From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Screamo (also referred to as skramz)[1] is an aggressive subgenre of emo that emerged in the early 1990s and emphasizes "willfully experimental dissonance and dynamics".[2] San Diego-based bands Heroin and Antioch Arrow pioneered the genre in the early 1990s, and it was developed in the late 1990s mainly by bands from the East Coast of the United States such as Pg. 99, Orchid, Saetia, and I Hate Myself. Screamo is strongly influenced by hardcore punk and characterized by the use of screamed vocals.[3] Lyrical themes usually include emotional pain, death, romance, and human rights.[4] The term "screamo" has frequently been mistaken as referring to any music with screaming.[3][5]


While the genre was developing in the early 1990s, it was not initially called "screamo."[6] 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.'"[7] Jonathan Dee of The New York Times wrote that the term "tends to bring a scornful laugh from the bands themselves."[8] Lars Gotrich of NPR Music made the following comment on the matter in 2011:[7]

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 human vocal instrument growled-word vocals (commonly termed screamed vocals) in music.[3] It has been applied to a wide variety of genres unrelated to the original screamo scene.[9] Juan Gabe, vocalist for the band Comadre, alleged that the term "has been kind of tainted in a way, especially in the States."[10] 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."[9] 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."[11]


Origins (1990s)[edit]

Screamo band Pg. 99 performing in Reading, Pennsylvania

Around 1990 and 1991, a number of bands began pushing the sound of early emo into more extreme and chaotic territory. The earliest of these acts were New Jersey's Iconoclast and Merel, however the most influential acts were those from San Diego and signed to Gravity Records.[12] In particular, Heroin are the band generally cited as either pioneering screamo or being the band that inspired the earliest acts in the genre,[12][13][14] with other notable bands from the city, including Angel Hair, Antioch Arrow and Swing Kids.[14] These early San Diego screamo bands were sometimes called "spock rock" by fans due to many of them dyeing their hair black and cutting straight fringes similar to the Star Trek character Spock. This, in combination with their geek-chic style of dressing would prove particularly influential on the development of the subsequent emo and scene subcultures.[15]

In New Jersey, the genre continued to grow, soon expanding into New York City. Native Nod, Rye Coalition, 1.6 Band, Rorschach and Mohinder all became prominent in this scene, which was centred around ABC No Rio,[16] while the sound expanded to elsewhere in the United States with Universal Order of Armageddon (from Baltimore) and Mohinder (from Cupertino, California).[17] In San Francisco, Portraits of Past were one of the earliest groups to merge the primitive screamo sound with post-rock, a combination that Funeral Diner would then continue, while also embracing the influence of black metal.[14]

At the same time, many bands in the southern United States began pushing the early screamo sound even further sonically. Columbia, South Carolina band In/Humanity coined the term "emoviolence" to describe this sound, played by them, as well as Florida bands Palatka and the End of the Century Party. When coined, the term was a tongue in cheek portmanteau of "emo" and "powerviolence", two genre descriptions the members of In/Humanity maligned, as well as a reference to the album Emotional Violence by funk band Cameo, however as subsequent bands took influence from the sound of these groups, the term became increasingly widespread.[18][19]

Towards the end of the 1990s and into the 2000s, Virginia developed a large and influential screamo scene: Pg. 99, who continued in the extreme and chaotic screamo sound; City of Caterpillar, who were one of the most influential early bands to merge screamo with post-rock; Majority Rule who merged the genre with metalcore; and Malady who merged post-inflected screamo with indie rock. All of which released albums which BrooklynVegan writer Andrew Sacher called essential albums in the genre.[14] One of the most influential bands to come from the New York City screamo scene was Saetia, who formed in 1997 and created a sound influenced by math rock, jazz and Midwest emo. Following Saetia's 1999 disbandment, its members formed the similarly influential bands Off Minor and Hot Cross. Other impactful groups in the genre at this time included Jeromes Dream, Neil Perry, I Hate Myself, Reversal of Man, Yaphet Kotto and Orchid.[14]

Mainstream crossover (2000s)[edit]

Screamo band The Used in 2007

By 1995, the term "screamo" drifted into the music press, especially in the journalism of Jim DeRogatis and Andy Greenwald.[4] Following the release of their 2001 album Full Collapse, New Jersey's Thursday were the first screamo–influenced band to gain significant media attention.[20] The following year, saw the release of Canada's Alexisonfire's self-titled album, which Metal Hammer writer Matt Mills called "key in legitimising the screamo sound".[21] In the following years, the Used, Thrice, Finch and Silverstein all gained significant attention for furthering this sound.[3][8] In contrast to the do-it-yourself screamo bands of the 1990s, screamo bands such as Thursday and the Used signed multi-album contracts with labels such as Island Def Jam and Reprise Records.[22] However, this style's connection to the genre has been disputed, with some referring to it as "MTV screamo"[1] or "pop-screamo", and many bands more commonly being categorized as post-hardcore or metalcore.[23]

In the underground screamo scene, post-rock became an increasingly prominent influence amongst bands. The most prominent and influential of these acts was Richmond, Virginia's City of Caterpillar,[14] who Vice writer Jason Heller stated "encompass [the] era".[24] Music critics coined the term "post-screamo" to refer to this sound.[25][26] Other prominent acts making this sound at the time included Circle Takes the Square, Raein, Envy and Daïtro.[14] Fluff Fest, held in Czechia since 2000, was in 2017 described by Bandcamp Daily as a "summer ritual" for many fans of screamo in Europe.[27]

Revival (2010s)[edit]

In the early 2010s the term "screamo" began to be largely reclaimed by a new crop of do-it-yourself bands, 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.[28] In 2011 Alternative Press noted that La Dispute is "at the forefront of a traditional-screamo revival" for their critically acclaimed release Wildlife.[29] 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.[30][31] As well as, California's Deafheaven, who formed in 2010, having been described as screamo, in a style similar to that of Envy.[32] Alternative Press has cited a "pop screamo revival" along with this, with bands like Before Their Eyes, the Ongoing Concept, Too Close to Touch and I Am Terrified.[33]

Screamo band Ostraca performing live in 2015

In August 2018, Noisey writer Dan Ozzi declared that it was the "Summer of Screamo" in a month-long series documenting screamo acts pushing the genre forward following the decline in popularity of "The Wave," as well as the reunions of seminal bands such as Pg. 99, Majority Rule, City of Caterpillar,[34] and Jeromes Dream.[35] Groups highlighted in this coverage, including Respire,[36][37] Ostraca,[38] Portrayal of Guilt,[39][40][41] Soul Glo,[42] I Hate Sex,[43] and Infant Island,[44][45][46] had generally received positive press from large publications, but were not as widely successful as their predecessors. Noisey also documented that, despite its loss of mainstream popularity and continued hold in North American scenes, particularly Richmond, Virginia,[47] screamo had become a more international movement; notably spreading to Japan, France, and Sweden with groups including Heaven in Her Arms, Birds in Row and Suis La Lune, respectively.[48] Also in 2018, Vein released their debut album Errorzone to critical acclaim and commercial success, bringing together elements of screamo, hardcore, and nu metal.[49][50][51] This underground cohort of acts was primarily released by independent labels like Middle-Man Records[52] in the United States, Zegema Beach Records[53] in Canada, and Miss The Stars Records in Berlin.[54]


Screamo is a style of hardcore punk-influenced emo with screaming.[3] Alex Henderson of AllMusic considers screamo a bridge between hardcore punk and emo.[56] 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.[57] Screamo is characterized "by frequent shifts in tempo and dynamics and by tension-and-release catharses."[8] Many screamo bands also incorporate ballads.[57] According to AllMusic, screamo is "generally based in the aggressive side of the overarching punk-revival scene."[3] 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."[8] Emotional singing and harsh screaming are common vocals in screamo.[3]

Screamo band Off Minor performing, June 2008

Screamo lyrics often feature topics such as emotional pain, breakups, romantic interest, politics, and human rights.[4][58] These lyrics are usually introspective, similar to that of softer emo bands.[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[8]

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.[59] Some groups were also unusually theoretical in inspiration: Angel Hair cited surrealist writers Antonin Artaud and Georges Bataille,[2] 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.[60]

Subgenres and fusion genres[edit]


Circle Takes the Square, whose style borders on grindcore and post-rock, gained considerable acclaim with the 2004 album As the Roots Undo.

Some screamo bands borrow the extreme dissonance, speed, and chaos of powerviolence. As a result, the term emoviolence was half-jokingly coined by the band In/Humanity to describe the fusion of the two styles which applied to themselves, as well as other bands including Pg. 99,[61] Orchid,[62] Reversal of Man,[62] Usurp Synapse,[63] and RentAmerica.[64][65] Additionally, bands such as Orchid, Reversal of Man, and Circle Takes the Square tend to be much closer in style to grindcore than their forebears.[62][66] In contemporary times, the genre is no longer as prevalent or widespread as it had been in the past, yet it still remains as a notable and prevalent force in underground screamo. A revival of the genre has occurred internationally with regional scenes in Southeast Asia[67] and South America[68] taking prominence.


Bands including City of Caterpillar, Circle Takes the Square, Envy, Funeral Diner, Pianos Become the Teeth,[69] Respire,[70] and Le Pré Où Je Suis Mort[71][72] have incorporated post-rock elements into their music. This fusion is characterized by abrupt changes in pace, atmospheric and harmonic instrumentation, and distorted vocals.[72][73] Similarly, bands such as Heaven in Her Arms and the aforementioned group Envy, use elements of shoegazing.[74]


Sass (also known as white belt hardcore,[75] sassy screamo or dancey screamo)[76] is a style that emerged from the late-1990s and early-2000s screamo scene.[77] The genre incorporates elements of post-punk, new wave, disco, electronic, dance-punk,[77] grindcore, noise rock, metalcore, mathcore and beatdown hardcore. The genre is characterized by overtly flamboyant mannerisms, homoerotic lyrical content, synthesizers, dance beats and a lisping vocal style.[78] Sass bands include the Blood Brothers, An Albatross, The Number Twelve Looks Like You, the Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower, early Daughters, later-Orchid[79][80] and SeeYouSpaceCowboy.[81]

Pop screamo[edit]

"Pop screamo" and "MTV screamo" are terms used to describe screamo influenced bands who use metallic instrumentation and pop song structure to form a more commercially viable sound than traditional screamo. The style developed and gained mainstream success in the early-2000s.[23][1][82] The scene was led by bands such as Thursday, Hawthorne Heights, Taking Back Sunday, The Used,[83] Senses Fail, Silverstein, Chiodos, From First to Last, Saosin, Thrice and Finch[82] and now-defunct less-known bands such as Before Their Eyes, Here I Come Falling, Agraceful, Yesterdays Rising, Chasing Victory, Beloved, Dead Poetic, Burden of a Day and Sever Your Ties.[23] The genre had a revival in the 2010s, including such outfits as Before Their Eyes, The Ongoing Concept, Too Close to Touch, I Am Terrified.[33] Alternative Press describes pop screamo as "metal-influenced riffs and aggressive, high-end screams filled song's verses, while soaring melodies carried choruses to new, previously unattained heights."[23] as well as "Poppy emo music with screaming in it that captured mainstream attention in the mid-2000s".[82] Furthermore, many of these groups are more commonly categorized as, and influenced by, post-hardcore or metalcore.[23][84][1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "The History of Metalcore/Screamo". MetalSucks. June 7, 2010. Retrieved January 18, 2018.
  2. ^ a b Jason Heller, "Feast of Reason". Denver Westword, June 20, 2002. [1] Archived March 31, 2012, at the Wayback Machine Access date: June 15, 2008
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Explore style: Screamo". AllMusic. 2010. Archived from the original on October 17, 2010. Retrieved January 12, 2015.
  4. ^ a b c Jim DeRogatis, "Screamo", Guitar World, November 2002 [2] Access date: July 18, 2008
  5. ^ Morgan, Phillip (October 9, 2014). "Six Bands Bringing Respect Back to 'Screamo' Vocals". Emertainment Monthly. Archived from the original on March 19, 2015.
  6. ^ Ebullition Catalog, Portraits of Past discography. [3] Access date: August 9, 2008.
  7. ^ a b Lars Gotrich, Pg. 99: A Document Revisited: NPR Music Interview
  8. ^ a b c d e Dee, Jonathan (June 29, 2003). "The Summer of Screamo". The New York Times. Retrieved September 11, 2010.
  9. ^ a b "Screamo". Retrieved December 15, 2011.
  10. ^ "Comadre - hc/punk/screamo from redwood city/california". Yellow is the New Pink. April 18, 2007.
  11. ^ Greenwald, Andy (November 21, 2003). "Screamo 101". Entertainment Weekly. No. 738. Archived from the original on November 11, 2014. Retrieved August 2, 2008.
  12. ^ a b Sfetcu, Nicolae (2006). The Music Sound. Hardcore Emo is a style of music that existed primarily in the early-mid 90s, also known as "chaotic emo". Many Hardcore Emo bands are often misinterpreted as Emo Violence bands. The first hints of the sound began with bands like "Merel" and "Iconoclast" on the East Coast, but it is considered to have primary started in 1991 by the San Diego band Heroin. The sound is most associated with that and other bands on Gravity Records at the time. Hardcore Emo took the emo sound of bands like Indian Summer, Embassy, Current, Still Life, etc. and made it faster and much more chaotic. Some later bands that followed include Antioch Arrow, Mohinder, Portraits of Past, Swing Kids, Honeywell, Angel Hair, Assfactor 4, Palatka and John Henry West.
  13. ^ "10 Essential Screamo Albums". February 20, 2014. Retrieved October 30, 2023.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g Sacher, Andrew (April 17, 2020). "25 essential screamo albums from the '90s/'00s that still hold up today". Brooklyn Vegan. Retrieved October 30, 2023.
  15. ^ Stewart, Ethan (May 25, 2021). "FROM HARDCORE TO HARAJUKU: THE ORIGINS OF SCENE SUBCULTURE". PopMatters. Retrieved October 31, 2023.
  16. ^ Sfetcu, Nicolae (May 9, 2014). American Music. p. 340. At the same time, in the New York/New Jersey area, bands such as Native Nod, Merel, 1.6 Band, Policy of 3, Rye Coalition and Rorschach were feeling the same impulse. Many of these bands were involved with the ABC No Rio club scene in New York, itself a response to the violence and stagnation in the scene and with the bands that played at CBGBs, the only other small venue for hardcore in New York at the time. Much of this wave of emo, particularly the San Diego scene, began to shift towards a more chaotic and aggressive form of emo, nicknamed screamo.
  17. ^ Sfetcu, Nicolae (2006). The Music Sound. Screamo History: In California in the early 1990s, Gravity Records from San Diego released many defining records of this style. Significant Emo bands from this time include Heroin, Angel Hair, Antioch Arrow, Universal Order of Armageddon Swing Kids, and Mohinder. In the New York/New Jersey era, bands such as Native Nod, Merel, 1.6 Band, Rye Coalition and Rorschach were feeling the same impulse. The labels Gern Blandsten Records and Troubleman Records released many of the influential records from that region and era. Many of these bands were involved with the ABC No Rio club scene in New York, itself a response to the violence and stagnation in the scene and with the bands that played at CBGBS, the only other small venue for hardcore in New York at the time.
  18. ^ Sfetcu, Nicolae (2006). The Music Sound. Emo Violence or "Emoviolence", also related to screamo and Hardcore Emo, is a subgenre of music that evolved from Hardcore in the early 1990s, primarily in the Southeast of the United States - Florida in particular, (this can be seen on the Southeast Hardcore, Fuck Yeah!! compilation). This form of music uses vocals pushed past the point of normal sound by yelling and screaming, with occasional spoken words or singing. Emo Violence is often poorly recorded to give it a foggy, low-fidelity sound. Although just as loud as Grindcore, it ends up being much less technical and dark sounding than Napalm Death or as crunchy and angular as Pig Destroyer.
    Emo Violence is the direct link from Emo to Screamo through reprocessing of influences. The term was originally coined by the group In/Humanity as a joke in reference to their own band and friend's bands Palatka and End of the Century Party. The tongue-in-cheek genre descriptor was a play on other meaningless genre descriptors of the time: (namely emo and powerviolence). In/Humanity claims that the phrase actually comes from the song "Emotional Violence" by the funk group Cameo...
    The term Emo Violence was originally created by the band In/Humanity as a joke. Chris Bickel, the band's front man, took the name from the Cameo album "Emotional Violence", the usage itself an ironically joking play on the term power violence, as used to describe bands like Infest, Man Is The Bastard and Spazz. The term then began to be used to refer to other bands in the southeast that played a similar style such as Palatka and End of the Century Party (whose split 7" is perhaps the quintessential emo violence record). Although the term became more commonplace in the underground hardcore scene, it was always seen as a tongue-in-cheek description, but was used by bands who wanted to separate themselves from emotive hardcore and hated the term "screamo." Bands who play emo violence today (in the EOTCP/Palatka sense of the genre) are few and far between - Those who claim the genre usually have little similarity to its founding fathers.
  19. ^ Walker, Matt (2016). Gainesville Punk A History of Bands & Music. History Press. p. 98. Between booking shows, touring and recording, Palatka quickly found a kinship in bands like The End of the Century Party and South Carolina's In/Humanity. A subgenre name even sprung up around Palatka and their peers: emoviolence. The term was a joke that originated with In/Humanity, based on the rampant naming of punk subgenres of the time; it combined the increasingly maligned "emo" descriptor with the similarly mocked "powerviolence." Although it was meant as a joke, the term lingered and remains associated with those bands.
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