Ten Hardcore Bands That Do Actually Get It

I posted an article last week about misogyny in hardcore and just the general lack of respect for fellow human beings that’s running rampant throughout the scene at the moment. There’s certainly a lot of that going on. In honesty, my piece refers mostly to the mainstream – the branch of particularly popular hardcore bands that are dominating the magazines and the social networks at the moment. There’s a lot of bands out there that aren’t subscribing to this at all, that are striving for a community again, that are promoting a very healthy attitude at shows and through their music. Loosely based around the hardcore genre, but with a smattering of punk and metalcore, this is just ten of those bands promoting a better future for the scene. There’s a few more mainstream and a few more underground acts here, and these are the people we should be throwing our weight behind.

1) Finish Him!
Our favourite Coventry partycore lot know what’s going down. A Finish Him! show is always a ridiculously fun experience for everyone – everyone gets involved, everyone keeps each other safe. You’re far more likely to end the set in a massive group hug than with a punch in the face (although that’s mostly just to keep yourself standing after some intense moshing!). And many of their song names are references to classic kid’s shows and video games, which is always a bonus.

2) We Came As Romans
Everyone’s new favourite synthy metalcore band, they don’t have a bad word to say about anyone. Their albums are all about positivity, and their recent slot on the Take Action tour in support of the ‘It Gets Better’ campaign couldn’t paint them as any more angelic. If you’re ever feeling down, listen to Understanding What We Came To Be and you’ll instantly feel better about life.

3) Parkway Drive
Okay, ‘Romance Is Dead’ might be about wanting to choke the life out of a former loved one, but we can all say we’ve had those moments at one point or another. Otherwise, Parkway Drive take their anger out on more noble causes, such as our rampant destruction of the Earth. Atlas is all about the potential demise of our planet if we don’t buck up our ideas. Parkway are also massive fans of the circlepit, but only if you treat each other with respect. And we will, Winston and co, we will.

4) iwrestledabearonce
Ever been to an IWABO show? You’re doing yourself a disservice if you haven’t. Me and Kate threw many a pencil sharpener and a few egg and spoons the last time we were in the general vicinity. It’s also super rad to see such an incredible female vocalist in play in both cases – Krysta’s screams were utterly sublime and I figured there’d never be anyone who could replace her, but Courtney has done pretty admirably, bringing just as much flair and insanity to their live presence as Krysta did. It’s pretty hard to make out exactly what they’re saying though sometimes, so pick up a lyrics booklet and appreciate.

5) The Smoking Hearts
Victory! is a great record. It’s a real snapshot of life in the 2010s, but without subscribing to the bullshit. There’s plenty of stuff in there about standing up tall and rising above, but THS aren’t afraid to party on down with the rabble either. Sick guitar solos aside, THS bring it in every way possible in a live format, but while being perfectly pleasant to everyone around them. Top lads.

6) Sick Of It All
Have you ever listened to a Sick Of It All album and thought ‘well, I can see where they’re coming from but I just can’t identify with this in any way, shape or form’? I thought not.

Skatepunk enthusiasts DARKO blend the Duracell bunny energy of that 90s sound with technical hardcore for an unbeatable thrill ride. From Trust To Conformity has a lot of anger and frustration in it, but it’s pointed in all the right directions, and a lot more poetic than you might first think. Get listening, get excited.

8) Attack! Vipers!
I literally can’t express my love for Attack! Vipers! enough. Completely standup guys with an explosive live show (high risk of human pyramids included) and stupidly talented musicians to boot. Feeling bad about popular hardcore and its shitty attitude? Have a scroll through the Attack! Vipers! Tumblr page and you’ll see posts speaking out against discrimination and injustice, in the scene and wider. Great stuff.

9) Empire
Shedding Skin is a slice of crashing, beautiful melodic hardcore. The desolate landscapes that it describes and the feelings of discontent and fear are ones that are applicable to all of us. Back in the early 2000s, most of the bands doing this kind of thing were writing songs crying about how girls had wronged them. Empire take a far different approach and we love them for it.

10) Not Right
Definitely more punk than hardcore, but it’d feel wrong to write a piece about solidarity and community without including Not Right. Queer riot grrl noise with a focus on trans issues, general activism and, in their own words, “the politic of people before profit”. And well, they definitely play loud and fast enough to fit in on this list.

Empire – Shedding Skin

I don’t usually think of North Carolina when I think of melodic hardcore bands. From my position in the verdant English countryside, my view of America and its musical hotspots is largely geared towards the coasts, and that’s usually with regards to happier, bouncier stuff. This kind of bleak, desolate hardcore is usually Canada’s domain, or crops up from Scandinavia; cold, harsh places for cold, harsh music. But then in these times of austerity, fear and uncertainty, the fire that fuels tracks like these can ignite anywhere, and Empire, hailing from Raleigh, NC, have made a record that embodies that feeling effortlessly.

‘Set In Stone’ immediately creates the right atmosphere for the rest of the EP. Minor tones and crashing rhythms invoke a bleak sonic landscape. Every phrase to pass vocalist Ben Daughtry’s lips feels pained but not fragile and his half screamed, half shouted tone provides the perfect overlay for the rest of the track. It’s a fairly slow affair though, something which ‘Moore Square Station’ and ‘Minour’ alleviate with more frantic and intense riffs. The tone in the vocals begins to shift to something far more aggressive, and in ‘Minour’ especially, the guitar lines tread the line carefully between moments of deep angst and melancholic beauty while demonstrating Preston Mitchum’s immense control. ‘…And I Am Drawing Down’ has a particularly devastating feel to it, the rhythm section in particular providing a solid and crushing backbone. Final track, ‘The Iconoclast’ sounds as if it’s directly a part of its predecessor; there’s not enough of a division, but the two tracks would probably have worked very well as one whole, considering how short each track on the EP actually is – none clock in at over three minutes. Nevertheless, Empire play with some clever effects here and the constant refrain of “saying goodbye” rearing its head throughout is completely haunting.

Shedding Skin shows a great deal of promise. Empire have created a tight, emotionally involving and impressive record that is bound to thrill fans of Defeater, Circa Survive et al, but steps away from their legacy to forge something entirely their own.

4 out of 5 high fives!