This is always a tough one to write because I haven’t heard all the releases, nor do I think my tastes map well onto the prevailing sound of some hardcore subgenres this year. For instance, I strongly dislike reverbed vocals and don’t particularly like black metal influences, however some of those elements appear in this list. In the past I’ve broken things down, but I suspect if I did that – it would be relatively unnecessary. Is there something on the list I’m missing? Let me know in the comments below – I’ll let you know if it was an oversight or why not. So in alphabetical order, here’s what I think is the best releases of the year:
Antimob – II LP (Εξωτικός Παροξυσμός) OK, part of me likes the idea of a Greek hardcore band playing some of the best hardcore punk going, but when you factor in this isn’t a token pick – it’s well deserved… that’s exactly what is happening. And this LP, is happening. Pissed off, angry hardcore – well those are typical descriptors for almost every hardcore record, right? Well when they’re done this well – it’s hard to deny. There’s anthematic parts and stuff you can imagine chanting for – a lot of it reminds me of Conflict in the late 80’s and early 90’s – of course filtering out the missteps that band made with some choices. Killer riffs, and songs that you could raise a fist to. Pretty much perfect hardcore for the end of the 2010’s.
Armor – Some Kind Of War 7″ (11PM Records) This is a classic case of cover not doing the band justice. This record keeps popping up in my peripheral vision, and now that I’ve taken the time to listen, it’s pretty dang good. While the vocals could be less effected for my tastes, and the guitars could be fuller in the mix, it’s just oddball enough to make it all work together. Combine elements of Negative Approach inspired hardcore, add in the odd mosh breakdown, but have elements of modern d-beat hardcore as well. Yeah, it doesn’t sound great written out like that, but it works.
Fetish – World Eater LP (Break the Records/Blackhouse) – Yes, this band sounds like Poison Idea. That’s never a bad comparison. And in this rare case, justifiable as it features members who have played in Poison Idea. Bands like this can sound too close to the originals to make it worth the while (like who’s going to listen to some band that sounds like Poison Idea, when you can actually listen to Poison Idea?) but Fetish stray from the sound enough to make it their own without being too close to clone territory. If, for whatever reason, you don’t know what Poison Idea sound like: imagine a gruff vocal delivered in a somewhat halting way, with metallic (in a good way, not excessively wanky guitar solo way) guitars wrapped in a hardcore song.
Haram -وين كنيت بي ١١/٩؟? Where Were You on 9/11? 7″ (Toxic State) Well I think Haram are among the best bands going, factor in the unique perspective of the band, the absolutely blood-pumping songs, and consistent artwork, you’ve got the whole package. The only drawback? It’s not a 12″. I could listen to a full length of this and not be bored. Quite possibly the BEST record this year. And that’s a tall task – as this year has some really fucking strong contenders.
Larma- self titled 12″ (Adult Crash/Beach Impediment) This reminds me of Totalitar – and if that’s what sound it’s evoking, perhaps that’s all that needs to be said. Probably as close to perfect as you can get for my tastes. Featuring former members of Infernoh and Skitkids. For those totally unfamiliar: Imagine a hardcore punk band playing uptempo, with what sounds like dual buzzsaw guitars (probably just panned hard left and right in the stereo mix), with elements of d-beat drums and a touch of rock’n’roll in the songs and the occassional blast of ear piercing feedback to keep you on your toes. I guess that’s what perfection sounds like?
Loose Nukes – Behind the Screen 7″ (Beach Impediment) The younger, maybe angrier version of Career Suicide, funneled through a steady diet of Jerry’s Kids, early Poison Idea and entirely devoid of modern trappings that will likely make this the sort of record you listen to in a decade and it will still feel fresh. Not anything particularly new sounding, but in the modern era where very little sounds like it has a direct lineage to early 80’s hardcore, this fits the bill. Can’t wait to hear more from the band.
Isotope Soap – Monitored By Zu Tze LP (Emotional Response) One of the weirdest records I’ve heard this year, but definitely worth a listen. Somewhere between Lost Sounds, Devo, Screamers and Geza X, this blends odd ball punk sounds that wouldn’t be out of place in 1977 California but comes via Sweden in ultra limited format. Well worth tracking down.
Nightmare – Thirsty and Wander CD/LP (Blood Sucker Records/Farewell Records) It’s frankly pretty amazing to me that Nightmare started in 1987/1988 and are still going today – admittedly the band is not quite the same sounding as they were back then. Clearly influenced by their surrounding bands from the Kansai region, who often are more abrasive than other areas of Japan, this is an abrasive CD. I haven’t heard the LP, so the mastering could tame the rawer edges of the CD, but I somehow doubt it. In many ways, like all the Japanese bands, Nightmare forged their own identity, but over the lat two decades have continued to refine it.
Physique – The Rhythm of Brutality 10″ (Distort Reality/Static Shock Records) Now I’ve seen everything, a 10″EP getting on to the best releases of the year is something that is abnormal – and the 10″ is one of the least endearing formats that one should release. Despite the dismal format choice, I have to begrudgingly admit that this is a high water point for crusty music – I won’t call it d-beat but it’s there, and it’s high praise to compare to Disclose and Disorder, but I feel that this particular release is up there, not necessarily equal, but close. And in this day and age, that’s probably as good as you’re going to get.
Shit Coffins – Termination LP (Iron Lung) I originally left this off because it didn’t strike me as great as the demo. I know, I know I bought it right away, and was excited (which is frankly unusual for a guy like me, who’s sufficiently old enough to be jaded) to hear it. And then it didn’t resonate immediately with me. Which is fine, but an unexpected gut reaction I suppose. Long story short, I’ve come back to it about half a year later, and had to give myself a shake because well, my gut reaction was wrong. Absolutely, unequivocally, wrong. This record is so right, and I can see why it might get missed or glossed over, because it doesn’t fit neatly into a subgenre of hardcore that a lot of releases fall into. It’s a banger of a record, and likely to be one of those records where you go, damn why didn’t anyone say how great it is?
Skizophrenia – Undead Melodies EP 7″ (SKZ/Hardcore Victim/Kick Rock/Distort Reality) Skizophrenia were a great surprise when I saw them in April in Tokyo, and delivered again in Toronto in August – the recordings however, they do something that rarely happens on a punk or hardcore record, capture the band’s energy and chaotic but clarify it, in this case improve it.
Torso – Build and Break 7″ (Revelation Records) I never, in a million years, would’ve thought that a Revelation Records record would be in my top releases in a year – which goes to show how much broader the label has become from the stereotypical sound they had a hand in fostering in the mid to late 80’s. Good on them, and bad on me for overlooking Torso because their release was on Revelation. One of the few female fronted bands that are on this list – and maybe that’s a statement on my tastes, or that I’m not listening closely enough to what’s out there – or maybe it’s a statement on how good this record is. You decide.
Warhead – Change The Reality 7″ (Blood Sucker Records) Uhhh, new Warhead songs? They’re pretty dang good. And no one has a voice like Jun, where it sounds like a million shards of glass being ground down by a metal grinder but it’s never annoying (of course I like the Crucifucks, so my tolerance for screetchy is maybe higher than others). Two songs, both feel mature, like the band has been playing them for years at this point, and decided to release them now. Precisely what the world needs.
So that’s it. I’m sure I’ve missed something. Honorable mention to Skitklass, Deletar and Rata Negra who’s records I liked a lot, or heard too late in the year to really make an indelible mark or didn’t come to mind when crafting the list initially.