The world of metal is burdened by countless sub-genres. Don’t know your blackened hardcore from your blackgaze? Your death metal from your doom? Your grindcore from your mathcore? Then get the fuck outta here, poser, and leave your cut-off denim jacket at the door. But wait, actually, come back. Because it’s been ten years since the invention of ‘crabcore’ – the shark jumping moment that, arguably, defined a generation of young metalheads – and my word, we need to talk about it.
Crabcore holds an interesting place in metal lore. Half genre, half meme, it’s a tag that can be traced back to one harrowing corner of the internet – Attack Attack!’s video for ‘Stick Stickly’, released 10 years ago.
‘Stick Stickly’ – named, zanily, after a Nickelodeon character – is indicative of a whole wave of late-00s metal, which seemingly prioritised deep v-necks and limber stage stances over innovation or, indeed, talent. Centred on open-stringed chugging and repetitive, scream-sing-screamed song structures, the scene was quickly flooded with side-fringed groups battling for the heaviest breakdowns and most skin-crawlingly autotuned covers of chart pop hits. Attack Attack!, though, were the king crabs of this subterranean nightmare.
The ‘Stick Stickly’ video – which is, thankfully, still available on YouTube for your perusal – is a baffling artefact of a time long since passed. The bendy-kneed group seem to be being pulled ever-closer to the floor, like there’s magnets up their arses and hidden treasure under that dusty desert ground. Quick, someone get a metal detector. Every breakdown (and, at last count, there’s about 246 of the fuckers in this track alone), brings them closer to the dirt, their legs defying physics as they slowly come closer to resembling their crustacean counterparts.
Amongst the madness, though, there’s moments of sheer beauty. Gasp at 0:15, as the dual fringes move skyward in perfect unison, like birds soaring in formation. Marvel as 0:58 brings with it a guitar flip so elegant it could slot into a ballet. Weep as the trashy Eurodance segment at 2:46 reminds you of every sticky-floored club you tried so hard to avoid during freshers.
Dig deeper into the eternal black hole of crabcore YouTube, though, and you’ll find yet more gold. The above video – which shows an innocent baby-faced Attack Attack! recording ‘Stick Stickly’, unaware of the plague they would soon let loose – couldn’t be more 2008 if it came pre-packaged with glowsticks and guyliner. Just drink in how zany they are. They’re more random than a day-glo, bubble-font t-shirt that says ‘Frankie Says Rehab’, bought from a stall on Camden Market.
With ‘Stick Stickly’, Attack Attack! inspired a wave of infamy-chasing imitators, each of whom attempted to outdo the last’s sure-fire need for a future knee-replacement. From Confide (and their criminal cover of The Postal Service) to the hilariously honestly titled Make Me Famous, to one of the scene’s sole breakthroughs Asking Alexandria – who, yes, started as a crabcore band – crabcore became an undeniable phenomenon, spurred on by countless YouTube compilation videos and cringy bedroom covers. For many (myself included) whose indoctrination into ‘fourth-wave’ mainstream emo defined their teenage years, crabcore was a fringe too far.
Perhaps most remarkably of all, though, the shockwaves of Attack Attack!’s breakthrough can still be felt today. Caleb Shomo, the awkward keyboardist of Attack Attack!’s earliest guise, responsible for those crowbarred synth segments, now fronts decidedly not shit metalcore giants Beartooth, while Attack Attack!’s original screamer is none other than recently-departed, iconic Of Mice & Men frontman Austin Carlile. It seems, once you crack back the crabcore shell, there’s juicy talent to be extracted from even the most unlikely of sources.
For now though, with its 10-year anniversary upon us, it’s time to limber up your legs and get crabby one last time. 2008, eh? What a baffling time.