In our darkest hours, music can truly be a light. For many of us, perhaps to the confusion of our loved ones, the angriest music can bring us the most happiness. In times like ours, times that, for many reasons, are dark and turbulent waters, hardcore music of all types can be a buoy, helping us to remain afloat, helping us to maintain some hope.
While the worldwide shutdown of live shows threatened to slow down the decades-long momentum of our global hardcore community, it may have had the opposite effect. Instead of spending weeks and months in packed vans driving from gas station to venue to burrito place to questionable house-to-crash-at, bands were writing new songs, trying new instruments, branching out in styles, or finally starting that side-project they’d had jotted in a notepad for years. Despite all dreary expectations for a musical drought, the creative soil has been rich, and it has produced some truly must-listen music.
The six bands assembled in this list are meant to represent an array of hardcore styles from relatively new (or new to most listeners) bands. These bands may have only an EP or they may have a couple releases to their name, but all of them are just getting started. If you would like to be ahead of the curve, able to say you listened to them “before they got big,” now is the time.
Saying that Slant’s recent LP was released by Iron Lung Records should really be the only recommendation a hardcore fan needs. Jensen Ward‘s carefully curated artist catalog is an ever-reliable resource for new music. While every Iron Lung release deserves several listens, Slant–who also released 2019’s Vain Attempt EP through Iron Lung–stands out from the rest as a revelation. It is far too rare that a band from South Korea wins a following in the West, but Slant is managing to do that with support from Iron Lung, with a recent spot on Cvlt Nation’s 10th Anniversary Fest, and with the unanimously enthusiastic reception of their 2021 debut LP.
Featuring members of Scumraid and Little Puppy Princess, the band revives the sounds of the bands that defined the genre like Minor Threat, Black Flag, Bad Brains, and Youth of Today, and vocalist Yeji has power and charisma that rival McKaye, Morris, H.R., and Cappo. While they certainly have a classic sound, there is nothing dated about this band. On the contrary, they sound more immediate and forward-thinking than most well-known bands in the hardcore world today, especially with Slant’s infusion of Boston hardcore flavor from bands like Boston Strangler and Waste Management. With any luck, they will be touring heavily when it is safe to do so, and with any luck, their remarkable songwriting and performing will encourage other Western bands to up their game and Western fans to explore more international artists.
Pick it up at Iron Lung Records.
Cvlt Nation has gone on the record again and again and again about our love for Drill Sergeant’s raw, unfettered approach to hardcore. The band’s excellent EP The Cosmic Leash whetted the punk communities appetite for more of their frothing, brow-furrowing tunes, and their debut LP through Convulse, Vile Ebb, builds on the brilliance that preceded it. Their explosive songs combine the Sturm und Drang of early California powerviolence like Crossed Out and No Comment with the raw-and-fast PNW hardcore of Gag and Punitive Damage, all with a healthy helping of Japanese crust.
It’s unusual for a new band to capture so well the feelings, attitudes, and tastes of the time, but Drill Sergeant hit that bullseye, feeling simultaneously like a well-needed return to form for the hardcore genre while also having an edge that helps punk to step forward into the 2020s. The band is the real deal, and they are carving a path for a whole new sound.
Pick it up through Convulse Records.
Leaning more toward the punk and noise rock ends of the spectrum, Philadelphia’s Penetrode is a invigorating and genuine, combining elements of The Coathangers, Metz, Poison Idea, The Reatards, and Rohnert Park-era Ceremony. The band writes songs that are catchy as hell without compromising any of its raw aggression. Drummer Jake Smith (also of Eye Flys, Backslider, Cain Corso) says, “Penetrode was just about wanting to play in a punk band that didn’t have any rules.” Truly, the result is a band that feels more sincere and more punk than most bands who try to live up to any genre conventions.
A necessary addition to any list of most exciting frontpeople, vocalist Bootsie Castillo is a dynamo of energy and electricity, channeling Ian Svenonious, Lisa Mungo, and John Brannon. Their swagger and emotive deliver along with the the contagious vitality of Penetrode’s musicianship make their songs instant favorites. These songs will have you dancing like you’ve caught the holy ghost.
Pick it up at Silence is Death Records.
Bullet Proof Backpack
In the words of The Who, “The kids are alright.” In the words of SSD, “The kids will have their say.” There has always been excitement about young people making new music, but people start to gatekeep, start to get curmudgeonly about the next generation when the youth show that, instead of inventing some new subgenre that won’t threaten the current mainstays of hardcore, they just might play straight up hardcore better than those who’ve been playing it for decades. Along with the skate punks in Gone Wrong and metalheads in Wretched Inferno, Bullet Proof Backpack shows that it is reasonable to be optimistic about–or even threatened by–the next generation’s ability to play hardcore punk like they invented it themselves.
Originally formed by Trevor Vaughan (of Wound Man, Internal, Brother, MA Glory, etc.) and the children of Brian Simmons (of Atomic Action Records), the Simmons kids have now struck out on their own. With the special mix of angst and ambition, eagerness and attitude, that only the young can master, Bullet Proof Backpack blends the sounds of Circle Jerks and World War 4, sneering and rolling their eyes as they play fantastic punk music as if it’s the easiest thing in the world, as if they couldn’t care less. Vocalist and guitarist Alex Simmons, who also runs Youth Distribute Records, says, “Rhode Island Hardcore.We’re bunch of kids playing some real tough shit. We practice in Aidan’s kitchen and watch Billy on the Street. You Stink. We Don’t. Youth Distribute 2021.”
Pick it up at Youth Distribute.
Stone Fleet’s lineup is a who’s who of New England Hardcore, featuring members of Holy Hands, Brother, The Rival Mob, Sweet Jesus, Straight Razor, and Wolf Whistle. With the hands of veterans from such esteemed bands on deck, it is no wonder that Stone Fleet’s debut EP has a more completely realized sound than most band’s produce in their second or third release. Combining the melodicism of fellow New Englanders Have Heart with the raw ferocity of early DC hardcore. Their DC influences are particularly clear on appropriately titled opener “Faith/Void,” which is not only a great aural descendent of the DC sound but which also features lyrics that address the decades-long “oblivious discussion on which one is best.”
Another standout on this EP full of potential singles is the eponymous track, “The Stone Fleet,” which takes on Confederacy-worship in a stage-storming hardcore anthem that celebrates New Bedford’s history of sinking fleets of old ships full of stones to block confederate supply lines. Stone Fleet the band lives up to its ancestral name by bringing substantial hardcore heaviness and continuing to take a stand on the right side of history. Vocalist Adam Gonsalves says, “Stone Fleet is all about a collective love for our hometown of New Bedford, Massachusetts and hardcore punk. We are anti-racist, anti-fascist, pro-LGBTQ+, pro-feminism.” If the names of related bands weren’t enough to perk any hardcore fan’s ears, every single track on this fantastic EP is a good place to fall in love with this band’s music.
Pick it up at Blind Rage Records.
One of the most exciting new voices in straight edge hardcore is Civilian Mind from Mesa, Arizona. Cvlt Nation first wrote about Civilian Mind and their exciting EP Buried in Memories here, and the hype following this three song debut is real and hard earned. Featuring members of Pointbreak and Ritual of Decay, the band has truly stormed into the straight edge world and pinned an Arizona flag to it.
With songs as compelling, complex, and moving as these, it’s a wonder that these songs weren’t vetted on multiple tours worth of venues before being committed to wax. In actuality, they were written and recorded while the world’s stages were locked down, which makes the electrifying, nearly impossible-to-capture live energy that this first EP possesses that much more impressive. Fans of Go It Alone, Champion, One Step Closer, Change, and Comeback Kid should be prepared to add a new favorite band to their list, as this band’s future is blindingly bright.