The best part about hardcore in 2023 is that every pocket of the genre is thriving.
You want fist-flying crossover thrash? Drain's got you covered. Need the perfect soundtrack for clobbering heads? Put on Jesus Piece or Pain of Truth. Need to unleash your anti-authority rage? Incendiary are there.
Beatdown hardcore but, like... different? Enter: Never Ending Game or Zulu. How about some good ol' fashion fast-as-fuck hardcore? GEL, Anklebiter and Scowl are at your service.
Jump in the pit — these are 2023's 10 best hardcore albums.
We've said it before, we'll say it again: Ephyra Records' outpouring of quality Y2K metalcore, post-hardcore and deathcore ruled the 2023 underground. Where does hardcore fit in there, you say? Balmora's where.
Between their danger-inducing breakdowns, trembling melodeath sweeps and dagger-in-heart screams, the Connecticut band's endlessly replayable debut regenerates the era when metalcore was still an underground offshoot of hardcore. Before it was invaded by corporate slickness, cheesy clean vocals and lame push-pits.
Welcome back — and duck, motherfucker!
So much modern hardcore channels anger through steel-toed heaviness, which makes Anklebiter's approach so refreshing. The irate fury is there — "I just wish you would kill yourself," Rachael Braverman howls during "Catharsis" — and the pit-clearing mosh parts in "Pearl" and "Lynx" are designed for connecting elbows with jaws.
Even so, their music feels lighter on its feet and quicker to the draw than most of their peers' lumbering chug-fests — and not just 'cause it's fast. It is quick. And it's mean. And it's rambunctious. But it's also catchy in subtle ways, and emotionally gut-punching in others.
Have all the straight-edge screeds already been screamed? Maybe. But when Braverman yelps, "Watching someone I love die/Before my eyes," during "Pearl," that shit's like hearing "Out of Step" again for the first time.
Order Anklebiter's To Live and Withstand on exclusive, limited-edition vinyl.
Incendiary were one of the most important hardcore bands of the 2010s, but they hadn't delivered a new record since 2017's NYHC landmark, Thousand Mile Stare. Fortunately, on Change the Way You Think About Pain, their stomping, discordant, pile-driving diatribes are as potent as ever.
In particular, frontman Brendan Garrone has always been uniquely great at articulating the rage against police brutality. Now that the stakes for that struggle feel higher than ever, call-outs like "Fraudulent patriot/Blue-line penitent/Cosplay soldier/False American" land especially hard.
GEL's loud, gnashing, reverb-addled take on classic American hardcore had a grip on the scene this year, and Only Constant is a 16-minute taste of everything that makes their live show so cathartic.
You can never fully make out what frontperson Sami Kaiser is bellowing on rippin' standouts like "Honed Blade" and "Composure," but that's fine. Their conviction is felt.
GEL's music is all about giving yourself over to the ear-bleeding feedback and two-stepping grooves. For realizing your most primitive, knuckle-scraping instincts. Or as they call it, "hardcore for the freaks."
Beatdown hardcore is for bruising the ears, but even the best stuff loses its impact after five or six songs straight. Zulu don't let your body go into defensive numbness.
On A New Tomorrow, they ensure you feel every skull-cracking chug by lacing the album with soul and jazz interludes that routinely jerk you out of the battering flow.
Like how J Dilla bucked hip-hop's laws of rhythm, Zulu effectively tweak the repetitive momentum of a heavy hardcore album, finding new groove pockets in between the stomp-your-lights-out lines. All while decrying the genre's white hegemony with songs of Black beauty, power and pain.
A New Tomorrow is already here.
From Negative Approach to Cold as Life, Detroit has a long history of brutal, animalistic hardcore. With their second album, Outcry, Never Ending Game solidify their rank as one of the city's greatest-ever exports.
The mosh parts in "Never Die" and "Hate Today... Die Tomorrow" are so raw and cold they'll make you physically shiver. The chorus of "Tank on E" is the hardest pop-punk shout-along you could ever want to hear. The melodeath leads on "Down There (With You)" are sick as fuck.
Beneath the rigid musical crust are vulnerable lyrics that tackle anguished lows and triumphant emotional highs. Indeed, Outcry might make you shed a tear in more ways than one.
Order Never Ending Game's Outcry on exclusive, limited-edition vinyl.
Pain of Truth's 2020 EP made them one of the biggest bands in modern hardcore. Not Through Blood ensures they'll stay there.
With a murderer's row of guest vocalists — from Madball, Terror, Mindforce, Trapped Under Ice and more — the LINYHC band assemble a battalion of spin-kick anthems that could be used for some kind of crowd-killing boot camp.
There're mosh parts in "Actin' Up", "Pickin' at Scraps" and "Under My Skin" that simply aren't safe in civilian hands. And the swagger! Good god, the swagger on this record is limitless.
Order Pain of Truth's Not Through Blood on exclusive, limited-edition vinyl.
It's been five long years since Jesus Piece's 2018 breakthrough album Only Self, and hardcore has changed a lot since then. Here's one thing that's stayed the same: Jesus Piece are the reigning champs of knuckle-dragging mosh music.
On …So Unknown, the Philly band lean into all of their most extreme tendencies — back-breaking grooves, down-tuned riffage, Aaron Heard's guttural growls — without completely drowning their listeners in a deluge of chugga-chuggas.
Their songs are ferocious as ever, but crucially, they still leave room for your ears to breathe — and then they drag you back under.
Scowl's 2021 debut, How Flowers Grow, was a 15-minute onslaught of slavering, old-school hardcore punk. It was viscerally entertaining, but the contrasts within Psychic Dance Routine make Album No. 2 an even more arresting body of work.
The Santa Cruz band jolt violently between face-mauling hardcore and confectionary alt-rock, and the extremes of each style are amplified to the nth degree. The heavier songs are Scowl's gnarliest yet, while the tuneful choruses of "Shot Down" and "Opening Night" will rattle around your noggin for weeks on end. It's one helluva dance routine.
Drain's boogie-board-riot live shows have made them the must-see band in hardcore, but translating that level of energy onto an album is no easy feat. Their sophomore album is literal Living Proof that they were up to the task.
Songs like "Run Your Luck," "Evil Finds Light" and "Imposter" crack their sweet-spot between crossover thrash riffage and back-flip-off-the-stage inertia. Vocalist Sammy Ciaramitaro's charisma oozes from each shrieked lyric, and even the left-turns (the rap interlude, a cheery Descendents cover) are counterbalanced by clobbering mosh parts.