Album review: Code Orange – The Above
Code Orange go even further down their rabbit hole to ensure they stand nowhere near anyone else on challenging and brilliant fifth album…
Earlier this year, our U.S. team decided to put its collective clubfoot down and declare our choices for the 50 best American metal bands from the past decade. One of the rules we used to narrow our list was that these bands had to be metal on a gut level — specifically, they couldn’t have their roots in hardcore. This, of course, resulted in us having to disqualify plenty of talented acts, as well as a lot of teeth gnashing among Internet historians and scene veterans. The next step was clear: publish a list of the 50 best American hardcore bands blowing up the scene right now.
What we perhaps didn’t anticipate was the diversity of music we’d end up debating. For both America and hardcore, the times are changing, with unorthodox opinions and previously-marginalized voices rising to the surface within the scene. And while some bands on this list embody the more traditional crush-kill-destroy sound of bands like Terror and Hatebreed, others take a noticeable left turn when it comes to what hardcore is, or at the very least can be.
Assuming we’re going to have all of hardcore Twitter down our throats the moment we press “publish,” here, in advance of your outrage, were the self-imposed ground rules for our selections:
1. The band must be American.
4. The band may have metal influences, but must be discernibly hardcore or have hardcore punk roots. (Apologies to fantastic artists like Iron Reagan and Enforced — crossover thrash bands that are just a bit too rooted in metal. Vocals and lyrics are considered, too — bands likeCult Leader, Full of Hell, and Varials are great but ultimately crossed the admittedly arbitrary “metal” threshold we’ve set. Likewise, grindcore bands must lean more heavily on punk than metal to be considered.)
5. The band can’t have been listed on our metal list. (Sorry, All Pigs Must Die!)
Now, without further ado… let’s open up this pit. (And don’t forget to check out our Spotify playlist featuring all of the bands included!)
The 2018 full-length from beloved Chicago fastcore outfit, C.H.E.W., begins with one of the fastest, most impressive drum rolls of the decade. It’s the perfect starting pistol for the 30-minute d-beat raid that ensues, a record that’s called Feeding Frenzy and genuinely sounds like a rapid series of deadly piranha attacks. Frontperson Doris Jeane is one of the most savage hardcore vocalists of our time, shrieking feverishly over the shapeshifting songs beneath her. There are glimmers of Fugazi-esque post-hardcore melodicism that flicker during the album’s brief moments of respite. But 90 per cent of the time, C.H.E.W. make music that’s so grippingly intense that taking out the ear-bud for a break feels like blasphemy.
Fans of Earth Crisis or Strife need to pay attention to Ecostrike, the south Floridian vegan straight edge outfit that cites both bands as prime influences. Yet, as much as they may have in common with their forefathers (and have even been taken under Earth Crisis’s wing on the road), Ecostrike have a style all their own. While certainly metal-tinged, the band leans harder into punk rock with a sound that maintains an impressively high level of energy and positivity without compromising the weight of their message — which continues to evolve into one of inspiration over pure militance. With equally killer riffs and lyrics, they’re poised to convert more to the environmental cause than most who have ever tried to do the same.
They don’t call their music “room-clearing grindcore” for nothing. Arguably the most unhinged band on this list, Bandit boasts a frontman who seems to be hellbent on getting everyone — crowd and bandmates alike — as insanely bat-shit wound up as he is. Vocalist Gene Meyer is constantly throwing himself into the pit to mosh along with fans, antagonizing guitarist Jack McBride and drummer Kevin Nolan when he’s not getting enough pushback from the audience during live sets that rarely exceed 15 minutes in length. Chaotic and terrifying performances aside, the band’s debut full-length, Warsaw — released at the very end of 2018 — is one of the best grind releases in the past year.
Although they are among the newest bands on the list, Frail Body have been making plenty of moves in the last two years to establish themselves as a powerhouse in hardcore’s skramz subculture. Already staples of the Chicago scene, the trio from Rockford, Illinois, are slowly building an audience throughout the rest of the U.S. with only two EPs, a single, and a split to date. Echoing bands such as Gospel and Orchid, and fitting in well with contemporaries like Hundreds of AU or Terry Green, their brand of captivatingly melodic and moving screamo is most powerful when witnessed live — don’t miss them when they roll through your town.
Perhaps it’s hailing from the Pacific Northwest that gives Transient their patented mixture of melancholy, anguish, and unorthodox weirdness. The quartet are for the most part frantic and furious, lashing together breakneck charges and haymaker breakdowns with ease. But it’s the hissing industrial overlays and minor-chord heartbreak audible on 2018’s Sources Of Human Satisfaction that set Transient apart from their peers, making them the kind of band that can fit in at a death metal, grindcore, or noise show with ease. Plenty of bands flex their muscles; with these maniacs, it’s all sinew.
Trail Of Lies bring the wholehearted ignorance of Earth Crisis and All Out War, and cross it with Terror-esque gang vocals and insurmountably weighty two-step passages. The Syracuse outfit’s style of beatdown hardcore sounds like it has an anchor tied to it, constantly dragging it down to the floor and making it that more intense when the band does break free of a chugging stronghold and rips apart the faster sections. They’ve become known for their bestial live presence, which is understandable given the produced-for-the-pit character of their music. It feels like blasphemy to be cranking this shit while not preparing to execute a donkey-kick.
Yes, there are some serious crossover / thrash vibes here, but New York City’s Ekulu are firmly rooted in the hardcore scene, having shared many a stage with plenty of other bands on this list, including Candy, Mindforce, and Abuse of Power. Though they’ve thus far only released two EPs (including 2019’s fantastic Half Alive), it was their 2018 self-titled demo that landed them slots at nearly every significant hardcore fest in the country. Meanwhile, Ekulu have been making a name for themselves at old school-style live shows throughout the east coast, with an unmistakably New York sound and attitude. A must-listen for any Cro-Mags fan.
The Bay Area gnashers, Tørsö, are known for their righteously confrontational lyrics on contemporary feminism, socio-political injustice, and veganism. But they scream about those issues over ruthless d-beat explosions that do not let up. Everything they’ve released since their 2014 EP Community Psychosis has been recorded by the lauded Jack Shirley (Deafheaven, Gouge Away, Loma Prieta) and it all evokes the intimate mayhem of a dingy basement show, but with the chops to go long if they ever wanted to. Their latest EP, 2019’s Build And Break, was released via Revelation Records, and hopefully they put this improperly underrated band in the ears of the uninitiated. Shit slaps.
From their art to their sound, Boston’s Exit Order aren’t going to give you the side of fries you asked for. The cover of 2017’s Seed Of Hysteria 12” is a stark mod-flavored declaration of the stripped-down artsiness that punk was always meant to embody, and the snapped cries of vocalist Anna Cataldo add a distress gives the band a solid sense of urgency. But it’s that guitar tone — steel and dreamy, straight out of the weirder bands of the furious early ’80s — that makes Seed Of Hysteria and especially jarring and exciting listen. A promising act who just get better with every spin of every album.
Hailing from Poughkeepsie, NY, the midway point between NYC and the Capital Region, Mindforce sound like a manifestation of their geographical identity. Their excellent 2018 debut, Excalibur, is a meld of traditional NYHC (think Leeway and Madball) and the metallic weight of Albany/Troy bands like Stigmata and One King Down. Their ability to turn on a dime from thrashy gallops to stomping mosh-parts makes listening to them an endlessly exciting adventure through hardcore’s many peaks and valleys. Plus this band can fucking shred.
Although Red Death play a brand of circle pit-inducing crossover that can be compared to Power Trip or the punky thrash revivalists Iron Reagan, the D.C. unit lean more toward hardcore than metal. Their 2017 full-length Formidable Darkness is a brooding melange of crashing drums, squealing guitar solos, husky riffs, and some truly hair-raising mosh parts that suddenly emerge in the midst of pummeling thrash strides. They don’t mince words in their lyrics about worldwide political corruption and racial inequality, and their anarchic approach to heavy hardcore reflects their revolutionary subject matter.
Throughout the last decade, +HIRS+ (formerly HIRS Collective) have consistently delivered music that embodies every sense of the word urgent. Throughout the prolific discography they’ve amassed since the early 2010s, the Philly group’s blend of grindcore and hard-headed metalcore has been an uncompromising platform for trans pride and the struggles that LGBTQ+, POC, women, and other working-class minorities continue to face in our present day. The bevy of guest appearances on their magnum opus, 2018’s Friends. Lovers. Favorites., builds an intergenerational bridge between punk icons of past (Alice Bag, Shirley Manson of Garbage) and present (Laura Jane Grace of Against Me!, Marissa Paternoster of Screaming Females, Sadie Switchblade of G.L.O.S.S.). Both in sound and subject matter, it’s one of the most immediately engrossing hardcore projects of the history of the genre as a whole.
When we premiered Paradise, the opening track from King Nine’s 2018 album Death Rattle, singer Dan Seely described the track with the following quote: “Every man carries a circle of hell around his head like a halo. Every man has to go through hell to reach his paradise.” Such a statement seems to fit the New York band’s entire aesthetic and sound — the sound of triumph, but one that came from traversing through the pit and losing everything along the way. The buzzing riffs and all-in screams behind Death Rattle bristle with finality, as though the album were a gravestone the band carved for the tomb they would collapse into when it was done. Let’s hope, for the sake of the scene, that these guys stay alive.
Though critically acclaimed, Closer have still yet to receive the widespread level of recognition they deserve. Their debut full-length, All This Will Be, has all the trappings of a late ’90s screamo record, with a modern melodic sensibility. While Griffin Irvine and Matthew Van Asseltdo (both of indie rock outfit Real Life Buildings) are respectively responsible for some heartstring-tugging basslines and guitar parts, the focal point of the band is drummer / vocalist Ryann Slauson, whose shrill shrieks, poetic-yet-touching lyrics, and distinctly staccato drumming make them one of the most compelling musicians of the skramz movement.
As one of the elder bands on this list, Cloud Rat has already released four full-length albums, and eleven EPs and splits — each one tighter and more focused than the last. Though rooted in grindcore, and following the Pig Destroyer blueprint of branching out from a guitar/drums/vocals trio to later incorporate electronics into the mix, the band has pulled in elements of black metal, noise, doom, goth, and folk, too. (Their major influences include Discordance Axis, His Hero Is Gone, and Darkthrone, if that helps.) Just don’t get too close to enraged vocalist Madison Marshall — if her violent howls are any indication, she is capable of biting your fucking head off.
For Boston’s Great American Ghost, the operative word is huge. From the moment 2017’s Hatred Stems From The Seed kicks in with the total steamroller that is No Savior, the band sound absolutely massive, and only continue to sound bigger, meaner, and more fed up with the world’s bullshit on every subsequent song. That sense of scope and no-nonsense approach to hardcore is what has made them an undeniable presence in the modern scene, and earned them a slot on Venom Prison and Homewrecker’s 2019 North American tour. When it comes to music to soundtracking a kickflip to the skull, sometimes size does matter.
Melodic hardcore can be tough to do right. A band has to nail the right balance between catchiness and aggressive might, or else it can sound awkward. In just one highly-rated EP and a recent LP, Abuse of Power have already mastered the essence of the style. Their record from June, What On Earth Can We Do?, features crunchy guitar tones, a muscular rhythm section, and Kaleb Perdue’s gravelly yet easily distinguishable yelp. However, it’s not just Kaleb’s vocals that provide the melodies. Their songbook is full of catchy leads and memorable drum arrangements that add entirely new dimensions to the genre’s storied timeline.
The rambunctious LA troupe SeeYouSpaceCowboy are spearheading the grindy mathcore revival with their Dillinger Escape Plan via Daughters take on hardcore. In their bizarre lexicon, the metalcore absurdism of Attack Attack! and the extraordinary chaos of Every Time I Die are of equal importance. And the group, who self-classify as “sasscore”, double-fist those two worlds on Songs For The Firing Squad (a compilation of their early EPs) and their 2019 record The Correlation Between Entrance And Exit Wounds. From their ridiculous name to their proclivity for inserting jazzy grooves in between savage breakdowns, SeeYouSpaceCowboy are running their playful take on hardcore through their mold-breaking ethos.
If, as Mexican American musicians, you’re going to name your band after the Mayan underworld, you better back it up with some powerful tracks. Thankfully, Californian throat-stompers Xibalba have always brought the cataclysmic riffs, thundering rhythms, and spiteful lyrics (in both English and Spanish, mind) to back up their name. Not only that, but the band don’t shy away from confronting their heritage and how it’s regarded in America, instead throwing the ugliness of society right in the listener’s face so they can see it for what it is. ‘I’m not a spic,’ screams Nate Rebolledo in the track Guerilla, ‘a nigger, a crack — I am the pissed-off human race.’ A-fucking-men.
Sure, one might hear Fucked & Bound’s name and immediately think of a brutal death metal band waxing gross about hentai. But the Seattle hardcore quartet, led by Lisa Mungo of art-rockers Daughters, are anything but — instead, the band play furious, hit-and-run tunes about the everyday hardships of ostracized cultural outsiders. According to Lisa, the band’s specific mission is “to challenge the constructs that keep people down: capitalism, patriarchy, and depression.” Given the level of blistering rancor present on the band’s tremendous 2018 album Suffrage, it’s sage to say that there’s a solid change they’ll lay waste to all three.
San Jose, CA’s Hands Of God are as almighty as their namesake implies. The band features members of Gulch and Vamachara, and their EP that dropped in 2019 via Flatspot Records, Blueprint for Self Destruction, is one of the most mammoth-sounding projects in recent memory. It was recorded by none other than Taylor Young of Nails and Twitching Tongues at The Pit, and his hand is pretty much the ideal match for this band’s titanic blend of walloping chugs, chainsaw-speed guitar sweeps, and Incendiary-esque vocal screeches.
Walking the line between fun and deadly serious is tough, especially in the often stone-faced world of hardcore. And yet Baltimore’s Sharptooth make it look easy. The band, led by indefatigable vocalist Lauren Kashan, may have taken their name from the T-Rex in The Land Before Time, and may use dinosaur imagery on tons of their merch and promo materials (the title of their 2017 album Clever Girl being an obvious reference to Jurassic Park). But on tracks like Can I Get A Hell No and Give ’Em Hell Kid, Sharptooth confront dire issues like misogyny and racism as mercilessly as any other band today. If their performance in our Brooklyn K! Pit taught us anything, it’s that this band will bite the hand off of anyone that fucks with it — and have a blast doing so.
For some bands, activism is just a song topic, but for San Antonio’s Amygdala, the struggle is very fucking real. As bassist Yole Centeno told us, “Considering we’re about three hours north of the border, we hear lots of what’s going on, especially since we have friends who are actively doing lots of work to help those undocumented at the border.” This honest outrage permeates the band’s 2019 album Our Voices Will Soar Forever, a record whose fearsome, double-jointed songs are dense with heaviness while simultaneously accented with bits of introspective melancholy. In the current tumult of American life, a band like this is more important than ever.
Especially intriguing about Chicago three-piece Lord Snow is how they stretch the boundaries of what hardcore can be. On the one hand, the music on 2019’s Shadowmarks undoubtedly makes the grade, thick as it is with sticker-bush vocals and tooth-rattling rhythms. But the cloudy, wonky guitar tone the band uses is a far cry from the snarling riffs most listeners have come to expect from the genre, and all-elbows song structure often implemented in the band’s music feels like it’s outsmarted you rather than beat you up. As the definition of hardcore changes, this band stands at the forefront of innovation within the genre.
Soul Glo’s smoldering, erratic sound leaps between screamo, d-beat, fastcore, noisecore, hip-hop, and the occasional brush with chugging mosh material. In that sense, they’re one of the most enigmatic bands in the idiom, and their full-length from earlier this year, THE N*GGA IN ME IS ME, is an absolute must-hear. But Soul Glo’s scorching criticisms of white DIY and the problematic structure of punk rock make it twice as important to consume thoughtfully. ‘So broke off these loans I’m licking hot sauce off the back of my hand as a snack / The stomach pains feel the same as every panic attack, but I know I shouldn’t talk shit about all that / So self-aware, such empathy, trickle-down indie rock loves rap / White DIY is a fucking dead end path, and y’all can have this bullshit back,’ goes one passage from the aforementioned record. Listen carefully, act accordingly and be sure to catch Soul Glo’s ravenous live show when you can.
Sometimes, it’s good for hardcore to be unpredictable, and thankfully, Richmond, Virginia’s Ostraca are here to fill that need. One minute, the tracks on last year’s overwhelming Enemy sway with the dreaminess of shoegaze or doom metal, humid and despondent; the next, they’re clawing at the listener’s face with a vent of primal, eye-stinging emotion. While this bridge between traditional heaviness and more ambient, heartfelt emotion might put off typical beatdown fans, it gives their music a nuance that will bring a new generation of more vulnerable fans to the fold. Breathtaking one minute, terrifying the next.
Of course Sanction are from the east coast. As though the fact that the Long Island quintet’s roster includes members with monikers like Lumpy and Lil D, there’s the matter of their riffs to consider — gigantic, iron-coated riffs, heavy as I-beams, that smash listeners in the jaw. This isn’t to say that the car-crash drums and shrieked vocals on 2017’s The Infringement Of God’s Plan aren’t also confrontational in the utmost, or that the band doesn’t have a general atmosphere of menace that many modern hardcore acts could learn from. But those riffs, man! Listen to them! Have mercy, Lump!
The members of Hesitation Wounds are anything but new to the scene — the band features Jeremy Bolm of Touché Amoré, Stephen LaCour formerly of Trap Them, Neeraj Kane of The Hope Conspiracy, and Thomas Cantwell of Gouge Away and Axis. That their brand new album, Chicanery (out tomorrow!), was mixed by hardcore kingpin Kurt Ballou of Converge only adds to the sheer brutality of this incredibly extreme and intense politically-charged record that blends elements of all contributors’ previous works. This is a new band of veterans to watch.
Consisting of current and former members of bands that include Black Flag, Redd Kross, Melvins, Rocket from the Crypt,Hot Snakes, and Burning Brides, OFF! are punk rock royalty of sorts. Channeling early ’80s LA hardcore vibes reflecting rage, paranoia, and alienation, the supergroup hit the scene with four EPs at the end of 2010 that set the pissed off, snotty tone for the band’s consistent career in the decade to come — and they haven’t let up ever since.
Drug Church is the other band of Self Defense Family ringleader Patrick Kindlon, and throughout the last decade they’ve gradually ascended from quirky Seaweed-esque weirdos to grunge-infused cultural commentators. Kindlon’s gravelly, mostly amelodic squawk is surprisingly suitable for both self-deprecating tales of small-town ennui (see: 2013’s Paul Walker), and nuanced assessments of our destructive social media behavior (see: 2018’s Cheer). The latter record is an oddly accessible meld of beefy grunge riffs that verge on shoegaze, and coarse Quicksand-ish post-hardcore. There truly isn’t any other band like Drug Church, and although they don’t fit nicely alongside any other hardcore bands of the 2010s, they’re arguably the most crucial outsider.
While Pittsburgh hardcore has become synonymous with Code Orange, over the last two years Shin Guard have not-so-quietly been carving out their own niche at home. Kicking off their career as an experimental yet melodically-leaning screamo band like La Dispute or emo leaders Tigers Jaw, their most recent full-length, 2020, established them as something much heavier — and arguably the best modern skramz band on this list. Their prolificness (case in point: they released a split with neighbors For Your Health from Columbus, Ohio, just three months after dropping 2020) proves that they aren’t stopping for anything.
Portrayal of Guilt are the torchbearers for screamo’s latest wave, which is to say that their music is as stunningly heavy as it is chaotically indefinable. Their 2018 debut full-length Let Pain Be Your Guide is a Frankenstein’s monster of malevolent black metal and shrieking screamo, but their EP Suffering Is A Gift saw them pulling an air of evil metalcore into their fold. The Texas quartet are incredibly young and full of promise that they could carry their sound into any number of directions in the near future. And clearly, they’re more than competent at stitching unlikely metallic fabrics into a devilish quilt of hardcore destruction.
Amidst all of the uncompromisingly heavy acts on this list, Fury manage to maintain a highly dangerous edge without a Metal Zone guitar pedal or a jacked shirtless frontman calling for beatdowns. If anything, the band has more in common with the ’90s than hardcore’s current scene — everything from the album art, to songwriting and vocals, to the production of their 2019 sophomore effort, Failed Entertaiment, feels it came outta the good ol’ days, with nods to relatively accessible bands like Quicksand, Fugazi, Rollins Band, Snapcase, and Hot Water Music along the way.
A favorite amongst other bands in the subgenre of metal-influenced hardcore, Judiciary collaborated with heavyweights such as Knocked Loose, God’s Hate, and Mortality Rate on their explosive debut this year, Surface Noise. We knew they’d be a band to watch since signing with Closed Casket Activities — but after exclusively premiering the single Temple, all of our hopes for this metallic hardcore band from Lubbock, Texas, were confirmed. The breakdown-filled record is a brutally heavy demonstration of why it’s best not to mess with Texas.
It’s rare a hardcore band makes you shudder, but State Faults found a way. On their new album Clairvoyant, the Santa Rosa, California three-piece intertwine the often-separate worlds of crushing sonic hostility and eerie occultism. And this isn’t just on the bizarre, grindhouse-throwback album cover either — sonically, the band’s cyclones of bone-splitting black metal-esque riffs and shrieks will give away to sonorous chants that make the hairs on the back of one’s neck stand on end. frontman Jonny Calvert-Andrew intones ‘I don’t know where my spirit goes’ on Sleeplessness, it’s immediately understood that the answer is: Somewhere really fucking scary. It’s good to know that the shifting face of modern horror has a band it can relate to.
The Armed are bending and breaking hardcore into something entirely new. The Detroit collective’s absolutely essential 2018 opus Only Love paints Botch-indebted hardcore erraticism with streaks of synths, pulsating drum machines, and shockingly hooky alt-metal vocal melodies. The band are infamous for their rotating lineup of (mostly) anonymous contributors, although Converge’s Kurt Ballou has been outed as the project’s orchestrator. Although there’s no shortage of mosh-worthy riffs throughout their varied discography, they’re one of the few bands on this list that are best absorbed in solitude through a nice pair of headphones. Their sound is incredibly detailed and you don’t want to miss a note.
It’s fitting that Homewrecker’s 2018 LP is titled Hell Is Here Now — listening to their music, that phrase makes perfect sense. The Ohio-based quartet have a heaviness that makes their music sound like the stony gates of the underworld blasting open. This has given them incredible crossover potential with bands of different heavy subgenres — the fact that these dudes can hold their own on a four-way split with Gatecreeper, Scorched, and Outer Heaven is a testament to just how much weight their music holds. They’re also a live act to be reckoned with, so make sure to catch them at a show if you could use a few setting pins in your joints.
Though modern hardcore has embraced earlier bands’ concrete-coated mosh parts, it’s sometimes lost the genre’s original wonkiness and dissent. Thankfully, Baltimore’s War On Women have brought it in spades. Their punkish discordance and thrumming surf-ish riffs have healthy doses of Dead Kennedys and Fugazi in them, while the vocals and lyrics of singer Shawna Potter add heavy helpings of riot grrl’s snickering confrontation of very real fury. On 2018’s wiry, tireless Capture The Flag, tracks like Dick Pics, Childbirth, and Divisive Shit give off a genuine solidarity in discomfort. When Shawna sings, ‘The game is fucking rigged,’ the listener can’t help but feel less alone — and pissed off that someone else has to feel this way too.
Let’s get the shocking bit out of the way: Sect’s drummer, Andy Hurley, is better known for his work as the percussionist of Fall Out Boy. Not that the fact that emo’s biggest drummer is in a hardcore band is terribly surprising — it’s that he’s in this band that might take some fans by surprise. Also featuring members of Earth Crisis and Cursed, Sect are about as irate a band as one can find, providing the perfect cutthroat gateway drug for fans of death metal and thrash looking for something even more extreme. 2016’s self-titled debut is chaos given form, full of furious blastbeats and threatening breakdown riffs that’ll put hair on a listener’s teeth. If this ain’t a scene, but a goddamn arms race, these dudes have their hands on the big red button.
Show Me The Body are a hardcore band that trades a guitar for a banjo, and borrows as much from experimental hip-hop and post-punk as they do spitting hxc. The trio have released two albums, a mixtape, and a few EPs since swinging onto the NYC DIY scene in the mid-2010’s, where they became infamous for playing guerilla gigs under bridges and in venues that are ill-fitting for pit riots. Beyond their precarious live shows, the band are notable for their peerless blend of noisy electronic production, sludgy, down-tuned string tones, and frontman Julian Cashwan Pratt’s biting vocal yelps. The band’s deconstruction of the hardcore foundation is indicative of where it’s headed in the coming decade, and Show Me The Body are proving that they’re ready and willing to lead that movement.
Year of the Knife’s down-and-dirty breed of hellish metallic hardcore has made them one of the most beloved up-and-comers in the genre – and for good reason. Earlier this year they signed to Pure Noise Records and re-packaged their first two EPs into an album called Ultimate Aggression, which features one unrelenting chug-fest after another. Double kick onslaughts and stomp-through-the-floor breakdowns are their bag, but in lieu of falling into beatdown repetition, YOTK’s songs are spliced with metallic leads. The verses in their single Sick Statistic approach the speed and fury of death metal, but vocalist Tyler Mullen’s chest-convulsing bellow is firmly planted in the hardcore stylebook.
Candy features members of three now-defunct East Coast hardcore bands from the 2010s: Backtrack, Malfunction and Lost Souls. And their 2018 debut Good To Feel is arguably better than anything their previous acts ever released. The group’s crucial lyrical diatribes toward police brutality and systemic racism are done immense justice by the crushingly heavy nature of the music. However, Candy are more than their weighty riffs and subject matter. The band are very open about their admiration for Stone Roses, My Bloody Valentine, and other ’90s shoegaze/Britpop acts, and they manage to cleverly weave those influences into their ACAB hardcore pounders. Your fav would never.
Gouge Away’s blistering assaults on “white collar bullies”, racists, and animal abusers are as visceral as their scorching lamentations on depression. The Fort Lauderdale, FL unit have, in just two albums, positioned themselves as one of the most lyrically and sonically versatile bands in modern hardcore. Each of their releases, 2016’s, Dies and 2018’s Burnt Sugar (produced by Jeremy Bolm ofTouché Amoré), are required listening no matter which subset or iteration of the broader genre you find yourself in. Vocalist Christina Michelle is particularly great at channeling the injustices of our time through her fierce-as-fuck screams, and the rest of the band are tight as hell.
It almost sounds like a joke: “What if you took members of Misery Signals, Fit For An Autopsy, Counterparts, Shai Hulud, and Reign Supreme, and put them in a band together?” The answer, however, is no laughing matter. In the few years they’ve existed, End have cleared out a crater around them in the scene, triumphantly announcing with their 2017 release From The Unforgiving Arms Of God and their rigorous live shows that they are one of the genre’s new superpowers. Though their music still blazes with the death metal dissonance of guitarist/producer Will Putney’s other band Fit For An Autopsy, the core of END’s sound is the purest of hardcore, whip-driven by the dissatisfaction that first launched punk rock across the room and at the throats of those who would silence it. If we laugh, it’s only to keep from screaming.
Not quite melodic hardcore — more like hardcore pop? — Baltimore-area lifers Angel Du$t (featuring members of Trapped Under Ice, Turnstile, and GAG) have evolved over time, proving to be one of the most fascinating and forward-thinking hardcore groups of the decade by translating the genre’s urgency and vivacious spirit through jubilant indie-pop choruses. In just a few years, their sound has gone from Ramones-adjacent two-step anthems to full-on Buzzcocks worship – but with a uniquely hardcore type of energy. Their unabashed sweetness is a breath of fresh air in the gloom-and-doom climate of the genre at large, and an enchanting complement to many of the heavy-ass bands with which they continue to tour.
Yes, we’ve crowned Code Orange the greatest metal band from Pennsylvania — and we admit it’s kind of confusing for them to reappear here and not on our list of the 50 best metal bands of the last decade. But let’s set the record straight here and confirm, once and for all: Code Orange are, indeed, a hardcore act (initially known as Code Orange Kids, when they were undeniably rooted in punk rock) that evolved into a (nu-)metalcore band. They are still as violent, brutal, and heavy as any metal or hardcore band, but their uncompromising work ethic and commitment to giving every last fucking drop of energy to everything they do is what lands them so high up on this list. In some ways, there would be no Vein, Jesus Piece, or Knocked Loose without them.
If you have any doubt that Philadelphia’s Jesus Piece don’t deserve their placement on this list, one only has to watch their live show. A Jesus Piece performance feels like the rush of a storm, a familiar gust of electricity and darkness followed by a sudden and all-out deluge of bitterness, anxiety, and much-deserved rage. That the band are ethnically diverse and confront the issues of racist prejudice undeniably visible in today’s society only makes them feel more crucial, the kind of bent-at-the-waist reaction from which hardcore stemmed. This isn’t to undersell 2018’s jaw-shattering Only Self, only to emphasize the discernible energy of this young band. This is not an act, not a bunch of hollow chest-pounding — it’s the real thing, as loud as it gets.
A lot of different things have gone into Vein’s steady climb as one of heavy music’s most punishing acts. There’s the recent nostalgia for nu-metal’s more hard-hitting moments, the steady breakdown of niche walls between genres, and the desire by many fans of both metal and hardcore to hear music that floored them with its intensity rather than its image or hype. But at the end of the day, the proof is in the pudding, and for Vein, that pudding is 2018’s Errorzone, an album so tangibly determined, hostile, and dynamic that listeners from all corners of loud music couldn’t ignore it. With that record, the Boston sextet announced to the world that not only were they ready to become one of hardcore’s brightest lights, but that they didn’t give a shit what anyone else thought of it. Listen to that album and try to tell yourself that this band isn’t a force to be reckoned with.
Although other bands are more demonstrative of hardcore’s sound by the finale of the 2010s, Turnstile are the poster children of the era’s spirit. The Baltimore posse began as a casual opportunity for Trapped Under Ice drummer Brendan Yates to try his hand at frontman, and after dropping two of the best EPs of the decade they released the most notorious hardcore album of the ’10s. Nonstop Feeling (2015), the band’s earnest embrace of Rage Against The Machine-indebted riffs, 311 bounce, and their celebration of everything from ’90s alt.rock to ’60s surf jangle, set the template for a new order of boundary-smashing within the hardcore universe. Although some old-heads bemoaned their seemingly limitless tank of ideas that challenged the perception of what NYHC “should” sound like, the kids fuckin’ loved it. And since Turnstile’s melodic brilliance and friendly yet reckless live shows erected them as the era’s premiere gateway band, many of the genre’s current and future forerunners will be creating in Turnstile’s unrestricted image.
In 20 years, when people talk about the sound of hardcore in the 2010s, Knocked Loose should be the first band they mention. The Kentucky five-piece are emblematic of the path the genre took throughout the decade, as their sound winds through the lands of late-’90s metalcore and nu-metal while always returning to their homeland of snarling hardcore. Between vocalist Bryan Garris’ throat-searing scream, Isaac Hale and Cole Crutchfield’s razory guitar tones, and one of the most uncompromisingly nasty rhythm sections in the game, Knocked Loose’s pit hymns are genuinely unmatched in their field. And on top of that, they’re able to speak to their generation’s overwhelming frustration in cathartically plain terms: ‘All my friends have problems with their selves / We don’t talk about it, nothing helps / We tuck it deep inside, so no one else can see / Then we think about it later in our fucking sleep,’ Bryan shrieks in their fan-favorite All My Friends. And somehow, they manage to make those real-ass sentiments into the most badass mosh call of the decade.
Code Orange go even further down their rabbit hole to ensure they stand nowhere near anyone else on challenging and brilliant fifth album…
As Jami Morgan says, Mirror is “dynamically disparate from anything Code Orange has ever done…”
Three-and-a-half years after dropping stunning third album Underneath into the claustrophobic void of lockdown, Code Orange are primed to unleash its successor The Above into the great wide open. Frontman Jami Morgan and guitarist Reba Meyers explain that, more than simple “sister record”, this is a defining statement from the indomitable Pittsburgh brutalists…
Listen to Code Orange’s new single Take Shape featuring Billy Corgan, taken from their upcoming album The Above
Spin-kick, motherfuckers! Europe’s greatest hardcore gathering gambles on some daring line-up choices and wins big with three days of chaos, camaraderie and karate-chops...
Following February’s Underneath companion album, Code Orange have just shared two brand-new singles: Grooming My Replacement and The Game.
Across two stages at Manchester’s Depot Mayfield, find out when you can catch over 50 artists including Denzel Curry, Converge, Death Grips and more…