From the ashes of the vi­o­lent 90s Bos­ton hard­core scene rose a group of bands who would change rock mu­sic for­ever. This is their story.

Metal Hammer (UK) - - Boston Hardcore - WORDS: STEPHEN HILL

While 1980s LA had Black Flag, New York was famed for Ag­nos­tic Front and Cro-Mags, and Wash­ing­ton DC boasted Bad Brains and Mi­nor Threat, Bos­ton’s out­put was lower key. Gang Green, Neg­a­tive FX, DYS and many other bands re­leased on in­de­pen­dent la­bel Taang Records dur­ing that pe­riod are not as fa­mil­iar, and SS De­con­trol are per­haps bet­ter known for their mil­i­tant, straight-edge stance than their mu­sic. But their im­pact was just as keenly felt, and would spawn a whole new Bos­ton scene.

“I wasn’t old enough to see those bands, but also wasn’t young enough to not have them as manda­tory lis­ten­ing when get­ting into hard­core,” says Wes Eisold, who would go on to form Amer­i­can Night­mare. “SSD, DYS, Slap­shot, [1982’s] This Is Bos­ton Not L.A. com­pi­la­tion, Siege... they were all tapes I had in high school.”

Ul­ti­mately, though, there was one thing the Bos­ton hard­core scene was fa­mous for: violence. Stephen Brodsky, who’d later form Cave In, re­mem­bers his ear­li­est ex­pe­ri­ences of lo­cal hard­core shows in the late 80s at a place called the Red Barn in North An­dover, an hour north of town. He and his best friend were metalheads, and the crowd didn’t take kindly to them.

“The older hard­core kids didn’t like the looks of us, and we got targeted with some dumb vi­o­lent shit,” he says. “My guess is that by the time

Bos­ton found its wave, not only was the city ready to claim its due, but it did so with a force of such ra­bid anger and in­ten­sity that instigated sheer violence and hos­til­ity – which definitely adds a cer­tain fire to this story.”

As violence marred the scene, younger mu­si­cians grew tired of the sta­tus quo, and a new com­mu­nity be­gan to de­velop. Stephen pin­points Con­verge as the cat­a­lyst for change, both in sound and ap­proach. When he got a tape of their de­but al­bum, 1994’s Halo In A Haystack, from fu­ture Cave In bassist Adam McGrath, it changed his life.

“It was to­tally trans­for­ma­tive for me, be­cause I was hear­ing a lo­cal band do­ing some­thing fresh with heavy mu­sic,” he ex­plains. “Not only did it make me wanna fol­low that path, it al­lowed me to bond more closely with peo­ple like Adam who shared a sim­i­lar vi­sion. It turned out that a lot of peo­ple in my im­me­di­ate area felt the same way.”

“I re­mem­ber get­ting a tape of [1996’s] Pe­ti­tion­ing The Empty Sky be­fore it came out,” says New Mex­ico na­tive Aaron Turner, who chose to at­tend col­lege in Bos­ton mainly to be closer to its bur­geon­ing scene, and would later form Isis. “I went back to my bed­room and put it on, and just sat on the floor open-mouthed. I knew they were good, but... I was just blown away.”

Af­ter mov­ing to Bos­ton, Aaron dived into the scene head­first by found­ing Hy­dra Head Records, who would go on to sign Cave In.

It was a key mo­ment in ex­pand­ing the

reach of the scene, and the scope of its sound.

“When I moved down, one of the first shows I saw was [New York hard­core punks]

Earth Cri­sis sup­ported by

Cave In,” he tells us. “I was there for Earth Cri­sis, but I was im­me­di­ately cap­ti­vated by Cave In, even though they were in their in­fancy. I was very en­er­gised by see­ing a band that were even younger than me so in­vested in what they were do­ing and not afraid to try things. I wanted to be an ac­tive par­tic­i­pant.”

With the violence of early hard­core still dom­i­nat­ing the cen­tral city area, younger bands were forced to find their own niche in Bos­ton’s satel­lite cities, such as Worces­ter and New Hamp­shire.

“It was the only place the younger bands could play shows,” says Con­verge vo­cal­ist Ja­cob Ban­non. “It was where many of us met. I’ve got pic­tures of us play­ing in New Hamp­shire in 1997 with Amer­i­can Night­mare’s Wes also on stage in a Life­time [90s New Jersey punks] shirt; ev­ery­one was con­nected through the mu­sic.”


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