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Metalcore is a fusion genre combining elements of extreme metal and hardcore punk, that originated in the late 1980s. Metalcore is noted for its use of breakdowns, which are slow, intense passages conducive to moshing, while other defining instrumentation includes heavy guitar riffs often utilizing percussive pedal tones and double bass drumming. Vocalists in the genre typically perform screaming, more popular bands often combine this with the use of standard singing, usually during the bridge or chorus of a song. However, the death growl is also a popular technique within the genre.
|Early–mid 1990s, United States and United Kingdom
|South East England
In the late 1980s to early 1990s, pioneering bands such as Integrity, Earth Crisis and Converge, whose hardcore punk-leaning style is sometimes referred to as metallic hardcore, were founded. These pioneering bands took influence from a range of styles and genres such as hardcore punk, thrash metal and death metal. Journalists have dubbed records by the Dillinger Escape Plan, Botch and Coalesce to be milestones in the genre. During the early 2000s, metalcore started to gain more prominence, with several independent metal labels signing metalcore bands. This led to bands such as Killswitch Engage, All That Remains, Trivium, As I Lay Dying, Bullet for My Valentine, and Parkway Drive all rising to popularity.
Metalcore is known for its use of breakdowns. Metalcore singers typically perform screaming, a vocal technique developed in the 1980s and characteristic of 1990s metalcore. Later metalcore bands often combine this with the use of standard singing, usually during the bridge or chorus of a song. The death growl technique is also popular.
The instrumentation of metalcore includes heavy guitar riffs often utilizing percussive pedal tones, stop-start rhythm guitar, double bass drumming, and breakdowns. Drop guitar tunings are often used. Most bands use tuning ranging between Drop D and A, although lower tunings, as well as 7 and 8 string guitars, are not uncommon. Drummers typically use a lot of double bass technique and general drumming styles across the board. Blast beats are also heard at times. According to author James Giordano, "tempos in metalcore tend to be slower than those found in thrash metal". Many later metalcore bands would include guitar solos in songs.
1990s metalcore bands generally had a strong influence from heavy hardcore. In the 2000s, metalcore bands began to be exclusively inspired by heavy metal. Many 2000s metalcore bands were heavily inspired by melodic death metal and used strong elements of melodic death metal in their music. Malcolm Dome of Revolver wrote that without melodic death metal band At the Gates' 1995 album Slaughter of the Soul, "modern American metalcore (everyone from As I Lay Dying and Killswitch Engage to All That Remains and the Black Dahlia Murder) wouldn't even exist." Graham Hartmann of Loudwire wrote "Although metalcore broke in the early 2000s, listening to At the Gates' 1995 album feels like a Nostradamus-esque prediction of how metal would evolve."
Black Flag and Bad Brains, among the originators of hardcore punk, admired and emulated Black Sabbath. British hardcore punk groups such as Discharge and the Exploited also took inspiration from heavy metal. The Misfits put out the Earth A.D. album, becoming a crucial influence on thrash metal. Nonetheless, punk and metal cultures and music remained fairly separate through the first half of the 1980s. Cross-pollination between metal and hardcore eventually birthed the crossover thrash scene, which gestated at a Berkeley club called Ruthie's, in 1984. The term "metalcore" was originally used to refer to these crossover groups.
Hardcore punk groups Corrosion of Conformity, D.R.I. and Suicidal Tendencies played alongside thrash metal groups like Metallica and Slayer. This scene influenced the skinhead wing of New York hardcore, which also began in 1984, and included groups such as Cro-Mags, Murphy's Law, Agnostic Front and Warzone. The Cro-Mags were among the most influential of these bands, drawing equally from Bad Brains, Motörhead and Black Sabbath. Cro-Mags also embraced some aspects of straight edge and Krishna consciousness. Another New York metal-influenced straight edge group of this time period is the Crumbsuckers. The year 1985 saw the development of the hardcore breakdown, an amalgamation of Bad Brains' reggae and metal backgrounds, which encouraged moshing. Agnostic Front's 1986 album Cause for Alarm showed a combination of hardcore punk with heavy metal influences.
One of the earliest metalcore scene was that of Cleveland, Ohio. Fronted by Integrity and Ringworm, the sound of bands in the scene was distinctly darker than what the genre would become. Integrity's debut album Those Who Fear Tomorrow (1991) merged hardcore with apocalyptic lyrics and metal's guitar solos and chugging riffs to create one of the primeval albums in the genre. Revolver magazine writer Elis Enis stated that the album "influenced practically every breakdown that's been recorded since". Whereas, Ringworm's debut The Promise (1993) made use of a style closer to crossover thrash while also putting a heavy emphasis on breakdowns. Philadelphia's Starkweather were also an important early metalcore band, with their album Crossbearer (1992) which merged early metal's grooves and dark atmospheres with elements of hardcore. Rorschach also pioneered a distinctly dissoncent and noise-influence niche into this early metalcore sound, which would go on to define noisecore and mathcore.
In 1993, Earth Crisis released "Firestorm", a song which became one of the most influential in metalcore. The band's militant vegan straight edge ethic and emphasis on chug riffs saw them immediately influence a wave of subsequent bands and gained coverage by major media outlets like CNN, CBS and MTV. The EP the song was a part of was also one of the earliest releases by Victory Records who go on to be a defining part of the metalcore scene in the coming years, through releasing many of the style's most successful albums.
Boston, Massachusetts too developed an early metalcore scene, led by Overcast who formed in 1990. Much of this scene were based around Hydra Head Records, which was founded by Aaron Turner after moving to Boston. Converge were one of the earliest and most prominent groups from the city, formed in 1990. Using Rorschach's music as their sonic template, the band's experimental attitude, emotional lyrics and attention to dynamics led to them becoming one of the most influential bands in the genre. Converge, along with Morris Plains, New Jersey's the Dillinger Escape Plan and Tacoma, Washington's Botch were three of the founding acts in the style's mathcore subgenre, with Kansas City, Missouri's Coalesce and New Brunswick, New Jersey's Deadguy being prominent acts transitioning towards the style. Converge's guitarist Kurt Ballou opened the recording studio GodCity Studio in 1998, and would go on to record many of the most influential subsequent hardcore records from the city.
New York City's Merauder released their debut album Master Killer in 1996, merging the sounds of metalcore, earlier New York hardcore and the newly emerged beatdown hardcore style. Of the album, Revolver writer Elis Enis stated "any self-proclaimed 'metallic hardcore' band of the last 25 years is indebted to Master Killer's steel-toed stomp." Along with All Out War, Darkside NYC and Confusion, Merauder were a part of a wave of bands defining a newer, increasingly metallic style of hardcore in New York that had long been one of the epicentres of the genre. Long Island's Vision of Disorder were also a prevalent band in the scene, being one of the first bands to incorporate clean singing into the genre, which would soon become a staple, as well as incorporating elements of nu metal. In a 2005 article by Billboard magazine, writer Greg Pato stated that "with seemingly every local teen waving the VOD banner circa the mid/late '90s, it seemed as though it was only a matter of time before VOD would become the band to take 'metalcore' to a massive audience".
Bridgeport, Connecticut's Hatebreed released their debut album Satisfaction is the Death of Desire in 1997. The album helped the band achieve underground success, selling 158,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and holds the record for Victory Record's best selling debut album. The band's style merged classic hardcore with beatdown and metalcore, while also overtly referencing metal bands like Slayer. In a 2015 Metal Hammer article, writer Stephen Hill stated "The difference between Hatebreed and many of their influences is that where a band like Madball were happy to co-exist with metal bands without feeling like they were part of the same scene, Hatebreed actively went out of their way to become the hardcore band metal fans listen to." Other influential metalcore bands of the time include Shai Hulud, Zao and Disembodied.
Orange County, California metalcore band Eighteen Visions contrasted the metalcore scene's usual hyper masculine aesthetic of "army and sports clothes" with "skinny jeans, eyeliner and hairstyles influenced by Orgy and Unbroken". This visual style led to the band being called "fashioncore". Jasamine White-Gluz of Exclaim! wrote that Eighteen Visions look "more like a boy band than a popular hardcore group. Critics tag the band for putting fashion at the centre of their music, but it adds a playful and interesting touch to a band that sounds much tougher than it looks." A scene of bands in Orange County including Bleeding Through, Avenged Sevenfold and Atreyu continued this in Eighteen Visions' wake, and influenced emo and scene fashion in the coming decade.
As the decade drew to a close, a wave of metalcore bands began incorporating elements of melodic death metal into their sound. This formed an early version of what would become the melodic metalcore genre, with Shadows Fall's Somber Eyes to the Sky (1997), Undying's This Day All Gods Die (1999), Darkest Hour's The Prophecy Fulfilled (1999), Unearth's Above the Fall of Man (1999), Prayer for Cleansing's Rain in Endless Fall (1999) being some of the style's earliest releases. CMJ writer Anthony Delia also credited Florida's Poison the Well and their first two releases The Opposite of December... A Season of Separation (1999) and Tear from the Red (2002) as "design[ing] the template for most of" the melodic metalcore bands to come.
Mainstream success: 2000s
Converge's album was released on 4 September 2001 to universal critical and fan acclaim. The album influenced the development of the sound of other U.S. bands like Norma Jean and Misery Signals as well as international acts like Eden Maine, Johnny Truant and Beecher. Blake Butler of Allmusic stated that Converge "put the final sealing blow on their status as a legend in the world of metallic hardcore" with the album, calling it "an experience -- an encyclopedic envelopment of so much at once." Terrorizer Magazine named it their 2001 Album of the Year, and it was named the greatest album of the 2000s by Noisecreep, Sputnikmusic and Decibel.
Douglasville, Georgia's Norma Jean and the Chariot were both influential artists continuing metalcore's earlier sound into the 2000s. Norma Jean's O' God, the Aftermath (2005) was Grammy award nominated for Best Recording Package and the Chariot's Long Live (2010) was listed as one of Kerrang!'s "21 best U.S. metalcore albums of all time". In contrast to these bands' dark approach to the genre, Buffalo, New York's Every Time I Die incorporated Southern rock elements and humor, Kerrang! noted them as "shaped the cutting edge of modern metalcore."
In 2002, Killswitch Engage's Alive or Just Breathing reached number 37 on the Heatseekers Albums chart. In 2004, Killswitch Engage's The End of Heartache, Shadows Fall's The War Within, and Atreyu's The Curse peaked at numbers 21, 20, and 36 on the Billboard 200, respectively. Also, in 2006, Atreyu's third studio album, A Death-Grip On Yesterday peaked at number 9 on the Billboard 200, only to be followed up by 2007's Lead Sails Paper Anchor, which peaked at number 8. Atreyu's 2002 debut album Suicide Notes and Butterfly Kisses, as of 3 July 2004, has sold 107,000 copies in the United States. Killswitch Engage's 2004 album The End of Heartache and 2006 album As Daylight Dies were both certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in 2007 and 2009, respectively. Killswitch Engage's 2002 album Alive or Just Breathing, as of 3 July 2004, has sold 114,000 copies in the United States. Unearth began to have success among heavy metal fans in 2004 with the release of their second album The Oncoming Storm, which peaked at number 1 on the Heatseekers Albums chart on 17 July 2004. On that same day, the album peaked at number 105 on the Billboard 200. Unearth's 2006 album III: In the Eyes of Fire peaked at number 35 on the Billboard 200. The band's 2008 album The March peaked at number 45 on the Billboard 200. Oncoming Storm, III: In the Eyes of Fire', and The March peaked at numbers 6, 2 and 3 on the Independent Albums chart, respectively. Avenged Sevenfold's first two albums Sounding the Seventh Trumpet (2001) and Waking the Fallen (2003) were both metalcore albums. On the band's 2005 album City of Evil, Avenged Sevenfold moved away from metalcore and changed to a traditional heavy metal sound. On 15 June 2005, Blabbermouth.net reported that Waking the Fallen has sold 172,253 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. On 17 July 2009, Waking the Fallen was certified gold by the RIAA.
Trivium also achieved success among heavy metal fans when their 2005 album Ascendancy peaked at number 151 on the Billboard 200. Their albums The Crusade (2006) and Shogun (2008) peaked at numbers 25 and 23 on the Billboard 200, respectively. Bleeding Through's 2006 album The Truth peaked at number 1 on the Independent Albums chart on 28 January 2006. On that same day, the album peaked at number 48 on the Billboard 200. Metalcore band As I Lay Dying also achieved success among heavy metal fans. The band's 2005 album Shadows Are Security peaked at number 35 on the Billboard 200 and sold 263,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. As I Lay Dying's 2007 album An Ocean Between Us peaked at number 8 on the Billboard 200 in 2007. As of April 2005, As I Lay Dying's 2003 album Frail Words Collapse sold 118,000 copies in the United States. All That Remains achieved success with their 2006 album The Fall of Ideals, which, as of 1 October 2008, sold 175,000 copies in the United States. All That Remains' 2008 album Overcome peaked at number 16 on the Billboard 200. Overcome's song "Two Weeks" peaked at number 9 on the Mainstream Rock Songs chart on 16 May 2009. Bullet for My Valentine's debut album The Poison was released in October 2005 in Europe and was released in February 2006 in the United States. On 26 July 2006, Blabbermouth.net reported that The Poison has sold 72,000 copies in the United States. On 27 October 2007, Blabbermouth.net reported that The Poison has sold 336,000 copies in the United States. On 3 April 2010, Billboard reported that The Poison sold 573,000 copies in the United States. The Poison was certified gold by the RIAA on 30 January 2009. Bullet for My Valentine's second album Scream Aim Fire, released in 2008, peaked at number 4 on the Billboard 200 and sold 360,000 copies in the United States. Bullet for My Valentine's 2010 album Fever peaked at number 3 on the Billboard 200, selling 71,000 copies in the United States during its first week of release. Fever's song "Your Betrayal" peaked at number 25 on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 chart.
As the decade progressed, metalcore became increasingly tied to the social media Myspace, launched in 2003, and the scene subculture that was prominent on the platform. Marketing through Myspace launched the careers of many of the era's most prominent bands including Bring Me the Horizon, Attack Attack!, Black Veil Brides, Bullet for My Valentine, Job For a Cowboy and Suicide Silence. Despite the stylistic distinctness between many of these groups' sounds they became encompassed by the terms "myspace-core" and "scene-core". Many went on to become fixtures at Warped Tour, and Fearless Records's Punk Goes... cover series.
Deathcore is a fusion of metalcore and death metal. Deathcore is defined by breakdowns, blast beats and death metal riffs. Bands may also incorporate guitar solos and even riffs that are influenced by metalcore. New York-based death metal group Suffocation is credited as one of the main influences for the emergence of deathcore. Embodyments album "Embrace The Eternal" is a foundation for the modern Deathcore sound. Some examples of deathcore bands are Suicide Silence, Whitechapel, Knights of the Abyss, Carnifex and Chelsea Grin.
In 2006 and 2007, a wave of metalcore bands strongly influenced by death metal dubbed deathcore gained moderate popularity. Notable bands that brought the genre to the fore include Bring Me the Horizon and Suicide Silence. Suicide Silence's No Time to Bleed peaked at number 32 on the Billboard 200, number 12 on the Rock Albums Chart and number 6 on the Hard Rock Albums Chart, while their album The Black Crown peaked at number 28 on the Billboard 200, number 7 on the Rock Albums Chart and number 3 on the Hard Rock Albums Chart. After its release, Whitechapel's album This Is Exile sold 5,900 in copies, which made it enter the Billboard 200 chart at position 118. Their self-titled album peaked at number 65 on the Canadian Albums Chart and also at number 47 on the Billboard 200. Their third album A New Era of Corruption sold about 10,600 copies in the United States in its first week of being released and peaked at position number 43 on the Billboard 200 chart. Furthermore, Bring Me the Horizon won the 2006 Kerrang! Awards for Best British Newcomer after they released their 2006 debut record Count Your Blessings. However, Bring Me the Horizon abandoned the deathcore genre after the release of this album. San Diego natives Carnifex, witnessed success with their first album Dead in My Arms, selling 5,000 copies with little publicity. On top of their non-stop touring and methodical songwriting resulted in Carnifex quickly getting signed to label Victory Records. Lastly, Australian deathcore band Thy Art Is Murder debuted at number 35 on the ARIA Charts with their album Hate (2012) making them the first extreme metal band to ever reach the Top 40 of this chart.
Electronicore's merger of metalcore with various electronic music styles emerged in the 2000s. One of the earliest contributors to the sound was St Albans band Enter Shikari. Their debut album Take to the Skies peaked at number on the Official UK Album Chart selling 28,000 copies in its first week and was certified Gold in the UK after selling over 100,000 copies. It was also the first album to achieve a significant chart success for a new act operating outside the traditional label system. The group received international radio airplay and a substantial number of musical awards, from Kerrang!, NME, Rock Sound and the BT Digital Music Awards. Their second album Common Dreads was released in June 2009 and debuted on the UK Albums Chart at 16. Columbus, Ohio's Attack Attack! gained significant notoriety with their Enter Shikari-influenced sound. The band's song for "Stick Stickly", the lead single from Someday Came Suddenly (2008) went viral online for its use of autotune and synths, with the members' squatting "crab walk" stance during the music video giving way to the crabcore meme. Warren, Michigan band I See Stars's debut album 3-D debuted at number 176 on the Billboard 200, number 5 on Top Heatseekers, and number 22 on Top Independent Albums. The Devil Wears Prada's 2011 album Dead Throne (which sold 32,400 in its first week) reached number 10 on the Billboard 200 chart. Asking Alexandria also achieved success, with their 2009 song "The Final Episode (Let's Change the Channel)" being certified gold by the RIAA. The band's 2011 album Reckless & Relentless peaked at number 9 on the Billboard 200.
Continued success: 2010s–present
Architects and Bring Me the Horizon spearheaded the British metalcore scene of the late 2000s and early 2010s. Architects had begun as a mathcore band on Nightmares (2006) before moving into metalcore by the release of Ruin (2007). Hysteria magazine credited the band's long time vocalist Sam Carter with reviving high pitched screamed vocals in metalcore and "influencing an entire generation of acts such as Polaris, In Hearts Wake, Void of Vision, Invent, Animate, Imminence...the list goes on", as well as popularising the "blegh" adlib, which subsequently became commonplace in the genre. Bring Me the Horizon's third album There Is a Hell Believe Me I've Seen It. There Is a Heaven Let's Keep It a Secret. (2010), saw the band incorporate electronica, classical music and pop music into their metalcore style, a trend then continued further on Sempiternal (2013), which also embraced elements of nu metal. The Latter peaked at number 3 on the UK albums chart, and was one of the earliest releases by a UK metalcore band on a major label, through RCA Records. Following this, many bands in the metalcore scene began to emulate the sound these albums. The band's massive mainstream success led publications such as the Guardian and the Independent to accredit them as "the new Metallica", and Metal Hammer writer Stephen Hill to call Sempiternal "this generation's definitive metal album".
The nu metal elements present on Sempiternal, as well as Suicide Silence's The Black Crown (2012), led to a wave of bands in the mid-2010s taking influence from nu metal. My Ticket Home's Strangers Only (2013) was a notable precedent of this wave, seeing a previously established metalcore act merge their style with dark, nu metal influence to help establish the coming nu metalcore sound. Issues' merger of nu metal, metalcore and contemporary R&B gained them significant commercial success, with a number of publications crediting them as ushering a new wave of nu metal. Their debut self-titled album (2014) peaked at peaked at number nine on the Billboard 200 chart and their second album Headspace (2016) reached number one on the Top Alternative Albums chart. Furthermore, Bring Me the Horizon's fifth album That's the Spirit (2015) saw the band fully embrace nu metal, which peaked at number 2 in both the UK and US. In the following years Emmure, Of Mice & Men, Sworn In and DangerKids had all embraced the genre, and by 2016, nu metalcore had solidified itself as a movement.
Architect's All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us (2016) was released to critical acclaim, with Metal Hammer writer Stephen Hill called it "as close to a perfect metal record as one can imagine". The following year, they released the single "Doomsday", their first release since the death of the band's founding guitarist Tom Searle. In the years following the single's release, the song's sound became widely imitated within the metalcore scene, particularly the song's introduction guitar riff.
As the decade drew to a close, a new wave of bands in the genre emerged who harkened back to the metallic hardcore sound of bands from the 1990s. Vein.fm, Code Orange, Knocked Loose, Varials, Jesus Piece, Counterparts and Kublai Khan were all notable groups who gained significant success within the genre at the time. Code Orange saw critical acclaim and success with their Roadrunner Records debut Forever in 2017. Forever's title track was also nominated Grammy for Best Metal Performance in 2018. It too embraced the influence of nu metal and according to PopMatters writer Ethan Stewart, led to nu metalcore becoming "one of the most prominent flavors of contemporary metal". Knocked Loose gained significant attention after their song "Counting Worms" from their album Laugh Tracks (2016) became a meme due to its "arf arf" mosh call. The band's 2019 second album A Different Shade of Blue also received critical and commercial success.
Nu metalcore maintained its prominence into the 2020s with Tetrarch and Tallah gaining notability. Loathe's second album I Let It In and It Took Everything (2020) saw critical acclaim, and was consistently praised for expanding the scope of metalcore by incorporating elements of nu metal, shoegaze, emo, post-rock, progressive metal and industrial music. The band's use of the Fender Bass VI guitar, which tunes to an octave below a standard tuning guitar, became widely sought after following the album's release. Publications credited Spiritbox similarly with Metal Hammer calling them "post-metalcore" and "genre-fluid". The band's 2020 single "Holy Roller" reached the Top 40 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, and their debut album Eternal Blue was named the year's best rock or metal album by Loudwire and metalcore album by Metal Hammer.
Around the same time, a number of bands gained prominence in the scene that revived the sound of groups from the mid-to-late-2000s, fronted by Static Dress, SeeYouSpaceCowboy, If I Die First and CrazyEightyEight. This movement grew out of both the hardcore scene and the mainstream success that the emo rap scene gained the late-2010s.
Formed in 2015, Bad Omens' third album The Death of Peace of Mind (2022) was the band's commercial breakthrough after viral success of the album's second single "Just Pretend" on TikTok which then topped the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart. By March 2023, the album had received 20 million streams on Spotify, leading to Metal Hammer calling them "the biggest metalcore band in a generation." Bring Me the Horizon's Post Human: Survival Horror (2020) and Architects' For Those That Wish to Exist (2021) both also reached number one in the UK album charts.