Monday, November 19, 2012

Grindcore, Fastcore, and Powerviolence: What Is It?

I can't count the number of time's I've been asked; "what's grindcore?" or, "what makes this powerviolence?" or, "what the hell is fastcore, how is it different than powerviolence?". And usually, I feel like I can give a pretty legitimate definition about these genres, but that being said, it has kind of gotten to a point where even seasoned listeners can get a little tripped up pinning down what subgenre a band falls into. It seems every band with a blast beat these days is labeled as a "grindcore" band, and every fast band with a sludgy part is "powerviolence". So, let's put it all to rest, I present to you, my take, and not very encyclopedic definitions of these three genres. Hopefully we can reach some level of understanding.

Grindcore: I'm sure all the readers of this blog should at the very least have a minor understanding of the origins of grindcore. I shouldn't have to do the whole history/Napalm Death vs. Repulsion thing here, y'all are pretty smart. In a nutshell, grindcore has always been a blend of metal, and hardcore. Back in the day, bands like Napalm Death were equally inspired by bands like Celtic Frost, Discharge, Crass, and what little death metal there was. Nowadays, a lot of the hardcore punk influence has been put to the side, and the modern grindcore sound is significantly more metallic. There are three characteristics, that to me, define grindcore. Speed, the blast beat, and short songs. Duh, right? But there's this special marriage between all of them which sets it apart from other music with these traits, like death metal. There's this urgency with grindcore, the need to dismiss all the bullshit and get all the aggression and intensity out as quickly as possible. Grindcore songs are supposed to kick you in the head, and then end before you know what happened. Not to say that there's no room for actual riffs, or memorable hooks. Bands like Nasum could bring the intensity, but still write a heck of a song. What more people need to understand that not every band with a blast beat is a grindcore band. I'm really curious where this thought process came from. Maybe it started with that "Grindcore Sucks" video that popped up on Youtube a few years ago, mocking Waking The Cadaver while one of their songs played. We all know WTC isn't grindcore, but a popular video like that is bound to influence people who don't really get it yet, and make them think bands like that are grindcore. Hence, you get bands making merch to sell to kids like the one in the picture above. To wrap it all up, grindcore is characterized by metallic riffs, played at incredibly fast tempos, with a little to a lot of hardcore punk influence, and short songs. Good? Good.

Powerviolence: Honestly, if there's any genre that I'm still unsure about, it's powerviolence. It seems like everyone is in a powerviolence band these days. I guess it doesn't help that there are tons of online outlets that throw out the term as much as "indie rock", us included. But it's weird, because I know it when I hear it, for sure. But let's back track here, and get to the origins. Powerviolence arose in the west coast, in the late 80's and came to fruition in the 90's. Groundbreaking bands like Infest and Crossed Out helped set the foundation for the sound that present bands would be actively inspired by. What I generally consider the powerviolence sound is fast music strongly rooted in hardcore punk, but taken to the extreme. Obviously, there is some grind influence in there, with the blast beats and crazy tempos. Gruff shouted vocals, occasional groove (important), and slower, sludgy passages; to me, that generally describes powerviolence. But the funny thing is, back when it was first starting in the west coast, all the bands in the "powerviolence scene", I'll call it, didn't really sound a like, at all. Crossed Out didn't sound like Man is The Bastard, who didn't sound like Lack Of Interest, who didn't sound like Spazz, who didn't sound like Capitalist Casualties, who didn't sound like No Comment, etc. What powerviolence was to the bands in the scene wasn't a new genre, it was just what the label that they put all their bands under. I'm sure to them, they were just making hardcore music. Now, there are countless powerviolence bands, it has become a legit genre of music. You also have grindviolence, which bands like ACxDC and In Disgust get labeled as. Which I guess makes sense, a healthy blend of metallic grind and powerviolence. Sounds good to me.

Fastcore: Fastcore is the last genre I get asked about all the fucking time. Honestly, it's one of my favorite hardcore sub/genres. Fastcore is basically perfectly described by the name alone; hardcore, played as fast as it possibly can be played. Bringing hardcore to the extreme is what fastcore is all about. I guess it can be argued that the sound came from thrashcore, and I definitely think Japanese bands like The Jellyroll Rockheads had some strong influence. Bands like Hellnation and I'm gonna say Charles Bronson are some of the best examples of early fastcore. Just non-stop blasting and dick waving intensity. But then there's also the bands I call "tech-fastcore". The ones that toy with song structure as much as speed. Sidetracked, Dead Radical, Hummingbird Of Death, xBrainiax, all great examples of this. Fitting constant tempo and riff changes into short, short songs. West coast bands like Lack Of Interest, and especially No Comment's "Downsided" EP were monumentally inspirational to this type of sound. To me, it's one of the more interesting and exciting genres in hardcore.

Hope all this helped a bit!



  1. hum...pretty good descriptions yes.

  2. To me Power Violence is less a sound than it was a scene on the west coast of the states in the '90s. The only reason it's kind of a genre now is because of the lasting influence of that scene, it's aesthetics and sound. But I guess sonically, I think what sets it apart from other Hardcore is the use of extreme fasts/extreme slows and strange abrasive song arrangement. Plus there's also the connection to the power electronics/noise scene.
    It's a very unique sound, and as a term it is in my opinion way over-used by music journalists. Most of what gets called Power Violence is pretty much just heavy/extreme Hardcore in my opinion.

  3. Yeah my take basically consists of
    Grindcore: Merger of Punk and Metal with an antimusic sentiment (hence microsong, noise, speed, brevity and heaviness)
    Powerviolence: extreme dissonant hardcore with a penchant for rapid tempo swaps. (Man is the bastard is always the hard one to fit into the definition)
    Fastcore: Just superfast hardcore.

    As you rightfully point out it goes alot deeper than that, and my personal ideas are that each one is more of an umbrella than a definition which canvas a variety of styles and techniques. Generally they operate more on feeling than a ruleset.

  4. i just explain it like this to people......
    grind has metal influences
    fastcore has 80's hardcore/punk influences
    powerviolence was an era not a genre!

    but good luck keeping those lines cleared in todays world!

  5. Greetings from South Australia, Check out our V8 Fueled Powerviolence band Peter Brock:

  6. new grind/powerviolence project from atlanta. for fans of brucexcampbell, acxdc, yacopsae, slayer