Punk is in a weird state. Truly. It is both an exciting time and a boring time to be involved (in however varying degree) in punk music and subculture. Punk/hardcore acts are now playing huge festivals, to entirely new crowds who would never be exposed to them (a pretty entertaining dichotomy as seen here, during Title Fight’s set at Coachella this summer), and many bands are changing their sound and straying further and further from their punk or hardcore roots.
In many subcultures there is always the issue of staying relevant, and pushing the envelope, and punk music is no exception. Recently, there has been a lot of progression from punk and hardcore bands, many of whom are shifting their sound and evolving, sometimes outside of the realm of traditional punk and hardcore. The most recent example of this is Code Orange (previously Code Orange Kids). The band’s most recent LP, I Am King, goes beyond their fast chaotic hardcore roots to incorporate many elements from various subgenres of metal, grind, and even shoegaze. The end result is a dark, incredibly heavy, monster of an album. The title track “I Am King” is a nightmare of a song in the best way possible. Listen below:
However, Code Orange are not the only ones changing their sound. Another band that is often brought up in conversation with Code Orange (most likely due to their 2012 split 7″) is Full of Hell. Full of Hell’s 2013 LP Rudiments of Mutilation, saw a slight progression from their first LP The Roots of Earth Are Consuming My Home. The band’s live show has seen them experimenting with more harsh noise and feedback in between, and sometimes in the middle, of songs. Their new shift was made apparent in their 2014 Record Store Day split with Psywarfare, which featured a 12 minute noise track from the band on the A side. Thus, it seemed a logical pairing when the band recently announced their collaborative LP with Japanese noise-king Merzbow (out Nov. 25th on Profound Lore). The one track the band has released is a blistering aural assault, equal parts grind and noise and thrash. Listen below:
This begs the question: with so many punk/hardcore bands growing increasingly more progressive, will the more “traditional” bands fall to the wayside? Bands, even outside of punk, have always had to evolve and adapt their sound in order to remain relevant and not, to put it frankly, become boring. However, punk is slightly different than most other music subcultures, in that a lot of bands can put out record after record of essentially the same sounding music and still remain hugely popular and sell out shows in venues of varying size. The prime example of this is hardcore act The Rival Mob. The band has put out two LPs and an EP of aggressive, old school hardcore. There is very little variation in sound between the bands records, yet they remain one of the biggest bands in punk/hardcore. Are bands like The Rival Mob necessary in order to balance out the more progressive acts such as Full of Hell and Code Orange? What about bands that move completely beyond their hardcore roots such as Ceremony, or even Iceage? Punk and hardcore subculture is completely unique, with more variation than most realize. What’s punk and what’s not? All I know is this: you’re not punk and I’m telling everyone.