Post-hardcore is a genre of music that is derivative of the hardcore punk music genre, itself an offshoot of the broader punk rock movement. Like post-punk, post-hardcore is a term for a broad constellation of groups. Many emerged from the hardcore punk scene, or took inspiration from hardcore, while emphasizing a greater degree of expression.
The genre took shape in the mid-to-late-1980s with releases from bands from cities that had established hardcore punk scenes, in particular from the scenes in Washington, D.C. such as Fugazi as well as slightly different sounding groups such as Big Black and Jawbox that stuck closer to the noise rock roots of post-hardcore.
Hardcore punk typically features very fast tempos, loud volume, and heavy bass levels, as well as a "do-it-yourself" ethic. Music database Allmusic stated "these newer bands, termed post-hardcore, often found complex and dynamic ways of blowing off steam that generally went outside the strict hardcore realm of 'loud fast rules'. Additionally, many of these bands' vocalists were just as likely to deliver their lyrics with a whispered croon as they were a maniacal yelp." Allmusic also claims that post-hardcore bands find creative ways to build and release tension rather than "airing their dirty laundry in short, sharp, frenetic bursts". Jeff Terich of Treblezine stated, "Instead of sticking to hardcore's rigid constraints, these artists expanded beyond power chords and gang vocals, incorporating more creative outlets for punk rock energy." British post-punk of the late 1970s and early 1980s has been seen as influential on the musical development of post-hardcore bands. As the genre progressed some of these groups also experimented with a wide array of influences, including soul, dub, funk, jazz, and dance-punk. It has also been noted that since some post-hardcore bands included members that were rooted in the beginnings of hardcore punk, some of them were able to expand their sound as they became more skilled musicians.
Groups such as Saccharine Trust, Naked Raygun, and The Effigies, which were active around the early 1980s, are considered as forerunners to the post-hardcore genre. Chicago's Naked Raygun, formed in 1981, has been seen as merging post-punk influences of bands such as Wire and Gang of Four with hardcore, while author Steven Blush notes the band's use of "oblique lyrics and stark post-punk melodies". Similarly, The Effigies, who also hailed from the Chicago scene, released music influenced by the hardcore of Minor Threat and the British post-punk of bands like The Stranglers, Killing Joke, and The Ruts.
During the early to mid-1980s, the desire to experiment with hardcore's basic template expanded to many musicians that had been associated with the genre or had strong roots in it. Many of these groups also took inspiration from the '80s noise rock scene pioneered by Sonic Youth. Some bands signed to the independent label Homestead Records, including Squirrel Bait (as well as David Grubbs-related Bastro and Bitch Magnet) and Steve Albini's Big Black (just as his subsequent projects Rapeman and Shellac) are also associated with post-hardcore. Big Black, which also featured former Naked Raygun guitarist Santiago Durango, made themselves known for their strict DIY ethic, related to practices such as paying for their own recordings, booking their own shows, handling their own management and publicity, and remaining "stubbornly independent at a time when many independent bands were eagerly reaching out for the major-label brass ring". The band's music, punctuated by the use of a drum machine, has also been seen as influential to industrial rock, while Blush has also described the Albini-fronted project as "an angst-ridden response to the rigid English post-punk of Gang of Four". After the issuing of the "Il Duce" single (and between the release of their only two studio albums, Atomizer and Songs About Fucking), Big Black left Homestead for Touch and Go Records, which would later reissue not only their entire discography, but would also be responsible for the release of the complete works of Scratch Acid, an act from Austin, Texas described as post-hardcore, that, according to Stephen Thomas Erlewine, "laid the groundwork for much of the distorted, grinding alternative punk rockers of the '90s".
Outside the United States, the genre would take shape in the works of the Canadian group Nomeansno, related with Jello Biafra and his independently run label Alternative Tentacles, and that had been active since 1979. A reviewer noted that the group's 1989's release Wrong was "one of the most aggressive and powerful opuses in post-hardcore ever made".
The Washington D.C. scene
During the years 1984 and 1985 in the "harDCore" scene, a new movement had "swept over". This movement was led by bands associated with the D.C. independent record label Dischord Records, home in the early 80s to seminal hardcore bands such as Minor Threat, State of Alert, Void and Government Issue. According to the Dischord website: "The violence and nihilism that had become identified with punk rock, largely by the media, had begun to take hold in DC and many of the older punks suddenly found themselves repelled and discouraged by their hometown scene", leading to "a time of redefinition". When The Faith put out the EP Subject to Change in 1983 it marked a critical evolution in the sound of D.C. hardcore and punk music in general. During these years, a new wave of bands started to form, these included Rites of Spring (which featured The Faith former guitarist Eddie Janney), Lunchmeat (later to become Soulside), Gray Matter, Mission Impossible, Dag Nasty and Embrace, the latter featuring former Minor Threat singer and Dischord co-founder Ian MacKaye and former members of The Faith. This movement has been since widely known as the "Revolution Summer". Rites of Spring has been described as the band that "more than led the change", challenging the "macho posturing that had become so prevalent within the punk scene at that point", and "more importantly", defying "musical and stylistic rule". Journalist Steve Huey writes that while the band "strayed from hardcore's typically external concerns of the time -- namely, social and political dissent -- their musical attack was no less blistering, and in fact a good deal more challenging and nuanced than the average three-chord speed-blur", a sound that, according to Huey, mapped out "a new direction for hardcore that built on the innovations" brought by Hüsker Dü's Zen Arcade. Other bands have been perceived as taking inspiration from genres such as funk (as in the case of Beefeater) and 60s pop (such as the example of Gray Matter).
According to Eric Grubbs, a nickname was developed for the new sound, with some considering it "post-harDCore", but another name that floated around the scene was "emo-core". The latter, mentioned in skateboarding magazine Thrasher, would come up in discussions around the D.C. area. While some of these bands have been considered as contributors to the birth of emo, with Rites of Spring sometimes being named as the first or one of the earliest emo acts, musicians such as the band's former frontman Guy Picciotto and MacKaye himself have voiced their opposition against the term. In the nearby state of Maryland, similar bands that are categorized now as post-hardcore would also emerge, these include Moss Icon and The Hated. The former's music contained, according to Steve Huey, "shifting dynamics, chiming guitar arpeggios, and screaming, crying vocal climaxes", which would prove to be influential to later musicians in spite of the band's unstable existence. This group has also been considered as one of the earliest emo acts.
The second half of the 80s saw the formation of several bands in D.C., which included Shudder to Think, Jawbox, The Nation of Ulysses, and Fugazi, as well as Baltimore's Lungfish. MacKaye described this period as the busiest that the Dischord Records label had ever seen. Most of these acts, along with earlier ones, would contribute to the 1989 compilation State of the Union, a release that documented the new sound of the late 80s D.C. punk scene. Fugazi gained "an extremely loyal and numerous global following", with reviewer Andy Kellman summarizing the band's influence with the statement: "To many, Fugazi meant as much to them as Bob Dylan did to their parents." It has also been noted that the group's "ever-evolving" sound would signal a more experimental turn in hardcore that paved the way for later Dischord releases. The band, which included MacKaye, Picciotto, and former Rites of Spring drummer Brendan Canty along with bassist Joe Lally, issued in 1989 13 Songs, a compilation of their earlier self-titled and Margin Walker EPs, which is now considered as a landmark album. Similarly, the band's debut studio album, 1990's Repeater, has also been "generally" regarded as a classic. The group also garnered recognition for their activism, cheaply priced shows and CDs, and their resistance to mainstream outlets. On the other hand, Jawbox had been influenced by "the tradition of Chicago's thriving early-'80s scene", while The Nation of Ulysses are "best remembered for lifting the motor-mouthed revolutionary rhetoric of the MC5" with the incorporation of "elements of R&B (as filtered through the MC5) and avant jazz" combined with "exciting, volatile live gigs", and being the inspiration for "a new crop of bands both locally and abroad".
The late 80s and early 90s saw the formation and rise to prominence of several bands associated with earlier acts that not only included the examples of Fugazi and Shellac, but also Girls Against Boys (originally a side-project of Brendan Canty and Eli Janney, which would later incorporate members of Soulside), The Jesus Lizard (formed by ex-members of Scratch Acid), Quicksand (fronted by former Youth of Today and Gorilla Biscuits member Walter Schreifels), Rollins Band (led by former Black Flag singer Henry Rollins), Tar (which raised from the ashes of a hardcore outfit named Blatant Dissent), and Slint (containing members of Squirrel Bait). Acts such as Shellac and Louisvill]'s Slint have been considered as influential to the development of the genre of math rock, with the former featuring "awkward time signatures and trademark aggression" that has come to characterize "a certain slant" on math rock, while the latter presented "instrumental music seeped in dramatic tension but set to rigid systems of solid-structured guitar patterns and percussive repetition". According to reviewer Jason Arkeny, Slint's "deft, extremist manipulations of volume, tempo, and structure cast them as clear progenitors of the post-rock movement".
Allmusic has noted that younger bands "flowered into post-hardcore after cutting their teeth in high school punk bands". In Washington D.C., new bands such as Hoover (as well as the related The Crownhate Ruin), Circus Lupus, Bluetip, and Smart Went Crazy were added to the Dischord roster. Hoover has been cited by journalist Charles Spano as a band that had "a tremendous impact on post-hardcore music". In New York City, in addition to Quicksand, post-hardcore bands such as Helmet, Unsane, Chavez and Texas Is the Reason emerged. Quicksand and Helmet have also been associated with alternative metal. Chicago, which alongside the Midwestern United States has been important to the progression of math rock, also saw the birth of post-hardcore acts such as the examples of Shellac, Tar, Trenchmouth, and the Jade Tree-released group Cap'n Jazz (as well as the subsequent related project Joan of Arc, which also released their work through Jade Tree). Steve Huey argues that the release of Cap'n Jazz's retrospective compilation album Analphabetapolothology helped spread the band's influence "far beyond their original audience", while also considering the group as influential for the development of emo in the independent music scene. Champaign, also in Illinois, was known for an independent scene that would give way to groups like Hum, Braid and Poster Children. The American Northwest saw the creation of acts such as Karp, Lync and Unwound, all hailing from the Olympia, Washington area. The latter's music has been considered by critic John Bush as a combination of "the noise of Sonic Youth's more raucous passages" with a "rare energetic flair which rivals even that of Fugazi". Texas saw the formation of groups such as The Jesus Lizard (later to be based in Chicago) and ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead in Austin, and At the Drive-In from El Paso. This last band was known for their energy in both performances and music, and for their "driving melodic punk riffs, meshed together with quieter interlocking note-picking".
The genre also saw representation outside of the United States in Refused who emerged from the Umeå, Sweden music scene. The band, which made itself known earlier in their career for its "massive hardcore sound", released in 1998 The Shape of Punk to Come, an album that saw the group take inspiration from The Nation of Ulysses while incorporating elements such as "ambient textures, jazz breakdowns", metal and electronica to their hardcore sound.
- List of post-hardcore bands
- Jason Heller, "Feast of Reason". Denver Westword, June 20, 2002. 
- Explore: Post-Hardcore. Allmusic. Retrieved on March 18, 2011.
- Blush, Stephen (November 9, 2001). American Hardcore: A Tribal History. Feral House. ISBN 0-922915-71-7.
- Terich, Jeff (April 24, 2007). The 90-Minute Guide - Post-Hardcore. Treblezine.
- Saccharine Trust. TrousserPress.com. Retrieved on March 18, 2011. “Too early to be post-hardcore but too uncommon for any simple classification, this Southern California quartet doesn't try to create a blizzard of noise — they go at it more artfully, but with equally ear-wrenching results. [...]”
- Naked Raygun. Allmusic.
- Explore: Post-Hardcore (Top Artists). Allmusic.
- Huey, Steve. Effigies - Biography. Allmusic.
- Prato, Greg. Naked Raygun - Biography. Allmusic.
- Blush, Steven. American Hardcore: A Tribal History. Feral House: 2001. p. 222.
- Huey, Steve. Squirrel Bait - Biography. Allmusic.
- Huey, Steve. Bitch Magnet - Biography. Allmusic. Retrieved on March 19, 2011.
- Marticorena, Jorge (October 16, 2008). Shellac: No Free Lunch, Still. The Skinny.
- Deming, Mark. Big Black - Biography. Allmusic.
- Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. Scratch Acid - Biography. Allmusic.
- Gold, Jonathan (1996). "Spins: Platter Du Jour - 7 - NOFX - Heavy Petting Zoo". Spin (Camouflage Associates) 12 (1): 113. http://books.google.com.co/books?id=JheoECFjDqMC&lpg=PP1&pg=PA113#v=onepage&q&f=false.
- Mosurock, Doug (August 3, 2006). Nomeansno - All Roads Lead to Ausfahrt. Dusted Magazine.
- Grubbs, p. 14
- Rites of Spring. Dischord Records.
- MacKaye, Ian (November 1999). Dischord History. Dischord Records.
- Dischord Records - Label Profile. Stylus Magazine (September 1, 2003).
- Subject to Change 12" EP. Kill from the Heart. Retrieved on August 11, 2012.
- MacKaye. Dischord History. Retrieved on March 19, 2011.
- Faith Subject to Change and First Demo. Drowned in Sound (2011-09-26).
- Grubbs, p. 22. "After hearing the phrase 'revolution summer' at the Neighborhood Planning Council, Dischord employee Amy Pickering had an idea. [...] With the idea of celebrating a new scene's birth, she sent out anonymous letters stating that Revolution Summer was coming and people should be ready. The summer of '85 was indeed that."
- Huey, Steve. Rites of Spring - Biography. Allmusic.
- Raggett, Ned. Plays for Lovers - Beefeater - Review. Allmusic. “Drawing from funk as much as punk, Beefeater cooks up a groovy combination on their debut album.”
- Foster, Patrick. Gray Matter - Biography. Allmusic. Retrieved on March 19, 2011. “The recordings, which revealed the influence of early-D.C. punk ('Gray Matter', 'Caffeine Blues'), also warned about the dangers of punk nostalgia ('Retrospect') and featured a surprising cover of the Beatles' 'I Am the Walrus' was the first hint of the band's strong pop streak.”
- Kellman, Andy. Fugazi - Biography. Allmusic.
- Grubbs, p. 27
- Cooper, Ryan. Post-Hardcore - A Definition. About.com.
- Explore: Emo. Allmusic. Retrieved on March 19, 2011.
- Capper, Andy. This is UKHC, Not LA. Vice.
- Prindle, Mark (2003). Guy Picciotto interview. Markprindle.com. Retrieved on March 19, 2011. “Well, first of all, I don't recognize that attribution. I've never recognized 'emo' as a genre of music. I always thought it was the most retarded term ever. I know there is this generic commonplace that every band that gets labeled with that term hates it. They feel scandalized by it. But honestly, I just thought that all the bands I played in were punk rock bands. The reason I think it's so stupid is that - what, like the Bad Brains weren't emotional? What - they were robots or something? It just doesn't make any sense to me.”
- Grubbs, p. 27–28
- Cogan, Brian (2008). The Encyclopedia of Punk. Sterling. p. 97. ISBN 978-1-4027-5960-4.
- Butler, Blake. The Convocation Of... - Biography. Allmusic.
- Huey, Steve. Moss Icon - Biography. Allmusic.
- Various Artists - State of the Union. Dischord Records.
- Bregman, Adam. State of the Union: D.C. Benefit Compilation - Various Artists - Review. Allmusic.
- Kellman, Andy. 13 Songs - Fugazi - Review. Allmusic.
- Kellman, Andy. Jawbox - Biography. Allmusic.
- Huey, Steve. The Nation of Ulysses. Allmusic.
- ngs091 (September 12, 2008). Girls Against Boys - Venus Luxure No. 1 Baby. Punknews.org.
- Bilton, Chris (November 13, 2009). The Jesus Lizard @ The Phoenix, Nov. 12. EyeWeekly.com.
- Farrar, Justin (April 3, 2009). Back to the '90s - Experiments in Post-Hardcore. Rhapsody Music.
- Bonazelli, Andrew. Quicksand Slip. Decibel. Red Flag Media.
- Bradley, Stephen (September 22, 2010). Concert review: Kevin Seconds. The Washington Times Communities - Riffs. “[...] Where most punks from the '80s hardcore scene made the transition into hard rock or post hardcore outfits like Rollins Band and Fugazi, it still seems natural that he would make the jump into the acoustic side of things. [...]”
- Huey, Steve. Tar - Biography. Allmusic.
- Carew, Anthony. Review of the Definitive Alternative Album Spiderland. About.com. Retrieved on March 21, 2011. “[...] But, the second album by the post-hardcore Kentuckians sure didn't 'kick' anything; its influence rather devoid of immediacy. [...]”
- Parka, Dorothy (January 2011). The Influence of Anxiety: The Time Before. 'Hipsterbookclub.com'.
- Diver, Mike (April 24, 2008). Math-Rock Family Tree: exploring the roots of Foals. Drowned in Sound. Retrieved on March 25, 2011.
- Arkeny, Jason. Slint - Biography. Allmusic.
- MacKaye. Dischord History. Retrieved on March 26, 2011.
- Spano, Charles. Hoover - Biography. Allmusic. Retrieved on March 26, 2011.
- Aubin (September 22, 2006). Interviews: Texas is the Reason. Punknews.org.
- Quicksand - Biography. Allmusic.
- Explore: Alternative Metal. Allmusic.
- Aubin (July 1, 2010). Contests: Win music and tickets from Cap'n Jazz. Punknews.org.
- Pop and Jazz Guide. The New York Times (August 8, 2003).
- Huey, Steve. Cap'n Jazz - Biography. Allmusic.
- Kat's Album Review — These Are Not Fall Colors by Lync. K (February 5, 2011). Retrieved on October 31, 2012.
- Bush, John. Unwound - Biography. Allmusic.
- Bradley, Stephen (February 28, 2011). Music Review: ...And You Shall Know Us by the Trail of Dead - Tao of the Dead. The Washington Times Communities - Riffs. “The Trail of Dead has been known as something of a sprawling band ever since the band's first release in 1998. They've always been able to incorporate elements of noise rock and art rock into a post-hardcore foundation that allows for them to wander sonically not only from song to song but within each song itself and never losing the listener's interest in the song.”
- Butler, Blake. In/Casino/Out - At the Drive-In - Review. Allmusic.
- Refused reunion not happening. I Heart AU (March 30, 2010).
- Anderson, Jason. This Just Might Be... the Truth - Refused - Review. Allmusic. Retrieved on March 27, 2011.
- Heller, Jason (June 8, 2010). Refused: The Shape of Punk to Come - Music - Music Review. The A.V. Club. Onion, Inc..
- Butler, Blake. The Shape of Punk to Come - Refused - Review. Allmusic.
- Andersen, Mark and Mark Jenkins (2003). Dance of Days: Two Decades of Punk in the Nation's Capital. Akashic Books. ISBN 1-888451-44-0
- Azzerad, Michael (2002). Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991. Back Bay Books. ISBN 0-316-78753-1
- Grubbs, Eric (2008). POST: A Look at the Influence of Post-Hardcore-1985-2007. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, Inc.. ISBN 0-595-51835-4. http://books.google.com/books?id=Ku91l_blqCUC&lpg=PP1&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false.
- Reynolds, Simon. "The Blasting Concept: Progressive Punk from SST Records to Mission of Burma. Rip It Up and Start Again: Post-punk 1978-84. London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 2005.