Melodic hardcore is a genre not many people are familiar with by name. Deriving from skate punk, the genre incorporates sounds from punk rock and hardcore punk, blending harsh and gritty vocals with melodic guitar riffs. Bands like Avenged Sevenfold and Killswitch Engaged set the bar for the broad genre with their hit songs drawing all types of attention from the media.
When most people hear melodic hardcore, they often confuse it with regular punk music, but the definition is far more than just the overall sound. While melodic hardcore shares similar vocals to punk, the melodies and rhythms of the songs are what differentiate the two genres.
Both genres have a similar 4/4 time signature. Melodic hardcore tends to have the faster tempo of the two, averaging at about 195 beats per minute. As for the typical meaning for each genre, punk tends to be political while melodic hardcore takes a more emotional and personal route with the lyrical content.
Melodic hardcore is still around, although the relevancy is waning. Bands tend to fall into either pop-punk or punk-rock with very little in between. Four Year Strong, a Massachusetts-based melodic hardcore band, happens to fall into the in-between.
On Feb. 28, Four Year Strong released “Brain Pain,” their seventh studio album that features 12 tracks ranging from the band’s relevancy among the youth to personal internal conflicts among the band.
Four Year Strong has been around for almost 20 years now, and in those near 20 years, the band has racked up quite the legacy. Prior to Four Year Strong’s 2010 album “Enemy of the World” Alternative Press, an America-based music magazine, posted an article that essentially called the band out for copying repetitive sounds, claiming it would not get them very far.
The article closed with “It must really suck to be Four Year Strong right now,” and while that might be a low blow to some bands, Four Year Strong used it to their advantage. The first single released from “Enemy of the World” was titled “It Must Really Suck to Be Four Year Strong Right Now,” which shows just how determined the band is to prosper, despite criticism from the media.
The mindset of writing songs just to spite the media and the people against what the band stands for is still relevant when it comes to “Brain Pain.” Several of the songs on the album deal with how to break away from the people in life who try to bring you down when you succeed and how to become your own person, despite what others may think of you.
My top three tracks from “Brain Pain” are “Get out of My Head,” “Brain Pain,” and “The Worst Part About Me.”
One of the defining factors of melodic hardcore is the infectious rhythm and riffs placed throughout the songs. “Get out of My Head” starts with a distorted guitar riff that, while simple in chords, adds just the right amount of the “hardcore” sound.
Melodically, this song is a prime example of melodic hardcore. With the previously praised guitar riffs layered over strained vocals and steady drum rhythm, “Get out of My Head” checks all of the boxes of the seemingly complex genre.
The lyrics of “Get out of My Head” are a glance into the mind of a person with anxiety. The narrator of the song explains what it is like laying up at night, constantly thinking about all of the terrors in the world.
Several of the lines in this song discuss the overwhelming sensation of knowing about all of the negativity in the world, yet not being able to do anything about it. In one of the verses, the narrator sings about how difficult piecing yourself back together can be, claiming that the broken pieces no longer fit in the same place.
That sense of brokenness repeated throughout the song shows the obsessive thoughts someone with anxiety faces on a day-to-day basis, the only thing offering any solace is the hope that the thoughts will get out of their head.
The title track of this album captured my attention with the intricate melodies throughout the song. “Brain Pain” is my favorite song instrumental wise with the infectious rhythm that blends the booming drums with distorted guitar riffs.
Lyrically, “Brain Pain” is similar to “Get out of My Head.” Both songs tend to focus on personal insecurities and anxieties that plague a person’s mind at an inconvenient time. The lyrics show a person’s thought process when anxieties get the better of them, asking themselves questions regarding their own purpose and existence.
That is something I think Four Year Strong does remarkably well–when most bands write a song about anxious and obsessive thoughts, it tends to get repetitive. With songs like “Brain Pain,” listeners get a new perspective regarding the specific thoughts running through someone’s mind and the things they tell themselves to calm down.
My favorite song lyrically from “Brain Pain” is “The Worst Part About Me.” For me, this song is a power anthem, a song about dropping toxic people in life.
“The Worst Part About Me” refers to not a personal attribute, but rather a person in the narrator’s life. In life, people tend to have a close circle of friends that they tend to do everything with. In some cases, there is a toxic person in the circle, constantly tearing people down and using the other people in the group for their own benefit.
This song counters that and shows the person that was being torn down, rising above and standing up for themself. It is a powerful song, no doubt, with the singer belting the chorus that calls out toxicity, claiming for the person to be the worst part about them.
It is not easy to drop toxic people in life, especially if you were close to them. “The Worst Part About Me” puts that into perspective, showing that while it is beneficial to drop toxic people in life, it can be an emotional challenge as well.
Four Year Strong has always been one of my go-to bands whenever I need loud, high-intensity music. Their music, while energizing, can be calming. Sure, melodic hardcore is known for the shouting vocals and powerful instrumentals, but the way Four Year Strong executes it in their music is, to simply put it, inspiring.
This story was originally published on The Prowler on March 14, 2020.