THIS IS HARDCORE
The albums that defined the Boston scene
The hope conspiracy
COLD BLUE (2000)
Hope Con’s 2000 debut album might not have been heard by many people at the time, but looking back it’s the wildest album they ever put out. The youthful vigour and driving metallic hardcore on songs such as Fragile and Youth And Its Burden still singe eyebrows today.
Proving that hardcore had more to it than just aggression, Cave
In’s second album tore up the blueprint for metallic hardcore and pieced it back together using spacey prog rock, delicate melodies and technically dazzling time signatures. Not just one of the greatest albums of its time, one of the bravest, too.
BACKGROUND MUSIC (2001)
Taking classic hardcore and filtering it through a poetically sensitive lead vocalist with a penchant for gothic imagery,
AN’s debut tore a hole in the underground. Their influence took on a life of its own after they disbanded, but whether you were there from the start or heard them only recently, Background Music is an unstoppable trip.
JANE DOE (2001)
The album that truly put this wave of musicians on the map around the world, Jane Doe remains a benchmark release and an almost impossible standard for any likeminded band to live up to. A cathartic and challenging piece of art that is still totally vital today.
Taking their cues from Neurosis’s punk-turned-psychedelic-trip blueprint, Aaron Turner and co’s second record is a quantum leap from debut Celestial. Pushing their ambient tendencies even further, but retaining the raw heaviness that characterised so many Boston bands, this is a sweet spot in the history of post-metal.
Following the lead of Converge, Boston soon became a hub for eclectic, intelligent and unique hardcore punk. Suddenly, the scene was populated by Deadguy, Cave In, Bane, American Nightmare, The Hope Conspiracy and more, all twisting hardcore into new shapes and taking influence from anything they could get their ears on.
“Working with Hydra Head elevated things for Cave In,” says Stephen. “Aaron pooled together so much great stuff through the label, and our minds were blown by all the rad heavy music happening around us. In the midst of writing [2000’s] Jupiter, Cave In opened a bunch of shows for Neurosis, who had just released Times Of Grace, and everyone in our camp was floored by it. We thought that was a good direction to go in; atmospheric heaviness over technical ability.”
With a raft of wildly exciting bands, all starting to forge their own sonic path, and Aaron’s new label on hand to help shine light upon them, the scene began to draw envious glances from across the underground.
“I wasn’t really aware how exciting it was at the start,” Aaron says. “But there were times where I realised something important was happening. I saw how it was changing things around me.
The stage was set where people were prepared for something new.”
Whatever this “something new” was, there seemed to be no single, defining musical characteristic that the Boston class of the mid-90s shared – though Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou produced or mixed many of its early releases. Capturing the eclecticism of the scene, he produced everything from the early metalcore of Cave In’s Until Your Heart Stops, to the original screamo of orchid’s Chaos Is Me, and the post-hardcore of Garrison’s A Mile In Cold Water.
“Kurt took what everyone was doing and developed their sound,” says The Hope Conspiracy frontman Kevin Baker. “We all were recorded by Kurt, so that’s what we had in common, but we weren’t all coming out sounding the same. We were coming out sounding like ourselves.”
Instead the connection manifested itself in geography and a shared belief in what they were doing. “It was full of heart and sincerity,” nods Wes. “And that’s why the music crossed so many sounds. There was no room for opportunists. Boston policed itself in its realness.”
This realness blossomed between 2000-2001, with endless underground classics changing the face of hardcore. There was the post-metal swell of Isis’s debut, Celestial. Cave In morphed from atypical metalcore into the space prog-punk of second album Jupiter. They were followed by The Hope Conspiracy’s Cold Blue, American Nightmare’s Background Music,
Bane’s Give Blood and, most
pertinently of all, Converge’s Jane Doe – the high watermark of the Boston scene. Suddenly, young bands everywhere were ditching nu metal or pop-punk and turning hardcore.
“It became clear through running the label and seeing the increase in sales, there was this larger impact happening,” says Aaron. “The records were just being sold to larger distros, chain stores and going overseas. We saw bands like [Kansas City’s] Coalesce and [Nashville’s] Today Is The Day, or a band like Knut from Switzerland, incorporating odd time signatures and noise rock influences. It was a lot more obtuse than 4/4 chugga-chugga hardcore. It all was collectively working toward opening the mind of audiences that needed to have this stuff portrayed in a lot of different ways before they could wholeheartedly embrace it.”
With the underground smitten, it was inevitable the music industry would try and tap into this new and unusual music, and the majors began to circle. Cave In were signed by Capitol Records, and catapulted toward the mainstream.
“The whirlwind of having major label interest was a trip in itself,” Stephen says. “That took up much of our time and energy. We toured with the Foo Fighters in 2002-2003. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met, from the UK in particular,
who said their introduction to Cave In was via the Foo Fighters.
How rad is that! It seems similar to what Nirvana did for so many of their friends and musical peers.”
Ironically, though, as this new wave of Boston hardcore began to capture imaginations across the globe, its most recognisable stars were still waiting in the wings.
“Killswitch Engage, Shadows Fall and Unearth, that commercial metalcore scene, was happening organically,” Jacob says. “It was pretty removed from us, but they were our peers so we knew the guys. I remember sitting at a Converge and overcast show that I booked with Mike [D’Antonio, formerly bassist of overcast and then KSE], and him telling me he wanted to do something completely different. They found Jesse [Leach, frontman], and it worked out fucking awesome.”
The path Converge and co had trodden paved the way for metalcore to prosper commercially, while bearing practically no hallmarks of where it came from. To some from the Boston scene, this was a step too far.
“Initially seeing bands like Killswitch Engage or Shadows Fall, with
people like Brian Fair and Mike D’Antonio from overcast in, gave me a lot of satisfaction,” says Aaron. “But when MTV and major labels came and made ‘metalcore’ the word that you associate it with today, I found that quite distasteful. It seemed to be a lot of people who were attracted to the sound of the music, but who had no idea or understanding of the DIY principles of where that music came from.”
But the Boston hardcore scene left a trail of bands who followed their own creative vision, and many of its players are still experimenting with new sounds today. Be it the dark, synth-pop of Wes’s Cold
Cave, the discordant sludge of Aaron’s Sumac, Jacob’s solo, experimental Wear Your Wounds album, or the continuing brilliance of Converge – particularly their ambient Blood Moon project. Meanwhile, Stephen Brodsky’s Mutoid Man and Kevin Baker’s All Pigs Must Die continue pushing hardcore punk forwards.
They may not have enjoyed the commercial success of the metalcore bands of today, but their influence and impact is still felt throughout the underground, ringing out alongside the legacies of LA, New York and DC.
“THE MAJOR LABELS RUINED THE
BOSTON HARDCORE’S INFLUENCE SAW A MORE COMMERCIAL STYLE DOMINATE THE METAL SCENE
COLD CAVE’S The Idea Of LOve IS OUT VIA HEARTWORM. WEAR YOUR WOUNDS’ SELF-TITLED ALBUM IS OUT VIA DEATHWISH. MUTOID MAN’S War MOans IS OUT VIA SARGENT HOUSE. CONVERGE ARE DUE TO RELEASE AN ALBUM THIS WINTER
Converge: their Jane Doe album is an undisputed classic
Cave In garnered a host of new fans after they landed a support slot with the Foos