Starter Kit: Powerviolence

Starter Kit analyzes the ins-and-outs of some of the more obscure and niche sub-genres within the metal spectrum and offers a small group of bands that best represent the sound. Read other Starter Kit entries here.

Ah powerviolence, what a subgenre. Perhaps one of the most commonly misused subgenre labels, it is a style of hardcore punk that is truly unique in all aspects. Stylistically, it is easy to confuse with grindcore, another speed obsessed, slightly humorous, blast beat filled subgenre that arose around the same time as it. But what truly separates powerviolence from its grindcore peers is that, unlike grindcore, it is distinctly, undoubtedly 100% hardcore punk music, no metal involved (many people would argue this).

Powerviolence arose in the mid to late 80’s, influenced by such notable speed obsessed bands as Massachusetts’ own Siege. From Siege came the intense obsession with pushing the envelope of what hardcore punk music could be, as well as the idea that to continually do so there was a necessity to play faster than any of their predecessors. Along with this came a new set of vocal styles, be it the screeches so prominently employed by Charles Bronson, the harsh rasping sounds of Man is the Bastard, or the “cave-man-core” vocals of bands such as Spazz and Infest, as well as an intense love for blast beats and sludgy breakdowns. Through all of this, despite the sharing of ideas with an ever growing extreme metal scene, powerviolence remained distinctly hardcore, avoiding almost entirely “metal” riffs.

The final, defining characteristic of powerviolence is that historically, the genre has avoided the crew culture that became so widely popular in hardcore in the mid 1980’s, seeing it as too confining and as a way to kill creativity in hardcore. As such a sense of humor became commonplace in powerviolence, as it was a way to lash out against the overly serious crew culture that was constraining hardcore. It often relied heavily on extremely dark satire, making light of many things that other hardcore bands took far more seriously.

To conclude this brief intro on the subject of powerviolence, it is not just another subgenre that actually describes nothing, nor are the “powerviolence hipsters” ruining the hardcore scene. It is hardcore’s “evil” twin, the Mike to it’s Bob (Twin Peaks reference), and ultimately the side of hardcore that just avoided the crew, tough guy rule that became so apparent in the late 80’s. It is not just a tag your local crappy hardcore/grindcore band can throw on their bandcamp to make themselves seem more appealing, but a beast all its own that, when done right, is some of the most brutal, punishing music ever created.

SK-Powerviolence-Subbanner-Spazz_CB

If there is one thing powerviolence bands love more than raging against the government and poking fun at hardcore kids/and or crust punks, it is a good split. Fortunately, all of those elements were tied together in a split 7″ released in 1995 by two of powerviolence’s defining artists, Charles Bronson and Spazz, on one of powerviolence’s defining labels, 625 Thrashcore. The split contains all of the classic powerviolence trademarks, with no song clocking in over a 1:30 long, and blast beats abounding as the vocalists screech out lyrics filled to the brim with tongue in cheek, snot-nosed humor. A phenomenal jumping off point for any new fan of powerviolence, as well as an easy way to learn about two of the genre’s most important artists.

 

SK-Powerviolence-Subbanner-Infest

As far as most “powerviolence fans” are concerned, this is the only Infest (or powerviolence) record ever released, which they will happily tell you as they also chide you on ever possibly thinking that Weekend Nachos or Punch were powerviolence bands. All jokes aside, however, there is a reason this record is often referenced as one of the most important powerviolence records of all time, as well as many modern bands ripping it off loyally (early Harms Way/Weekend Nachos), minus Scapegoat, who chose to be a loyal Crossed Out rip off instead.

 

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After the rest of this list, Man is the Bastard will seem extremely, EXTREMELY out of place. However, while they may revel more in the sludgy side of powerviolence than most, they are by far one of the most important powerviolence bands ever, and introduced a new element that became essential to many powerviolence band’s sound (but also widely misused), harsh wall noise. Really, this band is just essential to any modern extreme music fan, and comes highly recommended. There is a reason, after all, why their signature “bastard skull” is used so liberally by bands all across the extreme music spectrum.

Further Listening:

ExtortionSick
ScapegoatS/T (2006)
The Endless BlockadePrimitive
Capitalist Casualties – 1996-1999: Years In Ruin
Crossed OutDiscography
Fuck on the Beach – Power violence Forever
Weekend NachosUnforgivable
DropdeadS/T
Manhunt/Internal RotSplit
Witch HuntS/T
BanditPLAYFASTORDIE
Venkman7″
Rape RevengePaper Cage
Punch – Nothing Lasts
ACxDCHe Had it Coming
SpazzCrush, Kill, Destroy
Charles BronsonYouth Attack
Black Army Jacket222

-JT

Comments






6 thoughts on “Starter Kit: Powerviolence

  1. BlackTaxi2d Reply

    i remember geoff rickly saying that he considers United Nations as a powerviolence band. would you agree?

    • Nintendodo Reply

      More like a glitzy-glossy emoviolence band.

    • Jake Tiernan Reply

      Hey! This is the author, and the other commenter pretty much hit the nail on the head. United Nations takes a lot more influence from 90’s/early 2000’s emoviolence bands such as Orchid, Jerome’s Dream, and Neil Perry then they do from powerviolence, and as such I would largely consider them in that category.

      If you would like to learn more about Powerviolence’s sadder, more melodic cousin, skramz/emoviolence, you can do so with the first article I ever wrote for the site here: http://www.heavyblogisheavy.com/2015/07/15/starter-kit-screamoemoviolence/

      • hensu Reply

        wow, listened to the bands you mentioned. i cant remember the time i legitimately thought “holy shit” with music. reading about and listening to jerome’s dream just did that for me. what?? i’ll stick to the glitzy glossy united nations occasionally :):):)

  2. Joey Reply

    not sure you should be allowed to talk about powerviolence being a misused label when your “further listening” list includes Punch, ACxDC, Rape Revenge, Weekend Nachos, Witch Hunt (?????), Bandit, and Extortion as powerviolence bands when they most certainly are not (would consider thrashcore for a couple, maybe weak grind at best for others, and I am legitimately baffled that you think Witch Hunt resembles anything close to powerviolence in any way, shape, or form). but bonus points for contradicting yourself by saying Punch and WN aren’t pv (which is true) but then listing them as essential listening. also not sure how you could think any of the aforementioned bands are essential pv bands or “best represent the sound.” you could have gone with actual essentials like No Comment, Peter Mangalore, Gasp, Neanderthal, Apartment 213, Yacopsae; or if you wanted to talk about more recent bands, Mindless, Suffer (Aus), In Disgust, Column Of Heaven, Threatener, Socially Retarded.

    kinda confused as to how you think an LP that came out after the entire first wave of pv is one of the most important of the genre, rather than oh idk Infest’s “Mankind” 7″ or Neanderthal’s “Fighting Music” 7″ or No Comment’s “Downsided” 7″ or like literally anything from the early 90s. and you realize Infest was a sxe/youth crew band right?? they literally have a song called “Where’s The Unity” and sell Uniform Choice knockoff shirts.

    also not sure why you didn’t mention that the term “powerviolence” was coined by MITB and that it was used to refer to a specific group of associated bands (not as a genre, but as an association), but later the term extended to include bands across the country/world. plus, most pv bands weren’t goofy like Spazz. in general, the bands’ lyrics tended to tackle incredible emotional/psychological turmoil and/or sociopolitical topics. these lyrics weren’t poking fun, it was serious shit. those guys were fucked up.

    and Siege wasn’t even close to the first band to play that fast or use more extreme vocals. for speed try Youth Korps, Deep Wound, DRI, Negative FX, Koro, Neos; for the extreme vocals try United Mutation, Void, Bad Brains, Die Kreuzen, GISM, The Crucifucks. also CapCas and Infest started cica 86-87 so that’s a thing too.

    also “harsh wall noise”???? it’s called power electronics.

    it isn’t that difficult to find this stuff out, you’re already on the internet.

  3. Robert Reply

    Wow, Joey is an asshole.

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