As 2022 winds down, I'll be posting some year-end features on No Echo to help spread the love for hardcore releases that dropped throughout the last 12 months.
Today, I'm excited to share the Best Hardcore Records of 2022 list from some of No Echo's contributing writers. There's some great variety showcased below, and hopefully you check out something you might have missed before.
Thanks to everyone who has helped me keep the No Echo train moving along since 2014.
Take a look at last year's picks here after you're done!
Adam Yoe’s pick:
End It, Unpleasant Living (Flatspot Records)
Maryland has a problem with misnomers. From the misguided “Land of Pleasant Living” to the one/two of “Charm City” and “The Greatest City in America," End It are here to set the record straight. As if the living sonic embodiment of the hardscrabble city itself, the band’s 2022 EP is literally my platonic ideal for a hardcore record. The brief and brawny set flies by.
Calling to mind the best of the area’s rich hardcore tapestry a la TUI and Stout, it’s no exaggeration to call this the most dynamic vocal performance you’re likely to hear in the still nascent decade. From the manic and pugilistic vibes of the opener and the melodic fade-out on lead single “New Wage Slavery," End It has leveled up from great to “greater than.”
Having come up in the shadow of Loudon Park Cemetery on the West Side, I’m perhaps predisposed to love this. It was always gonna be this one from first listen. The closing culmination of “Baltimore’s coming back with a bang, still knuckledragging like it ain’t no thang” is all you need to know.
Thomas Vanderpol’s pick:
Pulso, Enfrentamiento Total (BCore/Refuse Records/CKUD Records)
My top record of this year has got to be Enfrentamiento Total by Pulso. From Barcelona, Spain, the band’s lyrics are exclusively in Catalan, a Western Romance Language spoken in parts of Spain, France, and Italy. The result when paired with the band’s brand of urgent youth crew is the nine songs found on Enfrentamiento Total.
For fans of bands like Change, Rejection Pact, and Berthold City, this record certainly holds its own in the modern age of melodic hardcore blending speed, melody, and tradition with ease. Filled with plenty of singalongs, pileup moments, and two-step opportunities, my hope for this record and this band is that the excitement and intensity of their music translate well to listeners fond of this style of hardcore.
Cat Dempsey’s pick:
AMMO, Web of Lies / Death Won’t Even Satisfy (Wallride Records)
Here’s an objective fact: New Jersey has the best hardcore scene in the country right now. Punk had a place in the tiny state for decades, but it’s starting to feel like a storm is brewing once again. Shore-based AMMO dropped Web of Lies / Death Won’t Even Satisfy on January 1st of this year and it immediately became part of my daily routine to throw it on repeat.
With numerous release delays over the course of several years (including vocalist PJ getting stranded in Australia for six months during the pandemic), AMMO was built on perseverance and sheer will. The record is spiteful and rude, dirty in all the right places, and delivers some of the most relentless riffs I’ve ever heard in a punk house basement. AMMO is the band you need to pay attention to.
Benj Gleeksman’s pick:
Hammered Hulls, Careening (Dischord)
This awesome release typifies the angular hardcore on which Dischord built its foundation, but also nods to the maturity of its roster of veteran musicians that includes Alec MacKaye (The Faith, Ignition) and Mary Timony (Helium, Autoclave).
Careening is the second release by Hammered Hulls, and its varied set of songs pays as much homage to Rites of Spring and Gray Matter as it does the Minutemen and even the Dismemberment Plan.
While this doesn’t break any new ground for DC’s independent music legacy, it’s full of little surprises such as alternating shouted and spoken vocals. Careening builds on tradition, but its success lies in the fact that it also keeps me guessing.
Billie Page’s pick:
Ignite, Ignite (Century Media)
One cannot help but be concerned when a band that has been around for a long time like Ignite replaces their singer. A change like that can be disastrous or breathe new life into a band.
Fortunately it was the later for Ignite.
The album they released this year is incredible melodic hardcore. Catchy songs with relevant lyrics are what we’ve come to expect from them and they continue to deliver with this album. Everything about it is perfect and easily my favorite hardcore album to be released this year.
Freddy Alva’s pick:
Straw Man Army, SOS (La Vida Es Un Mus)
This 2-man band from NYC have put out my favorite Hardcore album of 2022. If hardcore for you means mosh-friendly tunes with growled/shouted vocals and the de riguer metal underpinnings with requisite loud production values, or D-beat/Youth Crew/NYHC/crossover or what have you worship. Well, you won’t find any of that here, what you will get is a surgically precise sonic and lyrical take on these off-kilter, in-between, oddly discomforting times we’re all sloshing through.
Mixing post and peace punk elements with a spoken word like cadence these guys tap into an under the radar strain of the hardcore family tree; I’m talking specifically in the mid-'80s when some of the original bands wanted to expand their horizons without going metal and or college rock.
Sophomore efforts by groups like The Proletariat’s Indifference LP or Code of Honor’s Beware the Savage Jaw reflect this evolution, and while I’m fairly certain Straw Man Army developed their sound in an organic fashion, the armchair critic in me can’t help but place them in the same lineage.
Bonus points for sneaking in a dreamy pop song (“Beware”) in between the pointed missives. One of my favorite comments someone ever made to me was; ‘You don’t look like someone that’s into hardcore’. This album is for all those who don’t believe in whatever preconceived notions a hardcore record is supposed to look and or sound like.
Vince Guglemi’s pick:
Raw Breed, Universal Paranoia (Convulse Records)
My pick for Record of the Year is End It’s Unpleasant Living, but that seems to be a popular one in the No Echo email chain, so I want to instead shine light on something I heard recently that I think, looking forward, will be a 2022 release I come back to: Universal Paranoia by Raw Breed.
I think the Rival Mob renaissance is coming. A lot of people talk about how great of a band they were but we’re yet to see that translate into a sonic revisitation. I think this record fires the first serious shot in that direction. It’s bouncy and moshy but full of punk sensibility and the bitter sneer that allowed Rival Mob to bridge the gap between scenes.
This record also has some of what’s caked into the Denver/Convulse records sound—a Youth Attack inspired DIY basement sensibility. It’s punk informed but undeniably a hardcore record. The side-to-side parts on this shit are what really gets my blood boiling.
Rey Martinez pick:
Mindforce, New Lords (Triple B Records)
If you're itching for that certain Leeway vibe of tasty thrash crossover guitar riffs and melodic vocals, you can't go wrong with Mindforce these days. The Hudson Valley, New York hardcore scene is one of the best in the US right now and these gentlemen have a lot to do with pushing that energy to the world.
New Lords clocks in at under 18 minutes, ensuring that the material packs a lot of power, never sticking around too long to bore you. In fact, the 10 songs included on the album are some of Mindforce's catchiest yet.
Guitarist Mike Shaw is the secret weapon in the band, and he always figures out a way to throw in little idiosyncratic flourishes in his parts to help them stick out in the arrangements. I wish more guitarists took notes from Mr. Shaw in that department!
With two studio albums and a slew of other EP and compilation tracks already in their discography, it seems like Mindforce is just getting started.
Vince Callum's pick:
Squint, Wash Away (Sunday Drive Records)
I fell hard for St. Louis quintet Squint last spring when No Echo covered their wonderful Feel It EP. Their sound is all kinds of melodic, so it's with little surprise that they name both Archers of Loaf and Superchunk as influences.
Wash Away came out last month and its hooks have been stuck inside my head ever fucking since. It's a snappy jolt of hardcore made up of four songs that never outstay their welcome.
Is Squint a hardcore band? Sure, they clearly carry the punch and spirit of hardcore in what they're doing, but the Gateway City crew marches to the beat of a different drum. I'm excited to hear what Squint comes up with whenever they serve up their debut LP.
Todd Manning’s pick:
Sundown, Keep Moving (self-released)
Despite coming out last February, Indianapolis’s Sundown has remained at the top of my list for hardcore record of 2022. Their particular take on post-hardcore retains the earworm melodies and sing-along anthems, each song dripping with passion.
However, Sundown also brings a bit more grit to their sound than most. It’s not a terribly complicated formula, but goddamn it works.
Gabe La Torre’s pick:
Raw Brigade, Aggressive City (Cash Only Records)
Upon showing my Apple Music Replay to a friend, filled with Bad Bunny, Daddy Yankee, Fania All-Stars, Willie Colón, etc. he quipped “WE GET IT, YOU’RE LATINO."
So when trying to select my favorite hardcore record of 2022 in a year filled with highlights that’ll surely be commented on by my fellow contributors, I decided it would be suiting to not betray my brand and go with the band who literally made “Hardcore Latino” their emblem. But more importantly than that, Aggressive City is the most effective example of straightforward no-frills hardcore in 2022. It’s hardcore punk played the way it was meant to be played.
The speed, aggression and heart-on-sleeve sincerity that you could attribute to the genre’s all-time classics are all represented on this release. With so much attention being given to bands in hardcore trying to “expand the sonic palette” of the genre by mainstream publications and with no animosity towards any bands that may fit that description, it’s high time to heap praise on a band who so effectively channel the roots of the genre while not sounding dated or like contrived cosplay.
Because when a band has an actual real passion for the music they’re playing, it reflects in the quality of their music and makes you care about it as much as they do. It’s no wonder that Raw Brigade keeps getting booked on fests all over the world and have even managed to book their own in their hometown of Bogotá that is bringing many US bands to South America for the first time. This is hardcore made by people who care about hardcore, for people who care about hardcore of all stripes. Play it loud.
Matt Horowitz's pick:
Knelt Before, Be Nice (self-released)
Knelt Before is a band consisting of four seasoned punk vets hailing from Oregon and across the country. Knelt Before's current line-up consists of Mark Johnston, Donald "Don" Rossington, Shannon Eoff, and Derek Woodard. Collectively, Knelt Before's members have either previously performed as or made music with LoveHateHero, Divide the Day, What Lies Within, Breakaway, Tall Dark Whimsy, A Prize Worth Killing, Second Coming, Dekisi, and XDADX.
Their music is primarily straight edge hardcore with dashes of melodic pop-punk, emo, hard rock, and metal tastefully peppered throughout. Knelt Before, at its sheer genesis, is a group of middle-aged punk vets, who have done this more than a time or two before. However, this time around, it's 100% PMA-centric, curse-free, and kid-friendly through and through. Lest we forget, not entirely unlike Wu-Tang Clan before them, "Knelt Before is for the children!"
The band recently dropped their tough-as-nails debut full-length, Be Nice, digitally, as well as on golden cassette tape and a special multi-colored 5-inch vinyl single for "Choices." Be Nice's 11 tracks have it all: chunky guitar riffs, sprawling guitar solos, arpeggios, sing-along hooks, impassioned yelled verses, and even a song fully delivered in Japanese ("生きる しか ない (Live with Myself)") all embodied through and through with a positive, kid-friendly message.
I'll just leave it there, but there is one of my personal favorite hardcore-adjacent releases issued in 2022. It's safe to put on around your kids and we strongly suggest you cue up Be Nice now and share it with your family and friends this holiday season. The album is now available through Earache Distribution/Wrecking Crew Records. And trust me, a shiny golden cassette and/or blue-ish, red-ish, or gold-ish 5-inch vinyl record would make for the perfect stocking stuffer for that special record collector in your life!
Ryan O’Conner’s pick:
Risk, Monologue of Misery (Guerrilla Press Records)
You all knew I was gonna pick a Boston band. From the moment Risk stepped back onto the stage in 2020 after a four-year hiatus it was clear they had a mission. Once the COVID restrictions were loosened, Risk's hostile takeover was truly set into motion. Just this year alone they played countless local shows, toured the country for the first time and played This Is Hardcore for the first time. It’s difficult to find a band that had a better run this year than Risk did.
With the release of Monologue of Misery it was clear that hard work was not in vain and the band had plenty of gas still left in the tank. Tinged with the crunchy crossover riffs inspired by Merrimack Valley greats Shipwreck as well as Connecticut's Palehorse, the nine tracks scorch the listener with hard luck tales belted from the tortured vocals of BG.
By the time the penultimate track, “Nothing Ever Ends,” comes on, you feel as though you’ve climbed a mountain to reach your final resting place. One of the best experiences listening as well as seeing live this year.
Mike Musilli’s pick:
Rejection Pact, Can We Wait? (Safe Inside Records)
While it was released only in the beginning of November this year, Rejection Pact’s Can We Wait? LP is my favorite record of 2022. The Boise band doesn’t just play fast catchy hardcore but they also continue to situate themselves as an important and socially conscious band. Can We Wait? is all about that awesome mixture of powerful hardcore and prescient honest messaging.
Musically, Rejection Pact offer up fast tightly-woven hardcore songs that balance the line between unmitigated aggression and subtle melody. Some of the guitar leads—check "Hollow Ethos"—come out of nowhere and present a great catchy layer to otherwise scathing hardcore riffage.
My favorite song is the record’s closer, “No More(s).” The opening bass line pounds into a vocally frenetic reflection on what we hope life can be versus how institutions of authority disallow us to live freely and genuinely. The closing octave guitars laid just behind the melodic vocals juxtaposed with the screaming vocals is the strongest arrangement on the record. I know that’s a lot to take in, but just give the song a listen.
Simply put, Rejection Pact matters. Their lyrical content is powerful and clear, their music is both a celebration of past hardcore bands and their own modern stylings, and by all accounts they live their ideas. Can We Wait? is an absolute must-listen LP.
Bjorn Dossche’s pick:
Feverchild, Witching Hour / You Know I Can't (Sunday Drive Records/The Coming Strife Records)
Alright, alright. This may only be a two-song EP, released digitally and on tape, but I'll be damned if these songs aren't perfect. Feverchild still is a fairly new band at this point, but ever since they dropped their debut EP in 2021 they've been turning heads with their take on that '90s post-hardcore / emo sound.
Fuzzy guitars, catchy hooks and choruses, with just the right amount of drama sprinkled on top. It sounds familiar enough to draw in the old heads and fresh enough to get the younger generation excited too. These two well-crafted tracks both capture that aching feeling of missing, letting go and feeling left behind—and they'll get stuck in your head in no time.
Owen Morawitz’s pick:
SPEED, Gang Called Speed (Last Ride Records/Flatspot Records)
While Australian hardcore has always had the talent to break through internationally—Day of Contempt, Miles Away, and Extortion, to mention but a few—we've never had flagbearers quite like SPEED. If the hard-style, white-knuckled rage and posse-cut video aesthetic of 2021's standalone single "WE SEE U" was a bold statement of intent, then the release of their Gang Called Speed EP was the hyperkinetic follow-through.
Across six monstrous tracks, the Sydney juggernaut put respect on their city and the rest of the world on notice. "Not That Nice" takes aim at racists and squares up over divebomb riffs and deafening gang-chants, standing toe-to-toe with some of NYHC's finest. "Move" finds frontman Jem barking about personal struggle and devotion, an empowering message sealed with raised fists over a stupid heavy breakdown.
"Every Man for Himself" and "Know Your Foe" wrap things up with air-raid siren licks and locked-in grooves destined to turn their already viral live show into a fight-or-flight rite of passage. And like the best entries in the hardcore canon, what ultimately sets SPEED apart from the pack is their unshakeable authenticity, communal solidarity, and passionate drive.
As their recent single for the fourth volume of Flatpsot Records’ The Extermination showcase attests, hardcore is about the "One Blood We Bleed," and in that sense, we're all in a Gang Called Speed.
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