What is Sasscore?
Sass (aka. White Belt) is a hardcore punk & metal subgenre that started as a response to the rampant masculinity within the scene. It has been first used to describe a type of post-hardcore bands sharing a myriad of influences outside of punk music, such as new wave, disco, and dance-punk, fusing with other punk genres such as grindcore, noise rock, screamo, etc. Sass is characterized with a ‘sassy’ attitude expressed in the vocals, thus coining the term ‘sass’.
Lyrically, it can cover large amount of topics, whether it be erotic, sexual imagery or satirical commentary in their songs. It is noted for its over-the-top, spastic edge, dissonant, chaotic guitars, occasional dance rhythms, synths and blast beats.
Influenced by an article on the now defunct Stuff You Will Hate website, You Don’t Need Maps wrote in 2017:
Inspired by fashion-conscious yet pretentious post-hardcore bands like Nation of Ulysses and the mid-90s Spock Rock scene in San Diego, several bands in the late 90s and early 2000s started writing songs with handclaps and vaguely danceable beats, while maintaining a spastic edge. There were lisping vocals shouting incredibly erotic lyrics over chaotic guitar runs and keyboards. There was flamboyant, homoerotic clothing and behavior, meant to challenge tough-guy hardcore’s oppressive heteronormativity as well as the PC crowd’s stifling lack of ability to have fun. There were bands like the Blood Brothers, the Red Light Sting, Black Cat 13, and An Albatross. Al Burian was in a sass band. Some bands crossed over with spazzy screamo, most particularly the last Orchid record (whose members went on to the resolutely sassy Panthers), Hands Are…, J.R. Ewing, and After School Knife Fight. You would be correct in assuming that the more chaotic contingent of sass bands had a good amount of crossover with mathcore bands and audiences.
History & Evolution of The Genre
The prototype of sass bands emerged in the ’90s with acts like Le Shok, Brainiac, The Nation of Ulysses, who were highly influential to the overall aesthetic of the genre.
The Sass movement took the scene by a huge storm in the early 2000s, with bands such as The Crimson Curse (and all Three One G stuff of that era), Orchid’s Gatefold album, The Blood Brothers (particularly their Burn Piano Island, Burn album as a benchmark of the genre), Black Eyes, The Plot To Blow Up The Eiffel Tower.
Meanwhile, extreme bands such as Destroyer Destroyer, Tower of Rome, Operator Dead:Post Abandoned, Robinson, The Number Twelve Looks Like You, The Sawtooth Grin and early Daughters would take certain influences and aesthetics of sasscore while excluding post-hardcore and fusing it with mathcore and grindcore to the mix. This would become known as the white belt grind.
Sasscore has lived for a very short amount of time and suffered a huge decline, only to receive a comeback, including bands that were on hiatus or broke up, like An Albatross, and newer bands such as SeeYouSpaceCowboy, with the latter intended on marketing as such.
Sass (Proto-Sass, White Belt Grind, Sasscore, Sassy Screamo, Dancey Screamo, Sassgrind) Bands
If you want to start right at the beginning, start with those who are considered proto-sass, including The Nation of Ulysses, Braniac, Antioch Arrow, Le Shok, Get Hustle, The Crimson Curse, Milemarker, etc.
If you want to hear something of a more deliberate approach, I’d highly recommend Black Eyes, The Blood Brothers, Sick Lipstick, The Red Light Sting, Hot Hot Heat, A Trillion Barnacle Lapse, Q & Not U, Death From Above 1979, The Wolfnote, Lights for Nero and The Plot To Blow Up The Eiffel Tower.
If that’s not enough and you wanna go harder with sassiness, then go with the ‘white belt’ of Daughters, The Sawtooth Grin, The Locust, An Albatross, The Number Twelve Looks Like You, 2’0 Clock Girlfriend, 25 Dollar Massacre. Every Time I Die, Holy Molar, Oktober Skyline, as well as the newer ones mixing hardcore, slam, grind and metalcore revival: SeeYouSpaceCowboy, Dianacrawls, Secondgradeknifefight, The Callous Daoboys, THECHEESEBURGERPICNIC, C0mputer, .gif from god.
Say whatever you want about the movement, but you gotta understand that Sass has been a really influential style in the early 00s. As of now, there are hundreds of bands hugely inspired by the style that continue to carry on with its legacy into the future.
Update: If you want to learn more about Sass, there’s an updated version of the 2017 Ellie Kovach’s article called The Definitive Word on Sass. You can read it by subscribing to their Patreon. Some of the bands mentioned here were also unearthed in an article on Brooklyn Vegan published in May 2021.