(Published on February 23rd, 2016)
The Bronx. The birthplace of Hip-hop, home of the New York Yankees, home to the former underground rock show booking company Bronx Underground. These are the few things that come to mind when I think of the Bronx. Nowadays, I have been thinking of something. What if the Bronx was also the place where a lot of hardcore, screamo and metal bands came from and got signed and made it big? We have only been looked at as the birthplace of Hip-hop music and culture but what about rock music? Can’t really say much because the Bronx never really got the credit when it was due. Too many bands from New York like Stray from the Path, Sylar, Emmure, Agnostic Front, Endwell, Every Time I Die and It Dies Today who made it big came out of Queens, Brooklyn, Long Island, upstate, etc. but never from the Bronx. Too many good bands originated in the Bronx but never really took off the way people and even the bands themselves expected them to.
Bands who came out from the Bronx like Turns to Fall, Empire, Daly’s Gone Wrong in my opinion definitely had the tools needed to get signed and tour and really put the Bronx on the map as far as rock music goes (make it on MTV, get radio play, music appearing on Headbangers Ball, etc.). They even booked their own shows and tours for that matter. People who went to their shows at the First Lutheran Church in the Bronx would say the exact same thing. In the end, these bands ended falling short or fucking themselves over because of personal issues and decisions made within the band to have big labels stop paying attention and not take notice. Let’s talk about the big three that popped at the top of my head.
First up, Turns to Fall. A five piece post-hardcore/rock band composed of five friends from the Bronx. The first EP they released in 2006 titled Tragedy and began to play more shows until Stan Rapaport came in on drums. Before they wrote their Pages EP, Dave Andronico of Little Door Studios who was the local producer for some of the bands in the Bronx was brought in to take Julio’s place on guitar and singing, which I can understand why the decision was made. Pages was the better EP musically and had potential to get them playing the same stage with Underoath, Norma Jean and Vanna. In the end, Andronico ended up leaving the band to focus on his audio production career therefore having the band break up and ending all hopes of all those involved. Second band to talk about is Empire, formerly known as Empires Erased, which was a progressive metalcore band. Empire was definitely the band to watch and to listen to on CD and up to this day I still listen to The Decadent Movement EP and I could never get tired of it. Overtime, personal issues within the band had vocalist Donald Green exit the band and enter Jon Grande, former vocalist of Within the Ruins (signed to Victory Records at the time). Once he was brought in, Jon was pushing the band to the people in charge of Victory to check out his new band after leaving Within the Ruins and see what they can do with them. Unfortunately, word of mouth within the NYC scene brought on the fact that Empire was dissatisfied with the direction Jon was taking them to, in other words getting the band signed and tour which to me was another big mistake made by a band that had potential. I would’ve loved seeing them playing on stage with bands such as Born of Osiris, Within the Ruins, Erra, and The Acacia Strain. They continued with a talented local musician Paul Bennardo on vocals and ended up calling it quits not too long after sending people into shock and heartbreak as they were looked at as the diamond in the rough if you will in a scene where hardcore music became redundant. They played a reunion show with Existence in the Bronx little did people know that they will never see Empire reunite for a show again. Their music in the end, influenced kids to start their own bands and having them try to copy and duplicate their style but doing it horribly. Lastly, a band that combined hardcore punk, ska, and metal: Daly’s Gone Wrong. Now, these guys? DEFINTELY had potential to get signed and maybe end up on TRL with bands like Story of the Year, Yellowcard and tour with Goldfinger. They were loved by many fans in the city and places like Yonkers and New Jersey and still have hard copies selling on the Interpunk website to this day which is surprising to me. Aside from that, their shows were always packed with no problem, the crowds who attended them sang their songs out loud to deafen out whatever was going on outside. From what I was told that before they decided to disband was that former bassist, who goes by the nickname Ragu, was the only member in the band that wanted to tour the country and play music but everyone else wanted to stay and play in the Bronx and not go anywhere even though they had shows booked out of state. They got back together in the year 2013 and released a full length EP that I didn’t enjoy because the sound was too watered down and never really caught my attention the way the old material had. They continue to play shows to this day.
As you read this, you may think I have forgotten about Afflitus, which I haven’t. The metalcore band which originated in 1998, disbanded in 2008 but reunited recently were looked at as the heaviest, melodic and influential band during their time and had released a couple of full-lengths and EPs that people still talk about to this day. They had a music video filmed for the song Walk These Lines, which I’m sure not only received Internet and Youtube play, but on TV as well in some capacity. According to their band bio, they have shared the stage with some of my favorite bands including Killswitch Engage, Soilwork, Bury Your Dead and The Haunted and have toured throughout the Northeast part of the U.S. and even in Puerto Rico, which is enough to make themselves be a big name in metalcore from the Bronx. Eventually, they split in 2008 and The Judas Syndrome was born. Metalcore band composed of three members of Afflitus along with vocalist Phil Vibez and guitarist Ian McHugh. Releasing two demo songs before releasing the full-length EP titled Underneath Blood Skies and had a music video directed by Frankie Nasso and Dallas Coyle, former guitarist of God Forbid. What killed them is the constant bashing and shit talking about their fans who were scene kids who sported the comb over sweep who attended their shows at FLC and supported them while trying to come off as Thrash metal elitists but had a young acquaintance Tommy Vinton drumming for them at one point and having Gilbert Catalano of We Strike at Dawn singing with them live on stage. Some people would remember the cover of Lady Gaga’s song Judas but not the actual style of how a real thrash metal band would execute it. After them not playing shows for a while, they tried to come back with a whole different lineup and opening the Despised Icon show in New York City, it was evident that nobody cared about them anymore as there was only eight to ten people watching them live.
As for the other bands in the scene, some bands are still continuing on while other bands people just don’t really care about anymore. A Moment’s Worth and The City Strikes Back being the prime example of those that no one cares about because they have been played out way too much. A Moment’s Worth have been a band for more than 10 years but they managed to only play in the Bronx while occasionally playing in Westchester County, New Rochelle to be exact. Back then, you would see them playing with bands such as New Found Glory and Hit the Lights while they had the opportunity presented to them but never did so and continued to play the Bronx until they decided to have members focus on other parts of their lives or playing in a musical project more suitable for them (Conversing with Oceans). The City Strikes Back had some catchy instrumentals to me at one point in certain songs but of course there was vocalist Mike Andronico’s voice most people couldn’t stand. Up to this day, I wonder if there is an instrumental copy of their EP around somewhere. They played FLC too much that Bronx Underground’s crowds began to drop in numbers and they decided to stop being a band, which was a sigh of relief to most people. The Day Before, who I have done a short documentary film on for school, had played the New York date of Vans Warped Tour back in 2007 and ended up dissolving after vocalist Oscar Fernandez being let go from the band and people not caring much about attending the shows they played as a four piece. Bands who were soldiering on for five years like Made In March, who I have been associated with business-wise, tried to be the bands who wanted to take the torch and bring the Bronx to the big stage while no one wanted to help them out and support them because of bitterness towards them because they were getting the endorsements and big shows like November Reign at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center in Poughkeepsie and being looked at as a band that supposedly stole something from them which is hilarious. Another band that’s soldering on that never really got as much props like the other Bronx based bands is xPassagex, a straight edge hardcore band. They have played many local shows in New York City as well as Punk Island Fest, which was in my eyes their biggest show in their career. In a scene notorious for being drunk at shows and faux brotherhood, it wouldn’t take a mad genius to figure out why they haven’t gotten as much support and exposure.
As far as solo acts are concerned, some came out of bands that fell short because of other musical interests. Bryan Keith and Stephen Winley a.k.a Boog P. Fury are a few examples. Both guys came out of old school Bronx Underground bands such as The Silver Medal and Athena’s Fury and are continuing with their own musical interests. Stephen continues on his career as an underground hip-hop artist while making hip hop/battle rap vlogs on his Youtube channel, which are hilarious. I also worked with him on a music video for his song Heyuse (pinkfloydmayweather) that people can view on YouTube as well. Bryan Keith made it on mainstream national television as a contestant on The Voice on NBC, which I think he should’ve won because he had made it that far in the show. Last time I had spoken with him, he told me that he has been travelling back and forth from NYC to Los Angeles working on a musical project, which should be coming out soon. Another member of The Silver Medal named Sean Dowling came out with Synapses Firing, which was originally a solo project with just him alone became a full fledged band with Paul Bennardo on drums, former Empire bassist Julian Bayon on bass and Sean on lead vocals and guitar. They have yet to release recordings but have been playing shows around the area and are bound to make a name for themselves within the scene.
As of today, not a lot of shows happen in the Bronx as most shows happen in Long Island, downtown Manhattan and Staten Island as the local NYC scene continues to deteriorate. Who may be the next big band from the Bronx, New York to make it out and end all speculation? We’ll have to wait and hope for the best and hold our breaths until we turn blue. At least we still have the credit of being the birthplace of hip-hop also a Walk of Fame along the Grand Concourse from 161st Street. So that should count for something.