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Unearthing The Metal Underground: The Screamo Scene

This edition of Unearthing The Metal Underground was part of our 2013 April Fools pranks.

The much maligned deathcore genre. Whenever you hear the term, it is beset with cringes from some. Actually, though, deathcore gets a bad rap that merits further investigation. When metalcore evolved into deathcore and placed more emphasis on the screaming, growling and more punctuated breakdowns, plenty of bands were still keeping the heaviness and technical quotient at a good level. There's the pummeling force of the Acacia Strain and the progressive finesse of BTBAM straddling the line with technical death metal on the other end, along with a good measure of heavier and original sounding deathcore bands.

But somewhere down the line, the 'core' genres got highly fragmented and mutated into the screamo turf. Bands like The Bunny The Bear and Design The Skyline began appearing on Victory Records, arguably a by-product of a genre that began back in San Diego in the 90's when the term 'screamo' was coined out of the emo music scene. Screamo is a hybrid dynamic of soft/loud singing, usually by two singers, meant to convey dissonance, catharsis and emotional pain. It places less emphasis on metal and its traditions, and not surprisingly many of the screamo bands are not keen on being associated with the indie metal scene. Thrash and death metal might be something far removed and dinosaurish for some in this new generation. Who knows?

This is also perhaps why the average old school metalhead will distance himself from it. Called 'post-hardcore' by some, screamo sings about things like love and humanity in a different way than a metal band would. If you watch that video by iwrestledabearone "You Know that Ain't them Dogs' Real Voices," I suppose one would struggle to understand it from the viewpoint of a metalhead. There are kids eating cake and getting thrown into a pool and duct taped to a chair, with spastic screaming overlapped by samples of Mariah Carey. It all seems a bit chaotic and hormonal. Sometimes the screamo bands are viewed as overly simplistic in how they play their instruments and are showered with scorn from seasoned musicians. The genre itself is composed mainly of younger kids, which may change if it endures the test of time and its constituents grow with it.

Bands such as Alexisonfire and Funeral For A Friend rose from this scene and now every country is littered with screamo bands. Over time, its scene got even more fragmented genre-wise. Now you have the 'emoviolence' and the 'digigrind' scenes, featuring the group Hello Kitty Suicide Club, and other offshoots such as crunkcore and nintendocore - the latter being a curious blend of video game music and chaotic sound bites. Some of the bands in this category are We Butter The Bread With Butter and I Shot The Duck Hunt Dog - whose new single "Fap Party at Pedobear's House" gets its title from the internet onomatopoeaic term for masturbation.

Metal and screamo are definitely more mutually exclusive than metal and traditional deathcore. With curious multi-word names like Zarathustra Has Been Killed In The 70's, or Blindfolded And Led To The Woods (the latter with an even stranger album title of "Armed to the Teeth with Jelly Beans," but at least those New Zealanders keep it fairly heavy. I still can't shake the image of that Youtube video where they played on a kids talent show). Dramatic overtures abound in titles like As You Wish My Queen and The Devil Wears Prada, and even some song titles have begun sounding like computer/iphone jargon. Tracks are now being titled "HTML Rules D00d" and "Epic Fail." There's even a Mexican band named Mind Your P's And Q's and another one named Everyone Likes Cathleen. The latter has 11K facebook fans, so definitely someone other than Cathleen likes them.

The dress, piercings and grooming sense is quite different as well. The garage look of independent metal has been replaced with comb-overs, mega tribal ear piercings, skinny jeans, black nail polish and vans shoes. That quasi-hipster look is why some outside of the scene looking in have called it 'mallcore,' since it has an affinity to the local Hot Topic store. The album cover imagery is different too. One band has a photo of the White House, a tsunami and a tiger on it. And while distorted vocals and guitars are nothing new to metal, the last decade featuring grindcore vocals put through a phaser to sound underwater/toilet in nature, screamo distorts the vocals in a very 'pop' way similar to the autotuned/computerized loops of the commercial music scene. Today on Unearthing The Metal Underground, we will explore three different screamo bands from around the globe that are immensely popular in their respective scenes. In seeing these bands, the reader can judge from himself how similar or far removed from metal this scene truly is.

Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas

Taking its name from the Hunter S. Thompson tome, Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas is a screamo/electronica band from Japan which formed in 2008 with former members of Ending For A Start and Blank Time. They were a five-piece until incorporating the clean vocals of So (ex-Bombreligion) and blend electronic beats to high and low singing. Fairly young, all six members average 21 years of age. "Take Me Out" and "Burn this Disco Floor" are two of their newest singles.

Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas - "Jump Around"

Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas - "Stray In Chaos"

The Pen And The Pendulum

This quintet hails from Fairborn, Ohio and aims to 'divert itself from the average garage local garage band' by using melody and rhythm. Claiming to be influenced by hardcore, The Pen And The Pendulum released its first EP, "Possibilities," in 2011. The way some metal acts like Aerosmith and Anthrax used to do covers of hip hop bands, so do these guys. They do a rendition of Wacka Flocka Flame's "No Hands," which you can listen to below.

The Pen And The Pendulum - "No Hands"

The Pen And The Pendulum - "Divide and Failure"

Dance At The Chapel Horrors

Hailing from Zacatecas, Mexico comes the posse Dance At The Chapel Horrors. I was introduced to this band via the Mexicore Blogspot, which is usually a mixed bag of metal on one side and screamo/deathcore on the other side. The band had a seminal hit record in Mexico back in 2012 titled "Dinosaurios, Homies y Zombies," which featured the video "Epic Fail." On the record, they sing songs about Mexican pizza, bullies, internet photos, santa claus and other quizzical themes.

Dance At The Chapel Horrors - "Epic Fail"

Dance At The Chapel Horrors - "Bully Unit"

Screamo - is it misrepresented or misunderstood? You the reader, and metal fan, may draw your own conclusions. Join us again next week when we unearth the metal underground in yet another scene or genre.

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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