Step 2 Rhythm-February 2022
Posted: by The Editor
Hardcore is currently thriving and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. As a way to document this current moment, we present Step 2 Rhythm, a monthly column rounding up the best in hardcore coming out right now.
Excide has quickly become one of the most exciting bands in hardcore through a slew of small releases. They’re reminiscent of the post-hardcore that came out of New York in the 90s, garnering comparisons to Quicksand, Snapcase, and Orange 9mm. That period saw major hardcore figures trying their hand at something more melodic. But instead of reaching for emocore, it is more indicative of their decade, moving closer to alt-rock that is rooted in a hardcore foundation. At another time, Excide would sit right alongside their influences on MTV. Their songs sound huge and the choruses really pop. And as a little tease, Excide has recently dropped what they are calling LP Promo to get people excited about their upcoming record that should be dropping this year. These songs are their best yet, turning me from someone who doesn’t care about this band into a huge fan.
Foreign Hands-Bleed The Dream
At the turn of the century, metalcore began to mutate into something entirely separated from its hardcore roots. But from about 2000-2005 we saw a fruitful time of creativity where new possibilities were being explored before Bullet for My Valentine would ensure a tainting of what metalcore was for purists. Bands like Hopesfall and Poison The Well helped solidify a new sound that paired the heaviness of the genre with pop sensibilities. Now we’re beginning to see modern bands unabashedly pay homage to that era and Foreign Hands is one of the best doing it right now. Their new five-song EP, Bleed The Dream, has all the necessary components, from the heavy chugging breakdowns to clean vocal singalongs. The album cover captures the aesthetic of the era, using a stark white background; It’s even available on CD via DAZE records. The only thing missing is a recreation of the iconic Hellfest DVD to completely capture a time that’s nearly two decades old.
Ghost Fame-Nobody Wants To Be Here, Nobody Wants To Leave
Ghost Fame is proof that melodic hardcore is back in vogue. For some people, this is an exciting development and for others, it may be nauseating. In the 2000s this style of hardcore was so present that the term “amazingcore” came about to make fun of its sincerity. One of the hotbeds for this sound during that time was in Western Massachusetts, which gave birth to bands like Have Heart and Defeater. It’s now been long enough that the people who went to those shows can now reinterpret that boom of melodic hardcore in the present day. And that’s exactly what Nobody Wants to Be Here, Nobody Wants To Leave by Ghost Fame is doing. There’s nothing unfamiliar about it. The songs build towards these intense moments of catharsis, placing gang vocals at the perfect time so as to get the biggest reaction. But there is still something so satisfying about it, making me compelled to return to it beyond a few cursory listens.
Inclination-A Glimpse Through The Lense
Inclination started out of a desire for all the members to start an outwardly straight edge band. Their first EP was simply called Midwest Straight Edge and started with an aptly named opener “No Exit”, in which vocalist Tyler Short lays out the X as a lifelong pursuit. He was old enough to see those around him eventually outgrow it for a variety of reasons and uses this project to explore his and others’ relationship to the straight edge in the present day. That original goal for Inclination has never really wavered and is apparent when you listen to A Glimpse Through The Lense, a new EP from the band. “A Decision” wrestles with why he even decided to identify with the straight edge movement in the first place, tapping Russell Bussey from Magnitude and Ryan Savitzki from One Step Closer to offer their own takes as well.
Military Shadow-Violent Reign
Military Shadow exists at the nexus where crust, metal, and hardcore meet. This description won’t sound too unfamiliar for those well versed in the beginnings of Japanese hardcore. Military Shadow still manages to add their own flourishes, adding touches of speed metal virtuosity in between the pummeling rhythm of traditional hardcore. It makes for an extremely fun listen, especially as I don’t hear a lot of bands in the states that really come anywhere close to this style of Japanese hardcore right now. If you see any kind of metal influence in American hardcore it tends to be from their nearby neighbor of death metal. So the juxtaposition of heavy metal leads with harsh vocals feels novel and something I wouldn’t mind hearing more of.
While I have enjoyed the previous material from the band, I feel like Violent Reign is their best effort yet. It starts off with an instrumental intro before going into “Hounds of Greed and Death”, my personal favorite song. And at only six songs, it holds my short attention span for the entire time, making me want to replay it immediately after it’s over. This one gets a strong recommendation from me.
No Souls Saved-2 Song Promo
In his main gig, John Lhaubouet is the bassist and hype man for Vein.fm. His low growl can be heard all throughout the band’s material so of course, he would be well suited to eventually fronting a band. We got a taste of Lhabounet as a frontman with Living Weapon but No Souls Saved is a better showcase of his talents, using an assault of death metal indebted hardcore as his weapon. To help deliver his barrage of noise, he’s gotten a loaded cast, boasting members of Mindforce, All Out War, and Sanction. For now, all we have is a little promo as our first introduction to the band but it exceeds any expectations I had for this project. If you are someone who isn’t sure if they like death metal, this two-song promo should be more than enough to change your mind.
Peace Test is hardcore at its most pissed off and snarling. There’s even a moment on PRY where the vocalist actually barks before “Exclusion” goes into a mosh part. It’s such a little moment you can miss in this cacophony of fast hardcore. Everything moves at a breakneck pace on their full length, stuffing fourteen songs in fourteen minutes. They do this with their own version of powerviolence inflected hardcore, skirting the line between the two. But these are still songs in the traditional hardcore sense, making it past the one-minute mark most of the time and has all the identifiable features for people to dance along to. So if you are someone who likes they’re hardcore really quick and ignorant, then this Peace Test record is for you.
There’s been a good amount of new bands recontextualizing Sasscore and Dance-Punk lately, making some of the most exciting sounds to come out of the hardcore scene right now. While Seeyouspacecowboy is the obvious frontrunner, p.s.you’redead deserves some attention as well. I don’t even know how to describe their first few releases other than manic, giving me the same sensation as when I first heard Dillinger Escape Plan or The Chariot for the first time. It’s heavy music at its most maximalist, not really settling into any one descriptor I try to place it into. And we now have a release long enough to really sink into, releasing their debut record Sugar Rot on Paper Wings records. Thankfully this release doesn’t disappoint, packing a ton into the ideal runtime of 23 minutes.
SOUR is nothing if not sincere. Vocalist Jeff Stuckel’s lyrics go beyond the typical tropes in a hardcore band and really turn their debut EP from a good to a great release. It’s especially apparent when listening to “Apartment P”, a 45-second spoken word track that operates as the mission statement for the band. “Basically this shit ain’t even about you. It’s about who comes after. You have to sing your song no matter what. Even if the notes are sour”. It’s a move that can come across as corny but really works in the context of the EP and really drives home the point of hardcore as a multigenerational art form. The music you make can have unforeseen ripples, even if you are just some unknown local band playing to the same thirty people every other month. Maybe your presence convinces someone in the crowd to pick up an instrument or start a zine, which is how subcultures survive and thrive past these small scene life cycles. It also helps that these are just fun songs to dance along with, making for an extremely fun release from the newest band to come out of a burgeoning Ohio scene.
Reissue/New to Me Corner
Reissues are just as important as anything that comes out of the hardcore scene on a monthly basis. It’s the way bands become remembered and reach a younger audience. Without it, they could be relegated to the dustbin and forgotten. There is a whole swath of bands that are only available because of Youtube, which really limits their reach. This lack of access matters because for some, if it’s not on Spotify it might as well not exist. To alleviate that reality I’ll try to give a shoutout to one reissue or a new album I discovered each month.
The Hated-No More We Carry
At this point, the story of Revolution Summer and the beginning of what would become emo has been well documented. Typically, people tend to point towards For Want Of as the genre’s first major record. But music history doesn’t bend towards conventional narrative and is instead messy. At the same time as Rites of Spring got their start another DC native released their debut EP. That band is The Hated and for the first time ever their music will be on streaming and easily accessible. Instead of dropping it all at once on streaming services, Numero Group has instead opted to introduce The Hated’s material at a slow drip, putting it out piece by piece.
To start what will be a long campaign, No More We Carry, the first EP by The Hated arrived on streaming services in late January. And as someone who considers themselves informed on all the discrete waves of emo, I’m surprised I missed this. “Hey Mister” has parts that remind me of the 90s pop-punk I grew up with and even rivals Rites of Spring to me. Even the two acoustic tracks hold my attention. After just a few cursory listens they have already become a favorite of first wave emo for me. This is a must-listen if you have any interest in emocore, post-hardcore, or any strain of the melodic hardcore fare. It still feels vital especially as we still see bands in the hardcore world return back this era.
Here’s a Spotify playlist too if that’s your thing. I tried to sequence it in a way that makes sense.
Hugo Reyes | @hvreyes5
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