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Melodic hardcore

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Title: Melodic hardcore  
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Subject: List of punk rock bands, 0–K, List of punk rock bands, L–Z, Youth crew, Descendents, A Wilhelm Scream
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Melodic hardcore

Melodic hardcore (also known as melocore) is a subgenre of hardcore punk with a strong emphasis on melody in its guitar work. It is defined by the fast drum patterns with chiming melodic riffs. Many of the pioneering melodic hardcore bands, such as Bad Religion, Descendents, and Lifetime, have proved influential to bands across the spectrum of punk, and rock music more generally.


  • History 1
  • Defining musical characteristics 2
  • References 3
  • Further reading 4


The earliest melodic hardcore emerged from the Californian hardcore scene, with bands such as the Descendents, who were formed in 1978. Their earliest work was simple, poppy punk; later they'd mix this more melodic approach with hardcore, inspiring both melodic hardcore and pop-punk groups.[1] Bad Religion, who formed in the San Fernando Valley in 1979, played in a somewhat similar vein, but were more angry and political than the Descendents.[2] They recorded their debut album, How Could Hell Be Any Worse?, in 1981.[3]

The Faith 1983 EP Subject to Change is thought of as one of the first melodic hardcore records, as significant as the music of Bad Religion or the Descendents.[4] On the release, the band added another guitarist (Eddie Janney, later of Rites of Spring) and moved away from the more straightforward hardcore punk of their earlier work towards a more complex, textured, and, of course, melodic sound, accompanied by introspective lyrics. The release is also notable for its influence on post-hardcore.[5]

Dag Nasty is a touchstone of the genre, formed during the mid-1980s in DC, with Brian Baker (ex-Minor Threat) on guitar and eventually with second singer Dave Smalley of Boston's DYS on vocals. Dag Nasty's sound was, to a degree, a development of the sound Minor Threat was developing on the Out Of Step LP.

In 1988, the band All formed. They comprised Bill Stevenson, Karl Alvarez and Stephen Egerton of Descendents, who had broken up when lead singer Milo Aukerman left. The band made music in a broadly similar vein to the Descendents, and were initially fronted by Dave Smalley of Dag Nasty.[3]

Gorilla Biscuits came out of the late 1980s New York hardcore scene, and played a melodic form of the hardcore subgenre known as youth crew. Youth crew itself takes a lot of influence from the Reno band 7 Seconds, who played upbeat and melodic hardcore from the mid-to-late 80s; a good example of this is their seminal album The Crew. Turning Point, a New Jersey band, also emerged from the youth crew movement, but their later material (the 1990 LP It's Always Darkest Before The Dawn, etc.) moved towards melodic hardcore, with more complex music and introspective lyrics.

Into the 1990s there was a large and diverse melodic hardcore scene. Bands such as Bane pushed the genre, taking on post-hardcore influences. Lifetime, from New Jersey, were another notable melodic hardcore group, whose sound drew on pop-punk, emo, and hardcore. Along with other melodic hardcore groups, they influenced pop-punk groups such as Fall Out Boy and Saves the Day; many pop-punk groups formed in Lifetime's wake draw on melodic hardcore. When Lifetime broke up, some of their members formed Kid Dynamite, who veered towards the more aggressive end of the same subgenre.

During the 90s, the 'Epi-Fat' sound (a variant of pop-punk named after the labels that housed its key bands, Epitaph and Fat Wreck) was popular; although Epi-Fat bands (such as NOFX, Strung Out and Lagwagon) are not usually seen as melodic hardcore per se they drew on hardcore punk, particularly melodic bands such as the Descendents and Bad Religion, mixing these influences with pop-punk and thrash metal.

The 2000s saw bands including Alexisonfire, Have Heart, Verse, and Modern Life Is War take the genre in new directions. The bands Rise Against, Strike Anywhere, A Wilhelm Scream, No Trigger, and Kid Dynamite are counted among the most significant U.S. melodic hardcore bands of the 2000s, with Rise Against finding mainstream success. Away from America, melodic hardcore bands have formed around the world, including Rentokill, Phinius Gage, 4ft Fingers and Consumed.

Defining musical characteristics

Minor seventh and minor ninth chords are commonly used, in combination with an open-string modal playing style. This style, probably inspired by Bob Mould, was extended by Brian Baker in Dag Nasty and later by Lifetime.

Drop D-tunings on guitars and bass is common for post-1990 melodic hardcore to achieve a heavier sound than possible with a standard tuning. 180 to 210 beats per minute is a very common tempo for post-1990 melodic hardcore. Guitar licks and vocal hooks with 5th or 9th harmony is common in post-1995 melodic hardcore. For a dramatic contrast, melodic overtones interleaved with overbearing feedback are often present. Triplets and tapping (both for guitar and bass) are becoming more and more common features in newer melodic hardcore. 4/4 is the common time signature for the genre.


  1. ^ "Descendents were the model for all 'melodic' HC that followed." Blush, Steven and Petros, George; American hardcore: a tribal history; Los Angeles: Feral House: Distributed by Publishers Group West, 2001. OCLC 48658495. Part Two. "LA: How Could Hell Be Any Worse?" p. 79.
  2. ^ Peter Jandreus, The Encyclopedia of Swedish Punk 1977–1987, Stockholm: Premium Publishing, 2008, p. 11.
  3. ^ a b American Hardcore, p. 80.
  4. ^ "Faith Subject to Change and First Demo".  
  5. ^ "Faith/Void Split".  

Further reading

  • Sharpe-Young, Garry, New wave of American heavy metal, New Plymouth, New Zealand: Zonda Books, 2005. OCLC 71843078
  • Larkin, Colin, The Guinness encyclopedia of popular music; Enfield, Middlesex, England: Guinness Pub. ; New York: Stockton Press, 1995. OCLC 32949294
  • Budofsky, Adam ; Heusel, Michele; Dawson, Michael Ray and Parillo, Michael, The drummer: 100 years of rhythmic power and invention; Cedar Grove, NJ: Modern Drummer Publications ; Milwaukee: Exclusively distributed by Hal Leonard Corp., 2006. OCLC 65063692
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