In 2018, punk rock is a funny thing—like, what does it even mean anymore? At this point, it feels like it’s been divided and subdivided into a gajillion different micro-genres, and while it feels like there used to be big records that everyone loved and tons of other records that a lot of people would have at least a passing familiarity with, these days, a lot of really great records go under the radar of all but the most obsessive nerds. With that, here are 10 records from 2018 that fans might have missed but would be doing themselves a favor to check out.
Candy | Good To Feel | Triple B Records
Triple B—is there a more consistent and varied hardcore record label going these days? For me, the crown jewel of their relentless output is Richmond, Virginia’s Candy. From the skull-crushing, high-speed velocity of Good To Feel’s title track to the acidic melancholy of “Distorted Dreams,” Candy manage to create a distortion-soaked soundscape that marries a disparate range of influences—think Unbroken, Integrity, Crossed Out, and some My Bloody Valentine shoved in a blender set to “annihilate.”
Negativ | Projections | Mirthless Laughter Records
Projections from Norway’s Negativ is probably one of the creepiest, darkest, and most hopeless-feeling records I’ve heard since the first time I encountered Rudimentary Peni. It’s a desperate-sounding record that reflects a worldview in which things just seem to teeter on the edge of collapse, with staccato, angular, rapid-fire music backing up a tense vocal attack that just feels perfect. In conversations, I’ve compared this as much to the stop-and-start tension of Die Kreuzen as I have to the dark atmosphere present in the writing of Poe or Lovecraft. Just brilliant.
False Figure | False Figure | Near Dark Records
Oakland, California, has a long tradition of bands who combine the gothic drive of Joy Division with a more straightforward hardcore fury—bands like Dead And Gone, early Neurosis, Christ On Parade, and now, the likes of False Figure. Released on the Oakland darkwave label Near Dark, False Figure produce six tracks of sweeping, apprehensive, and quite spooky punk rock—think Weathered Statues or even “Darker My Love”–era T.S.O.L. mixed with that hammer-down approach of later Econochrist.
S.H.I.T. | What Do You Stand For? | IRON LUNG Records
Nearly 40 years ago, The Damned released their high praise of the simple joys of “Noise Noise Noise,” and in 2018, Toronto’s S.H.I.T. perfected it. Primitive and distortion-heavy, What Do You Stand For? blazes through 20 minutes of battering-ram, pummeling hardcore that only slows down for the closing comparative-dirge of “Losing in the 21st Century.” A relentless blast from the word go that grabs you by the throat and never lets go—a must-have record.
Sial | Binasa EP | La Vida Es Un Mus
Hailing from the so-called “utopian police state” of Singapore, Sial rip through six stomping, rhythmic, distorted tracks of fierce hardcore. Shrill guitars and thunderous drums make a perfect backdrop for vocalist Siti’s wail, screaming in Malay against the racism and classism the indigenous population faces as the result of nearly 150 years of British control. Sial are an absolutely vicious live band, as those in the Eastern half of the United States and Canada can attest.
Khiis | Saboor EP | Distort Reality
Oakland, California’s Khiis just destroy everything in their path on their debut EP. Taking their inspirational cues from a myriad of sources, they play raw, aggressive hardcore that incorporates enough hooks and melody to make the songs burrow themselves into your brain. With lyrics partially sung in Farsi, they present a twist on the standard mold of American hardcore and, perhaps, present more of a challenge to the dominant culture than just another song about unity or veganism. I’m wary to make declarative statements about this record or that being the best one of the year, but for me, Saboor certainly comes close.
Forward | Another Dimension EP | Break The Records
Japan’s Forward are legendary. Made up of pillars of ’80s Japanese hardcore—Death Side, Systematic Death, Gudon, etc.—they play a strutting yet snarling take on hardcore. They’re quick-paced to be sure but with enough melody and songwriting chops that they create a unique, instantly recognizable kind of punk. From vocalist Ishiya’s trademark snarl to guitarist Souichi’s melodious leads, Forward have been creating powerful music for over 20 years, and Another Dimension continues that tradition.
Tragedy | Fury 12” | Tragedy Records
When Portland, Oregon’s Tragedy dropped Fury seemingly out of nowhere, it rippled through the underground like an atomic bomb. It’s hard to believe that they’ve been a band for nearly 20 years and are still capable of producing high-caliber skull-crushing yet sweepingly melodic music. From the moody and theatrical intro that sets off this record to the explosion of power that is the first track, “Leviathan,” Tragedy never relent—just pure, ripping, full-throttle, go-for-the-jugular hardcore that never dips into being metal while remaining as heavy and devastating as an enormous door slamming in the depths of Hell.
Tozcos | Sueños Deceptivos | Verdugo Discos
While Latinos have long made up the backbone of Los Angeles’ punk scene, it feels like, over the last few years, there has been an explosion of bands singing blistering punk rock in Spanish and/or indigenous languages. Bands like Futura, Destruye Y Huye, and Ausencia all had powerful releases this year, but the cream of the crop for me has to be Santa Ana’s Tozcos. Playing tense, frantic, driving hardcore with a smattering of melody, they stand in contrast with the legion of bands who rely on metallic crunch or overt displays of masturbatory fret gymnastics to get the point across. It’s passionate punk rock that brings to mind the swagger of early X and the driving early O.C. hardcore of D.I. or Adolescents.
Primer Regimen | Ultimo Testamento | Byllepest Distro
At times, its almost impossible for me to convey how good Colombia’s Primer Regimen are. From their album’s ominous bass intro, which explodes into the first track, “Terroristas,” to the searing high-energy assault of “Ultimo Testamento,” they unleash cut after cut of pounding, relentless hardcore that echoes the studs-spikes-and-acne-soaked-leather approach of GBH as well as paying homage to the more melodic sound that was the bread and butter of Spain in the ’80s: Eskorbuto, R.I.P., Subterranean Kids, etc. But don’t think of them as reenactor-core—while Primer Regimen certain borrow from the classic forms of the past, they morph it into something all their own. A classic LP for sure!
Live Photos & Words by Michael Thorn