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Powerviolence (sometimes written as power violence), is a raw, dissonant sub-genre of hardcore punk. The style is closely related to thrashcore and grindcore.
The term was first mentioned in the song “Hispanic Small Man Power (H.S.M.P.)” by genre pioneer Man Is the Bastard. Its nascent form was pioneered in the late 1980s in the music of hardcore punk band Infest, who mixed youth crew hardcore elements with noisier, sludgier qualities of Lärm and Siege. The microgenre solidified into its most commonly recognized form in the early 1990s, with the sounds of bands such as Man Is the Bastard, Crossed Out, No Comment, Capitalist Casualties, and Manpig. Powerviolence groups took inspiration from Siege, Deep Wound, Cryptic Slaughter, Septic Death, Dirty rotten imbeciles, and Corrosion of Conformity. These precursors to powerviolence are grouped together as thrash or thrashcore.Spazz vocalist and bassist Chris Dodge’s record label Slap-a-Ham Records was a fixture during the rapid rise and decline of powerviolence, releasing influential records by the likes of Neanderthal, No Comment, Crossed Out, Infest, and Spazz. The label’s Fiesta Grande was an annual powerviolence festival held at 924 Gilman from 1992 to 2000. Spazz drummer Max Ward’s label 625 Thrashcore has started its own festival, Super Sabado Gigante, in a similar vein. While powerviolence is closely related to thrashcore (often referred to simply as “thrash”), the style is distinct from the thrash metal groups active in the same place, at the same time.
Musically, powerviolence bands focus on speed, brevity, bizarre timing breakdowns, and constant tempo changes. Powerviolence songs are often very short; it is not uncommon for some to last less than 30 seconds. Some groups, particularly Man Is the Bastard, took influence from sludge metal and noise music.
Lyrically and conceptually, powerviolence groups were very raw and under-produced, both sonically and in their packaging. Some groups (Man Is the Bastard and Dropdead) took influence from anarcho-punk and crust punk, emphasizing animal rights and anti-militarism. Groups such as Spazz or Charles Bronson, on the other hand, wrote lyrics mocking points of interest for hardcore and metal fans, or even used inside jokes for lyrics, referencing specific people many of their listeners would not know.
Other groups associated with powerviolence included Assück, Black Army Jacket, Charles Bronson, Rorschach, and The Locust. The doom metal group Burning Witch also released on Slap-A-Ham and played shows with powerviolence groups.
Powerviolence groups had a strong influence on later grindcore acts, such as Agoraphobic Nosebleed. The Locust became acclaimed in both the grindcore and noise rock scenes. Mark McCoy of Charles Bronson went on to form Das Oath, a popular thrashcore group. Members of Man Is the Bastard formed The Bastard Noise. Rorschach became a prominent influence for the mathcore scene. Many punk rock and hardcore bands of the 2000s took a heavy influence from powerviolence music while maintaining a more traditional hardcore sound, like I object! from Rochester, New York, and Birmingham, Alabama’s Korova.