In the vein of punk rock, most hardcore bands followed the traditional singer/guitar/bass/drum format with a heavy emphasis on rhythm rather than melody. Hardcore vocalists screamed, chanted and used spoken word poetry.
Drummers would play fast D-beat one moment and then drop tempo into elaborate musical breakdowns the next. Guitarists were not afraid to play solos, octave leads, and grooves as well as tapping into the various feedback and harmonic noises available to them. The guitar sound was almost always distorted and amplified, giving the music a heavier but still as fast feel as the more established punk sound. With two minutes being considered a lengthy hardcore song, most of the songs were short and rushed, consciously avoiding regular song structures.
The origins of Hardcore Punk are often traced back as far late 1970’s Los Angeles, where a band named Panic first performed in December 1977. Formed by guitarist, lyricist and sole continuous member Greg Ginn, the band would change their name to Black Flag the following year.
The next ten years would see 8 more E.P.s, 6 studio albums, 3 live albums and 3 compilations, over the course of which their sound evolved towards one more reminiscent of proto-heavy metal bands such as Black Sabbath. Interestingly, their first full length studio album, Damaged (1981), was arguably their last pure hardcore punk release. Stand out tracks include opener ‘Rise Above’, ‘Six Pack’ and ‘TV Party’.
From its Californian origins, Hardcore quickly spread across America, and by 1981 there were strong pockets in San Fransisco, Washington D.C., Boston and New York, with no particular band leading the way. The very nature of the sound meant the scene remained largely underground, with many many bands playing many epic shows but selling few records.
The Hardcore scene this side of the pond began with Discharge, a Stoke-on-Trent five piece also formed in 1977, though it wasn’t until 1979, after a couple of lineup changes and the dropping of a second guitarist, that their sound moved from classic Sex Pistols style punk to the distorted hardcore punk for which they are famed.
Their first E.P., ‘Realities of War’, was released in 1980 contained 4 tracks running at 4minutes and 51 seconds, alongside a more distinctively hardcore sound than Black Flag’s debut E.P.
Even as soon as the early 1980’s Discharge’s distinctive guitar and drum interplay had become so influential they sprouted a sub-genre of their own, known as D-beat, similar of course to straight-up hardcore, but distinct in the focus on shouted slogans typically with anti-war, anarchist messages in the vocals, minimal lyrical content and greater proximity to heavy metal. It is closely associated with crust punk, a heavier, more complex variation.
Widely considered their definitive work, Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing was released in 1982, with three of the Big Four, Metallica, Anthrax and Machine Head recording covers of ‘Free Speech for the Dumb’, ‘Protest and Survive’ and ‘The Possiblity of Life’s Destruction’ respectively.
Despite many line-up changes, Discharge are still active today, releasing their latest album, Disensitise, in 2008, though whilst their sound is still firmly rooted in hardcore punk they have developed a more metallic sound. A brief re-union of the classic line-up, Kelvin Morris on vocals, Tony Roberts on guitar, Roy Wainwright on Bass and Terry Roberts on drums saw the release of a self-titled studio album in 2002, best described as similar to their earlier work, but with longer songs overall less fast-aced and containing much more soloing.