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Understanding Screamo: A Dissection

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We approached Dave Norman to write about the world’s most misunderstood genre tag: screamo. The head honcho of Zegema Beach Records and a long-time independent blogger, Dave is a wealth of screamo knowledge. Most of you will recoil in disgust, maybe even cringe at the thought of even giving screamo a passing chance, but, if you are on the adventurous side, Dave offers a deep-dive into a multi-faceted, aggressive style of music.

Hey there. I’m Dave. I’ve been a fan of what I heard was called “screamo” since 2002. After being an actual fanatic for a decade, I started a blog called (((((OPENmind/SATURATEDbrain))))) in hopes to collect a bunch of good music, but mostly just screamo. That led to the creation of my label, Zegema Beach Records. Again, specializing mostly in screamo. If there’s one predominant constant when introducing new people to screamo, it’s getting past what is likely a misinterpretation of the genre name itself.

I could write thousands and thousands of words on screamy hardcore aka emotive hardcore aka screamo aka skramz… but that would just be a waste of everyone’s time. Not only would be overly presumptuous of me, but screamo has been anchored in the sea of underground genres, and therefore there are uncountable bands that existed and broke up before the majority of people were aware that they even existed. I’ve been following the branches of screamo for nearly two decades and I still come across bands from years and years ago that I’ve never heard of before, and they absolutely floor me.

Instead, in a rather over-reaching but concentrated effort, I’ve compiled this list with different bands representing alternate takes on “screamo,” or however the bands and listeners have chosen to label it. I have tried giving definitions for the genres, only to find that, for the most part, I just sat in front of the computer scratching my head. It’s not the definition of the genre that’s important, but perhaps the general meaning implied by any of the following subgenres, all of which can be rounded up into heavy, screamy and often technical, music.

Here are some variations on the word screamo that you might see in passing, and I have attempted to attach a few brief descriptors, early adopters of the sound, and an audio representation of that style. Although I’m sure that many fans will disagree with some of matches listed, I think most can agree as a general consensus that the bands are all related to screamo. It’s important to note that these are simply reference points to help tie together other genre names/tags that you’ll find floating around the internet. Some of the genre names were created as jokes, making their true importance in defining a style of music questionable, at the very least.

— Dave Norman

1 – Screamo/Skramz = Snag / Coma Regalia / Sans Visage

This is the kind of screamo that I grew up on, learning early on from labels like Level Plane, Init and Electric Human Project that is was indeed called screamo. Characterized by a balance of melody and chaos, generally some soft noodley bits followed by scorching hardcore, all with screaming over top of it. Earlier bands with this sound include Orchid, Saetia and Funeral Diner.

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2 – Post-Hardcore Screamo = Respire / Les Deux Minutes De La Haines / Viva Belgrado

Characterized by longer songs, a lot of post-rock ambient instrumentals and a bit of clean singing is also not uncommon. I think if screamo could break into the mainstream, this would be the style to bring the masses together. It is without a doubt the most accessible, as the instrumentals are generally much calmer and less chaotic. Earlier bands with this sound include Amanda Woodward, Envy and Suffocate For Fuck Sake.

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3 – Metalcore Screamo = .gif from god / WristMeetRazor / Letters To Catalonia

This style of music is currently making an epic comeback. You’ve got your newer screamo bands making music now that is largely inspired by early 2000s metalcore, creating a very interesting and awesome concoction of massive breakdowns, throat-wrenching screams and usually has some killer panic chords thrown in for good measure. Earlier bands with this sound include Ed Gein, Letters In Binary and (early) From A Second Story Window.

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4 – Blackened Screamo = [‘selvə] / Niboowin / Nic (aka ██████ aka The Band Without A Name)

A much newer hybrid, this is characterized pretty much exactly as you’d expect. Distant haunting screams are layered over an army of drums and dark, tremolo guitars. Earlier bands with this sound include Deafheaven, Old Soul and Hexis, although you could definitely argue that these bands aren’t very old at all.

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5 – Emoviolence = Bethari / Saligia / Jeromes Dream

Got a 33rpm hardcore record? Well, stick that sucker on a turntable and up the rpms to 45 and that’s kind of what emo-violence sounds like. Insanely fast, ridiculous drumming and high pitched shrieking. Earlier bands with this sound include Louise Cyphre, The Apoplexy Twist Orchestra and (early) Examination Of The…

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6 – “Sassy” Screamo = SeeYouSpaceCowboy (cassingle) / Kiss 2 / Cadence Fox

Characterized by a lot of style, attitude and confidence. You could also probably say anything with a resemblance to The Blood Brothers as they were the god of sass. Earlier bands with this sound also include An Albatross, Transistor Transistor and St. Albans Kids.

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7 – Mathy Screamo = Улыбайся Ветрy / Sleeper Wave / Kidcrash

This is a pretty straightforward title. The bands are generally very talented musically and it shows with crazy timing, a whirlwind of instruments, some jammy bits and, of course, screaming. Earlier bands with this sound include Off Minor, Birthday Boyz and Back When.

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8 – Euro-Screamo = Øjne / Shizune / ByMySide

I would probably argue that European screamo was basically put in motion by a few Italian bands, as their popularity gave rise to a host of amazing, beautiful and melodic screamo with bouts of utter chaos. Earlier bands with this sound include La Quiete, Raein, Mihai Edrisch and Daitro, who were pioneers of the genre, and they remain untouchable within it.

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9 – Swedish Screamo = Via Fondo / Vi Som Älskade Varandra Så Mycket / Trachimbrod

Characterized by more atmospherics and ambiance, as well as some of the most memorable and catchy instrumentals you’ll hear in any branch of punk rock. I kinda feel like the bands listed above are the catalyst for the movement, so I’ll add two more; Careless and Young Mountain, but without a doubt the first big Swedish screamo band was and still is Suis La Lune.

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10 – crusty screamo = Drei Affen / Svalbard / Potence

Pretty self explanatory, says I. Imagine crust punk and dark hardcore bands teaming up with screamo and you’re already there. Spain’s Drei Affen and France’s Potence are two of the best bands around, period. Earlier outfits with this sound include Ekkaia, Sanctions and Remains Of The Day.

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An additional recommendation to check out: 10 of my favorite screamo bands, listed in no particular order:

La Quiete

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Neil Perry

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Welcome The Plague Year

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SeeYouSpaceCowboy

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.gif from god

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Funeral Diner

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June Paik

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Off Minor

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Via Fondo

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Vi Som Älskade Varandra Så Mycket

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