|Cultural origins||Early 1990s, San Diego, California, U.S.|
Screamo (also referred to as skramz) is a subgenre of emo that began in the early 1990s as a more aggressive style of the genre using short songs that grafted "intensity to willfully experimental dissonance and dynamics." It is characterised by a stronger influence from hardcore punk and the use of screamed vocals. Lyrical themes usually include emotional pain, romantic interest, politics, and human rights.
The term "screamo" is complicated in usage, and many bands object to the label. The vocal style it describes is not clearly defined and even some bands using a guttural vocal style can be considered screamo. Screamo has been applied to various genres, including powerviolence and post-hardcore. Several styles are rooted in screamo, including: emoviolence, which combines screamo with powerviolence; crunkcore, a style of crunk employing the vocal technique of screamo; and screamo influenced by grindcore.
Characteristics and fashion
"Bang Yer Head" by Portraits of Past
An example of early screamo by Portraits of Past, an influential band which helped define the genre.
"Fly By Night" by Loma Prieta
An example of contemporary screamo by Loma Prieta, featuring harsh vocals, stylistic transitions, and emotional lyrics.
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Screamo essentially is a style of hardcore punk-influenced emo with screaming. Screamo uses typical rock instrumentation, but is notable for its brief compositions, chaotic sounds, harmonized guitars, and screaming vocals. Some screamo music features chaotic noise and quiet, melodic guitar lines put into a song. According to AllMusic, screamo is "generally based in the aggressive side of the overarching punk-revival scene." Screamo often features dynamic shifts that go from soft and quiet to loud and aggressive or loud and aggressive to soft and quiet. Emotional singing and harsh screaming are common vocals in screamo. A lot of screamo bands sometimes play ballads.
In addition to melodic transitions from heavy to soft styles, screamo also is characterized "by frequent shifts in tempo and dynamics and by tension-and-release catharses." 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." Alex Henderson of AllMusic considers screamo a bridge between hardcore punk and emo.
Screamo lyrics often feature topics such as emotional pain, breakups, romantic interest, politics, and human rights. Screamo 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.
Origins (Early 1990s–early 2000s)
Screamo arose as a distinct music genre in 1991, in San Diego, at the Ché Café, including bands such as Heroin and Antioch Arrow. The band Far, from Sacramento, California, may have produced the first screamo album.
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, Circle Takes the Square, Pg. 99, Hot Cross, Saetia, Ampere, and City of Caterpillar.
Contemporary screamo (2000s–present)
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 used on 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.
Simultaneously, the style of early screamo continued to exist, with American bands like Comadre, 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, Louise Cyphre, Le Pré Où Je Suis Mort, La Quiete, and Raein all being prime examples of their scene on the mainland. 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.
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..
Emoviolence is a style of screamo and powerviolence. The name was coined half-jokingly by In/Humanity. 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. Emoviolence practitioners include Pg. 99, Orchid, Reversal of Man, Agna Moraine, RentAmerica, and In/Humanity.
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 often 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.
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:
|“||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.||”|
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. 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." Juan Gabe, vocalist for the band Comadre, alleged that the term "has been kind of tainted in a way, especially in the States." Screamo has often been mistaken as an umbrella term for any music with screaming, leading to metalcore bands, death metal bands and some nu metal bands being mislabeled as screamo.
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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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