands. The heavy bass line, which can be traced back to the power trio groups like The Who, is a strong characteristic of hardcore music. Any good hardcore band usually has a strong and thick sounding bass this can be heard through the music of Daggermouth, Verse, and With Honor. Guitar solos, licks, and riffs are commonly a metal trait in music coming from bands like Led Zepplin, Black Sabboth and Pantera. Intricate guitar work and melodies can be found in the modern music of one of the most progressive bands of this generation North Carolina’s Between the Buried and Me, along with Misery Signals, and polyrhythmic masters of Bulb and Periphery. One of the most important and criticized aspects of the heavy music scene is in the drum work. Metalcore incorporates metal’s double-bass technique and blends it with hardcore style (notable bands for their drum work are Veil of Maya, August Burns Red, and Minneapolis’ very own With Dead Hands Rising) for example the “breakdown? music pattern is very common in metalcore music and has become a standard to many bands. Breakdowns usually consists of a sluggish guitar tone, commonly with palm muted chords, little to no vocals, and very slow percussive movements, an accurate example can be found in minute 1:24 of The Acacia Strain’s song “Woah! Shut It Down? off of their sophomore album The Dead Walk. Vocals in the genre, however, can range quite dramatically, from wide ranged vocals (ex. Veil of Maya), to deep guttural mono-ranged vocals (ex. Still Remains), to higher pitched, less guttural screams such as Haste the Day, and then there is the more hardcore influenced vocal style found with such bands like Every Time I Die. Of course vocal styles range from those and everything in between, even singing is common in metalcore music, and even if it’s a male dominated genre, notable female vocalists have staked their claim to heavy music such as Candice Kucsulain of Detroit’s Walls of Jericho and Laura Nichols of San Francisco’s Light This City.
It was only a matter of time before hardcore and metal merged to create the giant spawn that exists today. Both genres emerged with popularity in the 80’s (predominately along the New York and California coast scenes) as music for kids who just didn’t really fit in to society’s norm, and both were seen as rebellious and dangerous groups, made up predominately of young white males (Purcell, 99-100 and Azerrad, 172). Those who grew up within the midst and hype of the two genres and connecting with the messages that both metal and hardcore had to offer, would later come to tie to two together and not only find that both genres could be found on one bill at a show, but that they could also be merged and create a more progressive movement in music. People were beginning to get sick of the cliché repetitive structure of a certain sound, and of hardcore music in the early 1980’s Bob Mould of St. Paul hardcore band Husker Du had this to say about the hardcore scene (not in association with metalcore but of hardcore music in general at the time):
"What I remember hardcore as being is, like, any band that just got up there and is real aggressive instead of ‘We have to sound a certain way and this is, like, the formula for it,’…And the new bands are just locked in[to] the formula. Afraid to do anything else because they think it’s such a pure form. Which is just a bunch of shit. It’s just a bunch of rules, that’s why we don’t play along with that game anymore (Azerrad 169)."
Obviously Mould wasn’t alone with his thoughts on how music should be made as far as following a guideline on how to make what kind of music. Thus leads us to the birth of a new genre.
One pioneering band of the metalcore genre would have to be Shai Hulud with members hailing from Pompano Beach, Florida (later relocating to Poughkeepsie, New York) Shai Hulud is one of the most respected, influential, and admired bands to this day (Shai Hulud) as an original metalcore band. Drawing their influences from metal notables such as Metallica and Testament as well as hardcore bands Chain of Strength and NOFX, Shai Hulud had much to choose from to help mold them into the international powerhouse that they are in today’s metalcore scene (Shai Hulud). The release of their 1997 CD “A Profound Hatred of Man? immediately put Shai Hulud on the map as ground breakers of the metalcore genre, and they are still breaking boundaries musically to this day with their recently released and highly acclaimed 2008 record “Misanthropy Pure? (Shai Hulud). Though they themselves were inspired by other metalcore like bands such as Deadguy, Earth Crisis, and Coalesce, much credit is given to Shai Hulud for their musical progressiveness (Rosenberg). Prior bands to Shai hulud that paved way for metalcore progression are Hatebreed, Converge, and Strife to name a few. Following the success of Shai Hulud came more recent bands such as Poison the Well, Killswitch Engage, and Misery Signals.
Metalcore as it is today has created its own community and values. Instead of “run[ing] around in circles at the back of the room out of sheer ecstasy, bouncing up and down or slamming around the room like errant subatomic particles,? (Azerrad 176) or push moshing, hair whips, and serious head-banging, the atmosphere of a metalcore show can be seen as a little less chaotic but equally as energetic. Participants in the metalcore tradition usually “fight dance? commonly known as “hardcore dance? or generalized as mosh. The title “fight dance? is self explanatory as the dancers often look as though they are fighting some invisible force, when really they’re just releasing some energy and enjoying the band. Generally to be a recognized (and usually respected) person within the community one is usually a member of an original and admired band and/or an avid (respectable) mosher. Moshers who noticeably cause trouble in the pit are usually not on good terms with the majority of the crowd thus are ostracized. Although the ostracism also occurs when a new fan attempts moshing with little to no avail at the fluidity that the regulars have noticeably mastered. Whereas for metal and hardcore, anyone can take part in push moshing or slam dancing, for there is no particular art to it as there is in hardcore dancing. Moshing is a very vital characteristic to the metalcore community because it is one of the main sources of audience energy feedback for the bands that are playing (Weigel). Therefore the more people a band can get to move around, dancing, during a performance is a measurement of audience exception.
Just like for any other genre of music, musicians in this scene often practice their songs leading up to the date of the show, and run through their set list and check their gear before setting up the stage. The difference is in the way metalcore musicians interact with their audience. Involving the audience in at least one point of the performance is usually the norm. Many singers point their microphones into the faces of fans singing along, or fans invite themselves to the microphone by jumping on stage to grab and share the microphone. Some bands encourage stage dives, and often tell the audience to “pick up? their feet, meaning to get moving around, and sometimes musicians find themselves on the floor with their audience during a performance instead of standing on a stage, making any show a little bit more intimate. All of these musician tendencies are observed visually and sometimes orally, but never were/are there written rules on stage etiquette for any underground band.
What makes a particular band stand out in this genre is the same as in any other genre: the ability to prove one’s musicianship by playing original music that is coherent, flows well, and demonstrates a certain level of intricacy or difficulty. Not any one can become a favored metalcore band over night, it takes a lot of talent and DIY work to become a recognized force in the scene and as Azerrad put it, “…DIY wasn’t an ethical decision or even a point of pride. It was necessary? (170). Many working musicians try to book as many shows as possible to get their name out there, tour as far as they can to reach the ears of music hungry kids across as many states as they can pass through in order to gain some stable ground of recognition. Although sometimes it is not always true that the hardest working and most talented bands will always get what they deserve.
As is true in both metal and hardcore scenes alike, it might not always be the talent that gets a band to where they want to be anymore. With today’s ease of access to information via the dot coms (myspace, facebook, purevolume, etc.) the music “image? is a prominent factor in a new and emerging generation of music. Music moves in cycles and even if some people try to deny it, music also moves in trends. Dan Godar, avid concert goer and scene veteran of twelve years comments, “[Shows were] like the social gathering grounds that brought us all together. [Now] it turned from a social gathering to more of a fashion show…the scene got turned into something so vile, that none of us were having fun anymore.? Not only do scene morals and images change but also peoples’ taste in music, priorities, and life realizations as Mould puts it, ““You grow up, you change your perspective... You’re not always eighteen years old, drunk, with a Mohawk, driving around screaming and hollering about anarchy, - you don’t do that all your life? (Azerrad 184). And just like how it happened with the emergence of metalcore, the social changes within this scene will once again spawn a genre of music that will continue to spread the musical inspiration of one genre to another. Metalcore was a large step in the progression and integration of heavy music and there are years and generations of genres yet unknown, to be born, and bear with it influences of this scene.