I have been involved in the hardcore scene for about 23 years now. I’ve always loved talking passionately with others about music since it can have such a transformative effect on the listener and make you feel a wide array of emotions.
In short, music changes lives.
Sometimes, I think about the first time I ever heard a certain record or band. That feeling is such a magical experience. It’s akin to the first time you fall in love. Music is especially impactful during a person’s formative years. It can help shape someone’s identity. Just ask anyone who’s ever identified as a punker, skinhead, metalhead, or hardcore kid.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed that music doesn’t hit me like it did when I was a younger. While I still like a lot of current bands and enjoy stuff, nothing hits me like those records and bands I first heard during my teenage years. At that time in my life, everything was so new and exciting. As you get older and obtain more life experience, you become less impressionable and things tend to lose their impact. That being said, listening to certain records can still take me back to specific times and places in my life, and for that, I’ll always be grateful.
I’ve been in a dark place as of late. Music has always helped me break through to see the light when I wasn’t able to see it in front of me. Music truly makes life worth living and I can’t imagine where I’d be if this wasn’t the case.
During this challenging time in my life, I’ve been thinking about my favorite record of all time, Black Flag’s Damaged. I heard it for the first time in 7th grade. It changed things for me in a way I didn’t know was even possible. I was big time into music already. My favorite genres were hard rock and thrash metal. I was hooked on bands like Guns N’ Roses, AC/DC, Van Halen, Mötley Crüe, Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer, and Megadeth.
When I got my hands on the Damaged cassette, it was the most intense and dangerous thing I’d heard up to that point. It was angry and it was real. It opened the door for me discovering bands like Minor Threat, Misfits, Agnostic Front, Youth of Today, and then, finally, discovering live hardcore from my local Connecticut hardcore scene. I put my love of all those other bands on the back burner and dove headfirst into hardcore. I haven’t turned back yet. It’s safe to say that I’m a lifer.
One day as I was thinking of an idea for a piece that I could write for No Echo, I thought it might be interesting to reach out to some musicians that I’m acquainted with and ask them the question: What record changed your life?
I wanted a diverse set of participants for this piece. Everyone included is a musician who is active within the present-day scene. Some are young, some are old. Some are people that are considered legends.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy reading this interesting assortment of recollections and that it makes you think back to that special record that changed everything for you.
“Without music, life would be a mistake” —Friedrich Nietzsche
Chaka Malik Harris (Burn, Orange 9MM, Ghost Decibels)
Santana, Welcome (1973)
"When I was super young maybe 4 or 5, my dad would let me choose records to play. There was one record that was a gatefold vinyl double record. It had weird symbols on it. It was a sound efx record. It was scary to me as a child but I liked listening. Rainstorms, thunder, children playing, the sound of wind in a corn field, etc. Flash forward to me being maybe 14 or 15. I came across Santana's Welcome.
"The record features additional male and female vocals accompanied by furious percussion and electronic organ/piano. There are some legato notes where the male and female vocals oscillate in ways that are super eerie, and oddly sexual. It sounds magical, like it or not. At least to me."
Frank "3-Gun" Novinec (Hatebreed, Terror, Ringworm, Integrity)
Slayer, Show No Mercy (1983)
"Sometime in 1985, when I was 14, I used to tape record a college radio show on WCSB in Cleveland. The guy’s name was Joe Mack, it was on Friday nights from 10pm-2pm. This was my gateway from bands like WASP, Queensrÿche, and Def Leppard, to the underground. He would play Motörhead, Sodom, Slayer, and things like that. These bands were very underground still in 1985. There was no internet. It was tape trading, snail mail and Xeroxed fanzines. I purchased the vinyl from Chris’ Waroed Records in Lakewood, OH, a suburb on the Westside of Cleveland. Chris ended up being the guitar player in the band The Spudmonsters.
"Something about Slayer and Show No Mercy was far more superior to me than the bands I was getting into at the time. Something about it spoke to me more than Metallica, Kreator, etc. This album lead me to the other Slayer records that were out at the time. Slayer records like Haunting the Chapel, Hell Awaits, and Live Undead would be the bridge to crossover music and punk rock for me. Show No Mercy is still my favorite Slayer album to this — yes, even after Reign In Blood came out. Like a lot of people, I guess, my favorite songs on the record change throughout the years. “Face the Slaye" would be my favorite at this very moment."
Keith Freeman (Restraining Order, Maniac)
The First Step, What We Know (2006)
"If we’re talking hardcore, then the record for me would for sure be The First Step's What We Know. I first heard it sometime in 2007 while attending community college. At that time, I was always on the Bridge 9 board and on MySpace music message forums and chats in between classes and if I remember right, it was this dude “Positive Kevin” that turned me on to them. Not surprisingly with a name like that, but at the time I was transitioning from a cup half empty Keith to a cup half full Keith.
"I had a troublesome time growing up with family drug abuse and being around it so much I had a very negative outlook on life. The First Step, and specifically this album, was the game-changer for me. I definitely downloaded it from Soulseek, which is where I got all my music from then that wasn’t in vinyl form. Lyrically, this album drew me in. It was around this time I also got into a lot of the Youth Crew and Youth Crew revival bands, so lyrics about unity, bettering yourself, friendship, etc., were common for me to hear, but What We Know spoke to me in ways that I can’t even describe. My favorite track is probably "Peace" because I found the subject of trying to find peace inside very relevant to me at the time, and honestly I still do today. I listen to this album still every now again, especially when I’m feeling really down. I really miss this band and would probably travel anywhere if they reunited. They were very influential to me on a personal level and in terms of wanting to do bands. I’m glad I got to see them a handful of times."
Paul Bearer (Sheer Terror, Joe Coffee)
Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks (1977)
"I was 11-years-old when the whole Sid Vicious thing was happening in NYC. With him being accused of killing his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, it was all over the papers and on the news. I thought it was the craziest shit. Of course, I was intrigued. I had no money to buy the record, but the public library had it on cassette. Naturally, I stole it [laughs]. I was already a big Alice Cooper and KISS fan, but this tape just sounded way more...it had balls. It was angry. It was urgent. No one was wearing makeup, or funny boots. It's basically just a really good rock 'n' roll LP,but the snotty and sometimes profane lyrical content gave it the edge that the other shit just didn't have. And everyone hated it. Exactly what a young kid is looking for. Something to call his/her own. Punk 'til I'm sunk, straight up. I still have that tape."
Jonathan Lhaubouet (Vein)
Cannibal Corpse, Tomb of the Mutilated (1992)
"When I was in 7th grade, one of my friends came up to me and showed me a song called "I Cum Blood" by Cannibal Corpse. He was just laughing at it and telling me how stupid the whole genre of metal was. At this point all I knew about music was hip-hop and a few songs from various Tony Hawk games, so this shit blew my mind. I immediately went online and looked up Tomb of the Mutilated and got into heavy music. Without that album, I may have never gotten into everything that I love today and I’m thankful for it."
Johnny Rioux (Street Dogs, The Bruisers)
The Clash, London Calling (1979)
"Growing up in the late '80s and early '90s, I listened to a lot of pretty aggressive, angst-driven punk, Oi! and hardcore. There was an older skinhead named Alex Fogg in New Hampshire and he had an incredible record collection along with books and magazines that exposed me to everything I’m still interested in to this day. I learned about mods, rockers, original Jamaican ska-based working-class skinheads, rockabilly, British motorcycles, NYHC, whatever a young impressionable mind growing up without the internet could ask for. He even handed me down his old pair of docs.
"At the time I was homeless sleeping where I could, angry, a high school dropout and earlier that year I started listening to the Stray Cats and some other rockabilly because I liked the way it made me feel as opposed to the no future vibes most of the punk and hardcore was giving me. The downside to the rockabilly was some of the corny subject matter.
"One day, Alex told me I should listen to London Calling and he hadn’t steered me wrong yet. Immediately the rhythm and bass line of the title track hooked me. Menacing and musical. The dynamic between Mick Jones and Joe Strummer's vocals was perfect. Mick was a good time and relationship type of songwriter and Joe was a voice of social commentary and reflection. The record had everything for me and even though some of the subject matter was similar to the doom and gloom I was already familiar with, The Clash made me feel hopeful, like I wanted to join whatever community they were a part of. I was exposed to so many musical styles on this record too — reggae, rhythm and blues, jazz, punk rock. The older I got the more I got into the production of the record, too. I had always heard a scratchy percussion sound and could never figure out what it was. I found out producer, Guy Stevens, used a strip of Velcro to create the sound and would also regularly overturn tables, smash chairs and yell at the guys to get takes he was happy with. For me, I can hear it all on the record as if I was there. It also taught me that music is more then guitars, drums, and vocals and there are infinite possibilities."
Rachel Rosen, (Indecision, Most Precious Blood)
"So for me, it's not so much a specific album, that changed my life — it was a cassette mix tape that one of my best friends in school, Jana, made for me. Jana and I had a shared love for U2, I decided I wanted to learn bass because Adam Clayton was my favorite and she learned guitar because The Edge was her favorite. I think we were both around 13 at the time. We spent a lot of time at school and each other’s houses just jamming on U2 songs as we slowly learned our instruments. She ended up moving to Cincinnati before 9th grade so our dreams of doing a U2 cover band together had to be on hold for a while.
"The winter of 1990 when I was about 15, I was allowed to go visit Jana during winter break. I hadn't seen her in awhile and in the olden days, we could only communicate by phone and occasional letters. When I got there, it was like she was a different person. She was hanging out with a bunch of older people and her hair and the way she dressed was a lot different. I remember she picked me up at the airport with a friend of hers who blasted the Swans the whole way back to her house. I had never heard anything like it! We got to her house and she had a mixtape for me all ready to take home. She had put a couple songs each of Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, and Butthole Surfers. She put the tape on for us to listen to and I immediately fell in love with all the bands she had put on there. Up until that point, the only heavy music I had really heard was Metallica, Skid Row, and Guns N’ Roses. I was fans of all those bands but bands like that made me feel like I would never be able to play well enough to be in a band. Hearing the bands on that mix tape, I was blown away by how raw it was, the emotion behind it and I loved all the vocals. Especially the way Kurt Cobain screamed on the couple songs from the Bleach album.
The guitar was distorted but not in the same way as Metallica or Guns N’ Roses — it was much messier and noisier. Sonic Youth was the first band I knew of that had a girl playing bass which was definitely an inspiration for me.
"Then she gave me the great news that she had gotten us tickets to go see Sonic Youth at Bogarts in Cincinnati. I had never even seen a band play live up until that point. We saw Sonic Youth on Dec 28 of 1990 and I'll never forget being all the way in the front and getting lifted off my feet in some weird kind of sway pit when they opened with "Tom Violence." I wasn't too psyched on being lifted off my feet so I made my way to the back and eventually found Jana and just watched in awe. Awhile after the show, her friend who had gotten us at the airport called us from a diner to tell us Sonic Youth was there eating and we should come down and meet them. So we raced there with another friend of hers and we were able to meet the entire band. They were so nice and we chatted for a few minutes and I just loved Kim Gordon. Jana and I spent the rest of the trip jamming together and everything was super noisy with screaming vocals. That was the end of my obsession with U2.
"I went home with that tape and listened to it nonstop. I bought all the actual albums that the songs on the mix tape were from — Evol, Bleach, Louder Than Love, Hairway to Steven, the Mudhoney self-titled album, and when these bands came to NYC, I went to see them play too. I started learning songs from all those bands and my style of playing and the way I thought completely changed. I could write songs like these bands and I didn't have to be some insane musician in order to play in a band and write things. Before then, I didn't think it was really possible. And there lyrics were things I could relate to. I spent every weekend in my room writing my own songs and lyrics and recording them. Soon after I was looking through ads in the East Coast Rocker paper trying to find other people into the same style of music to jam with and had my first experiences actually playing with drummers and writing songs as a band. I started dressing differently and dying my hair all different colors. When all these bands became the 'grunge' scene and became insanely popular, I looked for something heavier and would give me the same feeling these bands did when I first heard them and that's how I found hardcore and punk. The rest is history. To this day, I still love all those bands and wish I could still find that mix tape somewhere!"
Joe Sylvia (Battle Ruins, Hammer and the Nails, The Rival Mob)
Rose Tattoo, Rose Tattoo (1978)
"At age 18, I already had lots of records I felt changed my life, but the last one that really shook me to the core was when I discovered Rose Tattoo’s first record. I was taken aback from the opening song “Rock N’ Roll Outlaw” since it had everything I wanted in music: a great chorus, catchy blues riffs, a sense of grime, dirt, and anti-social behavior. To me, this was an album about being someone that rejected society regardless if they would be welcomed in it in the first place. “Nice Boys” being the supreme head-busting anthem followed these themes and tracks such as “Astra Wally,” which dealt with heroin addiction, was just as punishing. One of my favorites on the record was “The Butcher and Fast Eddie,” a plodding morality tale about street gangs that put such imagery in my head. I knew I was hooked on this band for life.
"The album set up a Mad Max prequel that never came to be in my mind. A group of hardened gun running tattoo’d musicians playing to a bar of rockers, meth-headed bikers and skinheads all waiting for the first blood to drop in the water. While outside abused and used women polished dust covered bikes and did lines of blow off the hoods of the last of the V8 Interceptors. It’s an amazing record to me and I believe this and the two follow up records fully embody what the spirit of rock n roll is. One week doesn’t go by where I won’t play it at the gym or in my car."
Davin Bernard (Eaten Alive, Kingdom)
Blood for Blood, Revenge on Society (1998)
"At 30, I decided to go to college. It was wild, having mostly done hardcore with my life it was unlike anything I’d done before. I was always studying and I barely went to shows, saw my friends, or even listened to music. And while I loved what I was doing, I found myself disgusted fairly often by people I was around. For example, one of my professors told the class that homeless people had 'inherently damaged souls,' as if people with homes have undamaged souls; as if the poor are broken by nature and the rich are pure. I’d been without a home before, was I inherently damaged? Fucking bullshit. I would challenge my professors and classmates and became increasingly more frustrated.
"One day walking across campus I remembered music existed, popped in my headphones, and listened to an old classic: Revenge on Society by Blood for Blood. Maybe it’s stupid, but the song 'Wasted Youth Crew' was like clicking my ruby slippers and going back home. 'My kind, my kind, my kind belongs nowhere. My kind, my kind, my kind are hated and feared.' That album is the heart, the inherently damaged soul of the hardcore kid. I went from wondering why I felt so out of place, to being reminded that I didn’t want a fucking place with these people. Fuck you, and fuck society too. I started making time for shows, to see my people, and when I got asked to join a band again I said yes. Revenge on Society reminded me that no matter where life leads me, who I am and my worldview will always be in hardcore, and when I feel at odds with the world 'Wasted Youth Crew' will ground me in the world I chose. A lot of albums changed my life early on, but it was cool to have one snap me back into myself at 32."
Paul Klein (World Demise, Suburban Scum, Manipulate)
Metallica, Metallica (1991)
"The record that changed my life is, without a doubt, the "Black Album" by Metallica. I’m numb to all the naysayers, so suck an egg.
"I was around 10 when I first saw the “Enter Sandman” video on MTV. I never heard anything heavy like that before, so the impact it had on me was pretty powerful. I was immediately hooked. I had a few bucks saved from my allowance, so I bought the cassette later that day. Popped it into my Walkman, and the rest is history. “Of Wolf and Man”... c’mon... HAAARRRDDD!!!
"If it weren’t for that album, I wouldn’t have picked up on playing heavy music on the drums. Without the drums, I wouldn’t have been able to make a healthy chunk of the friends I’ve made, seen the places I’ve seen, and so on and so forth. As corny as it sounds, that record and band made me feel alive. Still holds true for me today, 26 years later."
Zach Amster (Shark Attack, Violent Minds, No Warning, Knockdown)
AC/DC, Highway to Hell (1979)
"The record that changed my life would probably be AC/DC's Highway to Hell. That record changed the way I look at as well as hear music in general. I heard that album a long time ago, I’d say probably in ‘92-‘93. It’s never lost it’s touch since. I heard it through my neighbor (who was a few years older than me at the time — he was about 12 or 13) played me the album at full volume because his mom was at work. I remember thinking it sounded dangerous. It definitely left a huge impression that has stuck with me til today. My favorite songs from that record would be 'Girls Got Rhythm,' 'Touch Too Much,' 'Shot Down In Flames,' and 'Highway to Hell,' of course. However, I can listen to that album from start to finish without skipping any songs."
Kyle Niland (Glory)
Blacklisted, Heavier Than Heaven, Lonelier Than God (2008)
"Trying to think of a record that changed my life in hindsight is pretty tough because I guess you're not thinking about things in that frame at the time. I'm sure there are things before this point that made this kind of profound impact on me but the most stand out in my memory is Blacklisted's Heavier Than Heaven, Lonelier than God. I probably heard it a few months after it initially came out after seeing them outside of Boston with Ceremony and Have Heart. This was one of the first live experiences in my short (at the time) hardcore career that just completely changed my mind about a band and left me infatuated. I can't recall if I bought the record at the show or later on at Redscroll Records in Wallingford, CT. I'll assume a little later because record collecting wasn't really something that got me at first.
"Hearing the songs live was one thing,I knew I liked how the songs sounded and the style and vibe of it all but it took until I got the songs on my iPod to really take in the gravity of the lyrics and the real theatrics of the record. Heavier than Heaven was the first time I could remember really remember caring about the lyrics to a band, before that it was just words another person wrote that were cool to sing along to at shows, now it was like 'oh someone else still wrote these songs but it feels like I have a way of putting the alienating, cynical, paranoid thoughts I'm having into words for the first time.' At the time, I was still a teenager, likely in high school or freshly out, so, obviously, everything is going to feel more dramatic and impactful but even now at 27-years-old this record still and If not more than ever gives me a way to relate to the world. As far as stand out songs go I don't think the record has a non essential part but maybe the peak for me personally is 'Memory Layne' into 'Circuit Breaker.'"
Wayne Lozinak (Hatebreed)
Metallica, Master of Puppets (1986)
"I would have to say the record that changed my life was Master of Puppets from Metallica. I bought it back in 1986, when I was 12-years-old, from a record store called Graf-Wadman at the mall in Trumbull, CT. Up until that point, I had only listened to bands like KISS, Ozzy, Judas Priest, etc., so Metallica’s music seemed a lot heavier at that time. There was a radio show called Heavy Metal from Hell on 92.3, K-Rock on Sunday nights, which is where I first heard Metallica, and which led me to buying their albums.
"Master of Puppets just had this huge, heavy sound like nothing I’d heard before. They also looked a lot different than everyone else I was listening to back then. Just wearing jeans & T-shirts, as opposed to leather & spandex. It gave the music a whole different attitude on top of the different sound. I thought it was great! It also led me into listening to other thrash bands like Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax, Testament, Overkill....., then from there into hardcore and punk. Two of my favorite songs off the album would have to be 'Master of Puppets' and 'Sanitarium.' Both heavy, melodic, great riffs and great solos. An album I still listen to, to this day!"
Aaron Butkus (Death Threat, Shadow Dwellers)
Murderers Among Us 7” compilation (1990)
"I first heard it on mixtape in a friend’s car when we were out skating. I found the 7” that week at Trash American Style in Danbury, CT. This record made me feel everything, the opposite of what the Bible made me feel. I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, very restricted, everything was bad and evil and I loved it. Loved. It. I was drawn to the Biblical times style art and with band names and song titles like and literally some of the best bands of the time, this record represented and said so much.
"It was fast , angry and all over the place, just like me. Just like, that time. So comfortable. It all felt very dark in a good way. Very familiar way. It captured a time period in hardcore and NYC I was about to become very very familiar with and connected to for years to come. My whole life. The darker the better. I guess at the end of the day I’d say 'the song' is Life’s Blood's 'Human Power,' always, but honestly, each song is a banger in its own and the whole 7” sound is what moves me and still does when I listen to it now. Somehow, Nausea always slides right in perfectly amongst weirdo core. Brings me back to the dark. Wonder how many people even pick up on my reference in (Death Threat’s) For God and Government? I believe this is still where hardcore is at and that’s why I love it. We will always keep it weird and as far underground as we need to. Always."
Reba Meyers (Code Orange, Adventures)
Earth Crisis, Firestorm (1993)
"One of the first heavy records to change my life was Earth Crisis' Firestorm. It was the first real introduction to a world of music that changed my life more than punk ever really did, which is most of what I was listening to prior to that. It truly sparked off the never ending rabbit hole of writing and listening to heavy music. I played bass in Code Orange Kids at the time, when we were much different sounding then we are now, but we were always looking for new shit to listen to. I think I heard someone else playing it in the car or van or whatever, and something about it stuck with me, so I downloaded it later, probably from my friend AJ’s music blog (Path to Misery). It felt to me like the most perfect sounding 4 tracks—they were so powerful and easy to replay over and over. 'Unseen Holocaust' was my favorite track at the time, something about the progression of it was so epic feeling, and the guitars were so evil sounding.
"The riff style and guitar sound on the EP I think is what really struck me at first, and inspired me to write more on guitar in a different kind of way. It was definitely a big part of my style basis at the time when I was first playing guitar in the band. The lyrics were the most intelligent angry shit ever, and hearing someone so aggressively passionate about what he believed was the sickest thing I ever heard. It took what I loved to the next level, made me realize I wasn’t the only one who cared way too much about shit, and got me psyched to take the band more seriously and try to develop our sound to a heavier realm. I still listen to it often."
Tagged: battle ruins, blood for blood, burn, code orange, crown of thornz, death threat, ghost decibels, hatebreed, indecision, integrity, maniac, manipulate, most precious blood, orange 9mm, restraining order, ringworm, shark attack, sheer terror, skarhead, street dogs, terror, vein, world demise