Before you could pull out your phone and pump any song that has ever been made into your ear over Bluetooth, there were bands making hardcore music with actual instruments in a basement somewhere in the slums of New Jersey. And there were kids looking for an outlet who didn’t quite fit in with the preppy Top 40 crap spewing out of the radio. It wasn’t about making money or trending or gaining followers; it was about releasing your aggression as a down-tuned guitar riff and double bass drum pounded in your ears while screaming “Fuck the world."
This was hardcore in the '90s and New Jersey was one of the hubs for tough-guy hardcore. Lyrics fueled by hatred and personal struggles bred some of the most violent live shows in the world turning clubs like The Stone Pony, Melody Bar, and Birch Hill into battlegrounds for a few hours.
This list is 20 Underrated NJ Metallic Hardcore Records From 1995-2005 These are the bands that put in the work and took respect no matter where they were at. To the few that lived it, they were 100% real legends, and these are the soundtracks to their stories of broken noses and bloody knuckles in the mosh pits of the Garden State.
20.) Endeavor, Crazier than a Shithouse Rat (1996)
To those unfamiliar with Endeavor, singer Mike Olender would go on to do vocals for Burnt by the Sun. Before that, however, Endeavor were regulars at the Melody Bar and releasing politically-charged music that gave kids in NJ a better lesson on government corruption than any local high school teacher ever could. I would not be surprised if Zack de La Rocha was taking notes from this one.
Crazier than a Shithouse Rat is a short album. 10 songs total just under 21 minutes, but what a glorious ride it is. You will not find this album (or any Endeavor album) on streaming services. Highlights for me include "Famous Potatoes" and "Fire Drill."
19.) Force of Aggression, In the End (2000)
The aptly named band, Force of Aggression, bring just that in this rare underground release. This one has all the makings of a classic beatdown style hardcore album with a raw demo sound. Spoken word, angry screaming, deep growling vocals, hugging riffs with interesting changeups, and slamming drum beats with double bass breakdowns.
These songs were meant to be played live in front of a small crowd of NJ thugs beating the living hell out of each other. Who needs high quality production value with lyrics like “never underestimate the power of my hate”? Just throw these guys on the lineup and get the bouncers ready to earn their $10 an hour.
18.) Signed with Hate, The Worst Intentions, They'll Kill Us All (2006)
Spawning from the '00s-era of beatdown-styled hardcore, Signed with Hate took brutal to another level with their album, The Worst Intentions, They'll Kill Us All. Deep throaty vocals, chugging riffs and bass heavy drums give this album a death metal feel while still maintaining the breakdown infused formula to appease the toughest hardcore mosh pits. There is no room for melodious crap in this release; strictly pound your face in, violent, anger infused hardcore with unrelenting heaviness.
17.) Struckdown, Partitioning the Skin (2001)
Stuckdown’s only release, Partitioning the Skin, is a classic piece of hardcore that is unknown to most, as the CD was rare even back when it was released. But if you were lucky enough to get to a club early and see them steal the show from the headliners, you know what a significant record this is for any NJ hardcore fan.
This album perfectly combines singing, spoken word build ups, melodic melodies, guttural screaming, and heavy breakdowns. Struckdown mastered the hardcore art of building anticipation before a massive explosion of fury through heavy guitars and double bass with vocals that inspire rage, making you feel like you could "fight forever."
16.) Alterkation, Heaven Hath No Fury (1998)
When you start a song with the warning, "You’ll be knocked out, motherfucker, I’m not frontin I’m coming for you," you know its going to be a classic. This is the album to listen to when you want to "release your aggression with harmful intentions." Beatdown style down-tuned guitar riffs, double bass, and a deep-voiced singer with angry violent lyrics warning enemies to "defend yourself" and "get the fuck, step the fuck, way the fuck back."
If double breakdown is a style, then this is the album that mastered it as just when you thought the song was over it comes back and hits you with a breakdown of a breakdown.
15.) As Darkness Falls, A Tremor So Subtle (2000)
This is the album to play at family parties if you want to scare your relatives and make them think you are a psychopath. An eerie, evil sounding voice backed by groovy riffs and melodic change-ups into death metal chugging make this album one of the heaviest ever to come out of the NJ hardcore scene.
You can sense the pain and emotion coming out of the speakers without even knowing the actual words. And if you bought this album from Vintage Vinyl back when it was released you may have even given your money to the lead singer himself working at the counter.
14.) Repercussion, And the Winner Is... (2004)
These South Jersey heavy hitters bring an entire album of music made strictly for moshing. Breakdown after breakdown with Sheer Disrespect style gang vocals and singalongs thrown in throughout. The signature track, "Sealed with a Fist," was the catalyst for releasing vengeance on anyone within reach, even if it was your closest friend, in the pit.
As a bonus, this album contains the Sheer Disrespect demos as a secret track at the end which has a majority of the same former members. It will have you screaming ‘6 . . . 0 . . . 9’ every time a South Jersey number comes up on your phone.
13.) Years Spent Cold, Retribution (2005)
Years Spent Cold is without question the most violent, rage-inducing band to ever rise from the streets of NJ. Retribution is Years Spent Cold’s first full-length album. This underground limited release contains some of the same songs as their later album, but with a more raw and rough sound. Led by a deep growling voice, death metal infused guitars and insanely thunderous drums, this release uses breakdown after breakdown to preach hatred to anyone that has ever wronged them.
They hold nothing back and don’t care if you’re offended; as they say, "don’t preach to me about positivity. It's not the answer and it never will be." This is hate-core at its finest and if you have beef with them, they will "end your life" and "hope you die in your family’s arms."
12.) Burnside, Visions of Serenity (1998)
These Jersey style hardcore kings bring an intensely heavy groove with a metallic edge while making sure to satisfy the breakdown loving hardcore kids of the '90s. Angry and powerful vocals fuel this album backed by eerie melodies, crunching riffs and double bass with some interesting change-ups and spoken word transitions.
You can’t call yourself a NJ hardcore fan without respecting the only full-length release from one of the original breakdown-infused hardcore and metal blending bands, Burnside. Rugged and raw, just like hardcore is meant to be.
11.) NORA, Theneverendingyouline (1999)
NORA is a band that played heavy uncompromising metal-infused hardcore with a piercing screaming voice not many could match. They have a large catalog of releases compared to some of the other bands on this list, but they always stayed true to their original heavy and interesting sound.
This early release carved their signature sound with heavy breakdowns and catchy riffs. The anger in the vocals was prevalent and triggered mosh pits throughout New Jersey to disregard their own physical well being and dive into a sea of flying fists.
10.) Clubber Lang, Varsity Violence (1998)
The deepest voice I have ever heard commands this album to bring the ultimate fighting music. The only album released by this infamous NJ beatdown band preaches tough-guy, never backing down hardcore. If you saw a big guy in a Hawaiian shirt grab the mic on stage back in the '90s then you had better run or put your gloves on because it was Round 1.
5 tracks of fast-paced violence, in a little over 12 minutes, was all we got from this amazing band. But that is all it took to seal their spots in NJ hardcore history as legends of the thug style.
9.) Second to None, Defeat (2002)
If thugcore is a genre, then Second to None were the pioneers. Before Joe None brought bone crunching riffs to Shattered Realm he was frontman of this lesser known yet still brutal NJ hardcore band. This is the only full-length album they released (I don’t count the discography that was only sold at the Super Bowl of Hardcore) and it’s adorned by images of Asbury Park, NJ. But definitely not the Asbury Park of 2021.
This was 1998 Asbury Park where a wrong step on Ocean Avenue could cost you an eye. From start to finish this album contains sick riffs, angry lyrics, and gang style vocals.
8.) The Dillinger Escape Plan, Under the Running Board (1998)
The Dillinger Escape Plan went through many lineup changes over their existence, but their second EP, Under the Running Board, stands out as a defining record in NJ hardcore history. 3 songs of insanely fast and powerful metallic riffing only stopping for a blood-curdling female scream sound clip and quickly returning you to the lunacy.
Their shows were like a disco in an insane asylum with strobe lights making the flying kicks and windmills seem like they were coming in slow motion as they smashed into your face. This EP can only be described as 7 minutes and 33 seconds of total chaos. When vocalist Dmitri Minakakis left the band the magic of this record was lost. Greg Puciato took the band to bigger heights, but nothing matches the anarchy of Dmitri's vocals.
7.) God Forbid, Reject the Sickness (1999)
This was the first full-length studio album by God Forbid. Musically, they are one of the most talented bands on this list with members moving on to more mainstream rock bands such as Bad Wolves. This album had a death metal feel and a vocalist with a range from deep growling to high-pitched screaming. It includes multiple heavy hitters that had been fueling the mosh pits of Jersey clubs for years before they were finally released on a CD.
The signature track "Assed Out" contains one of the sickest breakdowns ever to be created and can be described as nothing less than vicious genius.
6.) NJ Bloodline – Be Afraid (1997)
Before E.Town Concrete took over the reigns, NJ Bloodline was "Lord of the E Town Streets." They blended old-school fast hardcore with heavy grooves and clever lyrics to make an exceptionally unique album, outshining any of their NYHC counterparts. With one-liners like, "my ears are closed, talk to the fist" and "excuse me, scumbag’" you could hear the whole club shouting along when NJBL played.
The distinct vocal style is easily distinguishable from the slew of wanna-be hardcore screamers. There is even an emotional melodic "Love Song" on the album that gets the toughest thugs singing along at the top of their lungs "because you matter so much to me now that you're just a chalk line on the floor." But don’t be mistaken, NJ Bloodline are one of the most violent bands in the history of hardcore and as the album title states, you should be afraid.
5.) For the Love Of, Feasting on the Will of Humanity (1998)
For the Love Of (FTLO) was, hands down, one of the most interesting and unique bands to come out of the NJ hardcore scene. Brutal guitars, rolling rhythms, complex drum beats, harsh intense vocals and creepy horror movie sound clips. This album was heavily underrated and only really appreciated by their dedicated local following. In fact, Eric DeNault from E.Town Concrete played bass on this album and was able to show off his versatility.
They were not thugs taking respect, but they earned it with their music. If you were in an FTLO pit and witnessed the club lights turned low and the sparks flying from the hammer hitting the anvil that they placed on the front of the stage, it meant only one thing: "dying time’s here."
4.) Shattered Realm, Broken Ties... Spoken Lies (2002)
The hardest band to ever exist! They brought the violence back to clubs throughout New Jersey with former members of Fury of Five and Second to None. This album hits you with chugging guitar riffs, a slight taste of metal, pounding drum beats and vocals that would make Satan quiver in fear. They have mastered the breakdown, with slowdowns and calm in between the chaos followed by clever cymbal hits warning you to take cover before the musical beatdown ensues.
With lyrics like "conquer all your enemies, make them suffer" and "through my vengeance, all will suffer," Shattered Realm are the epitome of tough-guy hardcore. This album is the standard for which all future beatdown style hardcore should try to live up to but not expect to come anywhere close.
3.) Fury of Five, At War with the World (1998)
Thug-core at its finest. From the moment the sirens sound in the intro of the first track, Fury hits you with fast drum beats, chugging riffs and violent vocals from the legendary king of NJ hardcore, James Ismean, aka Stikman. He single handedly makes the phrase ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me’ a lie by beating you down and punching you straight in the face with his lyrics.
This album contains the revered NJ hardcore anthem "Takin' Respect" with guest spots by Anthony Martini from E.Town Concrete and Joe None from Second to None. An enormous amount of blood has been spilled when these songs were played live, and even some sludgy water when the pipes were ripped off the Stone Pony ceiling during a Fury of Five set at the record release party for this very album.
2.) Redline, Moments of Truth (1999)
The almighty Redline is probably the most underrated band ever to come out of the NJ hardcore scene. Their first full-length, Moments of Truth, is a breakdown-infused, heavy hardcore album with ferocious vocals, chugging guitars and powerful drums. The CD is non-stop energy only resting for masterful tension buildups with gang-style singalongs before the breakdown ensues.
When Redline showed up at a show and the ski masks appeared throughout the crowd, nowhere was safe. The catchy simple rhythms get the whole dance floor moving; and when they give the warning, "you should have walked away, mutherfucker," it's already too late as the club has become a war zone. They didn’t follow any trend or change their style to fit any mold. They played straight in-your-face mosh-fueled hardcore, and they were one of the best to ever do it.
1.) E.Town Concrete, Time 2 Shine (1997)
Through the sea of NJ hardcore albums that have been released over, arguably, the greatest decade of this genre’s musical history, there is one album that stands out above all the rest. If you grew up in the NJ hardcore scene there is never a question as to which band takes the crown; the debate only lies in which of their albums is the best.
From start to finish, Time 2 Shine is a masterpiece of hardcore without following the mold of what hardcore was supposed to be. It's hardcore from the streets of Elizabeth, led by Ant$, "a rock 'n' roll singer with a rap mentality." Tracks included songs about the struggles and tribulations that the band had to face growing up and their aspirations of making it big when the world consistently pulls them down. Woven with interesting guitar riffs, raw drumbeats, clever lyrics and just the right number of breakdowns to keep the crowd punching each other in the face right after an emotional sing along with someone you have never met.
Anthony has the flow to compete with the slickest rappers and the music to contend with the heaviest bands. It’s a combination that has been tried many times in the era of ‘nu-metal’ but nobody will ever be able to claim that they’re the kings except E.Town. This album dawned a king and spawned a reign that will live on forever as the greatest hardcore album ever to come out of the Dirty Jer-z.
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