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Unearthing The Metal Underground: The Powerviolence Scene

If you ever wondered where much of the hardcore and some of the punk scene went in the past couple of decades, the answer is it went even more underground. Back in the early nineties, when hardcore and metal came together to create the wildly popular thrashcore movement, a lot of the true hardcore punks in the scene remained disenchanted. They identified with the metallic element but wanted the music to remain distinct and focus on ideals and themes of socio-political decay.

No better was this driven home more than by the act of several commercial bands loosely labeled 'punk' by the airwaves, like Green Day or Sublime, that made the true denizens of hardcore create an even more underground niche of brutality in their musical style - thus giving rise to the powerviolence movement. The origin of the term is disputed, but is mostly attributed to Infest guitarist Matt Domino, at the time in the band Neanderthal with Eric Wood, who blurted out 'power fuckin violence' in an interview on alternative Californian station KXLU. The term stuck and was first mentioned in the song "Hispanic Small Man Power (HSMP)" by pioneering genre band Man Is The Bastard.

The powerviolence movement's origins in the late eighties saw the rise of a hardcore/metal scene that was categorized by brevity in song lengths, much like grindcore or punk. The spastic speed gave way to bizarre breakdowns, tempo changes and blurbs of techno or noise elements from other genres like fusion, sludge or drone. Vocalist Chris Dodge of the band Spazz also created the Slap-A-Ham record label around this time, that classic viaduct that released 64 titles of powerviolence between 1989 and its demise in 2002. Later on, Spazz drummer Max Ward created the 625 Thrashcore label and started the Super Sabado Gigante powerviolence festival.

This mainly Californian uprising of the late 80's/early 90's began to crop up all over the place in a late nineties revival. Newer hardcore bands couldn't entirely identify with their idols like Ian MacKaye going 'alternative rock' into bands like Fugazi. They wanted to keep it underground with a hardcore sound, but still added some twists on the genre. Henry Barnes from MITB/Bastard Noise, in an example, would make homemade guitar reconfigurations and even upended the guitar as the primary instrument. Much like the band Assuck, sometimes the guitar was completely removed and supplanted with heavy bass and scales.

The new purveyors of this raw, dissonant genre today give nods to the scene veterans (some inactive) such as No Comment, Amps For Christ, Plutocracy and countless others. We have posted some news here on Metal Underground on a few bands from the scene such as Weekend Nachos and Xibalba (although the latter shares a lot in common with black and death metal, while firmly rooted in hardcore). We will further investigate this genre today as we unearth some of the more popular powerviolence bands tearing up the club scene today on Metal Underground.


ACxDC stands for antichrist demoncore, and these guys really lay down the law in Southern California these days. Formed in 2003, this demon crew first released a demo in 2004, the "He Had it Coming" album a year later, "The Second Coming" album last year and the "Live Noise" 7". The tight-knit hardcore scene has come together to help ACxDC vocalist Sergio Amalfitano's child Savina's quest for medical care. Billing themselves as satanic straight-edge, they take a rip-riding blur of riffs akin to Illinois band Charles Bronson, but with quirkier interludes. They have posted the brand new track "Crux," taken from the new three-way split with other scene bands Sex Prisoner and Magnum Force on Live A Lie Records. On October 25th it will be a very big night when they play at Phobia's only Californian appearance along with Early Graves, Eat The Living, Exmortus and Dogteeth at the Los Globos in L.A. The band will be filming a new video soon in a skateboard park.

ACxDC - "Crux"

ACxDC - "Antichrist Demoncore"

Apartment 213

Out of Cleveland comes Apartment 213, a band named after Dahmer's death den and so bad ass that they were banned at a club. They recently put out a split with eccentric hardcore band Agoraphobic Nosebleed entitled "Modern Powerviolence." For those not familiar with their music, the band has an album featuring forty songs from all their EP's, splits and compilations they were a part of - which was released in 2005. This album elicits comparisons to a modern day Mortician with its paeans for serial killers and dissension from society anthems. The members of Apartment 213 continue to perform nowadays and a couple of years ago formed the side project Anonymous Divorce, whose songs (simply titled "1," "2," "3," and "4") you may listen to at this location.

Apartment 213 - "Don't Tell"

Apartment 213 - "Hollow Cost"

Iron Lung

This band formed back in Reno at the turn of the millenium and is composed of a duo. Having been on a few indie labels, the band decided to create its own record label. Now based in Seattle, the band collaborates with others from the powerviolence scene, such as Hatred Surge. In 2009, Iron Lung released a three-way split with its other two side projects Pig Heart Transplant and Walls. Lately they have released "I Hate You Motherfuckers," a live Australian recording, and the "Saboteur" 7". Being one of the veterans of the scene, Iron Lung has a huge following. Listen to their EP's "Cancer" and "Exposed" for an exercise in dissonant hardcore.

Iron Lung - "Life. Iron Lung. Death"

Iron Lung - "Cancer"

The powerviolence scene is the coming together of many hardcore traditions and represents all kinds of bands with their hearts basically rooted in the underground scene. It's not about image but all about attitude. Whether metallic in edge like some of the bands we covered today, or more punk in overall delivery and rhythm like the Scott Baio Army or Despise You, the great DIY club scene flourishes through these truly underground musicians. Join us again next week when we unearth more bands from another scene or location.

Special thanks to guitarist Rudy (aka Max Penetration) from Meth Leppard for his insight into the powerviolence scene.

sonictherapy's avatar

Vicky Willis has been a freelance journalist and former college radio disc jockey for almost twenty years. She has been contributing to Metalunderground.com since 2010.

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3 Comments on "Unearthing The Powerviolence Underground"

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1. AOTHGRIND writes:

ACxDC rules! The best powerviolence band to come onto the scene

# Sep 25, 2012 @ 2:48 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
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2. ButtXtouch writes:

iron lung is so good. they forgot about dropdead though.

# Sep 25, 2012 @ 3:14 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
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3. dick hurts writes:

what a sh**ty article. where to begin? i hope no one else has to read this. what a bummer.

# Sep 26, 2012 @ 7:16 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address

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