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How Boston hardcore changed rock music

From the ashes of the violent 90s Boston hardcore scene rose a group of bands who would change rock music forever. This is their story.

While 1980s LA had Black Flag, New York was famed for Agnostic Front and Cro-Mags, and Washington DC boasted Bad Brains and Minor Threat, Boston’s output was lower key. Gang Green, Negative FX, DYS and many other bands released on independent label Taang Records during that period are not as familiar, and SS Decontrol are perhaps better known for their militant, straight-edge stance than their music. But their impact was just as keenly felt, and would spawn a whole new Boston scene.

“I wasn’t old enough to see those bands, but also wasn’t young enough to not have them as mandatory listening when getting into hardcore,” says Wes Eisold, who would go on to form American Nightmare. “SSD, DYS, Slapshot, [1982’s] This Is Boston Not L.A. compilation, Siege... they were all tapes I had in high school.”

Ultimately, though, there was one thing the Boston hardcore scene was famous for: violence. Stephen Brodsky, who’d later form Cave In, remembers his earliest experiences of local hardcore shows in the late 80s at a place called the Red Barn in North Andover, an hour north of town. He and his best friend were metalheads, and the crowd didn’t take kindly to them.

“The older hardcore kids didn’t like the looks of us, and we got targeted with some dumb violent shit,” he says. “My guess is that by the time Boston found its wave, not only was the city ready to claim its due, but it did so with a force of such rabid anger and intensity that instigated sheer violence and hostility – which definitely adds a certain fire to this story.”

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