Welcome to 2020, the year where the month of January felt like 17 years of hell and they added an extra day to February just to allow the misery to fester a little longer. While we trudge through this winter of discontent, perhaps these eleven blasts of hardcore and punk will help ease us into a glorious summer—and may we avoid the fate of poor Ethan Hawley. Musing on the writings of John Steinbeck aside, here are 12 rippers which demand your attention.
Bato, Ravages of Time EP
Excellent, full-speed-ahead hardcore from Virginia Beach—great hook-driven riffs and enough rocking breakdowns to allow you to take a break from all the thrashing now and then. Covers of Poison Idea and YDI should give you a feel for what this is going for—in a lot ways this reminds me of NJ legends Dead Nation. Great debut EP.
Commando, Les Genoux Écorchés LP
More great French punk done up in the classic style—catchy songs with plenty of oompf backing up an urgent vocal approach. A bit garagey with a hint of oi in its approach—this simmers in your eardrums and infects them with mountains of hooks—a great listen.
Division of Mind, Division of Mind LP
Dense metallic and sludgey hardcore with the occasional blasts of speed to mix it up—there’s something here which reminds me of Integrity’s Seasons in the Size of Days in the interplay of weird sonic experimentalism and the thuggish soundtrack of some dude just beating the shit out of you in the pit. Put another way, you might think of the chugging outro of their song “Derealize” as just another metronomic means to getting your nose broken but then, when you consider the awkward, molasses soaked pace it proceeds at it almost hints at Godflesh screaming something about breeding like rats… get it?
I’m not gonna lie and say I don’t wish it were faster, I wish everything was faster, but there’s some really interesting things going on here which bodes well for their future…
Hammered Hulls, Hammered Hulls EP
Part of me wants to ignore the pedigree of this band, but when Alec Mackaye’s vocals kick in, it’s hard to do so—Ignition was a such an important band to me as a baby punk, and Faith would have been the kings of harDCore if Void had never been born. So, let’s do this—yes this has people from a bunch of bands you’ve heard of (Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, Make Up, Wild Flag, etc.) and might love, but even if it didn’t and you don’t, it’d still be good. Melodic, revolution-summer inspired punk rock from the place that formed it—the title track would fit snuggly somewhere on The Orafying Mysticle of... while the other two tracks feel a little like missing Faith demos.
HONDARTZAKO HONDAKINAK, Bruiarta LP
This is just fucking insane—manic, thrashing, and disquieting hardcore from the Basque country, though sonically it has the careening, teetering-on-the-edge-of-going-off-a-cliff feeling of classic Finnish hardcore. Have you heard the first Die Kreuzen record? Imagine playing it at 10x the intended speed while occasionally bumping into the record player—that’s a bit of what’s going on here. Fantastic.
Lipid, Nuclear Masturbation CS
When I was a teenage punk rocker my friend had a leather jacket painted with an image of Reagan and Gorbachev with missile cocks pointed at each other with “Make Me Cum” painted above and “Not if, but When?” painted below them. Listening to Lipid makes me think of this jacket—hell I think of bands like Lipid every time I sit through another “hardcore” band who sounds like they spent more time listening to Slayer and doing reps at the gym than blasting Circle Jerks and getting beat up for being a weirdo.
Look, this shit is fucking great—total outsider hardcore for freaks by freaks—its got hooks, its sarcastic, angry yet funny and queer as fuck. I mean can you go wrong with a band that posits the solution to all the world’s ills is “free drugs and fucking in the street?”
Nukkehammer, A Distant Hissing In Your Ear EP
The first time I met the bassist of Nukkehammer we spent the night blasting Grim Reaper and COC records while talking about Void, eventually leading to a glass coffee table being shattered as part of a proper demonstration of how to stage dive to the Beyond demo. The next morning featured random nudity, mysterious bloodstains, and mountainous platters of Szechuan Tofu. Somehow, for me, this sums up the chaotic, treble-to-the-max, distortion-soaked mayhem that is Nukkehammer. For you, it might be more like Septic Death and Anticimex hanging at Mike Dean from COC’s house doing monstrous bong hits while listening to Hawkwind. This is great.
Restraining Order, This World is Too Much LP
A hardcore band that plays hardcore—weird, right?. Fast and anthemic, a la Slapshot slammed headlong into 7 Seconds. More “mature” than their prior efforts with the increased emphasis on melody and occasional intricate guitar work. My first impression was that the production is almost a bit too clean and modern for the style, but after a couple of listens I got over that—not everyone has to sound like it was soaked in a bucket of water, dried out and run through a distortion pedal, I guess. Live, they are unstoppable.
Scarecrow, Revenge EP
Positively ripping stuff from the Totalitär school of hardcore—8 tracks of ferocious and energetic fist pumping punk rock. This cooks along at a quick clip just barely slowing down to catch its breath and provide a hint of dynamics.
Sniper Culture, Combat Rock EP
Distorted as hell, ultra lo-fi hardcore punk from the Windy City—while this sounds like it was recorded in a kitchen using an old boom box, that shouldn’t dissuade you from partying with it at all. It’s got riffs for days and projects a sense of intensity thanks to its primitive production. Don’t sleep on this.
Squelette, Squelette EP
What is it about the French that makes them so adept at cranking out catchy, distinct, and rather suave sounding skinhead bands? In contrast to the more thudding mid-tempo approach common with some of the US and UK bands (outside the classics of course), the bands coming out of France seem to have a knack for catchy melodies and playing at precisely the right tempo to create engaging street punk. Featuring members of Rixe and Lion's Law, Squelette give us four rather brilliant sounding anthems, rivaling forefathers such as Camera Silens or Warrior Kids. I’ll take another helping of this any day of the week.
Yleiset Syyt, Yleiset Syyt EP
On the one hand, you could say this is a Finnish hardcore band playing what could be construed as traditional Finnish hardcore but, what does that even mean? What if I was like, it’s people from Foreseen, Kohti Tuhoa, and Sick Urge playing exceptionally catchy, driving hardcore punk, that draws inspiration from early ‘80s US and UK hardcore punk to produce something that translates into something not far removed from Finnish bands like Lama or Appendix? Is that better?
Never quite going full thrash, this pogos and bobs along at a rocking pace, with plenty of killer riffs and sick drumming—it’s interesting, a lot of US bands that ape this sound tend to have shit production on purpose, but thanks to how bright and polished this sounds, it comes across even more powerful. One of the most outstanding recent releases for me.