Quality Control HQ

Accusation Accusation demo cassette

ACCUSATION from London’s latest demo. Tracks consist of SSD/STRAIGHT AHEAD or BREAKDOWN/ANTIDOTE-style early period Boston HC and NYHC. Chaotic drum smashing with powerful, in-your-face intensity. No weird effects or polished production thingamajiggies; it’s sonically stripped down to the core because this is fucking hardcore.

Antagonizm Freeze Motherfuckerz EP

Coming in hot after last year’s gnarly debut live tape is London’s ANTAGONIZM with their first EP Freeze Motherfuckerz, a batch of expertly-built UKHC bangers from a group of seasoned players in the current punk scene. While they have a diverse sound brought together by many influences ranging from ’80s NYHC to current UKHC, I prefer the CELTIC FROST-leaning vibes on “Progression?” and “Euthanized.” Truthfully though, if you have an itch for any style of hardcore, this EP will scratch it.

Arma X Violento Ritual LP

Music to crush your enemies to. ARMA X from Madrid, Spain crafted a record of pummelling heavy hardcore/beatdown. With Xs Sharpied proudly on their hands, the band produces only the hardest riffing and throws an ungodly amount of dive bombs your way in between. And, unlike many heavy HxC records, Violento Ritual doesn’t overstay its welcome, containing eight songs in under twenty minutes. This is an LP that is bound to crush all the weak who attempt to take it on—not one for the faint of heart.

Bib Biblical EP

Here’s the latest release from long-running Omaha hardcore hippies BIB. In my opinion, a lot of the mid-2010s hardcore punk bands of this ilk tend to have not aged all that well, but I’ve always really liked BIB. This new EP delivers in spades that sound that fans are so acquainted with—the psychedelic tendencies, spitting delay vocals, and dissonant riffage remain intact. If you’re already a fan, you won’t be disappointed by this one, and if you have yet to listen to the band, Biblical is as good a starting off point as any. Thumbs up, jolly well done!

Blow Your Brains Out The Big Escape 12″

The latest from the Tōyoko Line area—BLOW YOUR BRAINS OUT brings nine tracks of ’80’s/’90s NYHC-rooted metallic hardcore. A rare approach, especially in the crossover/NYHC scene there, is to sing in their own native language, with politically charged lyrics about real life and current societal issues in modern Japan. Heavy, hard-hitting grooves of the aforementioned influences with well-crafted metallic riffage and Godzilla breakdowns that will want you to go Kokkai Gijido and fuck everything up while you’re at it. Artwork by Nicky Rat.

Cold Decay Cold Decay cassette

This cassette from Paris’s COLD DECAY is metallic hardcore in the NYHC vein of MADBALL, MERAUDER, or ALL OUT WAR. They may not be MRR-realm bands, but some BOLT THROWER and SEPULTURA fans from the punk world will realize some aspects that they can maybe get down with here more than they want to admit to themselves. Good at what they do, which is in-the-pocket, groovy metalcore, if you’re into that sort of stuff.

Existence Into the Furnace EP

EXISTENCE of Stockholm fuse melodically charged, metallic Scandi-death metal riffing with an overt NYHC style. Imagine if AMORPHIS or KATATONIA had mixed it up with 25 TA LIFE, CRO-MAGS, and MERAUDER. The riffs are intoxicating, and the grunting and barking vocals are totally menacing. There has been a resurgence of deathcore as of late, and I’m kind of drawn to it again. Thinking of the MOMENT OF TRUTH/KRUELTY split… EXISTENCE here joins those rank beats, while retaining unique thrashing compositions that blend harmonizing ethereal death metal and Neanderthal pit-core. Themes include the struggles of fascism in Sweden and abroad, and also delve into cathartic perspectives on realizing one’s mistakes. Heavy on many levels, and a sonic rager.

Existence Go to Heaven LP

Here comes the debut full-length release from Sweden’s infamous EXISTENCE, and it does not disappoint. Go to Heaven takes the sound established in the band’s previous releases and builds upon it with great success. Jam-packed with stomping riffs and a diverse sound, this record is a great example of metallic hardcore done right in the modern day and age. It’s a lengthy listen, but it does a great job at keeping the listener’s attention—something even the most revered ’90s hardcore bands struggle to achieve. Recommended highly to fans of ’90s heavy/metallic hardcore, not recommended to fans of the GRATEFUL DEAD album of the same name.

Fairytale Shooting Star LP

The moment the air raid sirens on opening track “Submerged In Water” morph into feedback, you can feel the momentum of FAIRYTALE’s debut LP Shooting Star pushing you into a hurricane of raw hardcore punk that’s easily a contender for best album of the year. FAIRYTALE brings forth an album that is so cohesive and fully realized, it boggles the mind that it’s a debut LP. In the tradition of classics from the likes of MOB 47 and ANTI CIMEX, the guitar playing is heavy and dense with squealing and swirling guitar leads that balance and compliment the unrelenting rhythm section, a full-on D-beat assault that never lets up. What sets FAIRYTALE apart is vocalist Lulu’s sharp and venomous delivery, which on more than one occasion drifts into borderline spoken-word that is perfectly evil. It’s difficult to pick out a single standout track here as each one is dynamic, layered, and frankly catchy as fuck, but if one needed a recommendation, it would be “Possible to Grow,” two minutes of wretched guitars, brutal drumming, and a chorus that will be ringing in your ears for days to come. Do yourself a favor and give this thing a listen if you haven’t already. Highly recommended, it will be appearing in many top-ten lists come year-end and rightfully so; albums this raw don’t come along very often.

Foreseen Untamed Force LP

Finnish thrashers FORESEEN have unleashed their highly anticipated new LP Untamed Force. I’m going to get straight to the point: this record is fucking awesome. A truly wild ride that places FORESEEN comfortably next to thrash/crossover contemporaries MUNICIPAL WASTE and POWER TRIP (R.I.P. Riley, to whom the album is partially dedicated), while also bringing to mind the best of the NWOBHM: VENOM, DIAMOND HEAD, and MOTÖRHEAD. Opening track “Soldier’s Grave” sets the tone for the rest of the album with chugging guitars, double kicks, and righteous solos. Vocalist Murko Nummelin’s delivery matches the music almost too perfectly; at times he sounds like he’s foaming at the mouth. Lyrically, you can feel the urgency and fury in every track. By the halfway point, FORESEEN has aimed their sights on those entitled in society on “Birthright,” the pain endured to please the powers that be on “Tolerance of Abuse,” and the despair of drug addiction on “Suffocating Routine.” Then two minutes into “Fetish Oppression,” things take off into an unexpected soaring bridge complete with angelic (or demonic) backing vocals. It’s one of many moments that make this album such a fun listen. FORESEEN is masterful at adding touches throughout that take each song to the next level. Check the organs playing in “Cold Comfort,” the runaway train guitar and bass chug in “Serve Your Purpose,” and the dizzying drums and face-melting intro of “Desensitized.” Title track “Untamed Force” closes the album with the band declaring “Crashing the gate / No time to wait / For someone to do it for us / Storming onwards / A ferocious untamed force,” a firm affirmation that this is FORESEEN’s world and we’re just living in it. Expect this to be on every “best of” list at the end of the year.

Fuse This Segregation Will End 12″

New LP of hardcore fury from Lion City. Unique blend of classic ’80s NYHC with UK anarcho bands, and yet still having a contemporary, up-to-date-sounding approach. For fans of stompy breakdowns with raw and raging fast parts that also won’t let us punks down. Artwork by Nicky Rat.

Game Legerdemain 12″

GAME’s No One Wins LP from 2019 was and is one of the best hardcore releases of the last half-decade or so, and this successor—six songs at 45rpm—is hot on its tail in that respect. The internationalist London quartet (who include Polish vocalist and Quality Control label owner Ola Herbich, and Jonah Falco of FUCKED UP, et al. on drums) have dialed up the already profound metal factor: the title cut, which opens Legerdemain, moves to a hardcore beat but is Motörcharged in that glorious early ’80s NWOBHM gumby way, Callum Baird’s guitars especially. “The Caricaturist” is the catchiest number on here, and “Shard” the chuggiest, with Nicky Rat’s bass cutting through big time. Lyrics—five songs in English, one in Polish—are political in an allusive, as opposed to directly referential, way. You won’t learn anything from Ola’s words (screenprinted on a tasty A1-sized foldout poster, by the way) but there are dozens of choice individual phrases crammed into a stone killer 12″.

Gutter Knife Boots on the Ground LP

Blending the punch and drive of O.G. hardcore in the vein of GOVERNMENT ISSUE with Oi!/UK82 sensibilities echoing bands like COMBAT 84 and the 4-SKINS, GUTTER KNIFE hails from the seaside slums of Brighton, England. These ten tough tracks range from relentless pummeling, to snotty speed attacks, to COCKNEY REJECTS-style “football” rockers, all painted with the perfect gruff and loose vocals to put em right over the top. The band wears their influences on their record sleeve, as every single song title sounds like something you might make up if joking around about “skunk” rock bands of this sort (“Hangman,” “No Justice,” and “Boots on the Ground,” for example). I mean that in the best possible way, as these guys strike all the right chords, giving France’s RIXE some stiff competition for the title of present-day Oi! Champions. Fingers crossed for more of this butter from the GUTTER.

Instructor Terror Zone LP

Released a mere two days before the end of 2022, Quality Control HQ really closed the year with a bang with this one. After an array of great 2022 releases, particularly FORESEEN’s Untamed Force LP, INSTRUCTOR’s Terror Zone made for a very suitable cherry on top indeed, the last straw in proving what an absolute powerhouse the label is. Hailing from Brussels, Belgium, INSTRUCTOR released a couple of demos in 2019 and 2020, both which had some cool tunes but nothing outstanding. Private Execution followed, a tape which was again cool, but the recording really held the band back. I wasn’t particularly impressed with anything they had put out at that point. This all changed drastically with the release of Terror Zone, a magnum opus of ignorant, good ol’-fashioned skinhead CRO-MAGS-style breakdowns, merged with other more subtle influences taken from aspects of Oi!, KICKBACK, and Rawn Beuty-era COLD AS LIFE. Make no mistake, unlike other bands (who won’t be named) doing HxC in the New York vein by taking the chorus from “Malfunction” and the main riff from “Telltale,” nothing on this LP sounds of a style heard before. I think one thing when hearing this: “Belgian skins who like the CRO-MAGS.” What more could you want? The number of American bands worshipped at FYA who desperately want to play hardcore at such an incredible level of musicianship as present here but who won’t be able to reach the heights of INSTRUCTOR is staggering. Kings, queens, and in between, none of you will want to miss this giant.

Layback Sit Down and Layback EP

Quality Control HQ continues its run of excellent releases with LAYBACK’s Sit Down and Layback, a five-song crusher taking cues from the sun-scorched late ’80s West Coast hardcore scene, specifically OC bands like PUSHED ASIDE, INSTED, and HARD STANCE. In fact, LAYBACK’s style is so dialed-in that I half-expected them to be a straightedge band themselves (a quick glance at their Instagram would suggest otherwise). I’ll say less. Go buy this album, drop the needle and do as they say: sit down and lay back. It’s not a bad way to spend a cold winter afternoon.

Mastermind The Masters’ Orders LP

After four-ish years, MASTERMIND has decided to call it a day, but not before leaving us with The Masters’ Orders, a love letter to hardcore with nods to NYHC, UKHC, and crossover. MASTERMIND comes from the same school as contemporaries BIG CHEESE and T.S. WARSPITE: gruff, throaty vocals and heavy riffs that bring to mind legends JUDGE and SHEER TERROR. Opener “Collateral Damage” is like a sampler platter of the rest of the album: pummeling double kicks, rubbery bass leads, searing guitar solos, and a menacing vocal delivery that is perfectly over-the-top. MASTERMIND has a lot of gnarly stuff happening, but their ability to change tempo and style will leave your head spinning. The breakdown on “Patience” slows to a zombie-paced sludge before being resurrected by a drum and guitar solo, while “Haunt” starts with a funky little bass line playing along to a toe-tapping beat before hurtling into a mid-tempo chug that changes speed and direction enough times for me to lose count. The overall effect is a little like being on a rollercoaster; it’s jerky and unexpected at times, but always exciting and always a good time. The hardcore scene is losing a real one with MASTERMIND, you’d be wise to catch ‘em if you can!

Mazandaran Estranged EP

Mazandaran is known as “Devil’s Land” in north central Iran. This UK-based band consists of members of the Iranian diaspora playing protest music, reminiscent of Burning Spirits-style Japanese hardcore with epic guitar leads. Estranged is the debut recording by the band, with direct political expression coming from their own complex experiences. Raging hardcore punk with a sense of urgency and a combustion of powerful energy.

Payday Second to None LP

PAYDAY from London is named after the CONFRONT 7″, and nothing about them is really surprising, but it doesn’t need to be. An expertly executed mix of CONFRONT, RINGWORM, and INTEGRITY, they’ve got divebombs galore, vocals alternately growly and guttural, and plenty of riffs. “Dead on Your Feet” is my favorite track, but they’re all good, and though I wish this record was a track or two shorter, it’s a great slice of Cleveland hardcore worship sure to get all the lads moshing.

Pest Control Don’t Test the Pest LP

Leeds-based thrashers PEST CONTROL have ticked every box on their debut LP Don’t Test the Pest: pristine production by Arthur Rizk, an album cover that will be included in the best metal artwork for years to come, and a release on Quality Control HQ, a legendary label in the making. If any of the aforementioned whets your appetite, you’ll be happy to hear that while you may come for the package, you’ll stay for the tunes. Don’t Test the Pest will satisfy fans of old school thrash (SLAYER), new school thrash (POWER TRIP), and everything in between. Opener “Extermination” begins things with some ominous early METALLICA-inspired drama, leading into “Masquerade Party,” a double-kick-laden pummeling that channels everything there is to love about thrash/crossover: speed, anger, and riffs. Vocalist Leah’s aggro delivery is perfectly suited to the lyrical content; mental anguish, feelings of isolation, and general disdain for any outside forces. Other highlights include “Buggin Out,” which boasts one of the catchiest choruses I’ve heard in a long time, “Don’t Test The Pest,” a fast and furious pummeling with a gnarly guitar solo, and closer “The Great Deceiver,” a grand exit that punctuates the album perfectly. Between this and labelmates FORESEEN’S 2022 LP Untamed Force, it’s never been a better time to be a metalhead.

Stiff Meds Tales From the Slab LP

I wanted to like this album. I really, really did. I love the album art, and I’m a sucker for any hardcore band with sub-minute-long songs. Before I start with my griping, I will say that the drummer on this album is incredible. Fast and tight as hell. I had to do a little research to make sure it wasn’t a drum machine—I really wish they were louder in the mix. There is absolutely no low end on this album. Every song sounds weak. The bass and drums are tinny, and the treble is turned up way too loud. In fact, the bass is so low in the mix that I sometimes can’t even tell that it’s there. The singer is just not built for this style of music. They drench his vocals in some weird compression effect that, again, eliminates the low end and makes it sound way too airy. I assume it’s supposed to make his voice raw and grittier, but it only makes it sound like he’s trying to clear his throat constantly. During “Torn Out,” the tenth track on the album, there’s a portion where he speaks the lyrics, and it honestly sounds better than his attempt to do the tough-guy vocals. Very paint-by-numbers hardcore here. Nothing feels fresh, and they really over do it with the samples, placing them directly in the middle of the song where it causes a giant clusterfuck, sounding sloppy and disjointed. STIFF MEDS has the talent. I just don’t know if it’s conducive to this type of songwriting.

T.S. Warspite Stop the Rot LP

Leading us by the hand into a grim vision of the not-too-distant-future is the excellently named T.S. WARSPITE with their first LP Stop the Rot on Quality Control HQ. Following a stellar demo from 2020, the Manchester-based outfit plays a supercharged take on early DC melodic hardcore and modern UKHC; think BAD RELIGION and DAG NASTY but also BIG CHEESE and the FLEX. Singer Marco Abbatiello’s rumbling voice serves as the narrator, taking us through the struggles of getting through the hellscape that is modern society including politics, housing issues, and impending environmental destruction. Both incredibly urgent and scathingly intelligent, we’d be wise to listen to what these guys have to say. Standouts include “Scampia,” “Redemption Arc,” and “Slum Landlord.”

Tempter Tempter 12″

Crawling out from the deepest, darkest depths of Richmond, VA is TEMPTER, a new ensemble combining the talents of members of NOSEBLEED, DIVISION OF MIND, CANDY, and EKULU. The metal/crossover influence is strong on this mind-melting EP, taking plenty of cues from UK crust and Japanese hardcore—including the atmospheric interludes! The incredibly meaty riffs and hoarse, raspy vocals are masterfully combined with super raw, lo-fi production with plenty of reverb. These brutal tunes will have you pumping your fist and banging your head—especially the two bookenders, opener “Sacricide” and closer “Pestilence.” Highly recommended for anyone after a bit of that metallic flair in their hardcore. 

The Breath Promo 2021 cassette

Yokohama’s the BREATH’s Promo 2021 cassette consists of a unique blend of thrashing fast hardcore, an eclectic approach to hardcore punk that includes breakdowns and rule-bending styles that doesn’t resort to the tradition. Everything from YOUTH OF TODAY to SDS to contemporary hardcore punk like GLUE to NEGAZIONE/RAW POWER Italian hardcore style. Their fuzzed-out, blown-out speaker-style guitar resembles LINK WRAY’s blown-out speakers instead of the CONFUSE/GAI Kyushu noisecore approach. Despite its musically challenging approach, the lyrics are pure direct political expressions of the struggles of marginalized communities, as well as a more constructive, positive approach to working to achieve a brighter future.

Tozcos Infernal LP

TOZCOS’ latest LP Infernal boldly explores themes of self-perception and the experience of having immigrant backgrounds, particularly as descendants of Mexican immigrants in the US. The punk energy infused with poignant lyrics creates a compelling narrative that reflects the struggles, resilience, and identity of those navigating life in a new cultural landscape. A mixture of the Orange County sound (where the band is from) like ADOLESCENTS and T.S.O.L., and Spanish-speaking punk like ESKORBUTO. TOZCOS’ debut Sueños Deceptivos was an amazing punk record, but Infernal leaps further up the ladder. Infernal not only serves as a musical testament to the punk ethos, but also as a socio-cultural commentary.

Vile Spirit Scorched Earth LP

Scorched Earth is VILE SPIRIT’s debut LP led up by a demo. I knew and enjoyed the tape, due to its similarities to UNITED MUTATION. The LP, too, contains weird, even horror-esque excipients, haunted sore-throat vocals on music so detailed it becomes an unifying entity, that behaves in various tempers throughout the record. The edge of capital hardcore is deadened by shifting the hardness of the performers on the circumstanstances they perform against/about. Which makes the music tortured, but backs up the dense sound while avoiding any ridicule. The music is heavy because life is tough, instead of the members acting jock-ish. While the vocals are laid in mid-tempo, the instruments do not slack on their layers: The drums wonder into restrained blast-beat territories; the bass is distorted into a pulp filling up all empty spaces, binding the sound as glue; the guitars avoid both metal riffage and simplified three-chord hardcore notes; rather they function as a tidal wave, both loose and large. VILE SPIRIT is playful with pace, even if the artwork suggests some kind of still-in-the-basement, emphasis-on-core ’90s metallic hardcore. Scorched Earth is not an endless loop of chugga chugga, rather they imperceptibly mix with speed, blending different moods on a scale of hyper and almost zero tempo and remain confident no matter how shaky or swampy their ground is. Lately I have lost track of UK hardcore bands, no longer know whether this is still the new or now the neo wave of British bands, but due to the different references and execution, VILE SPIRIT differs the listening experiences I recall from their peers. If you tend to feel as the creature on their cover, you just as likely to enjoy the record. It’s a solid one.

Zulu My People…Hold On cassette

This is a follow-up to the first release of Anaiah Lei’s one-man HC assault on hypocrisy and performative justice. Showing no sign of slowing down, a vicious and heavy listen that echoes the more modern PV bands (think mid-to-late 2000s) or grind that sits on the HC end of the spectrum, with tinges of youth crew coming through (especially in those massive breakdowns). A release that is thick with frustration as the opening poem, bluntly explaining the persistent hypocrisy a Black woman faces on a daily basis, sets the tone for this tape; melded together expertly with samples from the classic EDDIE KENDRICKS track of the same name, this reminds me of classics from the early West Bay grind scene, where you were just as likely to hear a sample from an old Black Panthers chant as you were to catch a horror movie snippet. Recommended and definitely one to keep an eye on.