6 Bands Collapsing the Boundary Between Hardcore and Death Metal

tom morgan
Year of the Knife

Although hardcore could easily be misconstrued as a rigid and dogmatic genre, its extensive 40-plus year history brims with cross-pollination and experimentation. Beatdown, powerviolence, crossover thrash, post-hardcore, screamo; the list of mutations goes on and on. The genre revels in iconoclasm, the tearing down of approaches in place of the bracingly new. While death metal’s inherent intensity means it hasn’t always strayed quite as far from familiar sonic surroundings, it’s slithered its gruesome tendrils towards myriad melodic, brutal and symphonic experiments. Both are rich and fluid genres that have spent their histories in a state of violent metamorphosis. 

The development of the two are closely-linked. Hardcore arrived first, and its influence has been cited by numerous early death metal acts. Around the turn of the 1990s, the styles started to merge. Termed metalcore, the likes of Integrity and Rorsharch were some of the key early acts to occupy this dark new middle ground. As the decade progressed, scenes like Belgium’s H8000, featuring awesome bands like Arkangel and Liar, loaded up their tough-edged hardcore with kinetic death metal riffs, while in late ’90s America, cult acts Disembodied and Undying conjured up intense and groove-filled ragers that sat somewhere between arm-swinging hardcore and intense death metal.

This is a very potted history, highlighting just a sprinkle of the key players. Here’s some links to some awesome early metalcore playlists for those who want to study this fusion a little closer. This coalescence of the two genres is long and complicated and we haven’t even got to the 2000’s and metalcore going mainstream as well as deathcore, mathcore and myriad other mutations. Let’s just say hardcore and death metal have grown up parallel to one another; siblings of different ages that have been both estranged and close-knit at various points in their lives.

To skip ahead to today; hardcore is having something of a moment. It’s a thrilling time in the genre, not the least of the reasons why being the variance in sounds from the ever-growing numbers of bands in the scene. The last few years have seen a fun micro-trend where lifer death metal bands are playing (and headlining) traditional hardcore fests, while younger acts like Fuming Mouth, 200 Stab Wounds and Creeping Death are also frequently appearing on the same lineups. Then, on the flipside of this very thin coin, there’s scene-leading young hardcore bands like Sunami and Moment Of Truth that play a form of beatdown so heavy it teeters on death metal levels of bludgeon.

This list aims to explore that razor-thin line where hardcore and death metal dissolve into one another. There’s a ton of killer acts blending the genres together so fluently that they amalgamate into a head-spinningly heavy and unique fusion. This list looks at six key younger acts in the canon; ones that are thriving in this current milieu that is notable for its increasing and exciting degrees of genre-fluidity. Check out these six bands and go swing those arms down at your local venue.

Year Of The Knife

Any discussion of Year Of The Knife must note last year’s bus crash that landed vocalist Madi Watkins in hospital. The outpouring of love towards to YOTK was great to see (their Go Fund Me raised over $250,000) and Madi is now fortunately playing music again. This speaks to how potent and revered the band’s ruthless brand of extremity is. While their early releases followed the contours of linear brutal hardcore, last year’s No Love Lost brought in more blastbeats and guest vocals from members of Full Of Hell and Sanguisugabogg. This has pulled the Delaware mob into a scene-leading space somewhere between hardcore and death metal. Also, check out Madi and husband Brandon’s side project Damnation Domain, if you want some more straight-up metal.


On their Bandcamp page’s description, Kruelty describe themselves as “disgusting music from Tokyo, Japan”. That just about sums them up. Their blend of mid tempo chugs, hallowed vocals and two-stepable rhythms coalesces as a gleefully-nasty blend of hardcore and death metal. 2023 full-length Untopia found the band effortlessly traversing both sides of the divide, releasing the album on extreme metal label Profound Lore while also decimating hardcore festival’s including L.A.’s Sound & Fury and Tokyo’s Bloodaxe. If you’re a US reader, go check them out this easter on a frankly ridiculous tour bill with Dying Fetus, Full Of Hell and 200 Stab Wounds.

Gates To Hell

Similar to Kruelty in their groove-laden swagger, though more fearsomely-technical, are Kentucky’s Gates To Hell. Birthed from the same scene as heavy hardcore world-beaters Knocked Loose, this five-piece have recently signed with behemoths Nuclear Blast Records; a label with a sharp eye for metal and hardcore crossovers, counting the likes of Malevolence, Nails and Fuming Mouth among their versatile roster. Gates To Hell’s self-titled 2022 debut is an obtuse and mean-as-hell collection of breakdowns and blasts, while their recently-released track “Resurrected” offers an even more refined vision of the band’s white-hot fusion. Expect a very strong near-future release from this young band.


Ingrown are the definition of “no frills”. The Idaho trio’s 2021 debut album was simply titled Gun, and their music (which also draws on intense powerviolence) is similarly unfussy and pared down to its most ruthless necessities. They’re less intricate than most death metal bands, but have a penchant for caveman blasts (check out Gun’s exhilarating highlight “Waste”) and monstrously-ugly vocals courtesy of frontman/guitarist Ross Hansen. Their latest release, last year’s Cold Steel/Grunt, infused a cavernous production style and more rapid-fire double kick into their sound, offering a scorching peek at where these outlaws might be heading next.


Deadbody’s 2022 full-length The Requiem arrived as a full-formed beast. The pedigree of the nascent project’s members makes them worth the inclusion on this list alone; Colin and Taylor Young of hardcore acts Twitching Tongues and God’s Hate, along with Miles McIntosh of death metallers Apparition and Jorge Herra from powerviolence crews Despise You and ACxDC. The Requiem is an absolute face-melter, full of epic solos (“Joy of Torture”), ferocious riffs (“Without Honor”) and bold structures (“Dead Body”). It’s endlessly punishing, not least for the prolific Young brothers, who put in a pair of vocal performances for the ages. 


Potentially the most feral act on this list, Delaware’s Scarab are a genuinely-intimidating proposition. They put out a pair of monstrous EP’s last year, which utilized whirlwind tempos, serrated death metal guitar tones and the throat-shredding vocals of ex-Year Of The Knife frontman Tyler Mullen. YouTube is littered with awesome live sets of the band, which manage to stand out even in this crowded corner of the internet and also show off how tight the relatively young Scarab already are. The future looks extremely bright for this outrageously heavy band.

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