What Is Metalcore?

Shai Hulud
American metalcore band Shai Hulud.

Metal Blade Records

The origins of metalcore date back to the mid-1980s, where bands like Agnostic Front and Suicidal Tendencies were mixing thrash, punk, and hardcore together. The genre's popularity continued to increase through the '90s, as a major wave of metalcore bands formed to tear up the metal landscape. The northeast U.S., especially New York was a hotbed of the development of the genre, which quickly spread.

Bands like Unearth, Killswitch Engage, and All That Remains have made names for themselves in the mainstream, headlining major festivals and achieving solid albums sales. The 2000s saw the genre really explode, with bands like Atreyu, As I Lay Dying, Shadows Fall and Bullet For My Valentine releasing albums that landed in the upper echelon of the Billboard album chart.

Elsewhere across the world, bands like the U.K.'s Bring Me The Horizon, Germany's Caliban, Japan's Crossfaith and Australia's I Killed The Prom Queen helped spread metalcore's success across the globe.

Today, metalcore is still one of the most popular genres of metal, even with criticism from some in the underground metal community. The genre has also spawned numerous offshoots and subgenres such as deathcore, electronicore, mathcore, and others. There are also a significant number of Christian metalcore bands like For Today, August Burns Red and Oh Sleeper.

Musical Style

Metalcore is structured linearly, with the songwriting consisting of aggressive verses and melodic choruses. Breakdowns are a vital part of the genre, usually used to invoke moshing at live shows.

A good portion of the bands in the genre have recently added in solos and a greater emphasis on technical guitar playing, including a heavy use of palm muting. Double bass drumming is prevalent in the genre as well. The sound is polished and the lyrics range from personal to political issues.

Vocal Style

Screaming vocals are the mainstay of the genre, with many bands also incorporating melodic singing in the chorus of the songs. A few bands stick to harsh vocals only, but the majority have both singing and screaming.

Metalcore Pioneers

These bands are some of the pioneers and legends of the metalcore genre.

Earth Crisis
Formed in 1991, Earth Crisis made a splash in metalcore with their 1995 debut album Destroy The Machines. The album is considered one of the most influential albums towards garnishing mainstream recognition of the genre. Earth Crisis released a few more albums that showcased a cleaner and more refined approach to metalcore before dissolving in 2001.

Shai Hulud
While some today may consider the band to be closer to a hardcore/punk hybrid, Shai Hulud was considered a pioneer of metalcore back in the mid-'90s. Their 1997 album Hearts Once Nourished With Hope And Compassion was an anger-fueled journey; however, Shai Hulud brought intelligent lyrics to the forefront of their music, helping them to achieve critical and commercial acclaim.

Killswitch Engage
The Massachusetts band Killswitch Engage formed in 1999 and released their self-titled debut album the following year. Albums such as 2002's Alive Or Just Breathing and 2004's The End Of Heartache became very influential. Early metalcore bands had more of a hardcore influence, but bands like Killswitch really put the metal into metalcore.

Recommended Metalcore Albums

  • As I Lay Dying: Frail Words Collapse
  • Killswitch Engage: The End Of Heartache
  • Shadows Fall: The Art Of Balance
  • Bullet For My Valentine: The Poison
  • Trivium: Ascendancy
  • Avenged Sevenfold: Waking The Fallen
  • Earth Crisis: Destroy The Machines
  • Shai Hulud: Hearts Once Nourished With Hope And Compassion
  • Converge: Jane Doe
  • Overcast: Reborn To Kill Again
  • Red Jumpsuit Apparatus: Don't You Fake It