by Jesse Hudgins
Hardcore has been a genre since the late 70s, originating with bands like Black Flag, Middle Class, and Circle Jerks. In his book, American Hardcore: A Tribal History, author Steven Blush states that the original hardcore album to come out was Out of Vogue by Middle Class in 1979. The genre later became popularized in Los Angeles with groups such as Bad Religion, Germs, FEAR, and Agent Orange. Other cities would gather their own scenes, with Washington DC producing Minor Threat and Bad Brains, Chicago with Articles of Faith and Big Black, and New York with Cro-Mags and Cause for Alarm. Even though the 80s were a rough point for the genre with many bands either disbanding or changing styles completely, the 90s brought a resurgence through experimentation.
In the 90s, subsets of hardcore were born, like melodic hardcore, thrashcore, and powerviolence, which kept the genre pushing forward while still holding onto its roots. Hardcore never really became mainstream, with most people discovering bands through zines or going to the shows. This helped hardcore grow into one of the bigger subcultures in the punk genre, and the same issues as before persisted, with bands in the genre changing or “selling out” after finding a mainstream audience.
In recent years, hardcore has become more popular and mainstream than ever while maintaining the roots of its past. This really happened out of nowhere, with bands like Militarie Gun, Gulch, and DRAIN getting more coverage from media outlets and through social media. The real mainstream success has come from Baltimore band Turnstile. Turnstile started getting heavy coverage from their 2021 release Glow On, with appearances on many late shows as well accompanying larger acts, like Blink-182, on tour. This gave people a look into the world of hardcore, building a new listener base with Turnstile as the gateway. Upon its release, Glow On received praise for the use of alternative elements mixed with the hardcore Turnstile is known for. It peaked on the US Billboard 200 at 30, the highest ever for a hardcore album.
With many using more mainstream bands as a gateway, they’re already listening to the best aspects of the scene. Many groups have been expanding the genre, pushing it into a new direction with each release. Whether it be alternative, rap, melodic, or even jazz, hardcore is getting voices and new styles with each new release, forming its own identity, sound, and flavor to the scene while keeping it fresh. With the state that the hardcore scene is in, there’s really something for everyone, if they’re willing to spend the time to find it. Favorites of mine include Turnstile, Militarie Gun, Zulu, DRAIN, Gulch, and Soul Glo as each band, like I mentioned, is putting their own take and message into the genre.
Even if hardcore sounds like it’s not for you, give it a chance because names can be deceiving. Hardcore, while retaining its roots, is evolving past what it originally was, allowing fans of different genres to dip their toes in. If you haven’t given the genre a listen yet, now is the time to give it a chance and find something you like.