By willfully -- and again, proudly -- avoiding full-on assimilation with two rock subgenres that do, despite their own reactionary identities, provide opportunities for commercial success, hardcore has historically secured its own isolation from both the pop and rock zeitgeists. It’s outsider music made by and for young rowdy outsiders, and its success has never been defined in monetary or populist terms.
“Hardcore is gonna stay where it’s at because it’s just its nature to alienate, to be slightly off of the zeitgeist,” Patrick Kindlon says. He’s been fronting hardcore bands since the early 2000s (currently: Self Defense Family and Drug Church) and also hosts a comprehensive weekly hardcore podcast called Axe to Grind, which makes him a historian in hardcore years. “Not far enough that you can’t play shows, but far enough that you can’t break as big as you could in other genres of music.”
Therefore, what does it mean for a genre that’s intrinsically hermetic and individualist to attain notoriety from outside of its own pits? Whether it be a Grammy nomination, a Coachella performance, or even a handful of uncommon major label signings (Turnstile, Angel Du$t, and Code Orange each signed to Roadrunner Records, a division of Warner Music Group, over the last few years). And more importantly, why is the genre’s reach extending now of all times?
Both Tripp and 33-year-old Sunny Singh -- a hardcore archivist who’s filmed over 3,000 hardcore sets for his popular YouTube channel Hate5six -- agree that accesbility is the biggest factor. “A lot of people are discovering hardcore through different vectors, whether it’s YouTube or Spotify,” Singh says. “It’s just so much easier now to discover it and I think there’s such a variety of bands that are in hardcore, or are hardcore-adjacent, that are acting as gateways and bringing these people in.”
That phrase “hardcore-adjacent” might be the single most definitive trait of the genre in its current form. Throughout the last decade, many of the most popular hardcore bands are the ones who’ve incorporated other styles of music into their own. Much of that influence came from metal, which is clearly represented in the Hate5six YouTube stats. Most of the top-viewed sets on the channel are from various types of metallic hardcore bands like Code Orange, Jesus Piece, Knocked Loose, Vein, Nails and Power Trip; bands whose hardcore identities are constantly debated in the comments sections, but who wouldn’t have even been given a seat at the table in decades prior.
Vein’s style of hardcore is particularly unique to the current era because of the unabashed influence they draw from nu-metal. The subgenre, which blends rap vocal deliveries and hip-hop rhythms with metallic instrumentation, dominated rock radio in the late ‘90s and was, by virtue of its popularity, completely derided by the hardcore community. Now, for a band comprised of early twenty-somethings like Vein, pulling from groups like Slipknot and Korn has become a totally acceptable influence.