Step 2 Rhythm-May 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.

Anklebiter-To Live and Withstand

Last year in this very column, I wrote about Anklebiter’s demo. In some ways, its arrival was quaint. They were reaching back to the 2000s, referencing stuff like Righteous Jams and Mental. You could even see them cover Rival Mob’s “Hardcore for Hardcore” at recent live sets. But it’s not exactly a sound that is the most trendy right now. Lockin Out is barely an active label, usually putting out one or two releases per year at this point. But Anklebiter is a student of that bygone era, delivering a more than component take on hardcore punk through a modern framework. If you were expecting a massive change on their new EP, To Live and Withstand, you would be mistaken. It starts with a very familiar instrumental intro that functions as crowd work before delivering into two-minute pockets of hardcore fury. 

Apex Predator-Jesus Wept PROMO

If you are looking for something to pushpit to, stay as far away from Apex Predator as possible. I would describe their new two-song promo as fight music meant to inspire the most ridiculous response possible. The minute you hear the words “there is nothing left for you” to start “Nothing,” all thoughts should leave your body. Trying to intellectualize Apex Predator’s brand of metallic hardcore is missing the point. As Apex Predator says in a photo posted to social media: “Just plain evil music/Hardcore music the way it was meant to be.” 


In terms of hardcore records from this year, I was hotly anticipating Drain’s second record, Living Proof. Their debut from 2020 hit at a perfect time for hardcore and already feels like an important document for the genre in this decade. In the time since its release, Drain has cemented itself as one of the best live acts in the genre. Songs like “Feel the Pressure” and “Army of One” have become imprinted on my brain through countless live sets I have watched in my spare time on YouTube. But I wouldn’t automatically say that Living Proof meets the unreasonable expectations I expected from Drain. On my first listen, I very flippantly remarked that it was not as memorable as California Cursed. As I spent more time with it, I could not help but be won over by the infectious energy that Drain oozes through every track. It does lose some momentum though, near the end with the Descendants cover and the rap interlude that, while fun, does not work for me. Even with all my complaints, I imagine it won’t matter once I hear these songs live and understand them in their proper context. 

Envision-The Gods That Built Tomorrow 

Though there were plenty of great releases in the world of hardcore last year, I found myself constantly returning to Envision’s EP …And Still. It satiates a particular flavor of metallic hardcore that few bands besides Magnitude provide for me. They can balance catchy singalong parts with hard-hitting mosh parts in equal measure. So when Envision announced late last year that they would release a record, my interest was piqued. Could a band that thrived in a small release format do enough in a longer setting? The Gods That Build Tomorrow enthusiastically answer that question with a resounding yes. Things that were lightly teased before are fully expanded upon. The metal influences come out even more, making it stand out from your typical metallic hardcore flair. You can tell the guitarists have a decent depth of knowledge in metal, whipping out guitar solos that make sense on a power metal or thrash record.  

Entry-Exit Interview

Since forming over a decade ago, Entry has seemingly had one goal: to write ripping hardcore punk. Initially, the project started with a mutual friendship between Sarah G and Clayton Stevens, resulting in them sending demos to each other. You can hear the result of that collaboration in the 2013 demo. It doesn’t sound too dissimilar from their new EP Exit Interview. There has just been refinement in each successive release. While Detriment ended with a lurching closer, Exit Interview ended with a 58-second screed. But the original conceit for Entry is the same. Sarah’s searing vocals soar over a constant driving rhythm that I’d sometimes describe as triumphant. It’s about all you can ask for in any hardcore punk band because it’s a tough subsection of hardcore to master. You’ll never recreate the magic of hearing Tied Down or Tragedy for the first time. All you can hope is to create something fun and energetic for people to dance to. 

Gumm-Slogan Machine

With Gumm, a lot of attention is paid to their brand of post-hardcore in any writing on Slogan Machine. Some compare it to contemporaries like Drug Church and Militarie Gun; Others dive a bit farther back to Discord Records and revolution summer. But engaging with Gumm as a lens to compare to what came before is superficial. Vocalist Drew Walden has a clear point of view and uses hardcore to say something. As he says in an interview with No Echo, “I kind of used the process of writing these lyrics as a way to express anxieties I often feel about living during this time in history.” You can feel that intention pouring throughout the record, but it is no clearer than on the title track. When you hear the lyrics “I guess it’s too much to ask to live your beliefs,” you can feel the lived-in quality behind those words. 

Incendiary-Change The Way You Think About Pain

Since forming in the 2000s, Incendiary has lived through multiple generations of hardcore. But they have still felt vital throughout those several decades, only occasionally playing shows and releasing records. It makes the arrival of Change The Way You Think About Pain feel momentous. It’s the first release for Incendiary in six years and mostly meets fans’ high expectations for the band. All the requisite parts of Incediary are there, from the rap-like vocal delivery to hard-hitting chugging guitar parts. It’s hard not to be won over by the phrase “every window deserves a brick” on “Echo of Nothing.”

Live it Down-Thy Kingdom Come

Though there are many blends of metallic hardcore now, Live it Down feels specific. Thy Kingdom is off with a long-winded intro full of guitar athletics that makes the proceedings dramatic. But once the vocals kick in, you click into the world Live it Down has created. It fits among much of what got called “clevocore,” with Integrity and Ringworm being obvious examples. All that terminology means is that while Live it Down is certainly heavy, like most metallic hardcore, the vocals have a specific tone. It inspires unbridled aggression that anyone who works a job they hate could identify with.

Never Ending Game-Outcry

Even though it is still early in the year, I don’t see anything topping Outcry by Never Ending Game for the hardcore album of the year. I have lost track of how many times I have listened to it since I received a promo several months ago. It has all the requisite components I look for in a hardcore record and more. If I want to have a good time and just grin at the sheer absurdity of “Tank on E,” I can do that. If I want to sing along to “Hate Today, Die Tomorrow” and swing my arms while walking down the street, I can do that too. But I also deeply relate to vocalist Mike Petroski’s struggles he writes about throughout the album. He uses the tropes of heavy hardcore to express something pained and personal that many people can relate to.

Worn/C4-Split Your Skull in Half

In 2021 both C4 and Worn released records that were different takes on Northeastern hardcore. C4 was cut from the Boston end of things, fitting ten songs in a compact eleven minutes. Worn comes from the lineage of Wilkes Barre, but you can see a similar approach to hardcore listening to both records. It’s not metallic, but I wouldn’t call it 80s worship. It fits somewhere in the middle between those two extremes. It makes sense that the two bands would pair together with Split Your Skull in Half. They even do the fun thing of covering each other’s songs, which, when done well, is one of my favorite choices for a split. 

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


Conneticut’s history in hardcore runs deep, giving us everything from 100 Demons to Hatebreed. But as with any scene, beloved bands can be lost. One of those bands for Connecticut has to be Mindwar, a band I recently discovered through Twitter. Listening to their self-titled EP, I was shocked it came out over thirty years ago. It feels somewhat relevant today, and I can imagine someone newer to hardcore being able to connect with it. The EP goes down the familiar territory of matching heavy mosh parts to clean vocals. It’s a combination we still see with bands like Age of Apocalypse and Twitching Tongues. 

Hugo Reyes | @hvreyes5

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