Musical development is all about incorporating different and disparate elements of existing styles to create new sounds. However, the music press and fans alike have contributed to a world of music that is marked by increasing fragmentation and specialism, with some hybrid crossovers being so obscure that only the three bands who play that style of music have ever heard of it.
Musical factions are like tribes, and while the stylistic differences may seem minimal or even non-existent to the untrained ear of an ‘outsider,’ they’re pivotal to adherents of certain musical forms. East coast / West coast rap and the fighting between death metal and black metal factions in Norway and Sweden are but two high-profile examples that have been reported in the media.
Not all genre divisions cause such acrimony between fans, but being able to distinguish between types of music can be extremely useful, especially if you find yourself in the pub in the middle of a debate over various bands; some genres – and their fans – are simply incompatible. Others probably should be, but through the years, stranger and stranger hybrids have evolved. They might sound weird, but the more micro genres become, the more obsessive about the minutest of details the fans become.
You think you know your Crusties from your Grebos, your Goths from your Emos? Can you tell, just by listening to the introduction, the difference between Industrial Metal and Grindcore? As a music fan and music journalist, these things are of interest to me, so here’s an introduction to ten of the most obscure and specialist sub-genres around.
Grunk is a hybrid of grunge and punk. While Grunge trailblazers the likes of Nirvana and Hole were explicit in their citation of punk influences, many other Grunge bands who hit the big-time in the 90s, such as Smashing Pumpkins and Pearl Jam were less punk in terms of inspiration and sound (and, indeed image: while Courtney Love and the members of L7 may have looked like Nancy Spungen wannabes, the same could not be said for Pumpkins bassist D’arcy, for example). However, the punk aspect of the grunge sound is rendered more explicit by mohawk-sporting grunge-lite acts like Humankind, who include punk / oi! style D-beats in their song’s choruses.
Gunk – Not to be confused with Grunk, is Goth-Punk. Whereas many of the bands that became synonymous with goth were, in fact, post-punk or New Wave bands with darker leanings (Bauhaus, The Sisters of Mercy), others drew more direct influence from punk, the likes of Siouxsie and the Banshees. Subsequently, there were bands like Sex Gang Children and UK Decay who were very much punk-inspired, but drew on elements of gothic imagery or even B-movie horror. It was only a matter of time before the slide into parody was inevitable.
Sadecore – A form of industrial metal influenced by hardcore and punk, the exponents of which are obsessed with sexual perversion, hardcore S&M and the writings of the Marquis de Sade. Bands tend to reflect these dark themes not only in their deviance-fixated lyrics, but on their album covers and in their appearance, often wearing leather, latex and even full gimp outfits on stage. Exponents of Sadecore include The Flagellators, Justine, Sodom and Raping a Foetus With a Poker, best known for their controversial album ‘Sacrificing an Aborted Infant to the God of Ejaculate while Embuggering the Corpse of a Goat and Slowly Sucking a Hot Fresh Stool.’
Eat shit and die, motherfuckers. You don’t screw with a sadecore fan in corpse paint.
Skunk – A compound of skate and punk. Pioneered by the likes of Big Boys and JFA, Skunk – also known as Skate punk, Skatecore and Skate Rock – was popularised in the 90s by guttermouth, NOFX, Pennywise and The offspring. See also Blackened Skunk and Blackened Skate, which introduce Black Metal to Skunk and Skate respectively. These forms evolved some time after Blackened Death Metal and Blackened Crust, a hybrid of Black Metal and Crust Punk, as exemplified by Antimelodix and Order of the Vulture. The Beach Bastards from Hell attempted to forge a new genre in the form of Blackened Surf, combining satanic messages and blastbeats with guitars heavy with reverb and a Dick Dale-style twang. They split up after attempting to shoot their first promotional video, which resulted in their corpse paint makeup washing off in the breakers.
Slow-slow-quick-quick-slow-core – While Slowcore bands like Codeine and Red House Painters were inspired to create a sound that was the antithesis of grunge and hardcore, playing slow, downbeat songs with clean-sounding or even acoustic guitars, Slow-slow-quick-quick-slow-core bands like In Paris and Naked introduce Latin dance rhythms to the mix. Muscho Gusto’s single, ‘amoeba!'(2000), which featured a tango rhythm is widely considered to be the first example of Slow-slow-quick-quick-slow-core.
Lamecore – A particular thread of popular mainstream rap. Unlike hardcore rap, Lamecore is not remotely agrressive and has no social or political agenda. Lamecore rap takes the smooth production values of contemporary soul and r’n’b, and often incorporates female backing vocals and downbeat tempos to create a ‘seductive’ atmosphere. Lamecore rappers are generally smooth, stylish and sensitive, and the music is all about bling and chicks and makin’ love and whatnot, usually delivered in smooth tones (for the laydeez) and is ultimately lame – to the core. Examples of Lamecore rap can be found on Radio 1 and most mainstream radio stations 24 hours a day.
Screaming Edge – Perhaps not as bizarre as it may sound. The Screamo genre was born out of US hardcore and post-hardcore punk (which was, and remains poles apart from UK punk) as exemplified by DC bands like Fugazi, Black Flag, Husker Du, Minutemen, by changing the flat shouting vocal style to one whereby the lyrics are screamed. Fugazi, in their eschewing of drink and drugs and casual sex, pioneered the Straight Edge lifestyle. Screaming Edge bands like EatFuckShitWorkandDie! and NDRGZ are Screamo bands who adhere to the Straight Edge principles of clean living. Simples!
Symphonic Doom – The trappings of Doom Metal – i.e. growled, gnarly, gravely vocals and super-heavy power chords played at around twelve BPM – collide with the bombastic orchestration of symphonic metal to create this curious stylistic amalgamation. Unlike self-labelled Funeral Doom bands like the puntastic Depressed Mode, who produce weeping synth-laden gothic electrionica with guttural vocals, true Symphonic Doom bands like The Brightest Death, Bach Watching the Apocalypse and Tectonic Symphonic combine the weight of late Celtic Frost with the epic orchestration and horror vocals of Cradle of Filth to forge a truly unique sound.
Anal Crust – Crust Punk bands who demonstrate a scatological obsession within their songs’ lyrical content. Anal Crust was pioneered by The Shit Monkeys on their 1992 mini-album ‘Shit the Bed and Bugger me Raw.’ Although comedic in intent, the anarcho-punk messages of the songs – while referencing faecal matter with conspicuous frequency – set the blueprint for a number of successors, like Lords of Excrement, The Enema Animals and Coprophage, who later developed their sound in a more Sadecore direction. Anal Crust is not to be confused with Arsequake bands (or, indeed, the band Arsequake), famed for using sub-bass frequencies that would cause members of the audience to spontaneously and involuntarily defecate.
LARPcore – Derived from Viking metal, LARPcore bands don’t celebrate mythology, but are extremely particular about the historical accuracy of the lyrical content of their songs. Their stage costumes are also produced with a close eye on historical authenticity. A 2008 tour featuring Grendel’s Modor, Mons Badonicus and Scyld Scefing saw the three bands refusing to play their regular sets, and instead perform, on stage, real-time re-enactments of the Battle of Wippedesfleot (466AD).
A LARPcore compilation album
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