Powerviolence (sometimes written as power violence), is a raw and dissonant subgenre of hardcore punk. The style is closely related to thrashcore and grindcore.
The term was coined by Matt Domino in 1989. The term was first mentioned in the song "Hispanic Small Man Power (H.S.M.P.)" by genre pioneer Man Is the Bastard. Its nascent form was pioneered in the late 1980s in the music of hardcore punk band Infest, who mixed youth crew hardcore elements with noisier, sludgier qualities of Lärm and Siege. The microgenre solidified into its most commonly recognized form in the early 1990s, with the sounds of bands such as Man Is the Bastard, Crossed Out, Neanderthal, No Comment, and Capitalist Casualties. Powerviolence groups took inspiration from Siegeand Deep Wound, Cryptic Slaughter, Septic Death, Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, Negative FX and early Corrosion of Conformity. These precursors to powerviolence are grouped together as "thrash" or thrashcore.
Spazz vocalist and bassist Chris Dodge's record label Slap-a-Ham Records was a fixture during the rapid rise and decline of powerviolence, releasing influential records by the likes of Neanderthal, No Comment, Crossed Out, Infest, and Spazz. The label's Fiesta Grande was an annual powerviolence festival held at 924 Gilman from 1993 to 2000. Spazz drummer Max Ward's label 625 Thrashcorehas started its own festival, Super Sabado Gigante, in a similar vein. While powerviolence is closely related to thrashcore (often referred to simply as "thrash"), the style is distinct from the thrash metal groups active in the same place, at the same time.
While originally the term powerviolence included stylistically diverse bands, powerviolence generally refers to bands who musically focus on speed, brevity, bizarre timing breakdowns, and constant tempo changes. Powerviolence songs are often very short; it is not uncommon for some to last less than 30 seconds. Some groups, particularly Man Is the Bastard, Suffering Luna, No Le$$, and Gasp took influence from progressive rock, jazz fusion, and noise.
Powerviolence groups tend to be very raw and underproduced, both sonically and in their packaging. Some groups (Man Is the Bastard and Dropdead) took influence from anarcho-punk and crust punk, emphasizing animal rights and anti-militarism. Groups such as Despise You and Suffering Luna wrote lyrics about misanthropy, drugs, and inner-city issues. Groups such as Spazz or Charles Bronson, on the other hand, wrote lyrics mocking points of interest for hardcore and metal fans, or even used inside jokes for lyrics, referencing specific people many of their listeners would not know.
Other groups associated with powerviolence included Assück, His Hero Is Gone, Cattlepress, Black Army Jacket, Hellnation, Charles Bronson, and Rorschach. The doom metal group Burning Witch also released on Slap-A-Ham and played shows with powerviolence groups.
Powerviolence groups had a strong influence on later grindcore acts, such as Agoraphobic Nosebleed. The Locust became acclaimed in both the grindcore and noise rock scenes. Mark McCoy of Charles Bronson went on to form Das Oath, a popular thrashcore group. Members of Man Is the Bastard formed Bastard Noise. Rorschach became a prominent influence for the metalcore scene.
A handful of bands from the powerviolence scene of the 1990s have continued to record and perform decades later, including Capitalist Casualties, Despise You, Lack of Interest, Suffering Luna, and Stapled Shut.