Chicago hardcore has always been the equivlent of an amorphous blob.
Trying to put strict definitions on what it is and isn’t is a stupid and pointless exercise. Unlike New York hardcore, there isn’t an identifiable sound or even a flagpole band.
We do have some heavy hitters over the years ranging from the beatdown metalcore of Harms Way to the unreplicable Los Crudos.
There are countless more examples as documented in the excellent documentary No Delusions, for those who wish to learn more than I could put in a review.
But if you were to ask me for one modern band that embodies Chicago hardcore, it would probably be Rash. It’s no frills and straight to the point, really bringing back the sound of the genre before the introduction of metal.
This is not to say their music is an exercise in traditionalism. Their songs are a little more deranged than anything Negative Approach wrote for example.
Since starting in 2013, there has been one throughline across an EP, a split with C.H.E.W., and one record: keep things fast and noisy as hell. This consistency makes it a little difficult when speaking of their newest record, Hivemind.
Unlike other bands even on their label Convulse Records, there isn’t some overarching narrative.
All they wanted, according to what bassist Jim Gies told No Echo several months ago, was to create a cohesive release.
That humble goal is definitely accomplished. But it does strive for a bit more than that. The first half is packed with quick rippers in "Breeding," "Hivemind," and "Beautiful World," to name just a few. These are ugly and noisy in a way most hardcore songs are not.
Singer Erik Frankel’s voice is sometimes barely audible, almost clawing its way across the mix. And that would be enough to make for a pleasurable release. But it's in the second half that Rash stretches out, akin to C.H.E.W. on Feeding Frenzy.
That little shift, as shown on a song like Interlude, makes Hivemind an exciting and essential release for Chicago hardcore in 2020.