"Hardcore is in such a great place right now" is something I found myself saying to more than one person this past year. With so many newer bands and labels popping up in recent memory, I don't know how you can't help but feel that way.
While I posted the year-end picks from No Echo's contributing writers already, I wanted to share mine today.
I used "Best Hardcore Records of 2022" for SEO reasons, but what the following list truly represents are my favorite releases from the past year. Either way, I hope 2023 keeps the run going and more bands form out of the inspiration found on the records (both EPs and LPs) below.
Temple Guard, Spear of the Revenant (The Coming Strife Records/Life.Lair.Regret Records/From Within Records)
Featuring former members of xRepentancex within the fold, Temple Guard are masters of the mid-tempo metallic hardcore stomp. I'm not kidding, friends. Do you love Day of Suffering? How about Integrity? If that's your guitar riff kink, Temple Guard might be your next favorite new band.
Spear of the Revenant might be the UK outfit's debut offering, but they arrive fully formed, delivering their material with an intensity and focus usually not found til later in a band's discography.
With three different labels—all with their fingers on the pulse on the modern hardcore scene—distributing Spear of the Revenant, it should be no time before Temple Guard's profile pops within our music community.
World of Pleasure, World of Pleasure & Friends (Wildrose Records)
"World of Pleasure Returns With New EP, Reminds Us Why No One Is Doing Metallic HC Better" read my headline back in July. I wasn't lying.
A collaboration between Canadian musicians Jess (Mortality Rate) and Colter (Mortality Rate, Serration, Delusion), World of Pleasure is relentless in their songwriting and performance approach. Just when your mouth is watering from a nasty guitar riff and vocal line combo, another one spears through the arrangement.
That kind of aural attack can be exhausting for a listener in lesser hands, but it's a testament to the material on World of Pleasure & Friends (and for that matter, their 2021 demo) that it never feels like that here. Not even close. Can we have more? Please?
Foreseen, Untamed Force (Quality Control HQ)
"After the Infiltrator 7-inch, we kept digging deeper into the 1980s underground and returned to our all-time favorite records from bands like Dark Angel, Mellakka, and Black Sabbath."
That's what Foreseen guitarist Ville Valavuo told me when we discussed their latest album, Untamed Force, earlier this year. My Finnish friend and his fellow bandmates' love letter to their influences packs a ton of punch.
Foreseen have never released a clunker, so it's not surprising Untamed Force lives up to its title, but the way they leaned into the more traditional side of the thrash metal sound without losing the immediacy of their hardcore punk roots is darn impressive.
Rabbit, Halo of Flies (Delayed Gratification Records)
I've been yelling at the top of the rooftops about Rabbit since discovering the Brooklyn, New York band at the beginning of the year. While their demo made me an instant supporter, it didn't prepare me for the savagery of their recently released EP, Halo of Flies. Its six songs utilize the most violent sonic tools from the worlds of power violence, black metal, hardcore punk, and whatever you call what Integrity does.
Rabbit vocalist Andre told me how he matched the brutality of their music in the lyric department: "I was in therapy and in my head ad nauseam repeated: 'All I feel is hate.'"
2023 should be a big year for hare hardcore with the way this band has been progressing in such a short period of time.
Praise, All In a Dream (Revelation Records)
While discussing All In a Dream in a 2022 No Echo interview, Praise guitarist Anthony Dye told me: "I'm still chasing the powerful melancholy that Rites of Spring gave me when I first heard them at 16." A quick listen to the opening tracks of the DCHC band's latest full-length and I knew he exactly what he was talking about.
All In a Dream is an easy listen, bursting with wistful melodies, melancholic guitar lines, and a passionate vocal performance from Andy Norton.
Recorded throughout the pandemic in Baltimore by Kevin Bernsten (Triac, Eye Flys) and Brian McTernan (Be Well, Battery), the album feels nostalgic, atmospheric, and urgent, sometimes within the same moment.
Combust, Another Life (Cash Only Records)
"I ain’t saying we’re re inventing the wheel, but I just feel that the desire for actual hardcore is getting lost," Combust frontman Andrew Vacante opined during an interview pushing their debut LP, Another Life. "Actual hardcore" in this case is the kind that wouldn't have sounded out of place coming out on In-Effect Records, circa 1990.
Combust mine influence from the NYHC greats that came before them, but where other bands get all of the stylistic tenets down, most miss the mark in the songwriting department. Anthony and crew penned a grip of tracks that have an anthemic feel and beg for crowd participation when they're played live. They're songs that get stuck inside your skull from the first listen on.
Inclination, Unaltered Perspective (Pure Noise Records)
No one would dispute the fact that there are a ton of bands playing metallic hardcore right now, but how many do it really well? Inclination are dept students of the hallowed style.
Peter Katter and Isaac Hale (Knocked Loose) prove to be a potent six-string duo, blessing the Louisville quintet's debut album, Unaltered Perspective, with a bounty of dynamic and exquisite guitar riffs. There's more than enough mosh-ready stuff to get caveman about, but Inclination's arrangements are layered and don't always go where one would expect.
If Unaltered Perspective would have been released during the '90s hardcore era, Inclination would have been right at home on a live bill with the likes of Endeavor, Harvest, and Shield.
Mastermind, The Masters' Orders (Quality Control HQ)
What first struck me while listening to "Collateral Damage," the lead-off track on Mastermind's debut album, The Masters' Orders, is how raw it sounded. That made sense when I spoke with vocalist Jon Osborne for No Echo.
"I do think there's an issue in 'hardcore' in general where bands suck the life out of their music with tacky gated guitars that lack any nuance or noise," the singer told me.
Unabashedly rooted in the NYHC meets crossover thrash sound of the late '80s, The Masters' Orders sounds and feels like a long-lost demo from the period, which is a high fucking compliment in my book. Mastermind features folks from Imposter, Lawful Killing, and Powerplant, among other fine British musical outfits.
Bent Blue, Where Do Ripples Go? (WAR Records)
San Diego's Bent Blue specialize in that strain of melodic hardcore that usually inspires comparisons to the likes of Dag Nasty and Lifetime.
On their Where Do Ripples Go? EP, it doesn't matter if they ride a faster tempo or a mid-paced beat, the songs never veer away from the melodic heart and soul of the band's DNA.
Tony Bertolino's gruff yet tuneful vocals fit Bent Blue like a glove, so does Gabe VanBenschoten's mix on Where Do Ripples Go?, balancing both the grit and infectiousness of the songs throughout the offering.
Excide, Deliberate Revolver (New Morality Zine)
Excide's Deliberate Revolver provided the soundtrack to many of my afternoon walks these past few months. It's an album that reveals itself deeper after repeated listens, expanding their sound in interesting directions while exploring the less metallic side of their '90s hardcore influences.
"At the end of the day if it alienated anyone as a listener, that’s fine because we made the record we would want to listen to," Excide vocalist Tyler Washington said to me as we chatted about Deliberate Revolver.
Wherever direction Excide decide to take their songwriting in the future, I'll be along for the journey.
End It, Unpleasant Living (Flatspot Records)
End It worked their asses off in 2022, with Unpleasant Living deservingly also finding a big audience during the year.
The Baltimore quintet rock that no-nonsense style of hardcore that is always appreciated when done so perfectly. Akil Godsey's high-pitched vocals help set End It apart from the rest of their peers, at times recalling Hirax's Katon W. De Pena in their wildness.
If I'm being honest here, End It is one of those bands where if you tell me you don't dig them, I'm questioning your taste.
Mindforce, New Lords (Triple B Records)
By now, you're probably well-aquainted with Mindforce, especially if you're a regular No Echo supporter. The Poughkeepsie, New York crossover hardcore machine has yet to let us down in the quality department and New Lords kept the winning streak alive.
The not-so-secret weapon in Mindforce is guitarist Mike Shaw and their sophomore album houses some of his finest work yet. His lick selection makes me think of everything from King Diamond to Leeway to Forbidden. Coupled with Jay Peta's shouted vocal delivery, Shaw's guitar figures sound all the more unique, supporting the meatier riffs with bright and melodic flourishings.
By the way people went off for them at Sound and Fury this past summer, it's clear I'm not alone in my Mindforce admiration.
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