Orchid performing in 2000.
|Cultural origins||Early 1990s, San Diego, California, U.S.|
Screamo is an aggressive style of emo that emerged in the early 1990s, combining musical intensity with "willfully experimental dissonance and dynamics." It was pioneered by San Diego bands Heroin and Antioch Arrow and developed in the late 1990s mainly by bands from the East Coast of the United States such as Orchid, Saetia, and Pg. 99. Screamo is strongly influenced by hardcore punk and characterized by the use of screamed vocals. Lyrical themes usually include emotional pain, romantic interest, politics, and human rights.
"Screamo" has often been mistakenly used as an umbrella term for any music that features screamed vocals. According to Matt Davis, guitarist and singer for the VidaBlue, "a lot of bands that play music that has screaming vocals and isn't readily filed away into another little genre niche is called screamo."
While the genre was developing in the early 1990s, it was not initially called "screamo." Chris Taylor, lead vocalist for the band Pg. 99, said "we never liked that whole screamo thing. Even during our existence, we tried to venture away from the fashion and tell people, 'Hey, this is punk.'" Jonathan Dee of The New York Times wrote that the term "tends to bring a scornful laugh from the bands themselves." Lars Gotrich of NPR Music made the following comment on the matter in 2011:
|“||The screamo scene [has] change[d] a lot in the last 10 years. There used to be more creative bands like Circle Takes the Square and City of Caterpillar. And then it took this route where screamo got really streamlined and unrecognizable to the point where someone hilariously invented the term skramz to distinguish the first wave of screamo bands.||”|
In the 2000s the term "screamo" began being used loosely to describe any use of screamed vocals in music. It has been applied to a wide variety of genres unrelated to the original screamo scene. Juan Gabe, vocalist for the band Comadre, alleged that the term "has been kind of tainted in a way, especially in the States." Derek Miller, guitarist for the band Poison the Well noted the term's constant differing usages and jokingly stated that it "describes a thousand different genres." According to Jeff Mitchell of Iowa State Daily, "there is no set definition of what screamo sounds like but screaming over once deafeningly loud rocking noise and suddenly quiet, melodic guitar lines is a theme commonly affiliated with the genre." Bert McCracken, lead singer of The Used, stated that screamo is merely a term "for record companies to sell records and for record stores to categorize them."
Origins (Early 1990s)
Screamo arose as a distinct music genre in 1991, in San Diego, at the Ché Café, including bands such as Heroin and Antioch Arrow. Gravity Records and Ebullition Records released this more chaotic and expressive descendant of emo. The scene is noted for its distinctive fashion sense, inspired by mod culture. As with emo, the term screamo carries some controversy among participants.
The innovations of the San Diego scene eventually spread elsewhere, such as to the Seattle group The Blood Brothers. Many groups from the East Coast were influential in the continual development and reinvention of the style, including Orchid, Pg. 99, Saetia, City of Caterpillar, Circle Takes the Square, Hot Cross, and Ampere.
Mainstream influence (Late 1990s–mid 2000s)
By 1995, the term "screamo" drifted into the music press, especially in the journalism of Jim DeRogatis and Andy Greenwald, and by the mid-2000s, the term was being applied to many newer bands. Screamo bands such as The Used, Thrice, Finch, Thursday, Alexisonfire, and Silverstein developed a newer period of screamo in the 21st century. Thursday cited the post-punk band Joy Division, and the post-hardcore band Fugazi as important influences, but also took cues from the alternative rock styles of Radiohead, U2, and The Cure. Many of these bands took influence from bands like Refused and At the Drive-In. In contrast to the do-it-yourself screamo bands of the 1990s, screamo bands such as Thursday and The Used have signed multi-album contracts with labels such as Island Def Jam and Reprise Records.
Contemporary revival (Mid 2000s–present)
In the mid 2000s the style of early screamo regained popularity, with American bands like Comadre, Off Minor, and Hot Cross releasing records on independent labels. The contemporary screamo scene has also remained particularly active in Europe, with bands such as Amanda Woodward, Louise Cyphre, Le Pré Où Je Suis Mort, La Quiete, and Raein all being prime examples of their scene. Many of these bands have existed since the initial explosion of European screamo in the early 2000s, and the scene in countries like Italy and France has remained strong.
In the early 2010s, the term "screamo" began to be largely reclaimed by a new crop of do-it-yourself bands. The genre is once again growing in popularity, with many screamo acts, like Loma Prieta, Pianos Become the Teeth, La Dispute, and Touché Amoré releasing records on fairly large independent labels such as Deathwish Inc. In 2011 Alternative Press noted that La Dispute is "at the forefront of a traditional-screamo revival" for their critcally-acclaimed release Wildlife. They are a part of a group of stylistically similar screamo-revival bands self-defined as "The Wave," made up of Touché Amoré, La Dispute, Defeater, Pianos Become the Teeth, and Make Do and Mend.
An example of contemporary screamo by Loma Prieta, featuring harsh vocals, stylistic transitions, and emotional lyrics.
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Screamo is a style of hardcore punk-influenced emo with screaming. Alex Henderson of AllMusic considers screamo a bridge between hardcore punk and emo. The term screamo is a portmanteau of the words "scream" and "emo." Screamo uses typical rock instrumentation, but is notable for its brief compositions, chaotic sounds, harmonized guitars, and screaming vocals. Screamo is characterized "by frequent shifts in tempo and dynamics and by tension-and-release catharses." Some screamo music features chaotic vocals and quiet, melodic guitar lines. Many screamo bands also incorporate ballads. According to AllMusic, screamo is "generally based in the aggressive side of the overarching punk-revival scene." Screamed vocals are used "not consistently, but as a kind of crescendo element, a sonic weapon to be trotted out when the music and lyrics reach a particular emotional pitch." Emotional singing and harsh screaming are common vocals in screamo.
Screamo lyrics often feature topics such as emotional pain, breakups, romantic interest, politics, and human rights. These lyrics are usually introspective, similar to that of softer emo bands. The New York Times noted that "part of the music's appeal is its un-self-conscious acceptance of differences, respect for otherness." Some screamo bands openly demonstrate acceptance of religious, nonreligious, and straight edge lifestyles Screamo fashion includes shaggy "vulcan" haircuts, tight T-shirts, denim jackets and thick-rimmed glasses.
Many screamo bands in the 1990s saw themselves as implicitly political, and as a reaction against the turn to the right embodied by California politicians, such as Roger Hedgecock. Some groups were also unusually theoretical in inspiration: Angel Hair cited surrealist writers Antonin Artaud and Georges Bataille, and Orchid lyrically name-checked French new wave icon Anna Karina, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, French philosopher Michel Foucault, and critical theory originators the Frankfurt School.
Emoviolence is a stylistic fusion of screamo and powerviolence. The name was coined half-jokingly by In/Humanity. Recognizable elements of emoviolence are its incorporation of amplified feedback and blast beats; the music is highly dissonant and chaotic, generally featuring fast tempos, shouting, and screamed vocals. Emoviolence practitioners include Pg. 99, Orchid, Reversal Of Man, Usurp Synapse, RentAmerica, and In/Humanity.
Crunkcore, also called "screamo-crunk," is a music genre that combines crunk with the typical vocal style of screamo. However, it's association with the original screamo genre has been disputed due to the rampant misuse of the term.
Some screamo groups, such as Orchid, Reversal of Man, and Circle Takes the Square, tend to be much closer to grindcore than their forebears. Other screamo acts have incorporated post-rock into their music. This fusion is characterized by abrupt changes in pace, atmospheric, harmonic instrumentation, and low-volume vocals. Left At Home, Pianos Become the Teeth, City of Caterpillar, Envy, Funeral Diner, and Le Pré Où Je Suis Mort are examples of post-rock influenced screamo acts.
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Orchid always was, and always will be the quintessential screamo band of the late 90s, as they encompassed everything people like me love about the genre, and throw their own unique spin on it
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Another interesting sub-subgenre was this strange crossover of first-generation emo and grind. Bands like Reversal of Man or Orchid may not have stood the test of time, but it was a pretty cool sound at the time and one that was pretty uniquely American
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...CIRCLE TAKES THE SQUARE have retained their integrity and stayed true to the grind influenced experimental, progressive hardcore soundscapes that defined the screamo albums of the early part of the millenium.
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