12 Best Hardcore Records of 2023

Rabbit (Photo: Sean Reilly)

For those of you who might have noticed that No Echo went silent for most of December, I have been going through health issues that had me hospitalized for a few weeks. I posted some details here if you're interested.

But during that time, I kept the goal of posting my favorite hardcore records of the year as soon as I could get my shit together. While I'm still dealing with my health setbacks and medical appointments, I'm trying to keep the No Echo content flowing as usual.

Today, I'm happy to share my picks for 12 Best Hardcore Records of 2023. As you'll see below, I've included both LPs and EPs in there. Some of them have already found big followings, but as always, hopefully some of the more obscure ones get some more attention.

Thanks for everything and long live hardcore!



Balmora, With Thorns of Glass and Petals of Grief (Ephyra)

Fusing their sound—at least to my ears—with a potent blend of '90s European metalcore and melodic black metal, Connecticut's Balmora's With Thorns of Glass and Petals of Grief didn't leave my regular play rotation since it dropped back in the spring.

"Some lyricists I'm personally influenced by are Matt Skiba (Alkaline Trio), J.R. Hayes (Pig Destroyer), David Anthem (Prayer for Cleansing), and Aaron Stainthorpe (My Dying Bride)," Balmora vocalist Senti told me in a No Echo interview over the summer. With a recent appearance at Los Angeles' annual For the Children fest, and an upcoming set at FYA in Florida, the band is kicking of 2024 in style.


Blow Your Brains Out, The Big Escape (Quality Control HQ)

"...three of the members have been playing in straight edge bands for a long time. Animalblood likes '80s punk and Boston hardcore, and I like NYHC from the '80s, '90s, and early '00s. So I think our music is right in the middle of that triangle." That's what Tats, guitarist for Japanese band Blow Your Brains Out revealed to me about their influences back in March when they were dropping their insanely killer The Big Escape album.

They might be based in Tokyo, but make no mistake, Blow Your Brains Out sound like they were raised on the same grimey NYC borough streets as Cro-Mags, Dmize, and The Icemen. While they clearly aren't the only hardcore band mining from that era of the sound, very few are doing it with such powerful and infectious songwriting to back the sound up. I love this group.


Envision, The Gods That Built Tomorrow (From Within Records)

When I first profiled Envision on No Echo in 2018, drummer Lennon Livesay said the the Florida outfit wanted to evoke the sound and tradition of '90s bands like Tension, Outspoken, and Spawn. Not only have they achieved that goal, with their sophomore album, The Gods That Built Tomorrow, they cemented their own strain of that emotionally-driven yet metallic hardcore.

Vocalist Alfredo's pleading and anquished delivery style is a perfect fit for the guitar's often melancholic shadings. But there's plenty of groove-kissed sections throughout the LP that keeps the energy up. There are even moments that remind me of '80s melodic metal in the vein of Crimson Glory in the guitar department. I know, that sounds nuts but I hear it. 


Gumm, Slogan Machine (Convulse Records)

Having caught them live earlier this year opening from DRAIN in Los Angeles, I can attest that Gumm is a fucking killing machine in a live setting. But don't expect tough-guy posturing or beatdown-laced breakdowns from this Chattanooga, Tennessee group. Instead, Gumm bring forth a hardcore punk attack (with an emphasis on the punk side of that) that drips with pure passion and vigor.

There's also many moments on their Slogan Machine album that reveal themselves as big hooks, albeit driven by Drew Waldon's rugged vocal style. The guitars go from all tough and beefy one moment to slinky and post-punky the next, which keeps the material on the album always fresh and the listener on their toes. Kudos to Gumm for doing shit their own way.


Mil-Spec, Marathon (Lockin' Out)

When I told Mil-Spec guitarist Matt LaForge their music always carries a certain melacholia to it during a No Echo interview discussing their Marathon album, he hit me back with an interesting response: 

"Any band that plays gainy distorted guitar but also wants to convey more than two notes per chord will recognize the problem of trying to record those extra smartypants notes and open strings so that they’re actually audible in the mix."

Marathon is the finest melodic hardcore album of the year, and that aforementioned melancholic spirit that colors its 10 tracks is what kept me coming back for more. 


Mutant Strain, Murder of Crows (Sorry State Records)

The velocity never wanes on Mutant Strain's second offerinf, Murder of Crows. It's a ripping collection from a Charlotte, North Carolina band not looking to reinvent the hardcore punk wheel, instead delivering an endless barrage of guitar riffs that sound like they're on the brink of falling apart.

Singer Maryssa Pickett matches the ferocity of the relentless arrangements with at times reminds me of vintage Roger Miret. Overall, Murder of Crows is a motherfucker of an album. Dig in if you haven't so already.


New World Man, The Beast Is Back (Streets of Hate)

Anyone familiar with his work in such bands as Mindforce, No Souls Saved, and Sentinel already know Mike Shaw is a guitar riff wizard of the highest order. One moment he's firing off Born to Expire-worthy chunk, while slinging something Prong would have cooked up during their Beg to Differ period. But you'll also hear elements of classic Combat Records and King Diamond in his arsenal, a reason why he's one of the most exciting guitarists in the hardcore scene today.

New World Man finds Mike collaborating with guitarist Michael Botti (Regulate), bassist JayBird, drummer Heath Logiovino (Invoke), and vocalist Ridge Rhine (Pain of Truth, Life's Question) cooking up a sonic stew that includes some of the tastiest ingredients of hardcore, thrash, and melodic metal. It's extremely hard to pull this kind of thing off, but Shaw and company prove that it can be done if the both the writing and playing skills are there.


Paint It Black, Famine (Revelation Records)

Their first full-length record since 2008's New Lexicon, Paint It Black's Famine might be the crown jewel in their discography. "We don’t just put out a new record because it’s time to put out a new record," said vocalist Dan Yemin (also known for his guitar work in both Lifetime and Kid Dynamite). "We put out a record when we’ve got something to say."

Dan definitely had a lot to say on Famine, tackling such subjects as religion, conspiracy theory nutcases, and the hyprocisy of America. Musically, it's not as fast-paced as some of their previous albums and EPs (though they are rippers to be found on there), but it's their angriest-sounding statement to date. The sequencing of the song list on Famine is also a winning factor of the project, with the pacing in both tempos and moods flowing effortlessly from start to finish.


Rabbit, Bardo (Delayed Gratification Records)

Brooklyn, New York's Rabbit has been a No Echo since I first discovered their 2022 demo. I later included them on my 12 Newer Hardcore Bands to Check Out in 2023 list, hoping to help spread the word about their nasty-sounding musical output. It's a putrid serving of metallic hardcore, death metal, black metal, thrash, and all sick points in between that.

Bardo is a 5-track assault to the senses that never lets up. They simmer things down on "Haus," which features some gnarly mid-tempo guitar riff breakdowns, but even on that track, Rabbit manage to squeeze in some speedy parts to remind you what they're about. The closing "Anti-Priest Summons Baphomet" also slows the onslaught down with stomping  guitar riffs and frontperson Andre's absolutely unhinged vocals. This is music for people who fantasize about punching strangers in the checkout line at the grocery store.


Skourge, Torrential Torment (Lockin' Out)

What if the Donald Tardy, Allen West, and Trevor Peres from Obituary started a band with Dwid and Aaron Melnick back in 1991? We'll never be sure but I bet it wouldn't sound that dissimilar from the grisly racket Skourge is creating.

With Torrential Torment, the Houston, Texas quintet whipped up an 11-track clinic on metallic hardcore of the savage variety. There's not one wasted note, guitar riff, growl, or groove part to be found in Skourge's orbit.

Frontman Seth Gilmore (also of the red-hot Fugitive) produces the kind of vocal lashing that is every bit abrasive as the guitars beneath them. All in all, Torrential Torment is a striking piece of work that wouldn't have been out of place on the early '90s Roadrunner Records release roster.


World I Hate, Years of Lead (WAR Records)

When I premiered their lead off single "Safer in Jail" back in May, I wrote that World I Hate's "sound is a violent concoction of no-bullshit hardcore and power violence," and that crystallizes their songwriting perfectly.

The Milwaukee group features members who have also played in such bands as Cross Me, Judiciary, and Low End, and Years of Lead quickly found a large audience throughout the scene of people thirsting for their menacing take on hardcore.

In a No Echo feature, the members of World I Hate put together a list of records that influenced their sound. Think I Care, Mind Eraser, and Knife Fight were among the titles listed. No surprise there. Years of Lead is the perfect record for these nightmarish times.


Wreckage, Our Time (Scheme Records)

Issued at the beginning of 2023, Wreckage's Our Time blew me away from the very first listen. "The goal is, honestly, for people not to be able to describe us in any way besides being a hardcore band," guitarist Matt told me in a No Echo feature right when the EP was released. He's spot-on with his thoughts since the Connecticut outfit write and perform hardcore in one of its purest forms.

Wreckage's songs burst with emotion, power, and a resolve that is sorely lacking in so much of what comes across my music inbox these days. Our Time is a timeless record that could have come out in many eras of hardcore, but I'm delighted it came out this past year. We definitely needed it.


Tagged: balmora, blow your brains out, envision, gumm, mil-spec, mutant strain, new world man, paint it black, rabbit, skourge, world i hate, wreckage