The impact of Boston hardcore on rock music

From the ruins of Boston’s hardcore movement of the 1990s, a group of bands emerged that would forever alter the rock landscape. Their narrative is told here.

Compared to Black Flag in Los Angeles, Agnostic Front and Cro-Mags in New York, Bad Brains and Minor Threat in Washington, D.C., and Washington DC in the 1980s, Boston’s output was more subdued.

SS Decontrol, Gang Green, Negative FX, and DYS are just a few lesser-known acts that were signed to independent label Taang Records during that time. There is no denying that they had an enormous impact on Boston’s music scene.

It was because of our looks that the older, more hardcore kids attacked us with “some silly violent things,” he recalls. As far as I can tell, by the time Boston discovered its wave, not only was the city ready to claim its due, but it also did so with such rabid rage and intensity that triggered downright violence and hostility—which surely gives a particular fire to this story.”

After a spate of violence, a new generation of musicians became dissatisfied with the status quo and formed their society. “Converge” is the spark for sound and approach, says Stephen. He was forever transformed when future Cave In bassist Adam McGrath sent him a recording of their debut album, 1994’s Halo In A Haystack.

He says a local heavy metal band had a “transformative” effect on him. “It was transformative for me.” As a result, I formed stronger bonds with people like Adam, who had a similar goal in mind. Many folks in my immediate neighborhood shared my sentiments.”

To be near Boston’s emerging music scene, Aaron Turner, a native of New Mexico who would eventually create Isis, recalls acquiring a tape of [1996’s] Petitioning The Empty Sky before it was released.

As soon as I returned to my room, I put it on and sat there, mouth gaping open. I knew they were good, but… “I was completely taken aback.”

As soon as Aaron moved to Boston, he founded Hydra Head Records, which would later sign Cave In. It was a pivotal point in the scene’s growth and development in terms of sound. According to him, one of his first live experiences in his new hometown was seeing [New York hardcore punks] Earth Crisis support Cave In.

Those records helped shape the Boston music landscape.

  • “Cold Blue,” from “The Hope Conspiracy” (2000)

A decade after its release, Hope Con’s 2000 debut album is still the band’s wildest effort to date. With its youthful vitality and driving metal hardcore, songs such as Fragile or Youth And Its Burden continue to raise eyebrows even today.

  • Climb to the Moon (2000)

Their second album, Cave In, showed that the aggressiveness of metal hardcore could be balanced by other elements like spacey prog-rock, delicate melodies, and intricate time signatures. Not only one of the best albums of its era but also one of the most courageous albums ever released.

  • Background music for American Nightmare (2001)

AN’s debut ripped a hole in the underground by taking classic hardcore and filtering it through a poetically sensitive lead vocalist with love for gothic images. Even after the band disbanded, Background Music’s legacy lives on in the minds and hearts of all who have heard their music.

  • Jane Doe, all of a sudden (2001)

One of the most influential albums of this new wave of performers, Jane Doe, remains a benchmark and an almost impossible level for any other band to meet. One of the most important works of art today, both therapeutic and difficult.

  • Oceanic Isis (2002)

The follow-up to 2014’s Celestial, inspired by the punk-turned-psychedelic-trip sound of Neurosis, sees Aaron Turner and co. Take a giant leap forward. Post-sweet metal’s spot is where ambient inclinations are pushed even farther while preserving the visceral heaviness that characterizes many Boston bands.