Powerviolence is an underground music scene that erupted across California especially in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Although it wasn't strictly limited to this area, it seemed the majority of the most influential artists were rooted there. Powerviolence takes the blueprints of Hardcore Punk and Grindcore, but adds in extremely spastic song tempos. Often songs with a similar runtime and brutality to Grindcore, suddenly change into extremely slow Sludge Metal riffs, and then back into fast Grindcore. Powerviolence can often be mistaken as a crossover between Grindcore and Hardcore Punk, as the blastbeats and short song lengths are similar to Grindcore, yet the riffs and shouty vocals are more similar to Hardcore Punk. Key bands of the subgenre were often signed to the label Slap a Ham Records, created by Chris Dodge, the frontman of another Powerviolence band, SPAZZ. Key artists include No Comment, Infest, Gasp, Man Is the Bastard and Crossed Out. Some of them split up before even making a full length album, leaving behind highly influential EPs, demos and complete discography compilations.
The key to making a good Powerviolence song was the ability for the band to have quite a tighter chemistry than the typical sloppy attitude to musicianship attributed to a lot of Hardcore Punk and Grindcore. The bands had to be able to pull off their sporadic and sudden tempo changes back and forth between fast blastbeat driven playing and extremely slow sections. This became a huge challenge to perform live, but added to the intensity of the music. Crossed Out's "Lowlife" and No Comment's "Downsided" are typically known as landmark songs that define the Powerviolence sound. Although bands such as Man Is the Bastard pushed the boundaries further, adding long, drawn out Ambient, Electronic and Drone sections inbetween the short Grindcore outbursts. Gasp also added drawn out psychedelic guitar jamming and Power Electronics, weaved in and out of Grindcore and Hardcore Punk sections.
The scene seemed to die out in the early to mid 1990s, as most of the influential bands of the movement split up or took their sound in different directions, leaving the original releases (often on single size vinyl only) much sought after. However throughout the late 1990s and the 2000s, many Powerviolence revival bands started to crop up, such as Charles Bronson, Bucket Full of Teeth and Hatred Surge. Not to mention some newer Grindcore and Hardcore Punk artists have taken influences from Powerviolence in their own music, such as Insect Warfare.