North Carolina Straight Edge: An Observation

Substance (Photo: Angela Owens)

Other than myself, my entire family is from North Carolina. I spent my childhood going to different cities there for various reasons, be it Raleigh, Greensboro or Nags Head. In my formative years when I thought about North Carolina the things that came to mind were good cooking and college sports. I never would have expected to associate the state with a burgeoning straight edge scene, but here were are in 2018 and that is exactly what comes to mind when I think of North Carolina.

For the past year I have been observing what has been going on in North Carolina in my periphery. The first band I noticed was a band called Substance. Their style clearly takes cues from The First Step, which makes sense considering they are the NC straight edge band of years of yore. I saw Substance play a couple shows around the beginning of 2017, a friend was putting out their record and a few associates said they were worth checking out. Substance has a 7’ called Hardpoint that to some might seem like rudimentary Youth Crew, but there’s an energy (as there is with a lot of the bands in this particular scene) that reminds me of the energy I felt listening to Bold and Youth of Today at 16.

When I saw them, they each had X's boldly emblazoned on their hands. As someone who loves an unapologetic straight edge band, my interest was piqued. The sets I saw them play, I enjoyed, but I considered them an anomaly. I thought they would end up being an “a la carte” band so to speak and that other bands of their vein and conviction would most likely not pop up around them, but I’m happy to say, I was incorrect.

The first time I heard the band Magnitude, what I noticed most was the music. These days I feel a lot of bands when they look towards '90s hardcore influence, opt for something technical and overtly metallic. With Magnitude, that’s not what I was hearing. What I was hearing on the demo was straight-forward parts nodding to the faster elements of Strife, coupled with the simple but effective heavier parts of Trial.

Magnitude (Photo: Zach Rogers)

Admittedly, on my first listen to Magnitude, I got what they were doing but it didn’t 100% grab me. I ended up playing a show with them in North Carolina and was convinced a little of their caliber by how passionate the local kids there were reacting to them. Eventually they released Era of Attrition, I checked it out and again felt the same as I did before, but the turning point on how I viewed them was coming. I watched their set at FYA and really felt what was going on. How people reacted to them, how they sounded, the raw energy, I liked it.

I recently saw a video from their record release of a room of kids screaming along to their song “Defy." Upon watching this I conceded to the fact that something special was going on with this band. To elicit a room full of kids to pile on one another and sing in unison in an era where some favor who can merely be the heaviest, that’s something to notice. 

Coming from a completely different angle in this particular scene is the band Search for Purpose. This is the one band from this collective of bands that I have yet to see, and unfortunately for me, it is the band I want to see the most. The first offering I heard of this band was the two promo songs they recently released for an upcoming 12” entitled Eternal Emotion that will be coming out on Plead Your Case Records (also the home of Magnitude). The tracks themselves had some singing that albeit a little unpolished (hey, it’s hardcore) was something that few newer bands would even try and I respected the fact that their singer Matt was just going for it; I was picking up the later Turning Point vibe they were paying respect to.

These two songs caused me to check out their previous releases of which I was really into. I love how melody is making a return in hardcore in a tasteful way and I think Search for Purpose, depending on what their future holds, will be looked at as one of the bands that started that swing in that direction. In keeping with this style Search for Purpose has a lot of introspective lyrical content, which I think is a nice contrast to the finger pointing lyrical styles of many bands within the genre. I want to experience what this band is like live, so I hope to see them soon.

Search for Purpose (Photo: Kaleb Perdue)

I can see it at the shows, I can see it in the videos, the pictures and online interactions. This current crop of straight edge bands and the group of kids around them exemplifies to me what hardcore is about in its purest form. These bands are creating hardcore music that is different in style from one another, but all coming from the same place (figuratively and literally), the kids around them identify with their message and resonate with what they are about. Some of the aspects of their bands are definitely new, but the raw potential and the youthful energy each ensemble brings is something special. I am excited and anticipate seeing what the future holds for North Carolina straight edge.