Hardcore Sells Out?

BY Chris GramlichPublished Dec 1, 2003

It's said that if you're not a rebel at 18, you have no heart, but if you haven't turned establishment by 30, you have no brain, and this is an axiom the underground metallic/hardcore scene has embraced in 2003. What started as a surprising anomaly over the last couple years — underground bands signing with majors, indie labels taking distribution and first-look deals, even selling stakes in their companies — is blossoming into a full-fledged sprint for mass appeal madness. And although the mainstream mentality was once anathema to a scene built to rally against those values, money talks and ethics walk, as the mainstreaming of the underground continues. Hatebreed, Thrice, Boysetsfire, Thursday, Poison The Well, From Autumn To Ashes and Sworn Enemy, among others, have all become involved with the major labels, directly or through indie companies. Even at home, the success of screamo upstarts Alexisonfire was helped by EMI. But if the expected backlash from the underground has been surprisingly subdued, on a purely sales level, where selling tens of thousands in the underground will make you a hero but get you dropped on a major, this marriage has been tried before, with disastrous consequences. In the early '90s, flushed with the success of grunge and searching for the next musical revolution, the majors started snooping around the Amphetamine Reptile label and the "noise rock" scene, throwing big money around. And while Helmet went on to have a moderately successful career, Am-Rep was destroyed in the process, as was the noise rock movement. Also in the early to mid-'90s, underground heavies Earache signed a distro deal with Columbia, a move that also failed, as the mainstream ignored this extreme music and purists balked at the association. And in the '00s history repeats, as majors, chasing down the success of watered-down mall punk, turn to hardcore as the next thing. However, due to the breadth of the hardcore scene today, if the bubble bursts and the money stops rolling in, or worse, none is made, it won't kill the scene, but it will ruin a number of bands and labels who failed to heed history's lessons.

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