The Best of the Underground: A Decade in Review

Alanna Weissman

The first 10 years of the twenty-first century have proven to be a decade of evolution for the underground music scene. Since the British roots of the punk rock movement in the 70s and the emergence of American hardcore in the 80s, the past 10 years have, arguably, provided the greatest shift in the many genres collectively referred to as underground or, more colloquially, “the Scene.” (The use of the term “the Scene” is not to be confused with the scene style of dress; though the two sometimes overlap, each is not, despite popular opinion, in any way required for the other.)

By definition, underground music is any genre not in the mainstream; songs are unlikely to be played on public radio – due to explicit lyrics, unusual (read: “screamo”) vocals and/or general lack of mainstream listeners – and are likely unknown to anyone not involved in the Scene. But to those of us who are Scene members, the underground represents so much more: a lust for the adrenaline rush of a circle pit, the devotion to the “starving artist” lifestyle, the refusal to “sell out,” even if it means your fan base is smaller and, most importantly, the idea that musical beauty can (and often does) exist outside of the mainstream and that the creation of and pursuit of this perfec­tion of (nonconformist) beauty is more important than fame, fortune or mainstream rock star status. (That’s not to say, how­ever, that underground fans such as myself cannot appreciate mainstream gems such as Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody” or Nelly’s “Just a Dream.”) It is this mentality that has led to the recent creation of underground subgenres such as post-hard­core and metalcore (to name two of the most popular ones), as well as even more recent hybrid genres such as “crunkcore” (post-hardcore and electronica and/or rap).

The casual listener scarcely can hear differences between the various underground genres. However, to a veteran member of the Scene, the distinctions are obvious, the nuances elegant. Though a thorough explanation of these subgenres is far too complex to explain within the space constraints of this article, my hope is that one can become exposed to the differences through a close listening of underground music. Here, I list my personal top 30 of the last decade and, while some bands may be deeper in the underground than others, the albums (though not necessarily the artists) named still represent, in one way or another, the Scene mentality so essential to keeping the under­ground alive.

30. Deftones, Diamond Eyes (2010)

Subgenre: Experimental-metal

29. Alesana, On Frail Wings of Vanity and Wax (2007)

Subgenre: Post-hardcore

28. Breathe Carolina, Hello Fascination (2009)

Subgenre: Electronica-hardcore (“crunkcore”)

27. Killswitch Engage, Killswitch Engage (2000)

Subgenre: Metalcore

26. Hollywood Undead, Swan Songs (2008)

Subgenre: Rapcore

25. Saosin, In Search of Solid Ground (2009)

Subgenre: Post-hardcore

24. We Came as Romans, To Plant a Seed (2009)

Subgenre: Post-hardcore

23. Story of the Year, Page Avenue (2003)

Subgenre: Post-hardcore

22. Black Veil Brides, We Stitch These Wounds (2010)

Subgenre: Post-hardcore

21. My Chemical Romance, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge (2004)

Subgenre: Alt

20. The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Don’t You Fake It (2006)

Subgenre: Post-hardcore

19. Paramore, Riot! (2007)

Subgenre: Pop-punk

18. Aiden, Knives (2009)

Subgenre: Post-hardcore/horror

17. blessthefall, Witness (2009)

Subgenre: Metalcore

16. Alkaline Trio, This Addiction (2010)

Subgenre: Post-punk

15. The Used, Lies for the Liars (2007)

Subgenre: Post-hardcore

14. I Am Ghost, Those We Leave Behind (2008)

Subgenre: Gothic

13. Escape the Fate, This War is Ours (2008)

Subgenre: Metalcore

12. Bullet for My Valentine, Fever (2010)

Subgenre: Metalcore

11. Papa Roach, Metamorphosis (2009)

Subgenre: Metal

10. Scary Kids Scaring Kids, Scary Kids Scaring Kids (2008)

Subgenre: Post-hardcore

9. Hinder, Extreme Behavior (2005)

Subgenre: Alt

8. Silverstein, A Shipwreck in the Sand (2009)

Subgenre: Post-hardcore

7. Hawthorne Heights, If Only You Were Lonely (2006)

Subgenre: Post-hardcore

6. A Day to Remember, Homesick (2008)

Subgenre: Pop-punk

5. Three Days Grace, One X (2006)

Subgenre: Alt

4. Lostprophets, Start Something (2004)

Subgenre: Post-hardcore

3. AFI, Sing the Sorrow (2003)

Subgenre: Post-hardcore

2. Aiden, Nightmare Anatomy (2006)

Subgenre: Post-hardcore

1. AFI, Decemberunderground (2006)

Subgenre: Post-hardcore