Joan DeToro

Nox Novacula Hitchhiker / Drug 7″

While it may be best to lump NOX NOVACULA under goth or post-punk, that would do a disservice to their sound. While many goth-inspired bands worship at the feet of ’80s mainstays, this EP has a very modern feel, and one inspired by acts that have been inspired by the post-metal world. The tense verses in “Hitchhiker” scream CHELSEA WOLFE or MARRIAGES, which give way to a more dark punk sounding chorus that provides both a sense of resolution and desperation at the same time. “Drug” has a bit more of an atmospheric feel, perhaps thanks to the synths, with a danceable chorus that somehow adds to the tumult of the vocalist’s lyrics. In all, the variety and originality in this little EP could win over deathrock naysayers.

Uraken Perfection EP

France’s URAKEN serve up a heavy mix of hardcore, crust, sludge, and powerviolence that is reminiscent of some of Southern Lord’s faster acts on this reissue of their 2017 demo. While none of their style is particularly new or innovative (anyone else remember when it seemed like every other band was crust-infused?) it is varied and punishing enough to avoid a monotonous listen.

Śmierć Godzina Pusta 12″

This is a project created by Polish punks living in Sweden who wanted to pay tribute to the works of Polish poets and bands. While I’m not well-versed in most Polish arts (which is a shame), I can still find something to appreciate in the thoughtfulness given to presenting the lyrics and explaining a bit where they come from. While I don’t understand the lyrics, which are in Polish, the notes about their sources, such as the works of DEZERTER, HOMOMILITIA, and poet Adam Zagajewski, are in English. That being said, I feel less inspired by the band, with its pretty straightforward punk riffing and melodic vocals. The vocals by Ninka are often left to carry the melodic weight of the band, and they often do not feel like enough to help them stand out from the herd.

Slant Vain Attempt EP

Given that members of SLANT play in South Korea’s SCUMRAID, you would expect their first EP to be drenched in noise. You’d also be wrong. This is a pretty straightforward hardcore outfit that stands out from the pack of USHC revivalists due to both vocalist Yeji’s harsh, raw shouting and the band’s strong attention to detail. Songs like “Scorn” are more dynamic and punishing than a lot of bands mining the same territory. Fucking great.

Hez Problemas EP

Oh fuck yeah! Dark, atmospheric punk from Panama that doesn’t rely on bullshit deathrock and goth tropes to carry their songs. And this is one of few bands to successfully use delayed vocals to aid mood instead of as a crutch. Nothing here ever goes faster than mid-tempo, but each song still maintains an intensity that most punk bands would die to have.

Physique The Evolution of Combat LP

Holy shit! Olympia’s PHYSIQUE does it again, this time in a style more strongly influenced by DISCLOSE than before. Unlike their demo or their first LP, Punk Life Is Shit, every track feels more streamlined, including their eponymous track, which was previously featured on their demo. There’s no escape from the raw cacophony, almost no lulls at all during the entire album. The songs themselves are deceptively simple, but upon further listening reveal tons of small changes and variations throughout. It’s this attention to songwriting (and not just their status as an all-AMAB trans band) that separates them from the herd of fuckers that worship Kawakami. The lyrics are great, and live up to the title by describing the various ways that warfare, discrimination, and police brutality (among others) are changing in order to remain an ever-present threat to daily life. A dark, yet essential record.

Fiend Fiend EP

Great little debut from Galway, Ireland’s FIEND. These folks pull of the modern hardcore/punk style as exemplified by bands like RUT or BIB with aplomb. Each track is different from each other, from the brooding “Fiend” to the stomper “Scum,” but all of them explore territory that other bands have covered before. Indeed while listening to this I felt like I have heard this riffs and ideas plenty of times before. That’s not a knock against them—they’re copying from the right people—but it needs something to help it stand out from the pack. There’s a lot to like here, and I have high hopes for their next record.

Richie Dagger Forming / Media Blitz 8″

Weird little lathe cut record from someone who purports that this is CHRISTIAN DEATH covering the GERMS. It’s not—nobody would hear the stomp and the noise on both tracks and associate them with the atmospheric gloom of early CHRISTIAN DEATH. The cover of “Forming” on here is solid, but unfortunately it cuts off early to include a nearly incomprehensible live take on “Media Blitz” that doesn’t seem related to the original song at all. A puzzling and inessential record. The zine that comes with this document is printed on glossy paper and has some pretty nice collages and drawings showing the creator’s love of both CHRISTIAN DEATH and the GERMS. Worth it for the zine, but even that is a brief read.

Idiota Civilizzato Sporchi Senza Fine LP

Holy shit, how did I sleep on this 12″ from Berlin’s IDIOTA CIVILIZZATO? It’s easily one of the best hardcore records from 2018. The band conveys the outta control wildness of early manic punks such as NEGAZIONE and CHEETAH CHROME MOTHERFUCKERS. The production amplifies the chaotic feeling a lot—everything is sorta clear, but sounds like it’s just a smudge near being in the red. It results in a similar feeling as watching this sorta shit in a house show where there’s too many people and everybody is knocking everything else over—the PA is on the floor, the band members slammed against their amps, the drummer losing entire pieces of their kit to the mania. A must have!

Dead Hunt Dead Hunt LP

Oh great, another band that couldn’t exist without TRAGEDY. Not much stands out from the rest of the crust herd here, but nothing is awful either. Vocals are nice and aggressive, the production approaches stadium crust levels of cleanliness and loudness, and the riffs themselves are not terribly generic, but not super unique either. The best part of this record is the guitar leads, most of which sound like they were aped from IRON MAIDEN or something. Probably a better live band.

C.H.E.W. Feeding Frenzy LP

Finally, an LP from Chicago’s best recent hardcore export! There’s something incredible about the way that they seamlessly incorporate rhythm / tempo changes and dissonance into their lightning fast riffs. How the fuck do they do it? Every listen has left my mouth agape, every track feels like it could be an example in a class on how to write a great hardcore song (even the dirges). An incredible record—I can’t wait for the next one.