When the term “screamo” is mentioned, many people have an immediate image of what they believe to be screamo. Kids at Warped Tour with flippy hair over eye, bad words on shirt, and skinny jeans held up by studded belts. However, this view of screamo could not actually be more far from the truth, as it is really a genre for those much too sad to play simple, old hardcore, and decide instead to push the style to its most extreme limits. Enter the world of screamo, (or emoviolence, or “skramz”, as some may call it), in which it’s OK to still be sad about your ex-girlfriend, and possibly even encouraged, as the sadder the music, the better.
Screamo, in reality, is not actually that closely related to any form of metal, but rather is more closely linked to the powerviolence style of hardcore, and the heavily melodic, emotional style of early post hardcore bands. Due to the fact that these styles are radically different and often clash in a dramatic fashion, screamo saw somewhat of a split within itself as time went by. On one side, many bands adopted the more emotional aspect of hardcore bands such as Heroin, along with powerviolence’s love of blast beats, and created a more straight forward style of screamo, often referred to as emoviolence. On the other, many bands took influence from more melodic, experimental post hardcore bands such as Native Nod (who managed to utilize a trumpet in some of their songs).
As far as what both styles of screamo have in common, both retain a heavy love of more mellow, melodic sections amidst the chaos. In pure screamo, this is often drawn out and made a main focus, while in emoviolence, it is only a brief break from the emotional battery. For reasons unbeknownst to many as well, screamo musicians are also extremely fond of their overly complicated, and often triplet based, time signatures, which gives the backing music a sort of unorganized, frantic, and chaotic feel. Perhaps most importantly of all though, is the vocals. The vocals in screamo come almost entirely from the lungs, which places an extreme strain on the vocal chords, and adds a whole new level of sincerity to the style. After all, these musicians are willing to sacrifice their vocal chords just to display their extreme despair and passion with which they write their lyrics.
Screamo as a style is perhaps the most emotionally raw of any genre of music, placing a musician’s passion for their music on a pedestal far above their technical ability or use of song structure. Guitars are jagged, bass lines provide no reasonable groove, and the drummers are given free reign to fully explore what exactly they can do behind their kits. Screamo is for those hardcore fans who are bored of who can play the heaviest breakdown or play the fastest, but instead yearn for music that presents hardcore at its most naked, and will most likely leave them just a little sad.
Pg.99 is often viewed as one of the most important emoviolence bands ever to exist, and Document #8 as one of the most important emoviolence records ever to exist. With this release, the Richmond, VA octet truly fulfilled their full potential and left behind a template for all emoviolence bands to follow. The vocals are shrieked and pained, seeping with emotion through every song and driving straight to the listener’s emotional core. Under this, the instrumentals create a frenzy of hectic, jagged guitar riffs and bass grooves over the absolutely phenomenal drumming of Jonny Ward. The fact that the version currently up on bandcamp was remixed by Converge’s Kurt Ballou doesn’t hurt either, as it makes the record sound more vicious than ever.
While Pg.99 may exemplify the emoviolence side of screamo, there are few bands more perfect to display the experimental and more post rock oriented side of screamo than Georgia’s own Circle Takes The Square. This album truly shows all of what screamo can be as the many songs contain frantic blasts of emoviolence before settling into odd, often swung sections of music, reminiscent of early post hardcore acts such as Swing Kids. Also displayed is a clear love for more spoken word oriented post hardcore such as Native Nod, especially on songs such as “An Interview at the Ruins”, where the hardcore element is almost completely abandoned in favor of a softly spoken refrain over a haunting guitar and piano melody. All of these elements help to create what is considered one of the most interesting and varied album in all of hardcore/post hardcore.
Formerly known as Kilgore Trout, this Richmond, VA band decided to abandon their solely emoviolence sound in favor of a much more sonically textured one. Flawlessly blending the aggressive emoviolence of bands such as Orchid with the sludgy, atmospheric music of “post crust” bands such as Fall of Efrafa, the band manages to create a truly devastating final product. It is hard to ever fall into a lull listening to Ostraca, as this is music that demands your full and undivided attention while you listen to it, lest you miss one of the gut wrenching impacts or haunting melody lines.