The 10 Best Hardcore Albums Of 2022
I’m never going to forget the feeling: Thousands of people, a sea of humanity, just losing its collective mind the moment that the “Holiday” riff kicked in. This year, Turnstile were everywhere: Taco Bell ads, Sunday Night Football ad bumpers, every poster for every big 2023 festival. Eventually, that omnipresence might dull the feeling. But when Turnstile toured huge venues in 2022, they proved conclusively that hardcore shows can work on a grand, world-altering scale. Looking around in the crowd at their DC gig, I saw plenty of people who were experiencing that sense of group catharsis for the first time. It was magical.
Turnstile weren’t the only ones. This year, hardcore rose up to dizzy new cultural heights. The videos of the big DIY festivals – Sound And Fury in Los Angeles, Outbreak in Manchester – were stunning. Hard, aggressive, intense music has always defined itself by its own voluntary exclusion. Hardcore is its own world, and that world rarely crosses over into the rest of the popular music realm. But this year, more people learned how to meet hardcore on hardcore’s level. More people learned just how good this music can feel.
Hardcore will always exist in its truest form in the out-of-the-way places: living rooms, basements, warehouses, rented-out church halls. That’s not going to change just because Turnstile are opening for Blink-182. Turnstile didn’t release a new album this year. Neither did Knocked Loose or Code Orange, some of the other hardcore bands who have unexpectedly found their way to biggest stages. But the genre still gave us tremendous, earthshaking, blood-pounding albums this year.
On some level, hardcore is a genre built around moments, not around full-length LPs, so the idea of listing the year’s best hardcore albums is at least a little bit ridiculous. (The New York Times’ Jon Caramanica included the video of Gulch’s final live show on his list of the year’s best albums, which is both ridiculous and entirely correct.) Even if we’re just talking about the year’s best records, the whole “album” thing is both limiting and misleading. There’s a strong case that End It’s Unpleasant Living is the best, most impactful hardcore record of 2022, and Unpleasant Living is not an album. It’s eight minutes long. It’s absolutely vital, and it fucking rules, but we’d be fudging things pretty hard if we called Unpleasant Living an album. By that same token, this list doesn’t include recent EPs from Fugitive, Speed, Warthog, Killing Pace, or XweaponX. They’re all great, They’re all important. They’re just not albums.
In assembling this kind of list, you also have to make hard choices about what does and does not count as hardcore. Nobody will ever agree on that question. In writing about the genre at Stereogum, I’ve never been remotely consistent in my answers. I’m still not. This list includes a lot of things that might not count as hardcore, depending on where you stand. It does not include some great records that don’t fully, entirely fit my definition – at least not in the moment that I’m putting the list together. If you love hardcore, or if you’re simply intrigued by the genre, I would wholeheartedly recommend the new albums from Hammered Hulls, Spice, Cave In, High Vis, and Show Me The Body – all great records that are, at the very least, hardcore-adjacent. But they’re not on this list.
The world of straight-up hardcore also gave us a whole lot more than 10 great albums this year. Apologies to Punitive Weapon, Excide, Age Of Apocalypse, Combust, Vein.fm, and Gridiron, among many others. The 10 albums on this list were merely my 10 personal favorites, but they’re barely even the tip of the iceberg. Hardcore is in a magical place right now, and the best way to experience it is by going out to as many shows as possible – whether or not you know the bands, whether or not you know anyone in the crowd. The actual albums are a small part of the whole, but the albums can be fucking great, too. These are my favorites. What are yours?
Terror - Pain Into Power (Pure Noise)
Los Angeles faith-keepers Terror have been a band for more than 20 years, and it makes absolutely no sense for their eighth studio album to punch this hard. A few months ago, frontman Scott Vogel went viral for a video where he told a crowd that hardcore is very much not for everyone, and that viewpoint manifests itself here, on an album that’s welcoming and forbidding in equal measure. Original guitarist Todd Jones, who left Terror to start Nails 18 years ago, is back in the fold, playing and producing. The whole band sounds meaner and uglier than ever, blasting through 10 songs in 18 minutes and making boundless contempt sound almost joyous.
Praise - All In A Dream (Revelation)
Was anyone expecting Praise to come back? The Baltimore band has been out of the game for nearly a decade, their heart-on-sleeve clean-vocals melodic positivity has largely fallen out of favor, and drummer Daniel Fang was pretty busy with Turnstile. Praise’s comeback LP isn’t an immediate banger. For most of its brief running time, All In A Dream is a sharp homage to the DC hardcore of a previous generation – comforting but not hugely impactful. In its last two songs, though, All In A Dream takes flight and heads for the stars. Penultimate track “Life Unknown,” in particular, is a glimmering miracle, a hands-in-the-air anthem of yearning and survival that looks at continued existence as a challenge worth enduring.
Mutually Assured Destruction - Ascension (Triple B)
“Five-minute songs.” That’s the phrase that Richmond hardcore fixture Ace Stallings kept using when describing his new band’s full-length debut. In any other genre, a five-minute song would be fully unremarkable. In hardcore, it’s a clear sign of a pivot – in this case, a pivot into vicious and viscous groove-metal, complete with a cameo from local luminary and Lamb Of God leader Randy Blythe. There’s a lot more Pantera than Youth Of Today in the DNA of Ascension. It’s an album of guttural melodies and big-baller riffage and one Alice In Chains-style acoustic ballad. But the members of MAD all arrived at metal grandeur through hardcore, and they bring a sense of face-punch immediacy that grants their hard-rockin’ majesty the urgency and fury and swagger that it needs.
SpiritWorld - DEATHWESTERN (Century Media)
Another one for the “hardcore bands making riff-metal” files. The Las Vegas band SpiritWorld embraces theatricality in ways that few hardcore bands attempt. They rock cowboy hats and bolo ties when they play live. Their music videos are mini-horror epics. They make concept LPs about a Satanic apocalypse. They’re signed to one of the world’s biggest metal labels. DEATHWESTERN could easily show up on a list of the year’s best metal records, and it wouldn’t be out of place. In realizing their grand vision, though, SpiritWorld also channel the severe, galloping crunch of ’90s heavy hardcore bands like Integrity, and that scream-along dynamic gives them a freewheeling power that I don’t hear in their metal peers. That’s why DEATHWESTERN feels like being trapped in an underground crypt as the ceiling caves in.
Inclination - Unaltered Perspective (Pure Noise)
Inclination’s Isaac Hale is also the guitarist and lead songwriter in Knocked Loose, which means he’s one of the most important people on today’s hardcore landscape. But Inclination are probably best understood as a vehicle for Hale’s buddy Tyler Short, a ripped and tatted-up straight-edge evangelist who ranks among the most passionate frontmen working. Inclination’s sound is vast and epic, full of crashing riffs and planet-smashing breakdowns. Over that dramatic thunder, Tyler Short roars and bellows with his entire soul, advocating for conscious living but also raining hellfire on an uncaring world that pushes people toward the vices that he’s forsaken. You don’t have to share Short’s ideals or his lifestyle to feel inspired by Inclination’s righteous wrath.
Sonagi - Precedent (Get Better)
As the leader of Closer, Ryann Slausson has already been partly responsible for some of the most urgent, powerful screamo records of the past few years. Slausson now leads Sonagi, a Philadelphia band with an epically, elegantly ripped-apart take on screamo. Sonagi are named after the Korean word for sudden monsoon-season rainstorms, and the band’s existence is inspired by its members’ attempts to live productive lives in the DIY world while working at the lowest rungs of the capitalist economy. The result is a record where everything feels unstable, where even the pretty and contemplative moments can erupt into whirlwinds of rage. And when Sonagi burst into metallic overdrive, they do it with a heart-swelling sense of passion. Precedent sounds like existential crisis, electrified and built up into something majestic.
Long Knife - Curb Stomp Earth (Black Water)
Here’s one statement of intent: “Wanna smash it up! Wanna tear it down! Watch the cities burn! Curb stomp Earth!” Here’s another: “I like my music fast and loud! Ugly, dumb, and mean!” Long Knife are not afraid to write anthemic lines. They’re not afraid to write anthemic hooks, either. The scuzzed-out Portland punk vets never let up; every song comes ripping at Motörhead speed, with vocals that sound like they were scraped out of a forgotten ashtray months ago. But for all their frantic ferocity, Long Knife also have ideas – not just poison ones. Their breakneck rippers are full of unconventional touches: synth filigrees, free-jazz sax squawks, blazingly triumphant guitar-shredding. You won’t find a half-hour opus that rocks harder.
Drug Church - Hygiene (Pure Noise)
Patrick Kindlon, the Perth-based frontman of this long-running Albany band, is one of hardcore’s most notorious cranks, and he’s also one of the genre’s greatest writers. On the long-awaited follow-up to Drug Church’s 2018 classic Cheer, Kindlon offers up scabrous character studies and vivid rants; “Million Miles Of Fun” might be the anti-doomscrolling anthem that too many of us needed. Kindlon puts his words together carefully, and then he roars them out in a gale-force bellow. But the music on Hygiene is almost stunningly catchy and welcoming, as Kindlon’s bandmates pair that voice with zippy post-grunge riffage, hip-shaking twinkle-vroom, and hammerhead garage-pop hooks. Hygiene is the complete package – the darkness and the light all wrapped up in one ecstatic rage-out whole.
Soul Glo - Diaspora Problems (Epitaph)
“Who gon’ beat my ass?” In Pierce Jordan’s voice, that’s not a provocation. Instead, Jordan, leader of Philadelphia’s Soul Glo, shrieks that question with wild-eyed fear. He sounds like he knows an ass-beating is coming, but he doesn’t know when or where. So much hardcore is about persistence and determination, about learning to think of yourself as someone with skin like steel. That’s not how Soul Glo get down. Pierce Jordan always sounds like an exposed nerve, his screech as vulnerable as it is verbose. After years on the deep DIY underground, Diaspora Problems is Soul Glo’s first LP for Epitaph Records, the world’s biggest punk label. They’ve embraced a grander canvas, applying their relentless energy to Rocket From The Crypt-style rev-honk rawk and spluttery SoundCloud-rap, as well as the splenetic scream-at-the-floor basement-punk that first got them noticed. But for all their ambitions, Soul Glo never sound like people who have figured their problems out. Instead, their problems – racism, economic exploitation, general anxiety, various unpredictable combinations of those things – hound them throughout. Diaspora Problems is their freaked-out, panoramic response, and it’s a masterpiece of expressionist angst.
Mindforce - New Lords (Triple B)
I went back and forth so many times on this list’s top two albums. Soul Glo’s Diaspora Problems is such a dizzy, vibrant triumph. It’s got punk history embedded deep in its core, but it sounds like nothing that’s come before. As a critic, it’s my job to advocate for albums like that – albums that break the mold in twisty, surprising new ways. But some shit just makes me feel good, and one of those things is New Lords. Mindforce’s second album is a 17-minute pleasure machine. Its hard-chant choruses and neck-snap riffs fill up my soul. On New Lords, the Hudson Valley band absorbs and synthesizes decades of New York hardcore, transforming all that moshpit history into a simple, physical style and playing that style with absolute reckless commitment. The actual human beings in Mindforce are grown adults with kids and bills and day jobs, but New Lords makes them sound like avenging hoards, ushering our society into a glorious new age of ass-kickery. If I’m being honest with myself, New Lords is the 2022 album that most makes me feel like karate chopping my best friend in the neck, and nothing else really comes close. Sometimes, you just need to feel the fiyahhh.