Cleons Down 1995–1997 LP

Wow, for a discography, this is a short record. Just a hair over thirty minutes! The sound runs from melodic, occasionally funky hardcore punk to noisier emo-tinged numbers, and even a stray thrash metal riff. The tracks are ordered from newest to oldest. While there’s no big stylistic changes, you can hear how much more confident the band are by the end (or, uh, the beginning?). The record has a simple but sharp sound, like something recorded with mediocre equipment but a good ear behind the controls.

Hourglass Atomic Clock LP

Atomic Clock packs a lot into each song. They sound well-rehearsed, but I’m not sure such a busy sound is a good fit for hardcore. Often, they’re playing dissonant, jazzy chords at a stop/start pace before a pummeling doom or sludge metal chorus. The songs feel very deliberate and arranged, a real contrast to hardcore’s stripped-down M.O. The vocals are mixed right up front, which ensures you’ll hear the similarly elaborate lyrics. The band sounds eager to push the genre’s constraints. Whether that’s good or bad is up to the listener.

Kirkby Kiss Ouroboros CD

The sounds on Ouroboros rotate between staccato, rapid-fire guitar and more trad HC/punk rhythms. There are quieter, prettier build-ups which provide an almost screamo tinge. The band packs a lot into each song but keeps things short. That’s a good choice, because even when they’re boundary-pushing, most punk songs petter out after the two-minute mark.

Kirkby Kiss It’s Gonna Cost You LP

I don’t know what’s going on here. Musically, this starts out as some decent post-hardcore-type stuff in line with Dead Reckoning-era SMALL BROWN BIKE with effects pedals, but when the vocals kick in, it’s wild. Like hardcore-as-fuck wild. Then a few songs later, it goes full-on DISCHARGE/HOLY MOUNTAIN, followed up by a song with spoken vocals that reminds me of some early ’90s Ebullition/DC-type vibe. This record is kinda all over the place while staying in a specific lane the whole time. It’s something that I could find myself revisiting on occasion, but not a lot.

Love Interest Motherwound 12″

I was immediately drawn to the illuminated sheer drape on the cover and thought, “Is this going to be a moody, dark catharsis?” Yup. This well-presented debut EP comes from Detroit’s LOVE INTEREST, and is “a meditation on motherhood within a hostile world” (from their Bandcamp page). Tom-heavy drums set the undertone for icy guitar lines, punchy bass, Houses of the Holy-esque synth, layer upon layer of operatic backing chants, and a strong frontwoman with a killer range. By no means is this paired-down or sparse—it’s that wall-of-sound production that works really well with this dreamy, gothic, darkwave-in-sound, post-punk-in-lyricism styling. These four songs have meat to them, are on the longer side, and require your attention. Lovely music for the fall season.

Ottawa The Third Age 12″

This rerelease sure has a musical time stamp. Listeners will find plenty of mid-’90s USHC hallmarks: fast, occasionally breakneck tempos, blastbeats spliced in, and forays into crossover thrash territory here and there. The two vocalists trade high-pitched screams and a hoarse shout respectively. And of course, there are lots of (maybe too many) movie soundbites.

Pilau Pressure EP

Pretty standard hardcore affair, but man, is this heavy as hell. Grindy and doomy with a little bit of black metal thrown in as well. Very nuanced, which is important when you’re writing a hardcore record in 2023. Has a little bit of a Southern groove to it, which is unique for a band from D.C. Recommended for all raucous pit-goers.

V/A Err02 EP

Four-way split between four different hardcore bands that all sound pretty similar. Typical gruff, tough-guy riffs written solely with the pit in mind. HUNDREDS OF AU stands out from the other three with more of a classic ’90s emocore sound similar to GRADE and early THURSDAY. The rest are reminiscent of the slew of Victory Records bands that were huge in the late ’00s. I’ve always loved this type of compilation 7”, but you really gotta diversify the sound if you want to make it interesting.

Wrong War Fixed Against Forever LP

Debut LP from Chicago’s WRONG WAR, this HC album is fast, tight, and angry. The socio-political tension can’t be missed, from the band’s moniker to each and every song. The opener “Words Were Mere Words” shouts in its chorus, “And how I / Long for / Those days when / Words were mere words. / And how I—let it align.” A reckoning with cancel culture, as in we should be responsible for what we write and say and how it makes one another feel? Or an actual desire to not be accountable? Although the lyrics are all shouted, they are clear and you don’t need the liner notes to make them out—that said, the messages are vague and trope-y…the war machine (“Count the Days”), religious falsehoods (“Direct Function”), foolish patriotism (“Escape Clause”). But I don’t know, maybe I’m just oversaturated with being reminded of how shitty everything is, was, will be, etc. Anyway, if this fuels your rage, they released a second LP (Once Upon a Weapon) earlier this year, and I can only imagine what they’ve got to say since this release came out in 2020.

Wrong War On Further Reflection EP

A strong effort from Chicago’s WRONG WAR. This three-track EP leans more on the melodic and (pun entirely intended) reflective side of hardcore music. All three tunes on here are super solid (I am particularly fond of “The Call”)—the title track is the star of the show, sprawling off into a repetitive mantra towards its conclusion. Overall, a very solid release that I would recommend to anyone who likes a hint of melody in their hardcore.