Metalcore, also known as metallic hardcore, refers to a heavy metal subgenre that incorporates different elements within extreme metal and hardcore punk. This type of genre is well known for its application of intense breakdowns, which are a perfect combination in bringing out that slow and conducive moshing. The instruments feature distorted double bass, drumming, guitar riffs, and the occasional application of blast beats. The vocal techniques applied in this type of music also range from clean falsettos to death growls, with the vocal being the stand-out point of this genre.
It’s also a genre of music that emerged in the late 90s, blending elements of hardcore and metal: notable bands include Unbroken, Earth Crisis, Harvest, Endeavor, Poison The Well, and Uneart, and the music frequently employs breakdowns and the lyrics encompass a broad range of topics, spanning from political to personal.
With this in mind, let’s better understand this metal subgenre, including its history and famous bands.
History of Metalcore
The story of this music genre can be traced way back to the 1980s. This was when bands started experimenting with a combination of heavy metal and hardcore. It later took shape in the 1990s, when it reached a global audience. However, most of the metalcore bands within this period were majorly influenced by hardcore scenes. This is not the case, as the melodic death metal influences the current bands.
By the 1990s, it had managed to influence an underground cult following, with bands associated with this type of genre achieving considerable mainstream success by the 2000s. With such a mass gaining and popularity, different independent metal labels began to sign recording contracts with some of those same bands by the mid-2000s. This development led to the emerging as the most popular heavy metal subgenre within that decade.
The 2000s and 2010s Mainstream Success
The 1990s saw the emergence of metalcore scenes from hardcore punks. However, despite a sizeable number of bands being associated with this kind of music, like Trivium, it did not have an easy time gaining mainstream success in that decade. All that this metal genre managed to achieve was an underground following. After 2000, the genre started gaining prominence, with the melodic subgenre movement of the 2000s becoming very popular among heavy metal fans. During this period, most of those artists also released albums that became commercially successful. Bands like As I Lay Dying gained immense popularity during this period.
This mainstream success of this still fairly new metal genre continued with its popularity even in 2010. Over the years this genre has drastically changed over the years, rolling the bar even higher for the heavy metal genre by incorporating syncopated synthesizers. Different bands have also had extreme chart success with this songwriting type. The 2010s, therefore, presented a diverse sound soundscape that was appealing to a larger audience.
This genre is widely known due to its signature breakdown that includes a verse-chorus format. The signature is also applied by many while performing live to cheer and get the crowd charging up. However, some brands have perfected the use of drop tunings while playing heavy guitar riffs and backed up with percussive pedal tones. Other bands also use Drop A and D turnings, while others make use of seven and eight-string lower guitar tunings.
It’s also known for its application of drumming technique with the double bass approach forming the crux of the whole sound. Blast beats can sometimes be used in creating dramatic tempo shifts, with vocalists using different screaming approaches in this genre. most of the upcoming bands in this genre’s scene also began incorporating clean signing into their choruses and verses.
The growth and success of metalcore paved the way for most of the metal subgenres. It led to the combination of different elements of this genre and death metal in creating a deathcore sound. Mathcore is also another subgenre that immensely gained popularity among experimental artists. It emphasized fluctuant rhythms with an irregular time signature, polymers, syncopations, and an abrupt tempo change.
By the early 2000s, most of the bands had already been influenced by the Swedish melodic genre of death metal. The bands were considered as a melodic subgenre. However, musicians of the 2010s started using electrical instruments and shaped what would later become Electronicore. Different bands also experimented with technical guitar parts and djent breakdowns. This highly contributed to the development of a subgenre known as the progressive subgenre. By 2010, most bands began fusing this with different elements of nu-metal, and the bands were known as nu-metalcore.
COMMON SONGS STRUCTURE
Typically, the songs feature weighty riffs in the verses, contrasting with smoother choruses. These riffs are often melodic and harmonized, utilizing drop-tuning on the guitars, occasionally as low as B or A. The drums are heavily focused on double bass, while the vocals alternate between harsh and clean or purely harsh, with screaming being favored over growling. Additionally, the choruses may contain a section of clean vocals.
Famous Bands and Songs
As a genre that is a fairly broad fusion between heavy metal and hardcore punk that combines elements of both metal and punk in a unique mixing, the bands can obviously have different influences but usually have the “patterns” of the genre such as breakdowns, fast tempo and heavy riffs in the verses.
By the way, some of the most well know are:
1. Earth Crisis
Formed in the 1990s, Earth Crisis made an impact in metalcore with a 1995 album debut known as Destroy the Machines. This album is considered the most influential one that highly campaigned for mainstream recognition of this metal genre. The band also went on to release other albums that managed to showcase a more refined and cleaner approach to the genre itself before they dissolved in 2001.
2. Killswitch Engage
Killswitch Engage is a Massachusetts band formed in 1999. The band released its first album in 2000 – their albums include 2002s Just Breathing, Alive, and the 2004s End of Heartache. These albums went on to become very influential. This was attributed to the fact that Killswitch decided to put metal into the metalcore genre, unlike other bands with a hardcore influence.
3. Shai Halud
While Shai Halud is currently considered a band closer to punk hybrid and hardcore metalcore, and it was a pioneer of music in the 1990s. The band played a vital role in creating awareness of the genre itself by creating lyrics that helped them achieve critical commercial acclaim.
4. Bring Me The Horizon
This band formed in Sheffield in 2004 has gone through different phases in their sound, from a more deathcore-inspired sound in their first EP “This is what the edge of your seat was made for” and in their earlier albums Count your Blessings and Suicide Season, to a more metalcore sound from “There is a Hell”, “Sempiternal” and “That’s the Spirit” albums coming to a fusion with more electronic sounds of latest albums “Amo”, “Music to Listen to….” (the full title is very, very long) and returning to a more “earlier origins” sound with the EP Post Human: Survival Horror.
5. Parkway Drive
Parkway Drive’s music has been primarily described mainly as a metalcore act, but their earlier albums also featured deathcore influences: their signature sound includes screaming vocals, heavy guitar riffs, and breakdowns.
Beyond that, the band did not use the clean singing technique on any of their studio albums until their 2015 release, the release called Ire. By the way, they did use a clean singing on some songs from their first two EPs, which were performed by their original bassist.
Parkway Drive’s more recent albums showcase then a more classic heavy metal sound overall, and their style has also evolved away from their early musical roots. The band members themselves cite influences such as Metallica, Slayer, and Rage Against the Machine.
6. AUGUST BURNS RED
August Burns Red is a band that incorporates progressive metal elements and is also identified as a melodic metalcore band: their songs feature highly melodic guitar riffs, technical or odd time signatures, and breakdowns.
The band also draws influences from various sources, including Meshuggah, Symphony in Peril, Pelican, Slayer, and The Dillinger Escape Plan, as well as Between the Buried and Me, Misery Signals, and Hopesfall, and the vocalist Jake Luhrs generally does not mix clean vocals with his screams, though he has used clean vocals on some occasios.
The band has also incorporated different, classical style instrumentals such as the cello and the violin, as well as classical music inspired interludes, and also many of their songs do not contain choruses, and those elements make this a band that often pushes the boundaries of what is considered the standard in the genre, and one of the reasons is the band’s dislike for formulaic and metal music with always the same structure, and has therefore grown beyond traditional genre labels.
7. The Devils Wears Prada
During their early years, the Devil Wears Prada was described by some sources as Christian metal: the band’s fusion of American metal-core and European melodic metal was praised for delivering metal with a fresh perspective.
For their early categorization by the fans as christian, the band’s members’ beliefs and the themes in their music led to their genre being described as “Christian metalcore.”
8. As I Lay Dying
As I Lay Dying is a well-known band that has also been referred to as a Christian metal band, death metal, and thrash metal: their own music features some elements of melodic death metal, heavy metal, hardcore, and also grindcore influences, especially in their heavy instrumentals sections. They are influenced by a range of bands including In Flames, Living Sacrifice, Iron Maiden, Slayer, At the Gates, Pantera, Megadeth, Fear Factory, Cannibal Corpse, Thin Lizzy, Shai Hulud, Dark Tranquillity, Metallica, Judas Priest, and Earth Crisis.
As I Lay Dying is often labeled as a metalcore band, rather than Christian metal, despite their status as practicing Christians, and the reason is that their lyrics do not typically feature Christian themes or reference God or Jesus, and instead they mainly focus and also explore broader spiritual concepts like the conflict between reason and spirituality.
Underoath is a rock band that initially identified as Christian, but has since distanced themselves from organized religion.
They have been labeled in this genre, hardcore punk, post-hardcore, emo, screamo, and Christian metal: their sound has evolved over the years, beginning with a traditional sound for this genre and also mixing with black and death metal.
They later embraced a more melodic-leaning post-hardcore sound and experimented with electronic elements, including clean singin: their fourth release marked a radical shift as they abandoned their formerly metal leanings for the screamo genre. Their fifth album, Define the Great Line, is considered their most successful release to date, featuring “disorienting rhythmic shifts and sinister atmospherics.”
Converge is a band that combines hardcore punk and heavy metal, and is considered one of the earliest and most influential metalcore bands: their sound has also been described as mathcore, post-hardcore, noisecore, experimental hardcore, or simply hardcore.
The band draws inspiration from other bands like Starkweather, The Accüsed, Rorschach, Born Against, Moss Icon, Universal Order of Armageddon, Heroin, and Mohinder.
Their 2001 album “Jane Doe” is considered their most acclaimed work, introducing an experimental approach and emphasis on rhythmical complexity that are defining features of mathcore. However, the band’s frontman, Jacob Bannon, has stated that he doesn’t know what mathcore is and that trying to define their music with subgenre names is counterproductive.
The band’s guitarist, Kurt Ballou, has produced (and co-produced) the majority of their albums at his own GodCity Studio, and he has also always been involved in the production of Converge’s albums, but it wasn’t until their 2006 album “No Heroes” that he was involved in the entire recording and mixing process.
Bannon’s vocals are described as more percussive and tonal than lyrical, allowing listeners to develop an emotional understanding of the material even without a precise knowledge of the words.
The origins of this genre dates back to the late 1980s and early 1990s when hardcore bands like Earth Crisis and Shai Halud emerged. However, update, it’s still considered one of the most favorite metal genres. Even with lots of critics arising from different underground metal societies, this genre has still managed to spawn different subgenres and offshoots like electinicore, deathcore, and mathcore, among others.