Shifts Along the Metal/Punk Continuum: Tempo in Late 1980s American Hardcore Punk

Dave Easley, Oklahoma City University

Characterizations of American hardcore punk generally focus on its concise musical forms, dense textures, and fast tempos. As Blush 2010 states, "it was all about playing as fast as possible" (44). By the end of the 1980s, though, it became normative--even expected--for bands to shift between double-time grooves and slow(er) half-time grooves within their songs. Despite their ubiquity in hardcore from the late 1980s, such tempo shifts have been addressed only briefly in theoretical literature (Easley 2011 and Garza 2017). In this paper I do two things: 1) define and provide examples of six formal strategies used by hardcore bands as they began to incorporate such shifts in tempo; and 2) draw on Waksman 2009's "Metal/Punk Continuum" to relate this stylistic transformation to a broader, cultural transformation, in which the apparently opposed genres of metal and punk became increasingly interconnected.