Step 2 Rhythm-June 2023

Posted: by The Editor

Hardcore is 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.

Adrienne-Summer’s Beginning 

In the context of hardcore, Adrienne writes epics that harken back to metalcore when it was still part of hardcore. The shortest song on Summer’s Beginning is four minutes long, but the lengths feel earned. They slowly build towards the satisfying breakdown that shows off their hardcore roots. And watching them play live, you can see people react as they would to any other band you characterize as heavy. You will not see a meek push-pit during any song on Summer’s Beginning. When the last breakdown hits on “Rebirth,” you better be ready to defend yourself while showing off your own dance moves. I saw it firsthand earlier this year in Chicago and found myself with a stupidly wide grin the entire time Adrienne played.   

Bent Blue/Sunstroke-Split

For those whose tastes run towards the more melodic side of hardcore, the Bent Blue/Sunstroke split is for you. Both bands still have that ragged charm of hardcore without ever abandoning it to become pop-punk. What helps with this split is that the two bands are just different enough that it doesn’t feel redundant to both sides. Bent Blue is cut from the ’90s cloth of melodic hardcore, which laid the groundwork for what was to come in the following decades. The most obvious comparison point is Lifetime on Hello Bastards. Sunstroke looks towards the previous decade of the ’80s, with its most obvious comparison being the DC bands grouped under “revolution summer.”

Best Wishes-The Thrill is Gone

Naming yourself Best Wishes as a hardcore band is a giveaway. Most listeners will quickly connect that name to Cro-Mags’ record of the same name, an essential document for the hardcore-metal hybrid known as crossover. Best Wishes conforms to those expectations, beginning with an opening track that slowly winds up to an aggressive attack. From there, it continues in a snotty delivery that feels distinctly New York. The snarls from the vocals are just as much informed by rap as rock music. There are no surprises on Best Wishes’ debut. If you listen to enough crossover, a lot of the band’s debut will feel familiar and maybe invite no response. But I find Best Wishes quite charming upon multiple listens. I am a sucker for their style of hardcore, and when it is done competently, I am destined to have a good time.

 Buggin-Concrete Cowboys

Since Buggin formed in the late 2010s, the premise has been pretty simple: fun above all else. They wanted to serve as the counterpoint to the dominant beatdown scene in Chicago. You can hear this vision begin to crystalize in their 2019 demo, but the recording is far from perfect. All the requisite parts for Buggin are there. You have fast sections interspersed with bouncy mosh parts and occasional gang vocals. Four years later, Buggin has arrived at their first record, which for any hardcore band is an important crossroad. Many others before Buggin failed to make a compelling debut and have been forgotten to the dustbin of hardcore history. I would not place Concrete Cowboys in that category, and I’m instead impressed by it. I can hear multiple strands of hardcore in a band that I once categorized as just New York-inspired hardcore. “Snack Run” shows off the lack of self-seriousness, “Redacted” almost leans into melodic hardcore at points, and “Youth” is an exuberant jam that looks to be hopeful about the future and the younger generation.

Destiny Bond-Be My Vengeance

In the Bandcamp description for Be My Vengeance, Destiny Bond describes themselves as offering “a brand of hardcore that is unafraid of melody but not completely enamored with it.” After listening to the first song (“Chew”), you internalize that ethos. The songs that follow are fast but never feel incomprehensible. You can make out the words clearly; there are clearly defined hooks in a song like “Losin.” Because of that penchant for melody, I could bring up a lot of different reference points, ranging from the emocore of Dag Nasty to the underrated Indiana hardcore of Zero Boys. But, to me, Destiny Bond feels like a true expression of ’80s hardcore punk. At its core, it is just sped-up rock music, and that connection feels clear when you hear a short guitar solo interspersed at the end of “The Glow.”


GELD makes the kind of scuzzy hardcore punk that has its roots in Japan, referencing bands like Gauze and Lip Cream for starting the project initially. It’s led to certain phrases describing their music as “far out hardcore,” partially helped by the various effects on the vocals and guitars. But they still adhere to certain genre tropes on Currency//Castration, starting with a mostly instrumental track minus some grunts. The rest of the album treads familiar territory, mostly existing in one to two-minute feral compositions. Most of the time, while I listen to Currency//Castration, I imagine a ridiculous amount of stage dives and circle pits alongside these songs, which is all I can ask for from anyone writing hardcore punk.


Part of me feels that trying to intellectualize Sunami is a pointless exercise. When the project started in 2019, it was a fun little project that wouldn’t go beyond San Jose. The songs were your typical lumbering beatdown but with a bit of a winking nod. It felt like an inversion of the genre that almost crossed into camp. It was more homage than parody, and that is why it works. You can tell the members have a deep love for a certain kind of hardcore that is easy to pass over derisively as “tough guy.” On what is called SUNAMI LP, you can feel the band move beyond the original scope of the project, talking about a multitude of different topics, ranging from an ode to San Jose (“10 Toes Down”) to an anti-cop screed (“Contempt of Cop”). Of course, some beatdown tropes are still on display in the opening track (“It don’t mean that you’re shit/You’re a stupid mother fucker and that’s about it”).


Existing as a hardcore band for over a decade is a feat, but it even feels more impressive for SPINE. They are partially aware of this, continuing a running joke that Raíces is the last record. It would be a somewhat fitting end. It feels like their most realized statement. The songs still adhere to the manically fast powerviolence structure, but everything is more refined. I never grow impatient and check my phone for how many songs are left. But mostly, I connected to the lyrics that Antonio Marquez screams as a fellow brown person. Many of the tracks are all in Spanish, requiring the listener to engage with the material beyond it being background noise. And in general, my favorite hardcore records in recent memory share a common DNA that SPINE has on Raíces: fun dance music with something to say.


When SPY came out of the burgeoning Bay Area scene in 2020 with Service Weapon, the project was already fully formed. Every release since that original EP has been iterations of their take on hardcore punk. It feels distinctly west coast, with a similar vocal approach to their Gulch companions. It leads me to such cliched words as feral and unhinged. But the effect heard throughout the discography feels inhuman; there are only so many ways to describe it. In the intervening three years, SPY has followed the tried and true formula of slowly teasing out music, releasing another EP and split with Maniac last year. But with Satisfaction, we finally have a proper full-length with SPY. It doesn’t deviate too much from SPY’s other material, packing ten songs in 13 minutes. It passed by so quickly on my first listen that I felt urged to listen again because I felt like I must have missed something.

World I Hate-Years of Lead

You can feel the hatred oozing throughout Years of Lead, the debut record from World I Hate. On the surface, you may point towards the frayed vocals that people have compared to Think I Care and Weekend Nachos. It just naturally sounds more pissed than other styles in hardcore. But on closer inspection, the lyrics are just as hostile as any other element of Years of Lead. World I Hate has a clear leftist point of view. Their power-violence-indebted hardcore is looking to inspire some kind of political action. “Progressive Plantation” talks about liberalism and its connection to white supremacy (“Never cared about the human cost / As long as they shut up / And get back to their jobs”). “Ghandi Trap” goes a little further, inspiring people to go beyond nonviolent protest towards something more forceful ( “You’ll be branded the enemy either way / So you might as well make them pay”). This clear point of view makes for a more compelling hardcore band than one that chooses to speak in surface-level platitudes.

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 reaches a younger audience. Without it, they could be relegated to the dustbin and forgotten. A whole swath of bands is only available because of Youtube, limiting 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.


Even though I have been listening to hardcore for a long time, I still constantly find out how little I know. While reading Tony Rettman’s book Why Be Something You’re Not, he briefly mentions Solger. It is a throwaway addition while talking about what was happening across the country with the first wave of hardcore. I decided to go to YouTube anyway to give them a listen. It wasn’t revelatory like when I first heard Bad Brains or Minor Threat, but it was intriguing. For the first time, I was listening to the first hardcore band to come out of Seattle. No matter the quality, it was an important document. It partially speaks to the power Black Flag had during the early ’80s. Solger formed because seventeen-year-old Kyle Nixon saw them and felt driven to start his own band. The result is an extremely lo-fi amateurish brand of hardcore punk. But to me, that’s what the best first-wave hardcore is. It’s a bunch of children learning on the fly without any care for the blemishes resulting from that original impulse.

Hugo Reyes | @hvreyes5

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