Extreme Hardcore Punk and the Analytical Challenges of Rhythm, Riffs, and Timbre in Punk Music

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David Pearson


Scholars often assume that there is little more to say about punk music other than it is fast, loud, abrasive, and any amateur can perform it. Yet within the punk scene, there is a robust discourse on punk musical style and the changes it has undergone throughout its now forty-year history, seemingly endless subgenre distinctions, and critical commentary on the musical merits of individual bands. This article combines transcription and analysis with a look at the punk scene's own discourse on musical style to understand the rhythms, riffs, and timbres of extreme hardcore punk, a subgenre prominent in the 1990s. The 800-BPM blast beats, screamed or growled vocals, and dissonant riffs of extreme hardcore necessitate the development of theoretical concepts for explaining the function of meter, timbre, and melodic material in punk. Furthermore, an understanding of changes in and new subgenres of punk style is necessary to avoid reducing punk to a music devoid of nuance or ongoing historical development.

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