Posted: by The Editor
Hardcore is currently thriving, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. As a way to document this current moment, we present Step 2 Rhythm, a monthly column rounding up the best in hardcore coming out right now.
Anklebiter is a no-frills clinic of straightedge hardcore. Everything moves at a breakneck pace on their demo, and no song overstays its welcome. However, there are still plenty of memorable moments that stick out. The opening guitar riff that opens up the EP and the bassline in “Talk About Me” are just two examples, but there are plenty more. These parts are so memorable that I can visualize people dancing alongside them, which is ultimately the goal for any hardcore band. If the music doesn’t make people flail their bodies into each other, you’re doing something wrong.
Blind Idol-The Infinite Mile
Blind Idol harkens back to a time in hardcore two decades old—when a band like American Nightmare would change the genre for good. Instead of leaning on the ultra-positivity of the youth crew, they leaned toward something a bit darker, helping to codify the lamented “warrior poet.” Blind Idol doesn’t fully move in that direction but is still interested in taking a less positive approach lyrically than other bands referencing 2000s hardcore as their main inspiration. Infinite Mile, their debut LP, is their most cohesive vision of this philosophy, packing as much as possible in a compact thirteen minutes. But even though it is short, there is no shortage of ideas. It’s the kind of record that requires you to read the lyrics while listening to it the first few times just to parse through what the vocalist is talking about.
Candy-Heaven Is Here
For all the genre pastiche that exists in hardcore, Candy is the antithesis of that. While there are bits of influence you can tease out for the band, their only goal is to make you feel something, even if it takes a barrage of blast beats to drag some emotion out of you. And they did that on their last record Good To Feel, with an eighteen-minute cacophony of pummeling hardcore. The only relief that came was once it was over. So, how do you follow such a record up? On Heaven is Here, Candy dives deeper into electronic elements, fully delving into a space to which bands like Full of Hell and Code Orange have laid claim for years. But what makes it work for Candy is they don’t just lightly play in this territory but fully commit to it. You can feel the electronic elements most on the closing ten-minute noise track of “Perverse” and “Transcend to Wet”. These moves ensure that Candy won’t fall prey to the album trap that besieges most hardcore bands. Instead, Heaven is Here makes the case that Candy thrives in the longer format.
Contention approaches straightedge with the tact of a chainsaw, seeking to rip its oppressors to shreds. They haven’t strayed from this mission since releasing their debut EP in 2018, screaming “the system vies for complete control” to open it. Summer Offensive is no different, working as a series of mantras for the listener to refer back to when needed. Subtlety is ignored, comparing themselves to a full metal jacket in an uncaring void on “Inflict My Will.” But that’s not the point with straightedge—being didactic and having a clear point of view is. Paired with the slicing attack of 90s metallic hardcore, it is clear that Contention has one, ending the EP with a cover of “Blindfold” by Indecision as a nod to the past while they show the future of straightedge elsewhere.
Extinguish-Seed Of Evil
There is no shortage of hardcore coming through the Bay Area lately. I’ve written about Sunami and Field of Flames in the past few months of this column. This month we have Extinguish, who sits just alongside those two bands, producing the same kind of heavy metallic hardcore for people to swing their arms violently. I would be surprised if someone doesn’t get a black eye during every one of their sets. The instrumental opener on Seed of Evil seems to be looking for that kind of response. The lyrics also invite anger openly, choosing to end the EP with “placed into the world, only not to be free/suffering to exist”.
Raw Brigade-Aggressive City
Raw Brigade would be right at home in New York for a band that comes from Columbia. Aggressive City, their long-awaited record, sounds like a lost piece of 80s New York hardcore with better production. I could easily see them sharing a bill with Agnostic Front or Warzone back in the day. The artwork even evokes a time long gone by depicting a raucous city block. This similarity to a time decades ago is part of the album’s charm rather than a knock against it. To find a band that references Straight Ahead as a core influence is more of a rarity than ever and should be appreciated for it.
Speed-Gang Called Speed
I first heard SPEED last year when they released a short video for ‘WE SEE U” last year. There was nothing flashy about it, and it mostly found the band in various locations around Sydney. But what came through was a sense of fun and charisma that all the best hardcore bands have. It was so compelling that I played the one-minute video on a loop. The vocals, particularly, are swaggering, channeling the best parts of Trapped Under Ice and Madball. Now a little under a year later, we have a more substantial release in Gang Called Speed. “Not That Nice,” the lead single, is a reaction to hate crimes against Asian people during the pandemic. It drives home the point that SPEED is not just writing songs for people to mosh to. Instead, these songs are a way to express a different worldview from those who may be listening.
Speedway is trying to reach for something different. The usual cliches of straight edge don’t apply here and instead look toward melodic hardcore. It’s a very slight change but an important distinction. Instead of speaking in platitudes, Speedway is closer to a motivational speaker. Their songs are uplifting, hoping to drag their listeners out of complacency. The whole EP of Paradise is about the fear of change, asking the listener, “what will it take to turn things around” on the closing track. It ends without closure, letting anyone who hears it either take the advice or enjoy the band solely for their hardcore earworms.
Strange Joy-Five Songs
The best hardcore is primal, which makes trying to describe something like Strange Joy difficult. Their debut EP is melodic hardcore that comes straight from the gut. Trying to intellectualize why it works is almost missing the point. If the first few notes of “Leaves” don’t make you jerk your head, this band may not be for you. But there is a level of familiarity with Five Songs. It partially reminds me of the 2010s post-hardcore wave that found its way onto Run For Cover, No Sleep Records, and other labels of this ilk.
Terminal Nation/Kruelty-Ruination of Imperialism
On its face, Terminal Nation and Kruelty aren’t hardcore. They both have feet firmly planted into metal, and two-step parts are nowhere to be found. Both bands are still rooted in the hardcore community, bridging together two communities that were once far apart. On Kruelty’s only US tour, they played with hardcore bands and at the popular FYA fest. Terminal Nation does the same, helping build their scene in Little Rock. This similarity bonds them together and makes them a perfect match for a split. They even sing on each other’s songs, making this release feel more like a collaboration than it should be.
Reissue/New To Me Corner
Reissues are just as important as anything that comes out of the hardcore scene on a monthly basis. It’s the way bands become remembered and reach a younger audience. Without it, they could be relegated to the dustbin and forgotten. A whole swath of bands is only available because of Youtube, limiting their reach. This lack of access matters because, for some, if it’s not on Spotify, it might as well not exist. To alleviate that reality, I’ll try to give a shoutout to one reissue or a new album I discovered each month.
As evidenced by Blind Idol, we’re beginning to see more hardcore bands influenced by the 2000s rather than the 90s. This trend makes sense when you think about it; We’re far enough away from that time that it can now be part of the hardcore cannon. The people who grew up on Bridge Nine Records are now old enough to make their records. And in that label’s early days, Right Brigade was important for solidifying a certain tentpole of the label’s sound. They were the spiritual successor to that classic Boston hardcore scene of the 80s. It’s burly, fast as hell, and pissed off in that specifically Boston way.
Hugo Reyes | @hvreyes5
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