A subgenre of hardcore punk that evolved from emo and other genres in the early ‘90s. The term initially applied to an aggressive offshoot of emo that developed in San Diego in 1991. Screamo gained popularity in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. By mid-2000s the over-saturation of the scene encouraged bands to incorporate more experimental elements.
Nathan "Morty" Morton, who sets up shows in Des Moines and runs the iowahardcore.com Web site, says the first emo bands are considered to be Rites of Spring and Embrace, both formed by musicians who would later start the band Fugazi. "Bands that followed the inspiration of those types of emo, as opposed to the poppy route taken by Sunny Day Realestate and Promise Ring/Get Up Kids type stuff that passes as emo, were what basically became `screamo.'" He says Portrait of the Past, on Ebullition Records, is considered the first screamo band. From there, the East and West Coast scenes took off.
When screamo was unveiled, it was meant to be a reprise of hardcore punk and emo music. It originally stuck to the main hard rock instruments (bass, drums and a dominant lead guitar). However, over time, this music underwent some changes and bands started to experiment with different sounds, keyboards and synthesizers soon took up a fixed spot. As the screamo sound kept changing, notable shifts in tempos and rhythms were also included. Today, after all the experimentation, what we call screamo is something that of a cross between emo and punk.
Though initial bands began appearing around this time [early 1990s] , it wasn’t until the late ‘90s/ early 2000s that many had entered mainstream consciousness. Some of these early bands included Saetia and City of Caterpillar, but screamo was made drastically more popular by later bands like Thursday, the Used, Glassjaw, Thrice, Poison the Well, and MTV favorites, Story of the Year and Hawthorne Heights.
It's not about anger, or about anarchy (not punk, in other words, though the sound has an antecedent there), but instead a kind of declaration of emotional unguardedness, a risk-taking intimacy that's less apparent in the music than in the lyrics, which are so trustingly earnest that at first blush they don't seem to sync up to the music at all. And therein, for those of us exiled from the country of the young, lies screamo's appeal: not the hyper-assertive guitar attack or the sensitive teen-poet lyricism, but the unlikely marriage of two rock tropes.
These vocals are often layered or appear side-by-side amid aggressive, hard-hitting guitar licks used to trigger an exhaustive, emotional catharsis. For many groups, like Senses Fail and Vendetta Red, lyrics often boasted violent or bloody imagery alongside subject matter dealing with overwhelming angst and relationships. By the mid-2000s, the over-saturation of the screamo scene had caused many bands to begin purposefully expanding past the genre’s trademark sing/scream dynamics to remain relevant.
The music is usually a blisteringly macho punk assault tenderized by sharp hooks and sensitive-on-the-inside lyrics (think the quiet-quiet-LOUD dynamic of Nirvana but with choruses about dispirited teens rather than teen spirit).
The name is derived from the vocal-cord-shredding delivery that the lead singers favor and from emo, that contentious, ill-defined genre of confessional pop-punk. Bands that get stuck with the label range from angsty platinum chart-toppers Linkin Park and nu-metal balladeers Deftones to spacey operatic up-and-comers Coheed and Cambria.
The name screamo derives from two sources, the first of which requires a brief lexicology. ''Hardcore'' is an umbrella word referring to loud, fast music scored almost exclusively for guitars -- a kind of confluence of the sensibilities of punk and heavy metal. Eight or 10 years ago, a hardcore tributary emerged that came to be known as ''emo'' (short for ''emotional''), signifying a kind of music that eschewed rock-idol posturing in favor of a more personal, vulnerable, unpretentious approach, onstage and especially lyrically.
There is no set definition of what screamo sounds like but screaming over once deafeningly loud rocking noise and suddenly quiet, melodic guitar lines is a theme commonly affiliated with the genre. There are many names for this style of music. Some call it screamo, others call it emotional hardcore, and some prefer not to label their sound at all.
To the punk community, a genre like screamo had already hit rock bottom a few years ago, so the idea that a handful of kids would remix lowest-common-denominator screamo with crunk beats, misappropriated gangsterisms, and the extreme garishness of emo fashion was sure to incite hate-filled diatribes. It's called scrunk, a bastardized combination of crunk and screamo, and it's the hottest thing since sliced bread joined Twitter.