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Soft-core punks

Hardcore punk has gone soft. It’s no longer the music it was in the early 90s, with screaming frontmen, angry drums, and guitars so fast that one stroke was indistinguishable from the next.

The latest evidence of this change is Snapcase’s End Transmission, a powerful yet palatable album driven by melodic guitars and energetic vocals, seemingly geared toward a wider audience than those punk kids of old – the new crowd likes their music loud, but not too loud.

In deference, Snapcase has toned down their music. For a group that prides itself on integrity, it’s a surprise that their new album has so much mass market appeal.

However, fans who have been with the band since they formed in 1991, will recognize the music as something that has grown out of the distinct East Coast hardcore genre.

But even though it’s quieter, the music is hardly meek. Drummer Tim Redmond couples with bassist Dustin Perry to create formidable, insistent rhythms that push the songs forward.

The tempo may drop occasionally, but the music never lags. Dissonant guitars and highly structured chord progressions also keep the pace of the album up, even when some of the songs quiet down (in a move eerily reminiscent of the emo derivative “screamo”).

Fortunately, Snapcase has kept their lyrical content purely hardcore, with songs about the pitfalls of complacency. The song “First World” rages against cultural imperialism and the questionable impacts of technologies like genetic cloning.

On “Believe, Revolt,” vocalist Daryl Taberski chants “There’s hope for a revolution. Get off the assembly line!”

Thoughtful, contemplative lyrics provide meditations on the future and contain notes on how to effect change.

Taberski is keeping his punk past close, not yet ready to change the ideology of what he sings about, even when the musical style of the songs he’s singing is changing.

His chant-like vocals are a particularly unifying force on the album, connecting each song to the next almost seamlessly.

They also provide the clearest link to Snapcase’s louder, harder musical past.

Taberski’s vocals have been stylistically consistent for several years, while the music around them has changed from simplistic and power chord driven to complex, effects-laden and drawn out.

Though perhaps never the beacons of hardcore they seem to imagine themselves to be, Snapcase has certainly been close to the forefront of the musical movement they strive to embody.

With this new direction, they’re sending the message that it’s perhaps time to retire traditional, three chord hardcore, musically if not ideologically.

If this is indicative of the shape of hardcore to come, let it.