Metalcore is a broad fusion genre of Extreme Metal and Hardcore Punk. The name is a blend of the names of the two genres. Metalcore is noted for its use of breakdowns, which are slow, intense passages that are conducive to moshing. Pioneering Metalcore bands – such as Integrity, Earth Crisis and Converge, all of which had formed by 1990 – are described as leaning more toward Hardcore, with their style sometimes being called Metallic Hardcore, whereas later bands – such as Killswitch Engage, All That Remains, As I Lay Dying, Bullet for My Valentine, Parkway Drive – are described as leaning more towards Metal.
Sepultura, who have been said to have “helped to lay the groundwork” in the 2000s, and Pantera, who influenced TrivFium, Atreyu, Bleeding Through and Unearth, have been particularly influential to the development of Metalcore in the 2000s. Some bands in the genre have achieved considerable commercial success in this period.
Black Flag and Bad Brains, among the originators of Hardcore, admired and emulated Black Sabbath. British Street 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. 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, Dirty Rotten Imbeciles 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 Straight Edge and Krishna consciousness.
Another New York Metal-influenced Straight Edge group of this time period is the Crumbsuckers. 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, a collaboration with Peter Steele, was a watershed in the intertwining of Hardcore and Metal. During this time, Thrash Metal groups began to borrow a great deal from Hardcore Punk and in 1987/1998 Metallica paid tribute to Discharge and Misfits.
Early Development (1980s and 1990s)
Between 1984 and 1995, a new wave of Hardcore bands emerged. These included Integrity, Biohazard, Hoods, Earth Crisis, Converge, Shai Hulud, All Out War, Madball, Starkweather, Judge, Strife, Rorschach, Vision of Disorder, Hatebreed and Disembodied.
Integrity drew influence from the Hardcore band G.I.S.M., Thrash Metal band Slayer, with others like Septic Death, Samhain, Motörhead and Joy Division. Earth Crisis, Converge and Hatebreed borrowed from Hardcore Punk and Death Metal. Earth Crisis’s 1995 album Destroy the Machines was particularly influential to the (further) development of the genre. Biohazard, Coalesce and Overcast were also important early Metallic Hardcore groups. Journalist Lars Gotrich wrote, “Along with key records by The Dillinger Escape Plan and Botch, Give Them Rope (1997) is an underground milestone that helped (further) ……. what was soon (universally) called ‘Metalcore’. At the risk of sounding too reductive — Metalcore was the natural progression where Extreme Metal and Hardcore met, but with spiraling time signatures that somehow felt more aggressive.” Shai Hulud’s 1997 album Hearts Once Nourished with Hope and Compassion became especially influential in the latter part of the decade.
Commercial Success (2000s to present)
In the early 2000s, Metalcore started to gain more prominence, with several independent Metal labels, including Century Media and Metal Blade, signing Metalcore bands. A new sub-genre, Melodic Metalcore, strongly influenced by Swedish Melodic Death Metal, has formed and quickly came to the forefront of Metalcore’s rise to popularity. By 2004, Killswitch Engage’s The End of Heartache, Shadows Fall’s The War Within and Atreyu’s The Curse debuted at numbers 21, 20 and 36, respectively, on the Billboard album chart. Also, in 2006, Atreyu’s third studio album, A Death-Grip on Yesterday debuted at Number 9 on the Billboard 200, only to followed up by 2007’s Lead Sails Paper Anchor, which debuted at Number 8.
All That Remains’ single “Two Weeks” peaked at number 9 at the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart in the U.S. The song peaked on the Modern Rock Tracks chart at number 38. In 2007, the songs “Nothing Left” by As I Lay Dying and “Redemption” by Shadows Fall were nominated for a Grammy award in the “Best Metal Performance” category. An Ocean Between Us (the album that included “Nothing Left”) itself was a commercial success, debuting at number 8 on the “Billboard 200”.
Welsh Metalcore band Bullet for My Valentine’s second album, Scream Aim Fire, went straight to number 4 on the Billboard 200, which was later surpassed in 2010 by their third album Fever, which debuted at number 3 selling more than 71,000 copies in its first week in the United States and more than 21,000 in the United Kingdom. Underoath’s fifth album Define the Great Line, released in 2006, peaked at number 2 on the Billboard 200 charts, selling 98,000 copies in its first week.
The Devil Wears Prada have achieved some commercial success with their album, With Roots Above and Branches Below, peaking at number 11 on the Billboard 200 upon its release. Trivium have met with very strong success, making the top 25 positions on charts in several countries, including the United States, and top 10 positions in both Australia and the United Kingdom (where it even achieved Gold status). Hatebreed, God Forbid and As I Lay Dying have also charted.
Underoath’s album Lost in the Sound of Separation reached number 8 on the Billboard 200 and sold 56,000 copies in its first week of sales in the United States alone, with Killswitch Engage’s self-titled fifth album reaching number 7 on the same chart and selling 58,000 copies. The album Reckless & Relentless by British band Asking Alexandria (which sold 31,000 copies in its first week) and the 2011 album Dead Throne by the Devil Wears Prada (which sold 32,400 in its first week) reached up to number 9 and 10, respectively, on the Billboard 200 chart.
In 2013, British band Bring Me the Horizon released their fourth studio album Sempiternal to critical acclaim. The album debuted at number 3 on the UK Album Chart and at number 1 in Australia. The album sold 27,522 copies in the US and charted at number 11 on the US Billboard Chart, making it their highest charting release in America until their follow-up album That’s the Spirit debuted at No. 2 in 2015.
Vocals – The vocal technique of Metalcore usually employs screamed vocals, which was developed in the 1980s and is common among 1990s Metalcore groups. Today, a significant number of Metalcore bands combine this with the use of clean vocals, usually during the bridge or chorus of a song. The Death growl technique has also been used. In rare cases, unclean vocals may be omitted completely.
Instrumentation – The instrumentation of Metalcore includes heavy guitar riffs, double bass drumming and breakdowns. Drop guitar tunings are often used. Most band’s use tuning ranging between Drop D and B, 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.
Metalcore emerged from the sub-cultures of Heavy Metal and Hardcore Punk. Some Metalcore groups, such as Converge have lyrically focused on personal anguish and experiences of failed romantic love. Meanwhile, there has been a significant number of Christian Metalcore bands, building on the genres of Christian Metal and Christian Hardcore; bands with Christian members include Zao, Haste the Day, the Devil Wears Prada, Norma Jean, August Burns Red, Texas in July, Oh, Sleeper and Underoath.
Melodic Metalcore – The early 2000s included a wave of Metalcore bands who placed significantly greater emphasis on melody. Melodic Metalcore bands include Avenged Sevenfold, As I Lay Dying, Trivium, Dead by April, All That Remains, Atreyu, Bullet for My Valentine, Bury Tomorrow, Darkest Hour, Shadows Fall and August Burns Red. These groups took major influence, cues and writing styles from Swedish Melodic Death Metal bands, particularly At the Gates, Arch Enemy, In Flames and Soilwork. Melodic Metalcore often makes use of clean vocals.
Mathcore – Mathcore began with the mid’90s work of Converge, Botch Eso-Charis and the Dillinger Escape Plan. The term Mathcore is meant to suggest an analogy with Math Rock. Mathcore is characterized by increased speed, technical riffing and unusual time signatures. Bands such as Fear Before also combine the Metalcore sound with odd time signatures, as well as Progressive elements.
Deathcore – 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. Some examples of Deathcore bands are Suicide Silence, Whitechapel, Knights of the Abyss, Carnifex Chelsea Grin and Impending Doom.