The al­bums that de­fined the Bos­ton scene

Metal Hammer (UK) - - Boston Hardcore -

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.

Cave in

JUPITER (2000)

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.

Amer­i­can Night­mare


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.


OCEANIC (2002)

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.





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

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