10 best hardcore albums of 2023 so far | Revolver

10 best hardcore albums of 2023 so far

Drain, Scowl and more
Sunami live 2021 gabe becerra 1600x900, Gabe Becerra
photograph by Gabe Becerra

There's a lot of talk about how hardcore is having a serious moment now. How it's more popular than it has been in years (if not decades). About the potential that bands in the genre have for breaking beyond hardcore due to the unprecedented popularity of groups like Turnstile and Knocked Loose.

All of that's well and good, but what's most important is that the music coming out of the scene actually slaps, and in the first half of 2023, it absolutely does. From 10-ton mosh bangers to ripping, snappy punk blasts, and everything in between, the sheer variety and all-around quality of contemporary hardcore is what's truly stunning about this current fruitful period.

Below are the 10 best hardcore albums of the year's first six months.

Anklebiter - To Live and Withstand

On To Live and Withstand, Anklebiter fully became the band their 2022 demo hinted they could be. Loaded with spitfire vocal runs and classically cool riffs, these purveyors of Northeast straight-edge sound like a breath of fresh air in a hardcore landscape where breakdowns reign supreme. That said, compared to their demo, the slightly stompier grooves and catchier hooks on songs like "Catharsis" and "Lynx" do Anklebiter's sound quite a few favors. If you miss hardcore that sounds like hardcore, Anklebiter are for you.

Buggin - Concrete Cowboys

Buggin's debut album wraps heavy, angry, funny, fast, bouncy and ferocious hardcore all into one tight package. The Chicago band channel the crunchy springiness of early Turnstile on a song like "Get It Out," the light-hearted joy of early Eighties 'core on "Snack Run" and then get seriously fucking real on tracks like "The Customer Is Always Wrong" and "Not Yours," two of the most righteously snarling invectives the genre has produced in recent memory.

Drain - Living Proof

Drain's 2020 debut, California Cursed, launched them into hardcore's upper echelons, and Living Proof is, as its name implies, a testament to their staying power. Songs like "Run Your Luck," "Evil Finds Light" and "Imposter" hit the Santa Cruz's sweet spot between thrashy riffage and moshy heaviness. Dripping with charisma, stuffed with razory guitarwork and bolstered by Sammy Ciaramitaro's infectious wild-man screams, Living Proof is a worthy follow-up to Drain's breakout debut, and a collection of songs that already sound like live classics for decades to come.

GEL - Only Constant

GEL are filling the void that's been empty in the broader hardcore landscape since the early days of Trash Talk. Fast, noisy and uncompromisingly energetic, the New Jersey outfit make "hardcore for the freaks" that basically any fan of aggressive music could appreciate. Only Constant proves the hype is real, a relentless assault of reverb-coated guitars and snarling vocals that shape into a noxious cloud of asphyxiating old-school hardcore — but with a distinctly new-school spirit.

Incendiary - Change the Way You Think About Pain

It's been six years since Incendiary's king-making 2017 LP, Thousand Mile Stare, but NYHC's modern crown-bearers sound as potent as ever on Change the Way You Think About Pain. There's still no one else in the genre who barks with the impassioned, half-rapped fury of frontman Brendan Garrone; his fearless political diatribes on songs like "Lie of Liberty" and "Echo of Nothing" feel more cathartic than ever to scream back over the band's gnarly, stomping dirges. Yep, Incendiary did it again.

Jesus Piece - ...So Unknown

Jesus Piece reasonably claimed the title of "Heaviest Band In Hardcore" with their 2018 breakout, Only Self, and they're not ready to give it up just yet. The Philly band's first LP in a long five years lands like a ton of bricks, with bulkier production, savvier riffage and even scarier vocal rage-fits from frontman Aaron Heard, who spent the last half-decade plucking bass in Philly shoegazers Nothing, and clearly had some shit to scream off his chest. ...So Unknown arrives at a moment when bludgeoning, breakdown-filled hardcore is a dime a dozen. Jesus Piece, however, sound like a million bucks.

Never Ending Game - Outcry

On Outcry, Never Ending Game perfected the delicate balance between torn-muscle-shirt heaviness, pile-on-your-friends catchiness and cry-yourself-to-sleep sensitivity. One minute, these Detroit bruisers are churning out the most bloody-knuckled breakdowns in recent memory, and the next, they're chanting out a big sing-along ("Tank On E") or firing off melodeath lead licks (the shreddy intro of "Down There (With You)"). Dynamic, memorable and lyrically vulnerable in a way few other hardcore bands truly are, Never Ending Game are one of modern hardcore's greatest bands, and Outcry proves why.

Scowl - Psychic Dance Routine

Scowl's 2021 debut, How Flowers Grow, was a lean-and-mean barrage of hardcore punk, but if you listened closely, you could hear the sticky melodies bubbling just beneath the surface. The Santa Cruz outfit followed their collective sweet tooth on Psychic Dance Routine, fusing confectionary alt-rock à la the Breeders or Hole with gnarly, throat-searing hardcore. The whiplash effect on standouts like "Shot Down" and "Opening Nights" makes for Scowl's most unabashedly fun and visceral songwriting yet.

Sunami - Sunami

"Front all you want/It don't mean that you're shit/You're a stupid motherfucker and that's about it." Those are the words Josef Alfonso hollers at the end of opening track "Y.S.A.B." (that's "You're Still a Bitch" for those in the back), and it's an eloquent encapsulation of the attitude Sunami drip on their self-titled debut. The Bay Area band draw rooms full of pit-starting hooligans wherever they take the stage, and this eight-song slab of ignorant mosh parts stacked atop even more ignorant mosh parts will only add fuel to their fiery upswing.

Zulu - A New Tomorrow

A New Tomorrow is a monstrously heavy metallic hardcore album that simultaneously subverts so many of that genre's predictable tropes. Righteous fury is transmitted alongside radical celebrations of Black love. Tidbits of old-school soul samples come wafting in after brutalizing breakdowns, lingering for longer than you'd expect and then tearing away as the chugga-chuggas return. Spoken-word poetry and lilting jazz-rap are stationed in between cement-smashing mosh ragers, breaking up the flow and therefore allowing your mind to focus in on Zulu's spirited lyrics. A New Tomorrow not only envisions a better future, it lives it.