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Tough Guys and Bald Heads by Chris Francz

It was 1988, and the dee-jayís name was Ian rude. He carefully laid the needle on the first track of the new Gang Green album. BY the end of the first verse he dragged the needle over the vinyl creating a horrible scratching sound as he proudly declared over the air, "too metal!" and proceeded to place an Adolescents album on the turntable.

I love to reminisce about the hardcore of yesteryear! So much has changed in the hardcore scene and yet so much has changed in the hardcore scene and yet so much has stayed the same. I began listening to hardcore in 1985. Hardcore was relatively young then (about four years old) and wasnít as set in itís way as it is today. Straightedge was in the process of being reborn on the east coast and there was still a healthy spirit of rebellion in the musical end of things. Hardcore, which was borne out of punk, kept alive the refection of the biggest forms of commercial music, those forms being, "dinosaur rock" and heavy metal. The phrase "HARDER! FASTER! LOUDER!" was common in the hardcore scene. While this column is not meant to in any way bash metal, Iíd like to compare the views the scene had of metal in "those days" as compared to the way most of the hardcore scene views metal today!

I used to think that metal was the most powerful music around until I discovered punk and hardcore in 1985. Once my record collection of hardcore and punk records grew, I gave almost all of my heavy metal tapes to my brother, and I quickly latched onto the bandwagon that most of the scene was riding on. I didnít notice that most of the scene was riding on. I didnít know what was wrong with heavy metal, but if so many punks said it was bad, how could they all be wrong? Plus, given the fact that most hardcore and punk songs were very fast and had curse words in them, I kind of lost interest in heavy metal! But thatís another story! SSD (SS Decontrol), from Boston was the first time I heard of a hardcore band "selling out" to play heavy metal. Again, I didnít know what was so wrong about wanting to play heavy metal, but you know, a thousand punks canít be wrong! Then in 1986, Agnostic Front, the quintessential hardcore band from NYC released their "Cause For Alarm" album and shock waves were felt throughout the scene! The album was filled with Leads and was almost totally metal! Now, Iím no hardcore historian, but I truly believe that when this skinhead hardcore band from the lower east side of New York City released this album, it swung open the gates of the acceptability of metal as a legitimate genre of music from which hardcore bands could derive influences from! The cries of "metal sell out" became fewer and fewer. More and more hardcore bands began to utilize leads to break up the monotony. Warzone and Killing Time (formerly Raw Deal) were just two of them.

For more than a couple of years I became completely oblivious to anything that the hardcore scene had to offer. It was kind of like "Been there! Done that!" and I lost a lot of interest in it. Also given the fact that in 1991 I gave my life to Jesus Christ, I just couldnít justify participating in a scene that was continually mocking him! In 1994 I began to find more and more Christian hardcore bands and I was completely blown away! The energy of these bands was the same as the bands I used to love and idolize back in the eighties, but the music was a lot different! Sure, it was good old hardcore, but most of it was slowed down so much, and so very...metal! It took a little getting used to but I made the adjustment fairly successfully! But that feeling that hardcore gave me in the old days was just not there! Of course I have to give credit to the bands that are keeping that authentic hardcore sound alive such as No Innocent Victim, and a handful of other bands!

You see, the thing is...I love metal-influenced hardcore, but I also like my hardcore, straight-up, pure, no ice, and no straw! You know, Played by tough guys with bald heads! While the bald-headed, tough guy period in hardcore history only lasted for five or so years in the later part of the eighties, it is a period of time in my opinion that the absolute best hardcore was produced! Sure, there are lots of really excellent metal-influenced hardcore bands out there! And sure, there are hardcore bands springing up that are keeping the pure hardcore sound alive, but call me sentimental, itís just not the same!

So whatís the point here? Well, Iíd just like for all the new kids on the block to appreciate the bands that paved the way for them. Iíd like for these young whippersnappers to not turn a nose up at the sound of the hardcore pioneers, who got ridiculed, spit on, and in some cases beat up for playing a form of music that was bold, original, and powerful, in a world where the edge of this form of music wasnít dulled by the acceptance of the mainstreamís embrace of "mall-punk music" I truly believe the day is coming that some of us will hear once again, and some of us will gear for the first time the cry from the fringes of society: "HARDER! FASTER! LOUDER!"

A revival is coming kiddies! Bald-headed, tough guy hardcore may of taken a break, but he is now slowly rising to his feet! The battle lines will once again be drawn and hardcore will once again become hardcore, and metal will be called metal and not hardcore! (Just a side note: in my opinion, what defines a hardcore band as opposed to a metal band is usually the vocalistís singing style. Take away the hoarse voice and wah-lah! Youíve got a heavy metal band!) Again, I really love most of the metal-influenced hardcore out there! But calling a lot of it "hardcore" is to show oneís lack of understanding of just where hardcore came from and the rebellion out of which it was born.

But, Hey! Like Billy Joel sang, "itís still rock and roll to me!" Itís as good! And itís just music, right? Please donít think that all this business of just what should be labeled "hardcore" and what shouldnít keeps me up at night! I have my Zao and Living Sacrifice albums for that! Itís kinda funny though ya know? What was once called wussy, sell-out metal is now called "hardcore", and what was once called hippy folk music is now called "Indie Rock"!!! You know what my biggest problem is? I think too much... Chris Francz is the editor of THE CRUCIAL TIMES street-zine and covers Christian hardcore bands in the scene. For sample issues send $1.00 to P.O. Box 190 Shawnee-on-Delaware, Pa 18356 E-MAIL: CRUCIALTIMES@NOLN.COM

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