Powerviolence

Powerviolence: A subgenre of hardcore punk that emerged in California in the late 1980s. It features a fast and frantic style with rapid tempo changes, blending intense blast beats with slower sludge breakdowns and often includes sound bites or noise.

What is Powerviolence?

Originating from California during the late 1980s and early 1990s, powerviolence stands as a distinctively named subgenre within the expansive world of hardcore punk. Distinguished by its uniquely fast and frenzied musical style, bands in this genre are known for their swift tempo changes, seamlessly transitioning between high-intensity blast beats and more languid sludge breakdowns. A signature of powerviolence is the incorporation of sound bites or noise, adding to its eccentric character.

A Brief History of Powerviolence

neanderthal-west-coast-power-violence

The term “power violence” (originally two words) was coined in 1989 by Matt Domino, then a member of the short-lived band Neanderthal. DIY Conspiracy contacted Eric Wood, the other member of Neanderthal at the time, to comment on the origins of the term:

Neanderthal was only two people (Matt Domino and I), rehearsing at two different locations, with Joe [Denunzio] of Infest guesting on vocals on two songs but he was not a member of the band. We rehearsed bass and drums in Pomona, CA close to my home at the time and we would rehearse strings, bass and guitar, at Domino’s parents house in Valencia, CA.

When we were first starting to write material, we were attempting to figure out our own sound’s description. We were talking about it and just started throwing some tears of words together. He first came up with the term “Power Violence” (two words). We were sharing words back-and-forth verbatim but he came up with that and then talked about the East and West Coast rivalry, I guess you would call it, of hardcore and other genres of music, and he simply added ‘West Coast’ in front of ‘Power Violence’. And so it’s really ‘West Coast Power Violence’ not ‘Powerviolence’.

We only did that to describe our sound for us. You know, it was on the couple of records we did. When Charred Remains aka Man Is The Bastard had the song “HSMP” [Hispanic Small Man Power], to be honest, I told Aaron Kenyon it was a misrepresentation of those early bands to label it that way when it was only something Neanderthal did for us. It wasn’t meant to be taken and used for any other band. It was just our thing but it got out of control and everyone basically used it.

So even in Man Is The Bastard that song “HSMP” (from the split 7″ with Aunt Mary), it’s really not correct but I didn’t write those lyrics, Aaron did. It’s gotten completely out of hand and it’s really depressing. It just makes me shake my head like no one has their own ideas for their own sound, they can’t just think a little bit and figure out a description for their own sounding songs or body of work. It’s just a drag.

In my humble opinion, power violence started and stopped with Neanderthal. I mean we used it to describe our own sound and that said we didn’t want it to be some stupid scene. 

Despite Eric Wood’s reluctance to use the term and the negative things he had to say about it, powerviolence took on a life of its own and has been widely used for decades. The first bands generally considered to be the originators of the term are Infest, formed in September 1986 by Joe Denunzio, Matt Domino, Dave Ring and Chris Clift, and Pissed Happy Children, formed between 1987 and 1990 with Eric Wood, Joel Connell and Shawn Connell.

infest-demo

Infest’s 1987 demo and 1988 debut, Slave, are arguably the most important records in establishing the sound and scope known (for better or worse) as powerviolence. A 1997 Decibel Magazine article on powerviolence described Infest’s sound as fusing the early youth crew hardcore of 1986 with the proto-grind fastcore of Massachusetts’ Siege, Netherlands’ Pandemonium and Vancouver’s Neos into “short, undeniably violent-sounding bursts”.

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Pissed Happy Children

Influence & Style

Powerviolence shares musical similarities with grindcore but emphasizes a pure DIY hardcore punk ethos, eschewing the death metal direction some grind bands were taking. Musically, early powerviolence bands drew inspiration from the cross-pollination of punk and thrash, with influences from bands such as Siege, DRI, Cryptic Slaughter, Suicidal Tendencies, Lärm, Pandemonium, Ripcord, Heresy, and many more. California’s flourishing skateboarding, hip-hop, and graffiti culture during the mid-90s also left an imprint on the powerviolence scene.

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Spazz

Lyrically, powerviolence bands exhibited a range of themes. Some embraced anti-social and nihilistic tendencies, while others parodied the tough-guy attitude prevalent in the broader hardcore scene. Political and satirical elements were also present, and bands occasionally incorporated samples from action films, TV shows, and video games as postmodern meta-commentary.

Emoviolence

The term “emo-violence” emerged as a tongue-in-cheek designation coined by Chris Bickel of the screamo band In/Humanity. It later became associated with numerous related screamo bands influenced by powerviolence, grindcore, and thrash, including Palatka, Usurp Synapse, Jenny Piccolo, Hassan I Sabbah, Joshua Fit For Battle, and others.

Development

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Chris Dodge, 📸 Corey Zazzy

The powerviolence scene experienced a surge in the early to mid-1990s, spearheaded by bands like Spazz and labels such as Slap-a-Ham Records and 625 Thrashcore. These influential bands and labels, along with festivals like Fiesta Grande, propelled the genre’s growth. Subsequent waves of powerviolence emerged, featuring bands like Hatred Surge, Mind Eraser, Magrudergrind, Iron Lung, ACxDC, and many more, keeping the genre alive and evolving.

Note: The powerviolence genre originated and evolved predominantly in California, but it spread beyond geographical boundaries, with bands from Japan (Conga Fury) and Germany (Yacøpsæ) contributing to its global presence.

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Powerviolence Bands

Power violence is dead. Anyone claiming the “power violence” description for their own is cancer. — Eric Wood

  • Influential proto-powerviolence and PV adjacent bands: Electro Hippies, Sore Throat, Lärm, Ripcord, Voorhees, Heresy, Youth Korps, Septic Death, Negative Approach, MDC, Negative FX, Neos, Siege, DRI, Deep Wound, Suicidal Tendencies, Napalm Death, Straight Ahead, Impact Unit, Chain of Strength, Cryptic Slaughter, SOB, Gauze, Lip Cream, Assück, and Dropdead.
  • Classic “Powerviolence” Bands: The powerviolence genre boasts a roster of classic bands that epitomize its sound and spirit. These include Infest, Pissed Happy Children, Neanderthal, Crossed Out, No Comment, Spazz, Man Is The Bastard, Slave State, Manpig, Despise You, Lack of Interest, No Comply, Assholeparade, Capitalist Casualties, Charles Bronson, MK-Ultra, Plutocracy, Hellnation, No Le$$, Black Army Jacket, Apartament 213, Insult, Godstomper, Romantic Gorilla, Shitstorm, Uzi Suicide, Kungfu Rick, Yacøpsæ, Conga Fury, Mind of Asian, Agents of Satan, and Slight Slappers.
  • Post-2000 & Current Bands: The powerviolence movement continued to evolve and thrive in the new millennium, with numerous bands carrying the torch. These include Hatred Surge, Mind Eraser, The Endless Blockade, Magrudergrind, Extortion, xBrainiax, Final Draft, Vile Intent, Iron Lung, ACxDC, Sex Prisoner, Warzone Womyn, Kent Brockman, Endless Swarm, Swallowing Shit, Short Hate Temper, Fatal Nunchaku, Öpstand, Sylvester Staline, Sidetracked, Manhunt, Slapendenhonden, Bare Hands, Peter R. De Vries, xKATE MOSHx, The Seeker, Ultimate Blowup, The +HIRS+ Collective, Goolagoon, Sordo, Choke, Merked, and many more. These bands, along with numerous others, continue to contribute to the vibrant and ever-expanding world of powerviolence.

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