Hardcore is destined to psych up antsy punks in any given dingy basement. Picture the heads nodding, the pit forming, the beverages spilling on already-dirtied shirts as bodies thrash into one another... and then the lyrics kick in.
Imagine these words belted with a raw throat and intensity beyond compare: "I am set apart by holiness to love and to give / To observe how Jesus lived and to follow in his footsteps!" This is the message of Minneapolis group Watchmen. It's all hardcore as usual until someone drops the big G.O.D., and they're far from the only band doing this.
A strong scene formed around similar beliefs and musical approaches has cropped up around the state. Here are 10 of Minnesota's best Christian hardcore bands.
Word Will Spread is comprised of five Morris natives who range from high school freshmen to college juniors, as exemplified the braces and self-proclaimed love for energy drinks and "trendy beanies." Four of the members make up two sets of brothers, with the Lahrs on bass and guitar and the Tiernans on drums and vocals. We're especially fond of their video for "Undignified," which appears to be set in a barn and features the guitarists playing and jumping off milk crates. On their Facebook page, Word Will Spread lists their influences as "The Holy Spirit, the Bible... and probably Rockstar Energy Drink." The energy drink influence shows -- this is one enthusiastic group.
On Sunday, See the Rise played their last show ever at the Skyway Theater. In their three years together, the band managed to score spots at both Vans Warped Tour and Minnesota's own Christian music fest, Sonshine, in 2013. The band released two EPs, including Out of the Ordinary in and The Theft, featuring songs like "The Stolen Friend," "The Stolen Love," and "The Stolen Home." You get the idea. See the Rise considered themselves a hardcore band, but incorporated elements of screamo and metal, making them a perfect match for the Warped Tour crowd.
Watchmen is a hardcore band that formed in Minneapolis in March, 2013. So far, they've only released an EP, but they don't seem to be slowing down anytime soon. The group plays straightforward basement hardcore with intensely posi lyrics, like Good Clean Fun for Christians, and shares members with Household (found later on the list). Check out the track "Gray World" off their EP. It's still super Christian, but not as blatant. We're excited to see what Watchmen can do with better recording capabilities.[page]
At Mourning's End is an anomaly on our list as one of the only Christian hardcore bands in the area featuring a female singer/screamer. The band combines hardcore, melodic metal, and screamo, and the addition of clean-singing female vocals gives them an occasional Cradle of Filth feel. But don't let that deter you.
Though the band's 2012 self-titled full length was solid throughout, it was quickly outshined by the release of The Wolf In Sheep's Clothing EP in September of last year, which showed drastic improvements in vocals and transitions. Perhaps it had something to do with the band's decision to replace 3/5 of their members last year.
Household's short and sweet Facebook bio simply reads, "Jesus only." Besides their lyrical content, such proclamations are the only thing that sets them apart from non-Christian Twin Cities hardcore punk bands. And maybe that's how it should be. They mosh, have mullets, play in basements, wear back patches... and love God. On January 10, they released a music video for their song "Reservoir," which is one of the tightest on our list. And, yay -- a female lead guitarist!
Couriers is a post-hardcore band hailing from St. Paul. They released their first EP, Deciduous, in December of last year. By the sounds of it, they have a promising Christian hardcore future in front of them. The EP was funded in part by Indiegogo for which two of the members made an endearingly awkward promo video that we feel obliged to share.
According to their Indiegogo bio, the band is comprised of "Couriers, or messengers of the Word of God. By no means the only or even the best messengers, just five guys from Minnesota who dream of sharing our passion and love for Christ through music." Though Couriers only made a fourth of what they hoped to take in with the campaign, they still managed to release a well-recorded EP.
According to their Facebook page, Zealot's mission is to, "Play music that makes you feel as angry as we have felt, and back up our sound with lyrics we hope you can relate to." Do they succeed? We think so. For their 2012 Abonination EP, the band wrote their lyrics from Satan's perspective. In the titular track, vocalist Austin Scherzberg screams, "I want to watch you suffer and burn.I want to see the tears roll down your face. Welcome to hell! You have failed!" It's like black metal with a silver lining! The final track of the EP, "Hope For You," seems to end the aural trip to hell on a positive note, promising that, "In the challenges of life God has a hope for you." But before you can raise your hands and rejoice, they end the album with this: "No one remembers you when you're dead." Brutal. Look for Zealots new EP, Learned Hate, in the next few months.[page]
Your Memorial have released a total of three albums, including "Seasons," "Atonement," and "Redirect." Last March, they announced that the band would be taking a break from touring and are only set to play two shows this year, both of which are Christian festivals. Your Memorial is not only the most popular band on our list -- they also win the best Christian metalcore music video competition with "Shipwreck," by which we mean, "Holy shit, this video is ridiculous." We're talking hair flipping, squatting behind driftwood, and lying face down in the sand ridiculous. It's hard not to love it.
Venia, meaning "grace" in Latin, was a Minneapolis-based hardcore band signed to Virginia's exclusively Christian label, Blood and Ink Records. The band put out a total of two full lengths, Convictions and Frozen Hands, and an EP called I've Lost All Faith in Myself. In 2008, HXCChristian.com asked Venia if they thought of their music as minstry. "We do consider our music a ministry! In fact that is exactly what it is, and all it is. We do this for God and God alone... This is the way we are giving back to His kingdom, and this is His ministry through us. We pray daily for His guidance with our ministry." The group disbanded in 2012, but some of the members have since joined with members of Advent and Jawbone to form Torn (see below).
Regardless of your religious background, it's worth giving Torn's new demo a listen. Torn consists of Ben Kocinski of Venia (Minnesota), Joe Musten of Advent (North Carolina), and Aaron Travis and Neil Engleman of Jawbone (Indiana). Somehow, the three managed to record and combine their separate parts from their respective home states to form one of the best hardcore demos we've heard in a long time -- Christian or not. In mid-February, Torn told faith-based online publication HM Magazine that they "were trying to sound like '90s hardcore, like Turmoil and Buried Alive. Advent had more of a Converge influence. We stuck with more basic and heavier riffs." Whatever they did, it worked. Two weeks after releasing their demo on Bandcamp, they reached the maximum number of free downloads. But not to worry -- you can still download the demo for free from their Facebook.