In 2022, hardcore thrived. Turnstile's star won't stop rising as they consistently sell out multi-thousand-cap rooms across the world, positioning themselves to be the biggest hardcore band of all time. Meanwhile, festivals like Sound and Fury and Outbreak had record-breaking attendances this year — and without having to rely on legacy reunions for their draw.
Everywhere you look — from Taco Bell commercials to Post Malone's wardrobe — hardcore is there, but the most exciting part of the genre's year was the fertile crop of new albums that arrived. From the sword-swinging crossover of Mindforce to the life-affirming punk of Soul Glo, here are the 10 best records from what will surely be remembered as a banner year in hardcore history.
You can tell Drug Church are succeeding because their influence on younger bands this year is obvious. The thing is, none of their disciples sound like Patrick Kindlon, a man who, in spite — or perhaps because — of his total inability to stay on pitch, has become one of hardcore's most beloved singers. Listen to Hygiene and you'll know why. These songs are smart but never condescending, the riffs are towering and chunky but still decidedly punk, and Kindlon's shaky melodies are more infatuating than ever. Reference points matter in hardcore, but Drug Church are incomparable.
On their last album, Candy sprinkled their crusty, chainsaw-blade-on-counter-top hardcore bursts with bleary shoegaze reprieves. On Heaven Is Here, all traces of sweetness have been replaced by erratic episodes of jackhammering industrial metal, and the whole record moves with the g-force of a fighter jet in pursuit of an asteroid. It sounds every bit as apocalyptic as its Hadean cover art, suffocating the listener for nine tracks straight and then crash-landing into a 10-minute junkyard fire of clamorous noise. These are all compliments, by the way. Revel in the pandemonium.
Killing Pace is basically the best-case-scenario for a band's first release. The Richmond crew offered up seven lean, mean slabs of skull-knocking brutality that borrow from the speediness of grind and the bulkiness of death metal, but remain firmly planted in hardcore via the savage two-step parts and fist-swinging grooves, doled out judiciously so not a single moment feels redundant. This isn't the band members' first rodeo, and their audible experience makes all the difference on these songs; no excess fat, no funky sequencing choices, and production that gives them the punchy heft they deserve.
Listen, if you prefer your hardcore on the punky, catchy and bouncy side, then No/Más ain't your bag. But for those who relish the opportunity to get their skin seared off by a 20-minute onslaught of grindy, thrashy goodness, then Consume/Deny/Repent is at your service. The D.C. band's second record teeters on the precipice of going full-on death metal, but never makes the jump, tossing brain-scrambling leads that recall early Sepultura into their noxious brew of animalistic growls and floor-snapping mosh parts. Hardcore, emphasis on the hard.
From Turnstile to End It, Baltimore hardcore is on a tear right now. Channeling the breathless rage of the seminal early material by the latters' local forefathers Trapped Under Ice (whose frontman makes a gritty appearance on here), Unpleasant Living packs six songs into an addictive eight minutes, each one filled with searing diatribes against racist institutions and (equally racist) pretend allies. Sonically, these tracks are restless and squirmy, rarely repeating a single part but constantly offering a new riff, groove or unnghhh-inducing one-liner that makes you want to spin-kick a police chief.
Some songs on This Is the Blackout are blood-curdling, noisy and stomp like a Doc Marten kick to the gut. Others will have you whistling while you pogo, recalling first-wave Midwest hardcore acts like Necros and Dead Boys. At other points, Punitive Damage play with an unrelenting speed that makes you think they might go full powerviolence. Every single moment rips, and most impressively, the record keeps you guessing from front to back. Fast, fuming, no-nonsense hardcore has been around for 40 years now. This Is the Blackout makes it feel brand new again.
Did you hear? Rapcore's back in vogue, and Gridiron did the form so well on No Good at Goodbyes that it could convert a crust-punk into an E.Town Concrete believer. It's their all-in commitment to the almost-corny bit that makes this record so irresistible: the gruff rap flows, the over-the-top bluster, the serrated death metal leads, and the absurdly fun lyrics, like when they wipe their asses with the Gregorian Calendar and taunt, "You're a fake 24/7, but we living this 25/8." As Gridiron say, you're either on the bench or in the trench. Choose wisely.
Terror's members are now old enough to be parents of the bands they share stages with, but on Pain Into Power, they show every young whippersnapper in the game why they're still here. Produced by founding guitarist/Nails mastermind Todd Jones, this is Terror at their gnarliest, heaviest, most efficient and most powerfully recorded. For 18 minutes straight, Scott Vogel never lets his white-heat rage simmer, and his bandmates have never sounded more locked-in and deadly. Fuck it, we'll say it: it's Terror's best record.
New Lords begins with a grandiose proclamation: "Who will have the balance of power?/All that you hold dear we devour." Over the next 17 minutes, Mindforce provide all the necessary evidence to back their claim to dominance. Gritty lyrics about life in the urban underworld, delivered by a frontman who drips with the giddy charisma of a rapper who just purchased their first six-figure neck piece. A guitarist who shreds like Randy Rhoads playing Chuck Schuldiner riffs over Leeway songs. And mosh parts. Oh, so many glorious mosh parts.
Diaspora Problems is an album that speaks for itself. No amount of journalistic accolades could describe the singular intensity of "Gold Chain Punk (whogonbeatmyass?)" or "Jump!! (Or Get Jumped!!!)((by the future))," riveting hardcore convulsions that sit coherently in a tracklist alongside a [redacted]-the-rich noise-rap song like "Driponomics." Pierce Jordan already proved himself a one-of-a-kind frontman on Soul Glo's previous records, but here he earns his crown as the most uncompromising, poetic and genuine hardcore lyricist right now. Stop reading this and go listen to Diaspora Problems. It's not just the best hardcore album of the year. It's a generational accomplishment. For hardcore, for punk, for music.