The old cliché about opinions being like assholes, insomuch as everyone has one, but most of us being full of shit, rings so very true when it comes to this time of year. Ah yes, it's that time of year again when music writers, nerds, opinionated jerks, obsessives and miscellaneous assholes crack their knuckles, dig through all the press releases, random emails, blogs, etc and try to sort out the ‘best’ records of the year.
I’ll be honest, a lot of lists I see come off like they took the recommendations of the most persistent press agents, shuffled them and went “TADA! These are my favorite records!” This list is not that.
To say hardcore has gotten huge in the last few years might be one of the bigger understatements of the year but as elements of the scene have become focussed on largescale attention, I do wonder what is lost? There have always been larger bands, which serve as feeders to keep the fields of DIY punk fertile but I fear in recent times the focus on mainstream notions of success have diluted the ethics and principles which have kept this a vital subcultural music scene for decades.
Success is writing a song. Success is playing that song to your friends. Success is creating a zine. Success is doing the thing because you have something inside of you that needs to get out. Success is waking up everyday and not letting them win. Everything else is just gravy.
For me hardcore, punk, whatever you call it, is doing it because you need to, doing it because you don’t quite fit in, because you have to do the thing or you’ll explode.
Stay punk, stay freak. Resist psychic death.
Anyway enough random musings from an old man, here’s a list, in alphabetical order, of what are my favorite hardcore/punk releases of 2022.
Bombardement, Le Futur Est Lá (Destructure/Symphony of Destruction)
A relentless, rampaging onslaught of some of the best D-beat hardcore punk on the planet—as you are probably well aware, Bombardement have released a few records by this point but for me, this might be the best one yet.
There is a general cohesiveness to the songs, the production is really top notch and the energy here is just through the roof. I mean it's always through the roof but there is this consciousness of songwriting, and performance here that is just next level. Total fucking rager.
Exil, Mercenary (Adult Crash Records)
Four more taut blasts of crucial Poison Idea-influenced Swedish hardcore from these ragers from Stockholm. Here we find these maniacs having tightened up the structures a bit and for me, this is a step up from the writing on their LP Warning from last year, which says a lot given that was one of my top releases of the year.
You need this in your life.
FATAL, Six Songs (Bunker Punks Discs & Tapes/Fight For Your Mind Records)
FATAL is a hardcore band featuring the original singer of Out Cold with dudes from Scarecrow. They play hardcore. Raw, primitive, fast as shit hardcore. This fucking rules. Absolutely perfect. Absolutely essential. This makes me want to kick my neck off.
Generacion Suicida, Regeneración (Symphony of Destruction, Drunken Sailor Records)
Everything Generacion Suicida does is perfect and this is no exception. Pulsating punk rock from Los Angeles filled with slashing, shimmering guitars held lockstep by staccato drumming. Like their myriad of releases prior, it’s bathing in melody and malaise.
I always find there is a hint of sadness in their song structures and while there is a powerful singalong quality to their releases, it comes off less anthemic and more like a paean. Triumphic, certainly, but solemn. Just outstanding.
Hammered Hulls, Careening (Dischord Records)
Follow up to the 2019 debut EP from this DC band—yes, this is Alec from The Faith/Ignition's new band and yes it is excellent. Is it the angsty ball of teenage anger that was The Faith? No. Nor is it the finely honed tempered rage of Ignition but it is a document of 12 perfectly crafted tracks which harkens back a bit to pre-hardcore era DC punk. And it still pissed but in that way that that becomes more apparent as your hairline recedes and waistline expands.
It’s a bit angular, a bit garage rock but with that feeling that screams Revolution Summer. It has taut, tense guitar work, a lockstep rhythm section and this rather amazing, airy production style that makes you feel like you are in the room with them.
It’s certainly a mature record but one that’s more interested in exploring the ideas Empire and Magazine put on the table than the typical quiet introspection that tends to come with age.
Inferno Personale, In Ira Veritas (Symphony of Destruction)
Absolutely viscous, ripping hardcore from Germany made up of a cadre of ex-pats. It’s noisy, messy, and hectic in the style of old Italian hardcore like Wretched—shredding and careening across your cerebral cortex like a frenzied anthill that has just been kicked open.
The songs just thrash in this manic style where everything sounds like it will fall apart but somehow all the instruments end up at the same place at the same time creating this beautiful feeling of just wanting to get it all out as quickly as possible. Outstanding.
Invertebrates, Summer Promo 22' (self-released)
Look, do you like hardcore? Not that metal, bouncy shit but like hardcore—well boy howdy do I have something for you. Four tracks of just totally unhinged, high octane, go for the throat hardcore that sounds like Land Speed Record-era Hüsker Dü or the first Necros EP.
Yes, it sounds like it could fall apart at any moment, and no, I don’t think they bothered to tune their guitars but that’s what makes it great, duh.
Jade Dust, Wild Geese (Extinction Burst/Ebullition)
Am super stoked to see this release come to fruition—total Revolution Summer/DC hardcore worship from the is Portland band. Its emotional hardcore but in that college rock, pop sort of way but one that leans heavy into the Rain, Rites of Spring, and later Articles of Faith path.
Powerful riffing, passionate vocals—it’s a great release!
Long Knife, Curb Stomp Earth (Black Water/Beach Impediment Records)
This is an absolute stunner of a record—just absolutely perfect riffing and an example of progressing without losing sonic impact nor straying so far outside of the form that it drifts into metal or indie rock land. It’s got horns! It’s got keyboards! It doesn’t suck!
I know it’s a cliché to reference Poison Idea when talking about these fellow Portlanders but there are moments when I feel that Jerry A should have just surrendered the moniker to them—it’s not a slag on either party.
For me Poison Idea is one of the greatest rock 'n' roll bands of all time, taking all the ideas that came before them, stripping away the bullshit and distilling it in a vicious, ear melting attack and Long Knife continues that tradition better than anyone. Just a brilliant LP.
NEXØ, False Flag (Kink Records/TNS Records/5FeetUnder)
Holy shit—where did this come from?! Super frantic, high energy punk from Copenhagen that has that same sort of despondent raging feel you hear in bands like Negativ or early Die Kreuzen. It’s intense and careening while maintaining a constant feeling of angst and velocity. A snarling rapid attack of hardcore fury.
Nightfeeder, Cut All of Your Face Off (self-released)
Do not sleep on this—a monstrous, galloping, D-beat onslaught injected with dynamic, hook filled riffing, massive guitars and this beautiful snarling vocal attack.
Made up of members of Disrupt, Consome, Shitlist, Deathraid, etc, this Seattle band doesn’t stray too far from the sonic path of their prior bands but there is something truly special and powerful about this record in how they take the old D-beat formula but manage to introduce enough of themselves to make it a unique presentation and a cogent argument of where the style should go.
Planet Y, En Plads i Solen (Adult Crash Records)
I feel so lucky to have caught Copenhagen’s Planet T when I was in Stockholm a few years back—playing a style of punk which brings to mind late '70s Dangerhouse records bands and early '00s Copenhagen punk, they are straight up my alley.
On this, their second LP, the song writing is a bit more developed and the overall feeling is a bit more angsty and sassy. Think Gorilla Angreb, X, the Eyes—garage punk but with the emphasis on the P-U-N-K. Super great!
Reckoning Force, Broken State (Not for the Weak Records)
Raw, straight-forward, hardcore punk in the traditional American style—stripped down no bullshit, mid-paced attack in the same way as Deathreat or Lifes Blood. No Metal. No Funk. No Death.
Just Evil Plain Minor Threat Type Hardcore Just The Way It Was Meant To Be.
Rotten Mind, Unflavored (Lövely)
Sweden’s Rotten Mind shares the same musical space in my brain as Marked Men or Radioactivity—brilliant crafters of tense pop songs which dwell in a garage punk context but have enough extra there to appeal to those outside of the genre.
While their jagged, slashing guitar work finds it home in that space there is much on this new LP which owes a great debt to the moodiness and edginess to be found on Three Imaginary Boys or Seventeen Seconds-era Cure. It’s a brilliant LP all in all.
Savageheads, Service to Your Country (Social Napalm Records)
UK82 alert! I’m a sucker for this kinda stuff—punchy, quick paced, singalong punk that takes cues from Partisans, Abrasive Wheel, etc. In someways this sorta sound was foundational for a lot of early USHC and its cool to see it current hardcore kids playing with this sound in the US.
Scarecrow, Crisis (Bunker Punks Discs & Tapes)
You see, part of the problem with a lot of D-beat hardcore punk is that it just sort of plods along and this boring, sluggish pace and has no energy. This is not that—North Carolina’s Scarecrow, in sharp contrast, are a fucking juggernaut of ferocious noise-not-music that just rips and claws at your throat and never lets.
Total jackhammer to the face, raw as fuck tracks of energetic earworms that just rampage inside your brain with infectious breakdowns and speed. All killer, no filler.
Sick Thoughts, Heaven Is No Fun (Total Punk Records)
This sounds like Rikk Agnew's All By Myself but it doesn’t sound like it, if that makes any sense. It’s slashing, rampaging garage rock with a heavy OC early '80s vibe, filled with snotty vocals, perfect riffing and tons of just pure unadulterated rocking.
Its a near perfect album chocked full of brain worms making for a totally fun, infectious record.
Spore, Rabid Intent (Not for the Weak Records)
This is fucking beautiful—harsh as shit, wall of sound, distorted as all get out, raw punk from right here in Richmond. It’s super high energy, thrashing noise that just absolutely pummels your brain backing up a vicious snarly vocal onslaught.
Get on this party train now!
Syndrome 81, Prisons Imaginaires (Destructure, Sabotage, Black Water)
While I hate ranking releases in terms of best or second best or whatever if I had to pick a leading contender for best album of the year, Syndrome 81’s release is certainly at the top of the pile.
Still owing a lot to the influence of bands like Camera Silens and Komitern Sect, this LP sees these punks ramping up the dissonant melody, creating a moody anthemic and almost chilly sonic approach. It’s a powerful, melodious take on the classic sound which they make their own. A perfect record.
The War Goes On, Discount Hope (Adult Crash Records)
The most depressed and dour band on earth continues to march on! Born out of the ashes of No Hope for the Kids, these Danes continue to produce some of the finest depressive anthems currently going.
In so many ways this EP has become an anthem for hopelessness I feel in the face of the pandemic. “Maybe we were just fucked from the get go. Maybe we were born like this.”
Woodstock 99, Super Gremlin (Sorry State Records)
Brilliantly chaotic, nihilistic hardcore from Cleveland that borrows heavy from that city’s well known love of powerful Japanese hardcore thrash like Lip Cream and combines it the land of cleve’s panache for weirdo psych rock and '70s heavy guitar jams.
It's a frenetic auditory onslaught of mayhem and power. It’s like Poison Idea jamming with Hawkwind while smoking crank with ZOUO.
Wrong War, Once Upon a Weapon (Council Records, Atomic Action! Records)
Second LP from these Chicago punk rock vets—much like their prior release there’s still a lot of those latter years of Articles of Faith influences shining through but this feels a bit more developed and the band coming into their own.
It’s a genuinely pissed off sounding record but still has an aura of hope to it. Another solid release.
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