Hardcore Culture: Punk Rock Life, Heavy Metal Way, Hardcore!
Me screaming in Ninja Death Clan (Eugene, Oregon 2000)
During my life I have had all kinds of experiences and many of them painful. I was angry and full of rage and hate towards life and society and the world. Part of it was justified, but it became something terrible inside of me. I found hardcore music and learned coping strategies. The early part of my life as a late teenager was spent playing in a grindcore band called Ninja Death Clan, and going to shows of all kinds of heavy music. I was a thrasher, a punk, a hardcore kid, a metal head, and the like. I was also a skateboarder. The music pointed me to a way of life that gave me meaning. Despite some of the negative aspects, it helped me find myself and has influenced my character and who I am today. I still consider myself Hardcore to this day. A few people can relate to such a thing; more so are the people who claim they can relate but really were never a part.
The history of music that is heavy, fast, and loud can be seen as developing in the year 1977 when punk rock was born. Bands like The Sex Pistols, Crass, and The Ramones led the start of the way up to the various genres of punk we now call:
hardcore punk, grindcore, crust, thrash, and the big influence of heavy metal bands: death metal, black metal, grind metal, to noise bands and powerviolence, doom and dirge music. These have all morphed together the many genres and hybrid genres of hard music.
Through this music subculture has come many different styles and beliefs. They all point to a similar way of life in each individual: We will not back down, we will not give up, we do not care, this is who we are, we hate society because society hates us. There are a veriety of life styles and beliefs in the punk and metal scenes but each has a similar attitude of anger, non-conformity, and perseverance. I was a very angery person and this music spoke to me.
Seventh Star at Facedown Fest '07
In the beginning of the heavy and fast music scenes were the anti-social attitudes of the early punks. It was steeped in nihilism with no hope or care about existence. Drugs were prevelant (in many cases they still are), and all kinds of free sexual behavior came about. The ironic thing is the punk movement was a violent reaction to the hypocrisy and failing of parents from the free-love hippy drug subcultures of the 1960’s-70’s. It was a necessary next step to be real and progress from the downfalls that era brought yet has regressed back into the same attitudes; just with anger sprinkled on top. With darwinian concepts taught in schools and the rejection of religion, youth culture became a godless bunch of wild kids who did as they pleased.
As a child I grew up in the 80’s. I would see many punks downtown in Eugene, Oregon walking around with their huge mohawks and spiked clothes with patches, chains, and leather. I was very impressed and wanted to be like them because I thought that punk rockers were the epitome of toughness. Skinheads were also on the rise as the big trend of skinhead oi music traveled to the United States from the United Kingdom. Unfortunately the neo-nazi movement adopted this culture and look and spread their racial hatred across the country. Currently this has virtually died out and has become a very low population of White Power skinheads (all though many people want to believe it is bigger than it really is in order to find reasons to beat other people up.) The racism that was so popular was the next logical step due to nihilistic and darwinian beliefs of natural selection. “We all developed from monkeys and life has no meaning.” The early punk movement was predominantly white, and punks did not care about other people. Punks also enjoyed intimidating people and even wore swastikas to scare people. This originally had no racial implications, but was just to instil confusion and fear. It was not exactly a racist statement, but the Nationalist Socialists took advantage of this. Even so punk was mainly indifference to others with an extreme disdain for political correctness. They were just a bunch of angry white kids. It was anti-social and extreme with blunt behavior. Eventually other racial groups got involved such as hispanics such as the thrash punk band Suicidal Tendencies. There was also a thriving Japanese hardcore punk scene. Hardcore has gone world-wide as even third world counties have punks and metalheads. Every ethnicity has punk rockers today. When the hardcore movement eventually spread all over the world it ironically took a step back and re-adopted the hippy/pc politics and beliefs of their parents. The postmodern power of the age has now made the hardcore punk scene full of far-left liberals who hate religion (especially Christianity) and the United States. Anarchy is screamed through the PA systems on dirty old microphones inside small basements, houses, and concert venues. Anarchy in the early years of punk was total chaos and anti-society. Now anarchy has become its own political idea with order and rules, and the influence of veganism and animal liberation with no concern for aborted babies is prevelent. An interesting aspect of punk and heavy metal is the fact it was in-your-face and full of shock value. I would know as my band Ninja Death Clan created a lot of shock as I would purposefully puke on stage during our song “Pain Induced Vomit.” What a fun time! Death metal lyrics always had dealt with murder, rape, torture, cannibalism, and Satanism; yet death metal influenced punk rock and somehow became politically “informed” with a care for nature, trees, and fuzzy animals in the music form of political grindcore. In the punk scene this double standard in lyrical content still exists, yet the taboo subjects to talk about are pro-religion (mainly Christianity) and American patriotism. So at shows bands will play who have lyrics about pornography and killing, yet another band will talk about how terrible George W. Bush was because they claim he caused the death of millions of people in Iraq. Atheism is loved and Christianity is hated.
My friends band Denote The Apex from Eugene, Oregon (Friday the 13th show, 2000)
The truth is that many of the kids involved in the scene today don’t even understand reality and have become, themselves, conformists who hypocritically identify with a larger trend that they seek to please in order to be liked. Hardcore shows (which used to be for the “not normal people”) have now become the norm for many high school students, and even the jock football players. The lives of such individuals rediculously revolve around concert venue dramas that identically reflect the nonsense teen dramas that happen in high schools: “Who is having sex with who? Who got drunk last night? I am angry because my girlfriend cheated on me”…etc. The things held important to so many youth today are trivial and unimportant yet to them it is life. It is a very sad existence that has trapped many young people inside a small crowded room with 4 walls about a few square feet at best. Life is about the weekend and going to the next show. Yet during such behavior bands scream about social politics and hatred towards the things they deem wrong with this world. Many of the youth involved do not go out to stop or change anything they claim they are against; and are completely unaffected by third-world poverty and foreign fascist regimes. The doom punk band World Against World, which was a late 90’s Christian band says it best in their song “Scared Silent” which is about rejecting pointless activism and standing up against such beliefs, and spreading the Word of Christ,
“Kids they scream. Bands they play, but what does it amount? Mindless tongues, we’re following a follower…I choose not to protest in vain. Surrounded by hopelessness I am not ashamed.”
Many kids spend their punk rock life doing drugs and engaging in promiscuous sex acts which lead to a terrible life style in their later years as the bodily abuse of chemicals and STD’s take their toll. If not, the absolute shame of sexual sin and guilt that lingers from past sins destroys their inner soul.
But wait! A movement was born to combat such negative behavior called Straight Edge. Along with a long line of posicore (positive hardcore, aka PHC) bands. These posi bands emphasized youthfulness and continuing to live young and positive (they were also called youth crew bands), while abstaining from drugs, alcohal, and promiscuous sex. The leading band of this movement who coined the term Straight Edge was named Minor Threat. Their song of the very name of the movement is the basic tenets of Straight Edge (aka. sXe). Straight Edgers identified themselves at shows with X’s written on their hands with black markers. The X came from shows played at bars where underage concert goers were given a black X on their hand in order to seperate them from the people who were 21 and over so they would not mistakenly sell alcohal to a minor. So, Straight Edge hardcore kids embraced the X and even bands put the name of their band between the X’s, such as XsidetrackedX, where the X’s are pronounced along with the band name (ex-sidetracked-ex). Extreme identification for Straight Edge kids are three X’s on logos, patches, and tatoos. The XXX stands for the three tenets of Straight Edge: Don’t drink, don’t smoke, and don’t f*** [have sex].” This may sound like a positive movement that even Christians can relate to, but a Christian should look into the details of who started the movement. Antichristian people started Straight Edge and used it as a way to abstain from immoral behavior relying solely on the self. They can take credit and boast for their clean living while looking down on others who do drugs and have sex. Doing anything moral without God is pointless as no one is perfect. Straight Edge became an elitist movement and even started small terrorist/gang groups (called Straight Edge Crews) who got national media attention in the late 90’s. The band Minor Threat of course was not interested in violence or promoting arrogance, but one has to understand their extreme hatered for the Bible and religion which is seen in their lyrics. A Christian does not need to jump on a secular band wagon to promote morals and God. During my time in the Oregon scene I noticed the large trend of Christians identifying with Straight Edge as the Christian bands wrote X’s on everything and on their hands. No longer were bands singing about Christ or evangelizing, instead they were promoting Straight Edge and anti-drug behavior. No longer did these “christians” identify with the Cross, instead they identified with the X. Straight Edge does not and can never save anyone’s soul. These youth group kids completely lacked understanding of the Gospel. Many Christian punk/hardcore kids ended up denying their faith in Christ as they somehow obtained a bitterness towards the faith. It is no wonder why such bittnerness and disdain occured in these “christian” kids, since the entire scene they so desperately wanted to be a part of rejected their God. The sprouts popped up in shallow ground in such individuals and their roots were shallow and died quickly. The influence of the secularism in the scene overtook them.
Another interesting progression of Straight Edge was how they looked at the sex issue. There are three X’s, but it seemed as if the third X, which stood for no promiscuous sex, was up to interpretation. It came to be said that sex is only okay in the bounds of a committed relationship. Promiscuous sex was seen as having random sex encounters with no meaning. The philosophy or moral relativism was strong in the scene and truth was not up front. So the individual got to decide what promiscuous sex meant. Promiscuous sex meant something different to each person. Postmodern language understanding claimed that a committed relationship is also different to each person. In reality a commitment is an agreement to something. People were having sex with their girlfriends/boyfriends because that was a commitment. But so many of these young teenagers had no mature understanding of love or commitment. A relationship could last anywhere from years to months, to even weeks! Then right away the people would get a new boyfriend or girlfriend. So people could have a lot of sex with different people as long as they claimed it was in a commitment. The only different from such behavior and promiscuous sex was the title given: relationship. A person can commit to a one night stand with another person, that is still a commitment. It was hypocritical and still is today. If moral purity is important to Straight Edge followers then the sex issue has got to be re-analyzed. So many broken hearts result from sexual misconduct even inside “committed relationships.” Sex is something that most humans cannot give up. Sure, drugs are easy to say no to and it’s easy to pass up alcohal, but sex is always the problem with adolescents who just went through puberty. As a result many people even used postmodern language understanding to define what sex was. Some people would claim heavy make out sessions, and oral sex are okay because they are not actual sex. This is more hypocrisy. Sexual activity contains anything from sexual intercourse to mere kissing. It is all for the purpose of sexual pleasure. That is why it is called forplay! So many Straight Edge kids broke their X’s when they committed sex outside of relationships as well because sexual activity turns on a switch that is hard to shut off and hormones rage and become just like a drug. Pornography was also acceptable to the Oregon Straight Edge followers who were not Christians. They said “porn is not having sex,” but yet in reality supporting pornography is supporting other people doing the very sexually immoral acts you think are wrong. Porn stars are not in a committed relationship with each other and have sex on film; and these types of Straight Edgers watch it. So many Straight Edge tough guy hardcore bands all over the country who got popular within their scenes became like local rock stars. Many of them would have sex with all kinds of girls and try to hide it, or use the loose interpretation of the word “commitment.” Many of them would allow girls to give them oral sex and other such things. The California, Christian, Straight Edge band Hit The Deck speaks about this issue in their song titled “XXSex.” It features the satyrical lyrics, “Sex is okay if you’re in a band, as long as an X is still on your hand…when the tour vans a rockin’ we’re commin’ knockin. Bring back the third X!”
The hardcore scene has also become a sexual playground for angry early 20-somethings who are male; as well as a lot of angry, young, impressionable females. Many of the females are underage and these hardcore “men” seduce such young women; which is illegal. Underage sex is common, but in reality it is pedophelia according to the law. It is very sad and so many young girls have been damaged emotionally and spiritually because of such abuse. These types of hardcore scenesters are pathetic. And most Straight Edger’s have broken their X’s when they turned 21 and alcohal was more accessible. Straight Edgers hardly keep their edge for their entire lives. They become what they so violently criticized and hated during their youth.
Most of my friends from that era in my life have completely left Christianity and have become Atheists and New Agers. Many were caught up in sexual immorality as well. I started to quit going to as many shows around the year 2004 when I moved to Louisville, Kentucky. The local’s were not very open to new people, and hated Christians (yet they would go see Christian bands if they toured through the area). It was the same in the Southern California scene during college as well as the Birmingham, Alabama scene where I have lived. I am glad God took me away from my old friends and also a large amount of opportunities to see bands play in order to preserve me and keep me in Him. I still will go to shows and have an interest in this music, but my faith in Christ completely overtakes any affinity I have towards hardcore punk and metal music.
Holloween show in California (XdeathstarX, Impending Doom, '08)
There is some justified anger towards the Church as many kids in the scene used to go to church. Most true followers of hardcore and punk have seen a lot of hypocrisy in the world and experienced many hurtful things. Many people stabbed them in the back and betrayed them. I have experienced numerous amounts of this. Evil men use religion to control and manipulate people. Even Christian churches reject all kinds of people they see as “different” and only cater to the yuppy crowds. This is seen in the large amount of corperate style mega-churches planted across the nation. These kids are outcasts so many latch onto the hardcore scene for community. Churches have failed many of these youth, including me (yet I did not give up on God). Many of these kids live a street style life, some of them homeless and many are not. But all of them still roam the streets of downtown art districts with records shops, coffee houses, and music venues. Some have terrible parents and suffer abuse, but the current trend of the hardcore scene has become full of rich spoiled brats with a lot of money and the new bands that come around are made of such people. With the commercialization of heavy music, thanks to MTV2’s Headbanger’s Ball, and stores like Hot Topic and Spencer’s Gifts, fortunes have been made selling clothing, music, and all kinds of paraphernilia. It has completely missed the point of the entire purpose for such music and the scene. Now days there are “scene kings and queens” who have the money to buy every new hardcore album that comes out and somehow memorize their lyrics before each band plays a show in their city so they can look “passionate” and yell along with the bands. They wear all of the t-shirts of every band and new trendy hardcore sayings as well. They also can fork over 100’s of dollar for tatoo work at high end ink shops. Most of these kids live in rich quiet suburban areas with giant houses; the typical “deserted” subdivisions where no one ever goes outside. Hypocrisy reeks through such people as the claim of fighting for social causes in no way reflects how they live their lives in lavishness through their parents money. What used to be for the “angry, young, and poor punks” is now for the “angry, spoiled, and rich kids” with yuppy parents who dye their shaggy hair black and wear black eye liner in a hilarious attempt of “defiance” towards authority. It is not a sin in the hardcore scene to be rich, as there can be well off punk kids, and many bands were fortunate to be able to make a living off of making music they love (which is a great accomplishment). But it is how you live your lifestyle and the claims you make that make a person true. Hardcore is all about being true to yourself, and true to your friends. It is about finding loyalty in your group and honoring your friends becuase the world is so hostile; and they are outcasts. They and their friends are against the world. The hard cry for unity can be heard screamed in crowds at shows (called “gang shouts”) during breakdowns in songs. Such cries for unity are chanted over and over through the music. Yet it has all become fake and unrealistic. After the music dies down the individuals who grabbed the mic in the group and screamed unity go back and continue to stab each other in the back. Hardcore has become exactly what it was against and has done a complete 180. It has become a second High School for immature youth who enjoy blaming others and fighting. In fact violence occures all the time at shows over alcohal infused jealous boyfriend/girlfriend arguments and tough guy ramblings.
Only the future can tell us where punk, hardcore, and heavy metal will be. The future does not look bright. Such sinful and godlessness only leaves people in more despair as life goes on. It is obvious why the hardcore punk scene has lost all of its values. It makes absolutely no sense anymore. To the few who truly understand the music, we will never forget what it meant to us and what it still means to us today. As a Christian I will never forget how God has delivered me and understands me and has changed me through my life experiences. I will be Hardcore for Christ with no backing down and no selling out. Too many “christian” bands have sold out and totally reject evangelizing. I am sick of this. I have heard too many stories of broken hearts, betrayals, spiritual depravity and moral filth. Too many people are living in quiet guilt that is kept to themselves because they cannot trust anyone to tell. Their shame is so deep that they cannot speak out about their sins and they continue to live a slow death through deep depression which results from horrible regret. They continue to seek out new sinful activities to replace the void that the past sinful activities created. Sex for more sex, drugs for more drugs, violence for more violence. They nonsensically try to fill a void created by one sin with that exact same sin! “I thought getting high would be better than it was now I feel ashamed, but maybe if I snort another line it will be cooler.” “Sex didn’t feel very good and now I feel like I gave away my self-worth and dignity to someone who didn’t respect me. Maybe if I try it again another time it will make me feel better and maybe loved.” A person can never go back in time to change their past, but they can always progress to the future. It is time more Christians who remember their past, and what Christ did for them, to stand up and fight for the cause of Christ and evangelize the punks, the skinheads, the hardcore kids, the metal heads, and everyone else involved in this angry music subculture. The style of music itself is not sinful, but the attitudes of many people in the subculture are what is sinful. Hardcore punk music culture is not limited to such a terrible lifestyle; as any music subcultures or club cultures have the same problems. Life inside a small crowded room, music fests, record store shopping, and hanging out at Hot Topic can only refrain from becoming vain for so long. Then it becomes futile and pointless scene drama that has no importance, yet it is really-really important to the people involved in such trite; it controls their life. There is no more meaning left in much of hardcore today. Commercialization has created the emo (emotional) scene that has pretty much taken over many music subcultures. The self-pitty of so many vain youth flock to such weak and timid narcissistic behavior. The hardcore scene reeks of pretentiousness as many of the youth have completely left hardcore for indie rock and other forms of indipendent art in order for them to be above the rest because they “understand high art.” So many of these scene kids spend all of their time in their rich comfortable suburban house on the internet posting on message boards and starting arguments. Their parents pay for their internet connection. They become internet tough guys and tough girls. The scene drama is brought home as posts on music message boards, and new photos on myspace profiles for the sole purpose of self seeking attention, circulates jelousy, covetousness, and lusts which explode into fights through the internet which are then brought to the shows at venues the youth attend. There is no end to the cycle of bittnerness and hate towards each other and infighting. It is a sick existence. Emotional abuse wears the kids out.
Me and a punk acquaintance and homeless dog (Eugene, Oregon. '01)
As Jesus said to “Seek first the Kingdom of God” and then many great things He has will be added unto us, we as Christians need to focus on eternity. It is time to get back the faith you once had when you were young, and to give that faith to the lost in your scene. If you are a Christian act like it! Just because you are a punk or hardcore kid does not mean you can ignore the commandments of God. Life is hard and we know it, but scene popularity is worth nothing and lacks fulfillment. Romans 8:18 says,
“For I consider that the present sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.”
We suffer now, but it cannot be compared with what God has for those who love Him. Pleasing man is not going to benefit a Christian, only pleasing God matters. Live for eternity and die for Jesus.
One time at a show at Chain Reaction, a popular concert venue in Anaheim, California, the band No Innocent Victim played. They were a top Christian hardcore band that paved the way for many other Christian bands. The singer of that band at the show sternly said that Christians are not loving each other and are full of hypocrisy in so many words. They were living in sexual immorality, and profaning the name of Christ and causing many other people to stumble and fall into deep sins and indifference to God. The singer sternly said into the mic, “You need to obey!….obey! It is about obeying [Christ].” I will never forget it and that is how I want to live. I would gladly give up hardcore for Jesus Christ any day. I never hold to strong importance, a scene that never accepted me fully and rejected my God. But I will hold to importance the Godly character God developed through me in much of the attitudes I gained from hardcore: Staying true and perseverence! But this time completely for God!