First-wave hardcore fans may have trouble conceiving of hardcore (formerly “hardcore punk”) existing in 2011. What started out as a subculture of the maladjusted and praxis of social resistance has become a folk culture all its own. In the early 1960s, young people didn’t hesitate to don flannel, pick up an acoustic 12-string and bang out tunes Woody Guthrie made popular 30 years prior. In 2010 bad haircuts, fuzzed-out SG copies and Agnostic Front records may not mean what they did in 1982, but they still mean something. Despite recurring invasions from major labels, wannabe major labels and art-school kids looking to latch on to their next post-emo phase, hardcore remains a vibrant subculture for young and old.
Old folks and other cynics seeking proof that hardcore still turns out envelope-pushing, relevant rock and roll need look no further than the fruits of the last decade. From the crossover thrash revival to renewed influence in the mutant strain known as powerviolence and experimentation with prog and jazz, the hardcore of the aughties holds its own with any other decade.
10. SSS – The Dividing Line (2008)
Most crossover thrash bands are happy to rip off D.R.I. and pen cartoonish lyrics about zombies and beer. However, SSS, or Short Sharp Shock, bring the musicianship of thrash to the realm of hardcore. The band’s 2008 release The Dividing Line merges Infest, Jerry’s Kids and S.O.D. into an unholy brew that is neither quite hardcore nor crossover. Short bursts of brutality contain nested within them smoking-hot guitar shredding and tuneful mosh breakdowns.
9. Trapped Under Ice – Secrets of the World (2009)
It took a Baltimore band to perfect what New York ham-fistedly pioneered. Trapped Under Ice play thick, heavy, metallic hardcore with no shortage of “chug chug chug.” TUI are a lot like Madball or Crown of Thornz… except somehow good. Credit it to twenty years of reflection on the idiom or the fact that Baltimore is a city ten times as hard as New York. Whatever the reason, TUI’s debut is another reason 2009 stands as a landmark year in hardcore.
8. Punch – Punch (2009)
What was it about 2009? Will people look back on 2009 like my generation did 1988 or the way that 1995 is viewed in certain circles today? Regardless, Punch dropped this ripe slice of raw, female-fronted hardcore on the world in ’09. In a world of female vocalists who try to out-man men, Punch’s vocalist is caustic, powerful and strangely lady-like. The 2010 follow-up record Push Pull could just as easily be holding this slot. Spastic, fucked up, lightning-fast hardcore with crushing breakdowns that separates the truly hardcore from the weekend warriors.
7. Haymaker – Haymaker (2002)
Fast and furious hardcore from Canada, Haymaker are reminiscent of the best bands of the first wave as well as the best of the 1990s. Haymaker have quite a pedigree, boasting ex-members of Left For Dead and Chokehold. Thrashing, noisy, lo-fi hardcore for angry, hateful people, Haymaker shows are known for violence, including clubs being set on fire. If an album ever captured such mayhem, it’s this one.
6. The Endless Blockade – Primitive (2008)
Few bands exemplified the resurgent interest in powerviolence better than The Endless Blockade. This Canadian collective have all the elements of classic powerviolence. From lightning-fast blast beats to sludgy, raging breakdowns the sound was down. But there is more to the Blockade than just raw hardcore, as exemplified on their 2008 release Primitive. This shows the band equally capable of crafting noise soundscapes. Additionally, the band showcased the sick, disjointed sense of humor synonymous with the first wave of powerviolence.
5. Knelt Rote – From Without (2009)
Portland, Oregon has one thing going for it other than cheap rent: A killer grindcore scene that’s the equal or better of any city in America. Knelt Rote stand at the vanguard of not just the Rose City scene, but also the international grindcore community. If there is such a thing as “progressive grind” it is exemplified by Knelt Rote who merge technical prowess, musical brutality and a healthy knowledge of noise into an alchemical mixture that explores the darker side of human existence. The onslaught of static remains musical, as do the vocals of Gordon Ashworth, a grindcore front man for the new millennium. This is everything good music — forget about labels — should be; literate, boundary-pushing and above all, vital.
4. Hatred Surge – Deconstruct (2009)
The release of 2009’s Deconstruct represented both a high-water mark in a revival of interest in powerviolence. It also represents the pinnacle of the band’s work to date. The band, which displayed little outstanding qualities other than additional “brutality” carved out a niche for themselves among former Despise You fans by adding Lulu Hernandez-soundalike Faiza Kracheni. This, coupled with some bizarrely innovative time changes and raising the brutality yet another level make Deconstruct one of the best hardcore albums of the last decade.
3. Coke Bust – Lines in the Sand (2009)
Forget that they have one of the best names that a straight edge band has ever used. Coke Bust also understands how to assimilate the lessons of the last 30 years of hardcore. The band’s sound on Lines in the Sand is a fresh take on classic jams. They simultaneously emulate Negative FX, Ripcord and Voorhees without sounding particularly like any of the above. Add a bad attitude and tight lyrics about not doing drugs and not loving America and you’ve got a band that kids will be humping your leg over seeing live ten years from now.
2. Ceremony – Rohnert Park (2010)
Mid-tempo hardcore is perhaps one of the hardest thing to pull off. Anyone can buy a bunch of equipment and crank out annoyingly slow or mind-meltingly-fast tunes. It takes a special type of band to keep the measured power of hardcore in a mid-tempo format. Rohnert Park evokes all the best of Funhouse and My War, updating the sound for the 21st Century. The intro track, “Sick,” is a stirring anthem to hating everything, including yourself. A band that previously made a name for itself as little more than an interesting Negative FX tribute band came into their own on this release, named after the band’s hometown.
1. The Bastard Noise – A Culture of Monsters (2010)
If “mid-tempo hardcore” is hard to pull off progressive hardcore is almost an oxymoron. However, progcore — or perhaps more accurately “progviolence” — is precisely what The Bastard Noise do. The band, which started as a one-man noise side project of powerviolence pioneers Man Is The Bastard has become a full band that incorporates key members of the original Skull Servants. The result is furious drumming and seemingly impossible bass riffing matched up with some of the most bizarre sounds you’ve ever heard in your life. You’ve probably never wondered what it would sound like if Return To Forever were a thrash band, but The Bastard Noise have answered your question anyway.