I remember conversations I would have with a fellow music-obsessed friend of mine back around the end of the '80s where we would talk about groove riffs and how we couldn't understand why more hardcore bands didn't use them more frequently. We were talking about the mosh pit-inducing parts that groups like Killing Time and Leeway had, but only used sporadically. We were unaware that a lot of other people felt the same way we did, because soon after those conversations/complaints, a wave of hardcore acts appeared on the scene that brought the groove riff assault in a big way. Today, I'm sharing my list of the five bands that I think did the style the best.
Most people refer to this kind of stuff as "beatdown hardcore," so that's what we'll use today.
*Bands like Madball, Hatebreed, and Terror didn't fall under my criteria for this list
Led by vocalist Kevone, Bulldoze are perhaps the biggest influence on the breakdown-heavy hardcore bands that came after them in the mid-'90s and beyond. Seeing this band live back when they first hit the New York hardcore scene was a trip! Within a few seconds after the guitar amplifiers would start buzzing from being turned on, the dance floor would begin to open up, anticipating the first barrage of riffs. No matter what your opinions are about this subset of hardcore, there's no denying Bulldoze knew how to do it well. If you dig this band, you need to click here to check out Terror Zone, another beatdown band that featured Kevone on the mic.
Essential groove riffs found on: "The Truth," "Hypocrite," "Bulldoze"
Next Step Up
Baltimore tough guys Next Step Up always made sure their songs had at least three or four groove riffs for you to bob your head to. Singer J.R. Glass' gruff delivery coupled with Mike Ayres' thick guitar tone was a lethal combination, hitting you in the face like a fist with brass knuckles on tracks like "Bringing Back the Glory" and "Fall From Grace." No, there wasn't anything remotely subtle about Next Step Up, and who would want it any other way?
Essential groove riffs found on: "Bringing Back the Glory," "L.A. Story," "Hardcore"
Long Island, New York's Neglect called their strain of hardcore "hatecore," and while that definitely fits their approach, most people know them as one of the kings of the beatdown style. Many of their contemporaries wrote exclusively about revenge and urban decay, Neglect took a different lyrical path. Most of their material found singer Brian Zoid tackling his inner demons, and the results are some of the most depressive lyrics you'll ever hear in hardcore. On the groove front, there's something to sink your teeth into in every track in the band's discography.
Essential groove riffs found on: "L.S.S. (Life Support System)," "Pure Living Hell," "Lost"
We aren't sure what Confusion bassist Michael Scondotto would think about his former band being referred to as "beatdown hardcore," but the moshy grooves on their Taste of Hate EP don't lie. During their run in the early to mid-'90s, Confusion opened many metal bills at L'Amour in their hometown of Brooklyn, NY—a testament to their thrash and death metal roots. That influence comes through most in their guitar sound, but the rhythmic attack of the band always had the pit in mind.
Essential groove riffs found on: "Confusion," "A Fatal Infection," "Distorted Visions"
Back when mixtapes were still an essential form of music trading, Grimlock's "Bring the Pain" made it onto many homemade mosh compilations. That wasn't the only beatdown jam the Boston band released during their on again/off again career in the '90s and '00s. Fun fact: Grimlock vocalist John Cimino was known to do push-ups during their live sets. Sure, it's something you have probably never seen before at a music performance, but does it really suprise you coming from a band on this list?
Essential groove riffs found on: "Bring the Pain," "Feed My Rage," "24"