Navigating the maligned genres labeled “hardcore” is an extensive amount of inspiring bands with intricate music and histories. Whether on the side of punk or metal, these bands revolutionized the meanings of their labels, most either reinventing their approach on every album or sadly breaking up to avoid creative stagnancy.
Metal-influenced angst with a dash of aggressive punk rage, NYC rockers Quicksand hit the perfect blend of sounds that created post-hardcore with only two albums and five original years of existence. Though overshadowed by Fugazi in terms of legacy, Quicksand reunited twice thanks to a dedicated fanbase.
D.C. hardcore group built from punk and rock traditions to create something entirely their own, tapping an underground vein of alternative rock with their late-1980s EPs right before the genre exploded with popularity. Amazingly, they stayed the course on their album releases in the 90s, putting out everything on punk label Dischord Records and never showing anything but contempt for the major-label music around them.
Swedish group Refused brought the ethos of their punk agenda to a head on The Shape of Punk to Come, and the world was never the same afterward. Proving that punk was about progressive tendencies rather than dwelling on the same tired sounds, Refused blended dynamic elements with alternately rough and technical musicianship, and every following post-hardcore group valued the marks of real musicians with a fierce attitude.
A one-hit wonder of sorts that used their quick breakout success to keep making music of their particular design, New Jersey's Thursday helped shed light on the growing screamo elements in the early 2000s. Even if they never beat the success of “Understanding in a Car Crash,” the in-your-face music and lyrics of the following record, War All the Time, show their continuing adherence to a signature sound over melding into the faceless masses of similar groups.
...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
With indie rock experimentation and an imaginative, thoughtful approach to heavy music, this Texan band showed exciting music was more than just crazy in its delivery, both in the studio and on-stage. Their magnum opus, Source Tags & Codes, has all the post-hardcore anger you could hope for while fusing every song with passionate, dynamic swells and from-the-heart lyrics.
Glassjaw’s Worship and Tribute exemplified the sound of the NY aggro bands for the first time on a major label. The band would not release another studio album for 15 years, but the mania of their genre was never achieved at a more popular level anyways.
You might have heard of At The Drive-In, but Sparta, the following project from Jim Ward, always remained under the radar compared to his previous group. The less experimental counterpart to his other band, Sparta showed the power of condensing the songwriting approaches within the post-hardcore genre, particularly on their exceptional debut, Wiretap Scars.
The Mars Volta
While At The Drive-In and Jim Ward’s following group Sparta remained firmly in the post-hardcore genre, The Mars Volta was one of the first groups to say that sticking to your influences was not enough. The band’s forward-thinking, experimental masterpiece debut was only the first stepping stone into a bright future of metallic prog-rock based around the angular guitar orchestra of Omar Rodríguez-López and the bitingly shrill voice of Cedric Bixler-Zavala.
The Fall of Troy
Despite the songs of The Fall of Troy resembling post-hardcore tradition, an avid listener of the more out-there hardcore genres knows different. From an instrumental standpoint, The Fall of Troy have a bewildering gift of musicianship that steals from the jazz-invoking metal group The Dillinger Escape Plan as much from its parent label.
Between the Buried and Me
The most metal-oriented group on the list draws from progressive metal technicality and song structure with death metal vocals, only to wildly shift into the kitchen-sink methods of the post-hardcore greats. Though they are the farthest removed from the original genre title, North Carolina's Between the Buried and Me is the natural evolution of angry, inventive, left-of-center music.
Other bands like Senses Fail, Thrice, and Circa Survive are less influential but still worth looking into as a popular follow-up to this list. All of these bands are available on streaming.