For a city of its size, and one located in post-industrial Central New York, where winters are notoriously frigid, Syracuse has long been a remarkably thriving hardcore hotspot.
Vegan warriors Earth Crisis — arguably the most influential metallic hardcore band of all time, both sonically and philosophically — hail from there. At the turn of the century, the city was an international moshing destination for Hellfest, an all-ages hardcore and metalcore bonanza that encapsulated a whole era of heavy music.
Throughout the last couple decades, notable bands ranging from the gnarly Black Sheep Squadron, the chugging Another Victim, the chanty The Promise and the destructively heavy Trail of Lies, among others, have all called Syracuse home.
Meanwhile, Reaper Records (Turnstile, Trapped Under Ice, Terror, etc.) is based there, and the city has historically been one of the most consistent destinations in the Upstate New York region to catch touring hardcore bands.
Local scenes in every city ebb and flow, and while Syracuse may not have had the hardcore zeitgeist's spotlight in the late 2010s, in the last couple years there's been an undeniable surge of new bands percolating throughout the 315.
Talk to anyone on the ground level of North American hardcore right now, and they're bound to know that Syracuse is poppin' thanks to bands like Deal With God, All 4 All, Azshara and others.
Below are seven up-and-coming Syracuse bands who are putting the so-called "Assault City" back on the map of actively burgeoning hardcore scenes. ACHC style.
Like any tight-knit scene, Syracuse bands share members, and while All 4 All feature players from Deal With God (see below), they offer a very different flavor of hardcore.
The 13-second hoorah for "U-NI-TY" that begins their excellent 2023 demo is pure Youth of Today reverence, and you can two-step to every one of their songs — as fans did when the band ripped Florida's FYA fest early in 2024.
Overall, though, All 4 All's sound is more in-line with Breakdown and Outburst than your average YOT worship band. They've got more snarling attitude than youthful zip, and it seems like they're on the cusp of a real breakthrough.
Azshara just dropped their first demo in October 2023, and they're already a standout name in the current crop of Y2K-era metalcore bands making an undeniable mark on hardcore.
Released on Ephyra Records (Balmora, Adrienne, xNOMADx, etc.), their output thus far is a direct throwback to the music that encompassed Hellfest, bringing to mind Poison the Well and Prayer for Cleansing, but with an emphasis on gurgling vocals and booming mosh parts over swift melodeath riffing.
Like all the stuff in this lane, Azshara's music is more melancholy than it is menacing, but the way people mosh to this band is for-real.
Deal With God have been active since 2021 and they're always playing shows in and around Syracuse, making them one of the city's more established young acts.
Their output thus far is sparse, with only six songs between a demo, a promo and a track on a split, but they already have a distinct sound. At their heaviest, they pick up where Trail of Lies left off on 2018's clobbering W.A.R.
But there's some Killing Time-era NYHC thrash in there as well, and abrasive guitar tones that rub shoulders with Integrity. To get the best sense of what Deal With God are about, check out footage from a recent set in Syracuse above. Total fucking mayhem.
Between the lo-fi production, the early-Nineties groove and the specific inflection of the vocalist's grunts, Heart of Man sound straight out of 1993, as if their submission to the iconic East Coast Assault compilation somehow got lost in the mail.
Musically, the macabre style encompassed by Merauder, Next Step Up and Dmize is what you should expect from their 2023 demo. Lyrically, however, they've got their tongues in their cheeks.
One track calls out a dude by his government name, and another shit-talks any listener under 200 pounds and urges them to get their "Victim Weight" up. Message received.
The artwork for Pure Bliss' latest EP, The Age of Judgment, looks like something that would've come out on Metal Blade in 1984, but don't mistake Pure Bliss for a thrash band.
Songs like "Cycles of Torment" and "Dead Flowers" are fucking beastly slabs of ironclad metallic hardcore that Troycore old-heads (FFO: Stigmata, Dying Breed) and camo-short youths (FFO: God's Hate, Queensway) will both be moshing to.
This is crowd-killing music. This is lose-a-tooth-but-keep-dancing music. Every part is a breakdown. Shit's just hard.
Street Hassle appear on the aforementioned split with Deal With God and All 4 All, and like many Upstate New York bands, these guys have a special affinity for NYHC.
Street Hassle's music calls back to the early stuff à la Antidote and Victim in Pain-era Agnostic Front. Their 2022 demo is fast and brash, with standouts like "Can I Just Be?" that make you want to get off your ass and start skankin'.
However, their 2024 promo has a bit more late-Eighties influence; the guitars are heavier, the grooves are harder and playing feels tighter. Fans of Street Hassle's downstate peers in Combust should take note.
From Earth Crisis to Ghostxship, Syracuse bands have never shied away from emphatic straight-edge messaging, and X-Threat are no different. From the name to the X'd-up art, these upstarts tell you exactly where they stand, and their boldness is palpable on the demo they dropped a couple months back.
Shaking it up from the NYHC style looming large over the current scene, X-Threat pull from early 2000s Boston bands like Stop and Think and Right Brigade, making them slightly faster and more animated than their peers in All 4 All and Street Hassle.
Their songs are lean and mean, with blown-out production that's not too muddy, and lyrics that read like mic drops. "X on your hand, I don't give a fuck/You use and you take, abuse self-destruct," from "Not the Same" is a stinging highlight.