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Screamo (also known as skramz) is a subgenre of hardcore punk that evolved in the early 1990s. This initially involved a more aggressive offshoot of emo music and used short songs that grafted "intensity to willfully experimental dissonance and dynamics."[1] Screamo has been described as a dissonant style of emo influenced by hardcore punk[2] using screaming vocals. Screamo lyrics often feature topics such as emotional pain, romantic interest, politics, and human rights.[3]

The term "screamo" is complicated in usage, and many bands object to the label. The term can include several different vocal styles or qualities that are associated with the term. Some bands with a guttural vocal style could be included although not universally.[2] Also, it has been used to describe many different genres,[4] including modern post-hardcore and metalcore. Several other genres are rooted in screamo, including: emoviolence, which combines screamo with powerviolence; crunkcore, a style of crunk employing the vocal technique of screamo; screamo influenced by grindcore; and Nintendocore rooted in screamo.


Screamo essentially describes a particularly dissonant style of emo influenced by hardcore punk.[2] Screamo uses typical rock instrumentation, but is notable for its brief compositions, chaotic execution, and screaming vocals. The genre is "generally based in the aggressive side of the overarching punk-revival scene."[2] Primary characteristics of the genre are described by Allmusic:[2]

An example of early screamo by Portraits of Past, an influential band which helped define the genre.[5]

An example of contemporary screamo by Loma Prieta, featuring harsh vocals, stylistic transitions, and emotional lyrics.

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In addition to melodic transitions from heavy to soft styles, the genre is also characterized "by frequent shifts in tempo and dynamics and by tension-and-release catharses."[6] 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."[6] Some consider the genre to be a bridge between hardcore punk and emo.[7]

Conceptual elements[edit]

Screamo lyrics often feature topics such as emotional pain, romantic interest, politics, and human rights.[3] 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[6]

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.[8] Some groups were also unusually theoretical in inspiration: Angel Hair cited surrealist writers Antonin Artaud and Georges Bataille,[1] 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.[9]


Origins (early 1990s – early 2000s)[edit]

Screamo arose as a distinct music genre in 1991, in San Diego, at the Ché Café,[10] including bands such as Heroin and Antioch Arrow.[11] The band Far, from Sacramento, California, may have produced the first screamo album, with 1996's Tin Cans with Strings to You, according to Far's manager Troy Davis.[12]

Gravity Records[13][14] and Ebullition Records[15] released this more chaotic and expressive descendant of emo. The scene is noted for its distinctive fashion sense, inspired by mod culture.[8] As with emo, the term screamo carries some controversy among participants.[1]

The innovations of the San Diego scene eventually spread elsewhere, such as to the Seattle group The Blood Brothers.[16] Many groups from the East Coast were influential in the continual development and reinvention of the style, including Orchid,[17][18] Circle Takes the Square, Pg. 99, Hot Cross, Saetia,[19] Ampere,[20] and City of Caterpillar.[2]

Contemporary screamo (2000s–present)[edit]

Alexisonfire performing live in 2004

By 1995, the genre name "screamo" drifted into the music press, especially in the journalism of Jim DeRogatis and Andy Greenwald,[3] and by the mid-2000s, the term was being used to describe a huge variety of post-hardcore and metalcore acts.[2] Some bands that were often referred to as screamo in the early 2000s, such as Thursday, Alexisonfire, Silverstein and Poison the Well popularized the use of the term to describe many of that era's popular post-hardcore bands.[2][21] 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 of Radiohead, U2, and The Cure.[22][23] Many of these bands took influence from the likes of Refused, At the Drive-In,[2] and Keepsake. In contrast to the DIY first-wave screamo groups, Thursday and The Used have signed multi-album contracts with labels such as Island Def Jam and Reprise Records.[24]

Simultaneously, the DIY screamo scene continued to exist, with American bands like Comadre,[25] Off Minor, and Hot Cross releasing records on independent labels that were stylistically similar to early screamo bands. The contemporary screamo scene has also remained particularly active in Europe, with bands such as Amanda Woodward,[26] Louise Cyphre,[27] Le Pré Où Je Suis Mort,[28] La Quiete and Raein all being prime examples of their scene on the mainland, while Goodtime Boys and Lay It on the Line[29] cite themselves as screamo bands in the UK. 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 through to the present day.

Use of the term "screamo" to describe mainstream post-hardcore acts has begun to subside in the early 2010s, with the term being largely reclaimed by a new crop of DIY bands.[30] The genre is once again growing in popularity, with many screamo acts, like Loma Prieta, American Standards,[31][32] Pianos Become the Teeth and Touché Amoré releasing records on fairly large independent labels like Deathwish Inc..[33]

Influence on other styles[edit]

Emoviolence is a style of screamo and powerviolence. The name was coined half-jokingly by In/Humanity.[34] Recognisable elements of emo violence are its incorporation of amplified feedback and blast beats; the music is highly dissonant and chaotic, generally featuring fast tempos, shouting, and screamed vocals.[35][36] Emoviolence practitioners include Pg. 99, Orchid,[37] Reversal of Man,[37] Agna Moraine, RentAmerica,[36] and In/Humanity.[34][38]

Some screamo groups, such as Orchid, Reversal of Man, and Circle Takes the Square tend to be much closer to grindcore than their forebears.[37][39] Other screamo acts have often incorporated post-rock into their music. This fusion is characterized by abrupt changes in pace, atmospheric, harmonic instrumentation, and low-volume vocals.[40][41] Left At Home, Pianos Become the Teeth,[42] City of Caterpillar, Envy, Funeral Diner, and Le Pré Où Je Suis Mort[28][40] are examples of post-rock influenced screamo acts.

Other screamo-influenced genres include crunkcore and Nintendocore. Crunkcore combines screamo with crunk hip hop and various electronic elements.[43] Nintendocore, a name coined by Horse the Band, is a music genre that fuses elements of modern rock with video game music, chiptunes, and 8-bit music.[44][45][46] It is considered a derivative form of screamo,[46] post-hardcore[44] and melodic metalcore.[47][48] Nintendocore borrows many characteristic of screamo, such as screamed vocals and unpredictable rhythms.[44]

Vagueness of "screamo"[edit]

While the genre was developing in the early 1990s, it was not initially called "screamo".[15] 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.'"[49] Jonathan Dee of The New York Times wrote that the term "tends to bring a scornful laugh from the bands themselves."[6] Lars Gotrich of NPR Music made the following comment on the matter:[49]

Allmusic has noted that the term screamo can sometimes be vague, and that even bands that weren't necessarily screamo would often use the style's characteristic guttural vocal style.[2] 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."[4] 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."[50] 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."[51] Juan Gabe, vocalist for the band Comadre, alleged that the term "has been kind of tainted in a way, especially in the States."[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Jason Heller, "Feast of Reason". Denver Westword, June 20, 2002. [1] Access date: June 15, 2008
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Explore style: Screamo". AllMusic. 2010. Archived from the original on October 17, 2010. Retrieved January 12, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c Jim DeRogatis, "Screamo", Guitar World, November 2002 [2] Access date: July 18, 2008
  4. ^ a b "Screamo". Retrieved 2011-12-15. 
  5. ^ Telang, Veethi. Buzzle: Intelligent Life on the Web. "Good Screamo Songs".
  6. ^ a b c d Dee, Jonathan (June 29, 2003). "The Summer of Screamo". The New York Times. Retrieved September 11, 2010. 
  7. ^ Henderson, Alex. "Let It Enfold You - Senses Fail". AllMusic. Retrieved 2011-12-15. 
  8. ^ a b Interview with Justin Pearson on, [3] Access date: June 13, 2008
  9. ^ Orchid, Dance Tonight, Revolution Tomorrow. Allmusic Guide. [4] Access date: June 17, 2008.
  10. ^ "A Day with the Locust", L.A. Weekly, September 18, 2003 [5] Access date: June 19, 2008
  12. ^ Keltz, Dryw (November 22, 2006). "Screamo, San Diego's Baby". San Diego Reader. 
  13. ^ "Blood Runs Deep: 23 A hat.". Alternative Press. 2008-07-07. p. 126. 
  14. ^ Trevor Kelley, "California Screaming". Alternative Press 17 (2003), pp. 84-86.
  15. ^ a b Ebullition Catalog, Portraits of Past discography. [6] Access date: August 9, 2008.
  16. ^ Matt Schild, "Bleeding Hearts." March 3, 2003. [7] Access date: June 15, 2008.
  17. ^ Anchors (December 27, 2005). "Review of Orchid's Totality". Retrieved June 16, 2008. 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 
  18. ^ Nick Catucci (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. Retrieved June 17, 2008. 
  19. ^ Ryan Buege (June 15, 2008). "Circle Takes the Square is in the Studio". Metal Injection. Retrieved June 17, 2008. 
  20. ^ Nick Greer (August 29, 2005). "Ampere review". Sputnik Music. Retrieved August 9, 2008. 
  21. ^ Dee, Jonathan (2003-06-29). "The Summer of Screamo". The New York Times. pp. Section 6; Column 1; Magazine Desk; Pg. 26. 
  22. ^ Interview with Thursday on The, [8] Access date: June 13, 2008.
  23. ^ Andy Greenwald, Nothing Feels Good: Punk Rock, Teenagers, and Emo, New York: Saint Martin's Griffin, 2003, p. 153
  24. ^ Greenwald, p. 149.
  25. ^ a b Jan, "Yellow is the new pink", 18-04-07
  26. ^ Kevin Jagernauth, PopMatters, November 29, 2004. [9] Access date: July 28, 2008.
  27. ^ "Altogether, our music certainly still is 'screamo'." - Sven, interview with Julien, "ShootMeAgain Webzine", 06-11-2006. [10]
  28. ^ a b "Live Review: La Dispute, Le Pre Ou Je Suis Mort, Maths and History, The Chantry, Canterbury - 22/06/10". Alter The Press!. 2010-06-22. Retrieved August 8, 2011. 
  29. ^ The band list themselves as Screamo
  30. ^
  31. ^ Magazine, Confront. "Confront Magazine". Retrieved 10 January 2015.  External link in |website= (help)
  32. ^ Kaminski, Karol. "Iditot EQ". Retrieved 10 January 2015.  External link in |website= (help)
  33. ^
  34. ^ a b Jason Thompson (15 June 2008). "CIRCLE TAKES THE SQUARE is in the studio". PopMatters. Retrieved 18 May 2011. 
  35. ^ Anchors (December 27, 2005). " Orchid - Totality". Retrieved 26 March 2011. 
  36. ^ a b "Agna Moraine’s Autobiography & RentAmerica split". Thats Punk. September 14, 2010. Retrieved August 18, 2011. 
  37. ^ a b c Greg, Pratt (22 September 2010). "Altered States, Grindcore Special part 2". Terrorizer (United Kingdom: Miranda Yardley) (181): 43. 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 
  38. ^ Andy Malcolm. "La Quiete - the Apoplexy Twist Orchestra split (Heroine Records)". Collective Zine. Retrieved August 18, 2011. 
  39. ^ "CIRCLE TAKES THE SQUARE is in the studio". metal injection. 15 June 2008. Retrieved 18 July 2011. ...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. 
  40. ^ a b " - The Ultimate Punk Music Store! Le Pre Ou Je Suis Mort". Interpunk. January 15, 2008. Retrieved 24 August 2011. 
  41. ^ Benjamin (January 10, 2009). "Single State of Man – s/t LP". Pinnacle Magazine. Retrieved September 1, 2011. 
  42. ^ Andrew Kelham (January 21, 2010). "Pianos Become The Teeth - Old Pride Reviews Rock blood on the dance floor is an example of screamo sound". Rock Sound. Retrieved September 1, 2011. 
  43. ^ Gail, Leor (14 July 2009). "Scrunk happens: We're not fans, but the kids seem to like it". The Boston Phoenix. Retrieved 2009-10-08. 
  44. ^ a b c Loftus, Johnny. "HORSE the Band - Biography". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved March 14, 2011. 
  45. ^ Payne, Will B. (2006-02-14). "Nintendo Rock: Nostalgia or Sound of the Future". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 2011-03-14. 
  46. ^ a b Wright (2010-12-09). "Subgenre(s) of the Week: Nintendocore (feat. Holiday Pop)". The Quest. Retrieved 2011-03-21. 
  47. ^ "Horse The Band, Super 8 Bit Brothers, Endless Hallway ,and Oceana". The A. V. Club. The Onion. 8 November 2010. Retrieved 10 April 2011. 
  48. ^ Turull, Alisha (6 October 2009). "New Releases: Lita Ford, the Fall of Troy, Horse the band, Immortal, Inhale Exhale". Noisecreep. AOL. Retrieved 30 March 2011. 
  49. ^ a b Lars Gotrich, Pg. 99: A Document Revisited: NPR Music Interview
  50. ^ Mitchell, Jeff (July 26, 2001). "A Screamin' Scene". Iowa State Daily. Retrieved September 11, 2010. 
  51. ^ Greenwald, Andy (21 November 2003). "Screamo 101". Entertainment Weekly (738). Retrieved 2 August 2008.