All the Footprints of an Apparition – An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Screamo

Rohit Chaoji writes about some of his favorite screamo releases and why you should start listening to screamo.

I personally really hate the term “screamo” since there is no actual way to make a distinction between bands like Bring Me The Horizon and bands like Orchid or Saetia, without following it with “oh no not THAT screamo, but what screamo was originally meant to be” and then nerding out about music while the other person loses interest in ever speaking to you.

I also hate “skramz”, because it just sounds too silly.

That being said, let’s begin with trying to quickly understand what “screamo” means here and then take a look at a list of albums that a beginner might want to try, if they’re curious to listen to or understand it.

Just like powerviolence and grindcore were logical evolutions to crust and hardcore punk, screamo was not only a logical progression of the “emotional hardcore” scene from DC, United States, but also the twisted child of “post”-hardcore, powerviolence, grindcore and (some) melodic hardcore, all at once. The irony is that one of the most unhinged and wild musical genres consisted of bands that had the sense of humour to call their style something silly throughout the ages – screamo, emoviolence and skramz being among the ridiculous terms humorously coined by the artists and the fans.

This strange, enigmatic and misunderstood genre has some musical gems that anyone into aggressive and dramatic music should like. Here is a list of 5 of them that are rather beginner-friendly.

 1. Envy – All the Footprints You’ve Ever Left And the Fear Expecting Ahead (Temporary Residence Ltd)

These Japanese fellows were my introduction to *chuckle* REAL screamo. Combining melodic, emotional hardcore punk riffs, with very post rock-like build-ups and tension-release dynamics, this album is a rollercoaster from the beginning to the end. The guitars soar and scream with piercing intensity, which is complemented by vocals with a similar quality, which works in the album’s favour. Following this album, I personally think Envy only got worse, as they chose to discard a lot of their hardcore punk aggression in favour of more post-rock noodling.

 

 2. Orchid – Dance Tonight! Revolution Tomorrow! + Chaos is Me (Ebullition)

Orchids is probably the most well-known band that plays this style. Frantic and urgent chord progressions, blasting drums, unconventional song structures with lots of tempo variations and time signature oddities is the name of the game here. Despite this, none of the songs here feel too inaccessible to a listener who might already be familiar with grindcore and powerviolence, with the difference being that this is melodically, harmonically and rhythmically richer, compared to a vast majority of PV and grind bands.

 

 3. Pg.99 – Document #8 (Robotic Empire)

Highly prolific screamo band, with a vast number of recordings under their belt. Although it is difficult to recommend any specific release, Document #8 is a good place to start. Pg.99 understand how to write memorable melodies while keeping the expected hardcore punk ferocity at 11!

4. Saetia – A Retrospective (Secret Voice)

There are often mentions of loud-soft dynamics when talking about post-hardcore and screamo and I truly believe that no band does this better than Saetia (with the exception of maybe Off-Minor). There are some nods to indie rock and post-hardcore from the early 1990s in how those dynamics are displayed on this album. The constant switching between frantically-paced, distorted sections and calmer, cleaner sections is seamless and ties each individual song together.

 

 5. City of Caterpillar – S/T (The Archivist)

If Godspeed You! Black Emperor were a hardcore band, they would be called “City of Caterpillar”. This bunch understands how tension, excitement and drama are created in music and they apply that understanding to hardcore punk. The heavier sections consist of well-written melodic riffs and grating vocal performance, while the softer sections serve as bridges and build-ups within the songs, creating a very varied and dynamic sound that just fits together extremely well. The album is also not very difficult for a beginner to get into, hence its inclusion here.

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